Perfect 30 days in Iran, part 1: Itinerary and my impressions on the country

I spent the perfect 30 days in Iran, exploring this sub-continent as a solo female traveler, seeing breathtaking sights and meeting the most hospitable people ever... Read all my insights and discover Tehran with me – Experiencing the Globe #30DaysInIran #SoloFemaleTravelerInIran #BackpackingInIran #VisitingIran #IranianPeople #VegetarianInIran # OffTheBeatenPathDestinations #MiddleEast #Iran #Tehran #MustSeeIran #Wanderlust #TravelPhotography #BucketList #SlowTravel #Adventures #TravelExperience #BeautifulDestinations #OffTheBeatenPath #Backpacking

I spent the most perfect 30 days in Iran, exploring this sub-continent as a solo female traveler, seeing breathtaking sights and meeting the most hospitable people I have ever encountered in all my years of traveling. Here’s my Iran itinerary, my insights on the country, and the first stop, Tehran.

Preparing for the trip I got my hands in ‘Revolutionary Iran’ by Michael Axworthy. The one sentence that stayed with me was “Iran is less a country than a continent, more a civilization than a nation“. My Iran itinerary ended up being a month of exploring off the beaten path destinations -all worthy of a bucket list, meeting amazing people, and getting impressed by the culture, history, nature and architecture. So, after 30 days in Iran I can say without a doubt that Axworthy was right.

The place in huge, way more than I thought. Every interest point is 500 km away (give or take a hundred or two). Whoever you meet will tell you that the country has 4 seasons all the time, which is true because of its diversity. At the Achaemenid Empire’s peak it ruled over 44% of the world’s population, the highest figure for any empire in history (this is the Persian Empire, if you were wondering).

Imagine all of the history, all the influences from so many different cultures mixed into one. From the Assyrians to the Aryans to the Persians, the personality of this great country was forged. Then the invasions by Alexander the Great, the Arabs and the Mongols added many of today’s Iranians characteristics. Then centuries of reigning dynasties, going from religious to secular, finish settling the idea of Iran as a royal country, one destined to be great. The 1979 revolution and the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini gave the finish touch to understand today’s Islamic Republic of Iran.

Solo female traveling and backpacking in Iran

Let me tell you, I was just as excited as I was nervous about visiting Iran. Western media doesn’t do any justice to the country. And that gets into people’s heads. From my boyfriend to my mom, everyone told me I was crazy to want to go alone to such a place. However, in retrospect, I’m happy to say I was right. Being a solo female traveler in Iran is an incredible experience. Really, nothing short of amazing. I never felt unsafe. Quite to the contrary, everyone is extremely respectful, especially of women and even more so if they’re foreigners.

Backpacking in Iran is also great! It gives you the opportunity to go even more off the beaten path, meet other cool travelers, and amazing locals. In fact, since this is not a country you visit among your first trips, the travelers you meet are quite seasoned, so full of stories. As for locals, the further away you go from tourist attractions, the nicer the people are. Which is a lot to say considering how incredibly nice everyone is. People in the small villages are not used to visitors, so they will go out of their way to communicate with you and make you feel at home.

If backpacking is not your thing, don’t worry! There’re plenty of hotels, with as many stars as you want, to satisfy every need –at least in the bigger cities.

Solo female traveler, Iran – Experiencing the Globe

My insights on Iran

The people

I met tons of people. Some that opened their homes to me, some that took the time to show me their city, some that were at the same restaurant or tea house and approached me for a quick chat, some that randomly stopped me in the street to take a photo with me, or because they were curious about the ‘khaareji’, the crazy foreigner that was wandering around their country.

They all made me see that Iranian people are special. In the best meaning of the word. While their government –for lack of a better word– sucks, they’re kind and proud. Some of the things you hear in the West about the government might be true, but the people are completely different. Even though a lot of young people want to leave the country, you can feel how everyone is proud of it. The best thing you can tell an Iranian is that their country is beautiful and that the people are amazing. Every time I said “I love it here” I got the most genuine smile.

