Iran is known globally for its rich history and rapidly developing metropolises. In fact, Tehran’s Tabiat Bridge was among the winners of the global architectural competition Architizer A+ Awards in 2015, a testament to the speed at which Iran is becoming a modern country.
The country is developing at such a pace that you’d be forgiven for thinking remoteness is all but dead here. The good news is that Iranians’ love of tradition and customs has helped strike a balance between old and new, which is why Iran is replete with far-flung, rustic villages that draw people looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Iran has a number of famous villages, such as Meymand, Kandovan, and Palangan but this article names five lesser-known but equally beautiful rural communities – called “roosta” in Farsi – which are worth a visit.
Khor: A Growing Village
Located just off the scenic Karaj-Chalous road due northwest of Tehran, Khor is an ancient village on the foothills of Alborz Mountain Range and believed to be around 2,000 years old.
Its cold climate makes it an ideal destination in the summer to escape the heat of Tehran and Karaj. It generally snows heavily in winter, drawing skiers from nearby cities.
The village has grown in size, which is why some have taken to calling it a township. Nevertheless, Khor is full of unspoiled landscapes and pristine natural sites, such as centuries-old trees (there is one that’s apparently 800 years old!) and a 60-meter waterfall that sometimes freezes in winter.
Villagers in general are friendly folks and they might even treat you like honored guests when they find out you’re not Iranian, despite their inability to speak English. While there are no accommodations for tourists in Khor, you might get offers from the residents to spend the night at their place.
Khor is 17km from Karaj just off the famous road that leads to Chalous, a resort city in northern Iran. But getting there without a private car is a hassle because it is 5km off the main road and you’d be hard pressed to find buses that go there.
You should either rent a vehicle or find a travel agency in Karaj that offers tours to Khor. Getting to Karaj from Tehran is very easy: Just get on Tehran Metro Line 2 toward Sadeqhieh Station (or Eram-e-Sabz Station if you get on Line 5) and hop on the Karaj train once you’re at the end of the line.
Khomat: Hiding in Plain Sight
Khamat is a strangely unknown village in southwestern Iran, in the historical Khuzestan Province. Its lack of fame is strange because it is surrounded by otherwise famous places, including three world heritage sites – the ancient ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil, historical city of Susa, and Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System – and the tomb of the biblical prophet Daniel.
The people of the village are ethnically Arab and speak Arabic. Khamat is supposedly an Arabic word meaning “one who grills meat”, a nod to both the warm nature of the village’s denizens and the hot climate! If you’re not fond of hot weather, visit the village in colder months.
One of the first things you notice when you enter the village is the sound of music. That’s because music is more than a hobby to Khamatis; it is a way of life. It is intertwined with their culture.
Khamat is well-known in Khuzestan and, being only 20 km north of Andimeshk, 40 km southwest of Susa, and 84 km south of Dezful, it is accessible by bus from any of these cities. Alternatively, you can hire a cab, but that’s going to cost you a bit more. If you’re traveling from Tehran, the fastest way to get there is to fly to Dezful and get a ride down south to Khamat.
Agriculture is the main source of revenue for the residents due to the village’s location on the banks of the river Dez.
The government has reportedly made developing Khamat’s tourism industry a priority, so you’d best get there before the influx of visitors.
The village is too small to have accommodations for travelers, but like in Khor, the hospitable people of Khamat will more than likely invite you to spend the night at theirs.
Sirch: The Impossible Village
Sirch, a verdant village that sees occasional snowfall, is what you may call the physical manifestation of an oxymoron. Intrigued? You should be. The reason for that description is the village’s location in one of the hottest desserts in world.
Much of Kerman Province in southern Iran is occupied by Lut Desert, Iran’s only natural site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Shahdad Desert, also in Kerman, is one of the hottest places on Earth.
And yet there is Sirch, nestled defiantly in a valley central Kerman at an elevation of 1,550 meters, boasting a mild climate in an otherwise harsh region. The green hue of the plants and trees against the backdrop of desert sand creates a mesmerizing contrast, making the village a popular destination among the few that actually know about it.
Given the occasional snow, there’s a small ski resort that’s only open for a short time in winter. Sirch also has hot water springs, which locals believe have therapeutic properties.
The village located 80km from Kerman and 25km from Shahdad, on a road that connects the two cities together.
To get there, travel to Kerman (via plane, bus or train) and get a bus to the village. The village is small and not well-developed, so don’t expect to find accommodation there. However, you can always set up a tent and camp out for the night and, if you’re lucky, get a clear view of the Milky Way.
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Sirch is in a popular ecotourism route, so you’re likely to find plenty of day-long tours offered by local travel agencies in Kerman.
Thanks to its climate, the village worth a visit year-round; there is no specific season that’s particularly good. Love snowball fighting? Visit in winter. Enjoy camping in the woods? Go in summer.
When you’re there, make sure to check out the local handicrafts, including hand-woven rugs and wicker products, and help the friendly community thrive.
Hajij: The Stone Village
Hajij is a green village built on the mountainous slopes of the Kurdish-speaking Kermanshah Province in western Iran.
Like the more famous Kurdish village of Palangan, Hajij is a stair-stepped village where the yard of one house serves as the roof of another.
Aside its unique architecture, warm people and green gardens, a standout feature of the village is the material used in the buildings: Stone. Every single structure in Hajij is made of stone; there is not a trace of brick or other typical construction material.
The village is known is for the production of high-quality “giveh”; a type of soft and comfortable shoe with leather or rubber sole and hand-woven cotton or wool top.
Along Sirvan River there is a 500-year-old tomb belonging to a man named Seyyed Abdullah. Legend has it that 500 years ago, Hajij was afflicted by severe drought. Desperate, the residents pleaded with Seyyed Abdullah, a pious man who was said to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad. The implored him to pray for rain, and he did. His prayers were answered and the village was once again blessed with rain.
While there is doubt over the veracity of the story, the tomb is visited by many from in and around the village.
Temperatures in Hajij are mild throughout the year, except for winter when the village receives heavy snowfall.
Getting to the village without a private car or a tour is a very difficult task. For starters, Hajij is a remote village in the mountains. To get there, one would have to first travel to the city of Kermanshah and then drive to Paveh before making their way to Hajij.
There are no lodging facilities in Hajij; however, Paveh, which is only 25km away, has a three-star hotel.
Darkesh: In the Heart of Nature
Darkesh in the northeastern North Khorasan Province is unique in many ways.
It is inhabited by Kurmanji Kurds, who primarily live in the western reaches of the country. The village is also home to the only oak forest in eastern Iran.
Surrounded by plains and water springs, Darkesh is a must-see for the outdoorsy traveler. The steppes, which bear a resemblance to the prairies of North America, are replete with a variety of plant species, many of which are said to have medicinal properties and are used in commercial herbal medicine.
Darkesh is estimated to be about 200 years old, based on archeological discoveries around the village. It has historically been used as a summer get-away destination thanks to its cool weather.
The village is about 70 km from Bojnourd, around 2 km off the road that connects the provincial capital to Azadshahr. Travel agencies that specialize in ecotours organize trips to Darkesh, so check with a travel company in either Tehran or Bojnourd about their tours.
Independent travelers generally camp out on the plains for the night before making their way back. Some travel agencies offer accommodation local residences.
Well, there you have it! Five unspoiled, idyllic villages with plenty to offer tourists who yearn for something different. Any of these trips will provide you with unique stories and beautiful photos to share with your loved ones. So, pack your bags; you’ve got some discovering to do!
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