I always had an idea of visiting Iran but I never had that chance. After my Asia visit, I was thinking to try an alternative route for my return since the tickets for direct flights to Turkey were quite expensive. And just meanwhile, I learned that there is a cheap flight from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, to Tahran. It was time to visit Iran before ending my trip and returning to Turkey.
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If you wonder how I find the cheap flight tickets, you can take a look at my article about cheap airline companies.
I bought the ticket from AirAsia for the flight from Kuala Lumpur for 170 Dollars and extra baggage was included to that price. I immediately was ready for the 7 hour flight since Turkish citizens do not need a visa for Iran. After a smooth flight, we landed at Humeyni International Airport in Tahran in the midnight.
There was a very long line at the airport for the passport check. The reason of it is that many EU citizens get a visa at the airport. The visa price varies by the country and a travel insurance is needed. Since I don’t need a visa, I pass through the passport check and go to the exit. I start to bargain with the taxi drivers in order to go to the address given by my friends that I found on CouchSurfing who will have me as a guest in their house for 3 days in Tahran. The airport is far away from city center. After a hard bargain, we make a deal of 5 $ and my 45 minute taxi ride begins. When I arrived at the house of Muhammed and his wife Solmaz, the people who will have me as a guest, it was already 02:00 o’clock. After a short talking, I went to bed because I was very tired.
The next morning, we had a nice breakfast with Muhammed and his wife. Then they informed me about the places to visit and transportation. They were the most warm-blooded and hospitable people that I have met so far. They even gave me their own money since it was Sunday and no exchange offices were open. So I could buy anything that I like.
So, after a nice breakfast, I took the streets of Tahran. In order to go to the city center, I tooka minibus taxi which passes just near the house and I went to the buses similar to our Metrobuses. Their house is not in the city center, so I have to take 2 vehicles in order to go to the city center. My first day in Tahran was Sunday, so I only walked on the streets and tried to be lost in the trong. The effects of 7 hour flight still continue. Therefore I don’t want to spend much time outside. I decided to go to the bazaars and souvenir shops in the city center. My first destinations is Grand Bazaar. There are many famous Iranian carpets. The prices of them vary by its size and the the rope that its made of. The Grand Bazaar is not much interesting and authentic. At least it is not so for a visitor from Turkey.
After touring the bazaar, I eat something in a nearby place. The prices for foods are similar to the ones in Turkey. Then I take the bus again. You don’t need any card or something like that while taking the buses. You can pay by cash. When I arrive to the house, we talk about the places to visit in Tahran with my friends. Some of them are the following:
- Grand Bazaar
- Golestan Palace
- Azadi Square
- Derbent Resort
- Sadabad Palace
- Imamzade Salih Mosque
- Milad Tower
The next day, my first stop is Golestan Palace which is in the city center. This is the most important place to visit in Tahran. The construction of Golestan Palace has begun during the era of Tahmasp from Safavid dynasty and it as used as a house for Iranian Turkish dynasty Kachar’s shahs. It was used for official ceremonies and the accomodation of foreign commitee members during the era of Pehlevi dynasty, the last dynasty before Iranian revolution. And now it is used as a museum. When you enter it, a beautiful pool and the colorful roses in the garden welcome you. You can tour the whole palace in 2 hours. There are many different museums in Golestan Palace. Like in the Topkapı Palace, you have to buy for every one of them seperately. Therefore I wrote everything about Golestan Palace in my Golestan Palace article. I will not go into details again here. You can read it if you want.
After touring Golestan Palace, I look around for a place to eat. Just in the corner, I want to try the famous Falafel of Iran. First, I stayed on a corner and watched how they prepare it. They press chickpeas and throw them into boiling oil. Then they put them in a bread and serve with various sauces. It costs 5.000 Tomans and is really cheap.
After eating Falafel, I decide to take the nearest subway and go to Azadi Square. You can get off the subway in a close station to Azadi Square. Afetr that, I begin to walk to the square.
Azadi Square and Tower
Azadi Square and Tower, which became the symbol of Tahran, is the second largest square in Iran after Nakş-ı Cihan Square in Isfahan. Azadi Square was built during the era of Muhammed Rıza Pehlevi by an architect named Hüseyin Emanet. Azadi Tower in the square is 48 meter high. You can enter it, there is a museum inside. I could not visit the museum during my trip due to a environment monitoring. The square is always very crowded. You better watch your purse.
After touring Azadi Square, I decided to walk instead of returning by subway. I do not go to a specific location. I just want to see the people’s lifestyle. You may see many parks on your way. People ride their bicycles or do skating in those parks. When I see these, I think how televisions show Iran as a dangerous and a place not to visit.
