So you thought Japan Is the empire of the sun? Wrong! Come visit Khorasan and think again. Khorasan (a word which in middle-Persian means the land of rising sun) is located at the northeast Iran and has always been one of the most politically, cultural, historical important regions of all the Iranian kingdoms and empires and governments.
It’s a place of myths, where great poets lived and wrote, where bright philosophers shaped their understanding of the world, where Warlords who conquered ancient empires rose their banners, and where one of the most sacred shrines in Shi’ite Islam sits and shines.
Since 2004, the Khorasan Province’s been decided into three separate provinces: North Khorasan, South Khorasan, and Razavi Khorasan. Here we’re gonna introduce the more famous tourist attractions of Iran in all three Khorasans briefly so you can plan a better tour but this is by no means a thorough introduction to Khorasan.
Khorasan on map:
Where is Khorasan, How to get there?
Located in the northeast of Iran, Khorasan Province borders on two neighboring countries of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, as well as national provinces of Gorgan, Semnan, Esfahan, Yazd, Kerman, and Sistan & Baluchistan. The province before its partition was the vastest province in Iran.
Here’s how you could reach these three major cities each one of which is the capital of its own Khorasan:
Bojnurd, the capital of northern Khorasan:
You can book a flight from Tehran to Bojnurd. It would take 85 minutes to arrive at the city’s airport and from there to the city center, you can take a taxi from within the airport.
If you prefer the more budget tour, take a bus from almost any major city in Iran to Bojunrd. From Tehran to Bojnurd, is a 9.5 hours drive though.
Birjand, The capital of Southern Khorasan:
There are daily flights from Tehran to Birjand, taking 90 minutes. Buses are the other option, but since the distance between Tehran and Birjand is 1150km through mostly desert land, we don’t recommend the 13.5-hour trip.
Mashhad, the capital of Razavi Khorasan:
Reaching Mashhad is somehow like reaching ancient Rome; all the roads end up there.
There are flights from all national airports in Iran to Mashhad. The large cities like Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz have more than 5 flights to Mashhad daily. There are also international flights from Bahrain, Damascus, Dubai, Kuwait, Bishkek, Beirut, Jeddah, Dushanbe, Kabul, Doha, Almaty, Lahore, and Istanbul.
There several options to choose from if you’re interested to reach Mashhad by train, from a budget class old train to the luxury express ones. Maybe worths mentioning that you can also travel from Turkmenistan to Mashhad this way. There are trains from Ashgabat and Merv to the Sarakhs border. And at this side of the border, there is a daily train from Sarakhs to Mashhad.
Important Accommodations in Mash’had:
Since we’re talking about 3 provinces, accommodating options are abundant. Here we try to mention some of the better ones:
Darvishi Hotel – Mashhad
Address: Emam Reza Boulevard
Ghasr Talaee Hotel – Mashhad
Adress: Emma Reza Boulevard
Madinah Al-Reza Hotel – Mashhad
Address: Holy Shrine, Shirazi Avenue
Dariush hotel – Bojnurd
Address: 3 kilometers into Bojnurd-Mashhad road
ITTIC Tourist Hotel – Birjand
Address: Artesh Avenue across from Artesh Hospital
Amiran Grand Complex – Neyshabur
Address: Imam Khomeini St.
What to do and where to go in Khorasan, or a pilgrim’s guide to the land of rising sun:
– Mashhad, the Holy Land of Revelation:
Welcome to the second most populous (and probably the wealthiest) city in Iran. Once a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road, Mashhad has always been one of the most important and prosperous cities in the realm, even during the Mongol period.
First and foremost, there is the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza. The shrine is located in the eastern half of the city and can easily be reached by taxi or bus. If you want to go to the Imam Reza shrine by subway, you have to get off at Basij Square Station and reach the shrine along Imam Reza Street. Then comes Shandiz.
On the western outskirt of the city of Mashhad, Shandiz is a great place for eco-tourism, one the best in the region. In addition to enjoying the spectacular scenery, you can also kill yourself with the delicious food its Famous restaurants provide.
