Planning your route in Iran
Iran is a huge country, encompassing an area about three times the size of France and with four distinct seasons.
This means that choosing when to go and which routes to cycle can be a challenge.
Roads are generally in good shape with ridable shoulders on the bigger routes but the sheer distances involved mean that, unless you have well over a month to spare, a comprehensive tour of the country will not be possible without putting your bike on some form of public transport.
We have outlined our routes through Iran with detailed notes for other cyclists. Have a look at our thoughts on cycling from Shiraz to the Persian Gulf and on spinning your wheels from Shiraz to Yazd.
Some points to consider while planning your trip include:
- Skipping Tehran entirely. There are a few sites of interest but it’s not one of the world’s great capitals and the traffic is pure madness. If you’re flying into Tehran, think about getting a train or bus out of the city and starting cycling from another town.
- Mountains. Much of Iran is covered in them, which can be a blessing and a curse. They offer beautiful and remote areas where it will be easy to wild camp but they’re hard work on the legs as well so try and mix mountains with a flat stretch in the desert or along the coast.
- Making sure you pass through Esfahan, universally seen as the jewel of Iran. Yazd is another popular destination along with Kashan and Shiraz.
- Trying to find smaller alternatives to the main highways, which while perfectly ridable are noisy, dirty and no fun for cycling.
It’s possible to bike Iran in any season but spring and autumn give you the best weather across the whole country. Iranians universally see spring as the best time to visit their country and if you come any other time of year you’ll be told repeatedly that you should come back in the springtime to see Iran in all its glory.
In winter you’ll be best sticking to the southern regions around Shiraz and the Persian Gulf coast where temperatures normally hover around 10-20 degrees. With the exception of any unusual cold snaps, you may also be able to cycle comfortably around Yazd and Esfahan. Notoriously hot and humid in the summer, January and February are great months to explore cities like Bushehr and the fishing villages of Qeshm island.
At the height of summer, the cool mountain regions around Tabriz will make for the most pleasant cycling but from November you can expect snow on the ground and freezing temperatures throughout the north of Iran.
You could be fooled into thinking that the Caspian Sea area would be a good spot for summer cycling but it will be quite hot and from other cyclists we’ve talked too it gets very crowded. Hotel prices along the seashore can soar dramatically as Iranians take their holidays here.
When considering the seasons, women should think about how they will handle heat while conforming to Islamic dress codes. Handling warmer temperatures and the heat you generate from cycling may be difficult while still keeping arms, legs and head covered. Men are permitted to wear shorts and t-shirts while cycling. See more tips for women cycling in Iran.
Remember as well to take certain holiday periods into account. March 21st marks Iranian New Year or No Ruz and hotels and transport will be booked solid for about 10 days either side. High season for hotel prices generally starts with No Ruz. Make reservations well ahead of time or plan to do a lot of wild camping! During Ramzan (Ramadan), it is not permitted to be seen eating or drinking in public during daylight hours so consider how this will affect your cycling. You will have to be discreet.