I sat on the rooftop of the old bazaar, a pen and piece of paper in my hands. As I was looking at all the historical elements popping up, I sifted through all the memories I had of Kashan. Of the time, my friend and I took an Iran tour and traveled to Kashan years ago. There we rode a bike through its narrow alleyways, stunned by the glory of its mansion, went climbing the Karkas Mountains, and traveled to Abyaneh, the ancient red village. I had changed a lot since I last visited the city. But, Kashan hadn’t; it stood, with dignity and elegance, the same as it was years ago, through the worst and the best of times. It had, miraculously somehow, stayed the same, as though it was a living museum. Carelessly, I walked on the rooftop as the sun went down behind a towering mountain.
General Facts about Kashan
Small and sleepy, Kashan lies between mountains and deserts. It is usually the first stop after the hectic and buzzing Tehran. But don’t let that fool you; life in Kashan is quiet and almost always without a headache. And there are a handful of things to do in Kashan, this “sleepy little town” in the middle of the desert.
Population in Kashan
Barely reaching half a million in population, Kashan is a promising city. It is rather small, compared to Isfahan and the capital Tehran. Kashan county consists of one major city called Kashan and many smaller towns and villages surrounding it. They include Ghamsar, Niasar, Aran & Bidgol, Nushabad, and many more. Residents of Kashan are mostly Persian and speak an accent unique to their own. Some may find it similar to Yazdi or Isfahani accent, but it is, most definitely, not.
If you ask a non-Kashani Iranian: What is the first thing they think of when they hear Kashan? They will probably respond: Fin Garden, rosewater, religion and Muharram, deserts, and scorpions! Yes, scorpions. Kashan used to have a lot of scorpions coming from the neighboring deserts into the city center. Nowadays, this never happens.
If you’re looking for a city where it’s sunny most of the time, Kashan is your city. On most days of the year, the sun shines on the city and affects the way Kashanis go about their lives. The strong presence of sunshine in Kashan changes the way people live. For example, stores and shops close up from about two in the afternoon until five. It is kind of like the Spanish siesta, right? Kashan has chilly winters; goes through scorching and dry summers, but experiences pleasant springs and autumns. It usually has low chances of rain or snow throughout the year. People in Kashan appreciate the precipitation they get here and there and love going out to a picnic with their families after a good rain. However, the truth is that in Kashan, the sun is, almost always, out.
Kashani people love rain since there’s little precipitation throughout the year. Residents tend to go out for a picnic in a local park or their private gardens after a gentle shower in Kashan to enjoy the pleasant weather.
When to visit Kashan?
The best time to visit Kashan depends on what you want to do in the city. There are many things to do in Kashan throughout the year. You, typically, need to avoid visiting Kashan during the sizzling summer, which is when the sun is at its mightiest. However, you can travel to Kashan at the end of the summer, which is, surprisingly, Kashan tourism’s high season. Starting from early autumn to early winter, you can also leave for the Maranjab Desert for a safari trip or overnight camping in the star-lit deserts. There’s one more reason visitors travel to Kashan: its world-renown rosewater ceremonies. Want to participate in the beautiful rose picking ceremonies of Kashan? Consider visiting the city from early May to mid-June when the weather is still fair.
History of Kashan
Historically, Kashan goes a long way. Having Tepe Sialk closeby shows how further back civilization goes in Kashan and Iran. Sialk Culture goes back to the seventh millennium BC. On your way to the UNESCO-registered Fin Garden, you can visit this site during the day to explore Kashan’s history first-hand. Throughout the centuries, due to its location close to the Silk Road, Kashan has been an economical and cultural hub. Caravanserais and castles pop up around Kashan. The city saw its economic rise through the Ghajarid dynasty when merchants (mostly selling carpet) decided to reside in Kashan and build their mansion-like houses in the city center. Now open to the public, these houses showcase some of the best Kashanis artwork and architecture. Although Kashan is famous for its traditional houses, it’s also home to the best traditional hotels in Iran. You can decide to stay in one of these houses for a night or two for a fair price.
Heart of the city
Do you want to know where the real Kashani people hang out? Confused between all the things to do in Kashan and just want to get the real deal? Head out to the city center and visit the traditional bazaar. Hang out in one of the old teahouses in Aminoddole Caravanserai inside the bazaar. It is among Kashan attractions, but you may not find this in typical Kashan travel guides. The city revolves (or more accurately, used to revolve) around the bazaar and its traditional houses. Even though they may not be so attractive to the younger generation, but they still have the same classic atmosphere. After all, the bazaar and the houses are the heart of the city.
