Persian Caravanserai

Persian Caravanserai
Photo by jeanbon.

The Persian Caravanserai represent the way of travel in desert regions before modern roads and railways existed.

The Caravanserai were built as road stations along trade routes (such as the Silk Road) and pilgrimage routes. Their design evolved over the centuries, from the Sassanian to the Qajar period, and also varied due to geographic setting. 

Community Perspective: This is a serial site comprising 54 historic roadside inns from all over Iran. An easy one to visit lies in Bisotun, next to the eponymous WHS.

Map of Persian Caravanserai

Load map

Community Reviews

Write a review

Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero

The Philippines - 19-Dec-23 -

Persian Caravanserai by Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero

My initial reaction when I finally saw the inscribed properties under Persian Caravanserai was of wonder as to why the beautiful Aminoddoleh Timche in the grand bazaar of Kashan was not included. Its divine blue dome, an architectural marvel in its own right, could have easily been the poster photo of this batch. I managed to see three from this serial property: Bisotun, Kharanaq, and Meybod.  

The inscribed area of Bisotun has two caravanserais, one is older than the other. The Mongol-period one in ruins (basically just the foundations) is attached to the remains of the unfinished Sassanid palace, directly beside a lovely traditional cafe housed in the old hospital building. The Sheik Ali Khan caravanserai much farther away is the one that got inscribed and it now houses the Laleh International Hotel. I went inside to check how it was retrofitted for present-day use and I even had my second serving of tea there (after having an earlier one at the cafe). The courtyard opens to the view of the Farhad Tarash.  

Kharanaq is an old village along the Silk Roads that has a history of over 4,500 years. While the main attraction would be the crumbling mud citadel with an impressive mosque and shaking minaret, the caravanserai cannot be missed as it is the first monument to be seen upon entering the village. Travellers can arrange to stay overnight, which would be cheaper than staying at the one in Bisotun. It seems to appeal to backpackers and the 15-room complex is not at all bad. A 1850-year old qanat lies in front of it, which supplies the village its water requirements. 

Meybod is a major desert city in Iran, also along the Silk Roads. Its historic core appears in the T-list as well. The caravanserai was built in 1689 and is now a commercial complex comprising cafes and souvenirs shops. It stands close to the more interesting Ab Anbar (water reservoir), Yakhchal (ice house), and Chapar Khaneh that used be the postal service office when messages were still relayed on horses. Meybod's caravanserai is the smallest of the three, but the Chapar Khaneh and Ab Anbar are within the core zone too.

The present forms of the three caravanserais are from the Safavid period, all in square plans with a central courtyard and all nicknamed Shah Abassi caravanserais. The existence of the one in Kharanaq, however, dates deeper to the Sassanid period. 


Zoë Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 20-Jan-19 -

Persian Caravanserai by Zoë Sheng

I visited many caravanserai in Iran. Some of them are new, basically pit stops for gas, food and repair your car, they often call them service station now though as you may expect. Some of the classic caravanserai are now guest houses or coffee shops. The classic ones are supposed to be for when the silk road camel “caravans” were passing through Persia and needed a place to rest and refresh. If you look on the map you can make out a line going west <> east. There are some caravanserai not included in this inscription request, most notably the one next to Cyrus' tomb, but an easy “tick” would be to see the one in Bisotun which is a one of those coffee houses now. I spent some time finding the ruined ones along the road but sometimes they are not easy to find, perhaps the road doesn't allow you to venture into the area next to the highway, it would be silly to go off-road with a sedan, but sometimes the ruins are just there in plain sight, unprotected unfortunately.

Taking Khaneh Khowrdeh as an example (romanization may vary) one can just take a road off the highway and you park right in front of it. There is no tourist sign, only a sign for what I believe is deterring vandalism. Graffiti is rife in and outside the walls. Gone are the camels and the new visitors, baaaaaaaaa, leave so much poo that it's not easy to venture inside. This caravanserai still holds up pretty well though. You can see all the separate rooms prepares for guests with a large courtyard as central point. I think this was still the best one that is not in total ruins and not modernized as a guest house.

These buildings need better protection, at least a fence around it.


UK - 14-Dec-18 -

Persian Caravanserai by Solivagant

The Persian Caravanserai were only placed on the T List in Feb 2017 as part of a "mini update" which added a further 10 sites to Iran’s already enormous T List (currently 55)! Whether this implies imminent action to try for Nomination isn’t clear, but some of the locations are pretty easy to pick up whilst seeing existing Iranian WHS if travellers want to avoid missing out on a "future inscription"!

Assuming that is, that they survive any future "cut", since a slight problem is that the UNESCO site states that “in this file, there are 25 Caravanserais, from all over Iran under the name of Persian Caravanserais which are selected from hundreds of Caravanserais.” - and then lists what appears to be 32 locations!! I have just discovered and added coordinates to our T List map for 24 of them, augmenting the 3 identified when the site was placed on the T List – so 5 remain to be identified – “possibly”!!

Iran’s main highways are really very good – enormous “Dual carriageways” (UK English) or “Divided Highways” (US!). As you zip along, you will pass many, many Caravanserai. A fair number will be in ruins but others are operating as Hotels/Restaurants. I would recommend stopping to explore at least 1 ruined one – even if it isn’t among those on the T List.

