In July 2017, I started a six-month trip with a friend from Leipzig from Germany to India. At the beginning of September, we traveled across Iran, from north to the south, to take a ferry in Bandar Lengeh to the Arabian Peninsula. First, we visited Tabriz, then drove to Tehran and through the sand dunes of Varzaneh on to Shiraz.
Wild camping in Iran is the easiest and most flexible way to travel independently through this vast and beautiful country. In contrast to Central European countries, picnicking and putting up tents in parks and on public green areas is part of Iranian culture. Places where camping is prohibited are explicitly stated as such.
Green areas where a night camp can be discreetly opened are relatively rare. Most of the green areas are private cultivated areas, such as apple orchards or corn fields. But, you will not be left without options. The property owners quickly approach to offer you help. In our case, they called friends and family and gave us a plenty of self-grown fruit and vegetables.
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Often, we were even invited to their homes at night which we thankfully declined each time. The courtesy requires the gifts be rejected three times before they are actually accepted (called Ta’rof in Iranian culture). An invitation to home is usually not meant seriously.
But, the hospitality and the interest of people in cycling tourists are enormous. However, after a strenuous day and many kilometers traveled, we longed for a little more privacy and tranquility which, unfortunately, we often had too little.
The fear of getting expelled proved quickly unfounded. Even as we spent the night in a national park, the ranger first joined us for dinner and, after dark, came back with the flashlight to ask us if we needed anything else for the night.
A special highlight, of course, is to pitch the tent in the desert between sand dunes under the starry sky and climb the dunes the next morning to the sunrise to enjoy the silence and loneliness. We slept a little because of the heat and only used mosquito net. You’d better use your net in the desert because of scorpions- though we didn’t see any.
Of course, we often did not manage to sleep next to a main road. Some of them had burrowed dams on the sides, which at least provided a visual and, in some cases, noise protection.
The longest stage without supply possibilities led us over a 120 kilometer long desert road. As a rule, small stores, which could be found every 30 or 40 kilometers in the localities, were able to help us with supplies.
We usually looked for a place for the night about two hours before sunset to have enough time to build up the tents and prepare dinner. Usually 0, 75 liters of water from the bicycle bottle would be sufficient for the shower. We regularly washed the clothes by the public water taps, which can be found all over the country. Every few days we treated ourselves to a proper shower and a machine wash in an accommodation.
Iran is a very safe and hospitable country for travelers and visitors alike, and with some flair, you can find wonderful places for the night-time in the open countryside.
This article has originally been published in German. Click to read the German Version.