The road between Kashan and Fin Garden used to be just farmlands and local agriculture fields. Now a Kashan sightseeing place, it is full of restaurants, cafes, ice-cream shops, and other sorts of amenities. You’re in Kashan and feeling a bit hungry? Want to spend some time with your friends in Kashan? Just head to Fin Garden! There is plenty to do on the way.
Souvenirs of Kashan
Kashan is the city of rose, and Kashanis’ lifestyles are intertwined with rosewater. A Kashani might have rosewater three or four times during the day; one time in a cool sherbet (local drink) they’re drinking under the sun, one time in the stew of their meal with the family, one time with chai, and one more time in the evening when they’re eating bastani sonnati (traditional ice-cream). Rosewater everywhere! Even though the rosewater ceremonies are held only at a specific time, its products are available throughout the year. Rosewater bottles, dried buds, and dried leaves are only some of these products. You can buy all of them at Kashan’s traditional bazaar.
Registered on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list, Carpets go a long way in Kashan. Kashanis sit and eat on the carpet, sleep on the carpet (instead of a bed), watch TV sitting on it, and hold a conversation with a loved one on a carpet! Nearly the entire floor of a Kashani’s house is covered with amazing carpets. When you head to Tabatabaie House in the city center, for example, you can see the form of a complete rug the ceiling of the so-called King’s Room. Carpets showcase the creativity of Kashani people and the diversity of culture and art form in Iran. Nowadays, you can purchase your very own Kashani carpet at the traditional bazaar.
Kashanis have sweet teeth. At Nowruz, the Persian New Year ceremony, in almost all houses, there’s a special kind of cookie being served, and that’s the Kashani cookie. At a typical Kashani gathering, the host would bring a dish of Kashani cookie. Alongside it, Pashmak (Persian cotton candy) is also served. They go extremely well together. Kashan’s cookie is baked with wheat flour and animal oil and adorned with saffron and pistachio. The New Year won’t start in a Kashani household without eating this cookie first. So, if you happen to go to a Nowruz gathering in Kashan, expect to have some high-quality traditional cookie.
What most people do for a living in Kashan include farming (cotton, onion, cereal, and various types of fruit), working in the carpet, and the rosewater industry. There used to be a time in Kashan where a third of the working population served in the carpet, textile and weaving industry. Nowadays, many of these factories stopped working and people find other things to do in Kashan.
From traditional hand-weaving of carpets to more down-to-earth personality quirks of Kashani people, to the stories parents would tell their children before they go to sleep, Kashanis’ cultural richness is one of their greatest assets. Whether it’s their religious life, or their agricultural life, or simply the way they talk to each other, Kashanis are sure to add their unique quicks as a spice to everything they do.
Kashani Culture is intertwined with religion. The population mostly follows Shia Islam and mosques pop out everywhere. Walking through Kashan, Muslim call of worship, or Azaan, comes out here and there in the city center around noon and the evening calling the pious to prayer. Kashani people take Muharram (a religious month in which Shia Muslims mourn their Martyred Imam Hossein) seriously. In every neighborhood, there exists a ceremony of religious rituals during Muharram, where locals gather to mourn the events of Karbala. At the end of each ritual, Nazri (food dedicated to a holy Imam) is given out. Even people from other cities of Iran travel to Kashan to attend these ceremonies since there are so many things to do in Kashan during Muharram.
It might be interesting to know that there used to be a small Jewish community in Kashan who left for the United States and other countries in the past 30 years. They spoke Hebrew with a Kashani accent. Pretty peculiar, isn’t it? Nowadays, however, no sign of this community exists in Kashan.
Art and architecture in Kashan
Houses in Kashan showcase the people’s love for art and architecture. Kashan is home to Iran’s best traditional houses, all located very close to each other. With each room having a philosophy of its own, these houses turn all eyes to their side. Built by wealthy merchants, nearly all of these traditional houses have an andaruni (the inside of the house where the family members live) and a biruni (the outside of the house where merchants welcomed guests and conducted business). One of the reasons for this separation is that the householder wanted to provide more privacy for his family. A guest or a businessman, anyone who isn’t the part of the family, is a stranger. And this andaruni creates concealment. It is a form of Hijab, don’t you think?
An important architectural element of these wonders is concealing. An example is that from the outside, these houses look like any other house. But when you go down the entrance stairs and explore the beauties of the house, it will reveal its charms. This is also the case not only of the exterior architecture but also the interior design. Each room has a sort of concealment of their own.
