Best Bandar Anzali Guide: Travel to Iran’s Coastal Wonderland

401
0
ToIranTour - Bandar Anzali Guide - Gilan - Iran

Welcome to Bandar Anzali, a hidden gem nestled along the beautiful coast of Iran. This picturesque city, officially known as Bandar-e Anzali, is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. In this travel guide, we’ll take you on a journey through this remarkable town, exploring its famous port, stunning lagoon, exciting free zone, must-see attractions, delightful marketplaces, and the best time to experience this coastal paradise.

Bandar-e Anzali People and Culture

ToIranTour - Christian Church - Bandar Anzali - Gilan
Photo by Ahad Tarassoudy on Wikimedia Commons

People of this town proudly trace their roots back to Cyrus the Great, the first king of the Achaemenid Dynasty. It’s believed that they named their city after Anzan, the city considered to be the birthplace of Cyrus. Throughout history, the city has been known as Bandar-e Anzali, except during the Pahlavi era when it was briefly renamed Bandar-e Pahlavi.

The dominant religion here is Shia Islam, but you’ll also find a significant Christian minority. The locals speak the Gilaki dialect, typical of Gilan province. Their traditional livelihoods revolve around fishing, rice cultivation, and farming. Anzali Lagoon, following the Caspian Sea, is the city’s most visited attraction, drawing visitors year-round. 

Rice is a culinary cornerstone here, and generally, northern Iran boasts some of Iran’s finest quality rice, if not the world’s. Gilaki cuisine (cuisine of the Gilan Province) pairs this exceptional rice with various northern fish and stews. Some locals even savor this aromatic delight as a standalone meal.

Don’t miss the opportunity to sample Gilaki cuisine with dishes like Baghali Ghatogh, Torshe Tare, Mirza Ghasemi, Aloo Mossama, and Sir Ghalie! Complement your meal with exquisite side dishes like Sir Torshi (aged garlic in vinegar until black), Bademjan Torshi (vinegar-infused eggplants with fragrant vegetables), Shalgham Torshi (vinegar-soaked turnips), pickles, and Haft-e Bijar (mixed vegetables in vinegar).

Gilaki attire is characterized by long shirts paired with short vests for women, worn alongside floor-sweeping skirts adorned with colorful horizontal stripes at the hem. Men don wide cotton belts around their waists. Should you fancy these distinctive garments, you can acquire them in Bandar-e Anzali marketplaces and shopping malls.

Bandar Anzali Port Iran

A defining feature of the town is its bustling port, a vital hub for trade and commerce in the Caspian Sea region. As you stroll along the waterfront, you’ll be captivated by the sight of ships and boats coming and going, laden with goods from various parts of the world. The port isn’t merely a place of business; it’s a spot where you can immerse yourself in the maritime atmosphere and witness stunning sunsets that paint the sky in shades of orange and pink.

ToIranTour - Bandar Anzali Port - Gilan
Photo by Amir Nik on Unsplash

Anzali Port Iran History

The city holds the distinction of being the oldest and largest port on the Caspian Sea, playing a significant role in the sea transportation of goods. Its history as a trade port dates back to 1921 when the first ship, a German vessel, berthed here. Two strategically constructed breakwaters, Ghazian and Anzali, serve to lessen the impact of sea waves, ensuring safety for incoming and outgoing ships. These breakwaters also contribute to the city’s tourism appeal. Additionally, two bridges, engineered by German and Swedish experts, connect the port to Miyan Poshteh and Ghazian.

Anzali Free Zone

For those interested in economic development and trade, visiting the Anzali Free Zone is a must. This special economic zone offers businesses tax incentives and other advantages, making it a hotspot for international investment. As you explore the free zone, you’ll encounter a bustling hub of activity, including industrial complexes, warehouses, and various shops where you can find clothing, cosmetics, handicrafts, and diverse food and desserts.

Must-See Attractions of Anzali

The town boasts many captivating attractions, starting with the Anzali Lagoon, the largest lagoon in Iran.

