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Kashan, Iran

The adobe beauty of Kashan

Kashan is a place where most spend just a few hours, it’s an adobe beauty. Well at least the center because honestly getting to any other part of the city is as much of a chaotic nightmare as in any other city in Iran. But once in the center everything changes, the cars have to slow down in the narrow adobe streets and the shadow of the long walls brings relief from the heat of the burning sun.

But first like in every place in Iran we had to find a place to stay. We started walking door to door to every hotel and guesthouse that we have written down. To make it more difficult many of them didn’t even put a sign on the door so each time we felt we were knocking on a private door. The beginnings were difficult but that’s how it goes with bargaining I guess. In one place we heard 60 dollars for a room in an empty hotel. It wasn’t really a negotiable price. They probably figured it’s better to have those very few naïve tourists that are willing to overpay than many that would be tempted by a better price. Finally we heard about Noghli which was our last chance really. Just like all the others it was a charming, adobe house with a big courtyard and a labyrinth of rooms. There the staff was more interested in having clients. With 1 000 000 rials (around 25 euro) we happily checked into our room. Now that I think about it, it was actually the best room we got during the whole stay in Iran. Bright, big, colorful and with a little bathroom. It was all we needed.

The beauty within

Kashan is somehow like a secret garden where you can’t even suspect what’s behind and below the massive, adobe walls. There are no windows to the road and the merchants mansions grow downwards rather than up. Every house is really private and every single one is a big surprise. Most of them are built by very wealthy merchants around the 18 and 19th century. Some unfortunately were left to fade away but some turned into museums or hotels to shine bright and astonish the visitors.

While most of the people only decide to see one or two houses over a few hours stop we decided to take our time. Rolling down a tunnel to get to Abbasiyan house we didn’t even imagine how big of a house can emerge from the adobe walls. Not only did they have a stunning, huge restaurant but also a museum. And they were both really well maintained, renovated and full of finesse patterns on the walls and ceilings. Imagine 6 courtyards, countless rooms and even a ceiling made of tiny mirror pieces that was supposed to imitate stars at night with a little help of candles. Not to mention that the restaurant was our addiction with its traditional Iranian “couches” and delicious food at very affordable prices.

And from there it was just a short way to explore the most spectacular of the houses the Tabatabaei house. We loved it because of the spectacular play of light through the colorful glass of the windows and the perfect reflection in the house’s main courtyard.

But it definitely run short when it comes to complexity of its ceilings. For that we absolutely loved nearby Borujerdi house which had a few of the most spectacular ceilings of Iran. Not only were they colorful but also very geometric and symmetrical. And that created in adobe.

Those three houses were our absolutely favorites that left others very far behind the podium. Some were not as well managed and some were turned into hotels which I’m sure makes it pretty spectacular for the guests (for sure it made it unforgettable for us at Noghli) but for a tourist it limits the exploring to a sneak peak at the main courtyard. For most that’s where Kashan ends really but…

There is more than the houses…

With a bit more time to explore we ended up going to Sultan Amir Ahmad bathhouse in peace and calm astonishment. This 16th century old bath house made us imagine how it must have been to sit here in steam surrounded by rainbow-like tilework to later on cool down in a chilly pool. Except for a labyrinth of passages there is also an impressive roof to see. We definitely enjoyed seeing the city from above, seeing all the wind catchers and having a bit of a sneak peek into some parts of other houses. Not to mention that the roof as such was also quite a sight with all the domes raising from it.

No visit is complete without visiting the Bazaar…

Which in Kashan turned out to be extra special. Surprisingly it was quite calm especially compared to the chaotic, crowded and noisy one in Tehran. Although really quiet it didn’t really miss any of the vibe and certainly didn’t miss any of the architecture. It actually had one of the most beautiful halls we have ever seen surrounded by little, charming shops and cafes, with a little fountain in the middle and of course a stunning ceiling it became our number 1 sight in Kashan. Going back now we wished we could just sit in there with a cup of black tea and stare at the carpets. But well we can’t 🙂

Or the Mosque…

Our hotel was actually very close to Aqa-Bozorg mosque which we visited many times and we really felt that it was one of the most spectacular mosques of Iran by night. When the evening comes and the lights are switched on it’s like a rainbow of colors. And then running kids playing football, old grandpa’s chatting on the stairs make it such a peaceful place to end a day of sightseeing. And it’s for free which makes it even better:)

14 of our favorite ceilings in Iran

Architecture in Iran is truly something special. The history, the colors, the geometry, everything is thought out to perfection. But what impressed us the most were the ceilings. Every single one of them was a unique masterpiece. And every single one has its stories. We heard that mirrored ceilings, that are a huge part of the art in Iran, were invented by the Persians when mirrors were brought from Europe and they were broken in transportation. Iranians still decided to use the pieces for the ceilings which created a one of a kind effect. Especially with a bit of light.
But we'll let the art speak for itself. Here are our favorite ceilings 🙂

