Truly exploring Iran: our highlights by car

As I am writing this piece, a movie on Iran is running in the background. It’s all coming back to me: the rounded ‘r’s, the language I got so accustomed to during the almost 1-month trip there, the attitude of a nation that I love. It’s the first time that I’ve felt this way ever since Marcel and I got back to Romania: missing a country that I carry inside my heart.

‘It’s our second time in Iran’ – a line that left people so puzzled that they didn’t even realise we had uttered it…
In 2014, a trip through Iran by rental car seemed close to impossible.
5 years later, we started considering it.
And then, I stumbled upon Saadat Rent. I sent an e-mail to them and I received a reply in English. ‘Well, our dreams of exploring the northern part of the country are getting closer’ I thought to myself.
I talked it over with Marcel, we liked their terms, but we were still weighing our options: bringing the car back to Tehran or dropping it in Bandar Abbas.
We finally booked and decided on the first option, looking to continue south of Tehran by bus.
Fast-forward: in 2 months, we would be welcomed with tea, a generous smile and make a great friend in Tehran. In Saadat Rent’s office.

And that small, fast, and comfortable car would become our travel partner.
@Gorgan Botanic Palace Hotel, Iran
Honestly, looking back, I don’t think we would have reached many of the wonders we’ve seen if we hadn’t had a car.
It would’ve been a shame…

not to snowboard from almost 4000 metres, enjoying the most beautiful views I’d ever seen carving down the mountain, at Dizin;
Snowboarding; Dizin Ski Resort, Iran

not to feel the warmth and the kind welcomes of the locals met at Rudkhan Castle, some of them turned friends, while I struggled with the steps in that unnatural heat and moisture;
Wild strawberries; Rudkhan Castle, Iran

not to experience the vibe of Masuleh and recall my fascination for terraced villages;
Leaving Masuleh, Iran

not to be able to watch the ever-changing scenery of East Azerbaijan Province, with chimney-like rocks that we sighed over, from the motorway to Kandovan;
On our way from Masuleh to Tabriz, Iran

View from Kandovan Laleh International Rocky Hotel, Iran

not to perceive the beauty/desolation of Lake Urmia and Lake Meyghan;
Lake Urmia, Iran

Lake Meyghan, Iran

not to feel history pulsate, amidst a glorious sunset after a day-long rain, in Ardabil;
Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble; Ardabil, Iran

not to feel the sand between my toes on Astara’s Sadaf Beach;
Sadaf Beach; Astara, Iran

Sadaf Beach; Astara, Iran

not to feed duck and geese and regain my smile, in Anzali Lagoon, after a hard day on the road, because Iran never leaves you sad;
Preparing to feed the birds; Anzali Lagoon, Iran

not to go through the second-best day of our trip, with Radkan Tower enlivening the stracciatella mountains around it and Badab Soort adding colour to our evening postcard;
Amazing Radkan Tower, Iran

Badab Soort, Iran

not to feel the hospitality in Lorestan, where our base was Borujerd; as we didn’t have a permit to visit Lake Gahar, we impromptu-ishly drove to Vanai, where we made supplies of delicious pickled cucumbers and were greeted with smiles;
Buying pickled cucumbers; Vanai, Iran

not to ride the road to Chelgerd, see the greenish rivers, and wow at the mountains still covered in snow;
Borujerd to Chelgerd, Iran

Around Chelgerd, Iran

not to repeatedly stop (total time spent taking pictures: 2 hours) on the most beautiful road of my life, dotted with turquoise rivers and lakes, mountains of various kinds, and tens of herds of sheep, from Chelgerd to Shushtar;
Baa baa on the road: from Chelgerd to Shushtar, Iran

Breathless: from Chelgerd to Shushtar, Iran

not to let history surprise us so much and people be so wonderfully kind in Shushtar, in spite of the tremendous heat…    
Historical Hydraulic System; Shushtar, Iran

As you could see, we stopped almost midway and decided to continue our trip by car to Bandar Abbas, change stopovers, and add destinations that weren’t even on the initial travel plan. The second part of the trip was even more spectacular than our first, especially as our travel mojo had returned somewhere in Semnan Province.
Tehran felt great every time we’d get back there, on our way to somewhere else, and I admit to have had some of the greatest afternoon naps of my life in its very centre.
Cedar Hostel; Tehran, Iran

I won’t lie, it was a hard trip.
But it was worth it. To the last second of it.
Apart from my native Romania – that I love to death –, I have never seen such a diverse and beautiful country. Iran is my favourite place in the world.

We took care of ‘Micuţa sprinţară’ [as we used to call her] and we washed her and Marcel drove extra-safely on the crowded and chaotic roads north of Tehran.
Washing the car in Shushtar, Iran
‘Are you going to drop her off now? Do you want me to come, too?’ I asked Marcel, as I sobbed in our Bandar Abbas hotel room.
I couldn’t. I guess I don’t like goodbyes.
Kissing my friend goodbye; Bandar Abbas, Iran

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