Anzali Lagoon

ToIranTour - Anzali Lagoon - Bandar Anzali - Gilan
Photo by Akbar Nemati on Unsplash

Anzali Lagoon is a coastal liman nestled in the Caspian Sea within the northern province of Gilan. Prior to 1950, the Anzali Lagoon provided about 70% of the commercial fish caught in the province, with annual catches exceeding 5,000 tons. However, various factors, including increased upstream irrigation leading to heavy siltation, pollution, and eutrophication, led to the decline of the fishery. Despite these challenges, the lagoon remains a favored resting place for 77 of Iran’s 145 migratory bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers.

A boat trip on the lagoon promises to be one of the most cherished memories of your visit to Anzali Port. Before or after your lagoon tour, treat yourself to tea, coffee, or a northern meal at the hotels and cafes nestled along the lagoon, offering captivating views.

To witness the famous water lilies of Anzali Lagoon, head to the protected area of Sarkhankal, an integral part of Anzali wetland. Many migratory birds, including ducks, cockatoos, sea swallows, peacocks, and swans, spend their winters in this protected area. Here, you’ll also encounter characteristic plant species of Anzali wetland, such as Azula, wetland tulips, reeds, and lilies of the valley. Water lilies hold particular ecological importance, serving as the lagoon’s primary spawning ground for sea swallows.

Anzali Port Museum Palace (Military Museum)

ToIranTour - Military Palace Museum - Bandar Anzali
Masih Mosavat on Wikimedia Commons

The city bears architectural influence from its northern neighbors, Tsarist Russia and Armenian immigrants, evident in its various buildings. Another remarkable site in the city is the Mian Poshte Palace, also known as Moreh Palace, or Military Museum, built in 1933 and boasting breathtaking views. This palace has been converted into a military museum, housing an impressive collection of weapons from the Pahlavi period.

Bandar Anzali Aquarium

The Bandar Anzali Aquarium offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the marine life indigenous to the Caspian Sea. It provides an educational and interactive experience, making it a fantastic outing for families.

Notably, there are only two large aquariums in Iran, one in Isfahan and the other here. The Bandar Anzali Aquarium, also known as the Fantastic Aquarium, is one of Iran’s best and largest aquariums, valued at approximately 30 million euros. Spanning 10,000 square meters over four floors, its standout feature is a 43-meter water tunnel that allows you to observe sea creatures up close, giving you the sensation of walking on the ocean floor.

The aquarium houses around eight thousand types of fish, including decorative fish, sharks, snakes, and rare and extraordinary underwater creatures. Within the complex, you’ll find a range of amenities and services, from a game city and multi-dimensional cinema to a bowling alley, accommodation suites, restaurants, a computer game room, a reptile garden, a virtual reality cinema, and a coffee shop.

The Clock Tower

The clock tower is one of the oldest attractions in the city, dating back to the time of Naser al-Din Shah, and was commissioned by the then-ruler of Anzali. Historically, it was used to watch the sea and also served as a lighthouse, aiding sailors in finding the coast at night by observing the light atop the minaret. Remarkably, the clock still displays the correct time to this day.

How to Get to Bandar Anzali

To get to this remarkable city, you can follow these general steps, which may involve traveling by air or land depending on your starting location:

International Travel:

  • If you come from another country, you will likely need to book a flight to Iran.
  • Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) is the major international gateway to Iran. So, book a flight to Tehran if you are traveling internationally.

Travel to Rasht (by air or land):

  • You have a couple of options from Tehran to Bandar Anzali. The nearest major city to Bandar Anzali is Rasht, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.
  • You can book a domestic flight from Tehran to Rasht or take a bus or taxi. There are also some good platforms where you can hire a car with a personal driver, like Snapp and Maxim. You can read about these platforms and other useful applications in Iran here. The journey by road takes around 4-5 hours.

Travel from Rasht to Bandar Anzali:

  • Once in Rasht, you can reach Bandar Anzali by taxi, bus, or shared taxi at related stations. The journey from Rasht to Bandar Anzali usually takes around 1-2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.

