Walking through the vibrant neighborhoods of Yazd offered me an adventure which enriched my heart and soul with the delights of Iranian culture, history, and architecture. Yazd, a UNESCO heritage, is one of the few major cities in Iran where the historic fabric of the city has remained intact. Ancient neighborhoods, labyrinthine winding alleys, traditional and palatial houses, and wind towers (Baadgirs) characterize this great city. Along with Yazd’s adobe abodes, they become time machines that give you a wonderful ride in the paths of history. Meybod, Ardakan, and Bafgh are big towns in this region of Iran surrounded by Dasht-e-Kavir and Dasht-e-Loot (deserts with sand dunes).
Planning A Journey to Yazd:
First things first! How to get to the city and its sights, and where to settle?
- Fly to the city (Yazd’s airport is called Shahid Saddoughi)
- Travel on the train (The train stops at Yazd, Meybod, Bafgh, and Ardakan)
- Road trip (hop on a cab/bus and there you go! It only takes a few hours from Isfahan or Tehran)
- Don’t be disappointed by the fact that there is no underground system in the city. There are plenty of buses and taxis (plus Snapp & Tapsi = Iran’s Uber & Lift!) that eliminate the need for the subway.
And if you have a problem deciding on a place to stay, let me give you some recommendations:
Budget: Stay at hostels like “Rest Up”, “Good Feeling”, “Baadgir”, and “Friendly”.
Average: You will find plenty of options. Look up hotels like “Khane-ye-Baran (Baran House)”, “Saneek House”, “Narenjestan”, and “Kohan Kashaneh”.
Fancy: Check in at “Hotel Safaeeie”, “Hotel Daad”, “Moshir-al-Mamalek Hotel”, and “Hotel Arg”.
(lodging costs range from 500,000 to 5,000,000 Rials)
Choosing an outfit: How’s the Weather in Yazd?
Iran is a four seasons country, from Ardabil’s snowy top mountains to Kavir’s sand dunes, from Mazandaran’s green forests to the Persian Gulf’s sandy beaches, the palette of nature has every color you would like. However, many people travel there for its deserts, warm days, and cool, breezy night. (wonderful, isn’t it?) If you seek such delights, Yazd is the place to go!
I do not recommend visiting Yazd in summer, the sun is scorching hot at this time of the year. Winter weather is fine during the day, but it gets biting cold at night and you should put on warm coats or jackets. THE BEST TIME to visit Yazd, however, is spring. The weather is tremendously lovely and the sun does not bother your skin.
Yazd’s Wonders: A Sightseeing Agenda
Now let’s talk about all the fantastic places and monuments that you should not miss in the city of fire & adobe.
The Ancient Fabric of the City:
Are you looking for Aladdin vibes? Wander in the old districts of Yazd, among the mud-brick buildings, thatch lanes, and glimmering domes. Leave aside your GPS maps and savour every step you take. In the course of this amazing experience, you can meet the locals and rest in the traditional hotels and guesthouses. Many of these houses allow you to step on the roof to have a picturesque panoramic view of the city, its domes, minarets, and towers.
Ghanaats and Baadgirs:
Yazd is famous for its architectural innovations for using and accessing natural resources. Pay a visit to Ghanaats, systems of underground irrigation, and Baadgirs, wind towers, or, air conditioning systems that direct the breeze downwards to the rooms of the house. These structures that trace the development of urban life in Yazd will undoubtedly inspire you.
This place took my breath when I first saw it. A fine example of Islamic-Iranian art and design, it is the most iconic square in Yazd. Located in the city center, this magnificent square hosts the Amir Chakhmagh mosque, the grand covered Bazaar, and a reservoir.
It is a place of beauty and symmetry, alive with people and shops. Tourism planners and tour guides never leave out ‘Amir Chakhmaq’ from their must-go lists. The tall tiled facade of the mosque will mesmerize every visitor with its sense of divine perfection.
The Great Mosque of Yazd (Masjed-e-Jame):
Since it took about a century to be constructed, this mosque is an attractive combination of Azeri, Ilkhani, and Timurid architecture. Do not stop after seeing Iran’s highest minarets, go inside to see its vast hall, veranda, splendid Mihrab, and the intricate tile-work. “Zarch” Ghanaat is also located inside this mosque.
A pretty garden built during the Afsharid dynasty, Dowlatabad used to be a royal residence. The building also houses a “Hashti” (Summer wind tower), a Harem, public and private reservoirs, a big kitchen, “Behesht Aiin Hall”, and stables. The highest wind tower of the city is located in this garden and “Behesht Aiin” is the axis of symmetry between the inner (Andaruni) and outer (Biruni) sections of the garden. Spend one night in this garden of giant trees, pleasant creeks, and gentle winds and cherish its memory for the rest of your life.
