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Yazd, often called the “City of Windcatchers,” is a mesmerizing desert city in central Iran. This ancient city is like a time capsule, preserving Persian culture, history, and architecture. As you prepare to embark on this unforgettable journey, here’s the best Yazd travel guide for you.
The city’s history dates back thousands of years, and it has played a significant role in Iran’s cultural and architectural development. Here’s an overview of Yazd history:
Yazd history can be traced back to pre-Islamic times, with evidence of human settlement in the region dating back over 5,000 years. It was known as “Ysatis” in ancient times and was an essential center of the Zoroastrian religion.
This city has a solid connection to Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions. The town was a significant center for Zoroastrianism, and many critical Zoroastrian temples and fire altars were established here. The Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians practiced their traditional burial rituals, are notable landmarks.
With the spread of Islam in the 7th century, it gradually became an Islamic city. During the Islamic era, it became an important cultural and trade center along the Silk Road, connecting Persia to Central Asia and beyond.
Seljuk and Mongol Periods
The city experienced various dynastic changes and invasions over the centuries. The Seljuk Turks ruled it in the 11th century and later came under the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.
During the Safavid dynasty (16th-18th centuries), Yazd flourished as a center for trade, textiles, and ceramics. Many of the city’s iconic wind towers (Badgirs) and mud-brick architecture that it is known for were constructed during this period.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Yazd flourished as a trading hub, mainly known for its silk and textiles. It also played a significant role in the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911.
In the 20th century, the city’s architectural heritage faced challenges due to urban development and modernization. However, efforts were made to preserve its historical character, and UNESCO recognized the historical city of Yazd as a World Heritage Site in 2017.
Today, Yazd is known for its well-preserved traditional architecture, including narrow winding lanes, adobe buildings, and ingenious wind-catching towers that provide natural cooling in the arid desert climate. It remains an important cultural and historical destination, drawing visitors worldwide to explore its rich history and unique architectural heritage. Additionally, Yazd’s Zoroastrian community continues to practice their ancient traditions, making the region an important center for preserving its cultural and religious heritage.
Architecture in the City of Yazd
In a world where modernity often trumps tradition, Yazd stands as a testament to the enduring beauty of architectural heritage.
The Art of Mud-Brick Construction
The buildings of this town are predominantly made of mud bricks, creating an earthy and timeless aesthetic. These bricks not only keep interiors cool in the scorching desert heat but also tell stories of generations past.
Windcatchers: Natural Air Conditioners
Imagine a natural air conditioning system that can cool a building in the midst of a desert. That’s precisely what windcatchers do! These iconic structures capture and funnel cool breezes into homes, providing much-needed relief during the sweltering summer months.
Majestic Towers of Silence
One of the most intriguing aspects of the city’s architecture is the Towers of Silence, where the Zoroastrian community once practiced their unique burial rituals. These circular structures on hilltops offer stunning panoramic views of the town and its surroundings.
As you explore the intricate mud-brick buildings, marvel at the windcatchers, and immerse yourself in the rich history of this desert city, remember that every corner of Yazd whispers stories of a bygone era.
Must-visit Attractions of Yazd Iran
1. Dowlat Abad Garden
Dowlat Abad Garden is a historical Persian garden renowned for its stunning architecture and serene ambiance. It is one of the Persian gardens registered in UNESCO World Heritage sites and a must-visit attraction for travelers interested in Persian culture and history.
The garden features a magnificent wind-catcher (Badgir) that is one of the tallest in Iran, designed to catch the prevailing winds and cool the surroundings. The architecture incorporates traditional Persian elements such as beautiful tilework, intricate geometric designs, and lush greenery, creating a tranquil oasis in the midst of the desert.
Address: Kooshk-e Dowlat Abad Street
2. Amir Chakhmaq Complex
The Amir Chakhmaq Complex is a prominent historical and architectural landmark. It consists of a large square surrounded by a stunning three-story facade with distinctive symmetrical alcoves and a grand entrance gate. The complex dates back to the 15th century and is known for its beautiful Islamic architecture.
The primary purpose of this complex was to serve as a hub for various religious and social activities. The alcoves, or “Chahar Taq,” were used for religious gatherings and processions, while the central square hosted essential events and ceremonies.
Visitors can explore the intricate details of the facade, appreciate the geometric patterns and calligraphy, and soak in the region’s rich history. At night, the complex is beautifully illuminated, creating a captivating atmosphere.
Address: Amir Chakhmaq Square, Imam Khomeini Street
3. Jameh Mosque of Yazd
The Jameh Mosque is one of the most significant historical landmarks of the city. This stunning mosque is a prime example of Persian-Islamic architecture and holds great cultural and architectural importance.
