“Aliens were here, for sure!” I muttered. “Otherwise, who could build these structures out here under the scorching sun? I mean, look at them. They’re so tall and majestic.” I looked around and realized I was talking to nobody. Where is the rest of the group? They were here with me a minute ago. I guess I became too enchanted with these alien structures.
But I stood there, small and insignificant. Compared to these Martian architectural wonders, I was only human. For a second, I thought a spaceship would hover above my head and abduct me. Not that I would mind that, anyway. “Hey, we’re leaving, you don’t want to get left behind, do you?” I heard a distant call. Hoping it was the Martians, I looked back. As the sun was going down the hills behind her, I saw that it was Sarah, my Kerman tour guide. “Coming!” I shouted and let out a sigh. “One day, I will come back to you, mysterious Kalouts of Shahdad. One beautiful day.”
Those who travel to Iran for the first time talk about the diversity of the country, both in natural and historical terms. “Iran is a vast country,” they say to their friends, “where you can see epic desertscape, lush forests, charming beaches, and tall glorious mountains.” To know if that’s true, we recommend traveling to a unique area. Kerman province shows off the beauty of the diversity of Iran. The city of historical adobe citadels offers a lot in various forms: the mysterious Shahdad Kalouts, the verdant Shazdeh Garden, the lively village of Meymand, or the majestic Bam Citadel are among the top Kerman attractions.
Population in Kerman
The province is enormous; it is almost as big as Syria and a tad smaller than the United Kingdom. It is the largest province in the country, taking up about 11% of the country’s land. But, the population –due to the vast desert – is scattered around the area, with Kerman as the most populous city. Less than a million people live in the city, but more than two million live around the province. They’re not only Persians, but also since Kerman is located in the south-east of Iran, many Baluch and southern minorities live in the city. It’s a beautiful mix of racial diversity in the country. It’s the major point where Persians and Baluchis meet.
As with most desert destinations of Iran, Kerman has a generally dry and hot climate. If you don’t like heat, travel to Kerman in colder seasons. Yet, even in the warmest seasons, Kerman’s diverse geographical conditions provide shelter for those who seek beauty and are willing to leave the city of Kerman. Located in the south of the province, Dalfard and Rayen offer pleasant changes from the scorching heat. Both cities are home to waterfalls and green spots where you can take shelter and go on a picnic and drink tea while munching on your delicious Kolompeh, the Kermani pastry.
That’s what the people from the southern parts of the country do. Locals living in Bandar Abbas, and the neighboring region travel north to Kerman province to enjoy fairer weather than their cities. Dalfard and Rayen are among their favorite Kerman day plans.
When To Visit Kerman
The question of when to visit Kerman depends on the type of activity you plan to do in the city. Generally, as you will read on most Kerman travel guides best time to visit Kerman is during either spring or autumn, as those are the times with the fairest weather throughout the year. But, what if you’re fascinated by Kerman’s iconic deserts and the Kalouts (as you should be) and want to experience the day and the night in the deserts? Well, what then? When to visit Kerman in that case? We generally don’t recommend visiting during summer as it gets too hot. But, if your itinerary is in summer and you can’t avoid it, the best thing to do in Kerman province is to explore Rayen and Delfard, which are cooler in hot seasons. The best periods are in the autumn as well as around the end of winter when the days are mild and the nights aren’t too chilly. You want to explore the area during the day with the help of sunscreen creams and sleep under the starlit skies during the night. It’s among the best things to do in Kerman.
History Of Kerman
Walk in the city of Kerman, and you’ll come across many historical sites, especially around the bazaar and the famous Ganjali Khan complex. Built during the Safavid dynasty, more than 400 years ago, these places were once filled with merchants from faraway lands and buzzing with business talk. But Kerman’s history is way older than that – going as old as 3100 BC with Jiroft Culture, which was a Bronze Age agricultural culture in the south-east of Kerman province.
Kerman’s identity is intertwined in historical stories. Let us tell you one. Though the city goes back as long as the Sassanid Empire, where it was founded as a defensive outpost, ask any Kermani about its history, and they will tell you a more recent anecdote, one from about 200 hundred years ago. It was during the end of the 18th century where the city was besieged by an angry Aqa Mohamad Khan, a Qajar Shah. The city was surrounded by Aqa Mohamad Khan for over six months and went through a horrible famine, the worst in its history. Food was scarce, and bread unheard of. The savage actions of Qajar Shah were to punish Kerman for supporting Lotf Ali Khan Zand and rejecting the Qajar rule. The incidents leading up to the infamous day of killing and blinding of 20,000 Kermani men and taking the women and children of the city into slavery are out of topic here. But, the significant effect of these cruel stories has stayed in the back-minds of modern-day Kermani locals.
