Kashan is an oasis sitting just outside Dasht-e Kavir (also known as the Great Salt Desert) between Tehran and Isfahan. It’s said that the three wise men who came to Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Jesus hailed from Kashan. Nowadays, it’s the wealth of architectural and historical beauties that are the stars brightening this desert city. With a number of unique boutique hotels, at least a 24-hour stay is a must to spend a restful night in a piece of history. And in this guide to Kashan, we highlight the captivating sites, delicious bites, splurge-worthy souvenirs, and majestic inns. you can book Kashan hotels easily through 1stQuest.
Given its location on the edge of the desert, Kashan is cold in the winter, but temperatures can soar above 40°C (100+°F) in the summer. Therefore, it’s best visited during milder temperatures in the fall (September-November) and spring (March-May) during the earlier part of the rosewater festival.
Where to visit
The sounds of cascading water and shade-providing, towering cypress trees make Fin Garden a welcome retreat away from Kashan’s desert-like dryness. Built in 1590 under the Safavid dynasty, what remains of it is from the Qajar dynasty two centuries later. The main pavilion is adorned with vibrant frescos while the bathhouse is the site where Qajar chancellor Amir Kabir was murdered by an assassin. You won’t regret a visit to this UNESCO-listed, the epitome of royal Persian gardens.
Kashan is perhaps best known for its traditional houses: Borujerdi, Abbasi, Manouchehri, Tabatabaei, and Ameriha. Besides their exquisite architecture, it’s the stained glass, mirror work, reliefs, and imposing domes that dazzle visitors. While the Borujerdi House, which took 18 years to complete, is a Qajar-era gem replete with paintings by royal painter Kamal ol-Molk, each one of these traditional houses is sure to spark your inspiration.
Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse
Constructed in the 16th century, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse consists of two main parts: the dressing hall and bathing hall. The interior is bedecked with turquoise and gold tiles, plasterwork, bricks, and frescoes, and the multiple gilded glass domes provide light. Be sure to view these pod-like domes from the Instagram-worthy bathhouse rooftop, where you can also catch an exceptional view of the Borujerdi House dome and its windcatchers.
Agha Bozorg Mosque
Located in the center of the city, Agha Bozorg Mosque is praised as a masterpiece of Qajar-era architecture. The symmetry, sunken courtyard, and windcatchers are among its most noteworthy features. A visit during the golden hour will not only land you some of the most breathtaking photos, but it’ll also instill in you a great sense of inner peace.
Vying for the attention given to the city’s more eye-pleasing attractions, the unprepossessing Tepe Sialk is a site archaeology enthusiasts and history buffs can’t miss. Tepe Sialk dates back some 7,500 years and is the oldest of four ziggurats in Iran constructed by the Elamite civilization. Scholars have identified six phases of inhabitants who once took residence here. While most of the excavated artifacts are now housed in larger museums around the world, there is a modest collection of antiquities on display that provides a glimpse of these ancient people and a sophistication beyond their time.
Historic Bazaar of Kashan
The bazaar of Kashan is by far one of the best and most beautiful in Iran. As a hub of trade for nearly 800 years, it’s seen the rise and fall of several ancient Persian dynasties over the centuries as it was built, damaged, reconstructed, and finally destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. What we see of it today was restored during the Qajar dynasty. As you explore the main alleys, you’ll come across a wealth of caravanserais, mosques, madrasahs, and public bathhouses. The main crowd-pleaser here, though, is the Amin al-Dowleh Timcheh, a caravanserai with a stunning, beautifully decorated dome. Grab some tea from the tea stand near the entrance and take a load off while you gaze in awe at the architecture and watch shoppers pass you by. If you have a chance, the rooftop provides a different vantage point of the bazaar and an incredible skyline view of the city.
Should you visit Kashan between May and June, don’t miss the chance to peek in on distilleries during their annual rosewater festival, a delight to the eyes and the nose. It’s in this arid city that the fragrant, pink Mohammadi roses bloom in abundance, spreading to the town of Ghamsar. Taste freshly extracted, pure rosewater, try a dash in some hot Persian tea, or simply stock up on a few bottles for home.
