Esfahan, IRAN

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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CITY

Esfahan, meaning half of the world in Farsi, is an important oil city of Iran. Situated in the middle of the country, it is also a transportation hub for visitors and domestic business professionals. Esfahan has stunning architectures and art preservations. The city came into formation especially under the reign of the greatest Persian shah, Abbas I. Although an industrial city, the city is captured by sunshine most of the time. Temperature gap of day and night is big as Esfahan is a desert city located at the foot of Zagros mountain. However, with the Zagros not far away from the city, it is easy to get away to hiking destinations from Esfahan. It is a vibrant Middle Eastern metropole with plenty of food, entertainment options of modern cafes, traditional mosques, private nightclubs and parties, and formal praying. Esfahan is less hustle-bustle than Tehran with a comfortable amount of life-work balance.

 

TRANSPORTATION

By Flight: Tehran International Airport, Isfahan International Airport, Shiraz International Airport

By Bus: The most common ways for Iranians and foreign visitors to travel in Iran. Buses are affordable and luxurious. Visitors have enough legroom. Esfahan can be easily accessed from Shiraz or Tehran.

 

PEOPLE

Iranians are renowned for being extremely friendly. Although being a beautiful woman alone, especially if being an Asian, she can be constantly stared at or greeted from random men and women. Nonetheless, these greetings, sometimes verbal, are mostly out of curiosity of social customs. They can make visitors feel uncomfortable at first.

 

SAFETY

Iran is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. Esfahan is a very safe. Even walking on the street alone after midnight is safe. In comparison to Tehran, whose crimes were more of troubles as the capital (of underground drugs and nightlife), Esfahan enjoyed a more residential environment.

Rip-offs can happen at most of the touristy sites. Do haggle. Overall, since the whole income level is low in Western standard, even a rip-off is an average price for Western visitors.

It is suitable for solo females. Do dress modest and cover yourselves. It is not the fashion capital Tehran, overly ostentatious outfits can attract eyeballs. Avoid suburb places that most visitors don’t go.

 

TOP DESTINATIONS

1. Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (Imam Square)

The second biggest squares in the world, Naqsh-e-Jahan is a UNESCO must-do for many. Locals spent time strolling, while tourists, among many are photographing professionals, bowed their body to the ground to capture the perfect symmetry of Shah Mosque approaching sunsets. Locals may pester tourists to take photos with them.

 

2. Si-o-Se Bridge

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One of the two paralleled bridges in Esfahan, the bridge was a pinnacle architecture from the Safavid Empire, the most power dynasties Persians had. Meaning the Bridge of 33, Si-o-Seh bridge is the best to be visited in the evening for all the light arts.

 

3. Kaju Bridge

Once a royal bridge, Khaju Bridge is now open for everyone.Situated not far from Si-o-Se Po, Khaju Bridge is an elevated platform linking waters from two sides of the bridge body. Once a water-preservation project, Khaju Bridge is a site where lovely night entertainment activities such as ballads happen.

 

4. Chehel Sotoun (40th Column Placce)

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The greatest Persian shah, Shah Abbas I invited ambassadors from the world to dine and feast at the palace. Inside of the palace, there were amazing wall paints of grand battles and parties. There are wars fought against the Indians and the all-night-long fetes intended to entertain the Ottoman heirs. Shah Abbas took under his protection many Ottoman heirs, who escaped from their own countries caught among bloody power struggles.

 

5. Vank Church

A Christian church, Vank Church is in the middle of Jolfa area next to the main commercial street. The decoration inside of the church is stunning. The existence of the Church and the Armenian Quarter showed how religions could co-exit in the middle of the extremely Islamic regime. 

View my video here on the visit to Vank Church.

 

6. Armenian Quarter / Jolfa

One of our favourite areas to go shopping, hanging out, and chilling. Jolfa is where the young people live and have nightlife. There are countless amazing cafes and restaurants in the area. A short stroll in this Armenian area or nearby enables you to find wonders. 

 

TOP RESTAURANTS

 

  1. Shazard (Splurge)

A popular place for both locals and tourists, especially for locals. Shazard has homestyle Persian food. There is normally a long queue during lunchtime. Although a splurge option for Iranians, Shazard is affordable in Euro standard of USD standard.

 

2. Toranj (Splurge)

Another luxury place for both locals and tourists, especially for local business men and parties. Toranj has more refined and decorated Persian dishes. There are frequent singing performance during dinner time. Like Shazard, Toranj is affordable in Euro standard of USD standard.

 

3. Safavid Traditional House (High-end)

Rebuilt from a residential house of the Safavid Empire,Safavid House is a restaurant today that is lesser known to tourists. Sahand took me there on one of our early dates. Safavid House has a backyard for diners. Food is authentic and Persian. 

 

4. Hermes Cafe (High-end casual)

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Despite carrying the French name, the Persian chain Hermes Café is not related to the Paris brand Hermes. The Persian Hermes Cafe, however, provides decent Western food, whose fresh and juicy salads have contributed to my life in Iran, for I am a vegetarian in the meat-heavy Iran. Hermes Cafe has awful WiFi. It is not advised to work there with internet. 