Heart Of The City
Located in the center of Kerman’s historic neighborhood, the Ganjali Khan complex is among the most beautifully architecturally ornamented buildings of the city. The complex consists of a square surrounded by the bazaar, a mosque, and a quaint and picturesque caravanserai with many nostalgic shops. The caravanserai is one of the most photogenic Kerman attractions. Walking into the complex, many small surprises may come your way. You might hear the sound of music coming from a small shop, making traditional instruments.
Further, you might come across a traditional doll-making store serving locals and tourists interested in modern methods of doll-making with Pateh, the traditional hand-weaving art of Kerman. You might sit at a café, where locals call “sherbet house”, and drink herbal glasses. Take your time in the area; an unheard story might unfold to you.
When Marco Polo visited the city in the 13th century, it was a major trade center. It produced high-quality cashmere wools and other textiles. Nowadays, however, Kerman is known for a different product: delicious pistachios. Kerman’s economy is dependent on this precious nut, and the city is the largest producer in Iran and the world. If possible, try to put visiting a pistachio garden in your Kerman day plans. They are mostly located in the northern parts of the Kerman province. It’s among one of the best things to do in Kerman.
But, there’s a different story in the south and east of Kerman. Many lands and agricultural fields are dedicated to the citrus family, vegetables, and some other fruits as well. Dates in the east of Kerman also are some of the best ones in the country and are great souvenirs to take back home.
Also, some big industries are in Kerman. This historic city is home to the world’s second-largest copper mine. Kerman Khodro is an Iranian auto factory based in Kerman, and Iran’s Mahan Airline operates in the city and has weekly flights to Tehran.
Aside from memories of Kalout and the extraterrestrial-looking deserts, or the mental images of the quaint architecture in the Ganjali Khan complex, there are many more materialistic things to take home from Kerman. Let us name a few examples:
When walking in the city, either shopping in the bazaar or having a meal in a traditional restaurant, the smell of cumin fills the air. So, why not buy some to take home, to use the smell as memorabilia, as a way to remind yourself of Kerman? With a strong taste and smell, cumin is one of the best products of Kerman.
‘To take cumin to Kerman’ is a famous Farsi saying. Locals love to throw the phrase around whenever there’s a chance. So, what does it mean? The English equivalent is ‘to carry coal to Newcastle’. Basically, it means doing something unnecessary, superfluous and useless. You wouldn’t turn on the sprinkler when it’s raining, would you? The same way you wouldn’t take cumin to Kerman since the best ones are produced in Kerman.
Another Kerman attraction is the pistachio harvested in the surrounding regions, especially in Rafsanjan. Iranians love to have pistachio in their traditional snacks, like the famous Bastani Sonnati, or in their pastry or anything edible! Significantly, most of the pistachio produced in Iran (and the world) comes from Kerman province.
In terms of artistic souvenirs, coming second after the celebrated Kermani carpet, Pateh is a great option to purchase while having your Kerman day plans. This traditional folk art is a type of needlework that is mostly produced by skillful local women. It can be used as shawls, cushions, curtains, and even coasters.
Kerman carpets are among the most prized carpets of Iran and are mostly weaved in the southern parts of Iran. They are famous for their high-quality material, various creative designs, and great tensile strength. Kerman carpets have been sold in the traditional bazaar since the 15th century, and visiting these shops are among some of the most interesting things to do in Kerman.
Kermanis are usually a relaxed and easy-going group of people. Having lived in the desert for so long, they have learned not to take life too seriously and enjoy their time. They are adaptable to difficult situations, and while the country may be going through a crisis, they remain still. A riot may rise up in Tehran, the capital, and the political center of Iran, protesting against something they don’t like about the government. You ask a Kermani what they think about the situation, they will say that they prefer not to think of it much, not taking any extreme positions (we’re over-generalizing here, of course).
Iran’s diversity of religious minorities showcase in Kerman. Although mostly Shia Muslim, Kerman is home to a significant number of Iranian Sunnis who have lived alongside the Shia majority in harmony for a long time. Being next to Sistan & Baluchestan – an area where the majority of its populations are Sunnis – explains the existence of these groups. But, and more interestingly, there has been a rather small but racially notable Zoroastrian community in Kerman.
