Iran is a country that enjoys four seasons year round. With that comes a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy at various points throughout the calendar. One activity which you’ll be able to enjoy for the majority of the year is hiking. It is hugely popular throughout the country and there are numerous trails of different difficulties.
Iran is home to the tallest peak in the Middle East. Standing at 5,671 metres, it is labelled the “roof of Iran”. Rightly, the country’s symbol, the mountain can be seen on various items such as the IRN10,000 note and on the packaging of Damavand water. It is a dormant volcano with no eruptions on record, however it can occasionally let out sulphuric fumes.
There are over 15 ways to reach the summit. The southern route leads to hot springs, while the western side offers stunning panoramas. The mountain is covered in snow all year-round and so offers the possibility to ski, too.
Only two hours from the capital, Mt Damavand is easily accessible. June to September is recommended for the ascent.
Zard Kuh, ‘Yellow Mountain’, is situated in the infamous Zagros Mountains, with the highest peak in the area soaring up to 4,221 metres. Begin your journey at Shahr-e Kord and journey towards Farsan and continue to Kohrang Lake, where you will find the friendly Bakhtiâri nomadic tribe making their summer migration.
The area is spectacular for its glaciers, too, providing a compelling contrast in landscape. The glaciers were discovered in the early 1930s, with the largest one spanning over 500 metres wide. Spring is the best time to hike here and you can ski in the winter.
Northwest Iran is home to the town, Kaleybar, and with it Babak Castle, a Sasanid monument dedicated to Babak Khorramdin, a leader who resisted Arab forces until 839 CE. The uphill walk is difficult – it towers up to 7,545 feet – but you are treated to spectacular backdrops once you reach the top. There are various friendly nomadic tribes to greet you on the way up, too. Three hours from Tabriz, the hike can do done as part of a day trip, however, you are welcome to pitch a tent here free of charge.
Try to get to the Castle on the 10th July, when locals celebrate Babak’s birthday, a national hero of the country. For a more detailed account of the hike, read my piece for National Geographic Traveller.
Sahand is a gigantic eroded stratovolcano located in northwestern Iran. Standing at 3707m, Kamal is the highest peak, with around 15 others surrounding it. Home to exemplary pastures, the sheep living here produce some of the best cheese in the whole country and the landscape offers a huge variety of flora and fauna. Coined, the “bride of mountains” in Iran, the landscape is wonderful.
Access the mountain from the Sahand Ski Resort, which is around 60km from central Tabriz by car. As you can guess, winter sports are rife here, including snowboarding. During the middle of winter, a snow sculpture competition is held, attracting locals from all over the country.