Nestled in the heart of Iran, Isfahan Province beckons travelers with its diverse tapestry of historical landmarks, cultural richness, and breathtaking landscapes. While the city of Isfahan itself is a jewel, the province encompasses a wealth of hidden gems awaiting exploration.

Isfahan: Beyond the City Limits

1.Isfahan City: A Glimpse of Magnificence

Isfahan, the provincial capital, is a treasure trove of architectural marvels. The UNESCO-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square, adorned by the Shah Mosque and Ali Qapu Palace, stands as a testament to the city’s grandeur. The historic bazaars and vibrant streets pulse with life, offering a glimpse into Persian culture and hospitality.

  • Naqsh-e Jahan Square: Heart of Isfahan

Naqsh-e Jahan Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to the city’s grandeur. Encircled by remarkable landmarks, this colossal square mesmerizes visitors with its sheer architectural brilliance. The Shah Mosque, adorned with mesmerizing blue tilework and majestic minarets, and the Ali Qapu Palace, a testament to Safavid-era opulence with its intricate designs and elevated views, are among the main attractions.

  • Imam Mosque: Architectural Masterpiece

Imam Mosque, also known as Shah Mosque, showcases stunning Islamic architecture. Its mesmerizing dome, adorned with intricate tilework, reflects the artistry and mastery of Persian craftsmen. Visitors are awed by the intricate details of the mosque’s interiors, illuminated by natural light filtering through stained glass windows.

  • Chehel Sotoun: Palace of Forty Columns

Chehel Sotoun, with its beautiful pavilions and reflecting pools, offers a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Persian rulers. The palace’s name, which translates to “Forty Columns,” refers to the mirrored columns reflected in the surrounding pool, creating a mesmerizing sight, especially during sunset.

  • Grand Bazaar: Vibrant Cultural Hub

Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar, a bustling marketplace steeped in history, entices visitors with its array of handicrafts, spices, carpets, and traditional goods. The lively atmosphere, infused with the aromas of spices and the vibrant colors of Persian rugs, provides an authentic taste of Iranian culture.

  • Si-o-se-pol and Khaju Bridges: Architectural Wonders

These iconic bridges, spanning the Zayandeh River, are not just pathways but symbols of architectural brilliance. Si-o-se-pol, known for its thirty-three arches, and Khaju Bridge, with its intricate tilework and pavilions, offer picturesque views and serve as popular gathering spots for locals and tourists alike.

Isfahan City, with its awe-inspiring architecture, bustling bazaars, and historical landmarks, invites travelers on an immersive journey through Iran’s rich cultural heritage. From the monumental Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the tranquil beauty of Chehel Sotoun and the vibrant tapestry of the Grand Bazaar, each attraction within the city showcases the splendor and diversity of Isfahan’s cultural legacy.

2.Kashan: Oasis of History and Elegance

Venture to Kashan, renowned for its exquisite historical houses like Tabatabaei and Borujerdiha, showcasing the city’s architectural opulence. The enchanting Fin Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mesmerizes visitors with its serene ambiance and intricate design.

3.Abyaneh: Timeless Charm Amidst Red Clay

Step into Abyaneh, a village frozen in time, with red mud-brick houses, traditional costumes, and a unique cultural heritage. The picturesque setting amidst the mountains paints a mesmerizing picture of Iran’s rural beauty.

4.Varzaneh: Where Desert Meets Oasis

Explore Varzaneh, an oasis town famous for its stunning desert landscapes and salt lakes. The Varzaneh Desert, with its golden dunes, invites travelers for unforgettable desert safaris and sunset vistas.

5.Natanz: Sanctuary of Spiritual Significance

Natanz boasts the mesmerizing Jameh Mosque, a sacred site known for its intricate tilework and historical significance. The tranquil ambiance and architectural beauty make it a must-visit destination.

Conclusion

Isfahan Province transcends the boundaries of its namesake city, offering a mosaic of experiences. From the opulence of Isfahan to the time-honored elegance of Kashan, the ancient charm of Abyaneh, the desert allure of Varzaneh, and the spiritual sanctity of Natanz, each destination within this province promises a unique and enriching journey for every traveler.

For those seeking an immersive experience steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty, Isfahan Province stands ready to captivate and inspire.

Mahan, a city in the southeastern province of Kerman in Iran, is a destination brimming with timeless beauty and mystique. Renowned for its epic landscapes, historic monuments, and warm hospitality, Mahan has established itself as a captivating stop for travelers seeking the essence of Persian culture and the tranquility of nature.

The Legacy of the Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine

One of Mahan’s most revered historical sites is the Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine, dedicated to the famous Sufi dervish whose teachings have impacted the region and beyond. The shrine’s intricate blue-tiled façade and Persian domes weave a compelling narrative, attracting visitors not only for its spiritual significance but also for its architectural grandeur. It is a place where the soul of Mahan’s rich Sufi heritage is palpably alive, and the shrine’s ongoing significance ensures Mahan remains a center for spiritual seekers worldwide.

Mahan

Shazdeh Garden: A Green Haven in Mahan

The Shazdeh Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to Persian gardening artistry. Featuring terraced landscaping, flowing fountains, and lush vegetation, the garden creates a shocking contrast against the backdrop of the arid Mahan surroundings. This verdant spectacle offers respite for tired travelers and is a striking example of humanity’s ability to craft paradise amidst the desert, contributing magnificently to Mahan’s allure.

Local Culture and Mahan’s Vibrant Bazaars

Experience Mahan’s throbbing heart in its bazaars, a fusion of color, sound, and aroma. These markets are treasure troves of local handicrafts, textiles, and confectioneries, providing deep insight into Mahan’s culture and traditions. Artisans can be seen meticulously crafting items passed down through generations, while the exchange between locals offers an authentic glimpse into the communal spirit of Mahan.

