Masuleh Iran: a guide to the mountains of Gilan

Masuleh Iran: a guide to the mountains of Gilan

While planning for my trip to Iran I was immediately inspired by stories about the Alborz mountains and green paddy fields in the northern province of Gilan and the rooftop village of Masuleh.

Unfortunately Gilan is also one of the wettest parts of Iran. When I travelled from Qazvin to Masuleh it started raining. The hills and paddyfields were hidden behind thick clouds and mist. You need to be a bit lucky if you travel to Masuleh Iran.

Most people travel from Tehran to Masuleh in one day. This is very well possible, but slow travel can be very rewarding in Gilan. Not only are your chances high to see some sunshine coming through, but you will also be surprised by the things Gilan has to offer.

A journey to Masuleh Iran

First stop in Rasht

My first stop on my way to Masuleh in Iran was Rasht. Rasht was one of the most liberal cities I visited in Iran. The black chador was in the minority and instead tight manteau’s and colourful headscarves were in fashion. The center felt almost european with a modern shopping street where girls and families roamed the street.

Shopping street in Rasht
Statue of lady seeling oranges in Masuleh Iran

One of my favourite things to do in any city in Iran is a visit to the bazaar. The bazaar in Rasht was a lively affair and the products on offer reveal that we are close to the Caspian sea. The amount of fish was impressive and I also saw a lot of vendors selling ducks.

I was soon invited in a liver kebab shop where the owner made me taste a greasy mixture of intestines. Honestly, not my favourite. The grilled liver kebab that I ended up ordering was superb though.

Rasht is definetly worth a day of your time. Check this post from Travestyle for a more comprehensive guide on Rasht.

Caspian fish at the bazaar in Rasht
Caspian fish at the bazaar in Rasht

Second stop in Fuman

After a good night of sleep in Rasht I was ready for my next destination. I took a shared taxi to Fuman. The rain was back in full force and on the road I could see a lone tourist on a cycle. Rather impressed we left him behind us.

In Fuman I had to walk through town to get to the taxi stand for Masuleh. Fuman is not so big and a few hours is enough to see the bazaar and try the local delicacy they are famous for. Every bakery in town sells klucheh Fuman. Cookies filled with a warm walnut paste. Take some with you, but also have one fresh from the oven.

Klucheh Fuman in Fuman on my way to Masuleh
Klucheh Fuman in Fuman on my way to Masuleh

Final stop in Masuleh

Once I arrived in Masuleh it stopped raining. I got a nice room in town with a beautiful view on the mountains. Masuleh is an old village, but had to change its location, because of earthquakes and plagues. There is not much left of Old Masuleh that is six kilometers from new Masuleh.

The new location was well thought out. Lower and there would have been floods. Higher and it would have been too cold in winter. The ochre brown buildings follow the slope of the mountain and are unique in that in most cases the roof of the houses serve as the street for the houses above them. With the natural rocks as a foundation the village is now believed to be earthquake resistant.

The stepped houses in the village of Masuleh Iran

My experience in Masuleh Iran

Masuleh is advertised as a so called traditional stepped village, but it lost its rural essence long ago. Yes, it is remote and yes, it is in the mountains, but it is also a very popular tourist destination for people from Tehran.

Expect lots of Iranian families with their selfie sticks. One of the popular things to do in Masuleh was taking pictures in traditional clothes. Especially in summer, Masuleh is full with local tourists. Luckily, I was still early in the season and it was more quiet now.

My feelings about Masuleh were a bit mixed. It wasn’t the dreamy place I had expected it to be. Masuleh is far removed from being an authentic rural village and if that is what you are looking for, it is better to visit Palangan in Kurdistan or Gazor Khan in the Alamut Valley.

Iranian tourists posing for a picture in Masuleh Iran

Hiking in Masuleh

Yet, the village does have a spectacular location with incredible mountain sceneries. Even the rain makes it more beautiful when the mist and clouds play their games and the sun is trying to shine through.

Masuleh is prime hiking territory and because few tourists actually go out of Masuleh it is not too difficult to escape the crowds. Just follow some of the paths up the mountains and you will be all alone with a few sheeps and maybe a herder.

mountain sceneries with mist in Masuleh Iran

Hiking is one reason to come to Masuleh and the friendly people are another. A sense of community does survive and the rooftops do not only serve as streets. It’s where children play and people meet to discuss the latest gossips. Foreign tourists are still in the minority and you will likely attract some friendly attention.

I was told that there was one other dutch tourist in town. It turned out to be the lone cyclist I met on the road to Fuman. He had some interesting stories to tell about his experiences cycling in China. Now he is cycling through Iran and his plan for the next day was to cycle up the mountain towards the Caspian sea. My plan was to head to Tehran.

women in the center of Masuleh Iran

What and where to eat in Masuleh Iran

Because Masuleh is such a popular tourist destination, hotels and restaurants tend to be a bit overpriced. There are plenty of restaurants serving kebab and rice.

If you are on a budget or you are tired of rice with kebab your best bet are the teahouses. Some of them serve Asht-e Reshteh. A filling noodle soup with herbs that makes a perfect lunch or dinner.

You can read more in my Persian food guide about what to eat in Iran.

Asht in Masuleh Iran
Asht in Masuleh Iran

Accomodation in Masuleh Iran

Booking hostels in Iran online is rather difficult. Because of the sanctions, most regular sites like Booking.com or Airbnb won’t work.
To book your hotel beforehand you either need to contact them directly or use 1stQuest

They are one of the few companies where you can plan most of your trip to Iran beforehand. They can book hotels online, arrange airport pick ups, domestic flight tickets and bus tickets.

RashtHotel Kenareh (clean place with good WiFi)

Masuleh: Masuleh has plenty of accomodation. It will not be difficult to find anything, but be prepared to negotiate. A man approached me at the bus station and gave me a good offer. They will show their most expensive rooms first, but if you negotiate they will show you the cheaper rooms they have. I had a clean and nice room with kitchen and bathroom for 400,000 rials.

How to get to Masuleh Iran

Tehran to Masuleh: The quickest way to get to Masuleh from Tehran is by taking a bus to Fuman (5 hours) or Rasht (4 hours).

Qazvin to Masuleh: If you travel from Qazvin to Masuleh you should take a bus to Rasht (3 hours). From Rasht you have to take a shared taxi to Fuman (1 hour) that are leaving from Yakhsazi square. When you arrive in Fuman you can take a private taxi or walk the 2 kilometer to the shared taxi stand for Masuleh (30 minutes).

You can check the bus times and book your bus tickets on the 1stQuest booking system.

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