There is a desert I long to be walking,
A wide emptiness:
Peace beyond any understanding of it.
– Rumi, Persian Poet and Sufi Master
One of the best things to do when visiting Iran is to treat yourself to a trip to the desert. Why? Incredible photo opportunities, breathtaking views and moments of complete peace and solitude – need I say more!
Although super hot in the summer, it is possible to visit Iranian deserts all year round. Around 25 percent of the Iranian plateau is classified as desert so, you are spoilt for choices.
I’ve compiled a list of the best deserts of Iran and tips for visiting these awesome places.
Need help planning your trip? Contact 1stQuest for an obligation free consultation.
Before we get started there is one thing all international tourists should know before visiting Iran.
Almost all foreign passport holders are required to obtain a tourist visa to enter Iran. Some exceptions to this rule exclusions apply. If you want to know which countries don’t need an Iranian visa, check out this article: Which countries allow visa-free entry to Iran
Visitors to Iran can either apply for an Iran visa in advance or upon arrival at some of Iran’s major international airports. I recommend applying in advance is recommended to ensure your visa does not get rejected. 1stQuest can help you arrange an Iran visa for as little as 19 euros. To know more, visit 1stQuest.com.
For all the best deserts of Iran, read on.
On my first trip to Iran, we visited the Maranjab Desert. Located about 60 kilometers outside of Kashan, a Maranjab visit is doable as a day trip or as an overnight experience.
The Maranjab has beautifully rich-colored rolling sandy hills. There are salt lakes and lots of camels too.
If you get the opportunity, staying overnight in one of the Maranjab’s caravanserais (traditional style desert lodging) is an amazing experience. For thousands of years, caravanserais in the Iranian deserts have hosted foreign travelers and merchants. Sleep out under the stars in your own desert fortress and ponder how many have done the same before you.
The caravanserai where we stayed even had an oasis style swimming pool. The local guys gave us ladies privacy to go swimming and cool off after a long day of desert trekking. Bliss!
If you turn up in Kashan, you are sure to find a place offering Maranjab Desert tours. Or contact 1stQuest to arrange a reputable tour in advance. Often times drivers will take you to Nooshabad Underground City and some other places along the way.
Nooshabad Underground City is a wacky place. Our guide told us it was only rediscovered in recent years when a local man was digging in his garden. Apparently, it was built hundreds of years ago to be a hideout when invading forces came. If you’re heading to the Maranjab Desert, Nooshabad is worth a visit too.
Mesr is a small oasis village in the Dasht e Kavir Desert in Central Iran. Accessible from Isfahan, Kashan, and Yazd, most travelers choose to visit from Isfahan, which is some 400 kilometers to the east.
Mesr, which means Egypt in Farsi, has a population of about 200 and sustains itself and its date palm plantations through a mountain spring. You can hire a camel in town to explore the surrounding desert or trek on foot.
Because of its isolated location, most visitors stay in Mesr overnight. There are a few guesthouses or if you arrange a tour, you will most likely camp out and enjoy the magic of the desert night.
1stQuest can arrange a Two-Day Tour of Mesr Desert for you.
Khar Turan National Park
Located in Semnan Province in the North-East of Central Iran, the Khar Turan National Park is the nation’s second-largest reserve. Although strictly not 100% desert, Khar Turan could be described as a semi-arid highland savanna.
Home to some of Iran’s most precious and endangered wildlife, Khar Turan gives visitors the opportunity to do a safari – Iranian style! If you are lucky, here you can see the Asiatic cheetah, native gazelles, Persian zebra, cobras, wild sheep, mountain goats and many more. During the spring months, wildflowers bloom, coloring the park all shades of the rainbow.
Since the 1970s the Turan region has been officially recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Nearby attractions include the historic village of Qaleh Bala and Bastam, an ancient Sufi epicenter. To find out more about visiting Khar Turan National Park, talk to the Support Team at 1stQuest.
Kalouts, Lut Desert of Iran
The Lut Desert is officially the hottest place on earth! With soaring temperatures and wild landscapes you’ll remember this place for the rest of your life. Kalouts (or yardangs) are alien, rock-like protuberances created from 1000s of years of wind erosion. Kalouts only form in the world’s driest deserts and on Mars!
You can easily get to the Kalouts in the Lut Desert from Kerman. For more information about what to see and do in Kerman Province, read: Kerman Travel Guide- Top 6 Tips.
Experience trekking the desert and marvel at the Kalouts over two days on 1stQuest’s Kerman private tour. Your tour will begin and end in Kerman city. Guided by a local, you can get an insight into local lifestyles and taste delicious homemade foods.
Varzaneh Village and Desert of Iran
Located near Isfahan, the village of Varzaneh and surrounding deserts are a popular choice for travelers. Here you can see the trifecta- salt lakes, sandy desert dunes, and a traditional mud-brick desert village.
Believed to be settled around 5,000 years ago, visiting the village of Varzaneh is like stepping back in time. The village has an active Zoroastrian community and the villagers even speak their own language, an ancient Pahlavi dialect.
The desert itself is also impressive. The expansive sand dunes are perfect for watching the sunset.
If you decide to stay in the village, Negaar Traditional Guest House is the best option.
Other than the desert, what else is there to see in Iran?
Iran is most famous for its ancient ruins, beautiful Silk Road bazaars, and mosques. Tourists will also be delighted by delicious local cuisine, gorgeous handicrafts, and breathtaking mountain views, everywhere.
Iran is home to the tallest mountain in the Middle East, Mount Damavand, whose peak lives in the clouds, 5,609 meters above sea level. The surrounding Alborz Mountains have world-class ski slopes operating from December to March.
Each region of Iran has its own distinct vibe. This is because each area has its own language, dress, cuisine, industry, climate, music and even style of driving! Every time you enter a new province you feel this change.
Want to experience the best of Iran in just 7 days? Check out my zippy week-long itinerary 7-days in Iran.
Need accommodation in Iran?
Browse over 300 Iran hotels, hostels, ecolodges and resorts here at 1stQuest.
For more information on accommodation, see my recent posts about where to stay during your Iran trip:
Or contact our Support Team on +372 712 0712 for personalized service.