Culinary Journeys in Mahan

Mahan’s gastronomy is a reflection of its cultural mosaic, offering a palette of flavors from the rich stews and kebabs to the sweet, delicate pastries. Authentic culinary experiences await visitors in traditional teahouses and restaurants where the junction of spice and tradition creates unforgettable meals, thus cementing Mahan’s reputation as a destination for gourmands.

Mahan

The Natural Beauty Surrounding Mahan

Mahan is enveloped by a tapestry of natural beauty; arid mountains give way to lush valleys and clear streams. The serene ambiance of the outskirts offers opportunities for trekking, picnics, and bird watching, attracting nature enthusiasts to Mahan’s expansive outdoors. Nearby, attractions like the Rayen Castle compound the area’s charm, offering visitors a step back in time amid some of Iran’s most breathtaking scenery.

Mahan’s Seasonal Splendor

Each season in Mahan paints the city with a different palette; spring brings blossoms in Shazdeh Garden that transform it into an Eden on earth, while autumn swathes the landscape in a tapestry of burnt oranges and yellows. Winters in Mahan are mild, which makes it a year-round destination, and summers, despite the heat, still see the gardens and highlands offering cooler, pleasant climates.

Mahan

Connecting with the People of Mahan

Beyond the physical beauty, Mahan’s true enchantment lies in its people. Their welcoming nature ensures that visitors are not mere observers but participants in daily life. From sharing a pot of tea to offering insights into local customs, the people of Mahan create an atmosphere of inclusivity and warmth, sparking lifelong connections and memories.

To culminate, Mahan is a city where history, culture, and nature converge. From the sacred courtyards of the Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine to the vibrant life humming through its bazaars, from the placid botanical haven of the Shazdeh Garden to the welcoming smiles of its inhabitants, Mahan calls to those yearning for discovery. It embodies the spirit of Kerman Province and beckons tourists from across the globe to immerse themselves in its enduring charm. As much a journey through time as through space, Mahan promises an enriching travel experience poised between the whispers of the past and the palpable, vibrant present.

Kandovan, a name that resonates with history, culture, and mesmerizing beauty, is a village tucked away in the heart of Iran. Famous for its extraordinary rock-carved houses and scenic landscapes, Kandovan is a destination that promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Persian history and tradition.

Introduction

The magic of travel often lies in discovering places that remain untouched by the modern world’s hustle and bustle. Kandovan, an ancient troglodyte village nestled in Iran’s Osku county, East Azerbaijan, is one such gem that offers an unparalleled blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

The Rock-Carved Wonders of Kandovan

The most striking feature of Kandovan are the unique houses, carved out of volcanic rock formations, resembling an enormous termite colony from afar. These homes, some of which are over 700 years old, are a testament to the ingenious building techniques of the villagers, who have skillfully adapted to their surroundings.

kandovan

The two-story houses still serve as residences, with the ground level typically used for livestock and the upper level for living quarters. This peculiar architectural style not only offers an insight into the rustic lifestyle of the inhabitants but also presents an extraordinary spectacle for tourists.

The Enchanting Landscape

Surrounded by verdant hills and bubbling streams, Kandovan’s natural beauty is simply breathtaking. The village’s backdrop, the Sahand Mountain’s lush slopes, often referred to as the “bride of Iran’s mountains,” further enhances its picturesque charm.

Tourists can explore numerous hiking trails, enjoy picnics by the riverside, and capture stunning photographs of the landscape, making Kandovan a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Local Life & Culture

A visit to Kandovan offers a rare glimpse into the traditional Iranian lifestyle. The inhabitants, primarily engaged in farming and handicrafts, are known for their warm hospitality. Tourists can interact with the locals, partake in their daily activities, and gain an enriching cultural experience.

The local handicrafts, especially the handwoven rugs and kilims, are a must-buy souvenir. These intricately designed pieces not only reflect the villagers’ artistic skills but also carry the essence of Kandovan ‘s rich cultural heritage.

The Healing Springs

Adding to Kandovan’s allure is the presence of numerous mineral hot springs, widely revered for their therapeutic properties. These springs, teeming with essential minerals, attract both tourists and locals who seek their waters for potential relief from various ailments. Whether it’s for therapeutic purposes or simply to unwind, these hot springs offer a unique and rejuvenating experience that should not be missed when visiting Kandovan.

Conclusion

Kandovan is a treasure trove of experiences, offering a journey into Iran’s heart that few other destinations can match. Its enchanting landscape, unique architecture, rich culture, and healing springs make it an irresistible destination for travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences.

With increasing awareness and more travelers seeking authentic local experiences, Kandovan’s potential as a tourism hotspot is enormous. It’s high time this Iranian gem receives the global attention it deserves.

Discover the mystical charm of Kandovan, where every rock tells a story, every path leads to beauty, and every moment is steeped in history. Experience Kandovan. Experience Iran.

In conclusion, when planning your trip to Kandovan and its therapeutic hot springs, you can count on Zhivar Travel Agency to be by your side. We are committed to providing a seamless travel experience, ensuring that your journey to this extraordinary destination is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Trust Zhivar Travel Agency to make your travel dreams come true.

Introduction

Nestled in the heart of Iran, Shushtar boasts an unparalleled fusion of rich history, stunning architecture, and unique hydraulic systems. This captivating city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds a millennia-old secret that continues to fascinate travelers worldwide.

The Ancient Ingenuity of Shushtar

The centerpiece of Shushtar’s allure lies in its historical hydraulic system, an engineering marvel dating back to the Sassanian era, around the 5th century A.D. This intricate network of water mills, dams, tunnels, and canals was designed to harness the power of the Gargar river, demonstrating the remarkable ingenuity of ancient Iranian engineers.

shushtar1

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System represents one of the oldest functioning water infrastructures globally. It not only powered numerous industrial mills but also irrigated the vast agricultural lands, making Shushtar a prosperous city in the arid landscape of southwest Iran.

