Yazd is a classic desert city to tour when you travel in Iran. I’d personally recommend a few days here to make sure you see the place in the detail it deserves. Backpacking in Iran is easily one of the most enjoyable experiences of your existence on this planet. These are the friendliest and nicest people imaginable. It’s no wonder Iran is one of the safest countries in the world. So get your Iran Visa and head to explore Yazd!
What you will find in Yazd is an old school desert city with a load of sandy alley ways, Mosques, Minarets and a load of courtyard style houses with these wind towers in them – they are known as Badgirs. Underground water channels called Qanats also flow freely through the city which welcomes tourists and caters in stylish hotels that will never break the bank. We chose the “backpacker friendly” Silk Road Hotel. You don’t nee to book accommodation in advance in Iran – normally you just turn up. I’m doing a top 11 things to do in Yazd, which fits as I played football there!
1. Jameh Mosque
Every town in Iran will have a Jameh Mosque – it’s the rule and Yazd’s is fairly prominent in the old city. Two massive striking minarets and colours of desert brown and turquoise give it that oasis of promise feel. There’s also some almost swastika Nazi style symbols within – these are simply a symbol of infinity and timelessness, birth and death. They date back to 5000 BC long before the likes of Hitler used this symbol for another purpose.
Take time to go inside and explore the Jameh Mosque – the design is special and the mosaics are among the best we saw in Iran.
2. Yazd Old City
The Old City of Yazd is quite amazing. It’s like a sandy brick town in the desert – except it’s built up, it’s populated and it’s not really that deserted any more. Take time to wander round the streets on your own. The streets are all narrow and sometimes you’ll get a car or a motorbike zooming past you – but no buses or big transport in the old city – they wouldn’t fit. It’s marvellous. Walls everywhere, a distinct lack of advertising and no big brands. This is hardcore Iran.
3. Alexander’s Prison
This prison has a history behind it and is no longer used as a prison. Indeed it’s now open to the public as a museum. You need to pay 10,000 Rials to get inside (about 30 US cents) and have a look around. The name is more intriguing than the bog standard prison itself. Apparently a Hafez poem refers to this place and mentions that Alexander the Great had built a dungeon here. There’s a tomb next door, a courtyard and a tea house. This is nowhere near as eerie as other prisons I have been to on my travels (such as Hoa Lo Prison).
4. Sunday Morning Football
I was lucky to be hanging outside our hostel/hotel at the right time on a Sunday morning. Two kids come up to me and pass the football across. I started kicking ball with them and they invited me down to play with them. Amazing – I love football and the chance of a Sunday morning kickabout really appealed to me.
It was a mixture of Afghan and Iranian kids playing together which was really cool to see as Afghanistan only recently got their football league started again recently. The kids were great – they stuck me in one of the teams and we played away.
My girlfriend Panny had the camera and was able to take some photos and a video of me playing football. Despite being the tallest, oldest and most experienced player on the pitch, I was also probably one of the worst. My team lost 3-0 and my consolation was hitting the post. I put on my backpack again, said my goodbyes to the kids and went off to explore more of this fascinating city.
5. Khan-e Lari (a Traditional House)
Iran offers loads of chances to visit traditional houses. Yazd has a cool one within the old city, it’s called Khan-e Lari. It was signposted as “Larry House” at one point.
We headed in and it was basically just an old house with a courtyard. OK so it was nice, but we’d seen them before and we’d been in Iran about 3 weeks already by this point so it wasn’t that inspiring. I have included it in this top 10 though as most want to visit it.
6. Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun
“Dakhmeh” was our sunset activity on our major day of sightseeing in Yazd. It’s not in downtown Yazd, but I really recommend getting out to see it. You could walk it, but it’s so cheap in Iran to share a taxi – you can probably hitch a lift out to it as well – we hitched a lift back for free. The locals don’t want your money.
Dakhmeh is almost like a miniature lost town! These ancient Zoroastrian buildings are scattered at the foot of two hills. On the hills are two “Towers of Silence”. Walk up to the top for some cool views over the city of Yazd and to explore this rather bizarre place.
Some backpackers head to the Eiffel Tower, we went to Dakhmeh and loved it. Once you get out to it, you have to climb through a gate to get to the place.
7. Bogheh-ye Sayyed Roknaddin
This cool Islamic building was bang opposite our hostel. Again the desert brown colour mixes with turquoise domes and mosaics in both the interior and exterior.
8. Zoroastrian Handicrafts Shop
This offers a great chance to pick up some authentic Iranian handicrafts and souvenirs, of Zoroastrian style mostly. The shop is on the main circuit near Alexander Prison as you walk through the old city. It’s near the tourist information centre.
9. Amir Chakhmaq Complex
You end up classing all beautiful Islamic buildings in Iran as Mosques and yet you shouldn’t do this. We learnt during our month there that a lot of these stylish Islamic buildings have other purposes. A lot of them are shrines, some of them are markets, others are just elaborate buildings.
The Amir Chakhmaq Complex is a large Hosseinieh – fronted by a small concrete park of fountains and sitting off the main road through the city. You can pay to go inside and guess what we didn’t pay. When you spend a month in Iran you will get tour fix of these buildings so please don’t feel the need to go into every single one of them to tick off a box. We did a lot in Yazd, but we didn’t go inside the Chakhmaq.
When we visited of course they were no other travellers around and the locals were so keen to get photos with us!
10. Oasis Traditional Hotel and Restaurant.
Iran does cool and stylish courtyard style restaurants and they are usually pretty cheap. Perhaps the name of this one enchanted us – Oasis.
11. Egbal Factory
OK so I’m cheating and adding a number 11 instead of 10. It was the design of the Egbal Factory that intrigued me to it, plus the fact that it wasn’t included on the Lonely Planet’s walking tour. That’s when I knew it would be a cool spot. They’ve been making textiles here since 1312!! The building has a funky design too!
We stayed in the Silk Road Hotel which is also where I ate the camel meat stew. I really have to admit I’m very very very behind on my travel writing – life has just been so busy lately. I have about 50 more articles on Iran to write, 20 on Iraq, 10 on Armenia, 20 on Turkey etc… I’m going to try and get one Iran story up a week which means it will take me a year! Anyway this was my backpacking in Iran post on Yazd. A great city to tour for sure.
Some of my videos of Yazd while backpacking in Iran: