Top things to do in Kermanshah Iran: a travel guide
This post is about the best things to do in Kermanshah. One of the oldest cities in Iran at the foot of the Zagros mountains. With its location close to Iranian Kurdistan the city is nowadays also one of the largest kurdish speaking cities in Iran.
Kermanshah is all about history. Unfortunately earthquakes, invaders and the war with irak caused a lot of damage. There are not a lot of things to do in Kermanshah itself, but 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
One of the best things to do in Kermanshah is the bazaar that is at the heart of the city. Like anywhere in Iran it’s an assault on all your senses with the smell of spices and the sounds of people smiling and negotiating.
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 when I was there on a friday I could even get a better look at the architecture.
The oldest part is still called the Jewish bazaar, because it used to belong to the Jewish people. 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 the traditional kurdish clothes and 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
One of the top things to do in any Iranian city is trying the local food. Iranians love their sweets and every region has its own specialities. Kermanshah has nan berenji.
You can buy the sweet rice flour cookies throughout 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 and 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
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.
How to get there: The taqt e bostan reliefs are in the northern suburbs of the city about 8 kilometer from the center of Kermanshah. It’s best to take a taxi.
30 kilometers northeast of Kermanshah you will find Bisotun. One of the most important historical attractions in central Iran. The 2000 year old Aechemenid rock carvings and cuneiform inscriptions describe the cultural and political events of that time.
To understand what you see it is a good idea to get a guide. Things to look out for is the image of the victory of Darius the great. Darius was 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 more Aechemenid cuneifiorm incriptions at Ganjnameh.
How to get there: Bosotun is 40 kilometers east of Bisotun. It’s best to take a taxi. Otherwise there are shared taxi’s that leave from the southeastern corner of the Khordat overpass.
8. Temple of Anahita
Nobody knows how old the Anahita temple near Kermanshah is, but it certainly predates islam. Was it the Parthians, the Sassanids or the Aechemenids or all three that used and rebuild this temple for their own use?
The most common theory is that it was a Zoroastrian temple where people prayed to the water goddes Anahita. Others believe it was the Khosrow Parviz palace.
It used to be the second largest stone made structure in Iran and the ruins that you can see now are still pretty impressive.
How to get there: Kangavar is about 100 kilometers east of Kermanshah. It’s best to take a taxi
Where to sleep in Kermanshah
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
Because not many tourists visit Kermanshah there is not a lot of choice if it comes to budget accomodation.
I stayed at hotel Nabavod that was one of the cheapest options. It is basic, but has a good location near the bazaar and friday mosque.
Where to eat in Kermanshah
Kermanshah has a lot of fast food restaurants offering grilled chicken, kebabs and rice. Examples are Azdhar fast food and the Heidari barbecue restaurant. The more traditional Iranian cuisine is unfortunately 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. If you want to try a local dish ask for dandeh kebab.
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.
When to visit Kermanshah
Kermanshah is at the foot of the Zagros mountains and has a mediterreanan climate. Winters do get cold and bring snow to the mountains, but not for long.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Kermanshah, although it can get very hot. In fact, the best temperatures are in spring and autumn.
How to travel to Kermanshah
You can check the bus times and book your bus tickets on the 1stQuest booking system.
Since 2018 there is also a new train station in Kermanshah connecting Kermanshah with Qom and Tehran by rail.
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.
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