Exploring Shushtar’s Architectural Marvels

Beyond its hydraulic system, Shushtar offers a treasure trove of architectural wonders. The Salasel Castle, the reputed home of the city’s founder, is an imposing structure that blends seamlessly with the city’s landscape. The Mostofi House, a beautifully preserved traditional house, offers visitors a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Shushtar’s past residents.

In the heart of the city lies the Shadravan Bridge, an emblem of Persian architectural prowess. Built in the Sassanian period, this historic bridge serves as a testament to the city’s prosperous past.

The Natural Beauty of Shushtar

Shushtar’s natural beauty is as compelling as its historical allure. The city’s surrounding landscape is a visual feast, from the verdant banks of the Karun River to the rugged beauty of the historical Waterfalls. These natural attractions offer a refreshing respite from the city’s bustling streets, perfect for those seeking tranquility amidst their historical exploration.

Experience Local Culture and Cuisine

No visit to Shushtar would be complete without indulging in the local culture and cuisine. The city’s bustling bazaars offer a sensory overload of colors, scents, and textures, from vibrant Persian rugs to aromatic spices. The local cuisine, a delightful blend of traditional Persian flavors and locally sourced ingredients, offers foodies an unforgettable gastronomic journey.

Conclusion

Shushtar, Iran, is more than just a city. It’s a living museum of ancient engineering, a testament to Persian architectural prowess, and a haven of natural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or a nature lover, Shushtar promises an experience that transcends the ordinary, making it a must-visit destination in any Iranian expedition.

Visit Shushtar, where every stone tells a story, every canal carries history, and every path leads to a new discovery. Experience the magic of this ancient city and let its rich heritage captivate your heart.

Step off the beaten path and into the heart of Iran, a country brimming with untold stories, unexplored landscapes, and unappreciated treasures. As you plan your travel to Iran, consider veering away from the typical tourist routes. Let’s embark on a journey that unravels the hidden gems of Iran, enabling you to experience the authenticity of this enchanting country.

THE MAGNIFICENCE OF MAHAN

Kerman province is widely known for its historic city of Kerman, yet its lesser-known town, Mahan, is equally captivating. Boasting the mesmerizing Shazdeh Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Mausoleum of Shah Nematollah Vali, a revered Sufi mystic, Mahan is a must-visit destination on your travel to Iran.

THE SECRETS OF SUSA

Venture into Khuzestan and discover the ancient city of Susa, one of the oldest known settlements in the world. The city’s rich history, reflected in its archaeological sites, offers an intriguing peek into Iran’s past civilizations.

THE BEAUTY OF THE CASPIAN SEA REGION

The lush landscapes, crystal clear waters, and charming villages along the Caspian Sea provide a stark contrast to Iran’s desert vistas. Explore the lesser-known counties like Ramsar, known for its hot springs, and Masuleh, famed for its unique architecture, during your travel to Iran.

THE MYSTIQUE OF QESHM ISLAND

Qeshm Island, Iran’s largest island, located in the Persian Gulf, promises an array of natural wonders. From the enigmatic Valley of Stars to the serene Hara Forest, Qeshm is a haven for nature and adventure lovers.

THE WONDERS OF CHABAHAR

Chabahar, a port city in southeastern Iran, boasts a diverse range of attractions. The Martian Mountains, with their otherworldly landscapes, and the mesmerizing Pink Lake, are some of the unmissable sights in Chabahar.

chabahar port

THE CHARM OF KANDOVAN

Experience the unique lifestyle of the residents of Kandovan, a village where homes are carved out of rocks. This enchanting destination, often compared to Turkey’s Cappadocia, offers a unique travel experience in Iran.

Hidden Gems Iran Travel

THE SPLENDOR OF SHUSHTAR

Known as the ‘City of Waterfalls,’ Shushtar in Khuzestan province is home to a complex irrigation system dating back to the time of Darius the Great, an architectural feat that earns it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Incorporating these lesser-known destinations into your itinerary will not only enrich your travel to Iran but also contribute to the local economies. By choosing to explore offbeat paths, you become a part of preserving these regions’ cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Remember, each journey to these hidden gems opens up opportunities for authentic cultural exchanges, fostering a deeper understanding of Iran’s rich history and traditions. So, as you plan your travel to Iran, venture beyond the familiar and discover the unexplored destinations that await your arrival.

This article offers a mere glimpse into Iran’s uncharted territories. To truly appreciate the country’s diversity and richness, one must experience it firsthand. We hope this guide encourages you to explore Iran beyond its well-known landmarks and delve deeper into its heart, where countless hidden gems await discovery.

Nowruz Eid: The Iranian Celebration of the New Year

On the list of festivals people acknowledge and honor, celebrating the New Year ranks near the top. The first human beings who started celebrating the New Year were people from Babylon. Apparently, they celebrated a day in late March as the beginning of the New Year which was the first moon after the vernal equinox. Ever since, people from every culture and religion have been celebrating a day in their calendar as the New Year having different kinds of traditions. Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ as the beginning of the New Year (Christmas) and the Jewish people celebrate the day which they believe was the day of Man’s creation known as Rosh Hashanah. There is also another celebration of New Year known as Nowruz Eid about which we are going to talk in this article.

What is Nowruz Eid?

