I’m a very well organized person, especially when it comes to travels. I always do a major research before visiting any place, print out maps, find out the attractions etc. But my trip to Iran was a completely different one. Due to my uncertain visa situation and the fact that until last moment I didn’t really know if I’ll be let in to the country or not I haven’t planned a single thing, I didn’t even do my usual amount of reading and I went completely unprepared. With no plan or confirmed accommodation I found myself leaving Tehran for a crazy long bus ride to the south of the country. 16 hours and one adventure with the famous Iranian hospitality later I was approaching my final destination. Looking outside of the window there was just one thought in my head: why did I decide to visit Shiraz in the first place?
Arriving to Shiraz
My first impressions from Shiraz weren’t the best. The city was crazy busy, dusty and the hotel were I was supposed to stay sold out my room (the whole reservation was arranged over the phone via hotel in Tehran and I was just supposed to show up before noon, which I did, back then it was still basically impossible to book hotels in Iran online). Fortunately they quickly fixed me with another, even better place so after leaving my things I was ready to discover the city. All I knew about it at that point were bazaars, a tomb of the great Iranian poet – Hafez, the citadel and the Pink Mosque. As it turned out – that’s exactly what I needed to focus on in Shiraz.
The citadele of Shiraz
A walk along the main street took me from my hotel to the citadel. Arg of Karim Khan, as that’s how the place is called, was built in 18th century and served as a king’s residence. Some sources say that the citadel has a lot of similarities with Spanish Alhambra (can’t say as I haven’t been to the second one). In later years it was transformed into the prison and that’s when the building lost most of its greatness. These days it’s possible to visit the citadel, however I skipped it. The problem with foreign tourists in Iran is pretty high prices of tickets to just about everything, usually 2.5 or 4€ – when you sum it up at the end of the day it comes to a pretty high amount. I quickly did my judgment and figured there’ll be better attractions to spend my money in Shiraz on. But Arg of Karim Khan looks pretty impressive from the outside, especially the leaning tower catches the attention. Next door from the citadele the best ice cream in Shiraz can be found so after buying these I just sat in the shadow and observed the world passing by, families having picnics on the lawn in front of the citadel and tourists taking silly pictures with the glorious scenery.
Full with ice cream I was ready to hit the famous bazaars. I didn’t even want to buy anything, I just wanted to experience this part of Iranian life and culture. And I wasn’t disappointed here, even if at first it was hard to see the real beauty of the place. Vakil Bazaar, the most popular one, was full of tour groups (that was one of 3 times when I met Polish people in Iran) and I had the impression it’s there mostly for foreigners who could buy carpets and other souvenirs there. But as soon as I started getting deeper and deeper into the bazaars the atmosphere and the clientele have changed and I was the only non-Iranian around. The stalls offered just about everything: from spices to chadors and kitchen equipment and it was really fascinating to observe this aspect of life in Iran.
The Pink Mosque – the highlight of Shiraz
From the bazaars some random streets and wrong turns took me to probably the biggest attraction of Shiraz – Nasir ol Molk Mosque known also as the Pink Mosque. From the outside it looks like nothing special, yet another gate with a pretty Persian tiles. The yard is already better, with a pond in the middle and so many various shapes and patterns that keep you occupied for good few minutes. But the best is still to happen. A very random door you would never pay attention took takes you to a completely different world – the mosque itself. It’s one of those places when you have to pinch yourself to believe this beauty really exists. And I was there at the wrong time of the day as apparently the biggest magic happens there in the morning when the light plays a big show. But even in the afternoon it was pretty spectacular and I spent maybe an hour just sitting on the floor and looking around, trying to remember every single detail and to enjoy it to the fullest! There were moments when I was inside all by myself and it was a pure bliss.
Surprisingly interesting Hafez’ Tomb
On my second day in Shiraz, after visiting Persepolis, I still had the whole afternoon to myself and decided to go to Hafez’ tomb. At first it wasn’t in my plan as I figured I know nothing about the grand poet and his work. But as it turned out I’d have missed so much if I didn’t go there! Not only the whole park with the tomb is a lovely place, the atmosphere there is kind of spiritual. People are sitting around, reading or reciting Hafez’ poetry, and his tomb stands proudly in the middle. Even if I understood nothing from what was said I could feel it is a special place for every Iranian and it’s a big deal for them to visit. Again, I spent much more time than I expected, just enjoying the place and its magical vibe. And now I know that when you visit Shiraz Hafez’ tomb is a must!
Is it worth to visit Shiraz?
So yes, Shiraz might not be the greatest of Iranian destinations and it’s usually treated just as a getaway to nearby Persepolis but for me it turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable place. After not really feeling Tehran I found Shiraz to be a perfect city to get into the Iranian pace and to observe how life goes by there (it didn’t take much to step out of the tourist path). And while I found Persepolis highly overrated Shiraz made up for that and saved my trip down south, making it worth all the hassle. Even if until last moment I didn’t really know why I’ve decided to visit Shiraz I’m glad I did and you should go there as well. Just don’t expect anything mind blowing!
If you think of visiting Iran or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Visit Iran – practical information
- Solo female travel in Iran
- Yazd, Iran – the most beautiful desert town I’ve seen
- and many more!
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