Iran Itinerary – Backpacking in Iran for 30 days
Having spent a total of 30 days backpacking in Iran, we feel that our Iran itinerary covers all the best places to visit in Iran, if you’re there for the same amount of time!
We managed to fit in visits to the most beautiful cities in Iran, experience island life in the south of the country, and include a few nights in two of Iran’s magnificent deserts in our Iran itinerary, whilst we were backpacking in Iran.
We visited what feels a like a million mud brick cities, crumbling and renovated caravanserais, all the bazaars we came across, ancient, rich, architectural wonders and promptly fell in love with something different every day!
With so many places to visit in Iran, it was hard to build our Iran itinerary, but we can definitely say that we experienced many aspects of a vast, fascinating and colourful country which only made us long for more!
Here’s a comprehensive look at our Iran itinerary. We will include links to separate destination posts for more detailed insights into all the places we visited whilst backpacking in Iran, as well as logistical specifics. If you’re looking for a helpful guide for general information about traveling to Iran, read our guide to getting your Iran visa and independent travel to Iran first.
If you’re looking for a post about the most beautiful places in Iran, head over to this post on the blog.
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Day 1 – Arrival in Tehran
We landed in Iran’s capital city late at night and on Day 1 of our Tehran itinerary, arranged our visa and travel insurance, exchanged some money, bought some sim cards and got some food from the airport, before heading to our pre-booked hostel by taxi.
Our dedicated post to planning your trip to Iran contains the details of the airport formalities, visa details and which sim cards we used.
We spent two nights in Tehran at the Seven Hostel, which suited our needs perfectly. We paid €42 for two nights. Bear in mind the fact, that your first night in Tehran should be pre-booked, and that you need to show your booking confirmation at the airport.
Day 2 – Explore Tehran
Day 2 of our Tehran itinerary was spent exploring Tehran. If you’re backpacking in Iran, it is likely that you came into the country via Tehran airport (although Iran is also accessible through other international airports and land borders).
Tehran can be rather chaotic and noisy and is not one of the loveliest places to visit in Iran, although it does provide an insightful introduction to the country. Our favourite of all the Tehran attractions was without a doubt, the glitzy National Jewellery Treasury, whilst the US Den of Espionage Museum and Golestan Palace, the Tehran Grand Bazaar and the Azadi Tower are worthwhile additions to your Iran itinerary.
Day 3 – Tehran to Qazvin
Qazvin was the former capital of the Persian empire but its biggest draw is its proximity to the Alamut Valley and the Castle of the Assassins, which was the main reason we included it on our Iran itinerary.
If you’re backpacking in Iran, the best way of getting from Tehran to Qazvin is by using the public bus. It’s also a great way of making friends with the lovely locals! Once you’re in Qazvin, be sure to visit the Sa’ad al-Sultaneh Caravanserai and the Qajar bathhouse and Anthropology Museum. If you’re looking for other attractions, the Imamzadeh Hossein Shrine, the Grand Bazaar, the Jameh Mosque and the Qazvin Gateway, are worth a visit too.
You can find all the details about things to do in Qazvin, as well as transport details and how to get to Qazvin in our dedicated post.
We stayed in Razhia Hotel during our time in Qazvin and paid €15/night for a double room with private bathroom. You can search for and book accommodation in Qazvin here.
Day 4 – Alamut Valley Tour
Since we included Qazvin on our Iran itinerary specifically to go to the Alamut Valley, we had arranged a trip and tour guide beforehand based on reviews we found online.
Unfortunately, our trip to the Alamut Valley was marred by constant bad weather so that we didn’t get to see the views it is so well-known for, but the fog and autumn colours did make for some pretty atmospheric photos, and we really enjoyed our trekking experience to the Castle of the Assassins and around it, despite the fact that it was raining continuously.
You can find a full description of our one-day tour, as well as details of our guide and how we booked the trip in our blog post about the Alamut Valley.
Day 5 – Qazvin to Tabriz
Day 5 of our Iran itinerary was spent traveling to the city of Tabriz on the north western side of Iran on a long but scenic bus ride from Qazvin to Tabriz.
