If you’re travelling Iran between mid October and March perhaps a little jaunt to the southern shores will warm your body and mind. Iran’s southern coast and Gulf islands provide natural beauty and a relaxing atmosphere. Read on for a rundown of the best spots to visit.
Explore the fishing village of Bandar Abbas
Bandar Abbas, in the central southern coast of mainland Iran, has a lively fishing village vibe with markets and live music along the foreshore. Although there is not too much to see and do in Bandar, the blue-green calm waters, yummy seafood and colourfully dressed locals will keep you entertained for a day or two.
Bandar Abbas is the gateway to nearby Qeshm, Hengam and Hormoz islands. From one of Bandar’s several ports, you can catch a passenger or car ferry to the islands. When I went in October last year, we flew from Tehran into Bandar, spent the day there and caught the ferry to Qeshm in the evening. The ferries are easy to book on the spot, but flights are best booked in advance and can be purchased online with 1stQuest. flights in Iran
Tip: Like port cities all over the world, Bandar Abbas can be dangerous. Keep a close eye on your belongings.
Discover Qeshm’s mystique
Qeshm is the largest of the Persian Gulf Islands and shouldn’t be missed. Qeshm, with its minimal fresh water and sparse vegetation, kind of feels like a chunk of the desert has been dropped into the ocean. Don’t let this description fool you, Qeshm, spanning nearly 1,500 square kilometers, well and truly has its share of touristy sites you won’t forget in a hurry. you can book Qeshm hotels easily with 1stQuest at the lowest rates.
An absolute must visit is the Valley of the Stars. The fading light of the late afternoon will illuminate the valley’s harrowing rock formations in a way that is worthy of an Instagram post or two. This valley could be described as Qeshm’s Grand Canyon and be sure to allow at least a couple of hours to scamper around the site. Admission is cheap as chips but checks with the locals (or online) for opening hours before making the 25-minute drive from Qeshm city center. here you can learn more about things to do in Qeshm and Hormuz
Zeytoon Park, just outside the main township on the eastern end of the island is a lovely spot to check out. Amongst date and pandanus palms, Iranian families picnic, barbeque and camp out overnight. The adjacent beach, diving school, and tennis club provide activities if you feel the urge. I found a cozy day bed overlooking the water where I enjoyed Iranian brewed tea and hookah. Several decent restaurants with sea breezes and views neighbour the park. here you can find more about how to enter Iran without a visa.
Other Qeshm gems worth checking out are:
- the Hara forest – when you arrive, ask one of the locals to take you for a boat tour through the thickets of the Hara (mangrove) forest.
- Naz Island- is accessible by foot at low tide and is a hot spot for collecting seashells, spectating a beach drag race and going for a camel ride.
- Namakdan Salt Cave- the world’s longest salt cave but not a place for those who are claustrophobic.
Tip: Taxis to get around the island can be expensive so consider hiring a driver for the day or for your entire trip.
Get lost on Hormoz
Hormoz Island, just to the east of Qeshm will delight those who dare to venture there. I first heard of Hormoz from my dreadlocked, yogi friend who in all seriousness declared, “Hormoz will change your life!” Hormoz is a real hotspot for hipster Tehrani kids who want some time off the grid. Think free camping on the beach, vegan cafes and impromptu drumming circles with new friends from every corner of the globe. If you’re prepared to rough it catch a ferry over from Bandar Abbas or Qeshm and settle in for a few days.
Tip: Best enjoyed with an open mind!
Swim with the dolphins at Hengam
Most commonly visited on a day trip from Qeshm, Hengam Island is a less known treasure. A short boat ride from Qeshm will see you pulling into the near deserted beaches of Hengam. With calm sparkling water and glittery sand (due to naturally occurring mica flakes), you can take it easy at Hengam. If you didn’t see any dolphins on the way over, you can hire a boat and get acquainted with the finned locals! Unlike some similar attractions, the dolphins of Hengam are not in captivity, rather they swim free in the coves. A few cafes and restaurants offer lunch – be sure to try the seafood fare! As far as I’m aware, there isn’t overnight accommodation on the island, but you know what they say, nothing in Iran is impossible!
Tip: Go early in the morning to guarantee seeing the dolphins.
Pamper yourself in Kish
Some 200 kilometers west of Qeshm is the beautiful Kish Island. Qeshm and surrounding islands provide natural beauty whereas Kish mixes natural beauty with luxury. Kish has been a popular weekend and winter getaway spot for middle and upper-class Iranians for many decades now. you can book Kish hotels easily with 1stQuest.
Kish offers an array of activities at reasonable prices such as jet skiing, scuba diving, and paragliding to name a few. As Kish is a free trade zone, the locals enjoy tax-free goods, including luxury imported cars. Tourists can consider hiring a Ferrari or convertible Mustang to zip around the island, although this is not really necessary as Kish is quite small (only 90 square kilometers). There are several attractions for the kids too such as the Dolphin Park, the Ocean Water Park, and quite a few arcade halls.
Kish, being a coral island, delivers world-class beaches with perfect white sand and crystal clear water, the catch is, only men and children are allowed to swim in public. Although women are not permitted to swim at the main beach, the Ladies Plague offers women a private (and beautiful) swimming beach for a small fee. Ladies, this place is worth checking out with lockers, indoor and outdoor showers, cafes, umbrellas, beach volleyball, lifeguards, tanning beds and massage parlor.
Many Iranians go to Kish to shop in the plush malls that span across the island. For foreign tourists, this will be less exciting but perhaps a spa day at one of the island’s 5-star hotels will be in order?
Kish also has a number of important historical sites. My pick is the Kariz Underground City. Built 2,500 years ago, this subterranean maze served the ancient Kish folk as an aqueduct, water desalination plant and a shelter from the summer sun. Pretty cool huh?! Dug out of coral you can see ancient fossils on the walls and roof as you wander through the tunnels. A German team led the excavation and although some of the signs explaining the site are in English, the museum is only in German and Farsi. Afterward, you can enjoy a drink or bite to eat in the underground city’s own teahouse.
Other sites to visit include:
- Harrieh Ancient City – ruins of an 8th century city.
- The Green Tree – a 600 year old Banyan tree, believed to be auspicious.
- The Greek Ship – a mid 20th century ship wreck that is best seen during sunset.
Tip: book your accommodation in advance and be careful about taking up a private rental. For no worries bookings, check out Iran hotels online.
What are you waiting for?
If the season is right, the secrets of the Persian Gulf Islands will enrapture you. Don’t bother going out of season, with unbearable temperatures and many attractions being completely closed, you will have a miserable time.
If you’re thinking of just visiting the islands and not mainland Iran, you do not need a visa as Kish and Qeshm and free trade zones explained here: Iran visa-free countries. Check Iran visa for more details on visas.