Shah Charagh, Shah e Charagh, Shah e Cheragh Shine, Shiraz, Fars, Pars, Iran

An Iran Itinerary for One Week to One Month for Independent Travelers

Updated July 2023, Iran Itinerary for Independent Travelers was originally written in July 2019

“Welcome to Iran!” Said the man examining my passport* and stamping my visa paperwork at the Afghan-Iran border.

All I had planned was 3 nights at Vali’s Homestay in Mashhad, after that I was free to travel across Iran for the next 30 days with zero agenda (aside from some loose plans to continue on to Iraqi Kurdistan afterward). So based on my trip through Iran and a few things I learned along the way, here is an (up to) one month Iran Itinerary.

Also worth noting: I did not travel Iran in this order given in this itinerary because I have this inability to do anything normally and decided it would be a good idea to travel Iran from the Afghan border clear to the Iraq border rather than flying into Tehran as most people would (there’s literally no hope for me).

*My Italian passport, I figure it’s worth clarifying that here to avoid the no less than 15 emails I’ll receive this week wondering how I traveled independently in Iran as a United Statesian.

Pick up your copy of Bradt Iran to help you start planning your visit

Quick Iran Travel Tips

  • Women must wear hijab when out in public- meaning hair must be covered (headscarf) and clothes must be in accordance with the Islamic code of modesty (shoulders covered, sleeves at least 3/4 length, a longer tunic or dress that extends to mid-thigh at least with trousers underneath).
  • The Iranian Rial fluctuates wildly, so for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to quote most prices in US Dollars. As of May 2023, the market rate was around 360,000 IRR to the USD, (not to be confused with the measly official market rate used in banks which is about 42,100 IRR to $1 USD). Click here for current street rates.
  • You will often hear Iranians quote prices in Toman, a Toman is the equivalent of 10 Rial. So if a merchant tells you the price is 100,000 Toman, you will need to hand over 1,000,000 Rial.
Afghanistan-Iran border crossing, iran e visa, iran visa, afghan visa


Most everyone needs a visa to visit Iran. If you are flying into one of Iran’s International Airports you are most likely eligible to get a visa on arrival unless you are a US, UK, Canadian, Venezuelan, Iraqi, Syrian, Pakistani or Afghan passport holder (sorry, you guys will need to apply for a full-blown visa and US, UK and Canadians will need a mandatory tour guide). You are supposed to apply on the MFA website at least two days prior to your arrival to get an authorization code, but from many a traveler’s reports getting a visa on arrival seems to be no problem even if you do not. Apply for your authorization code here.

If you are traveling overland and will be entering Iran at any of its land borders you will need to get a full-on visa in advance (this is what I had to do). In that case, read my post on how to get an Iranian visa for a step-by-step guide.

Everything you need to know about getting an Iranian Visa


Money is a bit tricky in Iran because of sanctions. Foreign cards do not work in ATMs or in shops. But don’t sweat it– there are ways to skirt this. Many people do opt to carry all their cash into the country and exchange in kiosks (US Dollar and Euro are the most common), which is what I recommend for simplicity’s sake.

However, there is a prepaid debit card that you can acquire that you can transfer money onto from your bank account and use in the country– this is called the Mah Card (use the code AOLN at checkout when applying for your Mah Card). The Mah Card will work anywhere cards are accepted in Iran, however it does come with a one-time 19€ set up fee and you can easily have the card shipped to you before you leave for Iran or have it sent to your hotel and pick it up there.

But what if you run out of money or don’t bring enough? Welcome to the world of foreign residing relatives and PayPal. Many times people (many times, selling carpet or other high-cost items) will have a cousin, sibling, etc. living in a third country that they will have you send money to via PayPal and later will receive the money from said relative. Even people who I became friends with in the country did this for me to book bus tickets and other random things and made my life a little easier.

Many sites in Iran (such as mosques, shrines, fortresses, historic houses, museums, etc.) will charge an entrance fee of 150,000-200,000 IRR.


