With no doubt, Iran is one of the richest countries in the world. Not only its nature but also its culture and history will offer you the best scenes one can see. From the very northern part, the Caspian Sea, to the southern part, in the islands of Persian Gulf, you get to experience one single thing: authentic beauty.
Iran’s geography and climate have made it a four-season country. The only thing you have to do is to schedule your trip to visit the right region, at the right time. So pack your bags to escape to the adventurous land of Iran.
You might think that Iran has an ancient civilization, so the adventurous activities are senseless and the only thing that can be done is visiting cultural and historical attractions. If this is your idea, I should ask you to get rid of it and open your eyes to the truth. With a vast diversity of the highest mountains, deserts, and forests, Iran is the right destination for trekking.
All you need is a pair of hiking shoes and the needed equipment for adventuring Iran and experiencing the most astonishing trekking trails.
The high mountains of Alborz and Zagros are the major attractions for trekkers. Trekking in Iran gives you the chance to walk amongst these giants where you will truly stand in awe. Iran is a great destination for hiking; no matter in sloppy mountains of Alborz or the sand dunes of Central Desert.
Alamut Valley and Real Life Assassins Creed
An Iranian ruler named Marzuban went on a hunting trip. During the trip, he saw an eagle flying over a mountain and then sat on the peak. As he was following the eagle with his eyes, he realized the strategic value of the location and took the eagle as an omen.
That was the moment he decided to build a castle there and name it Alamut, meaning the eagle’s nest. However, after a while, the mysterious murderers (Assassins) captured Alamut castle as their base.
Alamut Castle, also known as Castle of Hassan, is located in the Northeast of the Gazer Khan village in Qazvin province.
It was built over a 200-meter high cliff of the Alamut region. This castle was the base of the intense activity of Ismailis, also known as Assassins, under the leadership of Hassan Sabbah (the old man of the mountain). He built this group to fight against the government of Abbasid and the Seljuk Empire.
The strategic position and the design of the castle made it an undefeatable castle which was suitable for the Assassins. It is said that the Ismailis believed that Hassan Sabbah can show them the path to heaven and they can see the garden of Eden.
After the invasion of the Mongols and by the order of Hulagu Khan, the castle was burned in the fire. Then, at the ruling time of the Qajar era, they started digging different parts of the castle to find the Alamut treasures which caused a lot of damage to this monument.
Now it is mostly ruined but still, has a lot to offer. The ruins are located among some of the most epic mountain landscapes in the northern part of Iran. In order to get there, you have to take a fairly hard climbing route, but as soon as you get there and see the mysterious castle and the picturesque landscape beneath, you will see that it was absolutely worth it.
Caspian Sea Coastal Plains
Alongside the Caspian Sea, a unique natural beauty lies with its biological diversity, endangered species, and its flourishing scenery, known as Hyrcanian Forests. The mixed forests of the southern coast of the Caspian Sea represent a key habitat for different species of birds. Migratory species visit the area as a stop between Russia and Africa. Some other species use this forest as their breeding grounds.
The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests ecoregion is an area of lush lowland and montane forests covering about 55,000 square kilometers near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea of Iran and Azerbaijan.
The forest is named after the ancient region of Hyrcania, meaning “wolf land”. This UNESCO world heritage site presents an outstanding example of ongoing geological and biological processes in the development of landforms and ecosystems.
This natural area keeps a vast geological diversity with different weather, various kinds of plants and a high number of endemic species. This ancient forest contains its full complement of wild plants and animals.
Hyrcanian Forests is the perfect spot for trekkers who enjoy walking among trees as they hear nothing but the birds singing and the breeze coming from the sea to welcome them to the authentic paradise of the coast.
Lar national park: Flourishing Land of Flowers
With only 70 kilometers northeast of Tehran, Lar national park is located in Mazandaran and Tehran. This 30000-hectare park is in the Central Alborz mountain range, at the foot of the highest mountain of Iran, Damavand. This national park has existed since 1976 and it became a protected area since 1982 by the Iran Department of Environment. Since 1991 hunting has been prohibited in this national park because of the different living species of the area such as leopard, gray wolf, and goat. It is worth mentioning that the Lar dam and reservoir is located within the park. This protected area is a major tourist attraction.
If you are lucky enough to visit this stunning park during spring, you will know how paradise looks like. The colorful flowers and tulips and mineral waters running down from the peaks of Damavand make a lively scenery that can only be found in the promised land.
The Lut Desert, also known as the Dasht-e Lut is a large salt desert which is located in the south-east of Iran, near Kerman and Sistan and Baluchestan. This desert is testified by NASA satellites to be one of the hottest places on earth with a temperature of 70°C in summer. The Dasht-e Lut is also an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes. You can find various animal species in this UNESCO World Heritage site.
