Part 7.1 (26 June - 7 July) Iran chapter 1

The moment we stepped through the gates into Iran we had arrived in a different world. Headscarves, long trousers and shirts were mandatory and had to cover everything but hands, feet and faces, especially concealing Nicolette’s female curves as much as possible! 

With our pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair (what`s left of it in Jeroen`s case J) we became overnight 'celebrities'. Everybody wanted to take a picture with us! This happened all over Iran, as pale-skinned foreigners appear to be rarer than the Persian Leopard and pictures with foreigners are collected by the Iranians with the same fanaticism as western kids collect Pokemons.

The Iranians are the friendliest people we have met on our trip so far. Not a day passed by without being invited to lunch, dinner or some (non-alcoholic!) drinks. 

When we were spotted trying to spend the night in our car, somebody always tried to persuade us to come and sleep at their house. People approached us in the streets, trying out their English skills and wanting to express their happiness that tourists were visiting their country again. Every 5 minutes we heard somebody calling out to us “Welcome to Iran!”


We thought our travels through Georgia and Armenia had prepared us for the Iranian driving style. Wrong. Driving in Iranian cities is at times like being in a Mad Max movie without the special effects. As our Overland guidebook put it; 'Don't worry too much about hitting another car in Iran, as long as you don't leave half a bumper dragging over the ground, just wave and don't bother stopping'. Right…

We found Iran a very much polarized society; some people spoke to us about how much they despised their (religious) laws and leaders, and they claimed that 70% of the women would not wear the scarf if the laws allowed for it. Other people proclaimed to us how much they loved their leaders and would do anything for them. The Iranian government blocks an estimated 30% of all internet pages, mostly social websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to prevent Western influence. But the outside information stream is unstoppable and Iran is changing fast, with more and more people challenging the current system. Hopefully the transitions will be peaceful…

Our trip through Iran



We decided to travel the classic Silk route through Iran taking us from North to South and then back North through the most interesting part of the country travelling 5000 km in 4 weeks.


In Iran we found countless of great wild camp spots! We spend nights overlooking spectacular snow capped mountains, at waterfalls, national parks, a salt lake, the Caspian sea, next to the ruins of Persepolis, in the middle of cornfields and so on.  

We have visited many of the silk route sights and were blown away by all the beautiful mosques, bazars and the many traditional houses open for tourist to visit. 

Starting at Tabriz, a Turkish/Kurdish city, experiencing the true Iranian culture for the first time, buying a proper wardrobe for Nicolette and getting used to the Iranian driving style.

At our next stop in Zanjan we stopped at spot in the middle of nowhere an Iranian man passing by (there are always people, everywhere!) took pity on us poor travelers and shared some wonderful bread with us. Before we knew it we were invited to his garden a little further up the hill where we spend 2 lovely days relaxing and chatting with our new Iranian friends.

Meet the Spanish


During the past few weeks we were in touch with a bunch of fellow travelers also looking to cross China by car. One of these were a Spanish couple, Javi & Ines, who happened to be travelling through Iran too. So we arranged to meet on our next stop in Qazvin near the famous Valley of the Assassins.

Soon enough we discovered that we were on the same page about travelling and some company is always nice, so we headed into the mountains to the Valley of the Assassins together. We proved to be a great team, as our Land Cruiser beast nicely complemented their luxurious Mercedes Sprinter which is equipped with shower, toilet and dining table for 4 persons!

From Alamut Castle we started moving towards the Caspian Sea, via a barely used dirt road that passed over a 3200m high pass. The map showed a restored ‘caravanserai’ (ancient silk route hostel) located at the pass and we liked the idea of spending the night there, as a real part of our Silk Road travels.

Because the road was so little-used we expected few people at the caravanserai, but soon after we made it to the top, an old Land Cruiser showed up with 9 drunk people in it. Remember, this is Iran and alcohol is illegal! Doors flew open, people moved out and the music was turned on to have a party at the roof of Iran, way out of sight of the religious authorities. Of course we were invited to join, and soon enough we were dancing and drinking with our newest Iranian friends, 1 of which was a high ranking military official… The party lasted for a couple of hours until the Iranians were too drunk to continue and headed home down the mountain at dangerously high speeds, leaving us in peace and quiet to have a nice dinner and admire the beautiful starry night.


After spending a great couple of days together at the Caspian Sea, Javi and Ines left Iran for Turkmenistan and we headed for Tehran to first apply for our Kazakhstan visa which we needed to apply for the Turkmenistan visa. The Turkmenistan 5-day transit visa is probably the hardest visa to obtain and it really is a lottery with as much as 30% seemingly random rejections.

As Tehran hotels are ridiculously expensive, we used a suggestion from Javi and Ines to park the car in the south of Tehran at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum. It`s a huge shrine devoted to the Imam and is visited by many, many people, especially on the day of his passing, which is a national holiday. Coincidentally, this national holiday was also the date of our arrival and many people camped in their tents in the parking lot, so we blended nicely in with our camper-car!

We had to wait 4 days for the Kazakh visa so to make the most of our time we took off to the deserts and old imperial cities of south Iran. That night we camped near a children`s playground and were stalked all evening by kids very interested what these white-skinned foreigners were doing in their village. But they were lovely and very friendly, they even made us flower-necklaces!

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Commentaren: 1
  • #1

    Scarlett (dinsdag, 30 augustus 2016 23:08)

    Wat een gave foto's! Leuk omDe beelden te zien van jullie avontuur na de anekdotes van een paar weken terug. En weer extra verhalen! :) Benieuwd naar de volgende delen. En safe travels lieverds. Xx



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