Iran’s Qeshm Island – a guide to Qeshm travel
You might not normally associate islands with Iran, but the country’s Persian Gulf in the south is home to the lovely Qeshm island, a place of natural beauty and wild geological formations. The spectacular landscape of Qeshm island will blow your mind, whilst the island life on Qeshm itself, with its fascinating mix of both Persian and Arabian cultures, provides a completely different perspective of life in Iran.
It is not difficult to get to Qeshm island, which, along with Hormuz island and Kish island, are the three most visited Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. The majority of the Qeshm attractions, many of which are natural, can be visited in one long day, although you will surely not regret spending more time on the island, if you’re not in a rush!
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When to go to Qeshm Island
The best time to go to Qeshm is probably from October through till May. Qeshm island is unbelievably hot during the summer months. However, this is low season, so you might find some good deals if you don’t mind sweating it out! Remember that you need to adhere to Iran’s dress code even on Qeshm island – see more about appropriate clothing in our guide to traveling independently in Iran.
Locals recommend spring, and say that it is a great time to be on the island if you’re interested in animal species. We were on Qeshm island in November, and we felt it was just perfect, with warm weather and sunny blue skies.
Do carry enough water around with you. You can expect to sweat a little bit during your time on Qeshm island, so you’re going to need to keep your hydration levels in check!
How to get to Qeshm Island
If you’re in Iran, the gateway to Qeshm island is the fishing town of Bandar Abbas in the south of Iran, from where you can then catch a ferry to Qeshm island.
There’s also an international airport on Qeshm island, but we couldn’t find any connecting flights from Shiraz (our destination prior to Qeshm) on the days we planned on traveling to Qeshm.
If you’re outside of Iran, you can fly directly to Qeshm international airport.
Direct flights to Qeshm
You may or may not find direct flights to Qeshm island, on the days you plan on traveling there, although of course, you can always plan your travel days according to the flight schedule.
You will need to contact an agency to book the flights for you. The flight finder on 1st Quest will give you an idea of what flights are available and you can even book them online through the website. As we keep pointing out, domestic flights in Iran are pretty affordable!
How to get to Bandar Abbas
Since we could not find direct flights from Shiraz to Qeshm island on our chosen dates, the next best option was to get to Bandar Abas and then take the ferry to Qeshm island.
We had the option of taking the bus from Shiraz to Qeshm or to fly there instead. Since we wanted to try save as much time as possible, we settled on the flight, seeing that a bus would take approximately 9 hours.
Our flights from Shiraz to Bandar Abbas was with Iran Air. We had been told that this airline was one of the safer ones, and that we should ideally not use the other domestic airlines due to maintenance concerns, given the sanctions on Iran. We weren’t too fussed at the time, but we were glad to be flying with the recommended airline.
The short domestic flight set us back €38 per person. Tap Persia arranged our flights for which we paid online after we provided them with a copy of our passports, after which they subsequently sent our tickets by email. The service was beyond efficient and very convenient.
The actual 1.5 hour flight was really scenic, as we flew over the red salt lake close by Shiraz and several mountain ranges, with the in-flight service being far better than we expected, including a meal and drinks. Also, check-in was the fastest we ever experienced!
Ferry from Bandar Abbas to Qeshm Island
The ferry from Bandar Abbas to Qeshm leaves from Shahid Haqani Passenger Port every 30 minutes, and you can just turn up and buy a ticket for the next boat. A Snapp! ride from the airport in Bandar Abbas to the port set us back 115,000 rial (11,500 toman), whilst ferry tickets to Qeshm cost 300,000 rial (30,000 toman) each.
Hailing from a little island ourselves, it felt amazing to be at sea once more, and the south was so much warmer than the north of Iran which was a relief, since we don’t do cold very well!
One we arrived in Qeshm, we were picked up by a pre-arranged driver sent by the guesthouse we had booked. The taxi from the ferry terminal to our guesthouse (about 1.5 hours’ away) cost 1,000,000 rial (100,000 toman). Be aware that Qeshm island tends to be a little pricier than the rest of Iran.
