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Iran World Heritage

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Author Solivagant
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#31 | Posted: 13 May 2016 15:27 | Edited by: Solivagant 
"Grand World Heritage Tour of Iran"
Coincidentally and without any prearrangement, 4 of the contributors to this web site (at least) seem to have visited Iran this April/May (Els, Parsons, Barabanov and myself). Indeed, Els and I only "missed" each other on our respective departures from Tehran airport because her flight details had been changed! I suspect this is the way things are going with regard to tourism in Iran, assuming that relationships with the rest of the World continue to improve following agreements regarding its nuclear program. Citizens of UK/US and Canada still face additional visa problems but the list of countries for whom VOA is available seems to be growing. At the most famous and popular locations (particularly Isfahan. Persepolis and Shiraz) the number of tourists was already approaching "uncomfortable" proportions - if anyone is thinking of going it might be better to do so sooner rather than later!

It might therefore be of interest to potential future "WH travellers" to Iran to have access to our actual route. In 24 full days in Iran we took in 18 of the 19 inscribed sites, together with 19 of its T List entries, including those which are active for nomination over the next couple of years. We also took in multiple locations from some of the sites (E.g Persian Gardens).

Our chosen travel approach was to hire a car with driver for the duration, on a circular route from Tehran, prearranged from UK via the Web. With costs spread across 2 PAX this, in my view, provides the best way of maximising use of time and number of sites visited. In our case the driver also had to act as a "guide" since UK citizens are currently not allowed to travel in Iran without being accompanied by a guide at ALL times. In reality ours was pretty flexible and we had many hours wandering around without him. He did however say that, in the case of US citizens, he would have had to stay at the same hotel as them (not the case with us) and accompany them at all times. For other nationalities, and if these rules are relaxed for UK etc citizens, a mixture of bus travel (including overnight journeys to eat up some of the miles and also save on hotels) plus local taxi hire will come out cheaper (though whether it would be as "efficient" on time and as beneficial in terms of "depth" is another matter!!) and anyone wanting to adopt that strategy might still find some aspects of our route of use.

All of Iran's current inscribed sites except 2 can be taken in on a reasonably "natural" circular route. The 2 exceptions are
a. Shahr-i Soktar. Out by the Afghan border in country generally regarded as "dangerous"
b. Gonbad-e Qaboos – N East of Tehran near the Caspian and not a lot else in the way of nearby "tourist sites" unless one wants to continue to Mashad.

We decided to add 2 days to take in Gonbad by driving out and back from Tehran, whilst all of the T List sites we took in fitted within this existing route without significantly adding to the overall distance. This turned out to be 8450kms!! See this link for a spreadsheet of our daily route, the approximate sector mileage and the WHS and T List sites seen on each day –
http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/Iranroute.xls

I have highlighted the longest/hardest days as follows -
a. Day 3. The (very fine) trip up to Alamout is very slow across several mountain ranges –you are unlikely to get back to Qazvin before mid afternoon (we arrived at 4pm) and will have to make full use of the motorway to get to Soltaniye before it closes (just under 2 hrs from Qazvin)!
b. Day 7. Taking in 2 of the Armenian sites in a day and returning to Tabriz is a tough ask and took us 11hrs 30 mins. Most day trips from Tabriz take in one or other. I will try to address the pros and cons of each site in a review
c. Day 10. The journey from Kermanshah to the Susa area has been much improved with a new toll road from Khorramabad to nr Dezful (not on all maps) and you should be able to get to Susa for lunch time. Though this does mean the loss of a T List site on the old road at Pol-e Doktar! The problem then is to fit in 3 WHS (Susa, Chogha and Shushtar) along minor roads. But there were tour groups doing them together also – however this was all a bit tight and might justify extra time if you have it.
d. Day 11. Shushtar to Shiraz took us 12 hours with an 8.30pm arrival at Shiraz. This didn't matter as we had full days at Shiraz to come. We "finished off" the non "pay to enter" aspects of Shushtar before leaving and there was only one of the "Sassanian cities" at Bishapur to see on the way (could be missed I guess)
e. Day 22. Isfahan – Teheran. A lot to see on this day particularly at Kashan which probably deserved a bit longer. Then there is Qom and finally there is the traffic into Teheran. I wanted to change this route to avoid Teheran via a newly opened highway from Qom to Garmsar but for various reasons this wasn't done. I would still recommend NOT returning to Teheran unless absolutely necessary.

