Khuzestan, The Birthplace of a nation, the cradle that nursed what today we call Iran. Khuzestan Province is where it all begins. Rich in any aspect (from natural resources such as gas and oil to cultural treasures like the ring power of Arjan) this province sounds from afar like the heaven on earth, hell, maybe its was heaven on earth 5000 years ago.
But geopolitical, economical and historical struggles and conflicts had dampened Khuzestan potentials in recent decades. But still, going there and visiting this unique province can be a life-changing experience.
Some of the best examples of Iran’s architecture, some the most beautiful instances of Iran’s nature, innumerable pieces of traditional Iranian Handicrafts, and Iranian heritage (be it universal well-known, or be it obscure ones deep into pristine land), all of these and more await you in Khuzestan. Let’s have look.
Where is Khuzestan and how to get there?
The province is located in the southwest of the country, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and the national provinces of Ilam, Lurestan, Chahar Mahal & Bakhtiari, Kohgiluyeh & Boyer Ahmad, and Bushehr.
Lying next to open seas historically had made Khuzestan one the most diverse regions of Iran. You can find people of many ethnic backgrounds here.
In the rolling hills and mountainous regions north of the Ahvaz Ridge, you can mostly find Bakhtiari people settled in the urban and rural areas, and in the plains and marshlands in the south of Khuzestan, there are several ethno-groups such as Iranian Arabs, Khuzis, Iranian Armenians, etc.
Today the city of Ahvaz is the capital of the province. (Other Major cities include Abadan, Dezful, Shushtar, Behbahan, Khorramshahr) To get to Ahvaz there are a number of routes you can take.
You can book flights from every major city in Iran to the single-runway airport in the city. From Tehran to Ahvaz is a 75 minutes flight. Usually, there are at least 5 daily flights between the two cities.
Then there is the railway option. The national railway of Tehran-Khorramshahr passes through Ahvaz and if you can endure a 15 hours journey, then you’re good to go.
Ahvaz being one the most important cities in Iran, is at the intersection of several highways and that makes traveling on land a lot easier.
(Albeit a long one, e.g from Tehran to Ahvaz the shortest distance is 820km, but because the roads got improved in recent years, in 9 hours you can traverse this distance.) from every major city in Iran, you can take a bus to Ahvaz, but beware, Iran is a Vast country, these journeys take a long time, choose wisely.
Ahvaz on map
Accommodations of Ahwaz:
Hotels are abundant in the province, even some very good ones. In recent years other options also had appeared. Places like traditional motels (built after the traditional architectural style of their respectful regions) or eco-camps can be found these days all over Khuzestan. Here are some of the better-known ones:
Pars Hotel – Ahvaz
Address: Moin Garden, 24 St.
Nader Hotel – Ahvaz
Address: East Imam Khomeini St, Between Adham and Gandomi.
Karvansara Pars Hotel – Abadan
Address: Abadan airport
Parsian Azadi Hotel – Abadan
Address: Berim Zone
Tourism Hotel – Dezful
Address: 15th Khordad St.
Afzal Traditional Residence – Shushtar
Address: Sang Farsh Street Imam Khomeini Junction, next to Afzal Caravansarai.
Shushtar Hotel – Shushtar
Address: Abdollah-Banoo St.
Best Time and Best Places to Visit Khuzestan anad ahvaz:
Khuzestan is one of the hottest places in Iran. Being near the Persian Gulf, it’s a very humid region too. So if you want to visit Khuzestan, forget the summers unless you want a natural sauna. The best time to go to Khuzestan is of course in the early spring and late winter.
But a piece of advice, look for pollution reports before you go there, because in recent years some regions in Khuzestan, especially Ahvaz, are suffering from unbelievably polluted weather (in 2011, Ahvaz ranked the first in ‘the most polluted cities of the world’ list). That being said, Khuzestan on late winters is just paradise.
Dezful, the nest of ancient bridges:
Dezful on its own need a thorough travel guide. It’s one of the most ancient cities in Iran. Blessed with crazy amount of water (therefore lots of bridges from several eras), boasting some magnificent natural scenery and deep historical heritage, this is for sure one the most pleasant and serene cities in Iran.
Let us start with the historic sites. First and foremost is definitely the Polband of Dezful. It’s an ancient bridge, dating to 1700 years ago, built by Sassanid architects, it is still standing and useable, in fact, the link between two parts of the city (divided by the Dez River) is still this bridge. Some say it’s the world’s oldest standing bridge.