Best Hotels in Bandar Anzali

  1. Sefid Kenar 4-star Hotel: This hotel offers convenient access to the historical bridges of Ghazian and tourist sites like the tomb of Mirza Kochch Khan Jangli. Hotel amenities include laundry, taxi service, conference halls, sports facilities, a private beach, and a restaurant serving Iranian and international cuisine.
  2. Dolphin 4-star Hotel: Enjoy quick access to the sandy beach, shopping centers, Anzali Bazaar, Shah’s Palace, shipping ports, and the free zone. The hotel offers comfortable accommodations and proximity to key attractions.
  3. Deniz 4-star Hotel: With easy access to the sea, Caspian Bazaar, Anzali Free Zone, and more, this hotel offers a range of amenities, including suites with sea-view balconies, a lobby, internet cafe, game room, and a restaurant serving various cuisines.
  4. Behesht Talab 4-star Hotel: This hotel features a luxurious rock restaurant with panoramic views, a coffee shop floating on Anzali Lagoon, water activities, children’s activities, a lobby, parking, and taxi services. It’s conveniently located near Anzali Lagoon, Gisum Forest, Bandar Anzali Forest Park, and Rudkhan Castle.
  5. 3-star Tourist Hotel: Situated amid lush green spaces, this hotel offers beautiful gazebos, a restaurant with sea views, and easy access to the airport and the city’s famous markets.

Best Restaurants in Anzali

  • Hirad Restaurant: Hirad is a café restaurant offering a diverse menu, serving guests three meals a day, including traditional Iranian, kebab, and international dishes. Their coffee shop menu features hot and cold drinks, desserts, and snacks.
  • Yarmashalla Restaurant: A century-old restaurant, Yarmashallah Garden Restaurant and House serves a wide range of traditional Iranian, international, and kebab dishes in a historic setting.
  • Ashpal Restaurant: With a unique and colorful ambiance, Ashpal Restaurant offers traditional Iranian dishes, various kebabs, and Gilani specialties.
  • Koobar Restaurant: Koobar is a luxurious café restaurant known for its extensive menu of international dishes, desserts, and beverages.
  • Darya Kadeh Restaurant: This renowned restaurant, located on Anzali Road to Rasht, offers traditional and grilled dishes, including the famous sour kebab of Daryakede restaurant. Don’t miss dishes like Mirza Ghasemi, salmon, Qatouq beans, and sour chicken.

Anzali Marketplaces and Souvenirs

ToIranTour - Local Bazaar - Bandar Anzali - Gilan
Photo by Mahdi Rezaei on Unsplash
ToIranTour - dried salted fish - Local Bazaar - Bandar Anzali - Gilan
Photo by Mahdi Rezaei on Unsplash

Immerse yourself in the vibrant marketplaces of Bandar Anzali, where the air is filled with the enticing scents of spices, colorful textiles, and intricate handicrafts.

While the primary souvenir for Iranians is the renowned northern fish, foreigners may find it challenging to transport. Nevertheless, other popular souvenirs include olives, excellent quality olive oil, garlic, local vegetables, various Torshi (vegetables in vinegar), and sweets like Kaka, Nabat, and Halva. You’ll also discover precious handicrafts in the local bazaars.

  • Sepah Bazaar: This market offers a wide selection of clothing and shoes, but its authentic charm lies in its narrow, cobbled streets and historic buildings.
  • Shanbeh Bazaar (Saturdays Market): Established since 1307, the Anzali Saturday market showcases agricultural and dairy products as well as handicrafts from local villagers.

Local Food in Bandar-e Anzali

As mentioned earlier, rice is an essential element of local cuisine, with northern Iran rice being renowned for its quality. Gilaki people typically pair this exceptional rice with various northern fish and stews. Some locals even savor this aromatic delight as a standalone meal. Among the most popular dishes in Bandar-e Anzali are Baghali Ghatogh, Torshe Tare, Mirza Ghasemi, Aloo Mossama, and Sir Ghalie.

