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Backpacking in Iran (Travel Bloggers Explain Why You Should)

Backpacking in Iran is not the first place one would think of to spend their travels, and with all the bad press the country gets it would not be surprising.

 But ignore their government and politics, and you will find some of the most friendly people you could ever wish to meet.

I decided to get in touch with several backpackers who had been to Iran, and asked them to write about their favourite experiences and impressions. 

I did this to help potential travellers make up their mind on whether to visit, or indeed to inspire people who may not have even thought about it.

Here’s what they had to say about their time visiting Iran. 



Backpacking in Iran


Nick and Dariece

32 days in the country of Iran is simply not long enough…but that’s all the time we had, and we took full advantage of it.

Everything was a highlight for us: the people were incredibly warm and welcoming, the food was surprisingly delicious, the sights were beautiful and the markets were bustling! It was everything we hoped it would be and more.

Nick and Dariece at Kaluts outside of Kerman
Nick and Dariece at Kaluts outside of Kerman

We have story after story that we could share with you from this Persian nation, but we thought we’d tell you about our experience with Ashura (or Muharram).

In short, this is a 10 day ceremony/mourning period to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein (the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson), who died brutally in Iraq in 680AD.

Dariece receiving a free drink on the streets of Kerman during Ashura.
Dariece receiving a free drink on the streets of Kerman during Ashura.

We were in Kerman for the last day of the mourning processions, and witnessed thousands of people on the streets, openly sobbing, dressed in black, all chanting in unison – while the men whipped themselves with chains in honour of Imam Hussein who died 1333 years ago!

It was one of the most interesting religious displays we’ve ever seen.

Ashura mourning ceremony.
Ashura mourning ceremony.

In the evenings, the rich would give food to the poor, and on the sides of the road, families would set up tables to serve food or drink to anyone, and everyone – including us.

The hotel we were staying at sacrificed 6 lambs for the occasion to make stew. We were asked to help prepare the food and spent that evening with the family learning about Ashura and making food together in massive cauldrons.

The following morning, we helped serve the free food to the community!

Nick preparing the lam stew for Ashura.
Nick preparing the lamb stew for Ashura.

The fact that we were asked to participate in this important time was incredible.

We’ll never forget our experience with Ashura in Iran.

Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road. Their website is designed to show others how to turn their travels into a lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad, they’ve been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go.





We spent a month backpacking in Iran, arriving from Turkey at the Bazargan border, travelling east to Mashhad and then south through the deserts.

The most memorable aspect of Iranian life for me is the generosity and warm welcoming people. They are simply one of the friendliest bunch of people you could wish to meet.

Jonny on the far left relaxing with family.

As a foreigner there you will stand out a mile and you will be approached by lots of curious locals, inviting you for tea, for dinner, to stay with them, to tour their Mosques.

In the end we had to turn down many offers as it was overwhelming, but our favourite home-stay came in the western town of Shahr-e Kord.

We got invited by our friend Rasool and family to stay at their place up in this sleepy mountain town. Shahr-e Kord is close to the ski resorts and it is a town rarely ventured by non-Iranians. Indeed, the two of us. my girlfriend and I, were the only two backpackers in town when we were there.
The first night happened to be what is the Longest Night in the Year in the Iranian Calendar. By this, it means less daylight and more darkness.
To celebrate, the Iranians hold a massive indoor family feast with music, chat, food, drink and hookah. We were invited to stay for a few nights with Rasool’s family in Shahr-e Kord and join in this special occasion.
It was a night of endless chat and food. Iranians make great hosts, are superbly intelligent and profoundly educated.
The tea and smoking of hookah (shisha) continued long into the night.
If you go to Iran and are invited into someone’s home – say yes! It’s the most rewarding experience you can wish for.
Jonny Blair
Jonny Blair is a travelling Northern Irishman who enjoys travelling the world and sharing his stories. So far Jonny has visited over 100 countries across all 7 continents where he has visited places like Uzupis, Shahr-e Kord, Amadiya, Joya de Ceren, Transnistria and Portbraddon. Jonny writes his articles on Don’t Stop Living and Backpacking in Northern Ireland.





I can’t think about my time in Iran without breaking into a huge smile. Nowhere else have I been showered with more warmth and hospitality by locals.

A lot of my friends from home were surprised when I told them this, though to be honest, I had sort of expected it.


Silvia dancing away.

I decided to go after meeting other travellers who had been and could not stop raving about the wonders of Iranian hospitality.

Because of this, I did something I very rarely do when traveling to a new country alone: I found a Couchsurfing host for my first two nights in Tehran and then didn’t make any other plans.

It was of course a bit of a gamble, but since I was more interested in getting a feel for the culture than seeing specific sights, I figured the best way to plan my trip would be to ask people I met in Iran where I should go.


It worked perfectly!

