Shiraz and Persepolis: The Ancient Capital of the Kings

Shiraz is a really nice and quite calm city. The old town doesn’t allow cars which makes it easy and relaxed to walk around and explore the old bazaar. In Shiraz I met an Iranian family via Couchsurfing as well as an italian traveller and two spanish friends on their way to India.

It’s really interesting to hear all the different travel stories and how everyone has a different goal in Iran.

Persepolis is an ancient town that is 1 hour drive from Shiraz and a must visit when in Shiraz. To be honest it wasn’t that interesting for me and I’d rather visited the desert (which I still didn’t manage to do!). But for everyone who is interested in history and especially old places it’s definitely worth to go there!

In Shiraz we went to the oldest traditional restaurant where I ate some kebab and of course I visited the pink mosque, the holy shrine and in the evenings we cooked or sat together drinking tea. I had a lovely time in Shiraz, thanks to my Iranian friends 🙂


What I liked most in Isfahan

I was really excited to go to Isfahan – to the “half of the world”, because every book and every website mentions Isfahan as THE to go place in Iran. No traveler should miss that city. Unfortunately I just arrived at night in the hostel and the next day it rained non-stop. So I decided to take it easy, stayed in the hostel and edited some videos.

It is okay to just not go outside and be active the whole time, especially when you are on the road for a few weeks. This made me even more excited to go out and spend the whole day exploring after my short break and rest time.

And I didn’t get disappointed! It was a beautiful day spent in Isfahan and I visited the big square, the mosque, a traditional tea house, the Chehel Sotoun Palace, the bazaar and of course the bridges. Nowadays the river is not flowing anymore and instead, there is only a lot of sand left. Even it looks sad it was still fun to walk on the “river”.

At the big square I got a little bit annoyed by all the Iranian tour guides that talked in German with me and tried to sell me a tour or a “free tea” in their bazaar shop. It also happened that a few youngsters talked to me about Hitler and how much they like him because he was a powerful man. I tried to make them understand that I don’t agree with them but I guess that didn’t change their minds.

However, Isfahan is beautiful and has a lot of attractions, but for the first time during my trip I felt a negative impact of the tourism industry and I’m afraid that it won’t get better but worse.

me in a traditional tea house

 


Kashan and Abyaneh Village: A walk through time

I know there is a lot of desert in Iran and I expected to visit it during my stay in Kashan BUT then I fell in love with the small city itself and the Abyaneh Village which is not too far from Kashan. What I liked most about Kashan was that it is not so crowded like all the other touristic cities and of course that it has its own desert atmosphere.

I always wondered how it is to be alive thousands of years ago. Kashan is a magical city that exactly makes you feel like you are in a different time and offers much more than only the desert.

There are a lot of traditional houses to explore where you can get lost and stroll around for hours. In my head I imagined how the people were living here hundreds of years ago, what kind of discussions they had and how they furnished their houses. These places will definitely play with your fantasy.

And of course there is Kashan’s historical mosque and the traditional bazaar which offers you a perfect spot for an Iranian breakfast.

If you ever wondered how the most beautiful historical garden of the Middle East looks like then you shouldn’t skip going to Fin Garden. It’s a place to relax and not too far from the city.

Although there are so many sites in Kashan that are impressive and just beautiful I didn’t see a lot of travellers and most of the time I was the only person visiting a site. It seems that the city is still quite undiscovered by tourists which makes it a great time to visit right now.

On the other hand there is the abyaneh village which attracts more people due to it’s unique historical charme. This village is one of the oldest in Iran and has been called the window to Iranian history and people also say that it’s a living museum. It’s a really picturesque city and the locals seem like really cool people as well.


Visiting traditional houses in Kashan

After a comfortable 2 hour bus ride from Qom I arrived in Kashan. This small city is known for its traditional houses and trips to the manjabi desert. Kashan is a beautiful small town with some great historical places like a traditional bath house or its over 400 years old mosque in the center of the city.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to visit the desert but I had a lot of fun discovering the town and talking to some local people. What I love about Kashan is that it's really quit and the fact that you won't meet a lot of people in most of the tourist attractions.


