So.. I went to Iran. First of all: put this one on your travel bucket list. I've never felt more safe, I've never felt more welcome. Okay, now that's done. Here's my short recap, more detailled blogs about specific places will follow!
Revise your fear
Everyone has an opinion about Iran. When I told people I was planning a trip there I heard so many fearful reactions. And till this day I just don't understand why. When you are respectful of the local manners and skip the problem areas near the borders, you are good to go. Really, this country is warm and heartfelt.
The country is huge, so there's a lot to see and explore. I only had 10 days, so I had to choose wisely. The trip became a nice mixture of city and villages, architecture and nature. The best tip I could give you is to rent a car. This saves you a lot of time and makes it easier to travel to remote spots. We rented a Peugeot 405 for 34€ a day and drove around 1500 kilometers the entire trip. Gas cost almost nothing, so don't worry about that. Driving is an adventure itself, but for the thrill seekers that have driven around the world this won't be hard.
After two nights in Tehran we drove the long haul to Taft, nearby Yazd. There we stayed for two nights in the wonderful Nartitee Ecolodge (blog will follow). After exploring Yazd, we continued offroad and parked our car in the desert village Varzaneh, staying at Varzaneh traditional guesthouse. With sand in our shoes, hair and car we drove to the city of Esfehan for one night, which was more than enough in my opinion. Last stop: Kashan. There we combined some much needed down time with bazaar shopping, sipping coffee and cultural sights. Luckily we could drop the car off at Tehran airport so we didn't have to drive into the mayhem that is Tehran again.
As I said, rent a car! Other handy tips: make sure you have enough cash, you can't get money in Iran only with a local card. Learn some Farsi, English is not very well spread outside the cities. Bring something from your home country that you can give when you are welcomed in someone's home. Candy, cookies, anything. Iranians have a killer sweet tooth. Coffee lover? There wasn't always coffee at the guesthouses, so bring some yourself. There's always free tea and hot water!
For women: buy some clothing you feel comfortable in that follow the regulations. I had three outfits that were a hit. First of all my cotton black headscarf, it's breathable and heavy enough so it doesn't fall from your head all day. A long over the knee loose grey dress with black leggings. A sort of vest slash coat that locally would be called a manteau. You can button it or not, depending on the rest of your outfit. And what I also wore a lot was a long black blazer with pearl buttons. It stopped my butt from showing off and also still had some flair, so I didn't look like a complete potato sack.
I'll soon write a blog about the ecolodges and homestaying in Iran!