Things to do in Kermanshah: a travel guide to central Iran

Things to do in Kermanshah: a travel guide to central Iran

Backpacking Iran: A travel guide to the best things to do in Kermanshah for the independent budget traveller

This post is about the best things to do in Kermanshah. One of the oldest cities in Iran and the largest kurdish spreaking city in the country.

Kermanshah is all about history. Even though there are not a lot of things to do in Kermanshah itself.  you don’t need to venture far from the city to see ancient rock reliefs and zoroastrian temples.

A history of Kermanshah

The area around Kermanshah is considered to be the cradle of prehistoric cultures. Archaeological excavations have discovered the skeletal remains of early humans in several caves throughout the province. They also found the first neolithic villages that proof people build settlements here in the late stone age about 10,000 years ago. In fact, the oldest prehistoric village in the middle east was found west of Kermanshah.

Kermanshah was already occupied by prehistoric people in the Paleolithic periods or what is also known as the early stone age. However, the city truly developed in the 4th century under the Sassanid kings. Its strategic position meant a turbulent past. It was conquered and occupied by the Arabs, the Seljuks, the Safavids, the Qajars, the Ottomans and the Russians.

Despite this long history, there are not a lot of things to do in Kermanshah itself and there is not much left of its historical buildings. One of the reasons is that Kermanshah was severely damaged in the Iran Iraq war. Most of the city has been rebuilt and nowadays it is a modern Iranian city, but outside history is waiting for you.

The best things to do in Kermanshah

1. The bazaar in Kermanshah

At the heart of Kermanshah is the bazaar. Unfortunately it was friday and most of the shops were closed when I was there. Still there was enough open to get a feel for it.

The covered bazaar is one of the few historical buildings left in Kermanshah. The structure is from the Qajar period and has several caravanserai courtyards. Because a lot of shops were closed I could even get a better look at the architecture of the bazaar.

Nowadays Kermanshah is a melting pot of different ethnic groups such as the Kurds and Lori’s. This is represented at the bazaar as well. Look out for giveh, the local kurdish footware. Other handicrafts include carpets and wooden kitchenware.

2. The Shafei Jame mosque

Don’t miss the beautiful Shafei Jame mosque inside the bazaar. It is one of the few Sunni mosques in Shia dominated Iran and the interior decorations are beautiful.

3. Try nan Berenji

Iranians love their sweets and every region has its own specialities. Kermanshah has nan berenji. Sweet cookies that you can buy anywhere iun town.

Read more about Persian sweets in my Persian food guide.

4. Tekye Moaven al Molk

Tekye Moaven al Molk is an important Shia mourning place built during the Qajar era and is one of the top things to do in Kermanshah. It’s beautiful tile work tells many stories such as the battle of Karbala. There are also depictions of Persepolis and the Aechemenid kings.

5. The friday mosque

The friday mosque or central mosque is Kermanshah’s main mosque for the friday prayers. I couldn’t find much information about the building, but it looks pretty new and my guess is that it was constructed after the Iran Iraq war.

At the friday mosque there was a small art exhibition about the Iran-Iraq war. I didn’t get much chance to take a closer look. As the prayers were about to start the security guards looked at me with a mix of curiosity and suspicion.

Kermanshah is not far from the border with Iraq and with the threat of ISIS security was tight. I didn’t want to make the security guards more nervous about my presence and left.

Things to do near Kermanshah

1. Taqt-e-bostan 

My main reason to visit Kermanshah was to see Taqt-e-Bostan. This is among the top thing to do near Kermanshah and very popular among tour groups and local tourists.

Taqt e Bostan has some beautiful carvings of the Sassanid kings depicting both royal and religious ceremonies. It was friday when I visited the archeological park and it was very busy with local people. A very friendly family offered to give me a free tour in exchange of several selfies with me.

Despite the presence of a German tour group I received a lot of curious questions from the Iranian visitors. Why was I travelling alone? What did I think about Iran? And what do they show about Iran on television in my country?

Iranians are quite aware about how Iran is being represented in the West and they hope that tourists like me are able to give a more positive image.

At last I met a boy who called himself ‘the collector’. He came to Taqt-e Bostan every weekend to talk to tourists to learn more about Europe and America. I had to watch his collection of selfies with people from various countries, before I was added.

2. Bisotun

30 kilometers east of Kermanshah you will find some Aechemenid rock carvings and cuneiform inscriptions that depict the victory of Darius the great. The third Aechemenid king that also built Persepolis.

There is also a statue of Hercules and a caravan serai. Nearby in Hamadan you will find other Aechemenid cuneifiorm incriptions at Ganjnameh.

Where to sleep in Kermanshah

Because not many tourists visit Kermanshah the choice of budget accomodation is limited.

Hotel Nabavod is basic, but has a good location near the bazaar and friday mosque

Where to eat in Kermanshah

Kermanshah is full of fast food restaurants offering grilled chicken, kebabs and rice. The more traditional Iranian cuisine is more difficult to find.

If you visit Taqt e Bostan I can recommend to have lunch or dinner there. Near a stream with a nice setting there are several outdoor restaurants serving delicious kebabs with rice.

Money matters in Kermanshah

Due to the sanctions, Iran has been cut off from the international money transfer system. There are no ATM’s in Kermanshah that will work with a foreign bank card. You will have to bring all your money in cash (euro’s or dollars).

Safety in Kermanshah

Kermanshah is close to the border with Iraq and due to ISIS security is more tight here. However, for foreign travellers it is a very safe city with low crime levels. If you follow normal precautions you should not face any problems.

For solo female travellers I wrote a post with tips and advice about traveling as a woman in Iran.

How to travel to Kermanshah

There are frequent buses to and from Sanandaj (3 hours),  Hamadan (3 hours), Tehran (9 hours), Isfahan (9 hours) & Tabriz (8 hours)

Kermanshah is very near to Irans Kurdistan. In fact, Kermanshah has a large Kurdish population as well. Iranian Kurdistan is very well worth a visit. Read my post on Iran’s Kurdistan: Sanandaj & Palangan for more information.

Backpacking Iran: A travel guide to the best things to do in Kermanshah for the independent budget traveller