Usually when there is talk of traveling to Iran between tourists or foreigners, people remember Iran by its amazing historical sites, or maybe its lush Persian carpets or delicious food. But few people know that Iran can be a nature lover’s dream come true. With the highest peak in the middle east, vast deserts, beautiful canyons, mangrove forests in the south, and moss-covered forests in the north, Iran has a variety of natural landscapes and terrains that few countries in the world can compete with. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro rock climber, thirsty for adventure, or just new to hiking and camping. Iran has something for everyone. Not convinced yet? Keep reading the article. We promise that by the end; you’ll have changed your idea of Iran, Iran adventure and its natural beauties.
The image of the desert, which I was confronted by my family and friends before coming to Iran ends in Zagros. To my surprise, water can enrich dry soil even when the sun is shining strong over the land here. That is how false imaginations are deconstructed when you ﬁnd yourself in the territory you only heard about but never visited. The landscape we are passing by and the Zagros Mountains sometimes reminds me of the Eden I have heard about like a kid at the religion classes. Beautiful trees, alleys, and tall hills surrounding our way. The Zagros rightly feels enormous.
With two mountain ranges running from east to west and north to south, Iran has no shortage of incredible peaks with varying terrain and technicality. Almost every province in Iran has a remarkable mountain peak, and maybe that’s why many Iranians love to go mountain climbing and trekking in their free time. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Here we present some of the best Iran adventure trekking destinations for mountain lovers.
The best experience to discover new territories as the Zagros Mountains. Beautiful landscapes, nature, and wildlife. And the more important was to learn about nomadic lifestyle and share experiences with two really beautiful local families.
As Iran’s and Middle East’s highest mountain (5610 m), Mount Damavand needs no introduction. A giant of a mountain northeast of Tehran, with its perpetual snow-capped peak, mount Damavand is a must on every mountain climbers’ bucket list and attracts Iranians and foreigners alike. While the high season of climbing this legendary volcanic mountain is in the middle of summer, pro mountain climbers venture out to climb this mountain any season of the year. The interesting thing about mount Damavand, this great Iran adventure destination, is that you can clearly see the peak even when you’re far from reaching it. Throughout the climb, you can almost always see the sharp peak looking down at you, and sometimes it looks like you don’t get any nearer to it even as you climb higher.
Mount Damavand is deeply rooted in Iranian mythology and folklore and is symbolized as a divine and sacred mountain, where heroes went on pilgrimages and the legendary Simurgh bird lived. According to Iranian folklore, the demon king Zahhak is imprisoned in the volcanic pit in the peak. Also according to Shahname, Kiumars the first king made the first civilization on the plains of mount Davamand and there is actually evidence of a 7000-year-old civilization there. Even today, climbing this mountain is an emotional experience for many people, and if you reach the top you can almost always spot groups of people congratulating each other and shedding happy tears. Bonus point: when you reach the peak, you see how all the other surrounding mountains are dwarfed next to Damavand, and the greatness of it hits you right there.
Another Iran adventure you can have is mount Alamkouh. With its jagged peaks, the second-highest mountain of Iran proves to be even more difficult and technical to climb than Iran’s other high mountains. However, if you don’t want to go all the way to the peak, the surroundings of this mountain in springtime are just as beautiful and exciting.
Another Iran adventure is mount Sabalan. Iran’s third-highest peak has a bonus reward when you reach the peak: a serene mountain top lake. However, this lake is frozen most of the year. Even in the middle of summer months when the ice finally thaws, the water is still dead cold. Some climbers like to take a dip in the water, but no one actually knows how deep the middle of the lake can be. Besides, the beautiful crystal clear lake on the peak, the hillsides of mount Sabalan are equally breathtaking during spring and summer. The pastures also house some of the authentic nomadic families of this region and you can buy organic honey and dairy products from them. There is also a hot spring down the mountain, which can be a perfect way to relax and wash up after a couple of days of intense climbing. Oh, one more thing. Did I mention brown bears roam freely in the vicinity of the base camp?
Zard-kuh which means “the yellow mountain” in the central Zagros range of Iran is the next Iran adventure. The mountain is vastly different from the Alborz mountain range in the north of Iran. Here, in the Zagros mountain range, the rocks that form the mountains are jagged and rough. There are also no springs in Zard-kuh mountain. The source of water is the water that melts from the glacial snow gathered high in the mountain top. Every day near noon, thin streams of water form from underneath the glacial which you can collect and drink. But at night, even in the summers, the water freezes once again.
The Fort of Babak, which was built as a defensive stronghold against the Arab invasion, is located on top of a steep mountain in the Arasbaran region in the northwest of Iran. Climbing the trail to this castle, you will be in awe of the stamina and strength of these ancient Iranian warriors who managed to build a citadel on top of such a steep mountain. You will also enjoy the amazing view from up top of this fine Iran adventure. This climb is not as difficult or technical as the other mountains we mentioned above and can be done in a single day. However, you will still need to be in good shape to be able to trek the steep trials leading to this fort.
