Hard to talk about off the beatn path activity if you're on your own.
I suggest, take local guide and you'll surely be part of "Off the beaten path" activity. They'll take you further more into areas that aren't described in LP, this forum or some other tourist info office.
So let me be un-polite and share contact :
tour guide for Yazd and surroundings : Siamak Kolahdouz; mob. 0098 913 154 08 87, mail: Seyamkk@yahoo.com ; he's zoroastrian and knows a lot about city and tradition; 40 USD per day with his car
tour guide for Shiraz: Saeed Negahban; mob. 0098 917 302 26 56, mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, i think he's most educated guide you can got in Iran, 20 USD half day tour
The car+driver was arranged by Hotel Iran in Qazvin. For 1 person 1 castle Gazor Khan (Alamut Castle) US$50 and 2 castles - both Gazor Khan (Alamut Castle) and Lamiasar US$65. Later in the night the hotel managed to arrange 3 more Swiss travellers to go together. At end, the car charges for 2 castles was US$90 for 4 people.
When we negotiated, the hotel and driver said we could visit the Lake Oven on the way, without saying there would be an extra charge. When we were there, we said we wanted to go, the driver didn't say anything. However, when we returned back to the hotel, the driver then started saying that because we went to the Lake Oven, we had to pay extra. The hotel manager said we should pay IR20,000 for each person. We were so unhappy and reasoned that the driver kept quiet all the way untill we returned back to the hotel. In fact the additional distance for reaching Lake Oven required 8km x 2 ways, so it does not worth IR80,000 for 16 km. At end we decided to pay only IR10,000.
So be careful with the hotel and the drvier. Agreed exactly where you want to go before the engine starts., despite this hotel Iran is highly recommended in LP guide book and the owner even named by the guide book. $$ is $$.
One of the most rewarding experiences for the adventurous traveler is venturing where the tour buses don't go. As long as you stay away from anything that looks like a military area, the sky is the limit for places to discover and explore.
A walk through a small village taking in the daily activities of the locals is rewarding in and of itself. A visit to a local market observing the displays of the local craftsmen and the produce of the farmers and vendors is an added treat. If you speak any Farsi you will meet new friends in no time at all .
Western Iran is often passed up by travelers, It is mostly a mountainous area and the home of many nomads and the ancient city of Takht-e' Soleiman.
The island of Hormoz in the Persian Gulf , easily accessible by speedboat from Bandar-e' Abbas is a great place to hike or spend a day picknicking at the old Portuguese castle near the Hormoz beach.
Trekking across some of the Dasht-e' Kavir desert with a guide experiencing the beauty of this vast arid desert is something that a true adventurer should consider. Many of the high mountains near Tehran can be climbed by fit persons without the aid of special equipment. The forests of Mazandaran province near the Caspian Sea offer one the opportunity to catch a glimpse of such mammals as wolf, hyena and wild boar and possibly leopard.
Bandar-e'Torkaman in Mazandaran province is famous for its caviar production. It is a Turkmen settlement where the women are dressed in beautiful shawls and gowns. The market has crafts and wares that are definitely Turkmen in character.
The name of the village signifacte the town of the sultans, this small village host one impressive and unique sight of Iran, the Oljeitu Masuleum or Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh its the most big building of the town and the tallest brick dome. Was considered to rehouse remains of Iman Ali but mongol sultan Oljeitu Khodabandeh was converted by Sunni Islam, he was buried here and his plans was cancelled. This Building is very tall and impressive, unfortunaly was closed inside, but i was a bit from the doors.
The lake namak is surrended by Dasht e Kavir desert, some parts of this desert are covered by sand dunes, some of they are very big and impressive especially for one who don't know this type of desert.
It is a salty lake, and he is one of but great of Iran, in winter is covered by water but when the summer arrives is dried and becomes in a salt desert.
I and one tourist from France was wanted see the salt desert but i was see water.
The Armenian church and monastery St Stephanos is situated about 50 km west of Jolfa in the Aros River valley, with a beautiful mountain scenery around.
The church has a typical Armenian architecture with a tall bell tower and in the middle a cylindrical tower with a conical roof. On the exterior walls there are well preserved relieves of crosses, angels and saints (most churches in Armenia only have relieves and carvings of crosses on the walls).
It is said that St Bartholomew founded a church here already AD 62, and it is also said that the Armenian king Ashot constructed a church and monastery on the site in the 9th century. Well, of what can be seen today the oldest part dates from the 14th century, but most is from the 16th century as it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake.
To go to St Stephanos from Tabriz on a tour (car and driver) cost about IR 300 000 (June 2006).
Kandovan is a small picturesque village about 50 km south of Tabriz. The landscape reminds a bit of Cappadoccia in Turkey, but the cone formed rocks cover a much smaller area. The volcanic rocks has been eroded to strange formations and houses have been carved into the rocks. People are still living in the cave houses, and have done so for the last 1600 years.
