A perfect guide of things to do in Yazd
When travelling to Iran, make sure to plan a pit stop in Yazd. Spend two days exploring the dusty streets of the UNESCO classified old-town and look into one of the many tours available to explore the Zein-O-Din caravanserai and the abandoned town of Karanagh. Read on for the perfect guide of things to do in Yazd.
The city of Yazd 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°. 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 visbible, 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 practised. These days it’s following can be found mainly in India and Iran. Read on here for detailed information about Zoroastrianism.
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 residence 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.
Right, let’s get down to business. Here is my guide of things to do in Yazd.
Please note prices are in IRR (Iranian Rials) and are those of October 2019. Prices might vary slightly due to the national price increase that happened in November 2019. Locals will use the term ‘Toman’ when talking about a price of items. This can lead to confusion. Keep in mind 1 Toman = 10 IRR. Be sure to double check if the price quoted is IRR or Toman before paying.
Things to do in Yazd
Free Walking Tour
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.
Practical details 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.
Item number two of things to do in Yazd: 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 build over the site of an old Zoroastrians 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 which 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 it’s 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 shade of green in them.
Practical details for visiting the Jameh Mosque
Time spent: We spent about an hour in total (taking pictures in the front, looking for the side entrance and sneaking inside to have a look)
Entrance Fee: Tourist fee to enter is IRR80.000
Best time to go: Sunrise for photography, after prayer time for a visit (after 08.00 in the morning)
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 handicraft 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 cypres tree
5. Seti Fatemeh Khatoon Mausoleum: The mausoleum of the wife of the governor
6. Public Bathouse
Practical details for visiting the Amir Chakmaq Complex
Entrance fee: Fee IRR200.000
How to get there: 16 minute walk from the Jameh Mosque
Recommended Time Spent: One hour
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.
Practical details for visiting the Bagh e Dolat
How to get there: 30 minute walk from the Jameh Mosque
Time spent: One to Two hours
Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
Zoroastrian Towers of Silence
Next on the list of things to see in Yazd is a burial ground. At the risk of sounding morbid, this place was probably one of my favourites in Yazd. Morbid? Oh yes, welcome to the ancient Zorastrian burial ground. You are reading that right, I am getting excited over a cemetery that was still in use until about 40 years ago. Just wait, it gets even more gruesome.
Let’s start at the beginning, 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 is immediately taken out of the home and laid out in the open in certain designated places (these places are called 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 off 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 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 on to 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 here and listened to our guide explain the process of laying out the bodies. A family with a little boy came inside the circle, the little boy happily hopped and skipped around blissfully unaware of the history which made the experience that bit more surreal.
We descended in silence, once again huffing and puffing. My brain was busy trying to process exactly what we had just witnessed and my body was desperately trying to survive the heat. Once we got down the stairs, the eerie feeling started to subside and we made a beeline for a place with some shadow. The place with shadow proved to be a great vantage point to get a shot of the circular building/burial ground.
Practical details for visiting the Zoroastrian Tower of Silence
Entrance Fee: IRR80.000
Time spent visiting: Two Hours
Getting 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 old city at the Yazd Art 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 tasty food and drinks menu.
The views speak for themselves! This little café is a pretty popular spot, especially for the 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.
Practical details for visiting the Yazd Art House
Location: Next to Chehel Mehrab Mosque
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.
Entrance fee: IRR50.000
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 practised on this site since 400 BC.
There is a neat museum which gives a brief explanation into 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 to many buildings dotted around Yazd in either mud brick of colourful tiles. This is because the design is not Iranian, rather it is based on designs coming from the Zoroastrians in India.
Practical details for visiting the Atash Behram
Entrance fee: IRR 150.000
Required time to visit: 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
Things to do outside of Yazd – Daytrips
A Caravanserai is an basically an ancient hotel. Traditionally these were built around the trade routes to house the weary travellers. Many Caravanserai were built during the Safavid era (999 to be precise) in the 16th and 17th century 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 it’s heritage is now a beautiful hotel for weary travellers 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 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.
Practical details for visiting the Caravanserai
Stay of visit: 30 minutes (time to get a cup of black tea)
Entrance Fee: There is no entrance fee
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
Kharanaq might not be on most peoples list of things to do in Yazd, but they would be missing out. This abandoned village offers you a unique view into 17th century farming village life. The little village used to flourish thanks to the surrounding farmland, 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.
Practical details for visiting the Kharanaq village
Location: 70 km away from centre of Yazd
Time spent exploring: Less than one hour
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 with 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 if you are one person and IRR4.950.000 if you are 4 people
Both options are offered by pretty much every local tour agency. We booked a tour via TermehTravel.
I hope this list of things to do in Yazd was useful and has convinced you not 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 places has to offer.
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