I'm wondering if anyone has traveled from Turkey to Iran. So many great archeology sites in Iran but is it safe for Americans?
It's pretty doubtful. Iran's still holding some U.S. citizens as hostages, but it's kept pretty quiet in the press.
I'm aware of the hostages but they are news people and religious people. I am wondering about ordinary people not connected to anything the Iranians would suspect their actions. I'm speaking of Group travel not individual travel to Iran.
Rick has some Iran travel links here, mostly other guiding companies.
Absolutely marvelous video! Thank you so much. Do you have this video for sale? I am enthralled !
I took a flight from Beirut to Tehran, as crossing overland from Turkey is most definitely NOT advisable at ANY time (Dogubayazit-Tabriz). Fly from Istanbul, or better yet London or Paris or Frankfurt, if you can. Take heed of your own government's travel advisory. Educate yourself before you go. Your simple question is a strong clue that you should not travel to Iran by yourself!
Iran is a big country and each region is quite fascinating. I traveled extensively in Iran during a 10 weeks-long trip (post 9/11). As a Canadian, I was very lucky to get a 6-week visa, which was extended while there with another 4 weeks. I used domestic flights, buses, train, microbuses and taxis to get around. The language barrier was almost total everywhere I went. I visited many archeological sites, cultural sites and religious sites. I often hired a private car and driver, sometimes with an English or French-speaking guide.
Many tourists do visit Iran (notably Europeans and Japanese), usually in small groups. Independent travellers are very few and far between. You have to be a particularly intrepid soul to do so! When Rick Steves went, his visit was well structured and prepared. He was also accompanied every step of the way.
It was usual for me to be the only foreigner in a city like Kermanshah or Ardabil, then meet a handful of travellers in a small village like Abyaneh or Masouleh. While in Mashad, the only other 'foreign' tourist (non-pilgrim) at the time was a Brazilian journalist; I had been told of him and we did meet for tea. He was eventually detained, brought back to Tehran, placed under 'house arrest' in a 5-star hotel, and it took a couple of months (and much money paid by his employer) for him to be released. He did do something very stupid: he knowingly went where he should not have.
Well touristed cities, like Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd are more used to the presence of foreign Western tourists. Group tours concentrate on Isfahan and Shiraz, as the core of every circuit - and both are amazing!! A 8/10-day trip would be just enough to cover Isfahan (Abyaneh), Shiraz (Persepolis) and Tehran. To see more, then you would look at at 15-21 days tour. You could also customize a private tour, if you wanted to include hard-to-get-to sites like Takht-e Soleyman or lesser-known ones like Taq-e Bostan.
Like I said above, I would only recommend visiting Iran with a tour, if you can. The logistics of doing it on your own are simply too nuts and you do need explanations for what you do, see and visit. You also need to abide by the rules of law, custom and conduct while there. Yes, that does include wearing shirts and long pants at all times for men, a 'manteau'/tunic and a scarf covering the hair for women (sunhats were OK too). In mosques and shrines, I was often expected to also wear a chador and one was always scrounged to lend to me. You should choose cooler months for a visit (May or Oct.). I really liked October.
The best Iranian food is served in homes, not in restaurants. Mostly only in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan do people really eat out a full meal for pleasure. Everywhere else, people eat out socially usually only for tea and sweets. Eating a meal out is something that is 'functional', that you do away from home if you must. Kebabs and abgoosht were often the only choices (two different types of places) - as delicious and diverse as these were, I got pretty tired of it after a couple of weeks. A group tour could enable a much better sampling of Iranian dishes.
In Iran, as a woman traveling solo, I was the safest that I had ever been anywhere (more than seventy countries now). Iranians were very gracious (and curious). It was a delightful trip, full of surprises. The depth of my ignorance about this country and its society was profound before I got there, despite how well prepared that I was. Iran, with its love affair with poets and soccer players, holds a special place in my heart and in my memories. :-)
Diane, thank you ! what a great summary. And…I will be going in OCTOBER! perfect. I am prepared having bought some clothing from Iranian online and supplemented with some garments of my own. I will be going with a small tour, also….so….I'm looking forward to my Iran adventure at my age. World travel for me may be capped off with this Turkey/Iran trip but I still can navigate domestically if I have to give up a wider spread of my wings. Thank you again! and again!
Yes, Diane, a wonderful recounting of your time in Iran. Six whole weeks! I was there for 9 days in 2000 and thought I was lucky. Our tour started in Teheran, and then to Isfahan and Shiraz. We met only one other western traveller, in the hotel gift shop in Shiraz. Amazingly, he turned out to be a doctor from my own city of Montreal, actually from the district where I live in the city. He was touring independently, by car with a driver, which I thought was very daring but you have done the same thing, as a woman on your own. We had a few Americans in our smallish group, who said they were Canadian if a friendly Iranian asked.
I strongly recommend that you buy this book and bring it with you. Keep it with you, as you go about. If you are as lucky as I was, people will not only try to engage you in conversation about it, but some will recite his poetry for you!
The tea house (chai-khaneh) at Hafez' tomb, in Shiraz, was one of my favourite places to spend time in.
Try as many of the ice cream flavours as you can!
Can you post a link to the tour that you chose?
Norma, it was a total of 10 weeks!
I didn't want to leave after six weeks and went through the visa extension process in the very conservative city of Mashad. Every single perception about Iran that I had was challenged on that trip!
Being on my own was very interesting... people were perplexed, to say the least. Young people were particularly engaging. I wish I had had a dollar for every time that I was asked "is it true, boys and girls go to the same schools?" - the whole trip would have paid for itself!!
Young men would shyly address me, with one member of the group pushed by the others to approach me. Young women were bolder, actually taking my arm and bringing me to sit with them. Usually, one person knew just enough of English to have a very basic conversation. The boys, just as much as the girls, were very keen on having that first question answered. LOL! I was delighted to question them in return about how boys got to meet girls and the reverse. The answers were funny, resourceful, and brought quick smiles.
The young policeman charged with my "formal" visa extension interview, for example, used my presence as a 'cover' for talking to his girlfriend on the telephone...
I think that I was very, very lucky to have had the chance to travel in Iran as long as I did by myself. It opened many opportunities to engage with people that I would not have had otherwise. It was challenging and not easy. A couple of people in authority did try to intimidate me, but I was always polite and smiling (and wayyy more patient than they). I was an immovable object and it always worked - partly because they just didn't know how to handle me.
So I got in (mostly) to were I wanted to go, saw what I wanted to see, and talked with really interesting people. I found out about the gay culture in Tehran, illegal satellite tv nightly 'mushrooms', the prostitutes in Mashad, single moms, black market trade, go-arounds for the Internet, etc., etc..
I was even given the title of an "honorary man" one time in Yazd, so that I could witness an ancient martial arts practice, in a khaneh where women are not allowed to go.
I take it you are a youngish person and I envy you.
One of the little experiences I remember was going into a lovely walled public garden in (I think) Isfahan. It was a beautiful place with water courses , flowers and shady places to think and contemplate. I saw a teen aged boy and girl sitting close to one another on a garden bench and that surprised me, then I noticed another girl, obviously the lookout for her girl friend, trying not to be noticed by us but wanting to protect her friend from being discovered with her sweetheart by the religious police. Young people will always find a way, guys.