If you’re an independent traveler planning your trip to Iran, you might feel overwhelmed. When you search online you’ll find dozens of personal recommendations of places to see and cities to visit. Each of them as appealing as the next. But for a first-time visit, you want to make a balanced travel itinerary for Iran. You want to see the main highlights but with room for a little time to wander. You want to see as much as possible, without cramming too much in. Although I didn’t see the whole country, I was pretty happy with my self-made travel plan for Iran and what I saw. Here is my 2 weeks Iran travel itinerary as guidance for planning your first trip to Iran.
1 day in Tehran
Although, the other cities in Iran are well connected with Europe and the Middle Eastern region, it is very likely that you’ll fly into Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran. You can apply for your visa on arrival if you meet the requirements.
It is also very likely that your Iran travel itinerary will start at night, as most flights arrive after midnight. After a short night sleep, go out for breakfast and explore your surrounding neighborhood. And after your very first acquaintances with the capital city of Iran, it is time to head to the Golastan Palace for some Persian sight-seeing.
After a quick lunch at the nearby bazaar, I decided to take the metro with my new friends, to head to the mountains near Darband. As it was late February, the snow at this point was already gone and it got dark early, but we did see and experienced a lot of Tehran on our way.
The next morning, I enjoyed breakfast at a local place, just looking at people passing by before I headed to the airport to fly to Shiraz.
Time crunching tip: If you’re short on time, consider to fly out the same night. There are regular flights to Shiraz all day of the week.
Time stretching tip: If you have more time, you can visit the Imam Khomeini Shrine and the view tower overlooking Tehran.
3 days in Shiraz
I absolutely loved Shiraz and I felt I could have spent weeks there. But I only had 3 days of my Iran travel itinerary saved for this southern city.
As I arrived in the afternoon, I had some time to explore and wander around. I visited the bazaar, had tea in a tea house and again, entertained myself with looking at local life and having small conversations with friendly Shirazi people.
The next day, my alarm went off very early. I wanted to visit the Pink Mosque of Shiraz as soon as it opened to avoid the crowds and have the best light. Some people need half an hour to visit the Pink Mosque in Shiraz, I enjoyed the sight for over 2 hours.
After this, I explored more of the Vakil Bazaar and spend some time at the Vakil Mosque too. I visited the Kharim Khan castle and enjoyed tea with an Iranian family.
Later, I explored more of the bazaar with a local shop owner, who took me to a viewpoint to oversee the whole of Shiraz. After more tea, I found a nice place to have dinner, that lasted all night.
On the third day in Shiraz, it was again an early start to see the famous sights of Persepolis and Parsargadae. As I love archeology and the ancient world, I wanted to do the full day tour to see as much as possible. Obviously, it did not disappoint and a visit to Persepolis should be on anyone’s Iran travel itinerary if you love history.
After a long and tiring day, I still wanted to visit the Shah Cheragh Shrine at night, which gave me great insights into Muslim religion and Iranian religious beliefs.
Time crunching tip: If you’re short on time, you can do a half day tour of Persepolis. Another time saving tip is to book a tour with onwards transport to Yazd. As Persepolis is on the route from Shiraz to Yazd it will save time in transit.
Time stretching tip: If you have more time, visit the tombs of famous Shirazi poets Hafez and Saadi. Shiraz also hosts many green parks which I sadly did not explore.
Find more colours on Hormuz Island, the Rainbow Island of Iran.
3 days in Yazd
In the morning, I still wandered around Shiraz and contemplated about going to the Pink Mosque again but instead a long breakfast with a new friend won. I took the bus to Yazd, which took a good 6 to 7 hours before I arrived in this desert town. I walked around town in the evening but it was a special holiday, so all shops were closed.
On my second day in Yazd, I decided to join a morning walking tour of Yazd. We overlooked the city from the rooftop terraces and we entered some amazing courtyard gardens.
By now, I might have been a little tired from all the early morning rises and impressions so I took things slow for the rest of the day. I checked out the mosques and enjoyed some Iranian sweets at the food stalls for the festival.
On the last day in Yazd, I took a tour in the morning to Chak-Chak, Kharanagh, and Mehbod. I loved driving around and not be in the city all the time. I enjoyed the nature, the mountains and I learned a lot. As we got back late in the afternoon, I missed my tour to the desert. Instead, I decided to hire a taxi driver who took me to the sand dunes outside of Yazd to see the sunset.
