A practical guide to Kashan Iran
Kashan is a city in the North of the Isfahan province. For Iranian standards it is not very big (roughly 400.000 inhabitants) and the good news is that the historical sites I have mentioned below are all reachable on foot. Personally I liked Kashan, but it does not rank in my top three cities to travel in Iran. Nevertheless, I wrote a guide to Kashan in the hopes you do not skip this city regardless of my personal opinion.
The city felt a bit more traditional, I am just going to come out and say it – the city felt more religious in every sense of the word. Coming straight out of Tehran, the sight of many women wearing black chadors or at the very least black hijabs and very loose fitting black clothes could not have been a starker contrast. Granted, we were there on the eve of a religious festival so I would probably have to go back and see if this sea of black is the norm or rather reserved for special religious occasions.
On the whole, Kashan is a lot less explored by mainstream tourists which as such is not a bad thing however the result was many curious stares. The stares I received were mainly from the male population, who were very clearly slightly intrigued by a blond tourist in a bright orange dress. It is important to note that at no moment in time I felt unsafe, it was more of a slight discomfort that was not experienced elsewhere in Iran afterwards.
As mentioned I did conscientiously write a guide to Kashan because it is very much worth visiting. Two days are more than enough to see the sights of the city and keep you busy. Here is a list of places that will keep both your eyes and your camera very busy. I hope you have flexed your index finger, because it will be clicking away a huge amount of pictures in Kashan.
If you are planning a longer trip to Iran, you might want to check out my two week itinerary for some inspiration.
All prices are in IRR (Iranian Rials) and based upon March 2020 prices. 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 see in Kashan – Inside the city
Fin garden (Bagh-e Fin)
This traditional garden dates back to the 16th and 17th century making it the oldest garden in Iran. It is also the site of a murder! Oh yes, you see in the 19th century the ruling Shad decided to have his chancellor Amir Kabir assassinated in this very garden. From what I gather Amir was reformist and the ruling Monarchy was not having anything to do with him.
As is traditionally the case with Persian gardens, perfect geometry and plenty of water features can be found in this garden. An hour before closing, the garden was practically empty aside from a few families enjoying the tranquillity that can be found here. The tranquillity is the main reason why the Fin Garden is in this guide to Kashan because it offers the perfect escape from the city!
Practical details for visiting the Fin Garden
Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
How to get there: 20 min drive from the Kashan Bazar. Hop in a taxi and go!
When to go: Go around sunset for peace and quiet and the best light.
Opening hours: Every day from 09.00 – 16.30
Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse
While the rest of the world was emerging from the late Middle Ages, Persia was busy building magnificent bathhouses. In terms of priorities, I think these guys knew what they were doing.
The Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is without a doubt one of the fanciest bathhouses I have had the pleasure of setting my eyes on. It was built during the 16th century (Safavid dynasty) and reconstructed in the 17th century during the Qajar era.
These days it no longer functions as a bathhouse but it does give a sneak peek into where the Persians of old would go for a good wash. Men and women had separate entrances and would also frequent different parts of the bathhouse as was the custom in those days.
When you visit, be sure to go up on the roof and have a look. The roof was one of my favourite places to visit in Kashan because it is so unlike anything else. With the beautiful domes in various different shapes and even a view over a windcatcher in the distance this roof is firmly planted on the top of the things to do in this guide to Kashan.
The person seated at the entrance was not a huge fan of us going up on the roof and taking pictures in a dress. If you are planning on taking pictures, be sure to tell the person and to press upon them that you will keep away from the edges so people in the street cannot see you prancing around on the roof.
Practical details for visiting the Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse
Entrance fee: IRR155.000
How to get there: 20 min walk from the Kashan Bazar
When to go: We went in the morning and it was crowded. To get the best light on the roof go around opening.
Opening hours: Every day 09.00 – 16.30
Agha Bozorg Mosque
This mosque is one of the main attractions of Kashan, and has been so since it was built in the 18th century. What was a bit peculiar at the time of building is that this mosque also houses a Madrasa (school) in the same building. In fact, the Madrasa is located below the mosque.
It is also the first mosque in this little two week Iran travel guide! Which is befitting because it was equally the first mosque I visited during my travel in Iran and it was unlike any other mosque I was to see in the next two weeks. You see, it is adorned with intricate designs and tile work but in a subtler way. The tile work in Isfahan, Yazd and Shiraz is a lot more vibrant and colourful while the Agha Bezorg Mosque plays with hints of turquoise and utilised geometrical patterns to it’s advantage.
When you walk in, you are treated to this beautiful sight right away. This is also the only place where you can take a picture without a chador. For the rest of the visit a chador is mandatory, and the lady at the entrance way will make very sure you do not enter without one. She will also help you put it on, in case you are a first timer like I was. The use of the chador was newly implemented halfway through 2019, so you might catch images on social media of people walking in without the Chador but I can tell you it is very much mandatory as of now.
Practical details for visiting the Agha Bozorg Mosque
Entrance fee: IRR300.000
How to get there: 5 min walk from the Kashan Bazar
When to go: We went in the morning right around opening and had the place to ourselves. Around 10.00 the first busses with tourists arrived and it got very busy?
