Destinations / JOURNEY
I TH THE MUSIC of Pink Floyd blasting
at full volume, my guide Sanaz and my
driver Vahid are laughing and joking as
we speed down a deserted highway in
our Peugeot while the sun begins to set.
And so it is in this spirit of camaraderie and adventure
that I return to Iran. I have visited the desert country
many times and enjoy finding wonderful places to visit and
meeting the friendly, incredibly hospitable people. The
second-largest country in the Middle East, Iran has a rich,
refined culture and of course, an incredible history as one
of the world’s oldest civilizations.
Americans are allowed to legally travel to Iran as long
as they have a visa. Before applying for a visa, visitors
need to first apply for a travel authorization number from
the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. American citizens must travel with a guide. The purpose of my trip is
to scout out potential routes for future tours that might
interest adventure seekers.
And indeed, Iran is place that should not be quickly
Like a Moonscape
ruled out as a travel destination. It is home to 19 UNESCO-
registered historical sites and some rugged and beautiful
country. It is also a safe place to visit as long as you respect
the culture and customs. When I was in Isfahan, one of my
favorite cities in the world, I saw only five other Westerners,
all from Europe. Most tourists stay away in the summer
due to the heat but I love being there during that time.
And speaking of the heat, it is now 4 p.m., the temperature
outside is 122 degrees, the highway ahead is simmering
like a mirror from the radiating heat and we have not seen
another car for an hour.
I am on my way to photograph the Kalout rock formations in the Shahdad Desert and the whole trip out there
in the heat is worth it. We arrive just before the sunset;
the light is wonderful, turning to gold as the sun sets in
the horizon. The landscape reminds me of the American
Southwest, only a lot more dramatic.
As I climb slowly, drenched in sweat, around the huge
rock formations the scene is like a moonscape and I love
the solitude. “This is what real travel used to be all about,”
I think to myself. What an adventure I am having and,
with no one else around, I feel totally free.
Opener: Imam Reza Holy
Shrine in Mashhad. This
page: Naqsh-e Jahan
Square in Isfahan. Opposite
from top left: A village
merchant; Isfahan's spice
market; Arca restaurant
in Isfahan; curious
children in Persepolis.