The alleyways around the bazaar and the historical part of Kashan are also beautiful. These small and narrow alleyways may remind you of a never-ending maze. There is a myriad of things to do in Kashan’s alleyways. Similar to UNESCO-registered Yazd, the historical part of Kashan deserves a fair amount of time to explore and look for charms and beauties in the everyday lives of Kashani people.
Kashan’s traditional clothes
Abyaneh residents, a world-known village with houses made from red-clay, have held on to their conventional clothes. Abyaneh is a popular day-trip destination. When you walk in the village, you can see women wearing colorful chadors (compared to the typical black ones) with rose designs on them, and long black skirts.
Kashani food: Goosht Lubia
Kashani families love to gather around for a nice meal at the weekend. Usually held at the parents’ house, or grandparents’, these gathering hold the essence of Kashani culture. They are usually held around a meal, either lunch or dinner.
For meat lovers, Kashan has loads to offer. Among all meals, Gusht Lubia stands out. Some consider it similar to Ab Gusht (another famous Iranian traditional stew with meat), Gusht Lubia is Kashani’s specialty. It consists of lamb with kidney-bean stew. Gusht Lubia is usually served with Shevid Polo, which is rice with lima beans and dill. You can try this food at one of the traditional restaurants close to the traditional houses of Kashan. Or even better, you might be invited to a Kashani’s household and eat Gusht Lubia first-hand from a Kashani mom, who is, by far, some of the best chefs in the world in cooking this dish.
Festivals of Kashan
Prepare yourself with a plethora of festivals and things to do in Kashan. With the coming of the spring, Kashan and its nearby villages, like Ghamsar and Barzok, prepare for an extraordinary traditional ceremony. From May to Mid-June, the Rosewater Festival is one of the must-dos of Kashan. Many from different parts of Iran travel to Kashan and participate in rose-picking farms and rosewater workshops of Kashan. But these are not simple ceremonies for the local residents; it’s their way of life. It’s their work. During the rose-picking season, from morning till late in the afternoon, everybody is busy doing some part of the job. In the morning, roses are hand-picked and then brought to distillation workshops until late afternoon.
Kashan is a wholly religious city. During Muharram, the whole city turns into a new atmosphere. As you walk the streets of Kashan during Muharram, you see black flags rise everywhere, mourning the events happened in Karbala, more than 1000 years ago to Imam Hussein and his family. You may run into a mourning ceremony in one of the steers of Kashan. Feel free to go in; they are open to the public. Or, if it’s the end of the ceremony, you might just be handed free food (Nazri). You might run into another group of people who are chest-beating in the street. This is what Muharram is like in Kashan.
Do you want to travel back in time and see what happened to Imam Hussein first-hand? Travel to Nushabad on the Tenth of Muharram and watch a traditional form of mourning called Ta’azieh. In this ceremony, the citizens of the Nushabad gather in the city center to perform a passion play and re-act the events of Karbala. Ta’azieh takes about half a day, from morning till afternoon.
The carpet washing festival (Ghali Shuyan)
Held in Mashhad Ardahal, a small village located 40 KM, west of Kashan, the Carpet Washing ceremony is fascinating to watch. Another religious mourning for a martyred Imam, Carpet Washing is registered on Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list by UNESCO and is held annually at the end of September. As a Kashani, you would start a trip from Kashan to Ardahal, in a large group of like-minded people. Wearing black and holding large stick, you gather in the Holy Shrine’s yard to mourn the tragic death of the Imam.
Kashan might be more environmentally diverse than you might think. There are many exciting things to do in Kashan’s nature. Imagine standing on the peak of a mountain with patches of snow. And now imagine rolling down sand dunes, in the middle a desert. These two sounds far from each other, right? But mountains and deserts surround Kashan. Surprisingly, you can drive from the snow-capped Karkas Mountain range to the scorching Maranjab desert, in a forty-five-minute drive. From white snow to golden sand in less than an hour. Isn’t that amazing?
Though generally, Kashan has a hot and dry climate with little precipitation throughout the year, you can find small green villages around Kashan. They are Kashanis’ gateways to relax and enjoy nature and have a big picnic with their families over the weekend. If you’re invited to go to one of these villages, don’t turn it down!
Close to the National Kavir Park, Kashan can be an exciting trip to see wildlife and go on a Desert Safari from the Maranjab Desert. Want to spend a night under the star-lit skies and watch the galaxies dance through the night? Kashan might be your next destination.
How nature affects their lives
Kashanis love their basements. The underground floors of most houses in Kashan are a “living” floor in which a family might be residing. At least that how it used to be in the past. Extended families would gather in the basement during a hot summer and eat watermelons, chat, and have a lazy afternoon nap down there. The reason for the liveliness of the underground in Kashan is because of the hot climate in central Iran. Most houses (all traditional ones, at least) had a basement. It is much cooler down there. Some families move to their basements during summers and go back to the ground floor during other seasons.