The unique features include the mosque’s magnificent tiled entrance portal, intricate geometric patterns, and an impressive courtyard with a reflecting pool. It showcases the evolution of Islamic architecture over the centuries, with elements dating back to the 12th century and later additions from various dynasties.
Address: Amir Chakhmaq Square, Imam Khomeini Street
4. Zoroastrian History and Culture Museum
The Yazd Zoroastrian History and Culture Museum is a fascinating institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history and cultural heritage of the Zoroastrian community. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and this town has a significant Zoroastrian population. The museum provides insights into the religion’s history, rituals, customs, and the Zoroastrian way of life.
Address: Next to the Fire Temple (Atashkadeh), Ayatollah Kashani Blvd
5. Zoroastrian Fire Temple of Yazd
The Zoroastrian Fire Temple is a significant religious and cultural site for followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. The temple houses a sacred fire that has been continuously burning for several centuries, symbolizing purity and the divine presence.
Address: Ayatollah Kashani Blvd
6. Water Museum – Kolahdoozha Home
The Water Museum, also known as Kolahdoozha House, is a fascinating historical site located. This museum offers visitors a glimpse into the ingenious ancient water management techniques used in the arid desert region. The museum is housed in a well-preserved traditional Persian mansion known as Kolahdoozha House, which itself is an architectural masterpiece.
Inside the museum, you’ll find a collection of exhibits showcasing various elements of water storage, distribution, and cooling systems that were essential for survival in the desert environment. You can learn about the qanats (underground water channels), windcatchers (traditional ventilation systems), and other innovative methods employed by Iranians to ensure their water supply and comfort.
Address: Imam Khomeini Street, Kolahdooz Street
7. Lariha House Museum
Lariha House Museum is a historic mansion that has been converted into a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the traditional Persian architecture and lifestyle of the region. The museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of the city, featuring beautifully decorated rooms, courtyards, and exhibits that illustrate the local way of life, including clothing, crafts, and daily household items.
Address: Kashani Street
8. Alexander’s Prison
Alexander’s Prison, also known as Zendan-e Eskandar or the Prison of Alexander, is not actually associated with Alexander the Great but is instead a medieval domed structure that was used as a dungeon during the 15th century.
The site is a unique architectural attraction featuring an underground chamber with an impressive double-layered dome. While it’s not a place where Alexander the Great was imprisoned, it has an intriguing history. It is a popular tourist destination in the city due to its historical and architectural value.
Address: Fahadan Neighborhood
9. Khan Bazaar
The old Bazaars of Iran are a big hit with tourists. They have beautiful old buildings, and you can buy all sorts of unique souvenirs from there. Plus, you can have a great time exploring and taking pictures in these charming old markets.
The Khan Bazaar is the longest and most unique marketplace in the city. Right next to it, you’ll find Khan Square, Khan Hammam, and Khan Seminary, which are all fantastic historical sites. These were constructed back in the Qajar era, during the time of Naser al-Din Shah.
The Khan Bazaar is quite extensive, with various sections dedicated to different types of goods. You can find all sorts of Yazd products and souvenirs in these sections.
Address: Qaem Street, Imam Khomeini Street
Yazd by Night: The Starry Sky
One great feature of the city’s desert location is the incredible stargazing opportunities it offers. By participating in guided tours, visitors can witness the awe-inspiring celestial phenomena that light up the night sky. It’s an experience that’s not to be missed and a perfect way to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of the desert landscape.
Experience the lively and dynamic nightlife of the city, where an array of cafes and tea houses remain open well into the late hours of the night, providing a captivating window into the local culture and society.
How to Get To Yazd
The city is accessible by air, train, and bus. The easiest way for international travelers is to take a flight to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport and then catch a domestic flight to Yazd. The nearest major airport is Shahid Sadooghi Airport, which connects the city to other major cities in Iran. The city is also well-connected by train and long-distance buses.
Yazd Weather: From Scorching Summers to Starry Nights
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to experience weather in a city that seems to exist on the very edge of a desert? Let’s first understand Yazd geography.
The city is situated in central Iran. Its location, deep within the desert, significantly influences its climate. But what exactly makes Yazd’s weather so unique?
Before we delve into the details, let’s take a quick look at what to expect when it comes to the town’s weather throughout the year. From scorching summers to cool winters, the city offers a diverse climatic experience.
Surviving the Scorching Yazd Summers
Yazd is known for its hot summers, where temperatures can soar well above 40°C (104°F) during the day. Traditional architecture, such as wind catchers, towers of silence, and the materials used in the buildings, plays a significant role in surviving yazd temperature in summer.