Read More: Iranian Religion
Its people are known for
Known for the humility and traditional ways of living, people from Kerman are also famous for being present in high-ranking political positions of Iran’s government. Some families, like the Rafsanjani and Marashi families, are among the most influential ones of the Islamic Republic. Additionally, people from Kerman are in the current Iranian government, working as ministers or members of the cabinet.
Art and architecture
Kerman lives in traditions: art and architecture survive in the city as the air does. Walk around in the historical parts of Kerman, and you’ll be surprised by how many architectural wonders you may come across. A small mosque, a traditionally-designed house, or a narrow alleyway leading for a mysteriously dark entrance of the bazaar: Kerman’s historical parts showcase the best of Iran’s traditional art and architecture. Walking in the bazaar, you might see a Pateh workshop. These needlework products were first produced here and are the main products of Kerman.
Additionally, Kerman province is also home to two of the biggest and most majestic adobe citadels of the country: Arg e Bam and Rayen castle. The first one, Bam Citadel, is a UNESCO World heritage that was tragically devastated in a 2003 earthquake. But it has been rebuilt since. The second one, the mudbrick castle of Rayen, is located around the Hezar Mountain, about 100 km south of Kerman. It’s a deserted adobe castle and one of the best locations for an extensive historical photography session!
Travel to Kerman, and you will travel within. It’s a city for pondering, mulling over your past decisions, and thinking about your identity. Kerman does not invite you for an adrenalin-rush experience; it asks you to sit down and drink a cup of tea while you watch the people come and go in a traditional Iranian teahouse. The city used to be more traditional, your Kermani friend will tell you. Slowly, but surely, it has lost some of its historical side to modernity. Traveling to the city of Kerman alone will probably not satisfy you if you’re in for the all-around experience. You have to explore the region: The Kalouts, the citadels, the waterfall, and the farming fields call you; get your backpack and peace of mind ready.
It’s the afternoon. You’ve had a long day of walking and exploring the cities top attractions, based on your Kerman travel guide. You reach the famous Ganj Ali Khan Square; You look around. An older man is closing his shop and going for the siesta break in the afternoon. He sees a traveler standing at the end of the square, with a backpack as tall as the person wearing it. The traveler is you. He walks towards you. It’s the famous Iranian hospitability. After the routine “welcome to my country” and “how do you like Iran?” question and answers, he asks, in broken in English, whether you need help or not. You’re thirsty, but you’ve had enough tea. Your Farsi is more broken than the older man’s English. But you know the word Chai, which means tea in Farsi. You say that. He shows you a store, only twenty meters away from where you’re standing. It’s time to chill in the sherbet house. The older man says goodbye, and another welcome to Iran, and walks away towards his home. You, as well, walk toward the sherbet house; traditional herbal drinks are waiting for you to fix you up. You can’t wait.
A city rooted in traditions and old ways of living, Kerman has a variety of handicrafts and arts. Some of them are made at homes, by local women and men, but a good majority are made in workshops. The most significant handicraft of Kerman is the Pateh, which is a type of Iranian needlework. Pateh, an art that has been passed from generation to generation for years, is an important part of Kerman’s culture. Local women have been the most vital part of keeping the tradition alive. Consider purchasing from local women in Kerman who have to try to be financially more independent in recent years. Others include the Kerman carpet, decorative copper-work, and shawl making.
There are a variety of foods cooked in Kerman, including a range of traditional soups (called Ash in Farsi) and stews (called Khoresht). There’s Boz Ghormeh, which is Kerman’s delicious traditional food. Its main gradients are goat meat, whey, and chickpeas – which means it’s rich in protein. Boz Ghormeh is usually served as a main meal, but it also can be used as an appetizer. But, as for a sweet snack, there’s the famous Kermani cookie named Kolompeh, which is made from flour, milk or yogurt, dates, pistachio cardamom, and saffron. Basically, it’s a cookie filled with dates! And since it’s a sort of dry product, it’s a great option to take home as a souvenir.
Kerman’s attractions are not merely cultural or historical. The beauties of the nature in Kerman province reveal themselves to those who are up to exploring the area and seeing the marvels for themselves. Head to the Kalouts and spend a day or two there. More than the extraterrestrial structures created in the middle of the desert, you will get to see black rocks formed in Gandom Beryan, the hottest place on earth, ever to be recorded. The beauty of the day and the magic of the night best show in Shahdad. Reach out and pick the stars when the night comes out and watch the sunrise the next morning, as glorious as it can get. Spending the night around the campfire under the starlit skies of Shahdad desert is among some of the best things to do in Kerman.
