Deep in the desert lies a city surrounded by windcatchers and Caravanserai. Permanently veiled in a thin layer of sand, the UNESCO classified old-town of Yazd is the quintessential desert oasis. Learn about the Zoroastrianism religion, watch the sunset while nipping at a rosewater cocktail and so much more. Time to discover the multitude of things to do in Yazd.
The city of Yazd in Iran is located smack in the middle of a desert and surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is the driest city in the country and has blistering hot summers with temperatures upwards of 40°. If you are not a fan of heat, avoid late April through to the beginning of October.
It’s hard to explain, but walking around Yazd was a very peaceful experience. People in Iran are very friendly and helpful in general, but somehow the residents of Yazd take those traits to the next level. We were met by so many smiles and helping hands, I lost count of the amount of ‘Mamnoons’ (thank you) I uttered in a day.
Please note prices are in IRR (Iranian Rials) and are those of October 2019.
Please note Iranians will often use Tomans to talk about price and not Rials this can lead to confusion. Just keep in mind that 1 Toman is equal to 10 Rials.
Things to do in Yazd
To combat the heat the architects of old came up with an ingenious solution in the form of wind catchers (bâdgir), qanats, and underground cooling areas. While the latter two are not necessarily very visible, you will be hard-pressed to no see the bâdgir. Going bâdgir spotting should be on your list of things to do in Yazd.
Aside from interesting architecture, the city is an important hub for Zoroastrianism. Zoro what? Don’t worry, that was my exact reaction upon hearing someone talk about this specific religion. It is actually one of the oldest religions practiced. These days its following can be found mainly in India and Iran. Read on here for detailed information about Zoroastrianism.
Read more about Iran: If you are planning a longer trip to Iran, you might want to
check out my two-week itinerary for some inspiration.
Free walking tour of Yzad
Number one on the list of things to do in Yazd is a free walking tour. Take a leisurely stroll through the maze of streets in Old Town. This part of the city is classified by UNESCO and holds more than a few wonderful sights. Google Maps does not always work in these little streets, so why not take a free walking tour.
Length of walk: 2 hours
Price: Based upon tips
More information: The tour is free, but you do need to sign up for it. You can do so here.
Jameh Mosque Yazd
This beautiful mosque is an absolute must-see tourist attraction in Yazd. It was built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 14th century after it fell into disrepair. As is the case with many mosques in Iran, it was built over the site of an old Zoroastrian fire temple.
The temples in Yazd are adorned with beautiful turquoise tile work, which is very different from the mosques in Isfahan and Shiraz. The Jameh Mosque offers a great example to see this tile work in action. And what is even more interesting is the shade of turquoise changes as the soft morning light falls on it. The sun rises on the opposite side of the Jameh Mosque entrance, which means the early morning is the best time to visit and witness the different shades of turquoise.
Important to note is that this mosque is a working mosque, which means it can only be visited during certain hours when believers are not in the middle of their prayers.
It is worth going inside to have a look at the beautifully tiled Mihrab ( a niche in the wall that faces the Kaabi in Mecca, and indicates the direction one needs to pray). We went early in the morning to catch the soft light of the morning reflecting off the tiles. (Un)fortunately, we went on the eve of a religious festival and the mosque was adorned with black flags which meant we did not get to see the entrance in its full glory.
Tip: Be sure to also visit the side entrance of the mosque. The tiles there are a bit different too because they have a shade of green in them.
Entrance Fee: Tourist fee to enter is IRR80.000
Time spent: 30 min – 1 hour
Best time to go: Sunrise for photography, after prayer time for a visit (after 08.00 AM)
Amir Chakmaq Complex
This tourist attraction in Yazd was built on the order of the Yazd Governor in the 15th century. The complex holds his name (Governor Jalal ed-Din Amir Chakmaq Shami). Sadly it was closed for the religious festival when we visited so I can only list the items to see, but frankly have no first-hand experience on the matter. Let me know if you go and how it was!
These are the various parts of the complex:
1. Mosques (a new Jameh Mosque, Dohouk Mosque, Amir Chakhmaq Mosque)
2. The Haji Ghanbar Bazaar: Still in use today, the perfect spot to find beautiful Yazdian handicrafts here
3. Amir Chakmaz Tekyeh: The minarets were used for the call to prayer
4. Amir Chakhmaq Historical Nakhl: A giant wooden coffin in the shape of a cypress tree
5. Seti Fatemeh Khatoon Mausoleum: The mausoleum of the wife of the governor
6. Public Bathhouse
Entrance fee: Fee IRR200.000
Time Spent: One hour
How to get there: 16-minute walk from the Jameh Mosque
Bagh e Dolat Abad Yazd (Dowlat Abad Garden)
Item number four of things to do in Yazd is a beautiful Persian garden in the middle of the desert. This Unesco classified garden contains pomegranate and orange trees and is built according to the blueprint of a traditional Persian garden.
In the middle of the garden, you can find a captivating building, which was once the private home of the Persian Regent Karim Khan Zand. He had the house built in the 18th century when stained glass was the height of architectural fashion. Needless to say, you will find an abundance in this house.
In addition, the house has a 33-meter tall Bâdgir. What is extra cool about this house, is the fact you can actually walk underneath the Bâdgir and have a look at how it works.
Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
Time spent: One to Two hours
How to get there: 30-minute walk from the Jameh Mosque
Zoroastrian Towers of Silence
The next thing to do in Yazd is a little morbid, as it involved visiting an ancient burial site. According to Zoroastrian tradition once you die, your body becomes impure and is at risk of being inhabited by demons. To avoid this from happening, the body was immediately taken out of the home and laid out in the open in certain designated places (dakhmas).