Foreigners don’t often associate Iran with lush greenery and forests, but guess what? Even though most of Iran’s area has a dry climate, there is a long section of vibrant green Hyrcanian forest in the north of Iran. Sandwiched between the Caspian sea and the Alborz mountain range, the water vapor from the sea gets trapped in between and has created a breath-taking natural phenomenon. I don’t think there are many places in the world where you can go to the seashore and when you look south you can see the beautiful green mountains. Iran’s Hyrcanian forests were registered as UNESCO natural heritage sites in Iran in 2019.
One of the most secluded of Iran’s northern forests, Dorfak is shrouded in mist and filled with tall, moss-covered trees. It’s also more than just a stroll in the woods because it takes 2 full days of trekking to reach the peak nearby or the great stone wall of Dorfak. This Iran adventure is truly worth going.
Located in the northeastern province of Golestan, Jahan-Nama forest is magnificent to visit, especially in the fall season when the vibrant yellow and red colors burst from every tree, like jewels and rubies. If you are lucky, you might even see herds of deers wandering about in this jewel of Iran adventure.
The remnant of the million-year-old Hyrcanian forest, Arasbaran is home to hundreds of species and hosts a vibrant flora and fauna. Some parts of this forest are secluded and designated as deer conservation sites. Apart from the breathtaking nature, Shahsavan nomads often set up their tents in the pastures surrounding this area, which makes it a double attraction. Another historical plus natural adventure in this region of Iran is trekking the way up to Babak’s castle (read the mountain section).
As a country that has long hot summers, Iran has been blessed with many canyons and valleys in almost every province that is filled with refreshing, often ice-cold water. This makes them a popular trekking destination in hot summers of Iran or sometimes all around the year. Each of these natural destinations is guaranteed to make an exciting adventure that often requires swimming and a change of clothes. So put your wet suit on and let’s dive in Iran’s amazing valleys.
We went on this trip, without knowing, what exactly to expect. This was our last three days in Iran, so we had seen a lot of cities and culture in the past weeks. Then we joined the Nomadtours and we were blown away! No other tourists around, pure nature and Nomads, who live a life -so different from anything we knew from Europe! It’s literally back to the basics! And that’s the best part: No mobile phone, no traffic, no “oh i need to check my email”, no hurry, no “should i eat this or that…” it’s such a down to earth lifestyle, that convinces you with “less is more”! We did some amazing side trips to waterfalls, canyons and other nature sights that are worth the sweat and joined the nomads later again.
Nicknamed the bride of Iran’s canyons, Reghez truly lives up to the expectations. With deep valleys and crystal clear, cerulean water, this Iran adventure is the dream destination for people that crave an adrenaline-filled adventure and love to swim in the deep, cool water. The best season to go to this valley is in the dead of summer, right when it’s scorching hot outside. You’ll need professional guides and gear to be able to go into this awe-inspiring canyon.
Located in east Azerbaijan province, Darandash Valley is the kind of Iran adventure you want to fantasize about on a hot summer day. To reach this valley you need to start a trek down a mountain nearby and go down. Once you reach the river in the valley, you will get in the middle of it and walk the rest of the way in the river. The water will be ice-cold and refreshing while the sun beats down on you. You should toss aside the notion of keeping your pants dry because sooner or later, the water is going to get deeper and more volatile. The pale turquoise color of the river and the cream color of the valley makes an artistic combination that soothes the eyes. Once you start reaching the trickier parts, you’ll need ropes and ladders to climb up and continue the way. When you reach the final waterfall, you’ll climb up the mountain from another route and dry on your way back.
Another Iran adventure is this incredible valley located in the southwest of Iran, in Khuzestan province. Unlike the other valleys that are made up of huge smooth rocks, this valley is made up of millions of tiny stones, glued together by mud and sediment. When you step into this valley, it feels like you’ve stepped into another universe and you feel cut off from the rest of the world. It is so eerily still and peaceful that you’d be tempted to just sit on the ground and take it all in and meditate. The tall sides of the valley are covered with patches of moss, and even small saplings growing sideways and up. The river in this valley sometimes disappears underneath your foot and comes back up again a few meters ahead. When you walk for an hour or two into this valley, you’ll reach the narrower parts which could give some people claustrophobia. This valley joins the Dez river in the end.
Nicknamed the grand canyon of Iran and surprisingly one of the most underrated of Iran’s valleys, Shiraz valley will stun you with its unique rock formations, curtesy of millions of years of erosion since the Mesozoic era. This Iran adventure, Shiraz valley, is so deep that sometimes sunlight won’t even penetrate its 200-meter high walls. If you trek the way until the end of this valley, you’ll reach a cave with deep water running in it. This region is also very historic and traces of cave life and various historic artifacts have been found in it, such as copper creations that date back to 7 centuries BC.