As you might have noticed, for those interested in exploring the historical and spiritual side of Iran, visiting Yazd is a must! But majestic mosques are not the only options for you to visit; check out the pre-Islamic Fire Temple of Zoroastrians (Bahram) in Kashani Boulevard. Zarathustra is a Persian prophet whose motto, “good words, good deeds, good thoughts” is renowned throughout the world. Fire is the holiest element of nature for Zoroastrians and the one in this temple has kept burning for hundreds of years.
For a bit of mystery head to The Silent Towers, or Silent Catacombs, (Dakhme-ye-Khamooshan). To prevent the earth and fire from being polluted by the dead bodies, the corpses were brought in these catacombs, away from the city and its people, to be exposed to the cleansing beams of sun and be preyed by scavenging birds.
This complex, part of which is now ancient ruins, is no longer being used for its original purposes; it nevertheless presents you entry to the rituals of Zoroastrianism as a significant aspect of an ancient religion in Iran.
A place of pilgrimage for Zoroastrians, Chak Chak is located near Ardakan. This temple is believed to have been a shelter for “Nik-Banoo” the daughter of Yazdgerd III, a Persian King. Based on the myth that its dripping water spring is materialized from Nik-Banoo’s tears, the place is called Chak Chak, or Chek Chek, Persian onomatopoeic words for the sound of dripping.
You can also visit:
*Alexander’s Jail (Zendan-e-Eskandar), AKA Ziyaiieh School: for sightseeing an ancient dome and buying Yazdi and Iranian souvenirs from its many colorful gift shops.
*The Museum of Water and Light (Ab-va-Roshanaii): Hit this museum for a tour of priceless relics, that is, the early lights and lamps of Iran.
*Lovely rehabilitated caravanserais on your way to Yazd, the most famous of which is Zein-al-Abedin caravanserai.
*Historic mansions such as “Khane-ye-Tehraniha” (Tehranis’ House), “Khane-ye-Lariha” (Laris’ House), and Bustan-e-Naji Mansion.
Do not forget that some places charge you an entrance fee (300,000 Rials on average).
Fun Fact: Yazd’s famous narrow alleys are called “Ashtikonan,” (Persian for reconciliation and bringing together). Why, you ask? Because, as the name indicates, two people cannot pass these alleys without meeting each other face to face, having eye contact, and maybe exchange a smile! Go to Farhadan neighborhood to have a stroll in the labyrinth of these alleys.
Treat yourself: Yazd’s Food and Souvenir
Let this city of Ash (a popular Persian soup), sweets and delicacies indulge you with its special dishes! (Yum!)
If you are passionate about tasting some delicious Ash, and do not know what to begin with, here are some examples: Ash-e-Sholi, Ash-e-Gandom (wheat), Ash-e-Aloo (plum), and Ash-e-Anar (Pomegranate). By the way, did you know that almost all of these dishes are vegetarian?
Meat-eaters should not worry! Yazd’s special meatball, better known as ‘Gheymeh Nokhod’ is just for you. Check out the annual festival of Ghormeh (Persian Stew) and Kebab to explore a variety of mouth-watering food.
Hankering for dessert? Try Baghlava, Ghottab, Haji-Badam, and Lowze; the last of which comes in different flavours: banana, coconut, etc. These are sweets filled and/or decorated with nuts such as pistachio and almond. “Haj Khalifeh,” a well-known Yazdi brand in sweets and confectionary, provides snacks, deserts, and souvenirs to take home to your friends and family.
In addition, the wide range of restaurants, from gourmet to ethnic, cater to the locals and visitors. “Malek Tojjar”, “Khane-Dohad”, “Emarat-e-Vakil”, and “Silk Road hotel” are just a few examples of upscale restaurants in Yazd.
I sometimes felt like eating at a café and mingling with the natives. “Hereh”, “Kalhor”, “Fazeli”, “Nardoon”, and “Khane Honar” cafes are nice and cozy; plus, that last three have amazing rooftop views.
What if one wanted to get handcrafts as a gift, you ask? Yazd is famous for producing an excellent range of textiles, the finest of which is “Termeh”. Stop by any Bazaar and buy silk, Termeh, “daraii” (silky), and Zilu (a carpet), all woven by hand. Meybod’s earthenware and ceramics will also make a fine addition to your home décor.