The bodies were carried all the way up the hill (in those days there were not even any stairs) and placed inside the round building. The bodies of the men would be placed in the outer circle, women in the middle, and children in the inner circle. The bodies were left exposed to the natural elements and vultures would come and eat the flesh (told you gruesome).
About 40 years ago, this process was made illegal in Iran and the current day Dakhmas fell into an array. These days they are visited by a vast number of tourists.
The day we went it was blistering hot (it was October, at the end of Autumn), and walking up the steps had me huffing and puffing. All I could think about was “how in the world did people carry up bodies in this heat and without stairs?”. After 10 minutes we reached the top and made our way inside the round building onto the plateau where the bodies would be placed.
It was the oddest feeling to be walking here knowing how many millions of bodies had been placed here and picked clean of any flesh. It was intriguing and slightly horrifying all at the same time. We stood there and listened to our guide explain the process of laying out the bodies.
Entrance Fee: IRR80.000
Time spent: Two Hours
How to get there: 11 km from the Jameh Mosque. Grab a taxi for IRR90.000
Side note: Getting up to the top will require a 15-minute hike with stairs.
Watching the sunset in the ol cirt at the Yazd House
Item number six of the list of things to do in Yazd is paying a visit to the lovely Yazd Art House. This locally run café has great views and a very tasty food and drinks menu.
The views speak for themselves! This little café is a pretty popular spot, especially for tourists. Make sure to get there early or alternatively you can reserve a table so you are sure to have a spot to watch the sun dip behind the mountains.
The ground floor has a handicraft shop, which is worth a little browse if you want to bring back a unique trinket for home.
Entrance fee: IRR50.000
When to go: Come for sunset and watch the soft light glow over the baght ghirs. Added bonus they have a very good selection of beverages and food.
Atashkadeh (Yazd Atash Behram)
The number seven in the guide of things to do in Yazd is the Atash Behram. It refers to means the victorious fire and according to sources it has been burning since 470 AD. It is the only Atash Behram in Iran, the other eight are located in India. The fire is kept behind tinted glass and guarded over very ceremoniously. As a non-Zoroastrian, you can only witness the fire from behind the glass.
The temple itself was built in the 20th century but religion has been practiced on this site since 400 BC.
There is a neat museum that gives a brief explanation of the Zoroastrian religion, their belief system, and a couple of their core rituals. Worth walking around to get some feel for what value system of the Zoroastrians. The building is in stark contrast to many buildings dotted around Yazd in either mud-brick or colorful tiles. This is because the design is not Iranian, rather it is based on designs coming from the Zoroastrians in India.
Entrance fee: RR 150.000
Time spent: 45 minutes
How to get there: 30-minute walk from the Jameh Mosque
When to go: We went in the late afternoon and it was practically empty
Additional things to do in and around Yazd
Caravanserai were traditionally built around the trade routes to house weary travelers. Many Caravanserai were built during the Safavid era (999 to be precise) in the 16th and 17th centuries to promote trade along the Silk Route.
To stay here one had to pay an entry fee and the room fee. In exchange, the managers of the Caravanserai would provide a safe place for the merchants, their servants, and their goods to stay.
This particular Caravanserai has been completely refurbished and in keeping with its heritage is now a beautiful hotel for weary travelers to stay. We did not stay here this time around but did stop for a cup of tea and a small snack.
The place itself looked really cool and is a very popular place for tour groups to stay. If you do want to book a night here, make sure to book well in advance because it is usually fully booked. (you can book the hotel here. Depending on the type of room expect to pay between 37 USD and 150 USD.
If you visit, make sure to pop up to the roof to see the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
How to get there: It is located 60 km away from Yazd, on the road to Kerman
There is no public transport so you need to either have your own car or rent one. If you decide to rent a car with a guide, try and combine this Caravanserai and the Kharanaq Abandoned village (see below). Price for the car with guide: Around IRR9.070.000
Kharanaz Abandoned Village
Kharanaz might not be on most people’s list of things to do in Yazd, but they would be missing out. This abandoned village offers you a unique view of 17th-century farming village life. The little village used to flourish thanks to the surrounding farmland, but drought bought farming activities to a standstill and the village fell into disarray.
These days the village is divided into two parts: the old town (nearly completely deserted) and the newer part (reportedly containing 130 families).
We went around sunset and enjoyed watching the soft light of golden hour turn the orange mud-brick houses into deep hues of orange. While navigating the streets, archways, and remnants of houses was a lot of fun, I was glad to have a guide with us. We still managed to get lost a few times, and ended up with the torches of our phones trying to find the way back to the car.
Important to note is the material the village is made out of is mud bricks. Some of these structures are over 300 years old and very frail. They are not made to clamber on, as they will crumble and fall to pieces.
Location: 70 km away from center of Yazd
Time spent exploring: Less than one houre
Best time to go: We went at golden hour. The only disadvantage is when it gets dark, the streets become even harder to navigate. Make sure to have some form of light with you.
How to get there: There is no way to get to Kharanaq by public transport, therefore you have two different options:
1. Rent a driver with a guide for the day: IRR9.070.000
2. A tour package combining Kharanagh-Chak Chak and Maybod: IRR12.375.000 (1 person tour); IRR4.950.000 (4 person tour). We booked a tour via TermehTravel.
I hope this list of things to do in Yazd was useful and has convinced you not to skip this charming city. Two days are more than enough to get a good feel of the city, three is better because it leaves you with some extra time to soak in all the smiles and genuine good vibes this place has to offer.
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