There is very little which, having been there, I might now miss out. Possibly the top of that list would be the Troglodyte village of Kandovan nr Tabriz. Very touristy, not a WHS nor on the T List. Of the sites I perhaps regret missing out (apart of course from Shahr-i Soktar!) – Firuzabad nr Shiraz.

With visits to this many Iranian WHS and T List sites you are going to be taking in a lot of "History" – from c3000BC Proto-Elamite through to 19C Qajar. Every one will do their preparation in their own way but some pre-study to sort out the Abbasids from the Sassanids and the Achaemanids etc is well worth while! I share my 1 page "crib sheet" spreadsheet - someone may find it of use as a "starter"! -
http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/IranHistoryandWHS.xls

The main concern about a route of c 8500 kms in 24 days is the amount of time which will need to be spent "on the road". Iran does not start "early". Sites usually open at 9 am and continue to 7pm or later. Our driver (and probably yours!) stayed up until after midnight with dinner not starting before 9pm, Hotels won't start breakfast before 7.30 am (more often 8am) and we rarely got away before 9 am. We don't normally have lunch stops but it is an "Iranian" thing to have long ones across the heat of the day (particularly picnics under every available tree!)- so our driver was, I am afraid, "deprived" as we usually "travelled through" with nothing but a quick tea stop!. With several 10 - 12 hour days, that meant arrivals around 7-9pm – with darkness coming at around 8pm. Main roads outside towns are pretty good and the "cross-desert" and motorway sectors in particular will be covered at 100-120kms p hr. But towns or roads passing through villages are going to slow you down considerably with hidden speed humps as per Mexico! The police are also very active on highways with cameras or simply stopping cars in the hope of finding something.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the fuel element of such a trip will be, to most people, amazingly cheap! Our car took dual CNG/Petrol but the driver managed to use almost entirely the former (even though this sometimes meant long queues at CNG stations!). We used around c500 kgms costing c3,000,000 rials @ 6000 per kgm (you will get used to "big" numbers with Iranian currency!). At c 34000 rials per US$ this meant a total fuel cost for the 8450 kms of around US$90!!!! It cost me almost that to fill up my car with a single tank of petrol to get back from Manchester airport!!! But, even though we did also "dip into" the Petrol tank on a few occasions to push up the total cost to c $100 -120 you will see that fuel is NOT going to be a big part of any travel costs you might incur!

Another factor to note is Iran's introduction within the last couple of years, of differential pricing of site entry for foreigners – and the growing differential (justified by Iran on the basis of what it sees as an "unfair" exchange rate). WHS prices are going to be 200000, 150000 and 80000 rials (For locals the first 2 are 30000 and 20000 respectively. The latter applies to extra rooms in sites such as Golestan). Most WHS are priced at 200k (approx US6) – but that probably won't be the end of it – museums will often be priced separately (At Persepolis another 200k). Even linked and "close together" sites will have double entry fees (e.g Bishapur and nearby carvings). Non WHS sites are usually going to be 150k as well –in Shiraz we had 9 "pay to enter" sites in 1 day -so it all begins to add up!

