Hiking and the Great Outdoors

In response to the Take a Hike blog‘s comments and questions, today’s post will be about hiking in Iran.

There are many trails that give tourists and locals alike the opportunity to explore and see the diverse scenery and landscape of Iran.

Whether trekking to the summit of the highest peak in the Middle East, along the trails to the Caspian Sea or at the foot of the Alborz mountains, the Iranian landscape is diverse and best experienced on foot.  Below are some options:

Mt Damavand

Northeast of Tehran and the highest peak in the Middle East is Mt Damavad at 5,671 meters high.  The dormant volcano is shaped like Japan’s Mt Fuji, and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Iran appearing on the IR10,000 note and spring water bottles.

There are many routes up the mountain, but the most common one is the southern route.  The hike takes about three days, and is fairly straightforward and safe with the most dangerous aspect being altitude sickness.  Symptoms included dizziness, swollen fingers/toes, nausea and headaches.  The only way to combat this is to take it slow and adjust to the altitude.  The best time to climb is during July, August and September where the weather is a lot warmer (and less erratic).

From the summit on a clear day you can see the green jungle of north Iran, the Caspian Sea, Tehran, the lake of Lar and the vest plain of Varamin.

Alamut Valley

At the foot of the Alborz peaks, the Alamut valley is a scenic myriad where one moment you’ll feel as if you’re in central Australia, the next in in Switzerland.

The Alamut Valley hosts historical as well as scenic significance.  Throughout the valley are ruins of over 50 fortresses with fabulous myths and stories to accompany them.  The Castles of the Assassins is perhaps one of the most well known fables.  Here the castles are said to have been the centre of a medieval religious cult where followers would lure and then murder political and religious leaders in the hope of reaching the afterlife’s paradise.

Lake Gahar

Waterfalls aren’t something one would expect to find in Iran.  There are many long and short treks around the mountain ridged Lake Gahar in Iran’s central west, south of Tehran.

The best waterfall views are from across the river using a footbridge.  Otherwise a popular trek is to the Shevi Waterfall that emerges directly as a spring from a cliff, then falls around 100 meters in a wide sweep.  This is approximately a five hours walk from Talezang (off of the Dorud to Tehran train line) with some climbing involved.  Hikers can camp here, although should bring their own equipment and food.

Happy hiking!

Unveiling Iran

Get Off-Piste

Skiing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Iran.  With over 20 ski fields in the country, and some of the best and least-populated off-piste skiing, skiing in Iran may be one of the most surprising experiences of all.

Skiing Burkhas

In 2008, English comedian, Dom Joly was inspired to hit Iran’s ski slopes after he stumbled across a photograph of ladies in burkhas skiing (similar to the one above).  He visited Shemshak resort, one of the four main ski resorts high in the Alborz Mountains.

He described this part of Iran as unlike the rest – more distanced from Islam, less traditional, busy, more westernized, and incredibly beautiful.

Apart from the great snow, weather and terrain the Alborz Mountains have, each resort’s village atmosphere and après-ski scene is lively.  As tea culture is hugely significant in Iran, the resort cafés and teahouses are quaint and ambient.  In spite of nationwide ban on alcohol, the nightlife in some resorts is said to have been “out of control and even mind boggling.”

Shemshak and Dizin resorts are probably the most mountainous and challenging of those Iran has to offer, with more lifts, slopes, and plenty of untouched off-piste skiing.  Tochal and Darbansar resorts are better suited for beginners.  All resorts have equipment hire available, accommodation and are within a day-trip distance from the bustling capital, Tehran.

For more information about skiing and ski culture in Iran, see the Lonely Planet website, or read more of Dom Joly’s article.

Peace,

Unveiling Iran.