So many people raved about Shiraz…the Iranian city not the wine. Beautiful city, great shopping and the list went on. But I had mixed feelings.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
The first bit, actually. As per agreed, I confirmed my arrival time with the hotel a day in advance. I booked two months earlier. Minutes later I was informed that there was a problem with the room’s toilet and I was offered a room with a shared bathroom. I got suspicious and asked my Yazd guest house to recommend alternatives. Every place was booked so I stuck with the original hotel.
Upon arrival, I was shocked with the poor quality on offer. The bed was a plank of wood placed on concrete blocks and what looked like a folded duvet took the place of a mattress. Of course the person I booked and confirmed with was nowhere to be found. I asked to see the original room and was refused.
An Iranian couple who overheard the conversation confirmed my suspicion: I had been bumped. I left, retracing the taxi journey back to where the driver dropped off the other passengers.
After stopping at several hotels along the way (all booked out) I arrived at the Niayesh Hotel covered in sweat and exhausted. It was easy to see why the Niayesh is one of the most popular hotels in Shiraz among independent travellers. Their efficiency, service and friendliness make Shiraz travel so much easier.
The hotel palaver set me back half a day which meant curtailing my sightseeing plans. My main day for sightseeing was Friday which is the Islamic holy day. As a result, a few places were closed.
My first port of call was the famous Pink Mosque (Masjed-e Nasir-al-Molk) whose interior is one of the most photographed in Iran. This fame comes with a downside: the place was thronged.
A stunning montage of colour is the result of the morning sun’s rays shining through the stained glass windows. The mosaic on the prayer room’s ceiling is exquisite. The courtyard’s façade is equally worthy of attention.
Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh:
Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh was one of the most under-rated sites I visited in Iran. The complex houses the tombs Ahmad and Muhammad, brothers of Imam Reza. It is the third most venerated pilgrimage destination in Iran after Mashhad and Qom.
There are separate entrances for men and women. Women must wear chadors and these are provided free of charge at the entrance. Rucksacks are not permitted. Despite the armed security presence I found the complex to be utterly peaceful. The architecture and design is worth going for alone.
Aramgah-e Hafez houses the grave of Iran’s most famous poet, Hafez. His grave is set in a domed gazebo within a complex of gardens. A café and shop are also on site.
Arg-e Karim Khan:
Arg-e Karim Khan is a large sand-coloured brick fortress in a pretty pedestrianised area easily reached by Zandiye metro station. Inside the fortress is a museum. No, there is nothing wrong with your eyes. One of the towers is leaning outwards.
While the attractions I saw were great, Shiraz as a city didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t see what other travellers saw. I felt Shiraz was a little over-rated and the people more distant than elsewhere. An independent traveller I met in Tehran didn’t feel the Shiraz love either. His complaint centred on the city’s rip-off mentality.
On the other hand, the staff at Shiraz airport were very customer focused and, as previously mentioned, the Niayesh Hotel crew were great. Perhaps the initial hotel issue on arrival affected the way I perceived the city. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I just needed a drink of that alcoholic beverage the city is famous for.
Have you been to Shiraz? Let me hear your thoughts below.
SHIRAZ TRAVEL: ESSENTIALS
Where to stay in Shiraz:
Eventually, the Niayesh Hotel. All of the independent travellers I met stayed within the square kilometre area between the Sibooye Boulevard area and the south bank of the river.
Getting to Shiraz:
I travelled to Shiraz by private taxi transfer which stopped at Pasagadae, Naqsh-e Rostam and Persepolis on the way. The cost for the whole car was €30 but as I shared with another couple I only paid €10. This price excluded food and entry to the sites. Day tours from Shiraz to Persepolis alone can cost up to €30 per person so this was by far the best way of experiencing these sites from a logistical and economic sense.
Getting around Shiraz:
All of the above attractions are within walking distance. Niayesh Hotel arranged an airport transfer for me.
Moving onwards from Shiraz:
Shiraz was the final stop on my tour of Iran which included Tehran, Isfahan and Yazd. I availed of Turkish Airlines multi-city facility via Istanbul, flying into Tehran and departing from Shiraz. This meant saving on an extra day’s travel back to Tehran.
My post on Solo Female Travel in Iran gives further practical information for all types of independent travellers.