From Yazd it is possible to do a few excellent day trips to nearby places of interest. Instead of doing this, we combined visits to these places with a longer drive into the desert past Garmeh for an overnight two day tour finishing up in our next destination- Esfahan. We took in some very cool little villages, camel riding, an overnight stay in a desert guest house, then the following day had a stop at Naiin. It was a lot of driving in the two days but a fantastic tour.
A German couple we met at the hotel in Yazd asked us if we’d be interested in the tour as they were keen but the price would be much cheaper if there were four people in the car. At $90 USD a head including accommodation and food with an English speaking driver/guide we thought it sounded reasonable so agreed to join them. Our driver was a lovely Iranian guy called Mehdi who could speak English and give information about places but was mostly pretty quiet. He was a good driver and an experienced driver/ guide with the Yazd based company ‘Iranian tours and travel agency’. We really liked him and also our travel companions for the 2 days, Reiner and Teresa, from Dresden.
Our first stop was the significant Zoroastrian site called Chakchak, which I have written about in the Zoroastrian sites post here. Next it was off to Kharanak – a crumbling old town with an ancient aqueduct, shaking minaret and green fields surrounding it. Incredibly picturesque and one of Antony’s favourite places in Iran.
Wandering around the town we didn’t see anyone else and it felt like we had the most perfect playground for hide and seek all to ourselves… abandoned buildings without rooves, winding alleys and multi-storeyed buildings we climbed up in to enjoy the lovely views. It was very cool!
After a lunch break at a roadside diner we made a short stop at another small place in the desert. Here we could see a qanat- the underground water channels so essential to life in these dry parts of the country. I loved all the sandy coloured buildings and palm trees.
Garmeh was next, an oasis in the desert. I had read about this place when we first arrived in Iran and dreamt of going there but at that stage could see it was too far off the beaten track to be do-able for us. So it felt like a real bonus that we could visit it after all, even briefly.
Mehdi took us to a natural water spring which had lots of little fish in it. A lady was using water from this spring in a canal to wash her really big carpets and lay them to dry on the rocks in the sun. We saw another pool of water surrounded by palm trees closer to the village settlement. A sweet little place.
I’m not entirely sure of the name of the town we stayed the night in but it was in the desert a decent drive on from Garmeh. We had dinner and got settled in our own rooms with private bathroom, in a relatively new guesthouse. Camel riding was part of the tour and it was quite cool to do this as the sun was setting. It’s not an experience I will repeat in a hurry though- 10 minutes was long enough as I found it a rather uncomfortable ride. We said goodbye to the camels once they’d dropped us off in the desert and we got to hang out a bit, jumping off sand dunes and so on…
The next morning we got up early and Mehdi drove us to another desert area on the outskirts of the little town we stayed in. Here we waited on the cold sand for the sun to come up. Was lovely to see a sun-rise again but a bit chilly for us to stick around!
After breakfast we headed toward Esfahan with a stop for lunch and a look at the mosque in Nain. Being from the 9th century it is one of the oldest mosques in Iran. It had a beautiful wooden carved Mehrab (pulpit) which has been made without using nails- just slotting pieces of wood together like a jigsaw, quite unique. There was some interesting carving on the stone work too. There are two levels- the regular courtyard with mehrab and then an underground space which is believed to have been in use pre-Islam, some say even pre-Zoroastrian (so around 2000 years old). What was cool was that the floor of the upper level was paved in bricks but every now and then there were alabaster slabs. These allowed light to pass through so when you were in the basement there was light (see photos below taken above the alabaster and then below it). The basement was nice and cool so perhaps when it is really hot people prefer to pray down there.
It was a great two day tour with our lovely driver Mehdi, and Reiner & Teresa providing interesting conversation and company. Perfect way to see some great sights, experience the desert and arrive in our next destination- the beautiful Esfahan.