We checked in to the popular Darya Guesthouse where we paid €15/ room – a great option if you’re backpacking in Iran! You can check out accommodation options in Tabriz here.
Day 6 – Explore Kandovan
The main reason as to why we travelled to the north-west of Iran, was to visit the rocky troglodyte village of Kandovan, a village similar Cappadocia in Turkey, but smaller, more authentic (for lack of a better word), still inhabited, and minus the hot air balloons.
The easiest way of getting to Kandovan is by booking a private transfer with a driver, although you can get there using a combo of public and private transport, which we felt was not worth the hassle.
We loved exploring Kandovan, going up the narrow paths leading to the rocky houses and observing local life in this very unique village.
You can read all about our one-day experience in Kandovan and how to get there in this blog post.
If you would like to stay overnight in Kandovan, you can even have your own troglodyte experience at Laleh Kandovan Rocky Hotel.
Day 7 – Explore Tabriz
Tabriz is worth spending a few days in, and we do suggest that you dedicate a spot to sightseeing in the city on your Iran itinerary. Tabriz is home to a particularly easy-going vibe which we really enjoyed.
Also, there are plenty of places to visit in Tabriz, such as the Grand Bazaar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful Blue Mosque, the Jameh Mosque, El-Goli Park, and if you’re there for an extra day, you can even go on a day trip to St. Stepanos Monastery, close to the Armenia border.
Our blog post about things to do in Tabriz, will guide you in exploring the city!
Whilst we were in Tabriz, we decided to take a night bus to Kermanshah, so that we could explore Palangan village in Iranian Kurdistan.
Day 8 – Explore Kermanshah
We arrived in Kermanshah at around 5am after a long, rather tiring night bus ride from Tabriz and settled in at Kermanshah Oak Hostel, where we paid €28/ night. Accommodation options can be booked here.
The city of Kermanshah was a very pleasant surprise, since we had no actual expectations but thoroughly enjoyed being there. Whilst you’re in Kermanshah, be sure to visit Bistoun for some fascinating historical carvings and inscriptions, Taq-e Bostan, the religious site of Tekyeh Mo’aven al Molk and Tyekyeh Bigarbeygi. Also, you HAVE to taste the wonderful Nan-e Berenji, cookies typical of Kermanshah!
You can read all about Kermanshah and how to get to Palangan in this blog post.
Day 9 – Day trip to Palangan
The village of Palangan is a typical stepped village bordering two sides of a river in Iranian Kurdistan which we chose to go to instead of the more popular but touristic Masuleh.
We also wanted to experience a little of Iranian Kurdistan, although we definitely want to go back to experience more as soon as possible, seeing that the views and the area are simple spectacular!
The dedicated blog post for Palangan is found at the link posted for Day 8. After having explored Palangan and returned to Kermanshah, we caught a night bus going to Isfahan on the same day.
If you’re backpacking in Iran, night buses a great way to get around, since they allow you to travel during the night and make the most of your daytime hours, whilst saving on accommodation at the same time. Restful sleep isn’t always possible though!
Day 10 – Explore Isfahan
Exploring the lovely Isfahan was easily one of our highlights whilst backpacking in Iran, and we only wish to have dedicated more time to the beautiful city. Although we forwent more time in Isfahan in favour of including the Varzaneh desert on our Iran itinerary, we feel that Isfahan deserved a couple of days more in reality.
With so much to do in Isfahan, it may be difficult to understand which attractions to include on your Iran itinerary, but the good news is that many of the best places to visit in Isfahan are located close to each other. Naqsh-e Jahan Square is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Iran, especially the Imam Mosque, Aali Qapu Palace and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Bazaar-e Borzog also leads into the same massive square.
Read our post about Isfahan attractions and things to do in Isfahan for a comprehensive look at the city with practical details.
During our time in Isfahan, we stayed at the Isfahan Boutique Hotel, for around €12 / night for a double room with a private bathroom. Other hotels and accommodation options can be booked here.