 

5. Mustache Cafe (Normal Price Point)

The cafe outside of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square. I met Sahand at Mustache Cafe. Mustache has awesome hot chocolate and coffees. The cafe is small and only suitable for drinking. It has limited food options. There is no wifi. 

*Persian food is very meat-heavy, so vegetarians need to be aware. Zhu is a vegetarian herself.

 

NIGHTLIFE

Jolfa Area

The place to be, Jolfa attracts young people and local artists. Zhu spent quite some time at Ani Cafe, the first coffeeshop of Esfahan. It has amazing wifi and a cool crowd. There are always performance outside of the cafe on the street. There are no alcoholic entertainment legally, so cafes are where most people spent their evenings in. However, do go to a trusted home party if you have the opportunity. Be careful to not go with strangers alone.

 

SHOPPING

Persian scarves in Jolfa area or the big bazaar in Naqsh-e-Jahan Square

 

STAY

  1. Rag Rug Hostel

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Sahand’s number one darling and now one of the most reputable hostels in Iran. Grossing 5-star comments from every guest, the hostel had a very difficult time initially. Zhu met Sahand before Rag Rug’s open. She witnessed how he worked diligently to build the brand. Only a few months ago, Rag Rug was an empty construction site with a few grey bricks and dirty walls. Now, Rag Rug has made home for many tourists from every corner of the world. Sahand was refused 3 times for a hostel license at first. Nevertheless, he kept on. Today, Rag Rug is not only a traveler’s haven, but anmotivational symbol for entrepreneurial hardknocks.

Price Point: $7 for a bed. $30 for an ensuite King room

Notes: frequent activities are offered in the hostel

Book: Hostel World: Rag Rug or on Rag Rug site or write to them on their Instagram: @ragrughostel.

 

2. Viana Hotel

Attentive service with night airport pickup service. They take care of everything for you. Fast responses. It was the hotel Zhu stayed in during her first visit. Viana offers visa letter.

Price Point: $10 / night.

Book: Call +98 (31) 32360100 or email info@viana-hotel.com

 

3. Abbasi Hotel

Personally Zhu has no experiences. It is renowned for being the most luxurious hotels in Esfahan. 

Price Point: $40 ish / night.

Book: Refer to the official webpage Abbasi Hotel.

 

TOUR AGENT

Amin Barkhodari

A personal friend and a renowned local tour agent, Amin is extremely warm-hearted, trustworthy, and helpful. He had offered me an amazing amount of information prior to Zhu’s first visit. After her second and third time, they became friends. Amin is happily married to Parmida.

Contact: Email him at aminbarkhordari89@gmail.com or on Instagram: @realisfahan

 

TIPPING CULTURE

No tipping. It is not a tipping country.

 

OUTLETS

European round-point plugs.

 

EXPENSE

Apart from accommodation, eating or going around, 10-20 euros are more than sufficient for your day. Normally, 5-10 euros for a day will make you live like a queen.

CURRENCY

The most important thing to know about money in Iran is that visa doesn’t work anywhere and there is a ban on American companies. You need to bring ALL of your money in cash to Iran and exchange it when you’re there. They do exchange it everywhere though, hotels, visitor centers, etc,  but there is no exchange at the airport. Most people use their hotels to arrange everything.

Rial and Tohman are the local currencies. Be aware that local prices are often quoted in Tohman, which is 10x of Rial. However, Iranian currency can be messy for a visitor to understand. Spending more days in Iran will help you understand the price level, currency nuances, and the value of your bills.

 

HEALTH / VACCINES

No vaccine needed in reality. However, please refer to your embassy’s website for further instruction.

 

VISA

Please refer to your embassy for more information. Landing visas are offered for visitors from China and France. For US visitors, it is advised to obtain visas in advance at a third-party embassies such as Sweden.

Visitors can buy insurance at the site when doing the landing visas. They take euros and US dollars.

Visa fee can be rip-off for many.

 

NOTES

  • Cars race on the street, so be aware of this Iranian custom. Locals cross streets amidst  fast-coming car. Zhu was very intimidated when she first tried to cross streets. Until today, she was always the polite Western visitor waiting for all cars to pass.

  • Locals love to invite foreigners for food or tea. You can take them up on it if you want.

  • Instagram is widely used in Iran as one of the few Western tools that have not been blocked. The best way to stay in touch with your new Iranian friends is through Instagram DMs.

  • You need to use VPNs to get over Iranian internet. Express VPN is great.

  • It is the best to get a local SIM card for the fast internet with a VPN. The process of getting a SIM card can take a while. One needs to have passports to get a SIM. SIMs can be topped up and reused for next visit.

  • Before you go, join the Facebook group of See You in Iran and be showered with local helps and tips

  • Join the Facebook group Must See Iran.
  • Be relaxed. It is one of the most beautiful, exotic, and safest countries to visit.

Find the article helpful? Comment on and share this article.

Subscribe Zhu The Girl blog and check out more posts.

Follow Zhu on her Instagram: @zhuthegirl 

See more guides and contents on YouTube: Zhu The Girl

Engage with Zhu and more on Facebook: @zhuthegirl

Adapted and sourced from my past articles:

  1. A Guide to Esfahan, Iran – Solo Female Traveler Network.
  2. Esfahan, The City of Love – We Are Travel Girls
  3. Esfahan, the City of Love – Girls Who Travel
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