Iran only receives about 250,000 foreign tourists a year, a trickle compared with the rich heritage and sights on offer.
In fact, the reaction of your family and friends when you tell them you’re going to Iran is likely to be a questioning of your sanity. What a shame that stereotypes and international politics prevent so many people from experiencing one of the world’s most hospitable cultures.
Getting a visa for Iran can be trying but the reward is a hearty welcome from every Iranian you meet, doubly so if you’re brave enough to choose a bicycle as your mode of transport through the mountainous terrain. It’s a rare day indeed when the cyclist isn’t offered food, a cup of tea or a place to stay for the night.
Iran’s “must see” places include the cities of Esfahan, Yazd and Shiraz. Many travellers also pass through Tabriz (a great spot for bike repair) as they head to or from Turkey and the holy city Mashhad is a key stopover on the way to Central Asia. Tehran isn’t as alluring as other parts of Iran but most cyclists on long journeys will need at least a few days in the capital to arrange onward visas. Away from the main drag, cyclists speak highly of routes through the Dasht-e-Kavir desert and in the Kurdish region of western Iran around Kermanshah.
The Caspian Sea area has a reputation for being developed and polluted although it is a popular summer holiday spot for Iranians. Hotel prices there soar in high season.
Read More about Cycling in Iran…
- Accommodation: Hotels and more.
- Bike shops and Equipment: You can get surprisingly good bike parts in Iran.
- Budget and Shopping: It’s cheap unless you want a silk carpet.
- Culture Shock: Hey Mister, where you from?
- Cycling as a Woman: Yes, you’ll have to cover up.
- Eating and Drinking: Kebabs, kebabs, kebabs.
- Getting an Iranian Visa: Apply early and get the magic code!
- Renewing Your Visa: Relatively easy in the big cities.
- Onward Visas (Central Asia): Red tape galore.
- Money Matters: Bring cold hard cash!
- Route Planning: Where to go.
- Bikes on buses and trains: It’s possible but you’ll pay extra.
- Roads and Maps: The asphalt is smooth.
- Safety: One of the safest places we travelled.
- Shiraz to the Persian Gulf: Palm trees and spicy food.
- Shiraz to Yazd: One of our favourite rides.
- Yazd to Mashhad: Through the desert.
- Mashhad to Sarakhs: The road to Turkmenistan.