Like almost everyone, Kylie Fisher gets the standard four weeks off per year from her bank job, but unlike a lot of travellers, she loves exploring countries that are a little off the beaten track. Having visited Iran recently, we asked Kylie to share her experiences from this intriguing destination.
What was your general impression of Iran before visiting?
I knew that it had an interesting antiquity from studies in school, but it seemed to be an underrated travel destination. Maybe people think that it’s an unsafe country to travel around or that there’s nothing of cultural significance to see there?
What were you most excited about?
Aside from seeing Persepolis, it would have to be meeting and interacting with the local people.
First impressions after landing?
How hectic the traffic was in Tehran. Even though not everyone there speaks very much English, we often bonded over our mutual frustration at crazy driving and gridlocked traffic.
What were a couple of cultural highlights?
Persepolis and the Necropolis are remarkable historical sites. The Sheikh Lotfolla and the Shah Mosque in the Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan really stand out for their beautiful tile work and their sense of serenity.
How was the food?
The food was fantastic. Saffron, dill, rosewater, lemon, pomegranate, barberry and nuts are the predominant flavours. Rice is a staple and is usually served plain or Pilaf style depending on whether you’re having slow cooked meat or vegetable stews or kebabs. Bread is ever-present too and I especially loved sangak, which is a flat style of bread baked on a bed of small river stones.
What were the people like?
The locals I encountered were really friendly and welcoming. I had several people approach me and ask if they could have their photo taken with me which I happily agreed to, because it gave me an opportunity to engage them in conversation – they were always keen to hear why I chose to visit their country and what I was enjoying about it.
What surprised you the most?
The landscape. I didn’t realise how mountainous it was. Even in the middle of the desert there were snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Isfahan. We spent a great day in the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, near the centre of the city visiting the palace, mosques and bazaar. People were just hanging out with their friends and families, having picnics and sharing sweets that they’d purchased from the surrounding shops. We stopped for ice-cream and just enjoyed being there, because it had such a great relaxed vibe.
How different is it looking at photos of Iran to being there?
As much as I love my photos they don’t do justice to just how architecturally amazing the domes in the mosques are. That is something that you really have to see for yourself to fully appreciate.
What will be your lasting memories of the country?
One of my fondest is being driven through the desert eating dates and listening to classical music while watching the contrasting scenery pass by – an arid landscape under perfectly cloudless skies on one side, snow-capped mountain ranges under gathering clouds on the other.
What would you say to someone thinking of going?
Go soon before everyone catches on that Iran is a fantastic travel destination with great scenery, people and food.
Image: The Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan. Over 400 years old, photos don’t do it justice.