Kandovan is situated at an altitude of 1288 metres on the slopes of Mt Sahandkuh. It can be very cold most of the year, but in the summer months it is nice. Tourists come here and it is a popular place for Friday picnic. There is a picnic area around the river. Around the river you can also drink mineral water said to cure kidney disease.
Kandovan can be reached by public transport from Tabriz, but it can be difficult. A better option is to take a taxi, which would cost around IR 100 000, including waiting time.
Ovan Lake is situated in Qazvin province, about 75 km from Qazvin and near Alamut. The lake is 8 km from the Qazvin - Alamut road. The view over the lake and the surrounding mountains ( Alborz Mountains) is beautiful and really worth the detour. In the area around the lake are four villages. The water in the lake comes from springs in the bottom. It covers about 90 000 sq m and is 325 metres long and 275 metres wide, and has a depth of 20 metres.
When the weather is nice Ovan Lake is a popular place for picnic on Fridays.
Qal’eh-e Doktar (also spelled Ghal’eh Dokhtar) is situated on top of a hill near the Shiraz - Firuz Abad road, about 6 km before Firuz Abad. Qal’eh-e Doktar means Maiden’s Palace and the castle was probably dedicated to the Goddess Anahita. It was built by the Sassanian king Ardeshir I in AD 209.
From the main road there are steps and a path leading up to the palace. Once there was a chairlift as some rusty remains can be seen. When I visited in July it was very hot and absolutely essential to drink a lot of water to climb up. But it worth the effort, to see the palace and the view from the top.
Arriving to the palace you enter through a tall gateway in a rectangular tower, and from there a staircase leads up to a hall above. The palace was built in three storeys. Now it looks like what remains can fall down any minute. There was scaffoldings at some places but no work seemed to go on at the moment (maybe just because the season was too hot).
When we walked down the stairs in one of the towers my guide pointed to the roof and there it was full of sleeping bats. Not a place where I would like to be when they are awake.
Persepolis is a wonder in the middle of the Valley 40 km from Shiraz. To get here could be not that simple unless you're willing to pay a lot with this private taxi that will take you at least 4000% plus the original price of the whole trip.
Persepolis is a palace and tombs complex from the 5century BC and was house of Emperous like Darius I and
Xerxes. In this complex you still can see historical engravings and ancent writings with the big things made by the ancient empire.
Darius I had his reception hall in the Palace of 100 Columns and consist in the biggest palace of whole Achaemenian period and has the largest hall of the ancient city of Persepolis it self.
How to get there
Get a bus from Shiraz direction Marv Dersh and from here take a taxi (6km) to the Persepolis complex.
taxi 3000Rials (they will ask you for 10000/20000, but you have to know how to deal this. Locals pay 1500/2000 so 3000 will be a good deal for them.
Close to Gorgan, down at the Caspian sea, you find the mostly overlooked village of Bandar-e- Torkeman. The place in itself are neither unattractive, nor is it specially attractive either. its appeal are the people witch are mostly turkmens with their own language and culture. i visited here on a monday morning to witness the weekly market, and take some photos of the clourfull dressed women. I intended to spend a couple of hours in the place, but the hospitability made the duration of the stay lasting some nine hours. There was several people eager to practice english. In return i sampled turkmen food, watched their homes, and got more bits of information about general iranian life, and local condition. My hosts took me around the area in the family paykan, showing me the harbour.
is a village clse to Sharud in eastern Iran. it has a nice mosque, but the mainattraction is the very pleasant village itself. Walking around its many quiet streets are delightfull. It is a lush place, and the villagers grow several crops like for examplea apples and grapes. People here are very friendly, and i spendt hours in the homes of villagers. Along the treelined mainstreet i had the most lovely of shoppingrounds as i shopped nuts an other snacks in the store of an old man. He was unusual friendly and respectfull. He even used lot of time to make my changenotes as presentable as posible before handing them over like they was royal insignias.. Bastam, i love you.
Most of Iran are Arid, but as you come down towards the Caspian, it suddenly turns green, with real forests. I really recomend the bus, or in particular, the minibusride from Sharud To Gorgan. In the beginning, mutch of the strech is arid, there is even some white saltpans. Then you pass a mountainridge and in some days you suddenly can smell the humidity drifting in from the caspian sea to a valley deep below. Later it becomes greener and greener until it is a mix of ricepaddies, mountains and intense green forrest. It is beautifull, and after weks in the dry interior it is stunning.
The road between Andimeskh and Khorram Abad in western Iran are certainly worth the hours needed to cover it in minibusslow speed. Most of it is very arid and hot, but the dessertlandscape are realy beautifull. In the mountains, ravaged by heat and sandfilled wind, there is a lot of formations to be sen, but you must use your eyes. Bring your camera-and lot of water!!
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