Iran is renowned for its spectacular deserts, mosques and ancient sites. It is lesser known for its equally impressive and dramatic scenery. Taking a road trip in Iran is the best way to soak up the deserts, mountains, coastlines, and rivers of this ancient land.
In Iran, you see a new landscape in every direction. The Northern provinces of Iran (Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan) are mountainous with thick lush forests. In Central Iran (Isfahan, Yazd, and Kerman provinces) there also mountains, this time without trees so you can see the drastic red and purple-hued peaks. These mountains are complimented by salt lakes and beautiful desert plains. To the South (Sistan Baluchestan and Hormozgan provinces) the Persian Gulf coastline is breathtakingly beautiful. And the Western and Eastern provinces are too diverse to describe in just a few words. Basically, Iran has it all.
On my first trip to Iran, I predominately traveled around with the VIP bus services. I traveled from:
- Tehran to Kashan (2.5 hours via bus)
- Kashan to Yazd (train)
- Yazd to Esfahan (5 hours via bus)
- Esfahan to Shiraz (6 hours via bus)
- Shiraz to Tehran (flight); and
- Tehran to Babol (3 hour bus).
For more Iran itineraries check out: 7 Days In Iran How to Experience Everything in 1 Week.
This trip took about 14 days. I focused on Central Iran (as most first time visitors do) with a quick trip to the North at the end. The prices of the buses are hard to beat (between €4 and €10), the terminals are centrally located and booking Iran domestic buses is super easy.
When I first came here, the thing that struck me the most about Iran was the mountains. Coming from Australia, where our highest mountain is less than 2,300m tall, Iran does my head in. You’re on a road trip in Iran, huge mountain peaks dot the horizon, then you see a sign that says you are at 2,500m elevation. What?! So how tall are those mountains in the distance? It’s pretty cool. Read this post about Tips for Backpacking in Iran.
We’ve put together a list of the most scenic roads in Iran. Although you can hire a private driver or catch an inter-city taxi, chilling in a lounge chair style seat on a VIP bus, gazing out the window while you are transported to your next destination is a pretty sweet option. I really recommend a road trip in Iran
1. Chaloos Road
|Where||Between Karaj (30 kilometers West of Tehran) to the Caspian Coast, Marzandaran, Northern Iran|
|Why is this road amazing?||This road is my absolute favourite road in Iran. One of my bucket list items is to travel this road in every season. Coming from Tehran, you cut through the Alborz Mountain range and come out by the Caspian Sea at the small city of Chaloos. The road follows a river the entire way and there are plenty of lovely little restaurants and tea houses along the riverbanks. Winding up the mountain there are incredible views across the valley. Closer to Chaloos you see scenes reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, rolling green hills with tiny stone cottages and grazing sheep. Built predominantly by hand in the mid 20th century this road is an engineering and structural feat of the modern era. Definitely worth a trip|
|Bus prices & booking||Prices from €6. Visit 1stQuest and choose your Caspian Coast destination. For example both Ramsar and Tonekabon will go via Chaloos Road.|
|Scenery||Forests, mountains, snow, dams, villages, rivers.|
Check out Iran: What You’ve Never Heard for the full scoop on why Iran is the number 1 emerging travel destination.
2. Khalkhal – Asalem Road
|Where||Northern Iran. This road links Khalkhal, a small village in the forested province of Ardibil to Asalem, a seaside village on the Caspian Coast in Gilan province|
|Why is this road amazing?||Starting at Asalem you climb 3,000m over 70 kilometres to Khalkhal, a mossy and foggy village in the mountains. This picturesque road shows off the best of Northern Iran. Bring warm clothes!|
|Bus prices & booking||To book VIP Iran buses, visit 1stQuest to browse 1000s of routes|
|Forests, wild flowers, mountains, farmland, rice paddies, tea plantations.
3. Shahdad Road
|Where does it go?||Between Kerman and the village of Shahad in Central Iran. On this road you pass the Kaluts in the Lut Desert.|
|Why is this road amazing?||The Lut Desert is actually the hottest place on earth. With soaring temperatures and wild landscapes you’ll remember this drive for the rest of your life. Kalouts (or yardangs) are alien, rock-like protuberances created from 1000s of years of wind erosion and only form in the world’s driest deserts and on Mars!|
|Bus prices & bookings||This bus route is not available for purchase online. You can book a two day tour of this area from €85 per person via 1stQuest.|
|Scenery||Alien like rock formations, desert, old caravansaries, villages|
4. Haraz Road (Road 77)
|Where does it go?||From East Tehran to Amol, Marzandaran, Northern Iran|
|Why is this road amazing?||Similar to Chaloos, Haraz is a major road linking Tehran to the northern provinces of Iran. On this road you will capture glimpses of Mount Damavand, the tallest mountain in the Middle East, standing 5,609m above sea level. You also pass through Lar National Park. With over 100 kilometers of hairpin turns and sharp drop-offs, this road is not for the faint-hearted.|
|Bus prices & booking||Travel from Tehran to Amol/ Babol/ Babolsar via Haraz. Book your VIP bus for Iran here for as little as €6!|
|Scenery||Mountains, snow, rivers, rocky outcrops|
5. Hajij Road
|Where does it go?||Between Kermanshah and Hajij in Iran’s central-west (close to the Iraqi border).|
|Why is this road amazing?||Pictures tell 1000 words so best to check on the photo below. This road is actually world famous. Carving a seemingly impossible path through rugged mountain terrain, the Hajij – Kermanshah road doesn’t even look real. With beautiful caves and clear rivers just off the road, you can explore the surrounds if you need a break from the dizzying heights and loops-de-loops! The village of Hajij itself makes the most of its mountainous surrounds with the village buildings stackd|
|Bus prices & booking||Book Iran bus tickets to Kermanshah via 1stQuest.com|
|Scenery||villages, caves, rivers, mountains|
Read more about this part of Iran here: Kermanshah, The Unknown Beauty of Western Iran.
Booking an Iranian bus ticket
Arranging a bus ticket is easy. You can pre-book Iran bus tickets online via 1stQuest.com. Search over 1000 routes.
Is it safe to ride buses in Iran?
Traveling by bus and generally road trip in Iran is pretty safe. Drivers are obliged to follow usual road regulations and their records are constantly checked by ‘Police-E-Rah’ (literally ‘road police’). There are speed cameras and the highway police on many routes. Remember to have your seat-belt fastened all the time. All passengers will be given a token if they store luggage in the under compartment and are required to present this token to retrieve their luggage.