The Ultimate Guide for Backpacking and Ecotourism in Iran
Iran is the land of stunning natural wonders, fascinating architecture, amazing people and the country of unforgettable memories. Everything about Iran is unique, and by traveling to this gorgeous country, you get to taste exotic food, visit alien attractions, and have magical experiences.
Ecotourism in Iran
Although ecotourism in Iran is a developing industry, this ancient land has a lot to offer. Being blessed with a variety of landscapes, climatic zones, and traditions, Iran is the perfect place for ecotourism. The astonishing forests of the north along with green rice fields, the alluring deserts of central Iran and the stunning mountains make you fall in love.
If you are an independent traveler, backpacking to Iran would be a great opportunity.
Backpacking in Iran
Why Should You Backpack to Iran?
Traveling by tour across Iran is an excellent way to visit tourist attractions; however, if you are looking for more excitement, you should try backpacking. It allows you to feel a real sense of Iran and creates the opportunity to live among its people.
Where Are the Best Backpacking Spots in Iran?
Iran has outstanding mountainous regions; however, Damavand mountain is the jewel of Tehran province by having a deep route to Persian mythology and culture. Iranians consider this mountain as a symbol of stability, and ancient people believed that a mythological hero called Fereydoon defeated evil in this mountain.
By looking at the Damavand hill, you can see the touch of blue sky on the pristine snow which creates the perfect atmosphere for hiking. Camping at the green hillside of the mountain would be an out of this world experience as well.
The annual snowfall creates flowing natural fountains of fresh mineral water. By going to Siah Sang fountain during summer, you get to enjoy the cool water of melting snow passing through a variety of trees and herbs. This creates an awesome place for camping and relaxing while hearing the sound of the fountain.
By following the stream, you get to the Havir Lake, which is a shimmering lake in the middle of high mountains. Rays of light move slowly on the surface to give you a deep feeling of serenity just by looking at it. You can experience the pleasant weather in this area in the hottest times of the year.
If you are looking for adventure, you can explore the Burnik Cave near Harandeh village. The history of this cave goes back to the Paleolithic era when cavemen used to live there. With three halls, this place is the deepest cave in Tehran. Going down the dusty stairs, you get to see fascinating stalactites and stalagmites glowing in the dark.
Make your fantasies of walking on the clouds and touching the sky in Filband. This magical place is called “the village on the top of clouds” because locals built their houses on the highest mountain of Mazandaran. Standing on the high hills of Filband gets you the opportunity to feel the ocean of clouds beneath your feet.
Another exceptional feature of this place is its unpredictable weather. In some days, you get to see fug, rain, snow, and rainbow all in one day. The winters are freezing in Filband, even some of the locals evacuate their homes and go somewhere else, therefore it is better to travel in spring.
You can see the forest between the spare clouds as well. This amount of greenness drowns you inside and you notice how the lights find their way through the leaves and glow to make you feel alive. You can listen to the sound of birds and the music of leaves, and if you are lucky, you get the chance to see rare pheasants in the area.
َAnother perfect place for camping is Kurdistan province. The high mountains, green plains, and fascinating lakes of Kurdistan inspire every visitor.
Zarivar Lake, located near Marivan city, is one of the most exceptional tourist spots in Kurdistan which attracts many travelers at different times of the year. During the summer, sunlight shines on the surface of the water and makes the small waves spark; however, when winter comes, the frozen lake looks like a glamorous diamond in the middle of the green fields. Watching migratory birds drink freshwater creates an unforgettable memory that you carry for the rest of your life.
You can camp near this place to go boat riding on the glowing water of the lake and enjoy traditional foods like grilled fish and Kurdish Ash or Aash. This Persian Soup is called Ash-e Doogh, made of the Persian drink Doogh (yogurt and water), herbs such as mint, coriander, and leek cooked with rice. Kurdish people, add some eggs to the Ash-e Doogh and mix it well to cook then serve it with some local bread.
To visit historic attractions and amazing landscapes, you should backpack to Khorramabad the capital of Lorestan province.
The Broken Bridge, Shapouri Bridge or Pole Shekasteh located in the south of Khorramabad is one of the most stunning attractions of Iran. This 312 m bridge was built in Sassanid Empire and it is the longest bridge in Iran built with stone. By looking at it, you can see how marvelously stones are arranged together to form a masterpiece. The bridge had originally 28 arches which 5 of them remain. Five streams pass under each arch to create a pleasing picture of nature. The best time to visit is spring which lets you appreciate the glittering water.