Mild Winters: A Respite from Extremes
While summer can be brutal, winters are surprisingly mild. But during the night, the weather can be freezing.
In this city, weather isn’t just a topic of conversation; it’s an integral part of the city’s identity. As you explore the scorching summers, mild winters, and the magic of spring and autumn, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for how weather shapes the town’s culture and way of life.
Best Time to Visit Yazd
It is recommended to plan your visit between October and April when the weather is cool and pleasant.
In Yazd, you can easily find two main types of souvenirs: 1. delicious traditional sweets and 2. beautifully crafted handmade items, which are available in the city’s traditional markets.
Let’s explore some of the delicious treats and unique creations from this town.
- Yazdi Qutab: This is a super tasty dish. It’s like a pastry with a unique flavor that you’ll never forget. They make it with wheat flour, milk or yogurt, oil, and egg yolk. Inside, they usually put crushed almonds and cardamom for extra deliciousness. People in Yazd are so good at making this that it’s even recognized nationally!
- Yazdi Baklava: This is another yummy treat. They make the dough from flour, egg yolk, baking powder, sugar, cardamom, milk, and oil. Then, they layer the thin dough and add crushed pistachios, almonds, sugar, and more cardamom. It’s baked to perfection and then covered with sweet syrup from sugar, rose water, and saffron. They finish it off with a sprinkle of pistachio powder.
- Yazdi Cake: If you’re looking for a sweet cake, Yazdi cake is a great choice. They make it with flour, sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt, rose water, cardamom, and fruit salt. It’s not just for dessert; people also offer it at special occasions and religious ceremonies.
- Cotton Candy (Yazdi Pashmak): Imagine sweet, fluffy cotton candy. In Yazd, they make it with sugar, water, lemon juice, wheat flour, oil, and cardamom. It’s a classic treat loved by many.
- Yazdi Rice Bread: This might sound like bread, but it’s actually a delicious sweet. They make it with high-quality rice flour, powdered sugar, wheat flour, eggs, solid oil, cardamom, and rose water. It’s a unique dessert you must try.
Apart from the mouthwatering sweets, Yazd is also famous for its beautiful crafts.
- Yazd Cashmere: This luxurious fabric is made from yarn, silk, fine wool, and Alvan fluff. It comes in various colors and stunning designs. The tradition of making cashmere goes back a long time, especially during the Safavid era.
- Yazdi Zilo: The best Zilo or Zilou usually comes from the city of Meybod near Yazd. It’s believed to be the birthplace of Zilo worldwide. The oldest Zilo work in Iran is from Jame Meybod Mosque, now kept in the Zilo Meybod Museum. Zilo is made from natural fibers, making it an excellent choice for people with allergies or respiratory issues.
So, not only does Yazd have fantastic sweets, but it’s also a hub for beautiful crafts like Cashmere and Zilo.
Best Yazd Hotels
Yazd offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preference and budget. From cozy boutique hotels in the old town to modern hotels in the city center, you’ll find the perfect place to rest after your adventures. Here’s a list of the best accommodations recommended by visitors:
- Dad 4-star Traditional Hotel
- Parsian Safaiyeh 5-star Hotel
- Silk Road Traditional Hotel
- Moshir Caravanserai Hotel
- Hooman Boutique Hotel
- Shahrazad Heritage Hostel
- Ara Traditional Hotel
- Jungle Hostel
- Yazd Friendly House
Best Destinations Near the city of Yazd
Kharanaq: A Desert Ghost Town Reimagined
Kharanaq is a village up north, about 70 kilometers from Yazd. This village has a history of 4,500 years! It’s got mountains on one side and a desert on the other.
Some of the buildings in Kharanaq are very old and falling apart, but a few have been fixed up and are open for visitors. You can check out the mosque from the Qajar time, a wobbly minaret from the 17th century, and the city’s caravanserai. It’s a great place to explore!
Meybod: A Treasure Trove of Ancient History
The city of Meybod is a treasure trove of cultural heritage steeped in history and ancient tradition. The Narin Castle stands as a testament to the ingenuity and skill of its builders, while the unique icehouse is a marvel of engineering and design. Meybod is a place of wonder and fascination, where the past and present coexist in perfect harmony. Visitors to this remarkable city will be transported back in time to a world of breathtaking beauty and timeless wonder.
Chak Chak: The Sacred Zoroastrian Pilgrimage
Every year, between June 14 and 18, lots of Zoroastrians from places like Iran, India, and other countries come to the Pir-e Sabz fire temple. It’s a tradition that when these pilgrims spot the temple, they should stop riding and finish the last part of their journey by walking.
