16 Day Trekking the Northwest Wonderland

Best season: Spring to autumn
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Expedition Summary In fifteen days, you’ll explore the vivid Northeast and diverse history, culture and landscapes. To summarize, you will visit:
  • The beautiful view of the magnificent Alborz mountain chain
  • The beautiful Wildlife Refuge to spot the beautiful and rare Persian Fallow Deer
  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower of Turkmen town
  • The edge of the Golestan National Park, one of the UNESCO Biosphere
  • The magnificent and marvelous buildings and structures in the holy shrine of Imam Reza
  • Ferdowsi tomb, a highly revered Persian poet and the author of the epic of Shahnameh – the Persian “Book of Kings”
  • Khayyam’s mausoleum complex in Neyshabur, which is considered as one of the masterpieces of Persian architecture
  • Touran National Park, Biosphere Reserve and Wildlife Refuge
Itinerary Details:

Day 1. Arrival in Tehran

Upon arrival in Tehran, you will be welcomed at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival, you can spend the day touring the beautiful and diverse city of Tehran, or spend the evening at a traditional restaurant for a delicious Persian cuisine (L/D).
You’ll stay overnight at your hotel in Tehran.

Day 2. Mazichal, camping in the Valley of Oak Trees

Today is the first day of our exciting ecotourism expedition in the north part of Iran, a green and gorgeous wonderland in Iran. It is one of the beauties of Iran that in such a semi-arid country, you can experience a lush and entirely different environment by just a two-hour drive from the capital.
Early in the morning we check out from hotel and head to ‘Paradise of Iran’ as Iranians say, the city of Kelardasht. The drive is via the Chalos Road waving through the southern Alborz Mountain towards the north. It gives us an excellent opportunity to compare the climate, types and density of vegetation of the northern and southern slopes of the Alborz Mountain, and learn about the impact of the mountain acting as a humidity barrier in North of Iran. We’ll have breakfast on the way in a cozy café to enjoy the scenery and refreshing weather.
We will have lunch in Kelardasht and have a short stroll in the city and its Bazaar before we take the first steps of our exhilarating program of hiking and trekking in the north of Iran. Mazichal forests in the northwest of Kelardasht have eye-catching and rich vegetation and wildlife. Mazi in local dialect means oak tree and Chal means ditch and valley; so Mazichal refers to a valley full of oak trees. In fair weather, you will see the picturesque scenery of Caspian Sea which leaves everyone spellbound.
After a short 4WD drive to our base camp, we will spend all afternoon and evening on taking pictures and enjoying the virgin nature of the valley. If lucky, we may even spot wild animals like bear, wolf and leopard in this jungle.
You will camp tonight under the host of stars and enjoy the delicious taste of Persian barbecue for dinner, complimented with fresh tea brewed on the camp fire that can never be forgotten. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 200 km

Day 3. Trekking the magnificent Daniel Water Cave

When we wake up in the morning, we may already have a carpet of clouds under our feet! Let’s hope we are lucky enough to experience this magnificent experience of a lifetime. We’ll have an early morning walk to grasp the extraordinary panoramic beauties of Mazichal and then head back to our camp to have a nourishing breakfast.
After breakfast, we will drive back to Kelardasht and start a 40-minute hike through the jungle towards the Daniel Water Cave. Daniel Water Cave is 2,158 meters long with a 74 meters vertical range and a small river that runs through it.
Depending on the group capability, our trek will take about 4-5 hours. The cave is relatively easy to trek, and the technical difficulty rating is moderate, but since you have to walk through the water, you need to be physically fit. Daniel water cave is the second greatest river cave of Iran, after Ghoori Ghale cave in Paveh, Kermanshah. The depth of the river varies in different parts of the cave, but it doesn’t go beyond 1 meter. The crystal-clear water in the cave is flowing from some small springs along the cave. The internal temperature of the cave is about 23 degrees, and the temperature of the water is 17 which are almost constant throughout the year.
You should be starving by now! And outside the cave, the lunch is already prepared. After a late lunch, we will drive and check in the luxury Motel Ghoo hotel for an afternoon nap. In the evening, we will take a short walk in the town beside the beautiful coast of the Caspian Sea, and call the day after a delicious Persian dinner. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 50 km