On my second day in Tehran I had lunch with Mina, an Iranian student who had messaged me on Couchsurfing.

She took me to a tiny hole in the wall restaurant near her university, where we ended up staying for hours, bonding over shared taste in music and books, laughing at each other’s embarrassing stories, and (of course) showing each other photos of our boyfriends.

By the end of the afternoon Mina had agreed to come with me on a trip to Isfahan, invited me to join her family for Persian New Year celebrations, and started scheming up ways to get her parents to allow us to visit her (secret) boyfriend near the Iraqi border in Kurdistan.

Needless to say, my time in Iran turned out pretty fantastic.

Silvia blogs at Heart My Backpack about all her travelling adventures. She enjoys getting off the beaten path as often as possible looking for the road less travelled.  You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.




I travelled through Iran for a month in 2012 as part of my Silk Road journey from China to Europe. I entered Mashhad from Turkmenistan towards the end of July, two days before Ramadan started, and stayed for a month.

Without a doubt it has some of the most hospitable and friendly people on this planet. They really take you in like family and invite you for picnics in parks and squares on a daily basis.


One such example happened on my way to Palangan, a picturesque stepped village with earth-coloured stone houses in Kurdistan rarely frequented by tourists due to its proximity to Iraq, and lack of public transportation.

Arriving at Sanandaj in the morning after an overnight bus trip, I decided to find my way to Hawraman and try to get to Palangan.  Most people hire a driver for this route.

Iran village
Village in mountains of Iran.

I managed to find a bus from Sanandaj to Marivan and took a shared jeep to Hawraman, just to find out that the only hotel in town was closed.

It was already late in the afternoon and there was no transportation back to Sanadaj and I was getting quite frustrated. The jeep driver was heading back to his village with others and invited me to come along.

Iran family

The drive from Howaraman to Paravyan was about 1-1.5 hours with lots of hairpin turns and we passed through a number of villages en route. The scenery was rugged but breathtaking.

He introduced me to his lovely wife and family, and we also visited a number of houses and watched the local women pumping water out of the well for their household.

We made dinner together and slept on the balcony under the stars that night. It turns out that the driver is one of the few people in the Parvyan village with a car.

Each morning at 5 am he will pick up all the people and drive them to Marivan for work (which is exactly what we did the next day).

He would stay in Marivan for the day and drive people back in the afternoon, picking up more en route. Up until this day I still cannot locate Parvyan on Google Maps.

The generosity I received from people throughout Iran really is a humbling experience.

You can follow Yvonne’s photography here on Instagram 




” When people today speak about Iran after they have travelled they alway mention friendliness. While I experienced that in Eastern Iran my greatest enjoyment in Iran was getting to experience the vast wealth of history on show. 


The Persian empire was one of the greatest the world has ever seen. Yet few get the opportunity to visit the remains of it. Today Persepolis, the “city of Persians”, still stands with a slew of impressive ruins that’s akin to walking into an Indiana Jones movie. 

Columns and pillars still stand today as they did in 550–330 BCE. Indeed black marble gates still have vivid images depicting life back then. There are few places in the world that have ruins this old so well preserved.


It’s all out in the open close to Shiraz. Another lovely little city in Iran worthy of a few days stay just for the market and history.

Yes the people of Iran are lovely, well educated and well versed in the arts. For me though I’d like to spend more time exploring ruins scattered all over Iran. It’s a treasure trove of discovery just waiting for you.”

Children in Iran

Dave writes about his travels on his website TheLongestWayHome and has a country section just for Iran that you can see here.




Nowruz (The first day of spring in the Persian calendar) was around the time that I visited Iran. Although I currently live in the Kyrgyz Republic, where the people celebrate this holiday as well, my thoughts always go back to Iran around this time.

The country of extraordinary hospitality.



I was traveling alone there for more than two months in 2012. In spite of my anxiety about a general image of Middle East in my country, the “dangerous” people were extremely kind and helpful.

I was very lucky to be there at that time of the year, especially staying with a local family in one of the most historical cities, called Shiraz. Before Nowruz, I was taken to a traditional festival of fire, where we all ran and jumped over a bonfire in order to burn the fear in our spirit.

When Nowruz came, they prepared seven things that started with a sound ‘s’ in Farsi; apple, candle, mirror, water, green plant, goldfish and eggs. All the relatives visited each other, and I was kindly taken around.

Everywhere they served apples, oranges, kiwis, cucumbers, varieties of nuts, and black tea with chocolates and candies.

Nowruz eggs
Nowruz eggs

Once I was invited by young girls to their room. As soon as we entered, we all took off the scarf and long-sleeve shirt you wear outside, and the room turned into a disco!

We danced to American pop music, and I thought I saw the hidden part of the country that you don’t normally see.

I’ve traveled to over 40 countries so far, and Iran is definitely one of the countries I really want to go back to again.