Iranians, just as any other rich culture, have a variety of festivals they honor throughout the year such as Yalda Night: an Iranian celebration of the first night of winter, Sepandarmazgan: ancient Iranian day of women, Chaharshanbe Suri: the fire festival and so forth. But among all of these lovely festivals and traditions Nowruz Eid is the most loved one by the natives. The reason is simple: Nowruz Eid is the Iranian celebration of the New Year. You might find it interesting to know that Nowruz in the original Persian (Farsi) is consistent of two words: ‘now’ and ‘ruz’. The first word means ‘new’ and the second means ‘day’ so, Nowruz literally means ‘new day’ in Persian. Also, the word ‘Eid’ means ’festival or celebration’. In conclusion, Nowruz Eid really means ‘the celebration of the new day’.

When is Nowruz Eid celebrated?

For people from Iran the New Year coincides with the beginning of spring. In the Solar Hijri calendar, which is used by Iranian people, the first month of the year is called Farvardin and the first day of Farvardin is considered as beginning of the New Year, aka Nowruz Eid. On the Gregorian calendar however, Nowruz Eid is on March 21, 2023. On this day, you can literally see every Iranian celebrating this happy occasion wherever they are in the globe.

Which religion Nowruz Eid is originated from?

Even though the current official religion of Iran is Islam, this has not always been the case. Islam did not come to Iran until 665 AD. Before that the official religion of this country was Zoroastrian and Nowruz Eid is said to have originated from this religion.

The Historical Background of Nowruz Eid

The exact date of the first celebration of Nowruz Eid is not entirely clear. However, it is said that 3000 years ago, Jamshid, the great king of Iran at the time, named this day as it is called now and his people were the first ones celebrating this day. Moreover, the great Persian poet, Ferdowsi has stated in his masterpiece known as Shahnameh that when Jamshid was passing through Azerbaijan, he demanded a crown which then was lit by the sunshine and made the whole world brighter which made people so joyful. Then, for the sake of people’s happiness he named the day as Nowruz Eid and saved his people from the horrors of the cold winter. In case you like to know a little more about Iran’s dynasties, you can visit Iran’s flag.

Although Nowruz and Nowruz Eid are said to date back to the Medes, the first Iranian king who really acknowledged Nowruz Eid was Cyrus the Great. This day was also celebrated in the Sassanid era when Nowruz Eid continued for at least 6 days. The Parthian Empire honored this celebration, too. Nowruz Eid has changed throughout time but what is left of it for almost 200 years is now the most popular festival of the year for Iranian people.

Who celebrates Nowruz Eid?

Even though Nowruz Eid is mostly known as Iranian or Persian festival of the New Year, there are people who celebrate this joyous occasion in other countries as well, such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

How many days is the Nowruz Eid holiday?

As already mentioned, 21st of March (1st day of Farvardin) is the day when the Persian New Year begins. From this day the Nowruz Eid holiday starts in Iran and it goes on for 13 days (13th of Farvardin). This means most of the Iranian people do not go to work in these 13 days, schools and universities are closed and everyone is having fun enjoying holidays. However, important places such as banks only remain closed till the 5th of Farvardin. These 13 days of Nowruz Eid finish by another Iranian festival known as Sizdah Bedar, the Nature’s Day, about which we will talk more.

What do Iranians do to get ready for Nowruz Eid?

Iranian people love this festival just as much as the Christians love Christmas. They always get ready for it and in order to do so, they have some traditions which have not been altered so much over the years. Some of the most popular traditions of Nowruz Eid are the following ones:

Khane Tekani:

Khane tekani in the original Persian means ‘cleaning the house’. This tradition has never left the Iranians’ lives and each and every year as they get closer to Nowruz Eid, they clean their houses meaning washing the carpets, cleaning every window and curtain and basically they turn the house inside out! What’s interesting is that you can literally see them go through this process since when you walk by houses you will see that for one or two days there are no curtain on the windows and everyone’s quite busy cleaning.

Buying new clothes:

For so many years this has become a tradition and habit for Iranian people to buy new clothes as the Nowruz Eid and spring approach. On the days leading up to Nowruz Eid the streets and shops are so crowded. Everyone’s buying new clothes so as to say goodbye to the winter and welcome the spring by celebrating Nowruz Eid.

Chaharshanbe Suri:

The word ‘Chaharshanbe’ in Persian means ‘Wednesday’. This festival which is one of the festivals most loved by Iranians is also called the Fire Festival. It is celebrated before the beginning of Nowruz Eid holidays on the eve of the last Wednesday of each year. If you find this annual festival interesting, visit Chaharshanbe Suri.

Haft Sin:

In order to understand the concept of ‘Haft Sin’, it is better to know what this means in Persian. ‘Haft’ means the number ‘seven’ and ‘Sin’ in the letter that has the sound ‘S’ in Persian. Haft Sin is one of the old traditions of Nowruz Eid in Iran and even today people love honoring this tradition so much. In the old days, Iranians used to set a tablecloth on the ground and put seven items starting with the letter ‘s’ on it. Each of these seven items have a special meaning and are symbols. Nowadays, however, Haft Sin is being set on tables. Now, what are these seven objects and what are they symbols of? It is worth mentioning that there are more than seven items and everyone can choose seven of them and put them on the table.

Nowruz Eid’s Haft Sin mainly consists of:

  1. Sabzeh: This is seeds of different plants grown in a dish which some people grow themselves. Plants such as wheat, barley, mung bean, lentil and so forth. Sabzeh is a symbol of rebirth and growth.
  2. Samanu: An Iranian delicious sweet-tasting dessert symbolizing power and strength in wealth, knowledge or patience.
  3. Seer: Symbolizing health and medication, this word means ‘garlic’.
  4. Sib or Seeb: Sib or ‘apple’ symbolizes beauty and health.
  5. Senjed: Small orange-colored fruits known as oleaster or Russian olive. Some believe that Senjed is a symbol of love while others say it symbolizes rationality.
  6. Serkeh: Serkeh meaning ‘vinegar’ is a symbol of immortality and patience.
  7. Somaq: Symbolizing a new beginning and sunrise, Somaq means sumac.

