Embracing an Iranian Winter: 7 reasons to visit Iran in its off-season
Iran is a realm of contrasting landscapes and cultures. The climate is no exception and in winter you may be driving through heavy snow in the Zagros mountains and within 100 km be enjoying mild, sunny weather in Shiraz! Iran can be visited all year round, although you might need to adjust your itinerary accordingly. We explain 7 reasons why you should visit Iran this winter. We also suggest some packing suggestions for enjoying your winter holiday.
"Winter is not a season, it's a celebration."by Anamika Mishra
1. You can Ski in Iran
You probably wouldn't associate a desert holiday with the opportunity for skiing. The Dizin, Tochal and Shemshak Resort near Tehran are the best-known ski destinations in Iran. The small town of Sepidan near Shiraz also offers opportunities for skiing and other snow sports. You can enjoy nice accommodation and good services in these ski resort that adds to the unique experience! The quality of skiing is very dependent on the weather as the snow at the resorts is natural, not artificially created.
Traveling between Tehran ski resorts and Iran Central Desert in a couple of hours give you the chance to experience two different climates and a variety of landscapes.
2. Sweat out your Stress at a Local Hammam
After a long day of adventuring, what can be nicer than stripping off all your layers and relaxing in a lovely, warm steam room at a hammam (Persian bathhouse) . Warm-up your tired and achy body in the steam room, splashing yourself with hot water. Revitalize yourself with scrub down by an attendant revealing the softest, pinkest skin. Enjoy a relaxing massage. Finish off the experience with a cup of tea to have you floating out the hammam, back into the fresh air of society.
There are nice hot springs near Ardabil in Sarein located Northwest of Iran with great facilities and services that are also popular for a day of relaxing in the natural hot water. Many local people swear about its healing properties and visit regularly to treat various ailments.
3. Hearty Iranian Cuisine
Iranians love indulging in family meals consisting of many dishes. Warm Ash (a Persian soups), Kebabs, and nice stews take center stage with ample delicious rice or bread. After a chilly outing, hot tea and these wholesome meals will leave you warm, satisfied, and wanting more. Nothing like tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb or chicken with pomegranate molasses, perfectly flavored potatoes and veggies to fill that empty spot!
You can get drooling just thinking about all the great food you may enjoy in Iran and we just don't think you would have enjoyed these foods as much in really hot summer conditions. In summer we would rather opt for salads and not hot meals. Hot tea just does not sound so appealing when it's boiling outside?
4. Save Your Sunscreen
In summer the Iranian Lut or central Desert can be unbearably hot during the day. For some, this might make climbing the dunes and other activities less desirable. In winter, however, you'll be able to enjoy the dunes all day long. Try to ensure that you have 2 nights in the vicinity of the desert, as sometimes the weather may be bad. No one wants to go through the effort of driving through to Rayen, Shahdad, Khur or Mesr to not get to enjoy the amazing sunsets and sunrises over the dunes and bask under the glorious starlit sky.
Although you might not be able to lounge around at the beach in winter, many activities will be more pleasurable, especially for those not used to such hot weather. Hiking, for example, is much easier in the cooler weather, with less likelihood of sunburn and dehydration. There is very little shade at the ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis, Naghsh-e Rostam, Pasargadea and Naghsh-e Rajab near Shiraz, Bistoon near Kermanshah or Choghzanbil near Susa and Ahvaz. If you really want to take in all the beautiful mosaics of this large old town, exploring in cooler conditions is better. Wondering the old part of the cities like the UNESCO world heritage city of Yazd will also be more comfortable and your brain won't be frazzled by the heat so maybe you'll be better at haggling!
5. Enjoy Off-season Quietness
Tourism is lower in the winter months and some places offer reduced rates for tours and accommodation. Navigating the bigger cities like Isfahan and Shiraz is much more pleasant during this quiet phase. It also provides an opportunity to get a better idea of real, everyday Iran versus the bustling tourist-orientated Iran. If you visit Iran in January (middle of winter), you will find that most of the tourists, particularly in Shiraz and Isfahan, are actually Iranian families.
6. Warmer Winter Weather
In some parts of Iran, winter is quite mild, especially in comparison to Europe and tourists can enjoy the warmer conditions and relatively inexpensive accommodation and cuisine Iran has to offer. Ahvaz has an average winter temperature of 18°C (65°F). The average daily temperature along the Persian Gulf coast in winter (Bushehr) is about 19°C (67°F). Inland temperatures, such as in Shiraz or Isfahan, are with warm days than on the coast, but nighttime temperatures drop to -2-0°C (29-32°F). The amazing Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf such as Kish, Qeshm, Hangam and Hormuz islands are amazing places to visit in winter without going through the scorching heat of summer.
7. Less Hassle for Clothing
Due to the governmental dress code for women traveling in Iran, keeping the scarf and the manteau or long shirt on in heat of summer is a huge challenge but winter makes it a little bit easier as it becomes the part of the layers the women may wear.
What to Pack for an Iranian winter
Iran is a Muslim country with governmental rules for women beside they are expected to be respectful by dressing conservatively. This is not problematic in winter and you would be covering up to stay warm. From December to March the central classic route in Iran is cold, South of Iran is mild though still cold at night and some parts like Northwest are extremely cold, so you may wear long sleeves and pants, with thermals underneath, during your holiday. You will get warm rooms as modern heaters are common in almost all of Iranian accommodation.
To be warm and stylish during your winter vacation in Iran follow these tips:
- Pack your thermals!
- Layer: thermals, top and pants, jersey, coat
- A good coat: those lightweight fleece ones are great as are the three in one type jackets
- Waterproof, comfortable shoes or boots.
- Accessorize: think scarves, thick socks, beanies, gloves, and even ear muffs. You'll still need your hat and sunglasses for the sunny weather.
Now you are all prepared for your winter holiday in Iran. I hope you have a thoroughly enjoyable time soaking up the warmth and hospitality of Iran and its people. Please get in touch with our team if you need any help or if you are going to visit Iran within an escorted tour.