Transportation is surprisingly easy and dirt cheap in Iran. Most major cities have a decent public bus system and some even have metros. I found getting taxis in cities to generally be inexpensive and mostly I didn’t have to negotiate prices as most drivers initially quoted me the usual rate.

Getting between cities is easy by bus and some by train. Expect most long-distance VIP buses between cities in Iran to cost $3-8 per person, note that travel times between cities can be quite large– Iran is roughly the size of Alaska, not tiny in stature. 12-hour bus rides are not unusual.

Booking transportation (trains, buses, flights) in advance can be a bit of a pain as a foreigner since local booking sites and direct companies only take Iranian cards for online payment. It’s a great help to know that you can book trains, planes, and flights on your own using 1st Quest (though you will need to download a VPN in order to access the 1st Quest site from inside the country (not sure why, but they had blocked it when I was traveling Iran in April 2019).

Depending on the time of year you visit buses, trains and planes can book up in advance so you may consider booking at least a couple of days in advance. In addition to 1st Quest, I also had friends I made in different cities book tickets online for me and paid them in cash.

Gender Segregation On Public Transport

On public buses in cities, the back half of the bus is reserved for “women only”, though riding in the front as a female, especially when traveling with a male shouldn’t be a problem. Metros will have “women only” carriages as well. “Women only” also means that children traveling with their mother regardless of gender are welcome here.

On long-distance buses the seat configuration is usually 2 seats on the passenger side and 1 on the driver side, solo female travelers (whether foreign or Iranian) will always be offered the single seats.

Carpets, Persian Rugs, Mashhad, Iran, Afghanistan Iran border crossing, carpet wash, carpet washer


Booking accommodation in Iran is a bit of a pain in the arse to be totally honest, especially if you have commitment issues like me and cannot bring yourself to book anything more than a day in advance (Yes, I am that person that goes up morning after morning to the check-in desk to ask if I can extend my stay one more night). Most popular booking engines like my favorite do not work in Iran (though it’s worth noting that Hostelworld does work, despite the beef I currently have with them).

In all honesty, I booked the vast majority of my accommodations in Iran as I boarded a night bus to the next city by searching online for phone numbers and messaging hostels through WhatsApp or Telegram and if that wasn’t an option I’d make a phone call. If none of that worked I would just show up and try my luck. 1st Quest is another great tool, especially if you’re unlike me (meaning you’re likely a lot more normal than I) and like to book your accommodations in advance.

Couchsurfing is very popular in Iran, which can be a nice option for those traveling alone or wanting to meet locals (though you’d be hard-pressed not to make a single friend in Iran).

I stayed in hostels, with friends, or in homestays throughout my trip to Iran. Homestay and hostel prices seemed to range between $4-7 per night and private rooms usually came in at $10-14 per night (and usually had enough room for two people).

Travel Insurance

Technically you’re supposed to have travel insurance and it’s supposed to be eligible in Iran. Due to all the sanctions against the country very few options exist. If you want to purchase insurance prior to your arrival you can purchase it through this link to 1st Quest.

If you don’t have insurance when you arrive, don’t sweat it– you can buy a policy when you arrive at the airport.

Maharloo, Maharloo Lake, Maharloo Lake Shiraz, Maharloo Lake, Iran, Maharloo Lake Fars, Maharloo Pink Lake, Pink Lake, Pink Lake Shiraz, Pink Lake Iran, Pink Lake Fars, Shiraz Pink Lake, Iran Pink Lake, Fars Pink Lake, Persia Pink Lake, Iran, Shiraz, Fars, Middle East
Maharloo Lake near Shiraz

Best Time To Visit Iran

Spring (March-May) and Fall (October-November) are generally the best times to traveling Iran for the best and most comfortable weather. Summer (June-August) is best avoided unless you love watching the mercury climb to hellish highs (like 65ºC, no thank you). Winter (December-February) can get quite cold especially in the north and in the mountains, but southern Iran and the Persian Gulf can be cool but comfortable.

