Iran Diary #5: Yazd & Persepolis

I took the bus from Isfahan to Yazd (170.000 rials for a 4-hour ride; the staff at Ragrug Hostel booked the ticket for me.) The view along the way was unremarkable as usual, and I dozed off a little, until I was woken by a drop in the temperature and realized we were driving through snow-covered mountains.

The joke was on me. I’d planned my North-South route to get away from the cold, yet so far Tehran had been the warmest. But a bigger joke was waiting in Yazd. See, Yazd is a desert town. It being winter, I didn’t expect scorching heat or anything like that, but what I definitely didn’t expect was a flood. That’s right, this desert city was flooded!

Thankfully, the old town was not flooded, but the rain was relentless and my mood was dampened considerably. So instead of staying a full day and leaving for Shiraz by bus the next afternoon like I had planned, I decided to take another transfer tour from Yazd to Shiraz via Persepolis the very next morning. I was going to Persepolis anyway, and as it lies between Yazd and Shiraz, this would save me a long bus ride (the transfer tour was 40 euros including a guide). My hostel, Tarooneh (a very nice, family-run place), organized the driver/guide for me, and since I had to leave quite early, the owner even brought breakfast to my room. So considerate!

That gave me just an evening in Yazd, and it was raining cats and dogs. No matter. I headed out anyway. Yazd’s old town is a bit like Kashan’s – all winding alleys and mud walls – but larger. And it was quiet, which was a nice change after the hubbub of Isfahan.

The alleys of Yazd

The wind catchers outside my hostel

Of course, I couldn’t resist a cat photo

I went to all the usual sights – the Amir Chaghmaq square, the Jameh mosque, and the Atash Behram fire temple. I don’t know if it was the rain or not, but they didn’t leave much of an impression on me; mostly they were just shelters from the rain. It was pretty awe-inspiring to visit the fire temple, though, considering the fact that its sacred fire has been burning for over 1500 years.

The square

The fire temple

The Faravahar symbol of Zoroastrianism


The sacred fire

The Jameh Mosque

Funnily enough, my fondest memory of Yazd is a little thing. As I trudged back to the hostel in the rain, I suddenly came upon the best smell in the world – bread baking. It was from a small bakery where a group of locals were waiting to buy the freshly made bread, and when I indicated with my camera, they all invited me inside to take photos and watched the bakers at work. How nice of them!

The baker was working so fast his hands were a blur in all the photos

The next morning, I got picked up at 7 and driven through an imposing mountain range, all covered in the fluffiest, most pristine snow I’ve ever seen – it was gorgeous.

If it wasn’t for the blue dome of the mosque…


… you’d think this is the Rockies.

The tour includes three stops – Pasagardae, the Naqsh-e Rustam necropolis, and Persepolis. Pasagardae, frankly, can be skipped – it’s just a tomb and some ruins, nothing to write home about except it works as a built-up to Persepolis.

The tomb of Cyrus the Great

Naqsh-e Rustam is much more impressive – four tombs cut high into a rock cliff, believed to belong to ancient Persian kings, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. It blew my mind to think how long it must’ve taken to finish them.


Look just how tiny the person is compared to the tomb

Finally, after a quick lunch, we arrived at the climactic conclusion of the tour – Persepolis. From the entrance, you walk up to the terrace and climb the stairs to the Gate of All Nations, just as the delegates of ancient times would when they arrived in Persepolis to see the King (Persepolis, which existed from around 500 BC to 300 BC before it was destroyed by Alexander the Great, was more of an administrative/ceremonial complex rather than an actual city for people to live in.)

Panorama of the front entrance

The Gate of All-Nations

A griffin capital, used to hold up the rafts on the ceiling

The place is absolutely huge, and a guide is highly recommended so you know where to go and understand the story behind the ruins. For me, the most remarkable thing about Persepolis is the patience and the precision it took to complete all those buildings (my guide, the aptly named Darius, said that people today lack patience to make such art, which I think is absolutely true). To touch the carvings really feels like you’re touching history.

Even the graffiti are historical

The tomb of either Artaxerxes II or III (I forgot which) tucked into the hill behind Persepolis

This carving is high up, which is why it’s so pristine

Another thing is that all the buildings used to be painted brightly back in the day. It may look dignified now with the weathered stone, but what I wouldn’t give to see it in all of its original, colorful glory.

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3 Comments on “Iran Diary #5: Yazd & Persepolis”

  1. Kezzie says:

    Ahrgh it lost my comment!!!!! I wondered if they filmed Indiana Jones here as it really reminds me of the place where the Holy Grail was hidden! It is SO incredible! What a hugely interesting place to visit- it’s so vast. The snow is beautiful too! I’d love to see what it was like in the past too!
    Can’t believe there was a flood in the desert!


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