May 13 2016

Although my first visit in Iran in 01/2011 turned out to be a disaster, I still consider Iran great destination  and I’had promise my self that I’ll be back in the near future when I was forced to leave the country .

In my first attempt after my passage through the Balkans and Turkey’s Anatolia ,my last stop-over in Turkey was in Van.When I asked around at which point I should cross the borders, everyone told me to go to Sero. It wasn’t the one I had in mind but I took their advice and headed that way. the border crossing  was for trucks mainly but it didn’t matter to me. I found myself in front of a big iron gate closed firmly. After a while an officer arrived, took a good look at me and opened it.Slowly I rolled into the Islamic Republic of Iran, a no go zone for most westerns. It was snowing that day and my first impression was pretty scary, since I arrived at lunch time and none of the officers was really happy to see me. They put me in an office to wait and a customs officer took all my papers and gave me tea.. It took me more than two hours to finish the paperwork and that was with his help as well.. I left the border and headed to the nearest town of Umbria for the night. On the way I stopped to fill up Voukefalas with probably the second cheapest gas I have ever encountered. 45 cents per litre and that’s just for foreigners. The locals fill up with 20 cents of the euro since they have a special card for Iranian citizens only. I didn’t mind for the discrimination since the 45 cents was still a great price for me. After the revolution Iran became the first real Islamic republic with religious rules  completely dominating people’s lives. I got the feeling that people nowadays are ready for some changes, at least the young ones  .Umbria  my destination for that night was not even in my guide book. After trying hard to find a place to stay, I parked Voukefalas right outside the hotel  i finally found  and went to bed since there was a heavy snowfall outside. Disaster hit me the next morning. During the night someone had broken into my car. After breaking the driver’s window he literally took everything that was inside: my GPS, my satellite phone, some clothes and shoes, my I-pod, my folding table and some other things, including my sleeping bag. I felt like someone had ripped a part of me.The police arrived and people were looking at the scene. I was trying to communicate but they all spoke nothing but Farsi. The police offered me their sympathy and some tea but they didn’t do anything much. And that wasn’t all. What I learned from my embassy that same afternoon finished me off. There was no Honda dealer in Iran to replace my broken window. If I was lucky, someone would bring me one in 30 days minimum. That was it, I was broken. My trip to Iran was over before it even started.With 3 day in Iran only I was forced to return to Turkey.

In 09/2014 I was back this time with Rochelle on our overland trip to Australia and back.We enter this time from the city of Astara  in the Iran -Azerbaijan border after almost 4 hours we were stamped in Iran and Voukefalas  after 3 years time was back.

The places worth mentioning that we pick this time among others were .The millennium old, Masuleh ,a gifted place.The Castles of the Assassins,one of the region’s greatest attraction and on our way south  Kashan were we experienced for the first time a stay in a traditionally restored Caravanserai. A definitely memorable experience. Further into our quest we headed to Esfahan.  Iran’s No1 tourist destination and there is a very good reason for this. Its gathering of tree-lined boulevards,Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives the city a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city.

Egger to get the taste of the desert we drove further south to the small mud-village of Toudeshk. here we met Mohammed, a local 26 year old guide that the last 22 years accommodates guest in his house and his knowledge of the area is unbeatable. On our way to Yazd we detoured through the Zoroastrian temple of Chak-Chak, a place that this ancient religion is still in practice .Then we visited the mud 1000 year old village of Kharnaq in which unfortunately the old mud houses were pretty run-down and the caravanserai we suppose to stay was permanently closed .That brought us to the Silk road city hub of Meybod with a stunning mud fort as well as the world oldest and biggest refrigeration system that the Persians have invented in order to maintain there products through the summer.

All three of the above had their own charm and the are definitely must see for anyone crossing this way.

Yazd was next stop.Here with the weather turning warmer , we camped outside the Silk Road Hotel right in the middle of the city next to the Mosque . We definitely became the site of the city as random people continuously passed by and wanted to chat or offer us a sweat as the day  demanded, The day of Arba’een,The next day we focus on the rest of the city sites  and by late afternoon we made a move to the Oasis Village of Fehraz some 30 km outside Yazd. Unfortunately Fehraz was not what we were told it would be so we headed further 60km to the city of Mehriz. As it was not in our guide book we seek the local advice  for were to sleep and we were told to head to Shah Abbas Caravanserai . An original Caravanserai recently restored set right off the highway. Another unexpected  pleasant surprise we experienced since we first headed out in this trip.It is  really fascinating that this old forms of hospitality towards travellers still serve the purpose that were originally design for. We then looped to the the magnificent Persepolis . As we visited the site we became more and more aware of the beauty and glory of this ancient city.The monumental staircases, exquisite reliefs and imposing gateways leave you in no doubt how grand this empire was, just as the broken and fallen columns attest that its end was both emphatic and merciless.…..Then there was Shiraz, a city that has become synonymous with education, poetry and wine. Unfortunately the last one is no longer cultivated here.

Iran kept one of its best secrets for last. In our research for our final destination in Lonely Planet I read: ‘This mosque is about 180 years old. It’s the newest building in the village.’ That got my attention. So we headed to Meymand, a troglodyte village that has been continuously occupied for more than 3000 years and consists of 2560 rooms in 406 mostly uninhabited caves dug into the walls of a valley. It’s similar to Cappadocia in Turkey, but smaller and without the tourists. We spent the night in an old cave and we exchanged our no longer needed heater with a day’s food for the two of us.Further on our way we passed the port of Bandar Abbas, a city of no particular interest or beauty. Unfortunately we were stuck here for two extra days while waiting for the Roll On, Roll Off boat to come from the UAE. The service is notoriously unreliable but it was the only option we had. At least that’s what we thought until then. Our Iranian adventure had for us a very stressful end up its sleeve. The Ro-Ro Boat was canceled for the second time. As our visas were expiring we had to do something. We rushed to Bandar Lenkeh, a nearby cargo mostly port.After lots of running around and  nerve breaking stress levels we manage to ship the car to our next destination…..

At that point our Iranian adventure had reached its end. To think of Iran only in terms of ‘sights’ is to miss the real story. Here is where you will “redefine hospitality”. Even through our crazy end of this crossing we met people that really helped us and changed the way we see this part of the world. The people of Iran make it what it is. Do not make your decisions based on what your friends and family say because you’ll probably never make it here. Discovering the real Iranian people is the most wonderful surprise that captures every traveler.

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