Iranians love drinking tea no matter where they are. This picture was taken at 11pm inside a car.


One day in the holy city Qom

Qom is a very important and holy city for most Iranians, not so much for tourists. So when I said that I’m going to Qom I got some confused looks and people asked me why would I go there. I didn’t really know but then I quickly realized that it’s definitely worth a visit!

Qom has some really great architecture and beautiful buildings. The holy shrine is one of the most impressive buildings in Iran and a lot of pilgrims come here from all around the world.

First I was unsure if I could just go there or if my dress code was appropriate, but then locals were really friendly and showed me where to go. Tourists enter on entrance 17. Inside the entrance your bag gets checked and in my case they cave me appropriate clothing.

The women were so nice to me! They gave me chocolate and organized a tour guide for me who showed me around.

After the holy shrine I walked to the mosque nearby and an afghan girl talked to me. We took a picture together and talked a while. It’s heartwarming how friendly everyone is and that they are curious about their visitors.

Qom was definitely a great experience and Im glad I decided to got there.


I arrived in Tehran!

After a really short and sleepless night I arrived at Tehran's International Airport. As soon as we landed all the women took on their head scarf and it was like a different world just opened up in front of the plane.

Luckily I obtained my evisa for Iran before and was able to just pass easy peasy going the immigration. Nevertheless it was really early (4am) and the first metro wouldn't go before 7am.

Exploring the arrival hall was kind of a nerve wrecking thing as taxi drivers didn't leave my side and even followed me to upstairs. There were also a lot of men who tried to exchange my money on the black market but I preferred to use the official money exchange at the airport. I was just really really confused and still didn't figure it out.

Never mind after that I waited until I took the Metro to the city center. I was impressed that the metro had seat heating and a cabin for women only!

In the hostel I just hoped I could directly fall in my bed and as lucky I am a bed was free and I spent my time until 2pm sleeping like a baby 😮

The afternoon I spent exploring the hostels neighborhood and realized that everybody was staring at me. I didn't feel uncomfortable but tomorrow I'll cover my hair completely and hope to be a little bit more undercover :D

My first impression of Tehran is great! There are a lot of similarities to Turkey, like the bazaars, street vendors or the fact that no car cares about the pedestrians :D

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be heading to the most religious city of Iran: Qom!


Iran E-Visa 2019: This is how I got my Tourist Visa via the Consulate in Istanbul

ENGLISH

Step 1: Preparing your documents

Before you start your online application make sure that you have all the necessary information to complete it 100%. Click here to get forwarded to the list of documents and information you will need.
I made sure that I had a flight and hotel (for the first night) booked in advance so that I could provide an Iranian address for my stay as well as a phone number and flight dates.
They also need a digital photo copy of the passport and a personal photo with specific measurements. I made the photo by myself and resized it with a photo editing tool. The personal photo must be in a ratio of 4:6 and equal or less than 500kb in file size.
The passport copy must be in a ratio of 8:6 and equal or less than 500kb in file size.

Do women need to wear a headscarf on their visa photo? 
No, but it will lower the chance of getting rejected. In my case I didn’t cover my hair on the photo (and I’m bright blonde) and got accepted after 2 days, but surely it can depend on the person who is checking your visa application.

Check their photo page for updated information!

DEUTSCH

Schritt 1: Dokumente vorbereiten

Bevor man mit der Online-Bewerbung beginnt, sollte man sicher stellen, dass man fĂŒr den Visumsantrag alle erforderlichen Informationen verfĂŒgt. Klicke hier, um zur Liste der Dokumente und Informationen zu gelangen, die man benötigt.
Ich stellte sicher, dass ich einen Flug und ein Hotel (fĂŒr die erste Nacht) im Voraus gebucht hatte, sodass ich eine iranische Adresse fĂŒr meinen Aufenthalt sowie Telefonnummer und Flugdaten angeben konnte.

