After spending four incredible days exploring Shiraz, I became a little bit worried that my Iranian adventure had started off too wonderful, and that everything following Shiraz would be a letdown.
Luckily, my next stop was Yazd, and it would turn out to be one of my favourite places in Iran.
Yazd city is the capital of the Yazd province and it is home to close to half a million people. Located a six hour bus ride North-East of Shiraz (and quite a pleasant one if you don’t find yourself having one of those days where you are constantly desperate to pee – there is a story there – but I will spare you all of the gory details) Yazd is an incredible example of an Iranian desert city, and one that should be on the bucket lists of anyone planning a visit to Iran.
After arriving into Yazd and checking into the Orient Hotel (a place which I would highly recommend) it didn’t take too long for me to meet with my first desert dwelling creature.
Just chilling out in the Orient Hotel were three big tortoises! Just look at this little face, isn’t he/she sweet?
I spent almost three days in Yazd, and that was a perfect amount of time. I was able to do a day trip out to some incredible cities in the desert and still have plenty of time left over to explore some truly wonderful sites in the city itself.
The place in Yazd that I was most excited to visit was the pair of Zoroastrian Towers of Silence that lie around 10km outside of the city centre. Easily accessible by taxi, these towers are most beautiful when visited at sunset, as you will soon see!
So firstly, you may find yourself asking, “what on earth is a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence?”
This is a bloody good question.
To begin, one needs to be aware that Zoroastrianism is one of the worlds oldest religions, with some historians believing that it was practiced as early as the 2nd century BC, but with most evidence suggesting that the religion came into existence in the 5th century.
Zoroastrian religion was suppressed in the 7th century following the Muslim conquest of Persia between 633-654 BC. In the present day, estimates suggest that as few as 2.6 million people worldwide practice the Zoroastrian faith – most of whom live in Iran and India.
For those with Zoroastrian heritage or those who practice Zoroastrianism, Yazd is home to numerous places which are considered to be extremely important pilgrimage sites.
These Towers of Silence are among such sites.
So we have lightly covered Zoroastrianism, but what about this “towers of silence” business?
The Towers of Silence is a name used to describe Zoroastrian structures that were – until the 1970’s – used for excarnation, which is an important part of the funerary process for Zoroastrian people.
Excarnation is the process of leaving a dead body inside one of these open pits (pictured above) and allowing the elements and wildlife (typically scavenger birds such as vultures) to pick all of the flesh off of the bones.
In the Zoroastrian faith, dead bodies are considered unclean and a potential source of contamination for anyone and anything that said dead body comes into contact with. As part of the Zoroastrain belief system, fire and earth are sacred and as a result, cremation and typical burial are considered ultimate no-no’s, as these would cause sacred elements to become contaminated.
After the sun has dipped below the horizon, don’t be in too much of a rush to leave the grounds. Just below the towers are some incredible old buildings in various states of disrepair, and honestly, walking around amongst these structures made me feel like I had stumbled onto the set of Star Wars Episode IV!
Everywhere I turned there was something new and captivating to stare at and photograph.
If you ever have a burning desire to pretend to be Luke Skywalker, this is an undeniably prime place to do so.
Entrance to the Towers costs 150,000 rials (approx $6 AUD) and a cab ride from the city centre to the towers will set you back around 100,000 rials if you are comfortable with haggling. If you can find three other travellers to fill up the cab, it makes for a very cheap ride.
You can negotiate with a taxi driver to wait for you and return you back to the city centre, but it will most likely work out cheaper to do the return trip separately, and there will be taxis waiting outside to take people back to town.
The following morning, it was time to do a little bit of semi-aimless wandering and exploring. Literally 30 metres down the road from my hotel was the Jame Mosque of Yazd, which may not be the biggest or most impressive mosque that one will ever see, but it is still very beautiful, and well worth a visit.
Plus, it is free to enter, which is always a bonus!
I really quite like this next photograph. I spotted this Iranian man opening up a bag of nuts and having a quick snack just in front of the Jame Mosque and for whatever reason, it just caught my eye.
With a little bit more aimless walking, my new Iran travel buddy Hayden and I stumbled across an unassuming looking little mosque. I have no idea what it is called but boy, it may look understated from the outside, but it is pretty fricking magical on the inside.
This next shot was taken by my friend Hayden, and honestly, it is probably one of my favourite photos from my time in Iran. I love the stained glass and the reflections off the tiles, and I really love how tiny I look next to the super high windows.
Oh and the ceilings weren’t anything to sneeze at either!
This particular mosque was much more ‘local’ than all of the others that I had visited, and I only spotted one other foreigner in the entire time we were there.
After I was done marvelling at the stained glass, it was back onto the streets for more exploring.
Check out this incredible bowl of spices that I spotted in a small store!
This next capture is another favourite from my Iran trip. Maybe it’s the sense of movement, or the spices, or that amazing pleather jacket, or maybe it is just that when I look at this picture I can hear all the sounds of the Yazd streets in my head. Whatever it is, there is just something I love about it.
Oh and y’know, here is another mosque… they certainly aren’t in short supply in Iran!
Yazd is an absolutely incredible city. It is small but lively, it is friendly without being overwhelming, and there is so much incredible stuff to see and do.
Stay tuned to the next post to discover some incredible desert cities located not too far outside the Yazd city limits.
Getting to Yazd: Yazd is well connected to Esfahan, Tehran and Shiraz via local bus
Orient Hotel: A cheap hotel with a few mixed dorms, expect to pay around $15/night
Jame Mosque: Entrance to the mosque is free
Towers of Silence: Entrance to these amazing towers is 150,000 rials
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: The best time to visit the Towers of Silence is at sunset, and make sure you get there a bit beforehand to allow enough time to climb to the top of your chosen tower