16 Things to do in Yazd: a travel guide to Iran’s desert city

16 Things to do in Yazd: a travel guide to Iran’s desert city

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

This post is a travelguide with the best things to do in Yazd.

Why visit Yazd?

Yazd is a small city in the southern desert of Iran. It was quite different from other places I had visited so far. I loved the laid back atmosphere and the fact that it didn’t feel like a city. The traffic wasn’t as crazy, streets were less crowded and even in the bazaar it was relatively quiet. It was all more easygoing in Yazd and it was the perfect place to take it slow for a couple of days.

One of my favourite things to do in Yazd was simply wandering around the winding lanes of the old town. Every time I discovered something new. A hidden mosque, a shrine, a wind tower or a traditional zurkhaneh.

Yazd is a city that keeps its history alive and blends it with modern Iranian culture. The result is that there are plenty of things to do in Yazd. It will be tempting to spend most of your time in the city, but Yazd is also the perfect gateway to explore Irans stunning desert.

a woman and child in Yazd

Yazd: a desert city

Yazd is a true desert city like Kashan. From sandstorms to the extreme heat. Yazd was the first place where the dress code felt too warm, even though it was still April. I can only imagine how hot it must be in summer.

Yazd is well adapted to this climate in several ways. Wind towers were made to cool down the houses and the so called ab anbars were to preserve water. The domes of the underground water storages have a wind tower on each side and are still a common sight in Yazd.

Unfortunately many water storages and wind towers are left abandoned and the question is for how long they will survive before crumbling down. For now, finding them in the small neighbourhoods of the city is one of the fun things to do in Yazd.

painting on a wall in the old town of Yazd. Wandering around the old town is one of the best things to do in Yazd

A history of Yazd

Despite its remote location in the desert and the harsh climate, Yazd claims to be one of the oldest continously inhabited cities in the world. Whether the claim is true or not it certainly was an important town on the ancient Silk road.

Yazd was an essential stop on the trade route from China to Europe. It was here that cultural and political ideas were exchanged. Nowadays it is not traders that come, but foreign tourists keeping the tradition of cultural exchange alive.

children in the old town of Yazd

The best things to do in Yazd

1. The blue mosque

One of the top things to do in Yazd is a visit to the blue mosque. During the day the blue tiles are already impressive, but they truly come alive at night when the lights deepen the blue colours.

For me, this was the most beautiful place to visit in Yazd and I was lucky my hotel was right next to it so I could visit it multiple times. Each time I noticed different details.

The blue mosque is among the top things to do in Yazd

The blue mosque is among the top things to do in Yazd

2. The towers of Silence

Iran’s history is full of things that we hear little about in the west. Did you know for example that the oldest religion comes from Iran and it is not Islam.

Before Iran adopted Islam, they practised Zoroastrianism. The first monotheistic religion in the world that is believed to have had a huge influence on the development of christianity.

After the Arab conquest of Iran Yazd was allowed to remain Zoroastrian and many believers migrated to Yazd. Islam initially developed slowly in Yazd and it is somewhat contradictory that currently it is one of the more religious conservative cities in Iran. However, it is also quite tolerant and an active Zoroastrian community is still present.

The best thing to do in Yazd to learn more about Zoroastrianism is a visit to the towers of silence. Zoroastrians believe the earth is holy and should not be polluted by burying the death. Instead they used sky burial sites where bodies where left for birds to eat. They are no longer in use as such, but are now a popular tourist attraction.

How to get there: the towers of silence are at the outskirts of town. It is possible to get there by bus (line 436) if you have good Farsi skills. However, a taxi is much easier. It should cost between 100,000 or 150,000 rials.

The towers of silence in Yazd

The towers of silence in Yazd

3. The Zoroastrian Fire temple

Yazd is one of the few places in Iran that still has a small Zoroastrian minority. The towers of silence might be a thing of the past, but the fire temple in Yazd is still an active place of worship.

The holy fire inside is said to be burning since 470 AD. There is also a small, but interesting museum with explanations about the Zoroastrian faith and customs. It is among the best things to do in Yazd to see the still active Zoroastrian community in practice.

the Zoroastrian fire temple is the best thing to do in Yazd to see the active Zoroastrian community

4. Old Town of Yazd

One of my favourite things to do in Yazd was simply wandering around in the old town. It is there that you will find the real beauty of Yazd. The narrow streets and winding lanes with the yellow sandstone houses are a journey back in time. You might get lost, but it is the kind of place where that doesn’t matter.