Put visiting the Shazdeh Garden in your Kerman day plans and see the genius of Persian architecture, creating a verdant and romantic garden in the middle of the desert. Go hiking on Hazaran, the highest mountain of the region with 4500 meters, located in the southern parts of Rayen. Ride, travel, and explore the unknown parts of Kerman; you won’t regret it.
How Nature Affects Their Lives
The surrounding nature has changed the structure of the city in many ways: the bazaar, the caravanserais, and the traditional neighborhood of the city have adapted to the hot climate of the region ever so beautifully. Walk in the old town of Kerman in the middle of the summer day, and you’ll find patches of shadow to walk under. Mazes of alleyways built close to each other provide shelter from the scorching sun.
The finest example and one of the top things to do in Kerman province is the rocky village of Meymand. Here, nature rules over the lives of locals in many ways. Meymand was registered in UNESCO as a world heritage, because of how these people have found creative ways to be one with mother nature. Living in hand-dug caves of the rocky mountains, eating herbal plants of the region, and adding them to their traditional cuisine and their three-fold annual migration are some of the examples.
Products of the region, pistachio, and cumin have entered the lives of everyday Kermani people, both in terms of economics and food. Many are working in the pistachio-related market, whether it’s farming or selling, and you can see pistachio and cumin in most snacks and sweets of the city.
One day or even half a day is enough to explore the city of Kerman itself, but if you want to really travel over the area, you should get out: Bam, Mahan, and Kalouts offer some of the best exploring opportunities in the region. From star-catching in Shahdad to visiting the amazing citadels in Bam or Rayen, there are loads of things to do in Kerman Province.
The star and the sky: Shahdad is where you can touch them. Camping in the Kalouts, you can see the difference between night and day. Here’s the meaning of nightlife. Even though the days are amazing, and there are loads to see, but it’s during the night when the magic happens. The stars come out, the music and the fire come out, and our hearts go up to heavens with the campfire. The Milky Way is only an arm away. Reach out.
In the city of Kerman, the nightlife is not that popular. Yet, if you connect with the younger population, you may get invited to some local gatherings.
Main Areas For Eating, Shopping, Hanging Out
As with most historical cities in Iran, bazaars are the main areas for eating and hanging and, of course, shopping. Located in the heart of town, Kerman’s bazaar is a great place to explore. Head over to Vakil Tea House while you’re in the bazaar for amazing food and traditional drinks.
Sus1952, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This is a beautifully restored hamam with lovely decor. There was live music playing when we were there, which was very good.
Off-the-beaten Activities Of Kerman
When we’re talking about the off-the-beaten activities, there are many things to do in Kerman province. The city offers a lot in terms of Kerman attractions, but the most exciting activities in Kerman happen outside of the city. Whether it’s Gandom Beryan (the hottest place on earth, ever to be recorded) or it’s Sirch ski resort in the middle of a desert area or the historic caves of Meymand, we have a lot of options. Yet, our personal choice, the one that promises fantastic experiences are the Kalouts. Here the deserts are different from what you have already seen. The images of rocky shapes of Kalouts as the sun goes down behind sandy hills are gorgeous. Try lying down on the sand dunes in complete silence, walking down a sandy hill, or climbing up a Kalout to see the sunset as you contemplate your life.
As with other major cities of Iran, reaching Kerman is simple. Although about 1000 kilometers away from the capital, more than 30 buses head to Kerman from Tehran, flights take off regularly and daily, and the province is connected by the Iranian Railway system.
How To Reach Kerman?
Whether you choose to travel to Kerman by the VIP buses heading there or opt to buy a plane ticket from the Kerman-based Mahan airlines, or a nostalgic train ride through the Iranian deserts, what is going to surprise you is the beauty of the scenery and the desert-scape you’ll see on the way. You can get a bus ticket from Tehran, Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, and most other major cities of Iran, leaving for this historical and natural gem every day. Go for the train if you’re not on a tight schedule to appreciate the scenery. You might come across an interesting character in your train wagon and listen to a story you’ve never heard before.
How To Get Around In Kerman?