Those who enjoy skiing will want to come for the winter season. Nowruz holidays kick off on March 21st and extend for roughly two weeks so this can be a busy time with many Iranians traveling for the festivities. April is the most popular month for foreign visitors as temperatures are generally comfortable, though I didn’t find crowds to be that bad when I was there.

How Long To Visit Iran

This all really depends on your interests and agenda. I spent just shy of a month there, which only confirmed that I will be back no less than 30 times (plus I made lots of friends that are already demanding my return). Some may just want to hit the highlights of Central Iran, while others just want to dip their toes in a visit to only one or two cities.

I’d say the sweet spot for most travelers (as in people that aren’t infatuated with AfghanistanTajikistan, and Iran such as myself) is two weeks which will let you comfortably see the architectural and cultural wonders of Central Iran without feeling too rushed.

Where To Start

Well, this is all dependent on where you’re coming from. Most travelers will start in Tehran, though if flying in there are international airports in Shiraz, Esfahan, Bandar Abbas, Mashhad, Tabriz, Kish, Abadan, Avaz, Arak, Birjand, and Larestan. If traveling overland you will likely start from Tabriz (Armenia), Urmia (Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan), Sanandaj (Iraqi Kurdistan), Ardabil (Azerbaijan), Zahedan (Pakistan), or Mashhad (Afghanistan or Turkmenistan).

Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Mir Ahmad Hammam, Hammam e Mir Ahmad, Kashan Hammam, Kashan bathhouse, Kashan, Iran

Wanna visit Iran as a solo female? Check out my Solo Female Travel In Iran post.

Iran Itinerary

Week One Iran Itinerary

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Iran is massive. If you’ve only a week for your Iran itinerary and you’re flying into the country I’d start with TehranKashan, and Esfahan especially if you’re planning to bus it between all your destinations. This will be a great intro to the country for those short on time.

If you’re coming overland from Armenia or Turkey (or the odd off the beaten path traveler coming from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan), you’ll likely begin your Iran itinerary from Tabriz, in which I would suggest Tabriz, Tehran, and Kashan on your first week and then move Esfahan into the second week of your trip.

Azadi Tower, Adazi Tower Tehran, Freedom Tower, Freedom Tower Tehran, Tehran, Iran

Tehran (1-3 Days)

Welcome to the chaotic capital of Iran and the most common starting-off point for most travelers heading to Iran. You can tick off the highlights in Tehran in a couple of days but you can also spend weeks here exploring the city more intensely. A few good places to have on your Tehran itinerary are:

  • Azadi Tower
  • Golestan Palace
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Friday Mosque
  • Tabi’at Bridge
  • US Den of Espionage (former US embassy)
  • Stars & Stripes Mural
  • Tajrish Bazaar
Where To Stay in Tehran

From personal experience, I recommend booking a bed over at Tehran Heritage Hostel as it’s not a far walk from many of Tehran’s popular attractions and the staff is beyond helpful, plus the common areas and rooms are pretty sweet too. Single dorm beds start at $6 per night.

Getting Out Of Tehran

Being the capital, Tehran is well connected with most cities throughout the entire country by bus, and some by train and flight. There are several bus terminals in Tehran so you’ll need to figure out which one to go to for your route.

Plan your stay: A Two Day Travel Guide To Tehran

Agha Bozorg, Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kahsan Mosque, Mosque, Kashan, Iran
Agha Bozorg Mosque

Kashan (2 Days)

To be honest, Kashan was a pleasant surprise on my Iran itinerary. After reading some not-so-stellar reviews of it I almost decided to skip the city altogether, but in the end, I chose to spend two days in Kashan since it was a nice break in the journey between Esfahan and Tehran.

