Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled

25th Jul 2013
Photo of Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled 1/5 by Josh Cahill
Imam Mosque in Isfahan
Photo of Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled 2/5 by Josh Cahill
Photo of Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled 3/5 by Josh Cahill
Turkish Iranian Border
Photo of Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled 4/5 by Josh Cahill
Mount Ararat
Photo of Hitchhiking In Iran: The Road Less Traveled 5/5 by Josh Cahill
Caspian Sea

As a traveler, I am always on the lookout for new challenges. A habit that has made me walk through the mine fields in Bosnia, witness the Arab Spring in Egypt, join the national choir in Georgia, and hitchhike to Iran.

My trip to Iran changed my life in many great ways. My perceptions regarding a lot of things changed drastically, some of them being media, Islam, trust, hospitality and tea. The good part about traveling is that it breaks various myths and prejudices that are passed on to you. The journey to Iran was one such experience. I came back with a completely different understanding of the place. The most common perception about Iran is that it is filled with terrorists and rebels and chances are that you will come back with a bullet wound on you. That is Bullshit! Iran is probably the most inviting country in the world and its people the nicest I have ever met in my entire life. A Persian person is the perfect human being and makes us Europeans, Americans especially and perhaps Australians look like terrorists. I can vouch for that.

The people in Iran are the most hospitable ones I have met. They are always helpful and don't do it for monetary returns. During my trip I was rescued by the locals in so many situations (once when I was lost in the middle of the Night in Tabriz). There have been so many times that I was invited to a strangers house to eat. I have always felt very welcome in this country, contrary to the perception of feeling threatened. 

Having said that, one shouldn't forget that they are in midst of a different culture altogether. So, you need to be little sensitive towards the feeling and the customs of the locals. It is important to respect their religion. Don't flirt with women and don't question anything about their customs. Be respectful and stay out of trouble. There is nothing to worry about if you do just that. Just be as careful as you would be in any other country.

About traveling in Iran, you will feel like you don't have enough time. Whether you go for two weeks or 12, there is just so much here to see and experience that you will never be bored. It is full of history and culture. The best route is to travel from North to South. For some people Iran may seem like a big desert but even the countryside has a lot to offer. The hospitality and generosity I received in Iran made me think how we are unfair to places like these by tagging them as "dangerous" and making the people look like terrorists. After my visit to Iran I can safely call it the most beautiful country on this planet! 

Formerly the Capital of Iran, Tabriz is a major historical center full of heritage monuments. The history of this place dates back to 2500 years, and it has been one of the most important centers on the famous Silk Route. This city is home to a number of museums from the Iron age and the Qajar period. The most famous site here is the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of the oldest and the largest covered bazaar in the world. You can visit beautiful mosques and museums here.
Photo of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, Iran by Josh Cahill
Lake Urmia is a beauty to behold! It is the largest lake in Iran and the third largest saltwater lake in the World. Lying on Iran's border with Turkey, there is a lot of hue and cry about the lake slowly drying up. But, nonetheless, its beauty continues to attract travelers. It is a protected National Park under Iran's Environment Department. The lake is vast with 102 small islands floating in it! A trip to Shahi Island, the second largest island in the lake is a good idea.
Photo of Lake Urmia, East Azerbaijan, Iran by Josh Cahill
Tehran is the capital and the largest city of Iran and the largest city in Western Asia. It is the urban center of Iran and is rich in architectural beauty with various fire temples, mosques, synagogues, and churches making up its skyline. The Azadi or Freedom Tower (called so after the Iranian Revolution) has long been a major symbol of this city. The city has a number of other cultural attractions like The Peacock Throne, The Golestan Palace, The Capet Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art which features works of Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.
Photo of Tehrān, Tehran, Iran by Josh Cahill
The Caspian sea is the largest landlocked water body in the world. Due to it being surrounded by land on all sides, it is also called as the largest lake. It is also the second largest salt-water lake. This shoe also happens to fall along the Silk Route and many travelers take a ferry to Baku from here. It is beautiful to stroll along while you are in Iran.
Photo of Caspian Sea by Josh Cahill
Isfahan especially caught my attention and I was stunned by its architecture. It is the third largest city in Iran and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It was the capital of the Persian empire in the 16th century and thus speaks greatly of its historic glory today. It is lovely walking down the streets of Isfahan with its lovely Islamic architecture, beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. Isfahan is one of the most beautiful cities in Iran and definitely not to be missed.
Photo of Isfahan, Iran by Josh Cahill
Formerly known as the Shah Square, it lies in the middle of Isfahan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is an architectural beauty. It kind of takes you back in time through the Iranian History. Plus, it makes for a day well spent. I sat there all day long and went for a little time travel back in the days when Kings still ruled this amazing country. This square had a deep impact on me and I won't ever forget this special occasion.
Photo of Nashq-e- Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran by Josh Cahill