When the sun begins to set, I go towards the house of my Iranian friends. I returned early because they told me that I should be at home at 19:00 o’clock and we will go to a place to have dinner. I don’t have any idea about where we will go.
When I came to the house, Muhammed and his wife were waiting for me. I thouht that I was late. But Solmaz said that her sister will also come along with us with her boyfriend and we will leave the house when they come. We all get into Muhammed’s car and our journey begins. Peugeot cars are much preferred in Iran, especially 206 and 207 models. While we were on our way, I asked Muhammed about the car prices. The fuel is nearly free here and the car prices are two or three times cheaper than the prices in Turkey. When he said that he does not know about these well since he does not own a car, I asked whose car this is. He said that he borrowed the car from his father. He did not want us to struggle with a taxi for touring and going to have dinner. It is really a very hospitable country.
The name of the place that we came to have our dinner is Derbent. It is a good place to avoid the beating sun in Tahran during the summer months.
Derbent Resort is a little bit far from Tahran city center. It is located on the foot of Elburuz mountains. However, it is very close to our house. Don’t think of a green, arboraceous place when I speak of a resort. Here is a place in which the water flows through the mountains. It stretches like a canyon. There are restaurants and tea houses all around. There is a statue at the entrance of Derbent Resort. It was built in memory of the climbers who died here. First, we walk around and take some pictures and then we go to the place and start eating. The prices are not very high. An average meat dish or beef stew costs 10$. If you want to come here, I recommend you to come on weekdays. Especially at weekends, you may not find a place to sit, even to walk.
After having or dinner and drinking our teas, we decide to play backgammon.Now it is the time to play backgammon against Iranians in its hometown. After spending a few nice hours, we return to our house. Before sleeping, we talk about where I can go tomorrow. After learning how to go to Sadabad Palace, which I planned to visit before, I go to bed. My first destination tomorrow is Sadabad.
This palace was built in 1918 by the Shah regime as a summer house. It is built on a large area. Inside of it, there are 19 museums. Like in the Golestan Palace, you have to buy a ticket for every section. Therefore, it is a little bit expensive. Most popular sections of the palace are Green Palace, White Palace, Car Museum, Handicraft Museum and the buildings in which guns and warcrafts are shown. My favourite part was the place where the properties of Shah’s family and the life before revolution are shown. These make you think of how could they managed to end up like this. I spent 4 hours in Sadabad Palace and I could not see all of it. You can read my Sadabad Palace article which has detailed information.
After Sadabad Palace, my next stop is Imamzadeh Saleh Mosque.
Imamzadeh Saleh Mosque
When I searched before my Iran trip where I can visit, I saw this mosque’s pictures from inside and I gaped with astonishment. I immediately decided to visit it. But unfortunately, I could not do it. During my visit, it was the anniversary of the murder of Hz. Huseyin in Kerbela and the mosque was too crowded. I could not even enter into the courtyard. I could only take a few pictures from outside. It is a wonderful building which you have to visit and see.
After leaving the mosque, I return to the house in order to go to the Milad Tower which I passed by many times. Muhammed told me to return to the house after Sadabad visit. He said that we can go together by car to Milad Tower in the evening. So I return to the house early. Then we go together to Milad Tower.
I did not knew until I came to Iran that this place is one of the highest skyscrapers in the world. Milad Tower is 435 meter high. And on the top of it, there is a restaurant which can rotate 360 degrees. You have to pay a price to climb there, of course. Sometimes it can be very crowded, therefore you may buy your ticket on internet.
I did not climb to the top of Milad Tower. But we had a great time beneath it. In the park near the tower, we joined to the party of people who immigrated from Pakistan to Iran. We taste their foods and listen to their music. That was really a fun time.
The next day is the time of departure. I will travel to Kashan. In the evening, we buy a ticket for me on internet from Tahran to Kashan. Actually Muhammed buys it for me. I pay Muhammed the price of the bus ticket. Unfortunately, you can not use the credit cards or debit cards from another countries in Iran. I used Muhammed’s card instread of going to the bus station in order to buy a ticket. I will wake up early tomorrow morning and set off to Kashan, my next stop.
Where is Tahran and How to Go There?
Tahran is the capital city of Iran. It has the largest population of the country with more than 15 million people. Besides its being a historic and cultural capital city, it is also a very developed city. It is really a big city. I believe that it will be a capital city which you may visit frequently thanks to the flights from some European cities and Istanbul. Beside the airline, you may take the buses that depart from Van in Turkey and arrive to the city after a 5 or 6 hour journey.