As already mentioned, there are some other items that can be replaced by any of the mentioned items for Nowruz Eid’s Haft Sin such as Sonbol (hyacinth), Sekkeh (coin) and Saat (clock).

Moreover, there some items that don’t necessarily start with the letter ‘s’ but are put on the table as a part of Nowruz Eid’s table. These items are: colored eggs (which families color and paint on pottery eggs themselves mostly with children making unforgettable core memories of Nowruz Eid), a mirror, a book (Quran, the Divan of Hafez or Shahnameh), candles and some goldfish in a bowl.

Count Down:

As you know, the Christian New Year occurs at midnight and the seconds before the clock hits 12 are the count down for them. This is quite different for Nowruz Eid and the Persian New Year since the calendar is different. Each year the time that the Persian New Year begins is different and it is actually when the sun’s distance from the vernal equinox hits zero. It can be in the middle of the day or night. But, the government informs people of this time way ahead and they gather around and count the seconds down on TV and celebrate beginning of the New Year and Nowruz Eid.

What are Iranians’ traditions during Nowruz Eid holidays?

When the New Years begins and Nowruz Eid holidays officially start, there are also some traditions Iranians love to honor such as:

Dido bazdid (Visiting each other):

According to this tradition, after Nowruz Eid takes places meaning when the new Year and the holidays actually start, Iranian people put on their new clothes and visit each other. It means they go to each other’s houses and congratulate each other on the New Year. It is a custom that you should first go to your grandparents’ house and continue visiting your relatives and friends from elderly to the most young ones. Also, if someone comes to your house, you should return the visit by going to their house, if not your behavior is considered rude.

Eidi (New Year’s gift):

Just as Christians buy Christmas present for each other, this tradition happens in Nowruz Eid in Iran, as well. This gift is called an ‘Eidi’ and elderly people are most likely to give Eidi to you so as to congratulate you on Nowruz Eid.

Sidah Bedar (The Iranian Nature’s Day):

As you now know, Nowruz Eid holidays last for 13 days. The Iranian people end this joyous occasion by celebrating another Iranian festival called Sizdah Bedar. This festival occurs on the 13th day of Farvardin which is the last day of Nowruz Eid holidays. Sizdah also means the number 13 in Persian. On this day, which is the Iranian Nature’s Day, people gather together with their loved ones, spend the day in the nature having fun, playing games, making a fire and eating meals. If you go out on the last day of Nowruz Eid holidays in Iran, you will see plenty of people laughing and having the time of their life in every park or riverside.

 

What kind of food do Iranians eat for Nowruz Eid?

Just as any celebration Nowruz Eid also has some special food and desserts that people always buy and have on their table. Here are some of the most popular examples:

Sabzi Polo ba Mahi:

Translated to ‘herbed rice with fish’, this meal is considered to be the main meal that Iranians love to eat for Nowruz Eid on the eve of the first day of the New Year.

Ajil:

Nuts have always been an inseparable item of Iranians’ Nowruz Eid’s table. The most popular nuts consist of pistachios, pumpkin seeds, Japanese seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and sometimes walnuts.

Shirini:

Another item that is most likely to be found on Nowruz Eid’s table in every Iranian household is pastries or in the original Persian ‘Shirini’. There is no difference what kind of pastries you choose as long as it makes delicious treats for everyone.

Noghl:

Noghls or sugar-coated almonds can almost always be found in Iranians’ houses ready to be eaten alongside tea, sweet taste of which will make you experience a lovely Nowruz Eid celebration.

Since Iran is one of the countries that has a variety of foods, this part of Nowruz Eid’s tradition differs more in different regions of the country. In case you are interested to know more about Iranian food, visit Food Diversity in Iran.

Do Iranians have Santa Claus for Nowruz Eid?

Iranian people do have two men with the same purposes as Santa Claus for Nowruz Eid. The first man is called ‘Haji Firuz’. Dressed in red and yellow clothes and hat with a blackened face, he comes to the streets and plays music and sings with a musical instrument such as Tombak informing people that the spring is coming and Nowruz Eid is upon us. Although some might take his blackened face as a symbol of racism, it must be said that it is actually a symbol of him, returning from the world of the dead.

The other is called ‘Amu Nowruz’. Amu means ‘uncle’ and he is a white-bearded old man just as Santa that brings people presents and congratulates them on Nowruz Eid.

Can Foreigners visit Iran during Nowruz Eid holidays?

They surely do. Nothing ever stops tourists to travel to Iran. However, we do not recommend you to visit Persia during Nowruz Eid holidays because every important city that will absolutely be on your checklist to visit will most certainly be so crowded because the Iranians themselves tend to travel a lot during this holiday which may make it difficult for you to visit Iran’s tourist places peacefully. But if you are eager to get to know Iranian culture and traditions when it comes to Nowruz Eid, you are more than welcome. Do note that you can ask us to arrange Tailor-made tours of your own choice so as to have a better experience visiting Iran on Nowruz Eid.

 

Chaharshanbe Suri

Fire is a fundamental element, often celebrated or used as a tool of celebration in many old nations, still practicing traditions dating back as far as centuries or millennia ago.

Iran, as one of the most ancient civilizations still standing, celebrates a festival mostly dedicated to fire known as Chaharshanbe Suri (also pronounced Charshanbe Suri) translating to The Scarlet Wednesday in English

What is Chaharshanbe Suri?

Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Persian year followed closely by Nowruz Eid on the (usually) following week when the Iranian new year is celebrated on the spring equinox. The festival is also in practice in many other countries by a great number of people namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan; but Chaharshanbe Suri is generally mostly recognized as an Iranian festival celebrated by all the different ethnic groups of Iran from the west to the east and from the north to the south. Our Classical Cultural Tours of Iran might be suitable for those who are passionate to know more about the culture and history of Iran outside of Chaharshanbe Suri.

