Cruising along the highway, windows down, music up… October is the perfect month for a road trip! one of the best destination that I always recommend to my Iranian/non Iranian Friends is Rasht which is just 5hours far from Tehran by car. A question might pop up to your mind “why”? here I want to convince you why you should put Rasht into your Iran’s travel Bucket list.
1- Easy to get to Rasht!
It will take you just 45minutes by flight to get to the city. There are a few daily flights from Tehran. Most of these depart either early in the morning or late afternoon. Seeing the Alborz mountains from the air is quite an experience.
Like everywhere in Iran, Rasht is well connected with Tehran and neighboring towns by bus. I’ve written a dedicated post about transportation around Iran here:Getting around Iran on Local Transport
A good choice for a trip from Tehran would be a shared taxi (Savarie), a spectacular route through the Alborz mountains. Is it safe? I’ve travelled to Rasht as a solo female traveller thousand times, so the answer is “Yes”. you need to go to Azadi Square in Tehran, ask for Rasht taxies and people will approach you to the taxi stop, If you’re traveling solo ask to sit in front sit, you will pay a little extra fee but you will be comfortable instead. taxi fee is so cheap, around 10$.
2- Rasht | European vibe in the middle of Asian civilization!
Many claim that Rasht, capital city of Gilan Province, is the most European feeling city in Iran. Anywhere! The former mining town’s opulent mansions, cobblestone streets, and perfectly preserved colonial center mimic a quaint European town from the 17th century. And like Europe, those streets are narrow (so much so that cars can’t pass through most of them), winding, and walkable. Several of the town’s buildings have even been designated like Russian churches.
If you could make it to go to Saghari Sazan, It’s a great place to get lost in old part of the city. the neighbourhood has its mysterious atmospher from old days.
Another neighbourhood that has kept its original looks up to this day is Lab Ab street. stores who are selling antiques, old people talking to each other here and there, I believe it would be the best place to do street photography if you’re intrested.
3- The best Iranian cuisine you could possibly find!
UNESCO recently has announced the designation of 47 cities from 33 countries as new members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Rasht is one of them, the city boasts over 170 reciepes. The garlic-stoked, vegetable-rich Gilan cuisines include Mirza Qasemi, Torsh-e Tareh, Anar-Bij, Sir-Qelyeh, Baqali-Qatoq and kal Kabab.
As you may know, Kebabs are taken very seriously in Iran – so seriously that the kebab menu alone may run a few pages and feature every style and cut of skewerable grill-worthy meat imaginable. The first few times someone invites you to dine with them in Iran, you’ll be tempted to think the entire country kebab-powered.
Lamb, minced or in chunks, is most popular. And kebabs are often served with grilled tomatoes, a healthy plate of rice and flat bread, and raw onions. My favorite: kebab as street food in Rasht, many carts barbecuing Kababs right in front of you in Shahrdari Sq. You’ll find that one kebab order is often more than enough for two people to share.
Now it’s time for dessert!
Decorative yet tasty cookies that are special to Iran’s Northern Area. Rasht is flush with bakeries selling only these cookies. Koloocheh are stuffed with a cinnamon, walnut and sugar filling. When they are fresh and warm just out of the oven, they are special packages of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
If you come across a pastry-ish cookie-like confection that looks like a gauze bandage, you’ve found reshte and khoshkar, specialties of the Caspian area (and specifically in Rasht). The khoshkar bandages or leaves are stuffed with walnut, sugar and cinnamon, are typically fried and soaked in a sweet liquid. Reshte are similar to Khoshkar, but come without walnuts or sugar.
I highly recommend these delights be consumed with a good cup of black tea.
4- Rasht | Great nightlife among Iranian small cities!
Rasht’s most identifiable landmark sits at the western end of the vast, central Shohoda Sq. The Shahrdari’s colonial style is tempered by a token mini dome topping a severe block-like clock tower. The whole area is floodlit at night and the square is a popular people-watching viewpoint.
5- Mountain, seaside, so close to reach out!
Mountain roads in Iran are lovely but to be honest, as soon as you get back onto the main road the traffic become horrific. Not dangerous or crazy just pulling-your-hair-out-in-despair congested. It will be one single line of cars crawling up and down through the valleys with no end in sight. Specially on Thursdays or Fridays, all cars belong to Tehranis who escape to the Caspian Sea for the weekend.
Once you leave the city of Rasht behind you and start to get into the mountains again, you will feel better. It is pretty there and you could probably find a camping spot if you had to. A lot of people are around, most of them having a picnic and all the restaurants have colourful light outside. I wrote about Camping in Iran earlier.
The Caspian Sea..well Lonely Planet already warns travellers that it is not pretty. Polluted by every country that borders it, an algae grows rapidly in it and it is close to extinction of the fish (and thus caviar) population. The reason why it is a popular spot for Iranians is because of all the lovely rain the shore gets; a fascination no European will ever share.
Masuleh is only 70km away. Masuleh is an ancient mountainside village that is known for its houses; it is so steep that the roofs of one row of houses work as footpaths for the next row up.