Day 4: Anzali Lagoon, the Must-go for Bird-watching

There are a considerable number of wetlands in Iran. From these wetlands, 84 have been recognized as being of international significance out of which, 24 are listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (known as the Ramsar Convention, as it was signed in the city of Ramsar, Iran in 1971). Undoubtedly, Talab-e Anzali (Anzali Lagoon) is one of the most beautiful wetlands in Iran, a vast complex of freshwater lagoons and seasonally flooded meadows in the southwest Caspian lowlands. It is the favorite wintering habitat of several species of birds that breed in its protected wetlands, moving it to the top of the list of must-see places for the bird-watching enthusiasts.
Today we will drive to the city of Anzali within Iran’s northern province of Gilan, which is the main city port at the edge of the lagoon from which Anzali Lagoon has got its name. After having lunch, we will hop on a boat to wander through the wonders of the wetlands. One of the thrilling features of the lagoon is its extensive beds of colorful water lilies that grow during the summer and create spectacular views and memories for the visitors. Depending on the season, we will also be able to spot different species of birds and enjoy the diversity of fauna and flora that this magnificent ecosystem has to offer.
We’ll stay overnight in a local house in Anzali, but first, we need to explore another side of the amazing Gilan. Gilan province with over 170 brilliant dishes is proposed to be added to the UNESCO’s list as a creative region in terms of food, to help in the globalization of the Gilan’s traditional cuisine. Tonight, we’ll try and enjoy some of these cuisines at a famous local restaurant. (B/L/D) Total drive for the day: 200 km

Day 5. Qaleh Rudkhan, the hidden Treasure of Gilan

Today’s expedition takes us to a refreshing forest trekking and a memorable historical exploration. After a short scenic drive through the rich and dense forests of Gilan, the road changes to a beautiful stairway climbing the mountain to the wonderful Qaleh Rudkhan (Rudkhan Castle). The castle is one of the most amazing historical structures in Gilan, built on the top of a mountain and in the heart of a lush and secluded forest. It is a brick and stone medieval castle and a military compound that was constructed during the Seljuk dynasty. Qaleh Rudkhan sits at the two peaks of the mountain at elevations of 715 m above sea level and contains strong fortifications and battlements. The castle’s wall, 1,550 m long, has 42 towers that still stand intact.
We’ll spend the whole day visiting the castle and trekking the surrounding jungle. We’ll spend the night in a local house to learn more about the charming lifestyle of the local people. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 85 km

Day 6. Masouleh, village on the Rooftops

Today, we will visit Masouleh, perched high on a densely forested mountainside about 60 kilometers inland from the Caspian Sea. Masouleh has an age of 800 to 1,000 years. The existence of numerous graveyards inner and outside of the city proves its old texture.
Forever covered in fog, Masouleh is an incredible spectacle: a series of cottages built on a slope, such that each house’s courtyard is another house’s rooftop. Houses and terraces of the village are built along the mountain slope so that the village itself has around 100 m of difference in elevation. The combination of such architecture with natural landscapes has made Masouleh a national and international tourist center and the only way of the inhabitants’ living.
We will stroll among the narrow alleys of the village to admire the lifestyle and beauty of it. We will have lunch in a traditional restaurant with Gilaki (from Gilan, a northern province of Iran) specialty cuisines like the marvelous Mirza Ghasemi and Kabab Torsh. Iran’s northern provinces, Gilan and Mazandaran, are very rich in the variety of foods and sweets, and are the heaven for food lovers.
To fully absorb the beauty and charm of the village, we will stay overnight in Masouleh in a beautiful local house. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 50 km)

Day 7. Gisum National Park, where Jungle meets the Sea

Today, after an early breakfast, we’ll head north towards the coastline of the Caspian Sea. The drive takes us through the stunning tree tunnel roads of Gisum National Park, with endless canopy of leaves overhead combined with the reviving breath from the mountains that relaxes the soul of every passenger and leaves nothing but gladness and deep joy. Gisum National Park is where the dense jungles meet the shores of the Capsian Sea making it one of the best tourist attractions in Gilan province. After a short stroll through the forest, we’ll go to the beach to walk and have lunch beside the beautiful coastline.
In the afternoon, we will drive to the city of Asalem and spend the afternoon walking through its beautiful countryside and villages to photograph the charming meadows and villages. We will stay overnight in a local house in one of the villages and call the day after enjoying a delicious local cuisine. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 130 km

