I’m still waiting for the persian new year to come around to make my new year resolutions but more domestic travel is definitely one of them. Let’s face it, I’m back home after a few years and when you’re earning in the invaluable local currency it’s pretty hard to travel abroad without going broke anyways. This makes all the excuse to explore my homeland, something I’m pretty much guilty of not having done before.
So me and a bunch of friends made our plans, booked a hotel and purchased a night train ticket to an oasis right in the heart of Iran.
We arrived at 5 a.m. in the morning while shivering from the harsh desert wind and impatiently waiting for a taxi to get us to our hotel. Our hotel was located in the center of the old district something I highly recommend to anyone visiting the city. This meant we were at walking distance of most of the main attractions and we got to wander around the neighbourhood to our heart’s content.
#1 Explore the old district
Yazd is like nothing you’ve seen. At least nothing like what I’ve seen. The scenery here seemed almost unreal and not because there are enchanting lakes and lush greenery but because it was just a normal neighbourhood where the locals lived on their lives while it seemed like a movie set to us tourists. It’s characteristic mud-brick houses, roofed narrow alleyways, forest of Badgirs and Ganats that are to be found occasionally is bound to seduce the pickiest of travelers.
Tips: Don’t worry about finding your way back if you decide to explore the area. Signs to the main attractions are easy to be found and if you get lost just find your way to a main street and you’ll be fine from there.
#2 Get on the rooftops
There are a few places that offer rooftop views in Yazd. As for us we befriended a local out of nowhere who took us to the exceptional rooftop of Abolmaali traditional bath and current restaurant. From here we had the most gorgeous panoramic view of the city and the stunning minarets of Jame mosque showing off their dazzling blue tile-work in the middle of desert themed Yazd.
Tips: If you’re staying at a fancy hotel in the district you can probably just go to the rooftop of your hotel and get the same view.
#3 Listen to the call of prayers from the Jame Mosque
Once we got to the rooftop we were lucky enough that it coincided with the noon prayers and we could listen to the enchanting call of prayers from the Jame Mosque breaking the silence of the not so busy Yazd.
If you’re suppose to be between the Blue mosque and Hagia Sofia to listen to the prayers call in Istanbul, here in Yazd you better be on a rooftop! 😉
#4 Get friendly with the locals
Here in Yazd the locals live life on a slow-mode. It’s pretty random to see locals sitting at their doorsteps chatting with their neighbours. Residents of Yazd are more of the indoor type and don’t spend as much time outdoors. So don’t feel weird or strange if you find yourself on your own walking in the old city. On the bright side the few passers-by are going to greet you randomly and ask how you’re keeping up.
Tips: We found the locals to be quite camera-friendly, even the women dressed in conservative clothing. So if you want to snap a picture go for it and if it’s too obvious just give them a hint before you shoot.
It’s pretty hard to find someone who speaks English here but if you don’t have language barriers don’t be shy to get into a conversation with the locals. There’s not much happening here so I’m sure people don’t mind to have a chit-chat with a total stranger.
#5 Visit the Jame Mosque
It’s an unacceptable crime to leave Yazd without visiting the most imposing structure of the city. This magnificent building has a tiled entrance portal known as one of the tallest in Iran with two exquisite 48m minarets that reach for the sky. The dome and the ceiling are adorned with turquoise blue mosaics and the mihrab just left us speechless.
Tips: While there were no inspections upon our visit it’s recommended to respect the dress code and go with a more modest outfit to avoid any hassle.
#6 Treat your belly with Saffron ice cream and Faloodeh
Saffron ice cream and Faloodeh are the traditional summer treat of Iran. While the ice cream is almost the same wherever you go, Faloodeh comes in different types depending on the city. Originally it’s from Shiraz and therefore the most famous ones are to be found there, but here in Yazd we found it to be just as scrumptious and appealing – Just a little more crispy and sweeter.
Tips: We found the best place to have Saffron ice cream and Faloodeh to be at Shir Hossein ice cream shop in Imam Khomeini street. We were served with an incriminating amount of Ice cream and Faloodeh for only 1€ – 4000T and it was so good that we went back for it the next day.
#7 Visit a Zoorkhaneh
Visiting the Zoorkhaneh has been one of the most exceptional experiences of my Yazd trip. They are not easy to find everywhere in Iran but here in Yazd we found quite a few and made it our mission to make a visit.
Zoorkhaneh is a gymnasium in which traditional Iranian sport is practiced. It was originally made to train warriors and therefore has always been a men-zone ever since. It’s a combination of martial arts and strength training with music and dates back to pre-Islamic times. The Morshed (the singer) is the one who leads the athletes and dictates the pace by beating a goblet drum (zarb) while reciting Gnostic poems and stories from Persian mythology.
Tips: We visited the Saheb-Azzaman Zoorkhaneh close to Amir Chakhmagh Complex. It’s open to public upon a small entrance fee but beware, since everyone has to take their shoes off when entering you might have to ignore the smelly feet!
#8 Expand your knowledge on Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is an ancient monotheistic religion in Iran which was once the state religion during the Achaemenid, Sassanid and Parthian empires – Basically before the Arab conquest. Zoroastrians are the oldest religious community in Iran and Yazd is home to their second biggest population. The supreme being Ahura Mazda, asked his followers to pray to him in the direction of light. The only light the ancients controlled was the fire so they built fire temples to keep the flame burning eternally. One of these Atashkadehs (fire temple) marks a highlight for any tourist in Yazd. The fire inside the temple is told to have been burning since AD 470 and has traveled far and wide to finally settle here in Yazd.
#9 Have your Persian brewed tea at a fancy traditional hotel
Almost all fancy hotels in Yazd where once traditional mud-brick homes of the rich. Now they are turned into magical accommodations with a gorgeous pool in the middle of their courtyard. Water has always been an important element of Persian architecture and is definitely a must for any house built in one of the driest and hottest regions of Iran. Visiting these hotels is free of charge if you’re not a residence. So whether you’re traveling on a budget and skipping on the costs a fancy hotel or you just want to have your afternoon tea somewhere else, you can have it in one of these places.
Tips: Cost of food in Yazd is generally low so don’t worry to splurge on your afternoon tea or even lunch in a fancy hotel or restaurant.
#10 Indulge your sweet tooth with Yazdi sweets
Yazd is famous for its sweets and the most famous place to buy them is at Haj Khalifeh Rahbar, located close to Amir Chakhmagh complex. Yazdi cakes are also dear to the hearts of Iranians and are to be found in every pastry shop. You might have seen similar ones through out the world but having the hot and crispy ones right out of the oven in Yazd will leave you savouring each mouthful.