Ultimately I was glad that I did, Kashan was stunning with its gorgeous stained-glass windowed homes and the lovely Agha Bozorg Mosque. Kashan was one of the most crowded places I visited on my entire trip through Iran but hardly a foreign tourist in sight– it was mostly Iranians getting out of the city for a long holiday weekend.

If you’d like to visit somewhere a little less crowded but with plenty of architectural gems, you could opt to head to nearby Qom instead.

Here are just a few things to make sure and have on your Kashan itinerary:

  • Tabatabaee House
  • Abbasi House
  • Sultan Mir Ahmad Hammam
  • Khan e Boroujerdi
  • Agha Bozorg Mosque
  • Kashan Bazaar
  • Khan Amin al Dowleh Timche
Where To Stay In Kashan

Shirin Hotel & Hostel is located a few steps away from Agha Bozorg Mosque and a quick walk away from most of Kashan’s main attractions. Single beds in the basement dorm start at $5 per night.

Check out my quick guide to Kashan

Shah Mosque, Shah Mosque Esfahan, Naqsh e Jahan Square, Esfahan, Isfahan, Persia, Iran

Esfahan (2-3 Days)

This is probably an unpopular opinion– but I’ll put it out here: I didn’t love Esfahan. Don’t take it the wrong way, the architecture is impressive (maybe it was tile fatigue after having been in Iran & Afghanistan for nearly six weeks by that point). But Esfahan felt the pushiest and most touristy of anywhere I visited in Iran (also the one city where a guy literally walked right up and grabbed my boob).

But Esfahan did win in the hospitality department. I met people who turned it around and showed me interesting sides of the city and this is also where I was snatched from a bazaar by a lovely lady named Nargaz who invited me (even after my several polite refusals) into her home for a big Thursday night dinner with her family (Nargez even called no less than 3x per day for the remainder of my time in Iran to check in and say hi).

Here are just a handful of the attractions to hit in Esfahan:

  • Joma Mosque
  • Shah Mosque
  • Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque
  • Kakh e Ali Qopu
  • Dardasht Mosque
  • Si-o-seh Pul
  • Charbargh Madrasa
  • Ali Mosque
  • Bazaar e Bozorg
  • Khaju Pul
  • Arteshkadah Esfahan
Where To Stay In Esfahan

I stayed at Amir Kabir Hostel, it’s not the most modern or fancy but it does the job, the prices are great and the staff was kind and helpful. Dorm beds start at $5 per night. I found that calling to book was the easiest, their number is +98 3132227273.

There are countless accommodation options in Esfahan– check them out here.

Read my ultimate guide to Esfahan

Week Two Iran Itinerary

The sweet spot for most travelers headed to Iran. Two weeks is a good amount of time to hit the highlights (but trust me there are heaps more to see!) and really get a good feel for Iran. For this itinerary, you may want to think about flying* down to Shiraz first and working your way backward through the week one & two Iran itinerary.

*Though it’s worth noting that Iran’s airlines are made up of aging fleets thanks to sanctions and don’t have the greatest safety records. I was told that Mahan Air, Iran Air, and Iran Aseman are the better choices by Iranian friends. 

Yazd mosque, Yazd old city mosque, mosque, mosque portal, Yazd, Old City, Yazd Old City, Iran, Middle East, Persia

Yazd (2-3 Days)

Like Kashan I didn’t have high hopes for Yazd after reading that it was ‘too touristy’ but to be honest I loved Yazd. It didn’t feel any more or less touristy than any other of the cities on the main Iran tourist trail (though this is the one place I saw tour groups behaving badly). 

From the impressive Chakhmaq Complex, the massive Joma Mosque, the Dakhmas on the outskirts of Yazd point to the city’s rich Zoroastrian History, the Bagdirs that Yazd is famous for and everything in between Yazd didn’t disappoint.