Friends in Iran – Experiencing the Globe

I heard a story of a blogger stating that they got 200+ free cups of tea during their trip to Iran. Even though I didn’t count mine, after 30 days in this incredible country I could guess that I easily got as many. I kept refusing them at the beginning, saying it wasn’t necessary, until someone told me “it’s part of my culture”. Then it hit me, they’re not being polite, they actually want to talk to me over a hot cup of delicious black tea. So I started leaving time in my Iran itinerary to sit down for a tea pretty much everywhere!

The religion

One of the things that caught my attention from the get-go was the cult of personality. The Khomeinis seem to be bigger than god. Their photo is everywhere. At the entrance of every public building and mosque, in all the rial notes, in billboards on the streets, somewhere in a desk or wall in every place that is open for visitors (including stores and hotels). For a religion that doesn’t venerate images, this is remarkable. The first big double standard I came across. With only a few hours there, you realize you’re in the country of Ayatollahs and men.

Imam Khomeini everywhere, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
No matter what you include in your Iran itinerary, the Khomeinis are always around

The imposition of religion is palpable. Even though a big percentage of the population is Muslim, there’re tons that are not. Probably many are atheist, looking with nostalgia to the times where the country was secular. But there’s one thing that brings agreement: almost no one likes the hijab. Most girls wear it really loosely, only in case there’s a policeman around, but you can see everyone’s hair (it’s worth mentioning that clothing in Iran, for tourists, is less a challenge than you might think).

What are you waiting for, I asked a local, when is the next revolution coming? “People are afraid to be the next Syria, Iraq or Yemen”, he said, “and the government is feeding those fears”. People know that there will be a blood shed, and no one wants it. Another local told me that “you need to crash eggs to make an omelet, and some people will have to be the eggs”. What a scary thought! From all I heard, I think people are waiting for the current Khomeini to die. There’s no designated successor, and the hope of the people is that the fight over power will destroy the government from within. I sincerely hope they are right!

A local I met (whose name I won’t publish for obvious reasons) told me that the prophet Mohammed was a sick man full of mental problems, a sex addict, and a rapist. Another one, agreeing on how sex-oriented the Quran is, pointed to all the wonderful things you can learn from the sacred book. Iran is full of contrasts, and that’s amazing! It’s also much more tolerant than you can imagine –Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and has representatives of non-Muslim religious minorities in Parliament.

Iranians traits

You have to adapt to the crazy traffic (in Tehran, trying to cross a street, a girl grabbed my hand and got me to the other side –without her I would still, to this day, be waiting to cross), and you definitely need to adjust to being asked personal questions. Even people that speak no English will be able to say, in an inquisitive tone, country, age, job and married. If you say you’re single, prepare yourself for pity looks.

The way people eat also told me a lot about their worldview. Individualism is a foreign concept in Iran, what counts is community. When you go to a restaurant most of the time different food will be order for the table, not for each person, that way they can all share. Even if you ask for your own dish, everyone will take a bite, without asking. It felt invasive at first, but then I realized it’s the best way. Why would your family or friends would have to ask to take a spoonful of your food? You’re there to share!

Eating in Iran – Experiencing the Globe

This might apply to every country, but it’s still worth mentioning –if you want to please locals, learn few basic words. Usually I go for hello, thank you, goodbye, please, yes, no, cheers, and nice to meet you. Here I added ‘very beautiful’ to be able to reply to the ubiquitous question ‘what do you think of Iran?’.

Being a vegetarian in Iran

Being a vegetarian in Iran can seem daunting, but if you like eggplant, you’ll be fine. Look for koshke bademjan, kookoo sabzi, ash reshteh, kalam polo, mirza ghasemi, sabzijat, dopiazeh aloo or chelo fassenjan. If none of them are available, you’ll always find tahdig, the famous crispy Persian rice. You’ll also see shirini everywhere –Iranians are sweet-obsessed!

Iran itinerary

Here (and in the other 3 parts of this post) I’ll share my journal on how I spent 30 wonderful days in this sub-continent, with the most hospitable people I’ve ever encounter in all my years of traveling.