The old town of Yazd was my favourite thing to do in Yazd

The old town of Yazd

5. Khan e Lari

There are several traditional old houses in the old town of Yazd inviting you to have a look inside. If you have been in Kashan you will not be impressed by them. I honestly felt it was a bit of a tourist trap.

I visited the Khan e Lari and the only interesting thing I saw was a white room with old pictures of smoking ladies.

If you did not visit the traditional homes in Kashan it might be worth the entrance fee, otherwise you will not miss much. Chances are, that your traditional hostel is more beautiful.

The exterior of the Khan e Lari. One of the traditional houses in the old town of Yazd

6. Alexander Prison

Alexander Prison is busy with tourgroups, but for me this was another tourist trap in the old town. It is not at all sure this building was built by Alexander the Great and there is nothing special to see inside.

The courtyard in front of the Alexander prison is a much nicer place to sit and see the building from outside. It is in the midst of the old town so you will likely pass by anyway.

Alexander prison in the old town of Yazd

7. Visiting Ab Anbars & The water museum

We came across several ab anbars or water reservoirs in Yazd. They are interesting dome structures in which water is stored underground and cooled by wind towers. Some of them are still in use but most of the ones we saw were deserted and used for trash.

There is also a water museum near the Amir Chakmakh square with more information about the use of water in this desert city.

An ab anbar in the old town of Yazd

An ab anbar in the old town of Yazd

8. Visiting the Zurkhaneh

While walking through town, two men invited us to their woodworkshop. They were making meels for the local zurkhaneh. A traditional gym where men make impressive moves with the meels on upbeat music.

We got a free demonstration on how they were used and were then encouraged to try it out ourselves. They were extremely heavy and our efforts were witnessed by much joy and laughter. Later on we passed by a zurkhaneh and were able to have a quick look inside.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to see a show, but if you can it certainly is one of the most fun things to do in Yazd.

men showing the meels for the zurkhaneh in Yazd

A zurkhaneh in Yazd. Seeing the zurkhaneh in action is one of the fun things to do in Yazd

9. Amir Chakmakh square and mosque

The Amir chakmakh mosque is a beautiful structure on a large square near the old town. Nearby are several fun things to do in Yazd such as a zurkhaneh that is open for visitors, the water museum and some of the best kebabs and sweets in the city.

The amir chakmakh square in Yazd

The amir chakmakh mosque in Yazd

10. Eating liver or heart kabab under the Amir Chakmakh mosque

The Amir chakmakh square is the best place in Yazd to have a variety of different kebabs. My favourite is liver kebab, but here you can also find heart kebab, kidney kebab or kebab of pure sheep fat.

A man making kebabs from sheeps fat in Yazd

11. Try sweets in Yazd

Yazd is known for its sweets and trying them is one of the best things to do in Yazd. Near the Amir Chakmakh mosque you will see several stores selling Yazd’s mouth watering candies. Haj Khalifeh Rahbar is supposed to be the best.

It is a tradition in Iran that whomever goes to Yazd brings back home candies for everyone to enjoy. Some of it’s specialities are

Ghotab: deep fried almond filled pastries

Haaji Baadam: almond cookies made with nutmeg and chickpea flour

Bakhlava: The Yazd version of baklava using rose water syrup.

Pashmak: Iranian cotton candy

Loze nargil: coconut sweets with rose water

Cake Yazdi: Iranian cupcakes

a sweet store in Yazd. Trying sweets is one of the best things to do in Yazd

12. Khan bazaar

The khan bazaar in Yazd that has been around since the 9th century was not my favourite bazaar in Iran. However, it is the best place to buy termeh.

Yazd is famous for its handwoven silk and wool fabric called termeh, although most of what you see in the bazaar nowadays is machine made and probably not real silk. Regardless, they still make great souvenirs to decorate your home.

Termeh from Yazd Iran

The best things to do near Yazd

Yazd is not a large city and it is easy to see everything in a day or two, but there are also a lot of things to do near Yazd. You can make several exciting daytrips into Iran’s stunning desert.

13. Kharanaq

Among the things to do near Yazd is a visit to the ancient mud brick village of Kharanaq. Kharanaq was once an important resting point on the ancient silk road. The mud brick houses are now abandoned and crumbling down giving it an eery ghost town atmosphere.