Complementing these dishes are delectable side dishes like Sir Torshi (aged garlic in vinegar until black), Bademjan Torshi (vinegar-infused eggplants with fragrant vegetables), Shalgham Torshi (vinegar-soaked turnips), pickles, and Haft Bijar (mixed vegetables in vinegar).

Mirza Ghasemi

Mirza Ghasemi is a traditional Iranian dish popular in northern Iran, including Gilan and Mazandaran. It is a flavorful and aromatic vegetarian dish that consists of roasted or grilled eggplants (aubergines) cooked with a savory tomato and garlic sauce. The dish is named after Mirza Ghasem Khan, a historical figure from the Qajar period in Iran.

To prepare Mirza Ghasemi, eggplants are typically charred over an open flame or grill until the skin is completely blackened and the flesh becomes soft and smoky. Afterward, the eggplants are peeled, mashed, and combined with sautéed garlic, diced tomatoes, and spices such as turmeric and red pepper. The result is a rich, creamy dip or side dish often served with flatbreads like lavash or pita.

Mirza Ghasemi is known for its delicious combination of smoky eggplant flavor, the sweetness of ripe tomatoes, and the aromatic essence of garlic and spices. It’s a delightful and satisfying dish that showcases the flavors of Iranian cuisine, particularly in the northern coastal regions of the country.

Aloo Mosamma

Aloo Mosamma is a traditional Guilani dish that features chicken and apricots. It’s known for its simplicity and deliciousness. Aloo Mosamma has many fans across different regions of Iran, with various recipes. While the best version is found in North Iran, especially in Gilan, you can also find variations using lamb or beef.

One of the advantages of Aloo Mosamma is that it cooks relatively quickly, making it a great choice when you’re short on time. It offers a delightful blend of flavors, and its popularity transcends regional boundaries.

Baghali Ghatogh

Baghali Ghatogh holds a special place among Gilaki dishes and is often considered one of the best. It’s prepared using ingredients like beans, garlic, dry dill, salt, eggs, oil, and turmeric. Typically, it is served with rice and accompanied by side dishes such as fish, olives, pickled garlic or fresh garlic, and Haft Bijar pickles, among others. The combination of these flavors creates a memorable culinary experience.

Sir Ghalie

Another delightful dish to try on your trip to Bandar Anzali is Sir Ghalie, which is typically made with chicken but sometimes served with duck meat. The ingredients for Sir Ghalie include eggs, salt, spices, corn, and vegetables like fresh garlic leaves and onions. The result is a savory and flavorful dish showcasing the region’s culinary diversity.

Fouj or Fibij (Stuffed Fish)

Fouj, or stuffed fish, is another traditional Bandar Anzali dish prepared using fish as the main ingredient. You’ll need a relatively large fish, salt, pepper, angelica, ground walnuts, garlic, plums, sour pomegranate seeds, pomegranate paste, and aromatic vegetables to make this dish. First, the fish’s belly and body are rubbed with salt, pepper, and angelica. Then, the rest of the ingredients, along with additional pepper, angelica, and salt, are placed inside the fish’s belly before it’s baked in the oven.

Give these delightful Gilaki dishes a try, and you’ll understand why Gilaki cuisine is cherished by Iranians and visitors alike.

Anzali Weather

Bandar Anzali, nestled on Iran’s Caspian Sea coast, experiences a diverse climate throughout the year:

  • Spring: Offers mild and pleasant weather with lush green landscapes.
  • Summer: Brings warmth and humidity, making it ideal for coastal getaways.
  • Autumn: Provides pleasant temperatures and beautiful scenery.
  • Winter: Is characterized by cold and wet conditions, with lower temperatures and increased rainfall.

The region receives significant rainfall, making spring and autumn the best times to visit for comfortable weather and outdoor activities. Summer is popular for coastal retreats, while winters are cold and damp.

Bandar Anzali was known as the city of rain in the past, and it still receives ample precipitation, particularly in spring. The humidity is conducive to rice cultivation, making it an excellent place for growing this staple crop.

When planning your visit here, consider the season that aligns with your temperature and outdoor activity preferences.