What does Chaharshanbe Suri mean?

The word ‘Chaharshanbe’ means Wednesday in Persian, and ‘Suri’ is most probably derived of the old Persian word for Scarlet (still used in some local dialects in some regions of Iran) as to refer to the red color of the fire. Although some might argue that the word ‘Suri’ might have roots in the Persian word for festive too. As a result, Chaharshanbe Suri ended up with ‘The Scarlet Wednesday’ in the English translation.

History of Chaharshanbe Suri in ancient Iran:

Chaharshanbe Suri, like many other ancient Iranian traditions, comes from a Zoroastrian background and clearly originates from the importance, holiness and purification of fire in ancient Indo-European religions and beliefs.

In the ancient Iranian rituals, which later turned into what we now know as Chaharshanbe Suri, the ancient people of Iran would celebrate the last five days of each year to honor their dead ones and believed that the spirits of the dead would show up within those days for a reunion with their family and loved ones. The festival of Chaharshanbe Suri would also be accompanied by celebrating the creation of fire.

Chaharshanbe Suri shares some interesting similarities with the Obon event in Japan and the Ghost Day of China, both coming from a Buddhist origin.

How is Chaharshanbe Suri celebrated by Iranians?

Jumping Over the Fire:

The oldest, most popular and most traditional way to celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri of course, would be to jump over the fire. To do so, people create a huge bonfire in a safe, open area in public and then gather around and jump over the fire one by one and turn as they sing: ‘sorkhi-ye to az man, zardi-ye man az to’ which roughly translates into: ‘Let your redness be mine, my paleness yours!’. Redness signifies health and paleness is supposedly sickness, so the song is asking for the fire to take away the illness and gift the person with health instead. As fire is considered to purify things, this is also a purification ritual that is widely done on Chaharshanbe Suri. Jumping over the fire is the best option to feast Chaharshanbe Suri with your friends, family and loved ones.

Burning Rue:

Burning rue seeds (in Persian: Esfand) is generally an old practice done all over in Iran in order to pry away the evil eye as well as to prevent demons, evil spirits or Jinns from getting close to a person or a place or to banish them. It is commonly done during Chaharshanbe Suri while reciting songs specific to burning rue as the seeds are thrown into the bonfire.

Spoon-banging on Chaharshanbe Suri:

Spoon banging or Ghashogh Zani as it is called in Persian, is a Chaharshanbe Suri tradition in which children (and in some cases adults too!) cover their faces, usually with sheets and go door to door around the neighborhood in disguise with bowls and spoons in their hands. They knock on doors and then bang the spoons on the bowls as a way to ask for treats and snacks from the owner of the house. The tradition is evidently very similar to the trick or treating costume of Halloween in English-speaking countries.

Unfortunately spoon banging is dying out in bigger cities and is not as popular as it used to be in the older days of the past decades, but is still practiced in villages and smaller cities in some areas of Iran during Chaharshanbe Suri and has not completely faded away.

Modern celebration of Chaharshanbe Suri in Iran:

In modern day Iran, and throughout the few past decades, fireworks of any kind or shape have grown in popularity among the people of Iran as tools of celebrating Chaharshanbe Suri.

If you’re spending your Chaharshanbe Suri in Iran, it’s impossible to miss or even forget the event! As soon as the sun starts to set on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, you can hear and see the fireworks going off everywhere and lighting up the dark sky of the night. The fireworks won’t stop up until it’s almost midnight.

Fireworks exploding in a dozen different colors all night as people sing, dance and jump over the fire is a sight to be seen and the modern way to celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri. Perhaps the desire to witness such an event can become one of the reasons to travel to Iran, of course after Iran’s tourist places.

What do Iranians eat during Chaharshanbe Suri?

Iranians usually snack on Ajil as the evening of the festival goes by. Ajil is a mix of salted nuts and dried fruits served for special events and family gatherings. In Persian traditions a special mix of Ajil is made specifically for Chaharshanbe Suri and is said to grant the wishes of the person who feeds on it on the night of Chaharshanbe Suri.

Different cities of Iran each have a different main dish dedicated to Chaharshanbe Suri and the dish varies from a place to another. Most northern cities serve Sabzi Polo ba Mahi (herbed rice with fish) for Chaharshanbe Suri and some towns around the center of the country serve Polo (rice) with pasta soup. The longer the pasta strands, the longer family members live. Food Diversity in Iran is one of the most interesting things about the country which is highly affected by the peculiar geography and diversity of the many ethnic groups residing within the land. Our Eco Tours and Island Tours might interest you if you’re curious about the nature of Iran.

Chaharshanbe Suri proves to be one of the most ancient and popular traditions of Iran, having lasted for thousands of years to be still celebrated by Iranians in the present time. To learn more about old Iranian traditions check out Nowruz Eid, Sepandarmazgan and Yalda Night: an Iranian celebration of the first night of winter and know more intriguing facts about celebrations and events in Iran.

FAQs

  1. When is Chaharshanbe Suri?

Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated on the last Wednesday of the Persian year.

  1. How is Chaharshanbe Suri celebrated?

Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated by people making a bonfire and jumping over the fire, fireworks, burning rue, spoon-banging and snacks specific to Chaharshanbe Suri.

  1. What does jumping over the fire symbolize?

Jumping over the fire and singing for the fire to take away illness is most probably originated from a purification ritual and symbolizes burning away your problems.

  1. Why do people celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri?

Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated on the last Wednesday before Nowruz (Iranian New year) in hopes of bringing health and happiness for the incoming year.

  1. Where is Chaharshanbe Suri celebrated?

Chaharshanbe Suri is widely celebrated in Iran and Iranians outside of Iran and also by some groups of people in some of the neighboring countries.