Außerdem benötigt man eine digitale Fotokopie des Passes und ein persönliches Foto mit spezifischen Maßen. Ich habe das Foto von mir selbst gemacht und mit einem Fotoprogramm angepasst. Das persönliche Foto muss ein VerhĂ€ltnis von 4:6 und eine DateigrĂ¶ĂŸe von maximal 500 KB haben.
Die Passkopie muss ein VerhĂ€ltnis von 8: 6 und darf ebenfalls nicht grĂ¶ĂŸer als 500 KB sein.

MĂŒssen Frauen auf ihrem Visumfoto ein Kopftuch tragen?
Nein, aber es verringert die Chance, abgelehnt zu werden. In meinem Fall habe ich meine Haare auf dem Foto nicht bedeckt (und ich bin hellblond) und wurde nach 2 Tagen akzeptiert, aber es kann sicherlich von der Person abhĂ€ngen, die den Visumantrag prĂŒft.

Hier geht’s zu den aktuellen Informationen der MFA Webite.

Step 2: Applying for the E-Visa through the MFA website

Make sure that you have a stable internet connection and preferably fill in the form on a computer and not on your phone as you should print the final page for further process. Click here to get forwarded to the official E-Visa online registration form. 
Filling in the form is easy and takes no longer than 10 minutes.
They ask for your closest Iranian consulate and the length of your stay. For me it was the Irian Consulate in Istanbul and I asked for a stay of 27 days.

After submitting the application it says to go to the nearest Iran consulate as soon as possible to hand in the original documents. In my case I waited a few days and got accepted without showing up beforehand. So I think it will be a waste of time to go there before it got accepted. But if your application is in review for more than a few days I would show up and ask for the status.

Schritt 2: Beantragung des E-Visums ĂŒber die MFA-Website

Man sollte sicher stellen, dass man ĂŒber eine stabile Internetverbindung verfĂŒgt und das Formular vorzugsweise auf einem Computer und nicht auf einem Telefon ausfĂŒllt, da man die letzte Seite fĂŒr den weiteren Vorgang ausdrucken sollte. Klicke hier, um zum offiziellen Online-Anmeldeformular fĂŒr das E-Visa zu gelangen.
Das AusfĂŒllen des Formulars ist einfach und dauert nicht lĂ€nger als 10 Minuten.
Es wird nach den nĂ€chstgelegenen iranischen Konsulat und nach der Dauer des Aufenthalts gefragt. FĂŒr mich war es das iranische Konsulat in Istanbul und ich habe einen Aufenthalt von 27 Tagen angefragt.

Nachdem man das Formular ausgefĂŒllt hat, kommt eine Meldung mit dem Hinweis  zum nĂ€chstgelegenen iranischen Konsulat zu gehen und die Originaldokumente einzureichen. In meinem Fall habe ich ein paar Tage gewartet und mein Visum wurde genehmigt, ohne vorher im Konsulat gewesen zu sein. Ich denke, es wĂ€re Zeitverschwendung dorthin zu gehen, bevor man entweder angenommen oder abgelehnt wird. Wenn der Status jedoch nach ein paar Tagen immernoch in Bearbeitung ist, wĂŒrde ich mich im Konsulat melden und nach dem Status fragen.

Step 3: Going to your nearest Iranian Consulate

After 3 days my visa application got approved. I applied on a Thursday and it got approved on Saturday. So after that I printed my application form and went to the nearest Iranian Consulate (in my case in Istanbul) with my passport.

I can just tell you about my experience with the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul as I made a few mistakes and wish I knew them before I went there.

First of all, the website and the application letter gave wrong information about the opening hours of the consulate. So I went there at 8 am to find out that it opens at 8:30 am and then got rejected because visa issues will only be handled between 2-3:30pm.