Ferry from Hormuz island
There are also ferries running between Qeshm island and Hormuz island twice a day (8am and 3pm when we were there), so if you are planning on visiting both Qeshm island and Hormuz island, you can travel from one to the other without needing to go back to Bandar Abbas.
Where to stay on Qeshm Island
There are few guesthouses scattered around Qeshm island, but based on online reviews we decided to stay to Assad Homestay, especially given the reviews on Assad’s, (the host), ability in organising Qeshm tours.
We contacted Assad on his Whatsapp number – +989362477331, and he was very quick in responding with his rates. We ended up paying €50 for two nights in a little room with a shared bathroom, which rate included breakfast and dinner. Assad also cooks his own coffee beans in the evening to make some very intense coffee the next morning!
Of course, we would have preferred finding rooms with private bathrooms, but these are rather hard to find on Qeshm island, and even so, the welcome we received at Assad’s homestay made up for any small accommodation inconveniences!
Looking back, it might have been a better idea to find accommodation close to the ferry, in Qeshm City, since we needed to take an early ferry to Hormuz island on our way out of Qeshm. We had not realised that Assad’s guesthouse was so far off from the city! Having said that, Assad arranged our transfer perfectly.
How to get around on Qeshm Island
Buses run infrequently across the main parts of Qeshm, but sadly there is no public transportation between the Qeshm island attractions, so your options of getting around them, are organised Qeshm island tours, hitchhiking and private taxis.
We have heard of travelers who have had great experiences with hitchhiking, but this wasn’t an option for us as we wanted to make the most of our one day dedicated to sightseeing on Qeshm island. When we enquired, the cost of a taxi was more expensive than the cost of taking our own private tour with Assad, so taking the tour seemed to be the more sensible option!
We booked our Qeshm island tour at the homestay we were staying at, but 1st Quest also offer some great trips around Qeshm island.
What to do on Qeshm Island – Qeshm Island Tours
Assad offered a variety of options for Qeshm island tours to choose from, bundling different Qeshm attractions separately. Since we only had one day to see the main Qeshm attractions, we settled on a Qeshm island tour which covered most sites, although we would have loved to check out the other Qeshm island tours as well, had we spent more time on the island.
The private tour described below cost €40 for the both of us including the car, fuel and guide / driver called Bahman, a local Qeshmi man who spoke English perfectly and explained everything in great detail.
Namakdan Salt Caves of Qeshm
We were convinced that we wanted to skip this Qeshm attraction, in order to gain more time, but we can only thank our lucky stars that we took our guide/driver’s advice to stop here, seeing that we eventually discovered that it was a pretty special place!
The way to the cave is along a sandy road by the beach on which some camels were grazing. We were told that we could stop for a dip if we so wished. We didn’t actually get into the water since we weren’t carrying extra clothing, but we did take a stroll on the completely empty beach!
We weren’t carrying our own torches so what we did, was rent out some flashlights from a guy on the way to the cave for 50,000 rial (5,000 toman) each, and walked into the cave until we reached a wall. The flashlights are absolutely necessary since the cave is totally pitch dark after only a few metres’ walk.
Bahman showed us the way, and after a while suggested that we turn off our torches while sitting in silence to experience the eerie nothingness around us. It was indeed a beautiful experience, which we totally recommend. The inside of the cave is full of interesting salt formations, with differently layered salt and minerals of some very particular hues. They are not as impressive as those on Hormuz island, but worth exploring anyway!
Entrance fee – free, but you should rent out flashlights if you’re not carrying any, as explained above.
Laft Village (Bandar-e Laft)
The traditional coastal village set on an island peninsula is full of beautiful differently-sized badgirs (wind catchers or wind towers), ancient Persian ‘air conditioners’ which do an amazing job of cooling down the rooms below them! We were aware that we would see such badgirs once we got to Yazd, but we hadn’t realised there were so many on Qeshm!
The village is also home to many ancient rainwater wells, some of which can be observed whilst strolling around the village. Apparently, each of the 366 water wells in the village represent one day in a leap year. One water well was used per day of the year, so effectively each well was only used once a year. There are also a couple of interesting round-domed cisterns and two castle ruins in the village.