This incredible canyon which is located in the southeast of Iran in Hormozgan province, is the next Iran adventure. One thing that sets this apart from the rest of the attractions, is that Boochiz canyon is located right in the middle of a desert. This canyon is about 1000 meters long and once you enter it, you have to swim all the way in because there are barely any spots to rest (or you could bring inflatable boats). The temperature in this canyon always stays between 10-20 C because of how deep it is and it’s a stark contrast to the outside where the heat can get unbearable.
This natural phenomenon which is located in Lorestan province has an uncanny similarity to the famous horseshoe canyon in the united states. This valley also contains the longest suspension bridge in Iran and in the middle east. When you go to stand on this 112-meter-long suspension bridge, it’ll be like you’re on top of a 29 story building, and you could hear the river roar underneath you, while the winds move the bridge and give you an even better sense of suspension. Don’t miss this fantastic Iran adventure destination.
These locations are usually easy to reach (with a few exceptions) and perfect for an outdoor adventure and a dip in the water.
The organization of the trip was perfect as well. The pick-up was as agreed. Although always certain things happen during a trip which force the plan to be changed, Mohammad was flexible and handled everything very well. On the way back, we made some extra stops at a beautiful village and a huge natural spring because we had the time and he said they were worth the visit, which they definitely were. As I had no plans to join a tour like this when I travelled to Iran, I did not bring any hiking equipment. Fortunately, I could borrow all needed equipment (hiking shoes, jacket, sleeping bag, tent, etc.) from Nomad Tours, free of (extra) charge!
Would you be interested to go for a swim in the middle of a desert? We are not kidding. You can do just that in Keshit village in Kerman province. Keshit, another Iran adventure destination, is a green oasis in the middle of the desert. A sandy idyllic village, with palm trees and small green farms, it is truly a marvelous site in such a dry environment. With a short hike, you can reach the lake and waterfall in this village, where you can take a dip in the cool water.
Iran’s only waterfall that is entirely made of moss, Kabood-val looks like a scene cut from a magical forest where tree spirits and elves run free. There are many natural pond formations in the way of the river and the combination of these make this waterfall an adventure to not pass up. Even though the high season for visiting this waterfall is in spring and summer, it is still beautiful and magnificent in the colder months of the year as well.
This beautiful waterfall creates several small ponds on different levels which makes it a truly Iran adventure. When you stand in one of the ponds and you look up, you see the forest above you, cut in a circular outline, with the water running down the edges. It truly feels like you’re engulfed and embraced by mother nature. Bonus point, when you’re hiking down the trail to reach this waterfall, you might feel a fruity scent in the air, which is coming from wild raspberry bushes that are abundant in these areas.
This beautiful waterfall is located in the central west of Iran, in the heart of Zagros mountain range and is perfect for those who look for remote and wilder Iran adventure destinations. One thing that sets this waterfall apart from the other ones in our list, is that it is fairly hard to reach this waterfall, which is located deep inside a mountain. The path to this waterfall won’t let you down either. It will be almost an 8-hour trekking, on a mountain, inside a forest, and over a river. But the end result is seeing this grand waterfall which at 40-meter-high and 65-meter-wide, is one of the widest waterfalls of Iran.
This Iran adventure is a double recommendation. Sooha is a beautiful lake in Ardebil province, and somewhere to the east, in Gilan province, there is the 105-meter-high Latoon waterfall. The best way to have the ultimate trekking adventure is to start from Sooha lake and trek all the way to Latoon waterfall. The scenery in between these two destinations is divine and you’ll get a bonus experience of walking between two of Iran’s most beautiful provinces while enjoying the amazing woodlands and pastures in between. I was fortunate enough to do this trekking experience in early spring. Sooha lake and its surrounding forests were frozen like a scene from Narnia. But as you went farther to the east, the frozen scenery changed little by little and gave its place to vibrant green pastures and forests. Truly a trekking experience that can’t be missed.
Deserts form the majority of the central land of Iran and they are the perfect outdoor location for chilling, camping, and some hiking. The deserts emanate a sense of mystery and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from Prince of Persia. They come in different sizes and sand textures but they are all gorgeous nonetheless. One thing that is really nice about going to the deserts-besides the unbelievable starry sky- is that they are so quiet, it’s like you’re under a heavy blanket that is canceling any sounds. You might associate deserts with extreme heat and sun but at nights the temperatures drop very low, so that you will be shivering uncontrollably in winter. In the morning, after watching a serene sunrise, you can enjoy a walk through the soft sand. The surface of the sand warms up by sunbeams, but when your feet sink deeper, the sand underneath is cool and very soothing to the touch. you can also enjoy riding camels or driving cars in the sand dunes. Or better yet, roll down the dunes yourself and go for a walk barefoot. Some of Iran’s most famous deserts are Dasht-e-lut, Shahdad desert of Kaluts in Kerman, and Kavir-e-Mesr in Isfahan province.