I went back at 2pm and got inside the consulate. Phones or bags are not allowed and it’s advised to wear a headscarf. Inside the consulate, there is one waiting room where you can get a waiting number. But don’t get fooled! Nobody cares about what number you have 😀

So after waiting for 1 hour to get called to the visa counter I figured out that they play “first in time, first in line”. So don’t wait. The “visa room” is divided by a glass door and there is one counter where all the people wait to speak with one officer. Just go to the counter and hand over your passport and your approved visa application letter.

After that you will get a piece of paper with an Iban Number and the amount of money you have to pay for the visa. In my case (German citizen) it was 50 EUR. So after the officer gives you this paper he won’t tell you where to pay 😀 After being confused for a while I found out that I have to leave the consulate to go to the nearest bank and pay there. They only accepted cash money, but all in all, it was an easy process. Just confusing to leave the consulate and walk to the bank. After you paid the banker will give you a receipt of your payment.

After that, you go back to the consulate and hand in your passport and the receipt. Then he will give you a piece of paper that tells you when to come back to collect your passport and visa. In my case it was 5 working days later.

Schritt 3: Zum nÀchsten Iranischen Konsulat gehen

Nach 3 Tagen wurde mein Visumantrag genehmigt. Ich habe mich an einem Donnerstag beworben und am Samstag wurde es genehmigt. Danach habe ich direkt mein Antragsformular ausgedruckt und bin mit meinem Pass zum nÀchstgelegenen iranischen Konsulat (in meinem Fall in Istanbul) gegangen.

Ich kann also nur von meiner Erfahrung mit dem iranischen Konsulat in Istanbul berichten. Ich habe ein paar Fehler gemacht wĂŒnschte, ich hĂ€tte davon gewusst, bevor ich ins Konsulat gegangen bin.

ZunĂ€chst einmal gab es keine oder falsche Angaben zu den Öffnungszeiten des Konsulats auf der Webseite, sowie auf dem Visa-Antragsformular. Ich bin also um 8 Uhr morgens dorthin gegangen, um herauszufinden, dass es um 8:30 Uhr öffnet und wurde dann wieder nach Hause geschickt, da Visa-Angelegenheiten nur zwischen 14:00 und 15:30 Uhr bearbeitet werden.

Also bin ich um 14 Uhr zurĂŒck zum Konsulat gegangen. Handys oder Taschen sind nicht erlaubt und es wird empfohlen, ein Kopftuch zu tragen. Innerhalb des Konsulats gibt es einen Warteraum, in dem man eine Wartemarke ziehen muss. Aber eigentlich ist sie sinnlos, denn niemanden interessiert diese Nummer 😀

Nachdem ich also 1 Stunde gewartet hatte, um mit meiner Wartenummer zum Visumschalter gerufen zu werden, habe ich festgestellt dass es hier nach dem Motto “wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst” abgeht. Also nicht warten, bis man aufgerufen wird. Der “Visumsraum” ist durch eine GlastĂŒr getrennt und dort gibt es einen Schalter, an dem alle Leute warten, um mit einem Beamten zu sprechen. Man muss also einfach zum Schalter gehen, sich ein bisschen durchdrĂ€ngeln und den Pass und das Visaformular durch die Luke geben.

Danach hat mir der Beamte ein StĂŒck Papier mit einer Iban-Nummer und den Betrag, den man fĂŒr das Visum zahlen muss, gegeben. In meinem Fall (deutscher StaatsbĂŒrger) waren es 50 EUR. Nachdem der Beamte also diesen Zettel gibt, sagt er auch nicht wirklich was man damit machen soll 😀 Nachdem ich einige Zeit verwirrt war, habe ich dann herausgefunden, dass man das Konsulat verlassen muss, um zur nĂ€chsten Bank zu gehen und dort zu bezahlen. In der Bank akzeptierten sie nur Bargeld, aber alles in allem war es ein einfacher Prozess. Es war nur sehr verwirrend, das man das Konsulat verlassen musste, um zur Bank zu gehen. Nachdem man bezahlt hat, erhĂ€lt man eine Quittung ĂŒber die Zahlung.