Day 8. Hyrcanian Forests, Masterpieces of Nature Creative Genius

Where we are, the green strip covering the northern slope of Alborz and mountains and southern coasts of Caspian Sea is called Hyrcanian Forests of Iran. These forests are exceptional in the world, “with unique richness of biological diversity, its endemic and endangered species, its natural beauty and its masterpieces of nature creative genius in the form of this ancient
forest” as is mentioned in UNESCO world heritage website. And we’ll spend the next two days trekking the part of these magnificent forests around Asalem.
Our hike starts after breakfast and takes us through the wild plants and animal habitats substantially unmodified by people and their effects. Our luggage will be carried by pack animals leaving us with small backpacks and open hand to enjoy our trek the most We’ll have rest at noon in the forest for lunch, after which we will continue toward our camp. Our camp is set up beside a beautiful potable water spring within the dense jungle, leaving us secluded from the rest of the world. Finally, after a 5-hour hike to reach the camp, we will have a delicious Persian barbecue dinner and a sip of fresh tea before heading to our tents for a good night sleep.

Day 9. Hyrcanian forests and its wonderful Waterfalls

In our second day of hiking the Caspian forests, we pass along the picturesque landscapes of broad-leaved woodlands and roaring rivers and spend ample time to photograph their beauty. It will give us another great opportunity to spot the region’s flora and fauna and above all, beautiful rivers and wonderful waterfalls. And what is better than the sound of rushing water to compliment a delicious lunch.
Our 5-hour or so hike today will take us to a village from where we will drive to our hotel in Asalem to enjoy a relaxed evening. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 30 km

Day 10. Asalem to Khalkhal, the most beautiful road in Iran

After staying in lowlands of Caspian for a while, it is time to ascend to the high altitudes of Zagros Mountain region and what a better route to take than the Asalem to Khalkhal road. Climbing from an altitude of 35m in Asalem to 1,800 m in Khalkhal in less than 70 km, this road is the route to enter the paradise! The road offers stunning scenery, taking you right from the unspoilt hinterlands of Asalem through lush cool forests, rocky mountains, astonishing countryside, beautiful corn poppy flower fields, misty valleys, waterfalls and lakes to the tablelands near Khalkhal. If you are still keen to do some trekking and bush walking, there is an option to extend your travel to trek a part of this road through the forest and bright meadows through Sobatan village and Neor Lake (should be confirmed before your trip).
The best time to travel this route is during Summer. Because of the mountainous conditions, this road may be closed due to heavy rain and snowfall during the fall and winter seasons. Depending on your travel dates, we may need to take another route from Asalem to our next destination, the spa city of Sarein, passing through Astara and beside the Caspian Sea hinterlands, which are indeed beautiful and scenic as well.
We will end the drive for the day at the city of Sarein, the top Spa destination in Iran. Eleven major hot springs and spas have attracted tourists to Sarein for years. Each hot spring has its own health and healing power that is used to cure certain diseases. You will go to one of the best spas in Sarein to have a relaxing afternoon. We will call the day after another delicious dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight stay at your hotel in Sarein. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 220 km

Day 11. Kandovan, the magnificence of civilization in Depths of Ground

After a refreshing breakfast, we will start exploring the incredible village of Kandovan. This village exemplifies man-made cliff dwellings that are still inhabited. With at least 800 years of existance, this remarkable place offers scenic beauty for its travelers. Built out of volcanic ash and debris spewed during an eruption of nearby Mount Sahand, the rocky cone-shaped structures of Kandovan were compressed and shaped by natural forces into cone-shaped pillars containing pockets. The cave homes, excavated from volcanic rocks and tuffs are comparable to the dwellings in the Turkish region of Cappadocia. They are called “Karan” in the local Turkic dialect, a word that translates as the plural of the word “beehive.”
Today, we will walk through the scenic village to admire this marvelous structure. We will also visit some of the houses to get a deeper knowledge of the cave-living lifestyle that Kandovan people enjoy and flourish. We will also try the local honey and cheese that have a pleasant hint of wild plants and flowers of the region.
We will stay tonight in our hotel in Kandovan; we don’t want to blame ourselves for leaving this fantastic place too soon! (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 250 km