What is Sepandarmazgan and why is it celebrated?

Sepandarmazgan, also known as Espandegan or Esfandegan, is the ancient Iranian day of women celebrated by Persians since the time of Achaemenid’s dynasty, the first empire to ever rule over the so-called land of Persia. Know more about Sepandarmazgan and the ancient land of Persia and maybe you’ll find it hard not to visit Persia.

Of course, women have been celebrated often in different cultures and in numerous ways throughout the history of humankind, but they were especially appreciated and regarded highly among the ancient Persians and generally were encouraged to take on more prominent roles compared to the rest of societies at the time and this reverence is the reason Sepandarmazgan was originally created.  A good number of women in ancient Persia even served as commanders and generals and managed to leave a name behind in the rich history of their country, a great example being Pantea Arteshbod, a founder of the famous (or rather infamous, if you ask the Greeks!) Army of the Persian Immortals. So, taking all of that into consideration, a day devoted to appreciate women amongst Iranians leading to Sepandarmazgan should not come as a surprise.

If Sepandarmazgan and other cultural elements of Iran interest you, you might as well check out our Classical Cultural Tours of Iran and Cultural Intense-Specialty Tours and you might find yourself intrigued by many other Iran’s tourist places.

The holy day was named after Spandarmard, the deity who supposedly protected the Earth and women (who loved their husbands) in Zoroastrian beliefs. As Al-Biruni, the Persian scholar belonging to the 11th century CE, has mentioned in his testimony on Sepandarmazgan, each day of the year possessed a unique name in the ancient Persian calendar and whenever the month and the day shared the same name, a name-feast would be held and people would celebrate. It appears that Sepandarmazgan was the fifth day of the month ‘Spandarmard’ (now called Esfand) and was celebrated on that day with men crafting and bringing ‘liberal presents’ to women as a reminder of their love and appreciation for women.

The Sepandarmazgan event has Zoroastrian origins which is considered to be one of the oldest organized faiths in the world and the one formerly followed and favored by ancient people of Iran. Sepandarmazgan was named after a deity of the same belief and considered to be a holy tradition for the followers.

When is Sepandarmazgan celebrated?

Sepandarmazgan was initially celebrated on the fifth day of the month Spandarmard, as already explained, which would be an equivalent of March 26th on the Georgian calendar. However, as a result of later changes in the Persian calendar, the date has also faced some changes. The old Persian calendar used at the time of Achaemind era was set with each of the twelve months being thirty days long whereas the solar Hejri calendar currently being used in Iran contains a few more days and is consistent of 365 days per year, except for the usual leap years. Some would argue that Sepandarmazgan should be celebrated on the date previously stated and decline the changes caused by the newer Persian calendar.

By applying the changes, Sepandarmazgan was set to be celebrated by Iranians on the new fifth of Esfand, which would be 24th of February. There had been a few endeavors to revive the tradition of Sepandarmazgan in modern Iran during the Pahlavi era back in 1925.

Is Sepandarmazgan still celebrated in modern Iran?

Although the name ‘Sepandarmazgan’ is familiar and mostly recognized by the majority of Iranians, unfortunately, only a small number of them still practice the tradition and celebrate their love among themselves on fifth of Esfand. We can say that the bitter truth is, Sepandarmazgan is not widely celebrated in the modern Iran and the tradition has been fading throughout the centuries. Many youngsters nowadays prefer to celebrate the 14th of February, the Valentine’s Day, instead of Sepandarmazgan which is internationally celebrated as the day of love for lovers who look for excuses to deepen their bonds and spend more romantic time together. As the Valentine’s Day pulls closer, all kinds of red embellishments, gift boxes, chocolates and teddy bears start appearing in every shop in Iran.

With the fading of Sepandarmazgan, this has been a change occurring only in the past few years and is still considered to be a somewhat new and foreign concept to a lot of Iranians, especially the older generations who have a harder time to adapt.

Women’s and Mother’s Day in Modern-day Iran:

In the modern Iran, as a way to fill out the empty space created by the disappearance of Sepandarmazgan, women’s and Mother’s Day is celebrated on 20th of the Islamic month of Jamaadi-o-saani on the lunar calendar which is the birthday of Fatemeh Zahra, daughter of prophet Muhammad. People celebrate it by handing out gifts and flowers to the important women of their lives, mostly their mothers and their wives which is very similar to what happened during Sepandarmazgan.

It is worth mentioning that the lunar calendar is mostly used in Iran for religious celebrations and events and doesn’t serve any other purpose. The official calendar of Iran is currently the solar Hejri one, consisting of 12 months and 365 days and the day of Sepandarmazgan.

Symbols of Love in old Persian poems and among Iranian people:

Although Sepandarmazgan might no longer be celebrated with passion as it used to be the costume in the past, there are many poems and love stories left that are extremely popular among Iranians and are easily found in every single Iranian household. Stories like Leily and Majnoon, Shirin and Farhad, Khosrow and Shirin, depicting young lovers with almost always tragic destinies, are well-known by the people of Iran, young and old, and of any background or level of literacy.

These poems and their extreme popularity are proofs that with the fading of Sepandarmazgan, celebration of love didn’t stop in Iran and even after Sepandarmazgan, love is considered something worthy of celebration among the many different Iranian ethnic groups which don’t celebrate Sepandarmazgan anymore.

Persian love poems and poets from centuries ago focus on the topic of love and stories of lovers in most cases and are favored and highly appreciated by people of Iran who consider love poems an inseparable part of the Iranian culture and the Iranian identity just as much as Sepandarmazgan used to be in the past. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the beautiful depiction of love in Iranian literature and art as one of the many reasons to travel to Iran in the future, or maybe one of our Tailor-made tours, tailored to your own personal taste, would do the job.