Time crunching tip: You can see Yazd, the desert and do a tour of Chak-Chak and Mehbod in one full day or one and a half day. To save time, you can do this tour and continue your Iran travel itinerary from Yazd to Esfahan, as Mehbod is on the way.
Time stretching tip: I didn’t visit the Tower of Silence or other Zoroastrian sights in Yazd or outside the city. Yazd was for me a city to relax and just be.
If you have more time in Iran, consider some off the beaten path destinations that are worth the time.
3 days in Esfahan
I continued by bus to Esfahan where I arrived in the afternoon. I decided to explore the city on foot and walked almost the whole afternoon. In the evening I met up with someone from couch surfing who showed me the different bridges of the city. This was a lovely sight in the evening.
On my 2nd day in Esfahan, I explored the sights around Naqsh-e Jahan Square. I visited the main sights which took almost all morning. I met up with another new Iranian friend to have lunch in the afternoon and see the Armenian Cathedral in Esfahan.
The rest of the day, I spend eating and talking with new friends.
The third day wasn’t any different. When you travel 2 weeks in Iran, you inevitable meet new friends, travelers and Iranians. It is fun to share experiences and stories and before you know it, you finished your plate of fluffy saffron rice and kebab and it is time for dinner again. In between, I shopped for souvenirs at the bazaar of Esfahan.
Time crunching tip: To save time, you can do less shopping, shorter eating, less talking with new friends. You could do that but I don’t recommend it. Esfahan seems actually perfect to do all that.
Time stretching tip: I’m sure I’m going to piss off many Esfahani people when I say that Esfahan doesn’t have a million major tourist attractions. However, you can easily spend your full 2 weeks Iran travel itinerary in Esfahan with enjoying the city. Eat, walk, talk and eat some more. Esfahan is there to enjoy.
1 day in the desert near Varsanah
As I enjoyed being outside of the city in Yazd, I decided to go ahead and book a tour from Esfahan. It was not really clear what the itinerary would be, but I was promised salt flats, some villages and sand dunes. We’d sleep near Varsanah at a local guesthouse.
Together with some other travelers, I hopped in the car and off we went. For a full day, we drove, stopped, explored. We saw mud-brick villages, stopped at the salt flats, enjoyed playing in the sand of the sand dunes and enjoyed tea at the local guesthouse. For sunset, we went to an abandoned caravanserai and I enjoyed the home-cooked food of the guesthouse. We talked, laughed, watched the stars and enjoyed ourselves. The next day, the rest of the tour continued to Yazd and I went back to Esfahan.
2 days in Kashan
From Esfahan I took the bus to Kashan. Only a short ride away, I checked into my guesthouse and walked around town. I loved the liveliness of the bazaar and drank many cups of tea with the friendly people. I checked out a few mosques and enjoyed a long slow cooked dinner.
The next day, I had asked a taxi driver to chauffeur me around all day. We first went to Abyaneh and I explored the red city for a few hours. Of course, I bought dried apples from one of the aged ladies in town and I climbed to a viewpoint to overlook the city.
I enjoyed lunch back in Kashan, before I went to the Fin gardens to marvel at the lush greenery and cool fountains in this oasis of Kashan. After this, we drove for a good hour and went to the desert near Kashan. This was my 3rd desert of my 2 weeks in Iran and although not new anymore, it was still a unique experience.
Time crunching tip: Although I think my time in Kashan was pretty packed and I optimized it by seeing a lot in one day, you can also book a half day tour to Abyaneh and Kashan from Tehran or Esfahan (or again, en-route from one to the other).
1 day in Tehran
As my 2-week itinerary for Iran came to an end, it was time to head back to Tehran for 1 final day and my flight back home. I took the bus from Kashan bus station. By now, I was pretty tired, otherwise I could have made a quick stop and visit to Qom.
Instead, I went straight to Tehran and took the metro to my hostel. I went for one final shopping spree at a local bazaar and had one final delicious dinner in Iran. My 2 weeks in Iran had finished.
2 weeks Iran Travel Itinerary
I didn’t see everything and I didn’t do everything. But to see Iran in 2 weeks is a good time frame for a first-time visit. 2 weeks is also manageable to plan your own travel itinerary without being overwhelmed with options.
Are you a first timer, planning your own 2 weeks in Iran? Or have you traveled to Iran yourself? Let me know what you think of my 2 weeks Iran travel itinerary in the comment section below.
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