Day 12. Zanjan, the Imperial city of Moguls

After a refreshing breakfast, we will drive to the city of Neyshabur, an ancient capital of Iran during Tahirid Seljuq dynasties. Along with Merv, Herat and After an early breakfast, we will continue our expedition, driving through the scenic roads to Zanjan. The drive is long, but trust us, it is well worth it! Zanjan’s name translates as “the Imperial”, and it used to be the capital of Mongol Ilkhanid rulers of Persia in the 14th century. Zanjan is home to several historic monuments including the UNESCO World Heritage Soltaniyeh. The city is also known for its beautiful handicrafts such as knives, traditional sandals called Charoogh, and a handcraft made with silver wires called Malileh.
After arriving in Zanjan, we will spend the rest of the day exploring this magnificent historic city. We will start with Rakhtshoor Khaneh, a public laundry that was used by local women to wash their clothes. It consists an underground hall with unique dome and column architecture and waterways fed from a nearby Qanat. Then, we will head to the old bazaar complex that is one of the most important historical complexes in Iran due to its cultural, economic and religious significance. As time permits. We will visit a few of the historic mosques and caravanserais including the Dokhtar Caravanserai, Jameh and Khanoom (Women’s) Mosques. Zanjan bazaar comprises 940 shops and is a fantastic place to see and learn about different handicrafts produced in the region.
In the evening, we will have dinner at a local traditional restaurant, and head to your hotel. We need to relax, as tomorrow we are going to visit two of the most astonishing historical and natural attractions of Iran! (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 360 km

Day 13. Soltaniyeh, masterpiece of the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty

Today we will visit one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and a multi-record breaker from the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty. The mausoleum of Oljaytu was constructed in the 1310s in the city of Soltaniyeh, the capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty. Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The principal feature of Soltaniyeh’s several ruins is the Dome of Soltaniyeh. The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 m tall dome covered in blue-green faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. The dome is the earliest existing example and the biggest of the double-shelled dome in Iran and is the third largest dome in the world after Santa Maria and Hagia Sophia. Many believe that the construction of the Soltaniyeh has paved the way to other Mongol architectures, so much that scholars such as A.U. Pope have described the building as ‘anticipating the Taj Mahal’.
After lunch, we will drive to the Alamut Valley where we will spend the next day trekking its stunning nature. We’ll stay overnight in a local house and call the day after enjoying a delicious Persian barbecue and tea. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 250 km

Day 14. Alamut Valley, a True Trekker’s Paradise!

After some days of wandering through the cities, it is now time to head to nature, at its best! Today, we will go to Alamut Valley, where spectacular mountains, canyons, rivers, waterfalls and glaciers, together with the remnants of the world-renowned Alamut Castle (also known as Castle of the Assassins) present a beautiful and unique combination of nature, history and cultural. A true trekker’s paradise! We will also learn about the amazing history of the Alamut Castel and its significant political role in Iran’s medieval period as a major stronghold of the Ismaili dynasty. The story has inspired the famous “Alamut” novel by Vladimir Bartol, the famous Slovenian author, and the popular “Assassin’s Creed” series of video games.
With awe-inspiring nature and rich history, Alamut Valley can provide various awe-inspiring extended treks and experiences for two to seven days. If you wish, there is an option to extend your travel to follow a longer trekking trail and grasp more of this glittering piece of the paradise (should be confirmed before your trip).
In the evening, we will drive to your hotel in Qazvin. Tonight is the time to relax with the pleasant feelings of finishing one of the best trekking expeditions in the northwest of Iran. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 200km

Day 15. Qazvin, the city of Cisterns

Before we head back to Tehran, we will have a short stroll through the heritage and history that Qazvin has to offer. Qazvin is renowned for its cisterns from which, we will visit the most famous one, the Sardar-e Bozorg āb anbār that is the largest single domed cistern of Iran. After visiting the cistern, we will then go to Hosseinieh Aminiha, a beautiful example of traditional Persian residential architecture indigenous to Qazvin.
In the afternoon, we’ll hit the road again heading to Tehran, the dynamic capital of Iran. On arrival, it is time to celebrate the wonderful expedition that we had during the past two weeks! And where is better than the amazing traditional teahouse and restaurant called Sofrekhane-ye Azeri. With themes from the Azerbaijan ethnic design with traditional garden restaurant setup from the northwest of Iran, this is one of the best places to try the traditional Persian dish, Dizi.
You’ll stay overnight in your hotel in Tehran (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 155 km

Day 16. “Bedrood”, va “Be Omid-e Didar”

It is time to say “Bedrood” (goodbye) and “Be Omid-e Didar” (hope to see you again). Today is the last day of your tour, and we will arrange it as you wish. Depending on your departure time, we can have short walks in the city, spend some time shopping “Soghati” (souvenir), visit a museum or whatever else you wish. We’ll take you to the airport for your departure, and start missing you already! (B)

    Suggested Extensions:
  • One day in Rasht and Lahijan
  • One day in Ardabil
  • Two days in Tabriz
  • Extend Zanjan to full day
  • Extend Qazvin to full day
  • Two days in Tehran

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