You reach Kerman, and it’s the weekend. You want to explore the beauties of the city that you’ve heard so much in your Kerman travel guide. How do you want to get around? Well, it’s not that difficult. You can either choose to move around the city using the intercity bus system if you’re going to meddle with the locals. However, a more straightforward option to go for is using Tap30 or Snapp, the Iranian versions of Uber or Lyft.
Top Places To Visit In Kerman, And The Best Things To Do In Kerman
Ganjali Khan Complex
Stories of the glorious past reveal themselves to you as you walk around the complex. Named after and built by a popular governor who ruled Kerman for more than 20 years, Ganjali Khan Complex is the architectural heart of the city. A mosque, a traditional school, a beautiful caravanserai, an ornamented bathhouse, a water-reservoir called Ab Anbar are parts of the complex. They’re all located south to the Vakil Bazaar of Kerman, which runs through the center of the city, east-west.
Paula G, London, United Kingdom
The main bazaar for the city of Kerman the complex houses shops & stalls selling all kinds of wares from exotic spices through copper works, a host of antiques, knock-off goods of every shape & size, and even knives & knuckledusters!! For a break from the crowds pop into the restored bathhouse where travelers stopped for much-needed cleansing after a hard day on the Silk Road. Recently opened too is the women’s bathhouse behind with displays of the colorful costumes sported by the women that congregated here from all over the Persian Empire.
A lifestyle on the edge of extinction, stories in caves, an ancient village, and a UNESCO Heritage: Meymand is a forgotten city with a myriad of anecdotes ready to unfold to those who are willing to listen. Dating back to at least 12,000 years ago, the rocky village of Meymand has a great story to tell. Out of the less-than-thousand population of this village, many still live in hand-dug caves, located in the hearts of the rocky hills. As a visitor, you can also experience spending the night in one of these cozy and ancient caves. You will feel how they felt when they slept in these caves hundreds and of years ago.
Kalouts of Shahdad
They are mysterious places, these deserts. Elon Musk would re-consider traveling to Mars if he saw the Kalouts. I mean, why would one spend billions of dollars to go to another planet, when you can create a similar experience right here in Kerman for less than a thousand. Don’t let your car get stuck in the mud, don’t travel on the weekend since the desert is not so ‘deserted’, and try to preserve the environment in its original form. And you’ll have the experience of a lifetime in these Martian Kalouts.
Gardens: Shazdeh and Fath-Abad
In a desert-y background, where the sand goes as long as the eye can see and more, what could be more refreshing than visiting lush green gardens of Shazdeh and Fath-Abad. These are the stories of these gardens. Formerly, a small palace for a Qajari prince, now the Shazdeh Garden is a great place for a romantic evening. It’s an oasis, a paradise, in the middle of the Lut Desert. Symmetrical tall cypress trees follow you as walk up to the palace. Fath-Abad which is located outside of the city, is the model Shazdeh took after. It’s older, and one would say more gracious than the young Shazdeh. When you walk into the garden, the elegant mansion behind the large pool will catch your eyes. Life is short, and the Persian Gardens, especially Shazdeh and Fath-Abad, which are among the top places to visit in Kerman, will let you enjoy the short moment we call life.
Aidin V, Mississauga, Canada
[Shazdeh] is a real Persian garden with very nice waterfalls and fountains. Flower pots which are located around the central pool and long trees distribute nice smell. Furthermore, sound of water is the best music and dreamy.
Citadels: Bam and Rayen
Adding to the diversity of Kerman attractions are the historical sites of Bam Citadel and Rayen Castle. Each located in their respective cities, these citadels showcase the richness of history and culture and older ways of living in Kerman. Arg-e Bam, the largest adobe building of the world and list on UNESCO as world heritage, was sadly hit by a big earthquake in 2003. It’s unfortunate that you can’t visit the place before the quake happened (unless you have a time machine, which in that case, please share it with us!), but it’s still well worth the visit. Visiting the place is like visiting a sick man who had a terrible heart attack but is on his way to recovery. If you’re also fascinated by the darker sides of tourism like us, you can also take the time to talk to the locals who lost their families and friends in the earthquake. Listening to their stories and sadness is humbling and eye-opening. It’s not your typical activity, but it’s one of the best things to do in Kerman. Another option for your Kerman day plans is the Rayen Castle which is about 100 km south of the city. Like Bam citadel, this mudbrick castle is a great place for exploring and walking back into history. This time you won’t need a time machine. Simply get in and go back for thousands of years and realize how people used to live in these castles. This deserted castle is a great place to get lost and find fantastic opportunities to photograph.