How to get there: there is no public transport, but you can hire a taxi. If you hire a taxi it is easy to combine a visit to Kharanaq with chak chak and Meybod in a single day

Abandoned mud brick buildings in Kharanaq near Yazd Iran

Abandoned mud brick buildings in Kharanaq near Yazd Iran

14. Chak Chak

From all the things to do near Yazd I was most impressed by chak chak. High up on a mountain in the middle of the desert is an ancient water temple where Zoroastrians come to pray for the water that drips out of the mountain side.

They believe that the daughter of one of the old kings came here to pray to Ahura Mazda, the god of the Zoroastrians. In response the mountain opened up and took her in to protect her. The ever dripping drops of water are believed to be tears of grief in remembrance of the princess.

The Zoroastrian water temple of chak chak near Yazd Iran

15. Meybod

Meybod is a small town near Yazd where the modern buildings have mixed with some older structures that are typical of the desert cities in this region.

Among the things to see in Meybod are the Narin castle, several water reservoirs and the Khabutar khaneh pigeon-house. Pigeon houses were built for birds to rest in and their droppings were used as a fertilizer. The one in Meybod is one of the last pigeon houses still standing in Iran.

How to get there: Meybod is nothing spectacular, but combined with Kharanaq and chak chak it makes a nice day trip from Yazd.

Otherwise it is a relatively easy half day trip by public transport. Minibuses leave in Yazd from the Imam Hossein square. Don’t go all the way to the center of Meybod, but ask the driver to let you out near the Narin castle at the outskirts of town.

a pigeon house in Meybod near Yazd Iran

a pigeon house in Meybod near Yazd Iran

16. Nain

Nain is a small town in the desert halfway between Yazd and Tehran. Most tour groups only make a quick stop to see the first and oldest mosque in Iran. Wikitravel convinced me that there is more to this town than the oldest mosque alone and promised me a variety of things to do such as an old castle and a bazaar.

The old castle in Nain near Yazd Iran

A man at the old mosque in Nain near Yazd Iran

Old it was, but the reality were abandoned buildings that were falling apart. The old bazaar had closed down with most merchants moving to the newer parts of town. The mud brick structures were left alone to crumble down. A pity, as this town obviously has a lot of potential if things were maintained.

the old bazaar in Nain near Yazd Iran

a mosque in the old bazaar in Nain near Yazd Iran

At the oldest mosque I met the author of the travel guide on Wikitravel. He is trying to promote Nain as a tourist destination and is collecting photos of Iran to sell as post cards to the tour groups visiting the mosque.

I am not sure Nain will ever be the next tourist destination, but it certainly was an interesting place off the beaten path with friendly people. It was the only place where I saw the water reservoirs still in use.

In the new part of town Nain was more lively. A men invited me to his sweets factory to try out the Iranian version of Nougat called Gaz. It was absolutely delicious. It’s a white nougat with pistacio nuts inside.

Gaz factory in Nain Iran

The best places to eat in Yazd

In yazd you can get the usual Persian food, but there are also some regional specialities worth trying. I already mentioned that Yazd is famous for its sweets.

Another Yazd speciality is shuli. A delicious filling vegetable soup of beets and selery that is worth a try if it is on the menu. This is a great dish for vegetarians.

If you are more into meat you can try Tas kebab e Shotor. A delicious camel meat stew with potatoes.

If you want to read more about Iran’s food read my post here on the Persian food guide: eating your way through Iran.

1. Orient hostel

One of the best budget restaurants in Yazd is the rooftop terrace of the Orient hostel. They have delicious fesendjoon (chicken in a walnut pomegranate sauce) and shuli.

2. Silk road hotel

The Silk road hotel is from the same owners of the Orient hotel with a similar great restaurant. A great place to try shuli or Tas kebab e shotor

3. Amir Chakh Makh complex

For the best kebabs head to the Amir chakh makh mosque. Here you can try anything from liver, heart to kidneys and fat.

Liver kebab in Yazd

4. Haj Khalifeh Rahbar

For the best sweets head to Haj khalifeh rahbar near the Amir chakhmakh complex.

a sweet store in Yazd. Trying sweets is one of the best things to do in Yazd

The best hostels in Yazd

Booking hotels online is rather difficult for Iran. 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 FirstQuest

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.

1. Orient hotel (Yazd)

Orient hotel is among the best places to stay in Yazd. They have private rooms and dorms that make it the perfect hotel for backpackers on a budget.

Orient hostel in Yazd Iran

Orient hostel in Yazd Iran

2. Silk road hotel

The same owners of the Orient hostel also run the similar Silk Road hotel. The silk road hotel also irganizes tours and excursions such as daytrips to Kharanaq, Chak Chak and Meybod.