Choosing a local Tour operator directly from the Web is a problem in any country and requires "due diligence" and references. Financial trust and competence are obviously pre-requisites - but how to assess?
We used http://www.irun2iran.com/ - a very small company operating out of Shiraz. I can't of course say that it is "the best" since I have tried no others, but we found its performance good in all respects
a. A basic standard WHS tour on which to build, utilising mid range hotels
b. A reasonable price based on comparisons with other agencies
c. Fast sensible responses to all e-mails (across 5 months preparation!)
d. A good reference from a previous traveller and recommendations on the Web
e. No deposit payable until after Visa Authorisation received.
f. Deposit @ 10% payable to a UK bank account. Remainder payable on arrival.
g. Help in dealing with the Iranian Frankfurt Embassy to sort out visa issuing
h. Fair response to tour change requests whilst "on the road"

(Continued in next post)

Author Solivagant
Registered
#32 | Posted: 13 May 2016 15:31 | Edited by: Solivagant 
(Continued from above post)

The quality of the trip is however also going to depend very much on the Driver/guide and your relationship with him. You need a guide who will fully respect your reasons for being there and will facilitate the achievement of those as far as possible These guys are independent agents and you have to rely on your Tour Agency to choose you a good one! I don't really know any tips for helping you get an suitable one other than to discuss it with your agency - ours had clearly gathered the importance for our guide to understand a very wide range of sites, to speak pretty good English and to facilitate us in meeting and conversing with Iranians. So, of all the sites we visited, he had only not previously visited Alamout. We also had excellent interactions with Iranians via his translation (including a "home visit"). You will meet some who can speak reasonable English and don't require translation but a lot of your meetings are going to be with Iranians trying out very limited language skills or with nothing beyond their local tongue - and many of these are very worth talking with!. Your many hours of driving will also enable you to obtain a pretty good in depth view of contemporary Iranian society - provided of course that you have an open and objective interlocutor! Our driver/guide was a major element in the success of our trip –not because he controlled us but because he facilitated what we wanted to do!

I think he deserves naming - if only for driving us c8500 kms!!
Ali Reza Asadollahi - he is certainly contactable for tours in his "home town" Yazd area and is likely also be ready to arrange something longer. His email is: asadollahi2008@gmail.com.

Author elsslots
Admin
#33 | Posted: 14 May 2016 03:19 | Edited by: elsslots 
Thanks for sharing this, Solivagant. I think it's an extraordinary accomplishment, both by you (and Mrs. Solivagant) and the guide/driver.
When you first sent me your route I thought you had gone mad! Your travel style is used more to long travel days than mine, but I thought especially with the final 3 days you had gone over the limit.

Some details I can add from my own experience to the subjects you raised:

Amount of time spent "on the road"
We also had long to very long travel days. This for me was one of the major downsides of the trip.
The last day for example, from Rasht to Tehran lasted from 8.00 am to 10.30 p.m. We had a detour plus stop to Lahijan on the way, plus one lunch stop. But that was all. The last 135km on the highway to Teheran took us 4 hours due to huge traffic - the 4 lane highway even was efficiently used by 6 rows of cars next to each other. There were many accidents also, numerous cute blue tow trucks plied the highway in search for another unfortunate car. Probably they were already sent out by the Iranian Road Side Assistance preventively as they know what is going on every Friday afternoon.
We managed to leave most of the days around 7, as the necessities of a larger tour group convinced hotel owners to serve breakfast earlier on request. But we rarely arrived at a destination before 7 p.m.

Kandovan
Solivagant:
There is very little which, having been there, I might now miss out. Possibly the top of that list would be the Troglodyte village of Kandovan nr Tabriz. Very touristy, not a WHS nor on the T List.

I totally agree. It must be on tour programs because Iranian tourists like it. Most of them are city dwellers that like to go to the mountains on their days off. Same verdict for Lahijan (a tea producing town). The TWHS of Masouleh has some of the same characteristics too, but I enjoyed that a lot more. I will write a separate review for Masouleh.