Also, you cannot travel to Lorestan and miss Makhmal Kouh or the velvet mountain. The mountain is hidden under a black velvet fabric because the stones are covered with lichen and have turned black due to sunlight.
Backpacking to the central cities of Iran allows you to see the phenomenon of deserts.
Lut desert in Kerman and Sistan Baluchestan province is the most famous desert in Iran and the hottest place in the world. By camping in Lut Desert you can have an unbelievable stargazing experience at night while exploring the desert during the day. At night, you find yourself being lost between thousands of shiny stars and the peaceful calmness of the desert. During the daytime you get to walk on the endless golden sands on the ground and watch the shape of them get changed by the wind; However, remember to travel to the desert in a group.
If you are backpacking to Iran, you cannot miss the wonders of the south.
Hormuz Island has the most outstanding features. There is a variety of soils in this island which form a rainbow when you look at them from a distance. Sahel Khouni or Bloody Beach is another outstanding wonder and the only edible sand which can be used as a spice. Walking on the beach when waves roll across the red sands, you can witness how this combination does its magic and looks like blood being spread into the beach.
The Valley of Stars
The most mysterious place in the south of Iran is Qeshm island. The wonders of this island are unique and unusual. You can camp in Darreh Setaregan or the Valley of Stars to be stunned by this natural phenomenon. Due to rain washing, the form of rocks has changed; however, locals have their own story. They say that many years ago a star collapsed on this land and raised the soils of the ground to shape these huge rocks. Traveling to this valley is like having a trip to another planet.
During the night you can see thousands of stars in the sky even with naked eyes; however, local people believe that this place is haunted. The movement of the wind between the rocks creates abnormal sounds which make this place even more mysterious.
An excellent way to travel from one city to another is hitchhiking, which is possible in Iran. Hospitable people of Iran enjoy talking to tourists and help them in any way they can. In order to find a ride, you can write your destination on a piece of paper to let drivers see it. Also, you can stay next to the roads and wait for a driver to stop and pick you up.
The best part of traveling to Iran is the local’s hospitality. While visiting this country, you should be open to local people. It is common to see locals reach out to you and start a conversation. Warm people of Iran will offer you their home to stay in, or they will invite you to a tea party. By having their contact information, you can ask for their help whenever you need, and they will willingly help you.
One of the ways which can significantly affect your budget is the place you stay in during your trip. There are a variety of residency options when you are traveling to Iran. Each city has cheap, yet standard hotels to let you rest well; however, you can find amazing ecolodges and hostels in most cities as well.
Ecolodges in Iran
To live like locals during your trip to Iran, you can book a room in ecolodges in Iran.
A cozy house furnished with colorful furniture and fascinating handmade decors is a great accommodation choice when you are traveling to amazing Kurdistan and the city of Marivan. Entering the yard of See You in Iran hostel, you can see a tiny blue pool surrounded by flower pots and colorful wooden chairs and tables which offer you a fantastic place for a tea party and getting to know new people.
French settle style sofas along with yellow walls and wooden library, make a great combination to make you feel like home.
While staying in this place, you get to choose between dorms and private rooms. You also have the option to sleep on the floor.
Located in Bahonar street, you can access different parts of the city without any problems as well.
Nartitee house in Taft which is a city in Yazd province is another small yet fantastic ecolodge. The building is surrounded by a pomegranate garden and is called Nartitee because it means the blossom of a pomegranate tree.
The house is designed with traditional Persian fabrics called Termeh and offers the most hospitable place to its guests. For having the same experience as locals, this house is furnished with traditional handmade backrest and Yazdi carpet which have natural colors.
Barandaz Lodge is located in the center of Dasht-e Kavir to make you feel safe during your visit. Barandaz means a place to rest, and this oasis in the middle of the vast desert is like heaven for the exhausted travelers.
There is a beautiful yard decorated with furniture made of palm tree woods. By looking at the building, you can see the features of local architecture which are traditional wooden doors and diamond-shaped fences made of clay. There are several Persian turquoise pitchers for decoration in the house which were used for making vinegar and Torshi or Persian pickles.
