I’ve been on numerous road trips in Iran. Ones where the dry desert never ends and others where luscious forests and neon greenery comes to sight with every turn. Asalem to Khalkhal had been on my list for a long time. I had heard loads about it and numerous companies offer trekking tours to this place. I always thought they were a bit overpriced and they all claimed a 4WD was required to take the journey. But with the new asphalted road connecting Asalem to Khalkhal, it was actually one the most hassle-free road trips I’ve done in Iran.
Asalem to Khalkhal road connects the two villages of Asalem in Gilan province and Khalkhal in Ardebil. The winding road goes through high altitudes of the Alborz mountain range near the Caspian sea. It crosses mystical woodlands before reaching mountain tops covered in luscious greenery with quaint villages by the dozen.
To be honest, Asalem to Khalkhal road didn’t really seem very offbeat to me. There were shops and restaurants found along the road quite frequently – all of them looking very dodgy. There were also too many distasteful concrete houses built along the road. The road is amazing and the scenery changes constantly. If you get lucky, you might also reach the point where you’ve got a sea of clouds swiftly dancing under your feet. But my rather high expectations from here were not fulfilled. At least not after having road tripped in Iran’s Kurdistan region or to the village of Pamenar in Khuzestan.
How to get here?
The route can be taken from Asalem to Khalkhal or vice versa. It all depends on the rest of your trip as the two villages are located within two different provinces. The whole route is 70km long and it takes almost 2 hours to cross it.
Asalem is 404 km away from Tehran and the easiest way to get here is by taking the highway to Rasht and continuing from there.
Where to stay in Asalem to Khalkhal road?
We started the drive late in the afternoon and had plans to sleep the night on mountain tops and continue on our journey the following day.
Home rent in the region is very popular and easy to find. You will see numerous signs along the road claiming to rent cottages with pristine views. We waited to reach the top before we tried our chances. There’s the option of staying in the lower altitudes in lush green forests and next to gushing rivers or making it to the top and expecting extraordinary panoramas. We went for the latter.
A very spacious villa close to the main road with hot water and gas cost us 90,000 Tomans a night. That’s a little less than 20€ which is just dirt cheap. There was nothing apart from a very basic kitchen, an old TV and mattresses and blankets to sleep on. We didn’t check too many houses but I’m assuming you can’t really expect much. But it was clean and that was all that mattered.
What to eat on the road?
Restaurants here are all about meat. There’s a huge variety of Kebabs offered in almost every place. The meat is fresh and is cut right in front of you. If you’re into meat then this is your heaven. Apart from that, There’s Ash-e Doogh which is a herbal soup with chickpeas and doogh and Mirza ghasemi (a vegetarian eggplant, tomatoes and egg dish) offered in most places. Homemade dairy products like doogh and yogurt are available everywhere and make sure you ask for pickled garlics as a side dish with your food. They are just divine!
We also had an early breakfast on the road the next day. It was nothing fancy, just an omelet with tea. But we did get to eat it while witnessing an outstanding view.
Don’t expect great service here. It’s none existence. As long as the food is good, you should be grateful. :))
I personally think timing had very much to do with our experience here. I could imagine this place to be absolutely magical during autumn – specially the parts that goes through the forest. Even if you decide to travel during summer, I’m still encouraging you to go. We even saw a couple cycling the whole road. I mean if you decide to bike such a steep road, it’s got to be worth it, right? What I’m saying is that people had raved way too much about Asalem to Khalkhal and had raised my expectations. I thought it was gorgeous and beautiful, but definitely not the top of my list of road trips in Iran.
If you have a the time, I think a hiking experience could really add to the experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t an option for us but I assume there are some really amazing hiking trails to be found all across the route.
Have you travelled this road? We’d love to hear what you thought. Keep your tips and suggestions coming in the comment section. 😉