Best Time to Visit Bandar Anzali

ToIranTour - Caspian Sea Coast - Bandar Anzali - Gilan
Photo by Mojtaba Mosayebzadeh on Unsplash

The optimal time to visit the town is during the spring and summer months when Bandar Anzali temperature is mild and pleasant. The Caspian Sea coastline offers a refreshing escape from the scorching summer heat of Iran’s interior regions. However, be prepared for larger crowds during the peak tourist season, so plan your trip accordingly.

Best Destinations Near Anzali

Bandar Anzali is surrounded by several captivating destinations and natural wonders in the northern part of Iran. If you’re visiting Bandar Anzali, consider exploring these nearby attractions:

Rasht 

(Approx. 35 kilometers away)

The capital city of Gilan Province, Rasht, is known for its rich culinary traditions and vibrant bazaars. You can savor delicious Gilaki cuisine, stroll through bustling markets, and explore historical sites like the Mirza Kuchak Khan House.

Masouleh 

(Approx. 60 kilometers away)

This ancient mountain village is famous for its unique architecture, where houses are built into the hillside, creating a stunning stepped layout. Masouleh offers breathtaking views of lush green valleys.

Rudkhan Castle

ToIranTour - Rudkhan Castle - Gilan
Photo by Hossein SH on Unsplash

(Approx. 90 kilometers away)

Located near the town of Fuman, Rudkhan Castle is a historical fortress set against the backdrop of dense forests and stunning scenery. Hike to the castle for a glimpse into Iran’s medieval history and panoramic views.

Siahkal Forest 

(Approx. 90 kilometers away)

For nature enthusiasts, the Siahkal Forest offers a serene retreat. It’s a great place for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying the peaceful ambiance of the lush forest.

Lenjan Lagoon (Approx. 60 kilometers away)

Located near Astara, Lenjan Lagoon is another stunning wetland area teeming with wildlife. It’s an ideal spot for birdwatching and photography, especially during migratory seasons.

Gilan Rural Villages

The region around Bandar Anzali is dotted with charming rural villages or small cities like Lahijan, Langerud, and Astara, each offering a glimpse into local culture, handicrafts, and picturesque landscapes.

These nearby destinations offer a diverse range of experiences, from cultural immersion and historical exploration to natural beauty and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re interested in cuisine, history, or nature, there’s something for everyone in the vicinity of Bandar Anzali.

FAQs about Bandar Anzali

Q1: Where is Bandar Anzali?

A1: Bandar Anzali is located in the Gilan Province of northern Iran. It lies along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural heritage.

Q2: Where is the Anzali Lagoon?

A2: The Anzali Lagoon is located north of Bandar Anzali, just a short distance from the city center. It is a prominent natural attraction and a popular spot for birdwatching and ecotourism.

Q3: What is the typical Bandar Anzali weather like?

A3: Bandar Anzali experiences a humid subtropical climate with mild, wet winters and warm, humid summers. The city receives significant rainfall, especially during winter, making it lush and green.

Q4: How big is Bandar Anzali?

A4: Bandar Anzali is approximately 13 square kilometers (5 square miles). Compared to other cities in Iran, Bandar Anzali is relatively smaller in terms of land area. Many cities in Iran, especially the capital Tehran, are significantly larger both in terms of population and land area.

Exploring Bandar Anzali with To Iran Tour

In conclusion, Bandar Anzali is a destination that offers a diverse range of experiences, from exploring its bustling port and free zone to immersing yourself in its natural beauty and rich culture. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a savvy shopper, Bandar Anzali has something unique to offer. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey to this enchanting city along the Caspian Sea. Bandar Anzali is waiting to welcome you with open arms and a warm breeze.

Experience the charm of Bandar-e Anzali with the exceptional services offered by To Iran Tour. Our extensive range of tours not only includes Anzali but also explores other enchanting northern cities, all led by knowledgeable and local guides. Join us for an unforgettable adventure in this beautiful region!

Take A Tour to Explore Bandar Anzali and Northern Iran

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *