Gilan, Iran

Rasht is the capital of the state of Gilan, and despite sounding like a medical condition is surprisingly beautiful. The region is completely green – full of lush paddyfields, thick forests and misty canyons.

 

Gilan countryside

Gilan mountains

Tea stop in Gilan

Tea stop in Gilan

It comes as a surprise to most that you can find this kind of scenery in Iran; indeed, this area is the least popular choice for foreign tourists to visit. The late Shah of Iran tried to beautify the area further as it was his favourite holiday destination before he was so unceremoniously given the boot. Nevertheless, it remains perhaps the most underrated part of Iran.

Farmhouse near Rasht

Farmhouse near Rasht

Farmhouse near Rasht

Interestingly, Gilan was part of a breakaway “Soviet Republic of Iran” in 1920 led by communist (and the arch-rival to the then Shah) Kuchick Khan. The area was absorbed back into greater Iran after just one year. In Rasht I stayed with an old friend on his family’s rice just outside of Rasht. The hospitality was overwhelming; I will never forget eating freshly made bread, butter and honeycomb with tea for breakfast every morning.

Farmhouse near Rasht

Farmhouse near Rasht

Rasht was the perfect base for exploring Gilan, and my friend and his family kindly took me to Lahijan where Iran’s tea is grown.

Lahijan

Lahijan, and Shaitan Koh

Lahijan, viewed from Shaitan Koh

Lahijan, viewed from Shaitan Koh

Lahijan is simply delightful – a large lake is home to a small island which is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The whole thing can be viewed from the top of Shaitan Koh (the oddly named Satan’s Hill).

Masuleh

Masuleh

We also visited the misty canyon-side village of Masuleh. The air was a thick humid soup, and we spent the morning wandering around the village laneways, zigzagging our way through the village, passing games of backgammon and hole-in-the-wall bakeries serving up fresh, aromatic “barberi” bread. Each house is built on the roof of the one below, so the village appears “stacked” up the side of the hill.

Masuleh

Masuleh

Masuleh

Masuleh

Masuleh, Rasht, Lahijan and Gilan in general are the antithesis of what many outsiders imagine about the landscape of Iran… And being there without throngs of tourists, and visiting there with friends, made it unforgettable.

Have you ever been to a place which smashed your preconceptions about a country?

Comments (4)

  • Andrew Boland Reply

    wow. how different from anywhere I saw in Iran. The Autumn colours are amazing! Love it!

    March 9, 2016 at 1:52 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      They’re stunning, aren’t they? Later in this trip I visited Gorgan on the road to Mashhad from Tehran, and the autumn colours there were even better. Stay tuned for that post in the coming weeks!

      March 11, 2016 at 10:06 pm
  • Sarah Reply

    SO beautiful! I can seriously TASTE that honeycomb…

    March 10, 2016 at 1:29 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      It was simply amazing… wish I was back there!

      March 11, 2016 at 10:04 pm

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