Where to eat and drink
Located in the basement of the Abbasi House, this family-run establishment is all about keeping tradition and ranks as a favorite among visitors. The menu consists of traditional Iranian dishes such as “dizi” (lamb, bean, and potato stew mashed to a paste at your table) served on traditional tables which double as a place to stretch out your legs and relax after a hearty meal.
Negin Traditional Restaurant
Located near Kashan’s historical bazaar, Negin Traditional Restaurant serves classic Iranian dishes as well as local Kashani ones (described below). With a beautiful interior design and a central fountain, both the setting and cuisine here are fit for a king.
Manouchehri House Restaurant
Warm sunlight floods through the colored glass windows in this light and airy restaurant to create the perfect ambiance to enjoy some of Kashan’s most traditional cuisine. This locale also makes our list of best stays in Kashan.
Once you shop in the bazaar, you can drop in the cozy Malek Café for a refreshing herbal distillate with (what else?) rosewater and take a break from the hustle and bustle outside. A traditional Persian breakfast is also served at this cafe, as are various types of coffee and tea.
What to eat and drink
Kashan has a number of traditional dishes in which chickpeas and white beans feature prominently. “Abgust-e lubia sefid” is a flavorful stew made with lamb, white beans, and tomato paste. “Nokhod goosht,” chickpea and lamb stew served over steamed white rice, is another tasty local dish. (Try it in the Manouchehri House Restaurant.) Delicious meatballs made with minced meat, gram flour, onions, and sumac are one of a kind in Kashan. Finally, the local “tas kebab”, a medley of flavors from lamb, pomegranate paste, eggplant, tomatoes, and spices, is one of the city’s oldest recipes.
As far as drinks go, tea is a given, but because distilleries are so abundant in this city, you’ll want to try a traditional herbal distillate. Those made with rosewater, mint, or pussy willow are especially refreshing.
Where to shop
The covered historical bazaar is your one-stop shopping for everything from handicrafts and rugs to edible souvenirs and distillates. Even if you’re not much of a shopper, a visit to Kashan isn’t complete without a stop at this ancient center of trade.
Located above the Bazaar’s Timcheh (one of its main attractions) you’ll find Zhee Showroom, a charming gallery with pottery, carpets, jewelry, textiles, and home décor. With some of the finest quality contemporary art and historical rugs at prices to fit any budget, it’s near impossible to leave empty-handed.
As you tour the traditional homes, venture inside their boutiques to find artistic handicrafts, books, music, rugs, textiles, and other goods. These boutiques are also opportune places to pick up fashion made by local designers that will serve as stylish wear in Iran and a statement piece back home.
What to buy
Rosewater from Kashan is about as pure as it gets, so stock up to use it baking or to add a touch of Persian influence to your beauty regimen. The dried Mohammadi rosebuds used in the presentation of dishes and in herbal teas are also available.
If your budget allows a little room for extravagance, then scoring the ultimate Kashan rug from its namesake city is a must. Rugs have been woven here since the Safavid dynasty in the 17th century, with some of the finer silk rugs dating back a century earlier. Kashan rugs are instantly recognizable by their palmetto, floral, and arabesque motifs leading to a central medallion, vibrant red, indigo, and white colors, and surrounding border.
Given that Kashan is home to Tepe Sialk, one of the oldest civilizations, it should come as no surprise that pottery is among the best souvenirs. Textiles such as “shaar” (woven silk) are also typical of this city.
Where to stay
Many of Kashan’s exquisite historical houses have been renovated to serve as fabulous boutique hotels, so you can lay your head to rest in an atmosphere that makes you feel like royalty. Your biggest decision will be which one to choose, but the truth is, you can’t go wrong with any. To help you out a bit, we present our top 3 choices.
The 18th century Ameriha House offers a luxurious experience with modern amenities while retaining the splendor of its former days. Waking up to sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows and a stroll through the romantic Persian garden is a treat.
Another one of Kashan’s magnificent treasures, Manouchehri House offers 9 beautifully restored rooms, each one with a unique design and view of the central courtyard. The restaurant is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, so even if you don’t stay the night, you’ll definitely want to spend time here.
The 250-year-old Iranian House Kashan is located in one of Kashan’s oldest quarters. The five residential spaces are quiet and comfortable with traditional yet chic décor. Somewhat more understated than other accommodations, this hotel is rich in tranquility and hospitality.