There are several traditional Bazaars as well as modern Malls in the city. There are several buildings that are tokens of Iranian Architecture of various eras in which Mashhad’s been a place of magnitude. (e.g Shah’s public bath from the Safavid era) but outside the city is even richer. Among the other sights is the tomb of the poet Ferdowsi, the author of Shahnameh, the most celebrated Persian Epic. He’s buried in Tus, a city 24 kilometers away from Mashhad.
Traditionally the summer resorts around the city are popular places of feast and relaxation, so join the fun at Torghabeh, Torogh, Akhlamad, Zoshk.
– Neyshabur, The City of great poets:
128km away from Mashhad, on a fertile plain at the foot of the Binalud Mountains, lies the ancient city of Neyshabur (or Nishapur). It is the city of turquoise and poetry (haven’t you heard “Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur”?) a dwelling place for diverse ethnic and religious groups, one of the greatest cities in the middle ages before the Mongol invasion.
Above all the attractions in Neyshabur are two tombs belonging to two of the greatest poets of the Persian language. As you know poets’ tombs in Iran aren’t just places of burial, they are public spaces where people gather to share the legacy and atmosphere of that bright souls and minds of the past. So first, in your visit to Iran don’t right these tombs off, and second, if you’re in Khorasan, go to Neyshabur and visit Attar’s tomb and -more importantly, the tomb of the great poet, mathematician, and astronomer, Omar Khayyam.
Then, for pleasant hiking, we suggest you go to the Valley of seven caves (Darreh-ye-Haft-Ghaar). After two hour of exploration in this magnificent area, you’ll reach a beautiful Springhead, as if in some mystical quest that Attar had written for you.
-Bojnurd and all the pretty horses:
Are you an Equestrian, that is, do you enjoy being around horses? Then Bojnurd is the place for you. A relevantly young city (only a thousand years old), Bojnurd boasts some of the best horse-training centers in Iran.
The city itself has some beautiful parks and edifices (like Baba Aman park, or Emarat-e-Mofakham, a mansion dating back to Qajar era.) but for all of its attractions, we must say that it’s more of a convenient hub for reaching other destinations like Esfarayen and the ancient Shahr-e-Belgheys (the city of Bilkis) near it.
Other places of interest that you could easily visit from Bojnurd are Spakhoo Fire Temple (the oldest registered monument in North Khorasan dating back to Sassanid era) and the village of Espidan (with its stair-step architecture and numerous waterfalls and caves around it.)
-The mysterious and mythical realm of Southern Khorasan:
In the breathtaking land of southern Khorasan, we recommend you visit these two places that are pinnacles of Iran’s Nature and native architecture.
Kaal-E-Jenni (the Valley of the Jinns):
Do you remember Aragorn going deep into the mountains to call on the army of the dead? Now imagine that similar landscape in the middle of a desert, full of sun in the day, wind howling through it at nights. Deep in the heart of the valley, on the walls everywhere you see Crypts carved in the stone, built by the Zoroastrians 2000 years ago. No wonder local people call it the valley of the Jinns (evil spirits).
Makhunik village (Iran’s Lilliput!):
You can call this one the eighth wonder of the world in villages, because of its remarkable architecture, and also its people aren’t the tallest people on earth (rarely they reach 140cm). Until 50 years ago, the Makhunik people did not hunt any animals and did not even drink and tea. They did not eat meat or smoke, because they considered doing such things sinful.
Traditional Foods of Khorasan:
Shishlik Kabab, a Khorasani dish you can enjoy in Shandiz better than anywhere else.
Shole which is customary to Mashhad. It is one of the common votive (Persian food) foods which is cooked in this city. Shole is a very nutritious meal, and the cooking process takes much time.
Digche, a dessert for religious ceremonies. It is also a good choice for Iftar time in Ramadan. Digche is made of rice, milk, sugar, butter, cardamom, rosewater, and saffron.
Gharotu is a traditional food of Bojnord. Recently it has been recognized as one of the national cultural legacies.
Souvenirs of Khorasan:
Most famous of all, known to the universe and even beyond, is the saffron of Khorasan (Iran’s souvenirs), the red gold of the east. Then, and equally important, is dried Barberry (Zereshk). If you cook everything with zereshk, it’ll surely get better. The other Iranian gift specific to Khorasan is, of course, Turquoise. In the traditional bazaars, there are lots of jewelry made from this precious and holy stone.