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Iran’s Lesser-Known Cities: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Experiences

Discover the Hidden Gems of Iran

Beyond the well-trodden tourist trails of Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan, Iran is filled with hidden gems waiting to be explored. From the shores of the Caspian to the desert oases, Iran’s diverse landscapes provide the backdrop for unique cultural encounters and heartwarming hospitality. Join us on a journey to discover Iran’s underrated destinations.

Chabahar Port 

Chabahar Red Sand Beach
Chabahar Red Sand Beach (photo by Daisy Lorenzi)

Nestled on the coast of the Sea of Oman, Chabahar Port offers pristine beaches and dramatic cliffs overlooking turquoise waters unlike anywhere else in Iran. With its laidback seaside atmosphere, spring-like weather, and glowing waves, Chabahar is an off-the-radar paradise. Stroll the striking red sand beaches, visit the Hara Forest, and experience Chabahar’s secluded natural splendor. Take advantage of the wonders of Baho Kalat River and Lipar Wetland, unveiling the paradise that is Chabahar.

Shushtar

Shushtar, Iran
Shushtar, Iran

Step back in time in Shushtar, an ancient city home to the UNESCO-listed hydraulic system, an engineering marvel dating back to the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras. Wander through the historic water mills and reservoirs to witness the ingenuity of this 2,500-year-old irrigation system. Beyond the famous canals, Shushtar’s scenic views and welcoming culture encapsulate the warmth of southern Iran. Immerse yourself in one of Iran’s most beautiful cities, home to the stunning Sika Water Mills, Moeinol Tojar House, Shushtar Jameh Mosque, Mostowfi House, Tappeh Salasel and the scenic Shoostar Waterfall.

Arak

Jameh Mosque Of Arak By Wikipedia
Jameh Mosque of Arak (photo by Wikipedia)

Nestled amongst the Zagros Mountains, Arak charms visitors with its abundant orchards, lush valleys, and historic sites. After exploring sites like the Soltan Abad Museum, Four Seasons Bathhouse, and Gerdoo Valley, spend an afternoon wandering through the lively Arak bazaar to experience local trade and culture. The surrounding mountains also provide opportunities for outdoor adventures. 

Marivan

Marivan, Iran
Marivan, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

Marivan is a peaceful city in the Kurdistan Province near the Iraqi border, surrounded by forests, rivers, and incredible natural sights like Gavileh waterfall and Lake Zrewar. Interact with the Kurdish locals and learn about their unique culture and traditions. Don’t miss the historic Marivan Castle (Imam Castle and the vibrant border market. The area’s cool climate and beautiful landscapes create an unforgettable experience.

Neyshabur

Mausoleum Of Omar Khayyám, Neyshabur, Iran
Mausoleum of Omar Khayyám, Neyshabur, Iran (photo by Flickr)

Once the capital of the Seljuk Empire, Neyshabur was a center of culture and intellectual exchange during the Islamic Golden Age, home to medieval poets, philosophers, and scholars like Omar Khayyám and Attar of Nishapur. The Shah Abbasi Caravanserai offers insights into the city’s history as a trading outpost along the Silk Road. Pick up the city’s famous turquoise jewelry for a perfect souvenir.  

Bandar Laft

Bandar Laft, Iran
Bandar Laft, Iran (photo by Iran Destination)

The Laft village, also known as Bandar Laft (Laft port), is located on the Qeshm island, The largest island in the Persian Gulf).

Stepping into this village is like stepping into another world. The beauty of this village, which is hard to describe, is complemented by its unique architecture and the presence of windcatchers (badgirs) that captivate the eyes of any observer from the very beginning. 

There are also mangrove forests, which are considered natural masterpieces. Unique animals such as sea snakes, fish-eating birds or herons, flamingos, and various types of frogs inhabit this area. To visit these forests, one must board a boat.

Ahvaz

Ahvaz, Iran
Ahvaz, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

The capital of Khuzestan province, Ahvaz, is an offbeat destination in southern Iran. Visit in early spring to avoid the intense heat. Boat down the Karun River, take a heritage walk to admire the unique architecture influenced by Arab and Persian heritage and try Ahvaz’s distinctive local cuisine, like Ghalyeh Mahi, Sambuseh, and Falafel. Don’t miss the vibrant Lashkarabad Historic Market near the Karun River.

Natanz

Natanz, Iran
Natanz, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

Situated between Kashan and Isfahan, Natanz is an alluring desert town with abundant orchards and Islamic-era sites like historical mosques and traditional Persian-style houses. Must-see attractions include the beautifully tiled Mausoleum of Sheikh Abdol Samad and the ancient Zoroastrian fire temple. Natanz is also known for its pottery – stop by a local workshop to learn about this art.  

Anzali Port

Anzali Lagoon, Iran
Anzali Lagoon, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

On the Caspian Sea coast, Anzali is a relaxing port city blessed with scenic beauty. Explore the historic harbor, take a walk along the coastal boulevard, and gaze at the blue water lilies on Anzali Lagoon, a wildlife refuge. The area’s humid climate creates a sensation of being wrapped in a warm, wet blanket! Taste the famous caviar before leaving.

Hamedan 

Hamedan, Iran
Hamedan, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

This ancient city was once the capital of the Median Empire. Today, Hamedan is home to Avicenna’s tomb, ancient Persian rock reliefs, and stunning sites like the Alisadr Cave. Hamedan provides insights into the depth of Persian history and culture with its museums, mosques, churches, and lively bazaar. The cooler mountain climate offers respite from Iran’s desert heat.

Dehloran

Waterfalls Of Dehloran, Iran
Waterfalls of Dehloran, Iran

In the Zagros Mountains near Iraq, Dehloran charms with its unique nomadic culture, ancient hills and castles, hot springs, and waterfalls. Visit the museums to learn about traditional tribal weavings and handicrafts. Take advantage of the natural oil fountain of Dehloran Bitumen Spring. The city’s remoteness provides an immersive insight into the nomadic way of life.  

Meybod 

Meybod, Iran
Meybod, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

This ancient desert city in Yazd Province captivates visitors with its mudbrick buildings, centuries-old Caravanserai, and towering fortresses. As a historic Silk Road city, Meybod offers a glimpse into medieval Persia. Climb Narin Castle for panoramic views of Meybod’s adobe rooftops and windcatchers. The city’s distinctive clay architecture is best appreciated from this vantage point. Meybod also hosts excellent museums like the Post Museum in the old Caravanserai.

Masuleh

Masuleh, Iran
Masuleh, Iran

Nestled in the lush forests of northern Iran, UNESCO-listed the stepped village of Masuleh is a living fairy tale. With its cascade of yellow houses set against the backdrop of misty green mountains, Masuleh resembles a historical painting. Wander the car-free stone alleys and staircases to experience life without modern vehicles. 

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Iran'S Lesser-Known Cities: Off-The-Beaten-Path Travel Experiences

Final Words

Iran’s lesser-known gems offer diverse natural beauty, ancient history, and warm hospitality. You’ll find beauty, adventure, and lifelong memories by exploring beyond the classic tourist routes. Let these hidden cities inspire your next Iranian odyssey! Remember to respect local customs and traditions during your travels to appreciate Iran’s cultural diversity fully.

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Sogand Safari

My name is Sogand, an enthusiastic psychology master who loves diving into new topics, expanding my knowledge, and sharing perspectives through writing.

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