3. Kohan hostel

I did not stay at Kohan hostel, but visited a friend. It is similar to the Orient hostel with a nice courtyard and simple rooms. Prices are low and this is also a good place to stay on a budget.

4. Yazd Friendly hotel

I have no experience with Yazd Friendly Hotel, but it receives great reviews from other travellers for its great dormitories.

5. Mosaferkhaneh Gholami (Nain)

One of the few places to sleep in Nain is the basic mosaferkhaneh Gholami.

How much time do I need for Yazd?

Yazd is not a big city and most things to do in Yazd are concentrated in the old town. Two days will give you enough time to explore Yazd in a comfortable way.

Add another day if you want to make a daytrip to Kharanaq, Chak chak and Meybod.

The best time to visit Yazd

The best time to visit Yazd is from October till April when temperatures are comfortable. Summers can get very hot in Yazd, especially in the desert.

melons for sale near Yazd Iran

Money matters in Yazd

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

Safety in Yazd

Yazd is a very safe city with low crime levels and 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 get around in Yazd

Yazd on foot

Most tourist attractions are in the old town or near the Amir Chakmakh complex. They are not far from each other and Yazd is therefore best to explore on foot.

Taxi’s in Yazd

If you do need a taxi they are not expensive in yazd. Do negotiate a price beforehand, because they might overcharge tourists.

A taxi to the towers of silence or the bus station should not cost more than 150,000 rials.

If you have an Iranian sim card you can also use the Iranian versions of uber called tap30 or snapp.

Walking around in Yazd

How to get to Yazd

Yazd: The bus station in Yazd is about 12 kilometer out of town. There are frequent buses to Shiraz (7 hours), Tehran (9 hours), Esfahan (5 hours) & Kerman (6 hours).

Yazd also has a train station with limited services to Tehran (6 – 8 hours) and Kerman (7 – 8 hours). You can check the latest timetables at Iranrail. The train from Tehran to Yazd is often sold out so it is best to book as soon as possible.

Nain: there are frequent buses to Yazd (3 hours), Esfahan (3 hours) & Tehran (6 hours)

Kharanaq, Meybod & Chak Chak: There is no public transport, but it is easy to hire a taxi to visit all three places in a day. There are also cheap daytours organized by the Silk Road hotel and other travel agencies in town (12-15 dollars).

If you want to know more about visiting Iran’s desert, Naomi from Probe around the Globe wrote a very useful post about the best places to see the desert in Iran.

Disclaimer: This post about the best things to do in Yazd Iran contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support!

Last updated: june 2019

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

There are 17 comments for this article
  1. Ingrid at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for bringing me back to Iran. It is a very interesting country and I recommend it to everybody to visit. Your post is very informative and useful!

  2. Kassie at 5:21 pm

    This looks amazing! I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and such from Iran lately and I’ve been starting to plan a trip in the back of my mind. I had no idea there were so many things to see in do in Yazd and the architecture looks amazing.

  3. Karen at 6:19 pm

    What an incredible and detailed guide! I really would love to go to Iran,but it is not possible anymore due to restrictions for US citizens. Some day. 🙂 I love the architecture and the sound of the food!

  4. Adventurous Kate at 10:22 pm

    Beautiful photos, and a wonderful look into an Iranian destination that is neither Tehran nor Esfahan nor Persepolis! I hope to get there later this year. 🙂

  5. Alex at 10:25 pm

    Wow, this is incredible. Thank you so much for writing this! I have a friend who lives in Iran and I would love to visit some day. It looks so beautiful and I love the history and geographic diversity of the country.

  6. Pooyan at 1:44 pm

    Hi dear lady from the netherlands.How are you doing?Hope you are so happy and good.You have visited the historical place of Taq Bistan in Kermanshah and I’m the boy who I have met you there and showed my photo collection with tourists.I should apreciate you due to you defined me in your cite.Hope to meet you again.

  7. Karen at 10:27 am

    We have vision of following the Silk Route in a camper, so this would be an obvious place to visit. Sounds so unique. kx

  8. Sabine at 6:02 pm

    How beautiful is this city of Yadz, and so colourful. It must be amazing to visit the cities on the Silk road. They bring so much history and culture. I’d love to visit them one day.

  9. Merryn at 12:56 am

    Definitely an unusual destination – the Blue Mosque is beautiful, and the kebabs look yummy. Thank you for such a thorough article about Yazd!

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