Tips to Travel to Iran during Cold Seasons [2019/2020]
Cold seasons, namely autumn and winter will show the travelers to Iran, a specific aspect of Persian culture and Iranian lifestyle. Next to natural sceneries that are unique in every spot of the country, Iran provides you with amazing foodstuffs, hobbies and must-go places that will stick to your mind forever. Interestingly, it does not matter whether you travel economically on budget or in luxury, Iran has always come up with something attractive and new for its lovers. Here are short tips on how and you can travel to Iran in cold seasons and what kinds of hobbies and foods you might try meanwhile.
Weather and Temperature
As Iran is famous for being a four-season country, the climate and temperature differs in every single region in this vast area.
- Hot, dry desert climate with annual average temperature above 18º C, feature the west and southwest, while the eastern and northern areas are semi-humid, mild in winter and dry in summer and the temperature is almost above 22º C, at most.
- The mid-Iran is specified with hot and dry climate with the average temperature about 18º C.
- The mountainous areas of northern Iran is cold and snowy with dry summers and wet winters often below -3º C, while the warmest month of this part would be over 22º C. From September to early November, the temperature starts to drop. You will find the rainfall at its most between November and March in most parts of Iran.
- Along the Caspian Sea, the climate is quite different meaning that there is the heaviest rainfall compared to the whole country and it starts from late summer to mid-winter. January is the coldest month specifically in Tehran and the northern and mountainous parts. The temperature fluctuates between 5º C to 10º C, despite the August which is the hottest month and there is almost no precipitation.
Clothes and Outfits
If you are packing to travel to Iran from mid-September to early March, try to watch out what you would wear. You will need:
- Waterproof medium (rain) wear for winter
- Warmer clothes if you head a mountainous area
- A pair of jeans or warm pants for visiting northern parts of Iran
- A long sweater or coat for windy and snowy weather (it does get very cold during winter)
You might think of what you can try as foods in Iran during cold windy winter. Although Persian cuisine is always there to serve you regardless of the season, it is highly recommended to try meals specific to winter time. They include:
- Dizi or “Abgousht” (traditional Iranian lamb stew)
- Aash (Annar, Reshteh, and Turnip)
- Different kinds of Soup
- Halim (made out of wheat and usually served as breakfast)
- Southern (Persian Gulf) fish
Note: You will face street sellers who serve you with scrumptious hot snacks such as beetroot, beans, and turnip. Whether you travel on budget or in luxury, you can afford almost all the main dishes of autumn or winter.
Occasions and Holidays
There are special occasions during the cold seasons of autumn and winter in Iran this year that may impress your travel to Iran. Although most of them are religious occasion when people mourn, you might want to take photos of the congregational ceremonies or watch how they commemorate Muharram and Safar.
- On October 12, a semi-ceremony is being held every year in Hafez tomb because it is the national day of Hafez, the greatest Persian poet. You can join many Shirazi citizens as well as other Iranians who travel to Shiraz to celebrate Hafez day. If you are lucky, you can enjoy Persian traditional concerts that take place on this day in the same place, sometimes. (No Holiday)
- Secondly, you will encounter a highly crucial occasion, Arbaeen (October 19), that is, the fortieth day of Imam Hussein’s death. Many Iranian walk to his shrine, known as “Arbaeen walk” or pilgrimage (2019), while many others (mostly elderlies) mourn his death in Iranian mosques. Some families or younger people rarely care about religious events, therefore they go picnic in nature, as the city markets and public places are closed. (Holiday)
- Interestingly, there would be two other holidays related to Safar month. October 27 and 29, the Muslims and Shiites in specific mourn the death of Prophet Muhammad and his grandchild Imam Reza whose shrine is located in Mashhad. The second holiday above coincides with the day of Cyrus, which more seems an urban myth rather than facts, when you CANNOT visit Pasargadae and Cyrus tomb, because the roads to the place will almost certainly be closed. (Two Holidays)
- November 15 would be the first happy occasion after Imam Hussein’s death which both the Sunnis and Shiites celebrate. It is the birthday of Prophet Muhammad and coincides the weekend in 2019. (Holiday)
- Next would be one of the most celebrated nights in Iranian calendar, i.e., Yalda Night. Although it is not a holiday, almost all Iranians stay late at night having their family gatherings. Sometimes, there is public celebration as well. It takes place on December 21. (No Holiday)
- February 11 marks the 41st anniversary of Iran Revolution. You can see many people on the streets who go parade, though the population is decreasing every year. You might also hear them saying “Down with US” or “Down with Israel” while they keep related flags and posters in their hands. (Holiday)
- After that Iranians celebrate another religious occasion, the birthday of Imam Ali, 1st Shiite’s Imam. On this date (March 8th) you will face populations outside who have held this ceremony, too. (Holiday)
- Another significant occasion in Persian calendar which will definitely be celebrated all over Iran, takes place on March 18th, called “Chaharshanbeh Suri” (Festive Wednesday). It has been held on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowrooz in Iranian calendar since ancient times. Iranians celebrate this day outside home, making a fire and jump over that singing a short poet. It is considered as a purgative practice. (No Holiday)
- The last occasion which precedes Nowrouz and is considered as the last day of the current year, will be on March 19th. It is the day of nationalization of the Iranian Oil Industry. Since it more refers to politics, it is a normal day except for the offices off work. (Holiday)
- March 20th the New Year 1399 begins.
Where to Go and What to DO?
If you are traveling to Iran from a cold country, we suggest you visit the tropical and warm places in Iran to feel a pleasant climate but you might want to visit the cold spots if you are coming from a hot country. Heading towards both destinations, you will touch the reality that Iran is a four-season country.