Opening hours: Every day 09.30 – 18.00
What to wear: As a women you will be given a Chador at the entrance of the mosque
When it comes to places to visit in Iran, you will see your fair share of bazaars (marketplace). The Kashan Bazaar is a beautiful example of a traditional bazaar. Situated at the centre of the city and still in use today, this 19th century bazaar will give you a good sense of the city. A great place to go and have some tea is the Timche-ye Amin od-Dowleh section of the bazar. Be sure to have a sit and look up at the amazing ceiling in this section.
Walk around and enjoy the many items on sale in the bazar. If you decide to purchase anything, be sure to haggle down the price with about 30%. Always do this in a respectful manner, getting angry or worse, rude will not get you anywhere.
Traditional Houses of Kashan
My first impressions of Kashan were (aside from the staring), that there were a lot of seemingly rundown buildings made out of mud-bricks. Little did I know that behind these walls there were some of the most exquisite traditional houses build by wealthy merchants in the 19th century. To make it easy I have summed up a few of my favourite ones that can simply not be omitted from any Iran travel guide in my humble opinion.
Abbasi house: IRR150.000
Home of a wealthy glass merchant back in the day. No costs were saved to build this exquisite home. Expect to be engulfed by beautiful colourful stained glass which somehow the architect of the time made look absolutely beautiful.
Tabatabai House: IRR300.000
Built for the wealthy and influential Tabatabei family by the same architect who designed the Borujerdi house and the Kashan Bazar. The family dealt in carpets, which was clearly big business.
The house is a ‘mere’ 5000 square meters and myriad of colourful tiles, mirrors and stained glass. Somehow this eclectic perfectly geometrical architecture pulls together in a stunning property.
Borujerdi house: IRR300.000
This was my absolute favourite house. I kept uttering gushing words and got downright goose bumps walking into this property. The house was built for the bride of the wealthy merchant Borujerdi. The girl happened to be part of the Tabatabai family, so obviously her new houses needed to be at least, if not more special than her own house.
It took 18 years to build this place, and it was without a doubt worth it. This house also has a fantastic roof, one which is sadly not open to the public for visiting at this time.
Ameriha House: IRR150.000 or free
This beautiful house doubles as a hotel and museum. If you go for a tea the entrance is free!
Originally built as the house of the Governor of Kashan. The house is huge, coming in at around 9000 square meters and is a hotel these days. They also have a lovely restaurant/tea house. The tea house is located at the bottom of the stair in the main courtyard. If you decide to purchase an item it the restaurant/tea house the entrance to this house is free.
Things to see in Kashan – Daytrips
No guide to Kashan would be complete without the addition of these two locations, one a little closer and easier to get to, the other further out but oh so worth the drive!
Abyaneh Village (The Red Village)
The Abyaneh village is also known as the red village. The reason for the name is pretty obvious when you get there, the whole village is red! There is a high level of Iron Oxide in the soil, which leaves a red colour. The village itself is a window into the history of Iran. Nestled deep in the mountains, both the architecture and the population have kept their heritage. You will find many old people in this village, the women wear beautiful white scarves with bright coloured flowers. While the men will be spotting a black vest a wide trousers. The houses are made out of mud-brick and you will find no tiles here, but an abundance of lattice work and wooden balconies.
The little village is actually a very popular tourist destination with locals due its relative proximity to Kashan (1,5hours drive) and Isfahan (2,5hours drive). It is getting harder and harder to get a grasp of the heritage this village is known for, due to tourism. My advice would be to wander through the street and observe the locals, grab yourself a cup of tea and people watch. The village is small, so you do not need to worry about getting lost. And if you do, there is always someone on hand to help you out.
Practical details for visiting the Abyaneh Village
Location: The village is about 75 min drive from Kashan.
How to get there: There is no public transport to get here, so you will need to rely on a taxi or a private tour.
Cost price: A taxi ride will set you back about IRR1.650.000 (this is taking into account a short stop of about 2 hours in the village). You could also book a guided tour with one of the agencies for about IRR9.070.000
Shrine of Hilal Ibn Ali (in Aran Bidgol)
This beautiful place is a shrine to Hilal ibn Ali, the son of imam Ali who was the cousin and son-in-law to the prophet Muhammad. As with all shrines women are obliged to wear a Chador and have to use a separate entrance then men. The chadors are provided and are free of charge. Everyone is requested to take off their shoes before entering the shrine itself. The entrance to the shrine is free.
Please note this a place of worship, therefore it is encouraged to leave your camera gear by the door and to enjoy this place with your eyes and if really necessary the camera of your phone.
Practical details for visiting the Shrine of Hilal Ibn Ali
Location: The shrine is about 25 min drive from Kashan.
How to get there: There are no public busses so a taxi is your best bet. You could opt to have your taxi driver wait for you to finish your visit, or grab one of the taxis driving around the city to pop back into Kashan
Cost price: IRR550.000 for a taxi (to and back to Kashan)
How to get to Kashan
How to get there from Tehran
Mode of transport: Take a VIP Bus from one of Tehran’s bus terminals it is about a 2,5 ride.
Price: Between IRR 160.000 and 250.000 depending on the type of bus you choose (VIP bus or regular bus).
Booking tickets: Bus tickets are best booked in advance and online. You can go to the station to book, but you might be hard pressed to find someone who speaks English.
I booked by tickets through these guys and ended up taking a VIP bus, which was very clean and very comfortable. There was a screen with entertainment and we were given a water bottle and a something to nibble on.
Important to note, is that there are no toilets on the busses. Good thing the bus will stop regularly if you have a long ride ahead of you.
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