Noushabad, the Biggest Underground City in Iran

Out of all the wonders found in lands as old as Iran, underground cities are by themselves intriguing enough to stand out among Iran’s tourist place, maybe even to those who aren’t particularly crazy about architecture or history. You might have already heard things about an underground city or two; Derinkuyn of Turkey (the most famous underground city of all), the underground city of Naours in France or Cavernous vaults in Edinburgh are quite popular with visitors.

A good number of the underground cities were initially built to function as refuge and shelter for people during the raids or war time and the underground city of Noushabad (also spelled as Nushabad) was no exception. Although it is a genius example of human creativity and adaptation to the environment, Noushabad is not much heard of, at least not as often as the underground cities formerly mentioned. The blame probably falls on the late discovery, only about two decades ago.

It’s worth mentioning that not long ago another underground city was discovered in Iran, the Abarkuh underground city of Yazd province. It’s safe to assume underground cities are not sparse in Iran. The Abarkuh underground city encompasses wells, water channels and space suitable for storing food and water and is under the process to open doors soon and finally accept visitors!

In this article, we are going to get you familiar with Noushabad underground city or “Ouyi”, as it is called in the local dialect, which is currently known as the largest underground city in Iran.

 

  • Where to find and how to access the underground city of Noushabad:

Noushabad is located only a couple kilometers north of city of Kashan, Isfahan province which means it’s very easy to reach this underground city as Kashan is a popular destination among tourists and only a three-hour ride away from Tehran. There are many different routes to Kashan and there are buses, trains and airplanes available, the last two options suitable for those who don’t feel like sitting through the road trips or have a full schedule and not enough time on their hands.

Once visitors find their way to Kashan, they can simply move around the city from one tourist attraction to another, including the Noushabad underground city without having to worry.

  • A brief history of Noushabad; the largest underground city in Iran:

This underground city was built almost 1500 years ago during the Sassanid era and by the command of a Sassanian king who supposedly drank water from a well in the area and later asked for a city to be built around it.

The underground city of Noushabad is situated in the central desert region and the climate of the region proves to provide a harsh living environment, but people of the past found their own creative ways to adapt, as they often do. It is believed that one of the reasons the Noushabad underground city was built, had been the unmerciful sun rays of the desert during the day time for the towns people to trudge through the city, visit each other’s houses and participate in social gatherings without having to actually walk on the surface. If the culture and architecture created around deserts interest you, check our Iran desert tours for more information.

The more prominent reason already mentioned was the many raids the city endured in the past. The labyrinth underneath the city was most likely thought out as a way to keep the citizens safe from numerous attacks and was utilized as a shelter.

A huge maze of passages was formed, connecting the whole city from beneath and creating the biggest underground city in Iran, still standing strongly even though it’s masterfully hidden away from the sight of the trespassers.

  • Architecture of Noushabad underground city; A timeless masterpiece

The magic of a city built fully underground surviving from destruction for such a long time lies in the effort and the sharp minds of the ancient architects of the time.

The construction in the Noushabad underground city contains three different levels and can vary from 4 to 18 meters in depth in different parts of the city. The network of tunnels and chambers of this amazing underground city stretches up to almost 4 kilometers and there are several channels planted vertically and horizontally to work as a ventilation system in order to let the air flow in the tunnels.

Accessing this underground city wasn’t easy even though there were openings and passages hiding in many citizens’ homes. Some openings hid as holes dug on the floors covered by stones and some hid behind the ovens. There were many entrances planted in social centers such as masques, castles and qanats, but the intruders could not find their way into the underground city easily. The entrances in the citizens’ houses were exactly that: entrances.

The tunnels of this underground city were designed in a way that people could simply walk in but couldn’t climb back out the way they came into the houses so of course, there wouldn’t be many security issues with the passages accessed by homes.

The overall design of this underground city also includes dead ends and booby traps- as if walking into an Indiana Jones movie- as to confuse and discourage the possible intruders. The corridors are narrow enough to force the passerby to move in a single line with the person in the front carrying a source of light. Remains of torches from 700 years ago were found in the underground city of Noushabad to serve the same purpose.

Every family seeking refuge would have their own chambers carved in stone with water pipes and qanats pouring in the needed water, enabling them to reside in the underground city for long periods of time.

There were many tools and human remains discovered in Noushabad underground city, demonstrating the constant use of the city throughout the centuries after the construction even up to Qajar era, as an affective and practical refuge for people during many different eras.

This underground city is now a touristic site welcoming visitors every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to walk through some of the passages and corridors, as people before them did 1500 years ago and admire the design and construction of architects and workers who even though lacked the modern tools we are now dependent on, made up for it with intelligence. The genius and complex labyrinth and the precise measurement are clear evidences to such intelligence used in construction of this underground city.

After all, as travelers, sometimes we want to enjoy the present and the intact nature of earth by going on ECO tours or Island tours and sometimes we want to look at the remains of our ancestors as a way to understand the long way the humankind has come to reach where it is now. In this case, visiting the underground city of Noushabad can be an excellent choice for you if you ever decide to travel to Iran.

It is worth mentioning that those who are infatuated with such subjects should check out our Classical Cultural tours of Iran or our Tailor-made ones for something mostly planned to your taste.

FAQs:

  1. What is the largest underground city in Iran?

Noushabad is considered as the largest underground city of Iran and was initially built to keep people safe from the desert heat and intruders.

  1. Are there any hotels around Noushabad underground city?

Noushabad is located a few kilometers north of Kashan and is easily accessible from the city via taxis. Anyone wishing to visit can simply seek accommodation in Kashan.

  1. How old is Noushabad underground city?

Noushabad underground city is about 1500 years old, dating back to the Sassanid era, although evidently it has been in use up to Qajar era.

  1. What is the working hour of Noushabad underground city?

Parts of this city are open to visitors every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

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