Exploring Palangan Village in Iranian Kurdistan and things to do in Kermanshah
Before planning our independent trip to Iran, we had never heard about Palangan village in Iranian Kurdistan, an area of Iran located on the west side of the country bordering Iraq. Palangan village is an ancient, stepped village on a mountain slope, with dwellings bordering both sides of the river that runs through it.
We were really keen to visit a typical stepped village during our time in Iran. Whilst Masuleh, a village of similarly clustered dwellings in the north of the country, seemed to be the obvious choice, Palangan village sounded a lot more attractive and enticing to us than the more popular destination.
Here is all about Palangan village, why you should go there, how to get to Palangan and why the city of Kermanshah is a perfect base for exploring Palangan.
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Kurdistan is a specific region spread over some parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Iranian Kurdistan includes part of the north west of Iran (eastern Kurdistan) where Kurdish people are predominant, and identify as ethnically distinct from other Iranians.
Kurdish people have long held complicated relationship with the governments in their respective countries. Iraqi Kurdistan holds an autonomous status, whilst Iranian Kurdistan does not. Syrian Kurdistan’s autonomy is not recognised officially, whilst the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has not yet been resolved.
We will not go into the politics and conflicts experienced by the Kurdish people, some of which are still ongoing, in this blog. Suffice to say that, whichever way you look at it, the situation is complex.
Iranian Kurds make up around 10% of Iran’s population, and mostly live in the Northwestern region, close to the border with Iraq. Palangan village is a small, stepped village in this region. We found Iranian Kurdistan to be rather scenic and pretty, with Kurdish people mirroring other Iranian people by being so very welcoming and friendly!
Palangan village – a typical stepped village in Iran
We mostly wanted to visit Palangan village because of its relatively unique feature of stepped buildings on the sides of a river amidst some beautiful landscape. The fact that it was located in Iranian Kurdistan was an added bonus, since we also wanted to experience some Kurdish culture.
We arrived in Palangan village early morning and took our time to go up the steppes and observe the villagers’ rather slow way of life. We walked all around the village and by river, where kids were playing and adults were preparing food on makeshift barbeques.
The scenery was simply spectacular and there was such an easy, relaxed feel to the whole area that we wished we could stay there for a couple of days to explore the region. However, we had already made future plans which we weren’t happy to cancel.
There isn’t much to do in Palangan itself besides observe the local village life, walk around and eat fish, but we can only imagine that trekking in the area must be truly amazing.
We were pretty much the only foreign tourists visiting the village during our time there, and although we felt that the area was truly authentic (for lack of a better word), we were charged 50,000 rial (5,000 toman) each to enter the village, which despite being very affordable, goes to show that the village has been earmarked for its touristic potential.
The locals in Kermanshah advised us to try the tasty fish kebabs during our trip to Palangan, and although we didn’t get kebabs, we feasted on one whole, perfectly barbequed massive fish which was probably the best fish dish we had throughout the month we spent in Iran!
How to get to Palangan and to Kermanshah
To get to Palangan, you need to first arrive to one of the main towns close to Palangan village and Iranian Kurdistan. When planning our trip to Iran, we had concluded that our best option for getting to Palangan would be to first to get to either Kermanshah or to Sanandaj. Both towns seemed to be more or less equidistant from the town of Kamyaran, which would be our gateway to Palangan. We had been advised not to stay in Kamyaran itself for lack of accommodation options and things to do.
Sanandaj seemed to be the more popular option, but the sights which we were interested in, tipped the balance in favour of Kermanshah!
How to get to Kermanshah
We booked a night bus from our previous destination Tabriz to Kermanshah from the large Tabriz bus station on our first day in Tabriz, although it seems that we could have easily booked it on the same day we wanted to leave Tabriz. Indeed, the guy taking our booking just wrote our names down on a piece of paper and wasn’t too fussed with other details.
The bus left at 6pm and arrived in Kermanshah at 5am, an 11-hour ‘VIP’ bus ride which set us back 860,000 rial (86,000 toman) each, with a single stop on whole journey. The VIP night buses in Iran are pretty comfortable. Read more about bus travel when traveling independently in Iran here.
How to get to Palangan Village
Once we were in Kermanshah, we asked the receptionist of Kermanshah Oak Hostel, where we were staying, about going to Palangan village. We had figured that we could take a local bus or a shared taxi from Kermanshah to Kamyaran (the gateway village mid-way between Kermanshah and Sanandaj), and from there find another shared taxi going to Palangan.
Although the above-mentioned route is possible, we were told that we needed to be very lucky to make it work due to the limited traffic options, without staying overnight in Palangan. We therefore decided to go to Palangan with a private taxi which the hostel kindly organised for us for a cost of 1,200,000 rial (120,000 toman – this translated to around €16 at the time of traveling, however the currency fluctuations are extremely high in Iran, and it is now around €4 at the time of writing).
The driver waited for us until we explored Palangan for a few hours, had lunch and explored some more. We should also point out that the scenery on the Kermanshah – Palangan route was incredible, and the driver was happy to stop every time we came across a good photo opportunity on the way!