It was first time for me to visit a strict muslim country. For that reason, my backpacking around Iran had become a very interesting experience.

This is what I think about travelling there.

Koki. Iran is best 🙂

As my trip was during Ramadan (where muslims fast during daylight hours once a month in a year), I couldn’t eat anything outside in the daytime.

Although we could eat if it wasn’t in a public place, I never suffered from hunger, but still it was strange. The practice of Ramadan gave me a certain rhythm of life which had never happened before, and I think because of that I could really feel the country’s atmosphere.

As mentioned above, the Iranians are so inviting.

Another aspect of Ramadan is that people can get a free meal at the mosque after the sunset, even if you were not a muslim. Of course there are so many local people, but it’s easy to join in because Iranian people are so friendly.

The most important thing that you can’t miss is the very last day of Ramadan where they have a big meal to mark the end of the fasting.

 I was invited to a barbecue by local guys and they cooked me camel meat.


Go Backpacking in Iran

I have met other people that went backpacking in Iran, and they all had a similar kind of experience as written about here.

You will meet similar minded backpackers there, ones full of curiosity in exploring a part of the world they were told they should probably avoid.

Make sure to take travel insurance for your adventures. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

This is my own personal take on why you should visit Iran.


30 thoughts on “Backpacking in Iran (Travel Bloggers Explain Why You Should)”

  1. Thanks so much for including us and for sharing with the world what a hospitable, warm place Iran is! I think everyone who has travelled there has incredible stories of positive experiences with the local people – ourselves included. There simply is nowhere like Iran 🙂


  2. Katie Featherstone

    Iran has been top of my list for as long as I can remember. I know a couple of people who’ve hitchhiked around there, so I don’t think it can be as difficult to travel as its reputation would suggest. The warm welcome of local people is something that’s obvious in these stories and I’ve heard through other people too. I’d love to visit!

  3. I am very glad to have come across this article. I am planning a trip to Iran in a few months and am super excited. I am 28 years old and will be traveling solo, and I know my family will be somewhat worried about me, and I also know I will get some strange reactions from uniformed people who would not be able to fathom why I would want to visit Iran. But at the end of the day, I really don’t care, because I have read about more than enough positive experiences from travelers who have been to Iran. I cannot wait to explore this fascinating country!

  4. I am very glad to have come across this article. I am planning a trip to Iran in a few months and am super excited. I am a 28 years old guy and will be traveling solo, and I know my family will be somewhat worried about me, and I also know I will get some strange reactions from uninformed people who would not be able to fathom why I would want to visit Iran. But at the end of the day, I really don’t care, because I have read about more than enough positive experiences from travelers who have been to Iran. I cannot wait to explore this fascinating country!

  5. Wow.i always wanted to know how travelers felt about their trip in Iran and iran.I’m really happy to read these experiences

  6. Hello dear Jonny,
    thanks a lot for your sharing . i should say you are actually an adventurer man and appreciate you so much.
    i love travel so much like you. i’m a tour guide for 9 years in Iran and have activity as a tourism planning for a travel agency.
    it’s proud to see travelers from other countries who are so honorable for Iranian people and say hello to them warmly.
    i want to keep in touch with you as a friend from Iran and i can provide complete services for our guests.
    this is my email:

    Best Regards

  7. Hi Jonny! When you were there did you find yourself in a situation that you have to negotiate with an Iranian? I’m just curious to know how they treat a foreigner in a Business negotiation. Everyone how met Persians in person they say that they are kind and very friendly. Are they the same in business?

  8. Hi zee! I’m iranian and i hope to give you the perfect answer
    Of course,there are good and bad guys in every country but in general iranian people are friendly in a business negotiating.however,there are some people who scam people like a piece of cake and some people think it’s because of their intelligence
    But they never treat a foreigner in a business negotiation in a bad way

  9. Since travelling through Iran as an impressionable 19 year old on the Hippy Trail in the early 70’s I have always wanted to return.
    BUT, I believe that as a UK citizen it is difficult or impossible to get a visa for independent travel, even with an invitation( I met some Iranians from Shiraz while in Armenia a few years ago who said they would be happy to make the invitation).
    I wonder if anyone visiting this blog may know differently, in which case I would be delighted to learn how it might be possible.
    Thanks in advance.


  10. Thanks for your reply. .
    Received wisdom is that getting a visa is only possible as part of an organised group.
    I don’t know when that was instituted…

  11. iran is a good country to visit for having a different kind of tour. there you can experience a different kind of thing you cant find in another country, like the old market, bathhouse, mosque you will enjoy your trip . if you need any kind of help , i would happy to help you

  12. Pingback: 10 Of The Cheapest Countries To Visit (Around The World)

  13. Hi thanks a lot for your comprehensive guide, I have a question about Iran visa rejection, Unfortunately, my Iran visa got rejected through the MFA website, Can I apply again?

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