It is interesting to note just how many along the highway have a modern Gas station /Restaurant located very close to them – in that way the traditional places of rest along historic trade routes are carried forward to modern highways. The concept of a “Caravanserai” goes back to the earliest days of Persian civilisation – the Achaemenids, c2500 ybp -  but the main periods of growth were the 10th  through to the 16th C. Shah Abbas in particular insisted on their creation across his realm at distances of 1 day’s travel apart (by Camel presumably!!). 

I don’t know which of those included in the list of 25/32 contain the oldest examples of architecture – certainly designs from the period of Shah Abbas seem to be the most common. This web site contains a nice list of around 900 Caravanserai and also explains the various designs and architectural features as well as "majoring" on a few selected examples. (PS This link has become broken since I wrote the review. A copy does however exist here on Scribd )

As far as I can see, we only "consciously" visited the Caravanserai at Bisotun and Zein-o-din during our 2016 tour of Iran (though we will also have seen, and maybe have stopped at, a number more along the Sabzevar - Semnan - Mashad road which seems to contain a significant proportion of the proposed Caravanserai - probably because it was/is both a trade and major pilgrimage route). I have created a composite photo of those 2. Zein-o-din (top) features as an overnight for many group tours- you will pass right by it if you travel between Kerman and Yazd. I didn’t take to its commercialisation and wouldn’t want to stay in the somewhat cramped tent-like structures which have been put in place to provide a degree of privacy whilst increasing the number of persons who could be accommodated without the original rooms being open “dormitories”. You can go in and have a look if you are not staying - but only if you pay an entry fee (which also gets you a cup of tea!) The second photo is of Bisotun, which is easy to visit whilst at that WHS (and is actually already inscribed as part of it) but nowadays lacks the true "desert" location unfortunately.

Another Caravanserai which has received comments/reviews in guide books and on the Web is that of Sa'adol Saltane in Qazvin -which you will pass through if travelling between Tehran and Soltanieh/Tabriz. I remember it primarily as a town centre “bazaar”- attractive but also heavily restored for tourists. But I may have missed something. In any case, it totally lacks the atmosphere of a Caravanserai located in a “remote” desert location! 

If Iran does push ahead with nomination it will be interesting to see whether it can do so in advance of Turkey which also has a series of Caravanserais on its T List. I can’t imagine a coordinated nomination - just as there are numerous European WHS for different cathedrals, churches, villages and vineyards, Iran and Turkey would no doubt find plenty of reasons to differentiate and trumpet the values of their own examples of these structures!

Site Info

Full Name
The Persian Caravanserai
Unesco ID
2 3
Human activity - Transport and Trade

Site History

2023 Advisory Body overruled

ICOMOS advised Referral, mostly for the selection of sites. 2 of the 56 proposed locations were left out, as well as criterion iv.

2023 Inscribed


The site has 54 locations

Persian Caravanserai: Deyr-e Gachin
Persian Caravanserai: Noushirvān
Persian Caravanserai: Āhovān
Persian Caravanserai: Parand
Persian Caravanserai: Robāt-e Sharaf
Persian Caravanserai: Anjireh Ājori
Persian Caravanserai: Anjireh Sangi
Persian Caravanserai: Abbās Ābād Tāybād
Persian Caravanserai: Jamāl Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Qelli
Persian Caravanserai: Fakhr-e Dāvūd
Persian Caravanserai: Sheikhali Khān
Persian Caravanserai: Maranjāb
Persian Caravanserai: Amin Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Gabr Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Mahyār
Persian Caravanserai: Gaz
Persian Caravanserai: Kūhpāyeh
Persian Caravanserai: Mazinān
Persian Caravanserai: Mehr
Persian Caravanserai: Zafarāniyeh
Persian Caravanserai: Fakhr Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Sarāyān
Persian Caravanserai: Qasr-e Bahrām
Persian Caravanserai: Mayāmey
Persian Caravanserai: Abbās Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Miāndasht
Persian Caravanserai: Zeynoddīn
Persian Caravanserai: Meybod
Persian Caravanserai: Farasfaj
Persian Caravanserai: Īzadkhāst
Persian Caravanserai: Bisotūn
Persian Caravanserai: Ganjali Khān
Persian Caravanserai: Yengeh Emām
Persian Caravanserai: Khājeh Nazar
Persian Caravanserai: Goujebel
Persian Caravanserai: Sāeen
Persian Caravanserai: Titi
Persian Caravanserai: Dehdasht
Persian Caravanserai: Khoy
Persian Caravanserai: Bāgh-e Sheikh
Persian Caravanserai: Neyestānak
Persian Caravanserai: Chehel Pāyeh
Persian Caravanserai: Khān
Persian Caravanserai: Deh Mohammad
Persian Caravanserai: Tāj Ābād
Persian Caravanserai: Chāh kūrān
Persian Caravanserai: Kharānaq
Persian Caravanserai: Rashti
Persian Caravanserai: Borāzjān
Persian Caravanserai: Chameshk
Persian Caravanserai: Afzal
Persian Caravanserai: Bastak
Persian Caravanserai: Sa ʿadossaltaneh