Danach geht man zurĂŒck zum Konsulat und gibt seinen Pass und die Quittung ab. Dann bekommt wieder einen Zettel auf dem steht, wann man zurĂŒckkommen soll, um den Pass und das Visum abzuholen. In meinem Fall waren es 5 Arbeitstage spĂ€ter.

Step 4: Picking up your passport and visa

After 5 days I went back to the consulate (they told me to go exactly at 3:30 pm) to collect my passport. That was easy as I just went back to the counter and showed the piece of paper with my passport number which they gave me when I left my passport there. The officer asked about my name and nationality and handed me my passport. I checked the visa and got a visa for the 27 days I applied for! 🙂

Schritt 4: Pass und Visum abholen

Nach 5 Tagen ging ich zurĂŒck zum Konsulat (sie forderten mich auf, genau um 15:30 Uhr dort zu sein), um meinen Pass abzuholen. Das ging auch echt einfach. Man muss sich wieder an den Schalter drĂ€ngeln und den Zettel mit der Passnummer zeigen, den man bekommen hat als man seinen Pass abgegeben hat. Der Beamte hat dann nur nach meinem Namen und meiner NationalitĂ€t gefragt und mir mir meinen Pass zurĂŒck gegeben. Ich habe dann geprĂŒft, ob das Visum keine Fehler enthĂ€lt und tadaa ich habe genau die 27 Tage bekommen, auf die ich mich beworben habe! 🙂

Step 5: Traveling to Iran

Now it’s time to finally travel to Iran! At the airport in Iran or at the Iranian border (if you travel over land) you just show your passport and that’s it. You’re in and ready to explore this beautiful country 🙂

Schritt 5: In den Iran reisen

Nun ist es Zeit, endlich in den Iran zu reisen! Am Flughafen im Iran oder an der iranischen Grenze (wenn man ĂŒber Land reist) legt man einfach seinen Pass vor und das wars. Man ist drin und kann endlich dieses wunderschöne Land erkunden 🙂

FAQ

In my case, I did not wear a headscarf on my photo and got easily approved for the visa. Anyways, I would not take the risk and just put a photo with a headscarf. You never know which officer looks through your application and it may differ from person to person!

It depends from case to case, where you apply and which nationality you have. In my case it took 8 working days from applying to getting the visa in my passport. Make sure to apply around 1 month before your travel to have enough time.

Yes, it’s possible to apply as many times as you want. Sometimes they reject with the reason: please apply through a travel agency. In this case I would go with a travel agency that can organize your visa.

Yes! It’s obligatory to have valid travel insurance while traveling in Iran and it’s definitely advised. It’s possible to buy a travel insurance at the airport of Tehran or just make sure to print your existing travel insurance which states that it’s valid in Iran.

FAQ

In my case, I did not wear a headscarf on my photo and got easily approved for the visa. Anyways, I would not take the risk and just put a photo with a headscarf. You never know which officer looks through your application and it may differ from person to person!

It depends from case to case, where you apply and which nationality you have. In my case it took 8 working days from applying to getting the visa in my passport. Make sure to apply around 1 month before your travel to have enough time.

Yes, it’s possible to apply as many times as you want. Sometimes they reject with the reason: please apply through a travel agency. In this case I would go with a travel agency that can organize your visa.

Yes! It’s obligatory to have valid travel insurance while traveling in Iran and it’s definitely advised. It’s possible to buy a travel insurance at the airport of Tehran or just make sure to print your existing travel insurance which states that it’s valid in Iran.

Click here to find out more about my 4-week travel in Iran as a solo female traveler!