You’ll not only see a desert, but you will also get to see all the must-see sites of this spectacular desert such as Kalouts, Gandom Beryan, and Shur River. Kalouts are shaped by erosion and if you see them from a long distance you may think that you are looking at high buildings with people living in it. Actually, locals call it the city of the ghosts since it has a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Gandom Beryan is all covered with dark lava which is the reason for the production of the beautiful basal stones and it is one of the rare areas of the Lut desert which is easily accessible. Touching the salty sands of the Shur (salty) River is another wonderful experience you’ll have. Shur River is the only permanent river that flows in this UNESCO world heritage site.
If you are truly a trekker and an adventurer just close your eyes and imagine how it feels to walk on the soft hot sand dunes of the desert and seeing the natural beauties of this mysterious desert all by yourself.
Lush Land of Arasbaran
Near Tabriz, in the Kalibar city, the exquisite Arasbaran Forests can be seen. Arasbaran forests also known as “Qaradagh” or “Karadagh” are the mountains area stretching from the Qusha Dagh massif, south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province. The region is confined to Aras River in the north, Meshgin Shahr County and Moghan in the east, Sarab County in the south, and Tabriz and Marand counties in the west. Since 1976, UNESCO has registered 72,460 hectares of the region as a biosphere reserve. All you can see in this area are big green trees surrounding you. One of the historical attractions of the Arasbaran forest is Babak Khorramdin fort. This fort was built in the Sassanid era by Babak Khorramdin, the leader of the Khurramites in Azerbaijan. He built this stronghold in order to protect Iran against Arab invasions and he was successful. The castle stood up for about 20 years against them and after 1200 years, it is still standing there like a soldier on duty and it has become a national symbol for Iranians. Arasbaran forests keep numerous hot springs and different bird species of birds which add to the beautiful features of this glorious forest.
One of the great experiences you will have is that you may be lucky enough to see the Nomad camps in the area. The nomads are very kind and they will welcome you with their fresh dairies. While standing on the green hills of Arasbaran you can enjoy the stunning view in front of you. The cool weather is pleasing and the cold breeze touches your skin, all surrounded by the clouds that want to welcome you to the lush land of Arasbaran.
Plain of the unique Fritillaria Tulips
Iran is the land of different species of tulips, but there is one single plain of tulips in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province which is one of a kind. The spectacular Fritillaria plain is located in Koohrang county. The unending natural beauties of this county have made it a unique tourist attraction. However, the most beautiful part of this county is the Tulips plain. Fritillaria, which is also called Lale Vazhgoon and Gol Ashk (Tear of flower), is a legendary flower in Iranian myths and there is a story about this short-lived flower in Shahnameh. A part of this plain is under the protection of Iran’s Organization of Environment Protection as a national natural site. The unending natural beauties of this county have made it a unique tourist attraction, especially for the trekkers and nature lovers.
The second part of Trekking Iran will be all about mountains. The high glorious Talysh, Sabalan, Zagros mountains range, and the highest peak of Iran, Mount Damavand. Don’t miss reading the best part of the Land of Adventure.
Besides stunning valleys and forests, mountains are probably the major attractions for the trekkers who come to Iran. Most people think they have seen mountains until their first time visiting Iran. Gigantic, monolithic, behemoths rising towards the sky, towering over the land, can be observed as far as the eyes can see.
The monumental Alborz and the mighty Zagros mountain ranges have safeguarded Iran for millennia. Their most famous peaks, Damavand & Sabalan have influenced surrounding myths, legends, and cultures for kilometers on end.
Iran’s Highest Peak
Located in the middle of the Alborz mountain range, just a few kilometers away from Tehran to the Northeast, Damavand mountain stands as the highest mountain of Iran and the highest volcano of Asia. There are at least 16 routes that lead to the summit. Some of them are harder than others and they are dangerous.
These routes require special equipment and mountaineering skills and also rock climbing. This National Heritage Site offers an elegant view from the top; a view that cannot be expressed by words. You have to see it with your naked-eyes to believe it.
Four of these routes are popular for trekking and climbing. The four common routes are South, West, North and the North-East route. Each of these routes has a shelter at about 4000 meters altitude. The North Face has an extra shelter at about 5000m.
The South face is the most popular side of the mountain, with an excellent new mountain resort at 4250m and an amazing view.
Most mountaineers prefer to climb from the classic South route. It is also worth mentioning that the south face keeps a waterfall which is frozen most of the year but during summer it flows and that’s the reason that it is known as the Frozen Waterfall.
It is located at the 5100 meters of elevation, which makes it the highest waterfall of the middle east.
