Backpacking in Iran: Visiting Alamut Castle, Gazor Khan, Iran

alamut castle

Our gang touring Alamut Castle in Gazor Khan, Iran.

Heading out into the Alamut Valley is something you should aim to do when you’re backpacking in Iran. Away from the big city appeal of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz, here you find solace in a tranquil mountain village in the gorgeous valleys. You might even forget you’re in Iran for a second!  We found visiting Alamut Castle to be yet another off the wall travel gem, and loved the name of the village next to the Castle – Gazor Khan!

gazor khan sign alamut castle

The sign at the start of the hike to Alamut Castle in Gazor Khan, Iran.

I mis-spelt it and mis-called it many times – Ganzo Khan, Gander Khan, Gandor Khan, but this place is Gazor Khan!!

gazor khan snow

Central Gazor Khan, on a snowy and cold day!

Getting to Gazor Khan

There is no obvious public transport heading to Gazor Khan. While the locals may know the exact bus routes, they will be a bit trickier for foreigners to find. Especially in Autumn and Winter months. We were there in early December and it was off-season. There were no obvious or regular buses heading out to Gazor Khan after September time, so we had to look at the hiring a driver/taxi option. You’ll more than likely start off in Qazvin, which is a big city and the nearest large city to the Alamut Valley.

alamut valley gazor khan

A stop over on the drive through the Alamut Valley to Gazor Khan, Iran.

At Qazvin head to the Qarib Kosh roundabout, which is on the left past a hospital as you head out of the city on Ayatollah Khamene ee Boulevard. From Qarib Kosh you can get a driver to take you all the way to Gazor Khan. Have the information ready to give him – they don’t speak English.

qazvin gazor khan

At the roundabout in Qazvin heading out to Gazor Khan.

Make sure you bargain the taxi driver down to get a good rate. 150,000 Rials per person is the normal rate, but this is normally in peak season with a full car, so 4 people paying this brings a total of 600,000 for the driver. As there were only two of us, we bargained him down to 500,000, after being quoted a ridiculous 800,000 to start with. That worked out at 250,000 Rials each (around $9 US). On the way back we shared a car and got it for the usual rate of 150,000 Rials (around $5 US).

gazor khan views

Loving the views on route to Gazor Khan.

Hitching a ride is an option as well of course, but I don’t recommend it on this route because it’s hard enough to explain to a taxi driver where you want to go, never mind a driver who voluntarily picks you up by the side of the road in the middle of these valleys.

Sleeping in Gazor Khan

Gazor Khan has approximately three hotels, they are really just houses where you can stay, these three are:

1. Hotel Farhangian

2. Golestan Inn

3. Hotel Koosaran

gazor khan iran hotel farhangian

The entrance to the Hotel Farhangian in Gazor Khan, Iran.

In peak season, book ahead – check with the tourist information offices in Qazvin and ask them to call the hotel and book for you. We were the only ones staying in Hotel Farhangian and knew it wasn’t busy, but still got it booked anyway (well – we booked it from the tourist information centre in Qazvin the day we were heading). Hotel Farhangian has an ensuite and kitchen in the dorm rooms, with hot water and gas. They don’t offer any food. We cooked our own food – cheap noodles.

gazor khan hotel

Eating cheap noodles in our hotel room in Gazor Khan.

What is Gazor Khan?

It’s an Iranian mountain village in the valleys. It’s not set at a high altitude but it does get its fair share of snow in the winter. Apart from admiring the tranquility of the village and the daily life of the locals, there isn’t a great deal to do here. The highlight is your trip to Alamut Castle, which is a must visit when staying in Gazor Khan.

gazor khan iran

This is central Gazor Khan, a dreamy valley village in Iran.

Alamut Castle

This elegant castle sits high above the village of Gazor Khan in the tranquil valleys of Alamut in Iran. The Castle is built on the top of a massive rock/hill which is just beyond the village of Gazor Khan. To get there, keep heading up on your way out of the village. If you’re staying in the Hotel Farhangian, this is the last stop in Gazor Khan before the path to the castle begins. It’s an easy walking path to the top.

alamut castle iran

The path up to Alamut Castle.

alamut castle gazor khan iran

My girlfriend Panny walking up to Alamut Castle.

On the way up, there are views of the hills and valleys behind Alamut Castle.

alamut castle gazor khan iran

On the way up to Alamut Castle, Gazor Khan, Iran.

Half way up there is an arch like entrance to the castle walls. When we visited there was reconstruction works on and entry was free.

alamut castle

Walking up to the entrance to Alamut Castle.

Normally there is an entry fee. When we reached the top, one of the guys working there tried to get us to be but we didn’t bother. It didn’t seem right to pay when there was scaffolding everywhere and they were working around us.

alamut castle

Inside Alamut Castle which was being renovated when we visited.

At the top there is a mosque inside the complex and a lot of cool viewing points. It’s worth spending time to relax at the top and admire the views.

panny and i at alamut castle

Panny and I at the top of Alamut Castle loving the views into Alamut Valley.

We headed down through a cave in the castle to the other side for a viewpoint.

king of the castle alamut

Got no reason to be king of this castle.

It was then we saw TWO other backpackers. It was the first time in three days we had met other travellers in Iran. Not only that, but it was Patrick Burke and his Dutch friend!! Patrick is the guy from Belfast that I met in Trabzon and later in Dogubayazit! Patrick runs the website findingpatrickburke.com , a fellow Northern Irishman, blogger, backpacker, traveller and explorer on a journey. Patricks’s journey is even cheaper than mine – he’s hitch hiking from Belfast to Beijing!

patrick burke belfast backpacker jonny blair

With my girlfriend Panny and the Belfast backpacker and hitchhiker Patrick Burke who we met there by chance!!

After meeting with Patrick and posing for photos with him, we headed back down.

alamut castle iran

The views over the valleys are epic from Alamut Castle.

We took an early night in Gazor Khan after cooking in our hostel room. It snowed heavily overnight and our eyes feasted on a pretty winter wonderland the next morning before we headed back to Qazvin. The snowfall in the Alamut Valley region is fantastic – the Iran I never thought about until I went there.

gazor khan snowfall

The second day in Gazor Khan the snow fell down…

There’s more to come on my adventures backpacking in Iran. Here are my videos from Gazor Khan and Alamut Castle:

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