Author meltwaterfalls
Registered
#34 | Posted: 15 May 2016 05:28 
Thanks both for those run downs and for the recent batch of reviews. Unfortunately thanks to the US visa situation vicarious travel to Iran is about the best I can hope for at the moment, I don't think I could quite pull off Solivagant's full itinerary however Irun2Iran's standard WHS tour would certainly appeal.

Also a special thanks to Solivagant for that Iranian history spreadsheet, finally all those empires start to make sense to me.

Author elsslots
Admin
#35 | Posted: 19 May 2016 12:02 
Tabriz Bazaar Opening Hours
In his review, Solivagant pointed out that "a lot of the bazaar closes for the day around 4-5pm".
This is really something to consider when you plan a visit. I'd recommend doing a round when it still is full in business, and one before or after hours as you can see the architecture better that way. Unfortunately we arrived very late.

See the difference between these two photos of the same part, the Mozaffarieh Timcha:
Taken by me, when they were about to close the gate to this hall (around 6 p.m.)

The same site during the day, acting as Carpet Bazaar

Author elsslots
Admin
#36 | Posted: 29 May 2016 10:12 
Solivagant yesterday sent me a link to this American TV show, which reasonably well shows what travelling around Iran as a westerner is like at the moment.

The 55 minute show also has a section about Abyaneh (see the review), and what it is like on a quiet day.

Author elsslots
Admin
#37 | Posted: 17 Jun 2016 13:00 | Edited by: elsslots 
Solivagant has done some fine bit of research about Takht-e Soleyman. All the misunderstandig in my opinion shows how difficult to interpret (and how unknown) the site is. I also took a picture of the notice board at the foot of Zendan-e Soleyman. I am sorry for calling it a volcano! When you're at the top and peek down, it really looks like an extinct volcano... (as well does its general shape).

Author winterkjm
Registered
#38 | Posted: 4 Jul 2016 09:02 
Historical Port of Siraf i pursuit of world heritage status.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/117836/Siraf-in-line-for-UNESCO-World-Heritage-registrati on

Author winterkjm
Registered
#39 | Posted: 9 Jun 2017 23:04 
Slight discrepancy with Tentative List and our list of tentative nominations.

THE HISTORICAL STRUCTURE OF YAZD (not correct name)

Salt Domes of Iran has not been updated on this website, but was added as an official tentative nomination in 2017.

Author Solivagant
Registered
#40 | Posted: 19 Jul 2017 12:47 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Alamout & Maragheh

One of the "joys" of WH travel is the unexpected "extra" knowledge and insight regarding some lesser known site one has visited in the past which emerges from some random source long after one feels that one has already extracted such value and meaning as the site has to offer. Such a situation occurred for me the other night when a TV program** about "Islamic Science" suddenly cut to a scene in which the intrepid presenter was climbing (with donkey!) in "remotest" N Iran in front of a mountain which I recognised immediately as being the T List site of Alamout which we visited in 2016.

And indeed it WAS Alamout! In case someone who later visits the site would like to have read/learned about the matters related to "Islamic Science" which concern it (and another site in Iran!) I am posting this intro and will add a link to it in my existing review ( See - http://www.worldheritagesite.org/tentative/id/5206 ). For anyone else – well, the WHS-related aspects of the subject might still be of general background interest, hence this post.

The introduction to Alamout provided by Iran to the UNESCO site is pretty thin ( http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5206 ) but, as per my review, I had already identified its link to the Assassins (and who they were/were not!), its destruction in 1256 by the Mongol armies (there are enough of such places for me to keep a "list" of visited ones"!) and, finally, to a book in which one of my favourite early 20C travellers - Dame Freya Stark - describes a visit there in 1930.

In addition, it now appears that it was the location where an Iranian mathematician/astronomer named Nasr-al-Din Tusi was living and working when the site was captured/destroyed by the Mongols. Tusi (as he is better known in the West) was highly accomplished in a range of philosophical and religious subjects and worked for the rulers of the Alamout state as a mathematician and astronomer. For anyone visiting the site today it seems amazing that this mountain fastness could ever have been a centre of such "cutting edge" knowledge and research. We did see the remains of a mosque with some fine Islamic script in the brickwork but the majority of whatever was there has largely crumbled back into/under the soil. The TV progam showed however that excavations deep below the present day surface have uncovered a range of buildings and rooms – and indeed we did enter one such room being used as a café as described in my review. It appears that there was also once a fine library commensurate with the type of "thinking" and investigation being carried out by Tusi – all information which has added an interesting extra dimension to our visit.

But there was "more" of potential WHS interest. In 1259, thee years after the destruction of Alamout, Tusi had turned to working for the Mongols and gained their trust and admiration sufficiently for them to support the construction of an observatory by and for him near the town of Maragheh in Iran (east of Lake Urmia) which "has a unique place in the history of medieval astronomy. It represents a new wave of scientific activities in the Islamic world in the mid 13th century, it had a key role in the development of some sophisticated pre-Copernican non-Ptolemaic systems for explaining the planetary motions," In particular, the work done by him there resulted in the development of the mathematical concept of the "Tusi Couple" which, it is widely believed, Copernicus must have learned about and utilised in his own work "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres". Thus the site of this observatory was considered significant enough for it also to be visited by the TV program. Annoyingly we had driven to within 15kms of Marageh during our visit to Iran in 2016 without realising what we might be missing!! A regret which I would like to assist some other WHS traveller to avoid! It is not yet on Iran's T List but has featured in UNESCO's "Thematic Studies of Astronomical Heritage" (Thematic Study 1) – see http://www2.astronomicalheritage.net/index.php/show-entity?identity=29&idsubentity=1 . Given UNESCO/ICOMOS interest in increasing the footprint of Astronomical WHS it would appear that it has a reasonable chance of gaining inscription in future years. And WHS travellers may well have visited 2 other WHS inscribed observatories which owe their existence to some extent to it - The Ulug Begh Observatory in Samarkand and Jantar Mantar in Jaipur.

Other links which might be of interest include
a. Biography of Tusi - http://www.iep.utm.edu/tusi/
b. Wiki on Alamout - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamut_Castle
c. Wiki on Maragheh - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maragheh_observatory
d. The "Tusi Couple" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tusi_couple

** The program was episode 3 of "Science and Islam" on BBC, introduced by Anglo-Iraqi Jim Al-Khalili, and titled "The Power of Doubt". The series is a repeat from 2009 – which explains his "easy" travel around Syria! The section on Alamout commences at c25 min 10sec. The donkey, by the way, for anyone thinking of visiting, is completely unnecessary – but of course strengthens the presenter's adventurous image!

Author winterkjm
Registered
#41 | Posted: 23 Aug 2017 00:23 | Edited by: winterkjm 
Waiting for confirmation of official nomination . . .

In the running for 2019
Hyrcanian Forest (Caspian Forest) (2007)
The Cultural Landscape of Uramanat (2007)
The Historical City of Masouleh (2007)

In the running for 2020
The Historical City of Maybod (2007)

https://financialtribune.com/articles/travel/70871/iran-undecided-on-2019-world-herit age-nominees

Author joycevs
Registered
#42 | Posted: 19 Sep 2017 15:33 
I'm currently planning my trip to Iran and could use some help. Since a few f you visited Iran independently I hope you can give me some advice.
I travelled to Iran before on an organized group tour with the route Tehran - Shiraz, Persepolis - Kerman - Yazd - Esfahan - Kashan - Qom - Teheran so I visited most of the highlights and quite a few WHS already.
Now I'm going to travel independent with my husband who hasn't been to Iran before so I was thinking of taking the night train from Tehran to Shiraz and visit Persepolis and from Shiraz travel to Isfahan since I really think he shouldn't miss that.
I would like to visit as many new WHS as possible, but ever since we visited the boring lake at the Srebrana Nature Reserve in Bulgaria after a long drive he is a little hesitant of visiting WHS ;-) So we can only visit the really cool ones or the ones that are easy to reach on the way.
I would like to venture out to the Northwest of Iran (towards Tabriz) since I haven't been there yet and there are some cool WHS and interesting cities. But Susa seems interesting because there are three WHS so close to each other, and maybe we can stop at Bisotun on the way to the north.
I would love to go to Bam but it's too far out of the way. Furthermore I would love to visit a desert area. Meymand seems very nice too, or maybe another village that is more en route.
So I have a plan for day 1 to 6 (Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan), but do you have suggestions for a route for day 7 till 18, ending in Tehran?

