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Isfahan. Iran

24 h in Isfahan

Isfahan has some of the most picturesque sights of the country that we just couldn’t skip. On the other hand is one of those cities that you just can’t decide which of the horrible accommodation you should choose so we really didn’t want to stay too long there…

Settling down…

Isfahan still doesn’t really have much to offer when it comes to economic accommodation. Looking around for a place to stay we felt the standard of the places were not changing, just the price was going up. Places we saw were just old and depressive, not maintained and generally not attractive at all. We thought that if we have to sleep in a shithole than at least it should be cheap so we went for Amir Kabir. Thankfully we could choose between a room filled with cigarette smoke and another one just stinking like old socks. We went for the second option. Motivated by the lack of toilet paper, coldness of the weather and the staff we were ready to see the city as fast as possible.

Around Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Nagsh-e Jahan is the heart of the city and the first place to visit. The square itself is a UNESCO heritage and was built in the 16th-17th century. That’s where the bazaar is and 3 of the most important sights to see in Isfahan.

Morning birds in the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque

It’s a very small mosque without any minarets as it was built to be private for the royal court. That said, in the morning the light is just magical. It’s rather dark in there and then you can see separate rays of light coming through the perforated window. Yellow and purple colors of the dome create a perfect harmony with the blueish walls which made us think of a sunset…

Shah mosque  

It was built for the public so it’s big with a massive courtyard, praying hall and extensive ornaments and tile work. Compared to the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque it seemed to us like it was a bigger version but somehow lacking the love and finesse of the small one. Still really worth visiting as it’s one of the most impressive ones in Iran.

Ali Qapu Palace

Six floors of bare walls are quiet disappointing. But on the sixth floor there is a Music Hall. It’s a rather small room but the walls and ceilings are covered in niches as ornaments and acoustic tools. Unfortunately there was no one there to explain to us how that would work… Except for the Music Hall, Ali Qapu has a terrace overlooking the whole square. When we were there it was undergoing a renovation so it was rather hard to say if the terrace itself was impressive…

The bridge

Si-o-seh pol bridge is a symbol of Isfahan and definitely a must see. Especially that you never know if the river is actually there or if it’s completely dry… When we were there it was as dry as possible for already some time. People were picnicking in the river bed so they were pretty sure the water wasn’t coming back any soon. Walking under the bridge we actually noticed a long canal of passages underneath it where teenagers chill out. It’s worth coming in the evening, the bridge is really nicely illuminated.

P.S. We got contacted for feedback by people that are building a hostel at the time of writing and it seems it could be a nice turn for Isfahan. Reasonable prices, nice interior and finally toilet paper included 🙂 something worth checking out, it’s called Howzak House.

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.

How to enjoy a fairytale in peace close to Poznan?
Kobylniki Palace

Poland has many palaces and castles. There are plenty of them going for waste and trying to be sold. I guess it’s one of the very few places in the world where you can buy a property like that for quite cheap for what they are. Still not cheap enough for normal people to buy them. Not to mention that a house like that has to be maintained, renovated, cleaned and that brings the expenses quite high. Fortunately Kobylniki Palace is one of the few lucky ones which survived the hard times... and after many years went back to the family that had it before the war. That happened only last year. You would think the war was over a long time ago but after World War II the palace was actually used as apartments for farmers working on a State Agricultural Farm… so as a form of collective farming on fields that belonged to the government. Later when the communism was over the Twardowski family still had to fight in court to get their property back. After around twenty years.. they have it.

Nowadays the family is slowly bringing the Palace to its old beauty and they are doing a pretty good job. Kobylniki Palace was nominated for 7 New Wonders of Poland by National Geographic and although it didn’t win we had to see it.

Kobylniki Palace unlike most of the palaces and castles is quite easily reachable by bus so that’s what we take to get there from Poznan. Although not visible from the main road, where the bus passes, it’s just next to it. After just a short walk through a charming alley along farm fields, we see the gate and the palace. Even though it's small it's still very impressive with it's garden, little lake and decades or centuries old trees. It has room for only a maximum of 50 guests and it’s not particularly busy there… The first thing that draws our attention are the photographs of the family that owns the place, the Twardowski family. They’re placed on the walls of the common areas and some of them are quite funny like a woman showing her tongue. I guess we mostly think that people from the last centuries were very serious but they were just people like me and you and thats what those pictures show.

To get to our room we take an amazing, round staircase. It’s small but it’s unbelievable. The wooden stairs squeak like if they were medieval and not from the late XIX century which gives it another fairytale-like tone. Unfortunately our room is not all kept in style. There are no ornaments on the walls or ceiling, the bed is just normal and so is the bathroom. I wonder if it was like that or was it “made modern” during the soviet times? Hopefully the family will try to alter it a bit in the future. But we have a spectacular terrace with a view over the garden and although it’s very cold I’m highly motivated to use it. Wrapped in blankets I decide to do a bit of reading… You see the beauty of the palace and the neighborhood is that there is nothing to see really. So there is no rush just sheer joy as the only thing you can do is enjoy… and eat! Downstairs there is a restaurant which serves pretty nice food and they change their menu quite often.

Except for the interiors there is also a small park where you can chill out, walk around or feed a few ducks and a swan which already associates people with food and comes closer.

In the night, when the sky is clear, the park is a perfect spot to watch stars. No bigger cities means not too much light and so the night sky is beautiful and black.

How to get to Kobylniki Palace?

From the Central Station in Poznan you have to take a bus that goes to Wałcz and get off at Kobylniki just next to the Palace (although you won’t see it from the bus, too many trees). The ticket costs 17 zl and there are 3 buses per day. You can check on (although it sounds very polish, the page is available in English as well). WATCH OUT! There are more villages called Kobylniki and another one of those is actually just on the way to the Palace so make sure you go to the one next to Obrzycko.

How much does it cost?

A private room with a private bathroom for two costs 200 zl. It includes a breakfast. Renting the whole Palace is 3500 zl. Other prices you can check on their webpage. May google translate be with you:)