Overview of my Iran itinerary

  • Days 1 – 4: Tehran
  • Days 5 – 6: Yazd
  • Days 7 – 11: Kerman (plus an overnight in the Lut desert, and a day trip to Bam, Rayen castle and Mahan)
  • Days 12 – 15: Persian Gulf islands: Hormuz and Qeshm
  • Days 16 – 19: Shiraz (plus a day trip to Persepolis)
  • Days 20 – 24: Isfahan (plus an overnight in the Varzaneh desert)
  • Days 25 – 27: Sanandaj (plus a day trip to Palangan)
  • Days 28 – 30: Tabriz (plus a day trip to Kandovan)

Trip statistics
Perfect 30 days in Iran
More than 5700 km on motorways (yes, it’s a huge country!)
12.4 km average daily walk (according to Health iPhone app)
7 cities and 9 small towns/villages
Countless strangers that helped me out somehow, with a handful of them becoming good friends
1 wedding attended
1 family that adopted me
Over 100 cups of tea for free (it’s impossible to count, but I’m sure I’m not exaggerating, actually I might be underdoing it)

Read the other parts of my Iran itinerary and see some beautiful pictures of Iran here:

Part 2: The breathtaking nature
Part 3: The picture-perfect architecture
Part 4: Iran’s greatest treasure, its people


Arriving to Iran

Just after Nowruz –the Persian new year that started year 1398 in Iran– I arrived to a clear, non-polluted Tehran. I landed in Imam Khomeini airport, put my hijab on, adjusted my clock to +2:30 (what’s with the half an hour, guys?), and headed to get my visa. I read so much online about how hard it is, how much they question you, even about the possibility of getting rejected and deported. But for me it couldn’t have been easier.

I filled in a form online 10 days before my flight and that made the difference. At the airport I showed my passport and insurance policy (my ‘worldwide’ insurance was enough), they asked me to pay (the crazy amount of 120€ for Chilean citizens!), and that was all. 30 days visa to visit beautiful Iran, without a stamp in the passport. I actually asked the officer at border control to stamp it, but he said they don’t want to get their visitors in trouble if they go to some complicated Western countries. Could they be any nicer? 15 minutes in the country and I already knew I was going to love it.

Imam Khomeini airport, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe

Iranian money

While waiting for the visa I met Judit from Spain, another crazy solo female traveler, with whom I ended up sightseeing Tehran. I exchanged money at the airport because the rate was better than what I was told it was in the city. For a few hundred euros I got many many millions of rials. So much that I couldn’t fit them in my bag. Official exchange rate tells you that 1 euro is around 50.000 rials, but in reality I got over 150.000 rials for each euro (check the real rate here).

The other important thing to know about Iranian money is that even though the official currency is rials, all the prices are in toman. I know, this sounds silly, but bear with me. A toman is a rial with one less zero. So 100.000 rials are 10.000 toman, which you might hear or see written as simply 10. Mind that numbers in Farsi are written differently than ‘English’ numbers, and learning them will be super helpful. The last advice is to take cash for the whole trip, ideally euros or American dollars. Your cards will not work in Iran. Seriously, cash the only option to have money in the country.


Useful tips

There’s a convenient metro station at the airport, so getting to the center is quite straightforward (if you’re taking it, check the schedule because it doesn’t run constantly, though). All the signs are both in Farsi and English, which makes the city super easy to navigate. In the metro and in public buses you’ll see places for women only. Most people don’t care about them, but if you’re traveling in Iran with a man you can play it safe and get on the mixed area.

For visas purposes I booked the first few nights in a hostel, since you must have an address in Iran. It ended up being a great hostel (and for only around 5€ a night, which later I discover is the standard in the country). To make my life easier I got a SIM card (800.000 rials for 10GB, valid for 30 days) and before the trip I downloaded a VPN. A lot of websites and apps are banned in Iran, so a VPN is your way to stay connected with the rest of the world. The 2 apps that are lifesavers are and Snapp (Iranian version of Uber, the most convenient way to move within cities, and really cheap to boot! – Download it here: Android or iOS).

Rials, women only, websites banned, first impressions on Iran – Experiencing the Globe

Exploring Tehran

Tehran was supposed to be ugly and dirty, and traffic was supposed to scare the life out of you. But going right after Nowruz is wonderful. Most Tehranis were on vacation somewhere else in the country, so traffic was reasonable (still crazy, but you get use to it). It rained the day before my arrival, so the skies were clear. I encountered a vibrant, lovely city. My initial plan of staying for 2 days doubled.