One of the best ecolodges in the north of Iran is Gileboom House located in Gilan province. By staying at this lodge, you can walk to the Caspian Sea and have easy access to Ramsar city as well.
This gorgeous house with a gable roof (a northern architectural feature) offers a unique style of hospitality. The vividly colorful walls and decorations remind you of traditional Gilaki dresses that are eye-catching, and there is a beautiful balcony covered with Persian rugs, perfect for having Gilan black tea and enjoying the pleasant weather of the north.
Iranian Sim Card
Since the roaming will cost you a lot and you cannot use your sim card to do many things like installing some important applications in Iran, the best option is buying an Iranian sim card. Two major sim card companies in Iran are called Irancell and Hamrahe Aval. Their services are pretty much the same. They have good internet coverage, and buying data will not cost you much.
To buy an Iranian sim card, you need to find the distributor stores which are everywhere, even in Imam Khomeini International Airport and metro stations. You need to fill out a form about yourself and pay the price. The company’s attendants will help you to activate your sim card, and you can use the brochure that comes with the package to find your needed information.
Helpful Mobile Applications in Iran
Besides Snapp and Tap30 apps that ease transportation, you need some other applications during your visit to Iran.
Google Maps is one of the most useful applications during your Iran visit. You can check your destination on it and find the best route. Also, using it would help you get to different parts of a city by walking, which lets you engage more with the locals. Also, you can scout the best nearby cafes, restaurants, shops, and transportation options.
For better communication or understanding Farsi, you can use Google Translate. By tapping on the microphone icon in the app, you have the option to pronounce words and see the translation. If you are doing some shopping and do not understand what the vendors are talking about, you can use this application to translate it into your language.
The new feature of Google can become handy in Iran. By using Google Lens application, you can point out your phone at something to be identified or ask the Google Assistant to identify that object. For example, you can take a picture of candy and read information about it. Besides showing you the information about that specific object, you will see the nearest places to buy it.
The most important use you can find on this app in Iran or any country with a different language is its translating capabilities. How it works is easy, you just point the Google Lens camera at a written word or sentence in Persian, and it instantly translates that phrase into any language you choose. This feature will obviously come in handy in many scenarios.
Also, by using this application, you do not need to remember passwords anymore. By scanning the barcode on the modem, for example, you will be connected to the internet automatically.
Iranians use Whatsapp for communication, so if you want to be in touch with locals which is recommended, you need this application. You can download it for IOS on the App Store and Android on Play Store and use it for sending pictures, videos and voice messages as well as texting.
Persian Street Food
To save some money and try the best of Persian foods, you should consider eating street foods. Based on the season and the city that you are in, these foods can vary. However, you can always find different types of “Ash” which are Persian soups made of legumes, beans, chickpeas, rice, some herbs such as spinach and fried onion or “Piaz Dagh” in Farsi, in different places.
If you are a meat lover, you can find chicken and lamb kebabs. Also, the Falafel sandwich is a delicious choice. Falafels are made of mashed chickpeas and Persian spices that are served with tomato, lettuce, and pickles.
Samosa or Sambouseh is another popular Persian food among Iranians, especially people of the south. The crunchy triangle-shaped fried bread of Samosa can have different fillings. Some of the Samosas are made of meat, potato, and leek; however, the meatless one is more popular.
In Iran, men are not allowed to wear sleeveless T-shirts but everybody wears them with no problem. Also, they have to wear long trousers as well.
For women, rules are stricter. They have to have the Islamic hijab which involves wearing a scarf or “Shawl” to cover most of their hair. There are loose blouses with long sleeves also available that are called “Manto” in Iran and are highly recommended. Shorts are not allowed as well, so they must wear long trousers.
You can bring one set of clothes and buy some more during your trip because there are many colorful clothes with traditional patterns available which cannot be found anywhere else.
Learn Some Farsi
Although you can use Google translate during your visit to Iran to help you with understanding the Persian language, it is better to learn a few basic sentences in Farsi to communicate better and have a good impression on the local people. There are a few sentences you need to know:
How are you: Khoobi? (If you want to be formal you can say Khoob hastin?)
I’m fine: Khoobam
How can I go to … *?: Chetori beram … *?
How much is it?: Cheghadr mishe?
Excuse me: Bebakhshid
Yes: Baleh/ Are