Surfing in Kashan
Unlike Tehran, there might not be as many things to do in Kashan during the night, but still, there are some places to spend your evening and night. Many young people stay up and hang around the streets to find places to visit in Kashan, eat and have a good time. But most of the people usually spend their nights in their private gardens where it’s more secluded with more freedom. If you manage to make a friend in Kashan, ask them whether they have plans for a gathering. They might have; and if they don’t, they may make one right then and there!
Main Areas for eating, shopping, and hanging out in Kashan
Kashan’s bazaar is the central marketplace for the more traditional families of Kashan to make their daily purchases. You can find everything in Kashan’s bazaar: from clothes shops to Ittaris, to copper workshops, to carpets stores, etc. Keep in mind, similar to the Spanish Siesta, Kashani people tend to go home and take rest around two in the afternoon and come back around five. Avoid going to the bazaar during that time as well as in the night. However, if you’re looking for a more modern shopping center, there’s a huge department store called Kashan Mall close to the Fin Garden. Here you can also spend your evening and on its roof food court and have a view of Kashan’s lights glimmering away.
Where to eat in Kashan
If you go back in about ten years in Kashan, the culture of eating out in a restaurant or a cafe was not at all prevalent as it is today. But Kashan has a young population, and they want to spend their time together. So, they go out in the evening to find a places to visit in Kashan, eat and hang out. The main area to do this is the road that leads to Fin Garden, which is full of different types of restaurants and cafes.
How to reach Kashan?
Easily. If you’re in Tehran, go to the South Terminal (located in the south of Tehran – it has a metro station) and ask for the 15th or 17th bus station. Buses for Kashan leave every 20 minutes, from early in the morning to late in the night. However, you might not find a ride from 12 AM to 5 AM so easily. There are also taxi stations available from South Terminal that go to Kashan and, they are also, almost always, available.
If you’re coming from Isfahan, head to Kaveh Terminal and Kashan busses are always there. Also, you can hop on Tehran buses as well; they also pass through Kashan.
Another way to reach Kashan is to travel via the extended Iranian Railway system, which goes through Kashan as well. Isfahan, Qom, Tehran, Yazd, and many other major cities are connected through the railway system, and you can buy a ticket to get to Kashan.
How to get around in Kashan?
Kashan is a small city, so getting around won’t be much of a problem. Maxim and Snapp (local car ordering apps, similar to Uber and Lyft) work perfectly in the city, and you can even order a car to nearby towns like Nushabad as well. However, it is much more fun to use the local transportation system like taxies and buses. On most of the major streets, you can stand close to the sidewalk and look like you’re waiting for a car. An orange cab will stop for you and ask for your destination. Don’t be surprised if other people get on the vehicle; most taxis are shared ones.
It is nice to point out that Kashan is very bike-friendly. Many Kashani students go to school on their bikes. Unlike Tehran, Kashan’s streets are mostly flat, and not nearly crowded with cars. So, riding a bike is also an excellent way to get around in Kashan.
Top Places to Visit in Kashan, and the Best Things to do in Kashan
The main thing to do in Kashan is organizing a good plan to visit both its historical and natural sites. So, if you are not sure what to do in Kashan, first look at the Kashan map! With the Maranjab desert in the north and the Karkas Mountains in the south, one can expect a diversity of natural attractions here. The most scented festival of the earth, the rosewater festival, is held every year in the vast rose gardens in spring. Abyaneh, the ancient village, and Fin Garden are samples of the Persian architectures. And, the peak of these attractions is the old buildings like the grand mansions from 200 years ago, the 500-year-old bazaar, as well as the ruins of Tepe Sialk from 7000 years back.
Tabatabai House & Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse
Kashan is the city of quaint homes. One of the unmissable parts of the town is its traditional houses neighborhood, which is on Ameri Street. They are listed on almost all Kashan travel guides. Visit Tabatabai House to be amazed at the Kashan’s extremely delicate artworks showcased in everything related to the house. It is a historic museum house built during the late 19th century. The stucco work, the mirror work, the andaruni and biruni of the house, the three windcatchers, they all showcase extremely refined art of Kashan. Close to Tabatabai House are some other hidden gems like Borujerdi and Abbasi Houses. Also, visiting Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is a pleasant experience. Turquoise and gold tilework and Iranian fresco work adorn the interior of this bathhouse. But wait, there’s more! You can take a walk on its roof, which, with glass domes to let sunlight into the bathhouse, and have a panoramic view of Kashan and its historic part of town.