I personally spent a night camping and sleeping under this bridge in the rain and fog of early Spring, and it was one the most remarkable nights of my touring life. built by Roman captives at the behest of Shapur I after the victory over Valerian, Many historians see this bridge as the raison d’etre of Dezful.
In general, the old city in Dezful (or as they say in Iran, “the old urban texture”) is a must-see. It is relatively intact and you can still see traces of several historical eras of Iran’s architecture in it.
Walking through the roofed passages (called Saabaat) connecting old neighborhoods together is an enchanting experience. Most of the historic monuments of Dezful are made of brick and for this reason, the city is known as the Brick Museum of Iran.
Since we have limited space here, I’m going to just mention the names of some of the other historical attractions in Dezful: Mashjed-e-Jame (the congregational mosque), the tomb of Yaghub Leys Safari, Qanats, the ruins of ancient city of Gondi-Shapur, and of course, the traditional bazaar.
But that’s not all that Dezful has to offer. There are lots of ecotourism attractions outside of and near to the city. For example the Shevi waterfall, or Pamenar village, and many others. As a piece of strategic advice for your visit to Khuzestan, I would say this: make Dezful one of your main Bases.
Because the city itself can take a month to explore, and then it’s very close to other incredible sites like Shushtar, Shush, Izeh and Masjed Soleyman. It has good accommodation potions, some great restaurants and most of all, warm, welcoming and hospitable people.
Shush, Where Kings and Demi-Gods went for vacation:
You know the expression “biblical”? There is nothing more biblical that the ancient city of Shush, not even the bible itself. Shush, or Susa, was amongst the most important cities of antiquity. Today, just 35km away from Dezful, it’s a place to go and get lost in, and wander deep into the past-laden wilderness of it.
The most important site to visit in Shush is indeed Chogha-Zanbil Ziggurat. A 3500 years old monument dedicated to the great god of Elamites, Inshushinak, this Ziggurat still vibes with the ancient vibe. Located in a lonely and beautiful place near the sugar plantations of Haft-Tappeh, you cannot help but dissolve into the “Afro-Fantastic” atmosphere of Chogha-Zanbil.
Then, not far from the city itself, there is the historical complex of Shush castle, Acropolis, and the Apadana Palace. And inside the city itself, there is the sacred tomb of the prophet Daniel, with its unique dome.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System:
Located in the city of Shushtar, A complex irrigation system dating back to the reign of Darius the Great in the 5th century BC.
In those days people used a cleverly designed set of large bridges, dams, mills, waterfalls, canals, and tunnels to make the most of the water. Today not much of the old system remains, but still, an astonishing landscape, totally worth seeing.
Abadan, a Brazil that is more Brazilian than Brazil:
Abadan and its people define the word “Cool”. Once a prosperous port, Abadan today is just a wraith of that flourishing city it was before the Iran-Iraq war.
But even now, with all the economic hardships, the city has its own beautiful nightlife, full of music and falafel and street markets. There are several historic sites (for example Rangoonis Mosque) but the general atmosphere of the city worth exploring.
They also LOVE football, and call their local team “Brazil”.
The cultural diversity of Khuzestan province has also affected its cuisine. One can find a variety of foods that each have a specific culture. Khuzestan foods are often spicy. Being a coastal region, plates of seafood are abundant and also very unique here.
Spicy Indian food and tasty Arab dishes are also popular in Khuzestan and can be found at people’s tables across the province. These are some of the best dishes we recommend you to try on your visit to Khuzestan.
Qaliyeh Mahi: this is some kind of fish stew. Depending on the region, the fish used in Qaliyeh Mahi can differ, but what remains constant is the incredible blend of aromatic vegetables and spices that make the authentic taste of Qliyeh Mahi an unforgettable one.
Nafleh: a sweet-tasting meatball stew with onions, chickpea flour, vinegar, sugar, dried mint, water and spices including turmeric. these small dumplings are served with rice.
Mo’assal: or Ma’Assaleh, a Khuzestani dessert based on local Date. Try it with some local Dark tea and experience sugar rush to heaven.
Although not originally Khuzestani foods, but you are best advised to try Samosa and Falafel on hot nights of Khuzestan too since the local touch is there and it’s wonderful.