Here are a few don’t miss sites in Yazd for your Iran itinerary:

  • Joma Mosque
  • Amir Chakhmaq Complex & Mosque
  • The Badgirs
  • Khan e Lari
  • Arteshkadah
  • Imam Zadeh Jafar
  • Dakhma e Zartoshtiyun (Towers of Silence)
  • Haj Khalifa Ali Rahbar
  • Bagh e Sayyed Roknaddin
  • Ob Anbar
  • Tomb of the 12 Imams & Alexander’s Prison
  • Fahdan hotel
Where To Stay In Yazd

I stayed at Yazd Backpack Hostel, which literally overlooks Amir Chakhmaq Complex making its location super convenient. You can book with them directly by text them on WhatsApp at +98 9135205100. I would recommend trying to stay in a traditional home in Yazd as there are many and they are stunningly gorgeous, you can shop them here.

Plan a perfect two day visit to Yazd

Shiraz, Nasir al Molk, Nasir al Molk Mosque, Pink Mosque pink mosque Shiraz, Fars, Iran, Solo female travel Iran
Nasir al Molk

Shiraz & Persepolis (4 Days)

Shiraz is where I blew my Iran itinerary (and I’m not complaining). I really loved the city, and combo that with staying with an amazing couple (who were friends of a friend), I ended up staying 5 days longer than planned in Shiraz, which included visiting Persepolis and Maharloo Lake. Maharloo was suggested by my hosts Solmaz & Ershad, and I am so happy I went: depending on the salinity of the lake at the time of your visit it can vary from light pink to nearly red in color. Here is a quick list of must-see Shiraz sites:

  • Bazaar e Vakil
  • Vakil Mosque
  • Vakil Hammam
  • Nasir al Molk (Pink Mosque)
  • Bagh e Nazar & Pars Museum
  • Arg e Karim Khan
  • Bagh e Naranjestan & Ghavam Pavillion
  • Shah e Cheragh Mausoleum
  • Madrasa e Khan
  • Hafez Mausoleum
  • Sa’di Mausoleum
  • Imam Zadaeh Ali Ibn e Hamze
  • Bagh e Eram
  • Maharloo Lake
  • Persepolis
Where To Stay In Shiraz

Since I stayed with friends in Shiraz I don’t have any personal recommendations on where to stay but there are heaps of options to peruse through on 1st Quest.

Plan your visit with my Shiraz Travel Guide

Week Three Iran Itinerary

If you’ve got a third week on your Iran itinerary I’d recommend heading for the Persian Gulf coast. This area is vastly different from the rest of the country and really goes to show how diverse Iran really is. 

Hormuz Island ended up being one of my favorite stops on my Iran itinerary. Truth be told, it wasn’t even on it in the beginning. I had planned to head out to the Persian Gulf and visit Qeshm for a couple of days before heading north to Shiraz until I met another traveler that was going to Hormuz and ultimately changed my plans.

You can visit Bandar Abbas, Qeshm, and Hormuz in 3-4 days if you’re really moving fast, but I definitely recommend slowing it down and giving yourself at least a week to explore this area.

Bandar Abbas (1 Day)

While there’s not much to do or see in Bandar Abbas, you may find yourself spending the night here before heading out to the unique and fascinating Persian Gulf Islands. It’s worth exploring the Bandar Abbas Bazaar and the Fish Market while you’re here.

Where To Stay In Bandar

I crashed at the Darya Hotel for the night of my arrival before departing for Hormuz in the morning. Private single rooms with ensuite bathrooms went for $7 per night. You’ll need to call ahead to book at +98 7632241941 or do like I did and walk right in there and ask for a room.

Hormuz, Hormuz Island, Hormuzgan, Rainbow Valley, Rainbow Valley Hormuz, Rainbow Valley Iran, Iran, Solo female travel Iran
Rainbow Valley

Hormuz (1-3 Days)

Hormuz Island was a definite highlight on my recent trip to Iran. Peru and China may have rainbow mountains, but Iran knocks it outta the park with their rainbow island of Hormuz.

