Stretched along the Persian gulf and overlooking the strategic strait of Hormuz is a city once occupied by the Portuguese and later liberated by Shah Abbas I from whom it takes its name. Bandar Abbas literally means the port of Abbas. It’s Iran’s busiest port and the capital of Hormozgan province.
Mainly known to Iranians as Bandar, Bandar Abbas is culturally replete and full of character. Bandari music is known for its fast rhythmic style with percussion as the leading instrument and is usually accompanied with a Bandari dance chasing the rhythm with quick movements of the body. Bandari pants are the typically worn ornamented pants worn by local women and Bandari food recalls hot spices and sea food.
Despite its key location and holding the door to the country’s oil wealth, Bandar Abbas has lost its charm and charisma over the years. While it could easily have been one of the wealthiest cities of Iran, its streets show a contradicting evidence. Just like Khuzestan, it’s not hard to find the locals discontent with the government for neglecting such a crucial city and taking its wealth to be spent elsewhere.
Bandar Abbas is not really a remarkable travel destination. But it’s from here that you find access to some of Iran’s most intact places. Nevertheless, we had not been spending 18 hours on a train only to reach here and go somewhere else. We were here to stay and wander. I have written a full post of our journey traveling around the province where you can also find all the necessary information regarding transportation and accommodation.
We spent a full day here exploring and I believe a day was all that was needed. There was the option of going to Genoo natural springs some 34km from Bandar Abbas which we decided to ditch but apart from that there’s really not much to stay for.
We started our day visiting the Hindu temple and despite being one of the only Indian temples in Iran it was extremely disappointing. It’s apparent that it has been left abandoned for decades and objects in the museum are in the most devastating situation you can imagine. To be honest it’s rather sad and even the statue of Buddha himself isn’t going to change that.
We left quickly to head out to the old bazaar for a more lively atmosphere and local culture. I wouldn’t say it’s anything comparable to grand bazaars in other cities but it was here that we got to see and test out colourful chadors and pants worn among local women. We had to get a few other ladies to teach how they actually kept the chadors in place, but to be honest we were just plain awful. 😀
The most exciting part of our visit to Bandar Abbas has to be visiting the fish market. It might not be a big deal if you’re from a coastal town yourself, but coming from Tehran where we don’t get such things, it was actually quite interesting to see the variety of fish and the business that comes with it. That’s obviously if you can tolerate the smell. 😉
The fish market expands to an outdoor section which is also where fruits and vegetables are sold. We even found a local lady who cooked fish for us right over there as we took to have it by the beach.
With a full stomach we headed down town to visit the local sunni mosque and a bathhouse. We met a local tour guide in the bathhouse who accompanied us showing some of the main landmarks.
For lunch we went to a recommended take away called Goobooli that offered local food. We ordered a variety of dishes and shared so that we would get a taste of everything, something that we normally do on group trips.
And for a chilled afternoon we went to the famous Soro beach to watch the sunset and get our feet wet on its glistening dark sand.
Now did I sound very enthusiastic about Bandar Abbas? probably not! Would I go back? Nope! Do I recommend the visit? It has very much to do with your way of thinking. If I hadn’t seen Bandar Abbas, I wouldn’t know what to expect. We don’t have to seek lavishing structures and pristine gardens all the time. Anything that broadens our perception of the world is worth visiting. After all that’s part of the reason we all travel isn’t it? 😉
And last but not least I have one tip to give. You will see a lot of fortune tellers in Bandar Abbas! They are basically the women wandering around near the beach trying to convince you to pay them for a few words. As tourists are not seen that frequently this could get a bit annoying, cause some of them just won’t leave you alone! But just in case you had no idea why someone is following you around and talking, this is it. It’s up to you if you want to give them money but don’t get ripped off. 😉