Day 11 – Isfahan to Varzaneh and Varzaneh Sunset Tour
Although we only managed to squeeze in one night in Varzaneh in our Iran itinerary, we were lucky enough to explore the desert both at sunset and at sunrise time and managed to see quite a bit of the Varzaneh attractions!
Getting to Varzaneh from Isfahan is very easy if you’re backpacking in Iran, since you can simply take a bus running from Isfahan to Varzaneh town from the Jey bus station, and then catch the bus back to Isfahan when you’re ready to leave.
During our time in Varzaneh we stayed at Negaar Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse, the hosts of which, organised our sunset desert tour on the day we arrived, and our sunrise tour the next morning. This meant that we got to climb up sand dunes, see salt flats and a shimmering green salt lake, have a traditional breakfast in an abandoned caravanserai, climb up an old volcano and lots more!
You can read the details of our time in the Varzaneh desert and how to organise an experience there, in our post about how to visit the Varzaneh desert in Iran.
Day 12 – Varzaneh sunrise tour and back to Isfahan
After the sunrise tour organised by the hosts of Negaar Guesthouse, we had lunch and headed to the Varzaneh bus station from where we got an afternoon bus back to Isfahan, where we organised a great dinner and spent some time planning our next parts of the Iran itinerary.
Day 13 – Isfahan to Shiraz
Although we were mostly backpacking in Iran, we decided to take some private transfers during our time there, so that we would visit some of the destinations found on the way. Despite many of the most beautiful destinations in Iran being highly accessible, some others are pretty remote with no access to public transport.
Although several buses and even trains run from Isfahan to Shiraz, we wanted to visit Pasargadae, Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam on our way, so taking a private transfer seemed to us the most convenient way of doing this.
We booked our transfer with Shirdal Airya, who provided an excellent service so that we spent the day marvelling at the ancient Persian wonders, before getting to Shiraz.
Read our Shiraz travel guide and Shiraz attractions in three days for all the details.
During our time in Shiraz, we stayed at Keyvam Hotel, one of the best accommodation deals during our 30-day trip in Iran. A massive room with direct views of the the Arg of Karim Khan cost €10/night. You can book Keyvam Hotel or other hotels in Shiraz here.
Day 14 – Shiraz
With plenty of things to do in Shiraz, you’re going to have to choose wisely what to include on your Iran itinerary. We managed to dedicate two full days to Shiraz along with a couple of evenings, so we managed to cover all the main attractions.
The Nasi al-Mulk Mosque, more popularly known among tourists as the Pink Mosque is perhaps Shiraz’s most popular attractions and it’s no surprise that it was packed tourists competing for selfie spots. It should not be missed though! The gorgeous garden of Naranjestan Qavam, the Vakil Bazaar, nearby Vakil Mosque and Vakil Bath house, the Tomb of Hafez, and the Tomb of Saadi, the Arg of Karim Khan and the Gardens of Eram (Bagh-e Eram) are all worth going to.
Other attractions in Shiraz include the Shah Cheragh Mosque and the Quran Gate.
You can find the details regarding the attractions in Shiraz and more information about how to get them and entrance costs in our dedicated post about Shiraz.
Day 15 – Shiraz to Ghalat
The next destination on our Iran itinerary was the village of Ghalat, hidden in the mountains, yet only 45 minutes’ drive away from Shiraz. Ghalat is well-known in Iran for being a more liberal area when compared to other places in Iran, and indeed, it did feel a lot less conservative.
The village had a bit of a hippy vibe, although if you’re backpacking in Iran, you might find it a bit pricier compared to other villages. Ghalat is very accessible, and you can get there either with Snapp! taxi or with the public bus from Shiraz.
We spent the afternoon exploring the little village and the surrounding area which at that time of year (November) was full of vivid autumn colours. We hired a well-known guide during our time in Ghalat since we wanted to do a spot of trekking, and stayed with his family at his house for the night.
You can read our post about Ghalat village here.
Day 16 – Trekking in Ghalat
We woke up hoping to go on a trek around the mountains of Ghalat, however Nikki’s knee injury was bothering him so we decided on a lighter trek around the valleys instead. Our guide Afshar was incredibly nice and helped us determine which trekking activities were most suited to us.