Most visitors will opt to take a day trip to Hormuz from Bandar or even from Qeshm, but I strongly recommend spending one night or more out here. Most everyone on the island lives in the tiny village by the port and virtually the rest is uninhabited, but even so, the village feels relaxed in the evenings once everyone is done working for the day.

Those that are day-tripping to Hormuz can opt to grab a tuk-tuk from the port (there will be many drivers waiting around the gates to the port at the ship arrival times). Or you can rent bicycles from the port (but I’d advise taking the earliest ferry to Hormuz to give yourself enough time to lap the island). Tuktuks go for 1,000,000 IRR/$8 and the whole trip takes about 4 hours.

For bicycles plan to pay 100,000 IRR per hour (I took 7 hours to lap the island one day– but at a leisurely pace making heaps of stops).

If you’d like to plan ahead I’d recommend hiring Mohamed, you can contact him at +98 9904996642. Mohamed speaks pretty good English too if you can’t get by in Farsi and is more than helpful and even took me to a few spots not on the normal tourist trail, like the Rainbow Cave. Mohamed can also rent out guesthouse rooms for 1,000,000 IRR/$8 per night.

There are also a couple of hostels that have popped up in the village as well and there are plenty of great camping possibilities all over Hormuz.

Here are the Hormuz highlights, though you’ll find at least 100 more places to stop off along the road to explore:

  • Salt Mountain
  • Salt Cave
  • Valley Of Statues
  • Rainbow Valley & Mountains
  • Red Beach
  • Mofanegh Beach
  • Rainbow Cave
  • Rock Hole
  • Portuguese Fort

Plan your visit to The Rainbow Island of Hormuz: The Hormuz Island Travel Guide

Hormuz Island, Hormuz, Iran, Rainbow Cave, Rainbow Cave Hormuz, Rainbow Cave Iran
Inside the Rainbow Cave

Qeshm (1-3 Days)

I’d have loved to have visited Qeshm on my recent trip to Iran, but I didn’t. I blew the time I had given myself for the Persian Gulf all on Hormuz. So without a doubt, Qeshm is on my plans for my second Iran itinerary.

Since I didn’t visit I will give you a quick go-over of what to do and see in Qeshm, but for more info, I’m going to refer you to Joan’s blog post about Qeshm travel on Against The Compass for more information.

Check out Qeshm accommodations here.

Things to see in Qeshm:

  • Stars Valley
  • Qeshm City
  • Shib Deraz
  • Sea Turtle Breeding Area
  • Hengam Island
  • Laft

Have more time to explore the south of Iran? Go check out beautiful Sistan & Balochistan Province

Week Four Iran Itinerary

Now it’s time to move north toward Kerman, the Kaluts Desert & Mashhad. If the Persian Gulf doesn’t interest you, you can easily make this week 4 Iran itinerary into week 3 by traveling directly from Shiraz to Kerman.

Kerman, Iran, Caravanserai, Sartsari Bazaar, Sartsari Caravanserai
Caravanserai at the Sartsari Bazaar

Kerman (1 Day)

Truth be told, I didn’t think Kerman itself was the most enthralling place I’ve ever visited. It was fun because I met some really nice locals at the bazaar that invited me to lunch at their home and even took me over to a park. The bazaar is quite nice and worth wandering and shopping in.

I came to Kerman mostly as a jumping-off point to visit the Kaluts Desert.

Must-see Kerman for your Iran itinerary:

  • Bazaar e Sartsari & Caravanserais
  • Moshtari e Moshtaq Ali Shah Mausoleum
  • Imam Mosque
  • Yakkchal Moayadi
Where To Stay In Kerman

For hostels starting at $10 per night click here. For more private accommodations click here.

I stayed at Keykhosro Guesthouse/Restaurant. Keykhosro is actually a restaurant but they do offer up a couple of private double rooms in the back of the restaurant for about $7 per night. You can also opt to turn up after hours and sleep on one of the restaurant’s tapchans for less than $1 for a night (available after 11 pm). Call Keykhosro at +98 34 3312 7264 to book.

