Elspeth in North of Iran

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Hi, I'm Elspeth from Australia.

You can read the first part of my Iran Trip "South of Iran; Qeshm Island" and the second part "Kerman, Yazd and the center of Iran" before starting this part too.

In this part, I continue my travel to Iran by visiting Tehran then go to the north of Iran, Ramsar and beautiful cities in the border of Caspian see.

We head to Tehran, I had this morning to myself just to wander around the streets of Tehran. It appears I am staying in a street dedicated to lighting, in particular chandeliers. I have also discovered streets dedicated to leather; luggage; hair products; buckles; materials; ribbons and buttons.

In many ways I could be in any capital city, it feels much more Western than anywhere else I have been this trip.

I stopped for refreshment at a delightful cafe where a large cappuccino and a delicious cinnamon cake cost $AUD 4.50.

This afternoon we visited the Jewellery Museum (sorry, no photos allowed). Museums are never top of my list of attractions but this one came highly recommended and I can understand why. Opulent, magnificent, exquisite. Unfortunately, I can never look at the jewellery of dynasties and royalty without having ethical dilemmas about it. So much wealth held by so few.

After the Jewellery Museum we went to the former US embassy. I very much wanted to see the new graffiti. Fortunately, I was with My guides as I needed them to explain both a football reference and some aspects of American culture such as Captain America. For me, it was definitely worth the visit.

Today was a day of travel. We left Tehran mid-morning and travelled the scenic road to Ramsar. I had heard it was one of the most beautiful roads in Iran and I would certainly say it is right up there. We started on the southern side of the Alborz mountains with their rocky terrain and climbed to a height of 2,600 metres. In the middle of one of the numerous tunnels we started the descent and emerged on the northern side of the mountains where the snow was deeper and there was vegetation that changed into trees with all their autumn colours.

Finally, we reached the Caspian Sea and travelled through many towns on the way to Ramsar. The coastline is an interesting mix of some high rise, many shopping malls and standard Iranian style shops.

Ramsar itself used to be a royal city at the time of the last king. It still has a feel of royalty and a sense of self-assurance.

I am now comfortable in a luxurious apartment just near the cable car and I am looking forward to exploring tomorrow.

After an excellent breakfast on the roof of my apartment looking towards the World Heritage Hyrcanian Forest we went to the Marble Palace. It is named after the striped Iranian marble used in its construction.

We walked around the Botanical gardens and watched the sturgeon swim in their special pool. We went inside the Palace and saw beautiful carpets and furniture and some wonderfully ornate cornices with elaborate moldings of birds and flowers.

For me, the highlight of the day was the Ivory Museum. I didn't have high expectations but to see such incredible creativity and imagination plus the intricate details of the carvings was breathtaking. It was amazing to think of the skill involved.

In the late afternoon, We went for a walk along the shore of the Caspian Sea, followed by ice cream.

The plan for today was to drive to Javaherdeh, walk around the town exploring, and then continue on to a lake further up the mountain.

The reality was there was so much snow that the road to the lake was closed and Javaherdeh, while scenic, was awash with water from melting snow but also had many muddy and slippery parts so we went for plan B.

The only problem with that was that one of the local dogs had taken a liking to us and only stopped running along beside the car when My guide stopped to give it a drink of water and it met a friend.

Plan B will speak for itself with the photos.

Some days, when I've been travelling for quite some time I need a recuperation day. Today was it. We caught the chairlift up to the top of the mountain behind Ramsar and went for a walk around. Roya had tracked down a massage therapist for me.  She had learned some Thai massage and definitely managed to undo some knots.

After that, I treated myself to my favourite Iranian drink - fresh-squeezed carrot juice with saffron ice cream.

After lunch, we walked along Casino Boulevard which still has the grandeur of earlier years when it led to the Palace where the Shah might be in residence.

We went to our respective private spas where we luxuriated in 37 ° mineral water, every so often standing under the icy shower before plunging back into the warmth.

The state of my hair after this convinced me I could no longer avoid a haircut. I figured it was far easier to get it cut here with My guide there to translate for me than have to negotiate it in my next destination.

As always, these encounters with everyday Iranians are the stuff memories are made of. Sometimes I feel more warmth can be exchanged between people of different cultures and no common language than between people who have lived in the same country all there lives.

Today we started to slowly head towards Tehran. After leaving Ramsar we did important things like stocking up on the delicious local walnut biscuits and having a coffee. We then drove to Namakabrud where after having my favourite Iranian dish of fesenjan I proved to myself that somehow or other in this trip I have overcome my fear of cable cars. This was a much steeper climb than Ramsar and the autumn colours beneath us were beautiful.

Leaving Chalus this morning to head to Tehran My guide had one final surprise for me - Valasht Lake near Kelardasht.

So many times in Iran I have thought "It can't get more beautiful than this, it is incredibly beautiful."

 It is impossible to say which of the many mountains we travelled up and down is the most beautiful. There have been many snow covered mountains, mountains ablaze with Autumn colours and the spectacular barren mountains with their multitude of minerals, shells and layers. There have been mountains made of salt and mountains where the rocks are black and they glisten in the sun. So much beauty.

I am deeply grateful for my time here.

So this amazing 24 days in Iran has come to an end.

From the spectacular thunder and lightning storm on my first night in Qeshm and the sheer beauty of the Persian Gulf Islands, to the awe inspiring Kaloots, onto Yazd and dear friends, old and new.  Then through many snow covered mountains and having to change the itinerary due to snow and ice and then final days on the Caspian Sea in the north of Iran and finally the huge, sprawling city of Tehran.

I continue to be deeply in love with the mountains of Iran. How I wish I had the geological knowledge to hear their stories, to understand their many layers and the multitude of colours indicating a vast array of minerals.

This trip was exploring Iran at a deeper level.

 There were very few places that I return to from last year, and as much as possible I stayed away from big cities and the more tourist destinations.

There is much that I could say about the struggles that Iran is going through but surface to say I continue to love this country deeply, I wish her and her people the conditions to thrive and to express their deep pride in what it means to be Persian.

To anyone who is considering coming to Iran I say to you "Come!" 

 It is a spectacular, beautiful and amazing country. Whatever your interests - nature, Islam, art, culture, history, architecture, beauty, people, geology it has an abundance to offer you. The only warning I would give is that quite possibly one trip will not be enough.