village of masouleh

This is a rooftop village in Iran and we absolutely loved it.

We were happy to leave behind the noisy streets, polluted air and chaotic traffic of our overnight stay in Tehran to travel about 5 hours into a city called Rasht.

After weeks of peering out of buses and taxis to watch endless landscapes of the sandy desert of much of Iran, it was a welcome surprise to step off the coach in Rasht. The clean air and cool climate were very refreshing. It was late afternoon and we found a taxi to take us the extra 60km into the small village of Masouleh.

This drive itself was very picturesque,  it didn’t actually feel like we were still in Iran. Everything was so green and lush with emerald green coloured tea plantations on each side of the road. I read that this area of the country is where 90% of Iran’s tea is grown.

I felt a sense of familiarity as we drove further, and it dawned on me that this landscape reminded me very much of Sri Lanka. The climate and scenery were similar, and there were perfect tea plantations dotted around.

It was late afternoon, and the sun was setting beyond the horizon. We crept higher up the mountain as a light fog began to set in.

Views of the Iranian countryside on the way to Masouleh

On the sides of the road were groups of locals sitting upon picnic rugs laden with bread and fruit. They were smoking water pipes and drinking tea from a kettle steaming away on small burners.

Iranians love their tea and I’ve grown to appreciate fresh black tea from my travels through this friendly country too.

Rainbow coloured fairy lights were strung up in roadside restaurants we passed along the way.

I noticed many small bakeries from the glow of their tandoor ovens and bakers spinning and flipping flatbreads into tall piles with locals collecting stacks flung over their arms like bath towels.

Baker churns out delicious bread from the tandoor
Baker churns out delicious bread from the tandoor

I felt like we had already crossed the border into nearby countries, Azerbaijan or Georgia. I haven’t been to either country yet, but it’s how I’d imagined they might look.

Maybe it was because the landscape had instantly become so lush and green. I noticed the women were wearing really colourful scarves on their heads rather than the more common black or darker colours I’d gotten used to seeing in most of Iran.

As our taxi curved around the last bend, a steep village appeared with twinkling lights that shone from the base right up to the top of the mountain of which it is built.

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Homestay accommodation

It was Friday, an Iranian weekend, so it was really busy here with people and cars trying to find parking spots. Our taxi traversed halfway up the stepped mountain and we stopped just at the beginning of the bazaar. We’d organised to stay in a simple room owned by a local family that ran a tea house in the centre of the bazaar.

After a quick phone call from our taxi driver, our host Abbasi came trotting down the hill to meet us with a big smile. We followed him with our backpacks through the bustling bazaar which in itself climbs three levels up the stepped mountain.

The sweet aromas of apple flavoured water pipes fill the air along with roasted garlic and eggplant from the local cuisine of this area that is known as Gilan province.

I’d assume being located so close to the Caspian Sea where apparently 95% of the world’s caviar is produced, this cuisine would reflect it. It does just the opposite. The caviar produced here is virtually all for export. Most dishes here are focused more on the local abundance of vegetables, fruit and nuts.

Typical Gilan dishes are packed with turmeric and garlic. The most common dish is called mirza ghasemi which is a winning combination of mashed eggplant, squash, garlic and egg.

food in Iran
Mirza Ghasemi

We dropped our bags into our room and layered up with some more clothes as the temperature had dropped considerably since we were now in the mountains almost 1000m above sea level.

I love Iranian food – and it is fantastic in Masouleh

We enjoyed mirza ghasemi for dinner accompanied by the usual suspects, rice, and bread. Simply delicious. Don’t miss these Top 10 Most Delicious Foods from Iran.

Masouleh has a population of around 1500 people and is, at least, a thousand years old. It is known as one of Iran’s most beautiful villages and upon our first impression, we definitely agree.

The unique thing I noticed about this adorable village is that the earth-coloured houses are built on such a steep mountainside that the roof of one forms the pathway for the next.

People walking around the village across rooftops. Very unique..
People walking around the village across rooftops. Very unique.

Exploring the historical rooftop village of Masouleh

After dinner, we wandered through the bazaar to find tiny local teahouses with huge pots of the local soup called ‘Ash’ bubbling away in front of their shops. Huge ladles of the tasty Iranian staple were being served to the many seated hungry locals.

The following day we woke to a perfect sunny day and set out to explore. We climbed the stepped village from top to tail, curious to find out how the local people go about their day.

We passed little old men with skull caps pushing rusty wheelbarrows full of different supplies uphill along the carefully designed steps. We weaved our way near the top of the village to look down upon women hanging out their laundry on the roofs of their neighbours underneath.

It’s interesting how Masouleh was built

All the rooftops are incredibly flat and sturdy except for each having one or several little chimneys poking out.

I could imagine what Masouleh would look like in the Winter. The same twinkling lights would illuminate the village in the evening. Every home would have a fireplace crackling away that would send trains of smoke from the miniature chimneys climbing to the stars above. Blankets of snow would fall lightly upon the whole village like one of those glass shakers I used to own as a child.

If you choose to come and visit Iran, you will find the Iranian people to be incredibly hospitable, and they will invite you into their homes to feed you and treat you as a guest.

It is recommended that you should just ‘say yes’ when this happens. So many times we followed this valuable advice which is why we got to see this beautiful little village.

Masouleh, the rooftop village in Iran is a place that totally took me by surprise. It was the perfect end to my travels in Iran.

Travel Tips for Iran

You may enjoy viewing these 20 Inspiring Photos of Iran and reading more about why you should travel to Iran – 8 things I loved most.

There is often confusion about the two countries of Iran v Iraq – learn the main differences between them here.

If you’re planning on travelling further in this part of the world, check out our ultimate Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan Itinerary. Or if you only have time to visit just one of these countries, we’d recommend visiting Georgia – it’s wonderful, and just next door to Iran.

We’ve got all the information you need for where to stay in Tbilisi, Georgia, and our Food Lovers Guide to Georgia will be very useful for exploring this country.

If you’d like more of our travel advice, see our post about our expert travel tips from 15+ years of travel.