  1. Triple ceiling in the Pink Mosque, Shiraz

  2. Geometric beauty in Borujerdi house, Kashan

  3. Glass mirrors in Golestan Palace, Tehran

  4. Playful colors in a random street, Shiraz

  5. Infinity repetition in Grand Bazaar, Tehran

  6. Adobe finesse in Abbasiyan house, Kashan

  7. Open ceiling in Tabatabaie house, Kashan

  8. Gold splendor in Holy Shrine, Qom

  9. Green mirrors of The Holy Shrine, Aran va Bidgol

  10. Repetition like no other in Ali Qapu Palace, Isfahan

  11. Contrast of colors in Sheikh Lotfollah mosque, Isfahan

  12. Staircase ceiling on the entrance to the Bazaar, Tehran

  13. Blue poetry on Hafez tomb, Shiraz

  14. Double ceiling of the Shah mosque, Isfahan

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Tehran, Iran

9 experiences you just can’t miss in Tehran

  1. Dive into the chaos of the Grand Bazaar

You just can’t come to Iran and skip the bazaar experience. We absolutely loved the chaos, the carriages coming from everywhere, the smell of fresh tea and spices. Not to mention the architecture which is just stunning. We also went into some antique shops to take a closer look at their ceilings and staircases. Some were absolutely breathtaking. The bazaar is huge so make sure you take your time to get lost and explore it. Remember it’s closed during lunch time.


  1. Enjoy the colors and glamour of the Golestan Palace

Golestan Palace was once a royal residence and there is absolutely no doubt about it. The splendor of the place is just immense. There are ceilings made of small glass mirrors, stunning gardens, fountains and walls with colorful tiles. There is plenty to see but get prepared because it’s actually not that easy. First you have to decide what you want to see. You buy a ticket to each part of the complex. If you want to buy them all it’s 940 000 rials (around 24 euro). If not the admission is 150 000 rials (around 4 euro) which allows you to wonder around the garden. Then there are 8 parts for 80 000 each (around 2 euros) and one, the most spectacular is 150 000 rials (so around 4 euro) and it includes the Hall of Ivory, Hall of Mirror and other incredible halls. Unfortunately, in most of the places you can’t take pictures.

  1. See how the last Shah lived at Niavaran Palace

Niavaran was the last residence of the Shah before he was forced to leave the country. Also here you have to decide what you want to see. There is the main house which is the most important part. Next to it there are few museums and a library. In the main house you get an impression of the luxury of the 70s. There is a convertible roof that lets the fresh air and light in, private rooms of the kids and more than one collection of clothes of the Shah and his wife. We paid 150 000 rials admission and 150 000 rials the entrance to the main house (together around 8 euros).

  1. Calm shopping at the Tajrish bazaar

There is no chaos here, you don’t have to jump out of the way to avoid crazy men with their carriages. Here it’s where you can just enjoy the world of spices, food, carpets and whatever you want undisturbed. We were especially amazed by mountains of saffron that are available in so many shops here. In Europe one gram is very expensive, here we are talking about mountains of practically gold. Saffron next to rose seems to be the most important ingredient in local cuisine. When you’re done with saffron there is still tea waiting as well as many, many jewelry shops.

  1. Enjoy winter wonderland going up the Darband mountain

We were in Tehran during winter so we absolutely loved seeing all the snow, barbecues on the side of the road and numerous shops and restaurants. It all seemed so Christmas-like, even though Christmas is not really celebrated here. Not to mention the experience of absolute, beautiful, white winter in a country that we mostly pictured as omnipresent desert.

  1. Watch the sunset next to the Azadi Tower

Azadi Tower is one of the most prominent symbols of Tehran and it was built in 1971 for the commemoration of 2500 years of the Persian Empire. First it was called Shahyad in honor of the Shah but obviously after the revolution it had to be changed and now it’s Freedom Tower. The tower is surrounded by fountains and underneath it has a museum. When we were there, there was maintenance work going on so we could only appreciate the tower itself. We couldn’t complain as first we saw it in full splendor during day light and as the sun went down we saw it illuminated.

  1. Enjoy the panoramic view of the city from Milad Tower

Milad Tower is a kind of thing you would expect in Dubai, glamourous, modern, full of stylish detail with a local touch. There are shops there, restaurants and a stunning terrace to enjoy the views of the city. Honestly we have seen many viewpoints but never have we seen anything like it. In the evening this great metropolis is like a painting of lights. Colorful, vibrant and very lively. The only drawback is that you enjoy the views through a metal fence which makes taking pictures nearly impossible. We almost forgot to mention that it’s the 6th tallest tower in the world. Entrance to the terrace was only 120 000 rials (around 3 euro) and the views were priceless.

  1. Enjoy the power of technology on Tabiat bridge

This brand new bridge maybe doesn’t make it on many “must see” lists but for us it was one of the biggest surprises in Tehran. It’s the most extraordinary pedestrian bridges we have ever seen. Imagine two floors, with little gardens everywhere, views of the city, benches to sit on and also a few restaurants and a really nice café where you can read some books (not only in Farsi). Not to mention that as soon as the sun goes down the bridge lights up with intense green color.

  1. Former American embassy

That’s probably the sight everybody imagines. Murals with anti-american art, passing by ladies in chador, posters of Obama looking like an Islam teacher. It was overtaken in 1979 because of the religious revolution. Later on 52 American citizens were held hostage for 444 days which makes it the longest hostage crisis ever. Although it’s incredible to see where it all started, make sure it’s not the only thing you see.