Iran City Guides - The Caspian Coast
The Caspian Coast
The Caspian coastline is one of the most popular destinations for Iran's domestic tourists. Sandy beaches give way to wide open steppes, thickly forested foothills and eventually the bare peaks of the Alborz mountain range. For many Iranians, especially those from Tehran, the lush vegetation and spectacular natural scenery, along with the tropical summers and mild winters, offer a striking contrast from city life and the dry interior.
As a result, the three provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan which front the Caspian Sea (in fact, the world's largest lake) are studded with resort complexes, leisure facilities and holiday homes.
For the international traveler too, the Caspian coasts offers a wealth of attractions and activities. The scenery, climate and natural environment mean that it is one of the best areas in Iran for outdoor activities such as trekking, mountain climbing, camping and horse riding, and with a wider range of biological diversity than anywhere else in Iran, there is great potential for eco-tourism of all kinds.
Also of great interest are the farming and fishing villages of the region where traditional lifestyles, customs and architecture survive to this day.
Mordab, meaning "Dead Water" is the name given to shallow lagoons on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Mordab-e Anzali is the largest of these, located between the cities of Bandar Anzali and Rasht and extending 25km inland. The lagoon is 450 square kilometres of wetlands, part river and part swamp, thick with reeds and lotuses.
The lagoon provides a habitat for a great variety of bird life including several endangered species. Channels are kept clear through which boats can be rowed or punted. Mordab-e Anzali is also famous for its caviar.
Of the many villages scattered over the mountains of southern Gilan province, Masuleh has to be the most famous and beautiful. At an altitude of 1050m above sea level, this town literally clings to the mountainside. Houses of brick and stone, built somewhat irregularly on the steep slope, have flat roofs over which are built the streets of the level above. Though Masuleh is a farming town with few tourist facilities, it is still a popular getaway for day trippers from Tehran who come to enjoy the mild summer climate and the atmosphere of pre-modern Iran.
Located in Mazandaran province, 120km east of Rasht and near the border with Gilan province, Ramsar is situated on a narrow coastal strip with the dense forests of the Alborz range rising steeply to the south and reaching down almost the coast itself. With its swimming beaches and hot springs, Ramsar is the Caspian coast's primary bathing resort. Two luxury hotels dating back to the beginning of the 20th century look out over the broad vistas of the Caspian Sea. Ramsar has flights with Iran Aseman to Tehran.
Caspian Sea, Mazandaran, Iran
Gombad-e Qabus (Gonbad-e Kavus)
The city of Gonbad-e Qabus (literally, "Dome of Qabus") is located in Golestan province, 40km from border of Turkmenistan and is named after the tower which is its most famous landmark. Built entirely of high-fired bricks so dense that they ring when struck, this remarkable construction is a tapering 55m tower with a pointed conical roof. It is situated on a hillock which raises it a further 15m above ground level and has brick foundations to a depth of 17m.
The tower was a mausoleum built by and for Qabus Ibn Wushmgir, King of the Ziyarid line of Kings who ruled over Tabarestan (currently the provinces of Golestan and Mazanderan) from 927-1090. Apart from two inscriptions, bearing the name of the king and the year of its completion in 1007, the tower is completely featureless. The only entranceway leads into a cylindrical chamber empty all the way up to the roof and the single window is in the roof facing east.
It is said that Qabus had his body suspended in a glass coffin at a height of 45m, away from profane hands and where the light of the rising sun would reach him every morning though no coffin or remains were ever found. The population of Gonbad-e Qabus includes a large concentration of Turkeman nomads now settled as farmers and regular equestrian events attract many tourists.
Access - how to get to Rasht
Rasht has daily Iran Air flights to Tehran (70 minutes) and twice-weekly departures to Mashhad.
Gorgan has daily flights to Tehran as well as buses to the capital (8 hours), Esfahan (16 hours) and Rasht (9 hours). There are also overnight trains from Gorgan to Tehran (11 hours). The day train from Tehran to Sari travels through the Alborz Mountains and is one of the world's most spectacular journeys.
Will Yong & Kazem Vafadari
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