Kalouts, Kalouts Desert, Lut Desert, Persia, Iran
Kaluts at sunset

Kaluts Desert (2-3 Days)

The Kaluts Desert is a must if you’re planning a visit to southwest Iran. Most visit the Kaluts from Kerman as part of a 1+ night tour. It’s also worth visiting Mahan, Rayen, and Bagh e Shahzde on your way out here.

Camping in the Kaluts is a magical experience taking in the vastness and dead silence of the area. Don’t forget to gaze up at the night sky while you’re out here either. It’s also worth noting that the Kaluts can also be accessed from Yazd.

I recommend hiring Amir Mahani for guided trips to the Kalouts. He is very professional and has competitive prices. Amir is also a photographer so if you’re looking to get shots from unique angles he’s your guy. You can contact him through Instagram at @amir_mahanii or via WhatsApp or Telegram at +98 9133425815.

Here are a few things worth seeing in the Kaluts that aren’t the desert and rock formations themselves:

  • Takhab
  • Dehseif Citadel
  • Deh Salm

Learn more about visiting the Kaluts here

Kang, Kang Village, Iran, Kang Iran, Afghanistan Iran border crossing, Khorasan
Kang Village near Mashhad

Mashhad (2-3 Days)

Welcome to Iran’s second-largest and most holy city. Mashhad was my first stop on my Iran itinerary after crossing the border from Afghanistan. I arrived while the Nowruz festivities were still going on in April and the city was packed to say the least. Because of the massive Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, this is a very holy site for Twelver Shia Muslims as this is Imam Reza’s final resting place (not to mention one of the largest religious sites in the world).

While visiting Mashhad you should also spring for a visit to nearby Kang Village which can easily be visited in a day trip or overnight.

Sites to have on your Mashhad to-do list:

  • Imam Reza Shrine/Haram e Rezavi
  • Caravanserai Azizolaof
  • Haftado Tan Mosque
  • Boqa e Khajeh Rabi Mausoleum
  • Nader Shah Mausoleum
  • Gonbad e Sabz
Where To Stay In Mashhad

Without a doubt, Vali’s Homestay is the place to stay in Mashhad. Vali and his wife Esme treated me like their own daughter and ran me all over Mashhad and Kang as I arrived at the end of the Nowruz festivities. Vali is also available to guide you around Mashhad as well if you contact him in advance.

More Destinations To Add Or Substitute

Some of you may move faster, or you may be entering or exiting the country overland. In which case I’d suggest considering the following:

Kandovan, Iran, cave home, cave village Iran, cave village
Kandovan (the image isn’t grainy– that’s snow coming down!)

Tabriz & Kandovan (2-3 Days)

Tabriz is at the gates of paradise, spilling over with Silk Road history, Azeri culture, beautiful carpets, and chaikhanas. Tabriz will likely be your intro to Iran for those coming overland from Armenia, Turkey, or Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Do not miss the historic Tabriz Bazaar, one of the oldest and well kept in the world (though the bazaar did suffer damage after a fire broke out in May 2019).

If you need help arranging anything in Tabriz tourist-related you can contact Nasser Khan who runs the Tourist Information Center located in the Tabriz Bazaar for more info at +98 9141160149. He can arrange trips to Kandovan, Urmia, to the Iraq border, and more.

Make sure and take a day or overnight trip out to Kandovan from Tabriz to visit the fascinating cave dwellings. There are a handful of hotels for rent inside the cave village.

You can also easily visit nearby Lake Urmia between the Turkish and Iraqi Kurdistan borders on your way to/from Tabriz.