Author Martina_R
Registered
#43 | Posted: 19 Sep 2017 16:24 
Hello there, Joycevs!

Ivan_R and I did the following Northwestern Iran itinerary in about nine days, we chose it mainly depending on WHS and tentative sites. We spent a whole day in Tehran and in the evening took a bus to Qazvin so let's presume you've reached Qazvin. From there the itinerary was:

Day 1: With a taxi drive to Alamut Valley, see the castle, then drive back. Lunch en route on outskirts of Qazvin (our taxidriver shove us the place), then drive to Soltanyieh, explore the WHS there, drive to Zanjan. Night at Zanjan.

Day 2: Morning bus to Ardabil, exploring Ardabil, the Sheikh ad Din Mausoleum complex (WHS), lunch at Shah Abbas Restaurant (former hammam). Also, as an addition, if you have a chance to visit Victoria and Albert Museum in London, do see the Ardabil carpet, it's splendid! Then we took a bus to Tabriz, spent a night there.

Day 3: Met with a guide at our hotel, he took us to the Armenian churches WHS on the Azerbaijani border. In the afternoon, we enjoyed Tabriz, saw bazaar (WHS) and the Blue mosque that's also part of the WSH plus the Azerbaijani museum. Night in Tabriz

Day 4: Early morning we returned to the bazaar, explored it some more as some sections were already closed in the afternoon, then went to the bus station around noon, took a bus to Miandoab. There we had a walk around the town, chilled, ate some lunch, smoked qalyan and arranged a taxi for the following day.

Day 5: Early morning ride to Tocht-E-Soleyman (WHS). Explored the main site, happy to say our taxi driver was puzzled and interested and in the end bought himself a ticket and explored it as well. (I love such situations when we make locals see the beauties of their own country, same thing happened to us when we visited Cattalhoyuk in Turkey.) We also climbed the adjacent mountain next to it. Then we drove to the Ali-Saadr Cave, enjoyed a tour. The queues for the underground water rides (two of them) take about half an hour waiting at least, but Iranians travel in large groups and we made it fast because they always shouted if there are two people who would like to ride separately, so we did. Arrived in Hamedan, had a dinner there, explored the town a bit.

Day 6: Arranged a taxi for the day, morning on Hegmataneh hill, then drove to Kangavar (tentative site Temple of Anahita), then drove to Bisotun, saw WHS there, and rode to Kermanshah. Visited the Taq-e-Bostan (tentative site), chilled for the rest of the day.

Day 7: Ride to Korramabad, saw the bridge (tentative site), drove to Shush (WHS), then Chongo Zanbil (WHS) and finally, Shushtar (WHS).

Day 8: Either again early morning exploration of Shushtar WHS (it's insanely hot there during day) or go to the Ahvaz Airport which has good connections to either Shiraz, Esfahan or Tehran. Continue in any way you'd like. (We went on to Shiraz, Kerman (and Bam and Lut), Yazd, Esfahan and Tehran from which we flew back to Moscow).

Our takeaways after doing this itinerary - there's nothing to do in Miandoab. We thought of making some distance in advance, but arrived too early and there's simply nothing to do in Miandoab apart from staying in your hotel and having something to eat. If you have any questions, let me know!

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