Sara his wife, is a lovely lady and also cooks typical Iranian food really well, so that we loved spending our time in Ghalat with them! They gave us a whole new perspective on living in Iran which we had not yet experienced!
We left Ghalat in the afternoon and got back to Shiraz after taking the regular bus running between the two destinations.
Day 17 – Shiraz
We spent the second full day dedicated to Shiraz, visiting some of the attractions highlighted in Day 14 of this Iran itinerary, so that we got a pretty good overview of places to visit in Shiraz by the time we left the city.
Next time we’re in Iran, we intend to take a trip our of Shiraz to visit the salt lake of Maharloo though!
Day 18 – Shiraz to Qeshm Island
The next part of our Iran itinerary involved heading to the southern islands of Iran… because, yes…. Iran is home to some absolutely wonderful (and surreal) islands in the Persian Gulf! They are best visited outside the summer season though because it can get really hot and uncomfortable in the south of Iran.
We got to Qeshm island by taking a flight from Shiraz’s airport to the port city of Bandar Abbas where we then got a ferry to Qeshm island, and then got a taxi to our accommodation of choice.
That pretty much took up the whole day!
You can find the details of what flight we took and ferry timings as well as what is unique to Qeshm and why you should include it in your Iran itinerary, in our post about Iran’s Qeshm Island.
Day 19 – Explore Qeshm Island
During our time in Qeshm we stayed at Assad Homestay which worked out just great, since the host Assad took care of us in every way possible and organised our full day tour around Qeshm. We didn’t get to see all the attractions in one day, since the island is not small, but we were rather impressed with the salt caves of Namakdan, Laft Village, the Mangrove Sea Forest, the Valley of Statues, the ship building yard and of course the fabulous Chahkooh Canyon.
Day 20 – Qeshm Island to Hormuz island and explore Hormuz
After our two nights in Qeshm Island, we moved on to the incredibly surreal rainbow island of Hormuz. We did that by taking an early morning ferry running from Qeshm island to Hormuz island. You only need a few hours to explore most of the unique attractions on Hormuz island but get ready to experience mind-blowing colour and texture!
You’ll understand what we’re talking about in our post about Hormuz Island where we describe how to get there, explore the island in a few hours, and get back on a ferry to Qeshm island or to Bandar Abbas depending on the next destination on your Iran itinerary.
You can also choose to spend a night or two on Hormuz Island if you so wish.
We caught an afternoon ferry to Bandar Abbas and made our way to the bus station from where we intended to get a bus going directly to Kerman. Unfortunately, there were none, so we ended up making a complicated journey of buses, savaris and taxis to finally arrive in Kerman at around 11pm.
Day 21 – Kerman
Kerman is the gateway to the Lut desert which we knew would be one of the highlights of our Iran itinerary. We spent one day exploring Kerman itself which was interesting enough but worth missing if you’re short on time. We believe that the destinations surrounding Kerman and those between Kerman and Yazd, are far more interesting than the city attractions within Kerman.
During our time in Kerman, we stayed at the Akhavan Hotel, the owner of which, was instrumental in organising our trip to the Lut desert and to the other attractions on the Kerman area. We paid €20 / night for a very comfortable room on half board basis. Breakfasts and dinners were delicious and abundant!
Day 22 – Kerman to Lut Desert
Our trip to the Lut desert was organised by the owners Akhavan Hotel. If you’re backpacking in Iran, you may manage to make your way by bus to Shahdad at the edge of the desert, but you are still going to need some kind of desert safari to take you around to see the Kaluts and other attractions.
We felt that getting an organised tour was the most convenient way of making the most of our time in the desert, and at the same time having the flexibility and opportunity to stop at other places on the way such as Bam Citadel, Rayen Castle, the Coloured Mountains, Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine and Shazdeh Gardens.
We explored Bam Citadel, Rayen Castle, the Coloured Mountains on Day 22 of our Iran itinerary on our way to the Lut Desert. We managed to watch sunset from the car as we drove into the desert and settled into the lodge included in the tour price, where we had dinner (also included in the price) and were given a briefing regarding the waking up in time for a sunset experience the following day.