  • Tabriz Bazaar
  • Joma Mosque
  • Blue Mosque
  • Arg e Tabriz
Where To Stay In Tabriz

I opted to stay at the Darya Guesthouse (don’t confuse it as there is also a Darya Hotel in Tabriz too). The rooms were decent at $10 per night for a double with ensuite bathrooms and heat (it was dumping snow in Tabriz when I arrived at the end of April and freezing cold outside, so a room like a sauna was appreciated). The staff I found to be very helpful as well. Contact them to book a room via WhatsApp at +98 9146157444.

Read: How to get to Kandovan and my Tabriz Travel Guide

Alamut Valley (2 Days)

This is a great Iran itinerary add-on for those traveling between Tabriz and Tehran. Head for the city of Qazvin and from there go to Gazor Khan to access Alamut Valley. Alamut is famous for its bizarre rock formations, the Castle of Assassins, Three Canyons, and Garmarud.

Golestan (3-4 Days)

Golestan, in Iran’s far northeast, is home to epic landscapes, a short section of the Caspian Sea coast, and a large Turkmen and Manzandarani population. The top attractions of the province are Gonvad e Kavus (city and the tower of the same name), and Khalid Nabi.

Rasht & Masuleh (2-3 Days)

Rasht is a good stop-off between Tabriz and Tehran or for those coming overland from Azerbaijan (as in the country, not the provinces). Come to Rasht to dig into the unique local cuisine and use it as a jumping-off point to the beautiful stepped village of Masuleh.

Bam (1 Day)

Bam is an easy day trip from Kerman for those that want to dip their toes in the Sistan & Baluchestan Province that all the guidebooks plead with you to avoid. Bam is most famous for its larger-than-life fortress. Bam is a good jumping-off point for further adventures into Sistan & Baluchestan as well as crossing from Iran to the city of Quetta on the Pakistani side of the border.

Iranian Kurdistan (4-5 Days)

Experience legendary Kurdish hospitality and explore ancient mountain villages in the Kurdistan province. Highlights include Sanandaj, Howraman e Takht, Marivan, Negel, Palangan, and Takht e Bustan.

Have Any Iran Itinerary Questions?

Ask in the comments sections below!

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8 thoughts on “Iran Itinerary For Independent Travelers”

  1. hi
    i am from isfahan and i deeply sorry for what happend to you in this wonderful city and also i am very glad to see some brave woman like you visiting countries like iran or yemen or afganestan (i must say iam man and for press affect i didnt have courage to see yemen or afganestan)
    and i hope to one day these strict governments like iran go easy on people of itself and of course other nation.
    hope to see this country again without this stupid law.

  2. So even though you have an American citizenship you were able to avoid having to deal with a tour operator by using an Italian passport? I’m in the same situation, having dual citizenship, US plus another country, but I’m wondering if they would not expect me to use the tour guide even if I were to use my alternative passport, which would kind of make sense logically.
    I’ve been wondering about this for several years already and you’re the first person I see in the same situation.

    1. If you enter on your non-American/UK/Canadian passport (and apply for your visa/authorization code with your non-American passport) you do not need to use a guide.

      1. Thanks! That’s great news. My concern was that even if I can do that in practice, it may still be illegal since logically it would make sense to be illegal, and they may use it as a reason to arrest me and use me as a bargaining chip with the US government. I know it sounds a little paranoid, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Anyway, I’ll probably wait for a time when there will be a little less animosity between Iran and US, but it’s good to know that at least at that time it would be feasible.

    1. Oh that’s so nice to hear you’ve been back. I know I’ll be back several more times because there is so much to see and a lot of places that had really devastating floods when I was there in April and couldn’t visit. I can read Spanish better than I can speak it, I’ll check it out thanks!

  3. Carl Pietrantonio

    Wow… Very intriguing! But the part I liked best is… I didn’t know you had gotten your Italian Citizenship! I must have missed a post or two a while back. Congratulations!

    1. Aw thanks! You did, I got it back in November technically and left Italy to return to Alaska in December. I’m still a little scarred leaving perfect coffee, Parmesan, and mozzarella. I nearly choked and died when I had my first espresso back home!

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