Yazd draws in tourists with its ties to Zoroastrian culture, the stunning minarets of the Jameh Mosque and the lure of the surrounding desert and mountain scenery.
Add to this what is possibly the most popular hotel with backpackers in Iran and it’s no surprise that many travellers come for a night and end up staying for days or weeks.
Sleeping: The Silk Road Hotel (0351 625 2730) is top of the list for mid-range travellers looking for a private room. Its beautiful and social courtyard is a great place to meet people and the hotel is ideally placed for sightseeing, right in the middle of the old cityand almost next door to the Jameh Mosque. Double rooms with private bathrooms are 280,000 Rials. There’s also a dormitory with beds for 40,000 Rials but unfortunately in our experience it was dark, the furniture was literally falling apart, in one bed we could feel the boards through the mattress and the dorm wasn’t cleaned very often. The private rooms are lovely, with Western toilets. A buffet breakfast with real coffee (yes, real coffee!) is included with private accomodation. The hotel can arrange tours as well as train and bus tickets. (5 Tal-e Khakestary Alley, Masjed-e Jaame Street; +98 (0)351 625 2730 or silkroad_hotel at yahoo dot com)
Across the street from the Silk Road Hotel, and run by the same owners, is the Orient, a more upmarket establishment, also with a courtyard and restaurant. (Sixth Alley, Masjed-e Jaame Street; +98 (0)351 626 7783 or orientyazd at gmail dot com)
For dorm accomodation, you may be better off checking out Kohan Hotel. Many people we met said the dorms in particular were better here than at the Silk Road and the hotel has a similar traditional architecture.
Self-catering: Several shops along Imam Khomayny sell fresh produce, dairy products and staples like pasta. You’ll also find stores specialising in dried fruits and nuts, a good energy booster for the road.
Eating out: The restaurant in the Silk Road Hotel serves good food at reasonable prices (including vegetarian options). There’s a range of food from Iranian home cooking to Mediterranean food but the spicy curries in particular make a nice change if you’ve been living on kebabs for a while. (Mains around 30,000 Rials)
There are a few fast-food options on Imam Khomayny, including the usual kebabs, sandwich shops and ice cream stalls. Try a hot samosa for 2,000 Rials from one of the many stands.
In Beheshti Square, where Imam Khomayny and Farrokhi streets meet, you can buy a roast chicken fresh off the spit. Iran has never seen a Kentucky Fried Chicken but nonetheless the way to order is by asking for a “kentucky”. Take it to the square to eat on the park benches and watch the world go by. A half chicken (“neem kentucky”) comes with salad and bread and is enough for two people.
What to see: If you’d like a guide, we spent an enjoyable afternoon with the cheery Ali Nissari. His English is perfect and he’s knowledgeable about the area, its traditions and culture. The cost is about $50 U.S for a day’s tour in his car. Call +98 (0)913 3545131 or email akbarnissari at gmail dot com.
The Silk Road Hotel also organises tours to Yazd and the surrounding area.
In Yazd itself, You can’t miss the 14th century Jameh Mosque. Its minarets tower over the town. It’s free to wander inside and marvel at the beautiful mosaics and tiles. Next door is the Mausoleum of Seyed Roknaddin. Look for the tiled dome.
Still in the town centre, walk up to the top of the Amir Chakmaq Complex for a great view over the city.
The Zoroastrian Fire Temple (Ateshkadeh) on Kashani Street is a holy site for the faith. On the city’s edge, the Towers of Silence where Zoroastrians used to leave their dead are perched on the top of two hilltops. Take a taxi and then climb to the top for a look out over Yazd.
Just off Imam Khomayny is the bazaar, a good place to do your souvenir shopping.
About 50km outside of Yazd is Chak Chak, a holy shrine for Zoroastrians, carved into a cliff overlooking the desert. It’s very tranquil here and some cyclists have reported a warm reception from the guardian, who’s apparently happy to have you spend the night.
Staying connected: There are several internet cafes on the same street as the Jameh Mosque but their prime tourist location also means they’re the most expensive at 10,000 Rials an hour. Walking down Imam Khomayny the price drops steadily until you get to Beheshti Square where competition from several cafes around the square means you can get an hour for just 6,000 Rials. The speed was good in all the cafes but we liked Explorer Cafe Net.