Read our post about the Lut Desert and the very unique Kaluts, huge ridges of sand formed by erosion commonly called ‘castles’.
Day 23 – Explore Lut Desert and transfer to Kerman
The next day we were picked up at 4.45am, in time to watch a mind-blowing sunrise surrounding by the very majestic Kaluts. We were then taken to a salt river running through the desert, another pretty unique sight on our Iran itinerary!
Back at the eco-lodge, we were treated to a nice breakfast in the courtyard of the lodge and then it was time to make our way back to Kerman, where we stopped at Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine and Shazdeh Gardens on the way.
Day 24 – Kerman to Yazd
We traveled from Kerman to Yazd using a private transfer organised by the company Shirdal Airya since we wanted to stop at some sights on the way. We were picked up punctually, and spent the day marvelling at the troglodyte village of Meymand, the Caravanserai of Zein-o-din and the mud brick ruins and houses of Saryazd Fortress and Fahraj village.
During our time in Yazd, we stayed at the Jungle Hostel which for €15/night, we found to be clean and convenient.
You can read about all our experiences in Yazd as well as the places to visit around Yazd, and how to organise transfers to include those places in our post about how to travel to Yazd and top things to do in Yazd.
Day 25 – Explore Yazd
Despite the cold weather and the fact that we were in Yazd during Iran’s 2019 Internet Blackout, we found Yazd to be as fascinating as its popularity suggests.
We spent two full days exploring the numerous attractions, including but not limited to the Towers of Silence, the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the Jameh Mosque and Amir Chakhmaq Complex.
Day 26 – Yazd
Details of attractions and top things to do in Yazd, are found in our dedicated blog post about Yazd linked on day 24 of this Iran itinerary.
Day 27 – Yazd to Kashan
We took the opportunity of another private transfer from Yazd to Kashan in order to stop at the ruins of Kharanaq village, the desert town of Meybod, the Zoroastrian shrine of Chak Chak, and to take a look at the Jameh mosque of Na’in on the way.
This is not the most affordable way of traveling from Yazd to Kashan, especially if you’re backpacking in Iran, however it is definitely the best value for money if you want to visit a number of sights and you’re limited with time.
Details of the attractions and the transfer can be found in our dedicated blog post about Yazd linked on day 24 of this Iran itinerary.
When we arrived in Kashan, we settled in a pretty room at Ferdows Kooshk Traditional Hotel in the old part of Kashan, where we paid €19/night.
Day 28 – Kashan
In one day, you can pretty cover the most important attractions in the city, though we feel that Kashan deserves to be experienced for a little longer than that.
We fully recommend that you visit the Tabatabaie Residence and the Fin Garden when you’re in Kashan, although the Hammam e Soltan Mir Ahmad, the Abbasian House, the Boroujerdi House and the Kashan Bazaar are worth a visit and can all be included during a one-day visit too!
Day 29 – Kashan to Tehran
Our last full day in Iran was spent traveling from Kashan to Tehran, a trip we again used a private transfer for, so that we could stop at the ‘red’ village of Abyaneh, Nushabad underground city and Qom. Sadly, we skipped Qom since there was some unrest in the country at the time and were advised against stopping at Qom.
Details about visiting the above-mentioned places can be found in our post about Kashan linked on Day 28 of this Iran itinerary.
Day 30 – Leave Iran
Our flight out of Iran departed in the very early hours of the morning so our driver actually left us at the airport on the previous day, in time to grab some dinner at the airport and settle the formalities before our flight.
Leaving Iran and it’s fascinating beauty was no easy task, although at the same time, we were rather anxious to get back to some connectivity and communicate with our families, after losing all connection to the internet (and pretty much the rest of the world) during the blackout which by now was on its 8th day.
We sincerely hope that you found this Iran itinerary useful in planning your trip. Iran deserves as much time as possible, and backpacking in Iran for 30 days has only whetted our appetite for more. Iran, we will be back!Read more about Iran!