In 4 days in the capital I visited all the must see: the Grand Bazaar, the Golestan Palace, the Azadi tower, the Tajriish square, the Sa’dabad Palace, the former US Embassy (today the ‘US den of espionage museum’), many many mosques… and I left time to get lost, to drink tea and discover the hidden corners of the capital.

Most importantly, I met amazing people. The Facebook group See you in Iran and Couchsurfing were amazing platforms to meet locals. Shahnaz took me for a stroll around the Baazar, Arezou showed me how the Shah lived, Meshkot and Samir embarked on a quest to find me vegetarian food. Such lovely people! I have no words to tell them how much meeting them meant to me. They made my stay in Tehran exactly what I wanted the trip to be. I left with the highest hopes for the rest of my Iran itinerary!

Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
The vibrant and colorful streets of Tehran
Sardar Bagh Melli, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
Sardar Bagh Melli, the entry gate to a beautiful area full of museums and parks, a must in every Iran itinerary
Saadabad Complex, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
The Saadabad Complex, where the Shah and his family used to live
Imamzadeh Saleh, Tajrish square, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
Imamzadeh Saleh, one of many jaw dropping mosques
Grand Bazaar, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
Tehran’s buzzling Grand Bazaar – leave time in your Iran itinerary, you can spend a whole day here!
Golestan Palace, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
The majestic Golestan Palace has to be in anyone’s Iran itinerary
Golestan Palace, Mirror Hall, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
Mirror Hall at the Golestan Palace -and a bit of a self portrait
Mosaic and paint works, Golestan Palace, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
Mosaic and paint works, Golestan Palace
Azadi Tower, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
The symbol of Tehran, the Azadi tower
Mirror work, Tehran, Iran – Experiencing the Globe
The stunning mirror work of the Emamzadeh Zeaid shrine
The "Dem of Espionage" museum, in the former US Embassy – Experiencing the Globe
The “Den of Espionage” museum, in the former US Embassy

Continue reading part 2 here!

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I spent the perfect 30 days in Iran, exploring this sub-continent as a solo female traveler, seeing breathtaking sights and meeting the most hospitable people ever... Read all my insights and discover Tehran with me – Experiencing the Globe #30DaysInIran #SoloFemaleTravelerInIran #BackpackingInIran #VisitingIran #IranianPeople #VegetarianInIran # OffTheBeatenPathDestinations #MiddleEast #Iran #Tehran #MustSeeIran #Wanderlust #TravelPhotography #BucketList #SlowTravel #Adventures #TravelExperience #BeautifulDestinations #OffTheBeatenPath #Backpacking
I spent the perfect 30 days in Iran, exploring this sub-continent as a solo female traveler, seeing breathtaking sights and meeting the most hospitable people ever... Read all my insights and discover Tehran with me – Experiencing the Globe #30DaysInIran #SoloFemaleTravelerInIran #BackpackingInIran #VisitingIran #IranianPeople #VegetarianInIran # OffTheBeatenPathDestinations #MiddleEast #Iran #Tehran #MustSeeIran #Wanderlust #TravelPhotography #BucketList #SlowTravel #Adventures #TravelExperience #BeautifulDestinations #OffTheBeatenPath #Backpacking

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By Coni from Experiencing the Globe

38 thoughts on “Perfect 30 days in Iran, part 1: Itinerary and my impressions on the country”

    1. Awww, thanks so much for your words, Harley! I loved Iran, and I’m happy to get people excited about it through my writing ❤️

  1. If I was already enthusiastic about visiting Iran, after reading your article I can’t wait to go there. I can feel your words of joy and how happy you were there! I’m so sure I will feel exactly the same when I put my foot there! Thanks for sharing your experience about Iran and for inspiring us all! 😍

