Travel Blog Qeshm and the Persian Gulf | Pyala Travel

Read here our travel experiences in Qeshm, Minab and other places along the Persian Gulf in Iran

Travel Blog South Iran (Qeshm, Minab and Bander-e Abbas)

After six months back in Iran and not for nothing, one of my favorite destinations. Especially because of the friendly people I meet everywhere, but also because of the many varied things to see. This time I will explore the Bandari culture on the Persian Gulf.

Here you will find the pictures of this tour
The Lost Paradise

I'm starting the journey in Shiraz. During the day I visit the hills around Shiraz, the foothills of the Zagors mountains. I visit the valley of Margoon and the valley with the fantastic name 'Valley of the Lost Paradise'. Both valleys are situated around Sepidan, a real ski resort where the inhabitants of Shiraz travel in winter to ski on the slopes. The valley of Margoon is a beautiful, green valley where in summer many Qashgai nomads put up their tents, wonderful to visit. In spring it is also very beautiful here, especially when all the fruit trees are in bloom and the flowers start to bloom. Many Iranian families go here for a picnic and prefer to do so at the Margoon waterfall. In the valley on the way to the Lost Paradise are some more villages to see. The Lost Paradise itself is a valley with a mountain stream, along which you can take a walk and also a popular place for picnics. For Iranian families it remains the popular outing, the heat and drought escape and somewhere in the cooling mountains, in a green environment, preferably with some water to picnic.
Meet a Local in Shiraz

I'll be back in Shiraz by the end of the afternoon.
Fortunately, we now also have a whole network of people in Iran who participate in our 'meet-a-local' activities, which you can optionally book with your individual trip. An ideal way to get in touch with the local people in a more relaxed way and to take a look behind the scenes of a country. You can eat at people's homes, take a city walk, have a picnic together or visit a teahouse or cook together.

I am welcomed in the house of the enthusiastic Sahar and Mohsen. The family of Sahar lives in a beautiful house on the edge of the center. They like to receive guests and can cook delicious. Together with Marzieh, Mohsen's mother and friend Hossein, they like to teach me the intricacies of Persian cuisine.   I meet the family and soon find myself in the kitchen with them. Together with them I prepare an extensive meal of many Iranian dishes and some specialties from Shiraz.  Of course I make fasenjan, a famous Iranian dish of chicken stewed for hours in a sauce of walnuts and pomegranate.  I also learn how to make chelo, the delicious Iranian saffron rice with its yellow crust. And kalam polo, a specialty of Shiraz, rice with small meatballs and fried cabbage.

In the meantime I not only learn everything about the delicious Persian cuisine, but I also get to know this family. A beautiful insight into life 'behind the veil' in Iran.

And then, of course, in the evening, enjoy an extensive and delicious Iranian meal. Unfortunately I have to leave in time to catch the late flight to Bandar Abbas.
Bandar Abbas and Minab

Bandar Abbas is the capital of the Iranian province of Hormozgan. A large city on the Persian Gulf without any noteworthy sights. An endless amount of, mostly ugly, buildings on the Persian Gulf. During the day it is about 38 degrees and then it is only early April.

I take a walk along the boulevard and see a large number of huge ships lying in the sea, waiting for cargo. In the city itself is a small, old Indian temple. And I visit the fish market. I am amazed at the wide variety of fish, from small, tropical fish and shrimps to giant sharks and tuna.

The streetscene is different than in most other Persian cities. I see men twisting long white dresses, characteristic of the Arab population in the Persian Gulf and here and there women with conspicuous masks with pointed noses (a kind of Venetian mask almost), which are typical of Bandari women. The women also wear colorful, flowered chadors. The Bandari are an Arabic people of origin, mostly Sunni, who have lived on the south coast of Iran for centuries.

Every Thursday the regional market of Minab takes place, one of the most colourful events in Iran. People come to this market from far and wide, who together form a good reflection of the various population groups in this region: Iranians, Bandari, Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis and Somalis. It is a hustle and bustle of interest and the best place to see the masked Bandari women. Each village has its own mask. The masks are also for sale on the market. The women generally do not appreciate being photographed. The men, on the other hand, like to be photographed. Don't forget to visit the cattle market, a true spectacle and a feast for the eyes. The market is an hour's drive from Bandar Abbas and only takes place in the morning. Around 13.00 it usually ends.