Our guide explained that the people in Laft village are still very conservative and many women wear colourful masks to cover their faces. We did see quite a few mask-covered women walking hurriedly by, but we would say that the majority were mask-less. The village easily merits a visit during your Qeshm island tour, although there’s no need to spend too much time there.
Entrance fee – none
Hara Mangrove Sea Forest
A short drive away from Laft village, lies the Hara Mangrove Sea Forest, an area of resplendent blue water and green vegetation.
The area is best seen from a boat and shared boat tours are available from the dock area of the mangrove forest. The cost of the whole boat is 900,000 rial (90,000 toman) which can be shared between a bunch of people for a 30 minutes’ (or so) ride. There was no one else requesting a shared boat tour when we were there, and we didn’t feel like waiting too long, so we got the entire (small) boat for the two of us.
The area is known for its bird watching opportunities, and indeed we saw loads, though, not being bird enthusiasts, we weren’t too sure of what kind of birds we were seeing exactly! The greatest draw of sailing around the forest to us, was just being on, and enjoying the water after having missed it so much whilst we were on mainland Iran!
Cost of boat tour – 900,000 rial (90,000 toman) shared between the number of people on the boat.
Valley of Statues (Darreh-ye Tandis-ha)
The vast area that was once a high plateau is home to beautiful lunar landscapes and rock formations, with tall majestic-looking rocks and conical shapes that have been eroded through the centuries. A walk across part of the valley on your Qeshm island tour is a great way of seeing this spectacular Qeshm attraction.
Entrance fee – none
Ship Building Yard
This is where you go to see how the traditional wooden Qeshmi ships (called Lenj) are built, painstakingly and beautifully. Walking across the ‘shipyard’ felt like taking a step back in time. Skilled carpenters build different parts of the boats with different types of wood in the traditional manner, a legacy passed down from generation to the next.
Lenjes have been used in Iran for thousands of years for the purpose of commerce, fishing and pearl hunting, and the fact that the art of building Lenjes has survived to modern times, is a wonder in itself. Amazingly, Lenjes are built without a blueprint – the shipbuilders pretty much calculate the boat dimensions from experience.
Entrance fee – none
We must say that our guide left the best of the Qeshm attractions for last. The Chahkooh canyon must be one of the most beautiful places in all of Qeshm (and perhaps of Iran too), and we are glad to have had enough time to explore it pretty well on this Qeshm island tour.
The earth’s natural elements have eroded the canyon into beautiful and mesmerising shapes with holes and gaps at the sides of the canyon walls and some spectacular scenery. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, since you may need to do some scrambling across the uneven terrain.
After a while, our guide took us up to one side of the canyon for an absolutely amazing sunset across the canyon. The Chahkooh canyon should not be missed!
Entrance fee – 200,000 rial (20,000 toman) each.
Other sights to visit in Qeshm Island
Qeshm island is home to some other great attractions which we didn’t get to experience during our short time on the island, but here’s an idea of what you can see on other Qeshm island tours.
Sadly, we had to miss out on this attraction on Qeshm island, since it could not be included on the same day as Chahkooh canyon, given that they are located on opposite ends of the island.
Like Chahkooh, the site is home to some incredible rock formations caused by erosion along the years. The site is located close to Qeshm city and can be seen in 1-2 hours, so it is easy to include if you’re passing through the area on the way to the city.
One other Qeshm attraction we had to miss out on, was a boat trip to Hengam island. The waters around the island are reputedly very clear so that the marine life can be seen from the boat, whilst sighting the 400 or so playful dolphins found around the island is apparently very easy!
During our Qeshm island tour, our guide stopped us at a local fish restaurant, close to Laft village, serving a variety of dishes such a fried fish and fish kebabs, shrimp, crab and shark. We tried the shrimp and shark which were absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, we didn’t take down the name of the restaurant, because we would have liked to recommend it! The restaurant also had its own badgir which cooled the private room below it.
Qeshm island, together with Hormuz island, is by far one of the most fascinating and diverse parts of Iran, a beautiful island which is worth exploring and discovering during your time in Iran!Read more about Iran!