Jaleel419, from the UK, on TripAdvisor
Architecture, tile work and decoration all inspire the mind and senses. Two levels and a basement full of rooms including stained glass and roof structures keeping you looking in all directions to take each minute aspect of this architectural and artistic masterpiece.
A UNESCO-registered Persian Garden, Fin Garden is an amazing Kashan attraction. It used to be out of town, but now, as Kashan grew bigger and bigger, is, currently, a part of it. Fin Garden is a retreat from Kashan’s deserty-ness. Its complex water-system and old cypress trees don’t show any sign of being close to one of the biggest deserts in the Middle East. You should try to avoid Fin Garden on holidays, especially Nowruz. It usually gets crowded.
travellingmonkey89, from the CA, on TripAdvisor
Every city/historical place in Iran has a garden but this has to be the best one. Everything here is so natural and just gives our peaceful, calm vibes. The water comes from a natural spring underground and is moved through “pumps” that don’t use any mechanization – Pascal’s Law way before it was called Pascal’s Law. The artwork here is pristine and detailed. This with the backdrop provides great photo opportunities. We spent 1 hour here and bought rose water outside this place because Kashan is known for it.
Close to the more-famous Fin Garden, lies a historical and archaeological gem, Sialk Hills, which goes back to a mighty 7500 years. Archeology enthusiasts will wonder at Sialk’s extremely sophisticated culture. You can see some of the artifacts found in the site, at the main entrance. However, many more have ended up in the Louvre museum in France. Available at the site are also two 5500-year old skeletons, excavated and encased in glass for one to wonder.
Aqa Borozrg mosque
One of the most beautiful mosques of Iran, Aqa Bozorg, is a combination of Islamic and Persian architecture. Tiled minarets, series of arcades alongside each other, and the mud dome are all signs of typical Islamic architecture. While the central garden and the towering windcatcher showcase the best of Persian architecture. Believe it or not, there’s a volleyball court in the back yard of the mosque. Go check it out; some people may be playing and looking for an extra player!
Known to have existed for about 2500-years, this village is a living museum. With more visitors than inhabitants, Abyaneh is one of the must-sees of Iran. Abyaneh is located in the northwestern part of the Karkas Mountains range, about an hour’s drive away from Kashan. Abyaneh looks like it has been taken off from history, as though nothing has changed for the past 200 years. Houses in Abyaneh are made with red-clay, making them unique in the whole region.
Kashan’s Bazaar & Aminoddole Caravanserai
In the city center of Kashan, there lies another city called the bazaar. An extremely local place, Kashan’s bazaar reveals the culture and the lifestyle of Kashan effortlessly. Walking through its tunnels, you can find pieces of Islamic-Iranian architecture everywhere. The bazaar is home to all sorts of shops and traditional workshops, including weaving, metalworking (copper), and carpet stores. Aminoddole Caravanserai, perhaps the grandest plaza in the bazaar, is one of the great places to visit in Kashan, hang out, have a cup of chai, and look at the beautiful works of art and be amazed.
travellingmonkey89, from the CA, on TripAdvisor
You are literally walking through history and can imagine firsthand what it was like to walk with your caravan through this old building. What makes it “wow” is trying to find all the “domes” in this bazaar. They are intricate and detailed and great photo opportunities. Take an easy stroll through this place when you come back from a day of sighting seeing in Kashan.
Feeling adventurous? Then get your tent (or rent one!) and head to Maranjab desert in the north of Kashan. Maranjab looks precisely like those sand dunes you’ve seen in movies, and that is why visitors (locals and foreigners alike) are hanging out in this desert. Don’t forget to include the Salt Lake in your Kashan day plans. Creating a campfire and sitting around it while having chai and looking up at the stars can be one of your best memories you take back home from Iran.
Niasar & Qamsar
Kashanis have many retreats when they want to escape the heat. Two of the favorites are Qamsar and Niasar, villages that lie in the proximity of Kashan. Unlike Abyaneh, Qamsar and Niasar are less-known with the foreigners. The best time to visit these two villages is in spring when the rose fields of Qamsar have just bloomed, and the waterfall in Niasar has the most water.
The underground city of Nushabad, Oyui
Very close to Kashan, there is a small town called Nushabad. About ten years ago, an oblivious resident was digging for sewage ditch when he realized that the ground under his feet was empty. This is how they found out about the entirely unknown underground city of Nushabad. Now the major tourist Kashan attraction, the tunnels inside the underground city, are so narrow that you have to leave your backpack at the entrance.