From Bandar Abbas I take the ferry to Qeshm. The crossing takes about an hour. Along the way I see an enormous amount, huge boats and even some dolphins jumping out of the water. The ferry arrives in the town of Qeshm, which is a kind of small version of Bandar Abbas and therefore not very interesting to visit. I drive on to the town of Dargahan, where I have a delicious lunch with fresh fish, crab and shark meat in a local restaurant.

Since most of the sights on Qeshm are especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset, I am going to visit the town of Bandar Laft today. On the way here I visit one of the many shipyards where they still build lengeh or dhows by hand. These impressive ships have been sailing for centuries through the Persian Gulf to Pakistan and India. Bandar Laft is a beautiful example of how the villages in the Persian Gulf used to look like. The sleepy town is known for its many wind towers (badgirs). From the hill behind the city I have a nice view of the town with the sea behind it. When I drive to my hotel, a surprise awaits. On the way we all see people and cars in the desert, we decide to go and have a look and there is a real camel race going on, a spectacular sight. My guide is going to inform me if at night I can to the beach to see the turtles that come to lay their eggs during this period. The next morning it turns out that the turtles haven't come ashore since Now Ruz. Too many celebrating Iranians during the New Year holiday on the beach! Shouldn't be allowed in a protected natural park like Qeshm.
Second day in Qeshm

The next day I continue my exploration of Qeshm. This is the largest island in the Persian Gulf and also the most interesting to visit, because of the many natural phenomena and traditional Bandari culture. There is a lot to see, you can't see everything in one day and take into account the heat that can make you rest better in the afternoon.

I get up early in the morning to take a boat trip to the island of Hengam. Along the way I spot some dolphins. A lot of people go ashore at one of the beaches. But I choose to explore the underwater world. I have my snorkel gear with me, how often can you snorkel in the Persian Gulf? I'm surprised, because I'm one of the first people to go snorkeling here. People have no idea either and I have to decide for myself where I want to go in the water. I jump out of the boat at various places and see some coral and a reasonable amount of tropical fish here and there. It is not very spectacular, but it is a special experience. Especially the changing of clothes makes for a lot of hilarity. Even as a man I have to follow the islamic rules. This morning I had already put on my swimming trunks, on the boat I wear my swimming trunks, but when I come to land, I'm not allowed to wear shorts. On a wobbly boat I try to change my clothes again.
Then I drive to the Chakuh valley, a first introduction to the protected status of Qeshm as a geopark. In a barren, desert-like landscape I drive to a gorge, where I walk the last part myself (15 minutes). Bizarre rock formations close the gap here, a spectacular sight.
After this I take a boat trip through the harra, the mangrove forest. This is the westernmost mangrove forest of the Asian mangrove forests. I make a short trip of half an hour, it's hot as hell by now. In winter it is a paradise for bird lovers with many migrating birds. Also here you have the chance to find dolphins of a different species than Hengam. However, I don't see any dolphins and only a few birds, including black herons.
Then it's time for a traditional lunch in one of the atmospheric homestays on Qeshm. How about shark curry, fresh fish kebab and squid? I am warmly welcomed by Mr. Amiri who has been running a homestay with his family for years in the village of Tabi, a nice introduction to the Bandari life on Qeshm. Then I visit another, if possible even more beautiful homestay in Haftrangu.
When the worst heat is over, I go back on the road for a further exploration of the geopark. I drive to the 'Roof of Qeshm', where I have a beautiful view of the Valley of Sculptures, all of them capricious rock formations. At sunset it is the best time to go to the 'Valley of the Stars', one of the most beautiful places on Qeshm. A kind of mini Grand Canyon, which I walk through and over endlessly. The setting sun causes the bizarre rock formations to slowly turn pink and orange.
Back in my hotel it is a hustle and bustle of interest. I sleep in a sort of Iranian version of a beach resort, where nobody swims by the way. Maybe the women, but they do it separately behind a high wall. However, it's very hot and I decide to take a chance. From my room I quickly run, against all regulations, into the sea for a refreshing dive. On the beach I see veiled women riding a quad. There is a lot of activity on the beach, everywhere families are eating, dancing and singing. It's Friday night and as soon as the sun goes down and it gets cooler, the island comes alive. Very nice to experience. Everyone comes to have a chat, there is laughter, football, singing, dancing. It almost seems like a real holiday in a beach resort. But the many veiled women with their characteristic masks with pointed noses make me feel like I have arrived at an Iranian version of the Venetian carnival. I enjoy it and order another refreshing malt beer.
I enjoyed this short visit to the Persian Gulf with its Bandari culture, the beautiful Minab market and the surprisingly varied island of Qeshm. An area that is very different from the rest of Iran, but for that reason alone worth a visit!