Myths of Damavand
Mount Damavand is a significant mountain in Persian mythology. It is a symbol of resistance in Persian poetry and literature. The name “Damavand” is mentioned many times in “Shahnameh”, the poetry book of Ferdowsi, one of the most intelligent Iranian poets. The main myth about Damavand has been told by the Zoroastrians. It is said in the myth that the three-headed dragon Azi Dahaka was imprisoned in Mount Damavand, after being defeated by Kaveh, the Blacksmith. He was doomed to remain there until the end of the world. Damavand has also been mentioned in the legend of Arash in Shahnameh. Arash was an archer who was supposed to mark the border of Iran. Damavand was the location from which he shot his arrow.
Climbing up grass-covered hills, cut by canyons with raging rivers, seeing sheeps pasturing on the meadows as the misty clouds roll over monolithic summits is exactly what you should expect from the Talysh mountain range. This mountain range is in southeastern Azerbaijan and far northwestern Iran within Ardebil and Gilan cities. It is the northwestern subrange of Alborz Mountains that run along the southern Caspian Sea on the Iranian Plateau (a geological feature in Western Asia and Central Asia and it is also a part of the Eurasian Plate). The Talysh Mountains are covered by lowland and montane forests. The area is a part of the Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests ecoregion.
There are five routes to get to the Talysh mountains. Each of them renders its own special kind of beauty to amaze you to stop the time for you. You won’t realize the time pass since you are walking in dreamland.
The protector of the West, the Zagros mountain range has been home to many of Iran’s most unique habitats, cultures, and cities. The mountain range has a total length of 1,600 km. The Zagros mountains in the northwestern side of Iran and roughly follows Iran’s western border while covering much of southeastern Turkey and northeastern Iraq. From this border region, the range follows Iran’s coast on the Persian Gulf. It spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and it ends at the Strait of Hormuz. Zagros contains 10 peaks which the most popular ones are Zard Kuh and Dena. The highest point is mount Dena, at 4,409 meters.
This mountain range has also played an important rule in history; during early ancient times, Zagros was the home to different ethnic groups such as the Kassites, Guti, Elamites and Mitanni, who periodically invaded the Sumerian and Akkadian cities of Mesopotamia.
This mountain range keeps many foods in it, including wheat, barley, lentil, almond, walnut, pistachio, apricot, plum, pomegranate, and grape can be found growing wild throughout the mountains. However, one of the most breathtaking scenes of Zagros is the Persian oak forest which dominates most spaces of Zagros. It is the most important tree species in Iran. Zagros mountain range is also an inhabitant of different mammals such as striped hyena and Persian fallow deer. It is worth mentioning that the Asiatic lion also inhabited in the southwestern part of the mountains, but unfortunately, it is now extinct in this region. However, keep in mind that visiting this area in the winter can be dangerous since these animals get hungry and their food cannot be found easily.
Just choose which part of the Zagros you want to climb, get to the peak, get rid of your thoughts and stresses and just enjoy the Mediterranean climate, look at the picturesque landscape in front of you and capture this calmness in your head forever.
Sabalan: The Inactive Volcano of Ardabil
Fresh mineral water running down mountain springs, nomads living in round “Yurt” tents, overwhelming ski resorts, and relaxing natural spas are just a handful of Sabalan’s attractions. The Sabalan peak is located in Ardabil province, in the northwest of Iran, with about two hours’ drive from Meshgin Shahr. With about 4,800 meters, Sabalan is the second highest peak in Iran, after Damavand, which is also one of the peaks of the Alborz mountain range. It is even higher than the Mont Blanc peak of the Alps.
According to some beliefs, Sabalan was the place where Zoroaster meditated for some years, so it is one of the sacred places between Zoroastrians. Another interesting thing about this glorious mountain is the myth that nomads believe in. They say when all the snows of Sabalan melt, the end of time will come.
One of the most striking things about Sabalan is its crater lake, located right on the summit. After one or two days of climbing, the moment that you reach the summit, the wondrous nature in front of you will make you forget how tired you are of climbing. The mountain is also known for its beautiful vistas, including the Shirvan gorge, where few climbers ever venture.
The best time to visit this exquisite mountain is from July to September. On the other months, you will need warm clothes and special types of equipment. Don’t forget to have your tent with you, in case the shelter was full.
Trekking in Iran is one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences that you can gain in this magical country. Give yourself a break from the routine life, take a deep breath and relax while walking on the mountain ridges and enjoy the raw nature. Make a schedule to start your adventure in Iran. Start from the very north, Caspian Sea, the Hyrcanian Forest, reach to the summits of the highest mountains and get astonished by the breathtaking mountain landscapes, breathe in the relaxing atmosphere after hiking and trekking in the Lar National Park and end this fabulous journey while walking with your barefoot on the hot sand dunes of Lut Desert. You might experience the best trip of your life.
Ilam Province, Iran
Zagros Mountains, Iran
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Iran
Tabas, South Khorasan Province, Iran