Updated: Jul 17
Adventure travel & venturing into the unknown can be overwhelming. An “I’m trying to figure out if we can even enter this country” type of holiday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it is definitely my favorite.
I like to think of our intrepid journeys as stepping into less familiar places and figuring things out for the first time. How little or big that step is depends very much on where we are headed. Some of our trips are gentle, some have stretched us, and some others have made our hair stand on end just from being some place remote… but all the trips have made our hearts swell with happiness.
Just like my journey into a relatively unknown part of Iran filled with the most surreal of landscapes. Always go beyond the ordinary and see reality for yourself, leave footprints & a piece of your heart in every corner of the planet.
Iran is huge and there is tons to do for every kind of traveler, this was extremely off beat and the perfect fit for me. If unconventional is your style too, look no further than Iran’s smallest island. When you look up pictures of Iran, you often find incredible mosques or architectural marvels.. it’s no surprise then that this hidden gem along Iran’s gulf islands often gets overlooked. Mountains in hues of reds, pinks & golden yellows, untouched wild beaches & pristine wadis, this part of the country was right up my alley. I hopped on a 40 minute flight and fell in love with this tiny corner of the world.
On this blog post, you can find information on visiting the incredibly off beat corner of the country called Hormuz Island.
Land in Bandar Abbas
Explore Hormuz Island
Damash Siahoo Valley
Flights + Visa
I flew directly with Fly Dubai, it's only 1 hour away.
📌 Visa - first, you need to find a recognized agency to process your e-visa through the ministry, then you go to the consulate, pay the fees (varies depending on your passport, I paid $50) and collect original e-visa from the consulate.
📌 If you hold a US/UK or Canadian passport, expect a LONG lead time for visas + there is a high chance of rejection.
📌 A big plus: there was no stamp on the passport.
📌you will need to find a local guide, independent traveling is cheap too but so are guides.
📌if your country doesn’t have connections, you can connect via Dubai, most places in Iran are just 2 hours away!
Solo traveling in Iran + rules on wearing a hijab
As much as it pains me to see the struggles of the women of Iran, as a tourist, I found the people to be warm and welcoming.
Yes, you will be required to wear a hijab, if this bothers you, perhaps best not to go. I didn't feel unsafe since I did go with a local. It does help to have a guide in such places, where arabic is the main language in remote villages. If you choose not to go with a guide, you can also travel independently, as long as you are willing to follow the rules of the land.
Best time to visit
As in many of Middle East countries, avoid the summer months. It is best to go during the "winter" season between October to February for the best experience.
Not many people outside the city speak English, as you would expect. You will definitely need a guide to get around the villages where you will likely be hiking.
Travel and Medical Insurance, Currency
Travel Insurance is highly recommended - we have our own, but if you are looking for one try World Nomad. Carry local currency for small purchases and tipping.
Choosing a local guide
It is important to have a local Guide - the lady guide I went with can be contacted by whatsapp +98 916 651 4995
It is an inexpensive place to travel to with most meals and transportation being reasonably priced. For instance, a trip to Hormuz island could cost you about $300 per person for 3/4 days.
How long to spend here?
You can spend months in Iran. There is so much to do... if you are venturing only to this island, you can easily spend 3 or 4 days having an adventure of a lifetime.
Vegan + Vegetarian Food
Don't expect much in the islands in terms of food, you will be ok in the city.
Where I stayed in Bandar Abbas
I stayed at the centrally located Atilar hotel. It was modern and clean enough to spend a few comfortable nights in the city. The market was just a short walk away, so easy for grocery runs.
After landing in Bandar Abbas in the evening, the guide took me to a local restaurant called Badgiran or wind catcher for a nice dinner. The food wasn't very veggie friendly (if you don't eat egg), apart from some naan bread but there was a lot of delicious zafrani chai.
If you would like to explore the city, early morning at sunrise is a fantastic time to venture out minus the crowds. To get to the Hormuz island, you will need to hop on a ferry from Bandar Abbas, just a short walk from the hotel. The ferry ride costs $6 per person. The first one leaves the port at 6 45 a.m. and it would be great to jump on that, if you plan to spend just one day on the island.
Once you get to the island and get out of the port, you will find tuk-tuk's lined up. This is the only way to explore the island. It's also easier to negotiate a good rate if you go with a guide.
These are nine places I visited:
📌 Goddess of salt
📌 Valley of statues
📌 Rainbow Mountain Valley
📌 Colorful Cave
📌 Red-Silver beach
📌 Turtle Beach
📌 Zafran Valley
📌 Mangrove Forest
More details about my favorite places from the Island that you shouldn't miss:
“Goddess of salt or Salt Mountain”
It is a short walk from the main road to the colorful and awe-inspiring salt formations. Among all the red that pops from every corner, it is impossible to miss the near white otherworldly-looking cliffs that branch out from under the edible soil in this valley. You can spend hours soaking it all in. You cannot ask for a better introduction to the wonderful landscapes of the island.
When the colorful Peruvian mountains met Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, you have this valley. There were so many incredible places on the island but this one had the most striking features of them all and befitted the name “Rainbow Island” bestowed on the Island. It’s like a nature lovers hippy dream.. layers of bright red volcanic rocks are contrasted with purples, greens and a golden yellow dry river bed. A stunning geological wonder. I was blown away by the raw beauty.
Red Silver Beach
Hands down one of the most unique beaches I have ever been to. The striking red is due to the unusually high concentration of iron oxides. The color actually stays on your skin for days, and this red substance called “gelack” is used in cosmetics, ceramics, to dye fabrics and even to make some bread called “tomshi”. Talk about fascinating.
Zafrani or Saffron Valley
Under the surface you will find cavities of salt crystals have been created that make for colorful scenes and unforgettable memories!
Damash Siahoo Valley Hike
On my last day there, I went canoeing & swimming in Damash Siahoo Valley, a place hidden deep in the Hormogazan province.
Remember this is Iran, so you cannot wear a bikini or swim suit - so plan accordingly, maybe wear track pants and a light top to swim through the wadis.
The area is famous for its tropical nature and beautiful beaches, and it is hard to believe that there are such pristine valleys in Iran. It's so amazing to find places like this - also why I always say, you won't know the reality unless you go. The landscape reminded me of the wadis back home in Oman. I was exhausted by the end of the day, but the guides cooked a picnic lunch, felt so good to rest those bruised legs. Clearest of waters, not another soul around, as is the case anywhere here.
News Flash: Iran has islands and they are stunning. I wanted my first introduction to this beautiful country to be spectacular & natural (duh!). Not only does this area have mangrove forests, deserts and colorful mountains, it also has the most magical empty beaches. Talk about diversity.
It breaks my heart to hear about everything that is going on in the country right now, I was there just weeks before the protests started. I must add that I am not surprised, many of the women I spoke to didn’t like being forced to wear a Hijab. I was asked about how I felt wearing a scarf, the truth? As a traveler, I didn’t mind following the rules as I knew I will be safely back home in a few days, where I have the freedom of CHOICE. Despite what you may hear in the media, let me tell you that Iran is a safe, underrated, affordable travel destination for every intrepid traveler. The colorful diversity & the hospitality of the Iranian people was the highlight of my short getaway. As a mid-East baby, I loved thinking about the many similarities and the differences in landscapes. I do hope things get better for the women of this country.
Drop your comments below and show some love. Feel free to shoot me an email with your feedback.