    1. Thanks so much Gonçalo for such sweet words! I can’t wait until you go to Iran, I know you’ll love it as much as I did! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. What a lovely post and so wonderful to read about the welcoming culture and people. Wow, over 100 cups of tea. That’s really incredible. Iran is high on our list to visit and we even had an invitation for this year. Unfortunately, we’ll have to push our trip to next year. Reading this makes me incredibly excited for our trip. Great article!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Rosemary! I’m sure you’ll love Iran! If you need any tips or have any questions, just let me know, I’d be happy to help 😊

  3. I am definately shocked at the beautiful sights Iran has to offer. I would definately like to explore the beautiful museums and mosques. The culture and architacture of Iran stands out. Iran is now on my bucketlist…thanks to your blog😀

    1. Awwwww! What a beautiful comment! I’m so happy I managed to inspire you! ❤️❤️❤️ Iran is definitely breathtaking, well worth a spot in anyone’s bucket list! Hope yo go soon!!!

  4. This makes me want to visit Iran! So often our impression of a place is formed by the actions of a government that doesn’t actually represent the people. So great to hear you had a wonderful time there.

    1. I started blogging to inspire people to travel more, so your words made my day! I really hope you get to go soon! ❤️

  5. Looks like you had an incredible trip. I haven’t read much on Iran from females who have travelled there so this has been great! Such beautiful photos too, you really captured the beauty of the place.

    1. Thanks so much, Nerissa! There’s not many #SoloFemaleTravelers in Iran, and I don’t understand why! It’s one of the countries where I’ve felt the safest! It’s really an amazing place to travel on your own -in a minute you’ll have a ton of new friends ❤️

  6. What a gorgeous country. I love how beautifully ornate the mosques are. And I guess when in Iran, you have to drink tea! Noted in case we ever get to visit.

    1. It is gorgeous indeed! I’m a #TeaLover but Iran takes it to the next level. It was one in a very long list of reasons why I loved it!

  7. These are some really beautiful pictures of Iran, it looks like a lovely country! The mosques look like flashy versions of ones I’ve seen in India. I’m really happy to read that vegetarians will be ok there. Fingers crossed that American passport holders will be able to travel there one day too!

  8. Iran is such an intriguing country to me… maybe it’s because the US doesn’t recommend us visiting there. I love all the colorful pictures and that you included pictures of the people. The Grand Bazaar looks so awesome and the streets so colorful.

    1. There’s so much prejudice about Iran, but once you spend a few minutes in the country you realize that none of it is justified. It’s a shame how Iranian government and Iranian people are considered the same, when there’s a huge difference. I’m glad to hear that as an American you can still appreciate its beauty!

  9. What an incredible journey! I had no idea that Iran had so many colorful buildings! Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing and opening my eyes to the sites and people of Iran.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Candy! Iran is really vibrant and colorful… who knew, right? It’s great to see how people can overcome prejudice with a bit of information. I’m really happy to be the one relying the message ❤️

  10. I love your photos – especially the one of you in Tehran. Iran sounds absolutely beautiful, and I would love to visit. Loved reading about your trip there! x

  11. Such a beautiful post, really love the pictures you took. We’ve been thinking about making a trip to Iran and heard the locals there are so friendly. Thanks for sharing this

    1. Thanks so much! I’m happy you enjoyed the photos! If you have the possibility to go, please do. I’m positive you’ll love it. It became one of my favorite countries… I can’t wait to go back! ❤️ If you need any tips, let me know 😊

  12. Iran is such an intimidating place to most westerners, but I just so happened to meet 2 Iranians in my hostel tonight. Quite the coincidence! Read through to Part 4. You have to stop writing so beautifully; I only have so many days in a year! ❤

    1. What a lovely comment! Thanks so much for your words! It is indeed an intimidating place when you start planning, but one that is absolutely worth it. When you land there immediately you wonder, “aren’t you supposed to be the bad guys? You’re too damn nice!” The west needs to see it first hand to stop the unfair propaganda!

  13. Me ha encantado tu narración y el coraje para descubrir un maravilloso lugar donde se supone solo deberías encontrar adversidad. Grande big Cony!

    1. Muchas gracias por tus palabras Esau! De verdad en estos posts puse mi alma, ya que creo que el lugar se lo merece. Es maravilloso tomar un riesgo y ver cuántas cosas increíbles puedes recibir ❤️

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