Tropical Destinations/ Southern and South-Western Provinces:
Persian Gulf Islands
Hormoz is an island in Persian Gulf which is a good place for wintertime because the temperature is mild and there are a lot of natural attractions including the red soil. You will need a guide who is familiar with the region. The path is not hard to arrive and you can find a gas station close to the wharf. Watch out not to be drowned! It includes fast boats, sea buses, tricycle, van and taxi to transport.
Qeshm is another island in Persian Gulf which is really worth visiting. Given that the region has many ecolodges with their own specific customs and services, has made this island a must see place during winter. It is undeniable that Qeshm includes probably the most wonderful tourist attractions in the south of Iran.
Located along the border of Persian Gulf, Bushehr is also a historical city dated back at least to Sassanid era. Sea foods are the best choice in Bushehr including Ghaliyeh Mahi, fired fish and other variant meals. Kilim and Gabbeh are the most popular souvenirs there. Although it is by nature a sea city, there are other attractions you can visit in winter.
Located in the southwest of the country, Khuzestan province has the oldest history in the whole country. Ahvaz (the capital of the province), Susa (one of the most important cities during the first Persian Empire, Parthian and Sassanian Empires), Shustar (the summer capital during the Achaemenid Empire and famous for its World Heritage historical hydraulic water system), and Izeh (a historical agricultural city with historical remnants) form this historical province. More significantly, you can watch sunrise and sunset over the Karun River, which is the most effluent and only navigable river.
Another destination to enjoy winter in Iran would be the deserts. During winter and autumn you might like to experience the mild and breezy climate of Iran deserts. Garmeh, Varzaneh, Maranjab in Isfahan Province, Bafgh and Quran Gate (Darvazeh Qoran) in Yazd Province and the Kalouts in Shahdad, Kerman Province will bring you memorial moments in the desert. You not only will enjoy the best sceneries but also the gatherings around the fire (usually accompanied with music performances) at night.
Cold Places/ Western and North-Western Provinces:
Whoever chooses the cold places of Iran during cold seasons would be brave literally because the temperature in these cities often drops to 30 Celsius despite the desert-like climate of the country.
Being the coldest part of the country, Ardabil is a popular destination for winter in Iran. During the cold season make sure to try Sarein water spring or hot meals of Tabriz (the capital of the city) that enable you to survive the coldness. There in Ardabil is a ski resort (Alvares), too which seems a good choice to spend some time if you are a skiing fan.
Note that there are two directions which mesmerize you depending on the path you choose to get to Ardabil. The first is Asālem to Khalkhal Road where you find natural foggy forest embracing the road. Next, is the spiral Road of Heyran going across the Alborz Mountains.
Autumn and winter provide Kurdistan with specific sceneries as well as a different face of Kurd lives, although the province has its unique features during the first six month of the year. Many travelers who are big fans of winter time, choose Kurdistan, its snow-covered sceneries and hobbies for their vacation. Note that you can try its newly-opened ski resort in Bijar which is equipped up to standards. Make sure not to miss visiting Zarivar Lake in Zagros Mountains the surface of which turns into ice in winter time, making it splendid, and which is intertwined with Kurd’s identity.
Tehran Ski Resorts:
Dizin is the largest ski resort and fully-equipped for those who would like to travel in luxury. If you are a big fan of skiing, Dizin is a must go in Iran. Located in Alborz Mountains 70 km far from Tehran, Dizin is the first ski resort confirmed by International Ski Federation. It includes villas and apartments besides the hotels and restaurants. Also you can enjoy tennis court, mount climbing and mount biking in this resort. It takes almost 2 hours from Tehran to get there. Just make sure to check the weather procrastination before heading to Dizin.
Located in Tehran, Tochal is one the most important and well-equipped ski resorts in the country. It has the longest cable car line as well as sleigh beside the other amenities to entertain. Most families try this site during the year as it is safe and suitable for the families. You might either hike to Tochal summit and enjoy a spectacular view over Tehran or take part in different game clubs and entertain yourself.
Shemshak has been called “the snowy paradise of Iran” or “the Alps of Iran” because it is snowy during the cold seasons. It is a mountain village with many wooden cottages. Similar to Dizin, Shemshak is also an international ski resort providing amateur and professional skiers with up to standard equipment.
Abali is the oldest ski resort in Tehran Province, Damavand County. Located 75 km east of Tehran, along the Haraz Road. Abali ski resort includes hot water springs, five different runs and a holy shrine. You will be amazed by its included amenities like chair lift, cable car, button lifts, and hammer tele-skis. Weather forecast seems vital before getting there.
Fajr Movies and Music Festivals
Fajr festival might be a perfect choice for those who are interested in movies and music and who, by chance, travel to Iran during 10 to 20 January or the first ten days of February. These annual festivals are national ones in commemoration of Islamic Revolution, though they embrace participants from other countries. Although the main hall is located in Tehran where artist celebrities are invited, selected movies will be broadcasting in major cinemas in big cities like Isfahan and Shiraz. Also, music bands and singers come to different stages in other cities to perform. This festival helps much for discovering talented local musicians and singers.
Yalda night celebration
Joining Yalda celebration and parties is among the greatest activities on December 21, 2019. If you are on a group tour you can ask for celebrating this night. This celebration would be suitable for both economic and luxury travels. Whether you stay in a hotel or a hostel you will see Yalda table decorated with pomegranate, nuts, watermelon and Hafez poetry book.