Iran, a county known for its history, is mainly a destination for cultural travelers, especially those interested in country’s classic route, i.e. Tehran, Kashan, Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd. However, the increase in adventure tours and also ecotourism, particularly among Iranians, introduced many natural landscapes all around the country, some of which among the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
Being a vast country with different climates and topographic features, Iran gives you the chance to experience totally different adventures from south to north and from east to west, from deserts, valleys and sea to forests, mountains and cliffs.
Here, I have picked 10 awe-inspiring landscapes you must see in Iran.
Travelling to one of the hottest spots on earth, you will see an enchanting city in the middle of Lut Desert, Iran’s first and only natural UNESCO World Heritage site. Getting close to the city, you will find out that it is a unique natural phenomenon.
Kalout Shahdad, is a set of dunes (Yardangs) created and formed over thousands of years by wind. The height of some dunes is more than 500 meters providing a great viewpoint for those interested in experiencing the tranquility of desert when watching sunrise or sunset. With Gandom Beryan and Nebkas (deserts’ vases) near Shahdad, you will have a joyful time getting around this exotic natural city.
Star Valley located in the only geo-park of the Middle East is an amazing natural landscape imbued with legends and folklore! Locals believe Star Valley has been created due to collision of a huge star with the area causing sands to splash and shape the valley; That is why locals call the area “Setareh Oftadeh” (fallen star). They believe the sounds, caused by wind, are chatters of ghosts and elves living in the valley. This reason is enough to keep them away from the Star Valley at nights or frighten those staying in the valley when the absolute silence prevails the area.
It doesn’t need much imagination to see different rocks look like living statues! However, the landscape is the outcome of seasonal storms, surface waters and gusts over the course of years, a process which is still shaping the valley. Located in south of Iran, amid the Persian Gulf waters, the area is always warm which makes winter the best time to visit. Staying in Qeshm, you can also visit Chahkooh Valley and don’t miss Hanna tattoos in Borka Khalaf Village.
Shirz Canyon covers an area of 5 km2 just besides the roaring Seymareh River. At Godargeh Village where the canyon begins, the walls are almost 10 meters tall and they reach the height of 150 to 200 meters as you go further into the canyon. Located at intersection of Lorestan, Kermanshah and Ilam Provinces, 45 km north of Kuhdasht City, there are also historical remains from Stone Age at the canyon. Due to the areas mountainous climate, it has cold winters and falls and, therefore, summer is the best time to visit.
Shirz Waterfall and Parandegan Waterfall, Pol-e Khoda Cave and also an 80-meter-tall rock minaret are among the natural beauties in the valley. Other valleys like Galin Valley in Kermanshah, Hayghar Valley in Fars and Kafarin Valley in Ilam are also definitely worth visiting; however, the harsh looking lime stones on the cliffs, turned black in many places, alongside the greenery, creates an eye-catching scenery making the Shirz a unique valley in Iran.
Named as the “Sleeping Beauty” of Iran, Damavand is a dormant volcano with amazing views either from Hyrcanian Forests, north of it or from highlands of Tehran south of the mountain. The 5671-meter mountain with a peak which is always snow-covered claims the highest peak in the Middle East and has a never-ending role in the country’s literature and mythology as the symbol of resistance, immortality and strength. With several springs, fresh pastures, rivers and waterfalls, the best time to climb the mountain is mid-May to mid-June. The climbers have 16 major routes from among which the southern one is the most popular.
Hoz-e Soltan Salt Lake
It is not common to see lakes amid deserts! Driving on the Tehran-Qom Highway, you can see a natural mirror, shining in the middle of desert. Reflection of the blue sky and sparkles of sun on the white salt of the desert in Hoz-e Soltan Salt Lake, have added to the beauty of desert. Lack of perennial rivers, leaves the lake dry in summer and due to the evaporation of water after each rain, the remaining salt creates a set of polygons, adding to the beauty of the scenery. As the biggest natural mirror of Iran, the best time to visit this lake is beginning of spring and mid-fall.
Tomb of Khalid Nabi
On the hilltops of Maraveh Tappeh, Khalid Nabi (Khaled the prophet) Tomb and its mysterious cemetery with genitalia-shaped tombstones is located where you can behold one of the most dazzling landscapes of Iran. Gazing at the endless hills, you will find yourself lost in a dream!
Lack of a proper road and absence of man-made structures are indicative of its virginity and tranquility. It is not only the landscape which bewitches the adventurer, the cemetery itself is interesting to visit too; a story about the cemetery goes that after Khalid Nabi left the place, people turned again to worshiping sun and due to the curse of the prophet they transformed into stone; hence, the shape of the tombstones represent its owner being a man or a woman.
Koohhaye Merikhi or Martian Mountains are a set of bizarre-looking rocks which were hidden under piles of soil for a long time. Martian Mountains, created by wind and rain, are located in Chabahar, Sistan and Baluchestan Province. They are laid out parallel to Oman Sea and in total contrast with the surrounding area. The pointed rocks are named Martian Mountains as locals believe aliens have shaped them.
Lush trees of Hyrcanian Forests in northern Iran have shaped some of the most fascinating sceneries in Iran. Departing from Ardabil, passing through Asalem-Khalkhal road, Heyran Defile and Gilan Province to Mazandaran Province and its Chalus Road, Do Hezar and Se Hezar Forests and then to Golestan Province and its national park, the beautiful nature mingled with local life, make it difficult to choose one place among others.
Olsabelangah is one of these landscapes and probably one of the least touched. On the high altitudes of Masal, a city in Gilan Province, the view of green pastures, local cottages and mountain forests, sometimes covered with clouds, make Olsabelangah a hidden paradise. Looking from top of Talesh Mountains, the sky and earth seems mingled and indistinguishable. Though spring and summer are the best time to stay in Olsabelangah, fall with colorful trees show a different hue of the place.
Although the scenery itself is enough to make your stay unforgettable, there are a lot to enjoy in Masal, particularly daily life of locals and local markets.
Nayband National Park
Nayband as the first Iranian marine park located in Assaluyeh, Bushehr Province, has been listed as a protected area since 1978. Though the park consists of desert plains, mangrove forests, coral hills, sand shores and mountain ranges, the most interesting part of the park is its bay! The harsh cliffs, clear blue sky and lucid green water mesmerize any viewer!
In Nayband, history and nature cross path! The area has historical sites as well and the remains of a port show the importance of the region far back in time. Unlike most regions in Iran, best time to visit southern parts is winter which gives you a good opportunity to visit off the beaten tracks of Iran in your winter holidays.
Kal-e Jenni Canyon
Kal-e Jenni Canyon, located in Tabas, Southern Khorasan Province, is a natural phenomenon consisting of tall and steep hillsides. Kal-e Jenni means “Canyon of Jinn” in Persian, refers to the local’s belief that the canyon is dwelt by Jinns. Presence of a spring, several waterfalls as well as the water flowing through the canyon have added to its appeal. It has also mysterious man-made interconnected chambers. There are different stories about these chambers; some believes they were used by Sufis for spiritual purposes, a belief which can justify the canyon’s name to scare common people and keep them away from the canyon.