Accommodation in Kermanshah
Our choice of accommodation was Kermanshah Oak Hostel, which suited our needs perfectly, for the cost of €28 for a one-night stay. Even though we arrived on the previous day at 5am and were provided with a room immediately, they very kindly charged us only for a one night’s stay.
You can find other accommodation options here.
Accommodation in Palangan village
There are no hotels, hostels or official guesthouses in Palangan village, so if you’re looking to stay overnight in Palangan village, your best bet is to find a local family with an informal homestay that will take you in. There is little information about how to do that, so perhaps, asking an agency such as 1st Quest would be your best bet. You can always turn up in Palangan village and ask around of course, if you are happy taking the risk!
All in all, we found Palangan village to be rather fascinating, and, although there is not much to do in the village itself. On our next trip, we plan on finding accommodation in Iranian Kurdistan, either in Palangan village itself, or in a similar village which we can use as our base to further explore the area and experience more of local Kurdish life.
Things to do in Kermanshah besides visiting Palangan village
Despite the fact that our intention of stopping by Kermanshah was only to use it a base for going to Palangan village, we were delighted to hear that there were a few things to do in Kermanshah which sounded interesting. Indeed, Kermanshah ended up being one of those surprising destinations for which we had absolutely no expectations, but eventually found to be absolutely lovely.
Here is what we believe are the best things to do in Kermanshah in one day:
See the rock carvings and inscriptions on Mount Bisotun
Strictly speaking, Mount Bisotun is not within Kermanshah city but in a city called Bisotun in the Kermanshah province, but it is extremely easy to get to Mount Bisotun from Kermanshah city.
The carvings and inscriptions on the side of the mountain at Bisotun date from 521 BC and are written in three ancient languages which are no longer used. The main inscriptions and carvings were covered in scaffolding when we went, but there are many others which we thought were fascinating!
To get to Mount Bisotun, we used Snapp! (read more about using Snapp! in our independent travel to Iran guide) and asked the driver to take us to the main savari (shared taxi) station from where we intended to get a shared taxi to Bisotun (65,000 rial / 6,500 toman for the Snapp! ride). However, the Snapp! driver indicated that he could take us straight to the site for an extra USD2, which to us was totally convenient.
Once we got to the site, we needed to pay the entrance fee of 500,000 rial (50,000 toman) each and we set off to walk around the different mountain paths and trails. You can get very close to the inscriptions and carvings – we do ask you be responsible and to avoid touching this precious heritage! The site was almost deserted during our visit.
We enjoyed the walk so much, that we kept walking all the way round until we arrived to a beautiful caravanserai which had been beautifully restored and renovated into a hotel. When we indicated that we would like to take a look inside, the receptionist asked for 20,000 rial (2,000 toman) each as an entrance fee, but then kindly waived it off when we actually came to pay.
Upon our exit from the Bisotun site, we came across a seller who promised to find us a private taxi that would take us to our next destination, Taq-e Bostan, back in Kermanshah city, for 300,000 rial (30,000 toman). This saved us the hassle of finding a shared taxi to the station in Kermanshah, and then transport to Taq-e Bostan.
Visit Taq-e Bostan
Taq-e Bostan is the site of another series of bas-carvings on the banks of a large duck pond, on the Zagros mountains, a scene we thought looked incredibly pretty!
The site is located just outside of Kermanshah city, and Lonely Planet states that Taq-e Boston is sometimes thought to be disappointing, considering the admission price, but we were very happy to walk around the area and see the very well-preserved ancient bas-carvings up close. We also consider the entrance fee of 500,000 rial each (50,000 toman) to be affordable.
Our only issue was that entrance fee payment could only be made by local card, which of course we did not have. A local was very happy to let us use his own card and take our cash. Despite other people having been disappointed by the area, we genuinely feel that visiting Taq-e Bostan is one of the best things to do in Kermanshah.
Tekyeh Mo’aven Al Molk
This religious site is sure to wow you with its impressive, colourful tiling and beautiful architecture. The magnificent monument from the Qajar period, was used for different religious rituals and ceremonies and has been registered as one of Iran’s heritage sites.
But, aside from the religious importance… oh those tiles! We could not stop taking pictures of the different designs with the engraved images of ancient kings of Iran as well as delicate scenes of mythology, flowers and nature. One of our favourite things to do in Kermanshah!
Entrance fee of 300,000 rial (30,000 toman) each.
Next on our list was another Tekye – that of Biglarbeygi, but it was closed much to our disappointment. It is apparently home to a mirrored dome, which of course we did not get to see, but would have loved to! Judging from the online pictures, this must be one of the best things to do in Kermanshah.
Eat Nan-e Berenji
Last on our list is tasting the delicate Nan-e Berenji, wonderful Persian rice cookies from the Kermanshah area. Several shops specialising in these fine, soft cookies can be found around town, and different sellers were laughingly providing us with samples so that we could have an informal judging contest! We only wish to have had sufficient space in our backpacks to carry boxes of them, they were all so good!
If you’re interested in Persian food, you can read more about the food in Iran here.
We are very glad to have considered a trip to Palangan village using Kermanshah as the base, so that we could also experience all the best things to do in Kermanshah, a very interesting part of our itinerary in Iran. On our next visit, a better exploration of Iranian Kurdistan promises to be a worthy add-on!Read more about Iran!