Iran is definitely not how the world perceives it to be. I know this, because I recently travelled here for three weeks, against the concerns of friends and family. Everyone asked me the same question, ‘why would I ever want to go to Iran’. The media doesn’t paint a positive picture of this country, as the dominating headlines are of war, terrorism, and restrictions.
I’ve always been a traveller who likes to visit a place for myself to gain first-hand knowledge of what it’s really like. My recent visit here gave me a deep understanding of Iranian culture, the warm and friendly people, who are just the same as you and I. My visit here certainly proved to me, that what we see in the media is far from the real truth.
I want to share with you, some of my most favourite things from this friendly country.
I hope it displays a positive image of this misunderstood country and give you at least 8 reasons for why you should consider traveling to Iran.
1. Iranian people
Iranians are easily some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Previous to my travels to Iran, I’d often heard they’d treat guests like old friends. Honestly, I began to see the warm hospitality immediately upon arriving. The locals want to take care of you, feed you and show you off proudly to their friends.
We stayed with some lovely hosts that we contacted through Couchsurfing, and they made us feel like important guests the whole time. Our hosts spoke good English, so we could communicate with each other easily, which made it more enjoyable. Many websites and media are banned by the Iranian government, so people are very curious to gain more knowledge about your culture, which made for many interesting topics to chat about.
2. Dance parties in the home
Iranians don’t have nightclubs or bars to go and dance, which is something that maybe we take for granted in Western countries, but that doesn’t stop them! They love to dance and express themselves, so they organise dance parties in their homes.
We were invited to several different apartments of young couples for what I thought would just be dinner with a few quiet cups of tea. Far from it! Shortly after arriving and enjoying many sweets and fruits offered by our hosts, the lights were dimmed, the dance floor (middle of the living room) would be cleared and the music channel would be turned up, loud! Pop music from Iran and Turkey was played, as well as many catchy Arabic songs. We were beckoned to the middle of a huge living room to join in and dance the night away.
3. The sights and landscapes
‘Why do you want to go there?’ The most common question from people when they heard of my intention to travel to Iran. I was curious to learn more about Iranian culture and explore its cuisine, but I also looked forward to the sights. I imagined it to be different to the destinations I’d already travelled and I craved this.
So much of Iran was beautiful, and it was so much more than just mosques. I watched as the landscape changed from the cities to deserts to the incredibly green lush countryside in the North. Iran was visually, much more than I expected.
4. Sweets in exchange for small change
After a few days in Iran, you see that they have an issue with money and small change. They simply don’t have enough small notes and coins. When you make a purchase in the shops and they don’t have enough change to return to you, they pay you back in sweets or chocolate.
Many times I purchased bottled water for 9,000 rials, gave the cashier 10,000 rial note and he would give me a little chocolate bar as change. The bars always came in useful on long bus or taxi rides when a little hit of sugar was needed.
5. The food
What is Iranian food? So much more than just rice and kebabs, I can tell you that much. I’d heard that the food in Iran was good, but I didn’t expect it to be amazing.
The best meals we ate were cooked in the homes of our new hosts and friends. Typical Iranian food is a combination of rice with meat and onion, garlic, vegetables, nuts and herbs. Iranians cook with spices such as saffron, cinnamon and fresh green herbs to name a few.
6. The Villages
There are many villages to explore in Iran, and getting ‘off the beaten track’ was part of our favourite days. Masouleh was a small rooftop village located in the Western Iran, close to the Caspian See. We spend a few nights here after some local Iranians encouraged us to see this old traditional village.
We really enjoyed everything about Masouleh, and you can read more about it here. We also spent an afternoon in Abyaneh, an ancient village which is also known as the ‘red village’ with its crumbling red-brick houses. Men wear a traditional felt hat and a pair of loose cotton trousers with unique shoes. All women of Abyaneh cover their hair with the same type of scarf with floral design.
7. The Bread
Every meal is always accompanied by fresh Iranian flatbread. Bread is commonly available at all times of the day, baked fresh from hundreds of small bakeries dotted around cities, villages and home-style tandoor ovens. There are many different kinds of bread, and they are all equally delicious and match perfectly with Iranian cuisine.
8. The colours
The colours were magnificent in Iran. Colours in the desert would change dramatically from beige to dark red. The sky was the most incredible blue of the day, creating the ideal canvas for me to capture photographs of the turquoise tiled minarets. I loved watching the sunset here, the most intense pink colour I’ve ever seen would illuminate the sky.
My favourite image to finish a day, sipping on hot apple tea and freshly baked baklava.
Have you travelled to Iran? Did you have a positive experience too? Share your thoughts on this fascinating country with us below!