In Zoroastrian beliefs, Chak Chak is a special place. It’s where Nikbanou, who was the second daughter of the last ruler of ancient Persia before Islam, faced a tough situation in the year 640 CE. She was trapped by an invading Arab army. Nikbanou prayed to Ahura Mazda, Zoroastrian god, asking for protection from her enemies. In a miraculous response, the mountain opened up and shielded her from the invaders.
Discover the peaceful and soulful haven of Chak Chak, a hallowed place of pilgrimage embraced by the mountains. Immerse yourself in this remarkable site’s fascinating legends and customs through the To Iran Tour’s unforgettable one-day adventure of Chak Chak and Kharanaq. Let’s explore!
Varzaneh: A Desert Jewel with Salt Flats
Varzaneh is a desert town with stunning salt flats that seem to go on forever. Discover the wonders of nature with the opportunity to delve into distinctive terrains, stroll across mesmerizing salt flats, and behold awe-inspiring desert sunsets that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Narin Castle: A Fortress in the Desert
The Narin Castle, or Narin Qal’eh, is an ancient fortress in Meybod. This impressive architectural feat has withstood the test of time for over a millennium and is a testament to the region’s fascinating history.
The commanding position of Narin Castle atop a hill provided a tactical advantage, allowing clear views of the surrounding terrain. Exploring the castle’s diverse chambers and rooms grants a glimpse into the everyday existence of those who once called it home.
Garmeh: Oasis of Tranquility
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and find serenity in Garmeh. This desert oasis offers relaxation, natural hot springs, and a chance to connect with nature in the midst of the arid landscape.
Khatu: Where History and Spirituality Collide
Khatu is a town with a deep spiritual history and a famous shrine dedicated to a revered figure. Explore the shrine, attend spiritual ceremonies, and immerse yourself in the local culture.
The Shah Abbasi Caravanserai
The Shah Abbasi Caravanserai was built in the early 17th century to provide accommodation and safety for Silk Road travelers. Its stunning Persian architecture and symmetrical layout showcase the grandeur and attention to detail of Safavid-era architecture. This caravanserai played a crucial role in facilitating trade and cultural exchange along the Silk Road.
The Shah Abbasi Caravanserai in Yazd is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore well-preserved rooms, admire intricate tilework, and immerse themselves in the ambiance of the ancient trading hub.
FAQs about the city of Yazd
Q1: What is the meaning of Yazd?
A1: Yazd is the name of a city in Iran. The name doesn’t have a specific meaning in English.
Q2: Is Yazd the oldest city?
A2: Yazd is one of the oldest cities in Iran, but it’s not the absolute oldest. It has a rich history dating back thousands of years.
Q3: What is special about Yazd?
A3: Yazd is known for its unique architecture, including ancient mud-brick buildings and windcatchers. It’s also famous for its Zoroastrian heritage, which is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. These are a few reasons that made Yazd a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Q4: How big is Yazd?
A4: It is not a very large city compared to some other cities, such as Tehran or Isfahan. It has a population of around half a million people.
Q5: Is Yazd worth a visit?
A5: Absolutely Yes! Yazd is a must-visit destination with its distinct cultural experience, historic sites, and ancient Persian architecture.
Q6: Why travel to Yazd?
A6: Visit Yazd for a unique cultural experience with a stunning desert landscape and culture. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the fascinating Zoroastrian traditions and immerse yourself in Yazd’s distinct charm.
Q7: What is Yazd famous for?
A7: It is famous for its ancient architecture, especially its windcatchers (Badgirs) and mud-brick buildings. It’s also known for being a center of Zoroastrian culture and for its delicious sweets, like Yazdi cake and baklava.
Q8: What are the must-try dishes in Yazd?
A8: Don’t miss trying qottab (a sweet pastry), Yazdi saffron-infused dishes, and local sweets like baklava.
Q9: Can I visit Yazd’s desert without a tour guide?
A9: While exploring the desert on your own is possible, it’s safer and more informative to go with an experienced tour guide who knows the area well.
Q10: How old is Yazd in Iran?
A10: Yazd in Iran is an ancient city with a history that goes back over 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
To Iran Tour Services for Visiting Yazd
To sum up, Yazd is a timeless city with ancient charm, warm hospitality, and rich history, making it a destination that every traveler must visit. To Iran Tour offers an array of tour packages to explore the majestic city of Yazd, from budget-friendly one-day Yazd tour to more extended tours that cover other historical towns.
As you plan your journey to this city, remember these insights. This ancient city is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty, ready to captivate your heart and soul. Enjoy your adventure there, and may it be filled with unforgettable moments and discoveries. Safe travels!