Qeshm Island, Iran

South of Iran, you’ll find Qeshm island. Many tourists opt to go to Kish Island instead, which is a luxurious, beautiful island with resorts. It also happens to be packed with Arabs coming from UAE. In search of a more local experience, the decision was to head towards Qeshm instead. Turns out that many local Iranians, mostly from the capital city Tehran, head there for a short weekend getaway to escape from the busy city life. During our stay we didn’t see any other tourists from other countries! It was such a good place to live simply in an island that made up of mostly desert lands; going back to basics with nothing fancy. There was fresh catch from the sea for meals, goats in the yard, limited supply of sweet water, no wifi or internet cafes whatsoever, and the only accommodation option was home stays. This was by far the closest experience to any local lifestyle I’ve ever had, and I’d do it over and over if I could.

Most of the information you’d get online about Qeshm is that you can stay in hotels located at the main town of the island. Luckily for us, we got a contact from the hostel guy back in Shiraz and he recommended us to live at this home stay. Thereafter we got to know of another lady from the owner of that homestay and spent a couple of days at her place too.

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We were driven into a small village where there weren’t any stores in the vicinity. Wifi, hot water, and sometimes freshwater wasn’t readily available, but it was one helluva experience ! Everything here is built by the owner and we stayed in a small little hut with straw mats and sleeping bags. Luckily he provided us with thick blankets because it can get quite chilly at night

 


IMG_6703Since we were staying somewhere with no stores around, meals were provided. Breakfast was always bread with carrot jam, honey, butter, eggs, cheese and tea.

IMG_7962On a nightly basis we’d have campfires and roasted potatoes. Some nights the owner would invite people over and arrange live traditional Persian music. Everybody would dance around the fire and enjoy the warmth around the fire !

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Getting around the Qeshm isn’t as easy as taking a public transportation or taxi. The attractions on Qeshm are spread out widely all around so the only way to get around is really by car. There are small villages sprinkled everywhere, and yes hitch-hiking is an option. But what if you get somewhere and can’t get out after? The prices of our accommodation were also not fixed because they simply do not have a price list. Whether meals are included in the prices or not, it’s up to you to negotiate with the owners of the home stay.

If all these spontaneity is too much for you as a traveller, I’d suggest staying in the main city in Qeshm where they are hotels, taxis and stores around for duty-free shopping. For a 100% desert island village experience, you’d have to drive into the middle of nowhere and trust the people you’re staying with.

 

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We got assigned with our driver, Baba Jan from the home stay place we put up at. The problem about such accommodations on a desert island with close to no international tourism is that the prices aren’t fixed. Most of the people that come here to experience village life are Iranians who can all speak Farsi. With language barrier being our biggest challenge, we’d have to ask the Tehran tourists for help when it comes to calling the owner of the home-stay, who was hardly around. And if we didn’t plan our day in advanced to get a driver arranged, we’d just be stuck in the village all day, or we could walk an hour to the nearest convenient store.

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Unfortunately the car broke down like 3 times that day so our day trip around the island saw us pushing it around up and down the road. Yes, while this happened I was relaxing in the car. I figured might as well let the boys do all the work HEHE

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The rock formations around Qeshm were so unique. There were valleys and rocks that were formed in such a manner due to erosion and wind etc! Geography stuff, heck, what do i know. But one thing’s for sure, the place was absolutely beautiful; so vast and so untouched.

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As you can see from the signs there are attractions to see all over Qeshm, if I had more time I’d have wanted to visit more valleys

 

One of the attractions we visited was the Namakdan salt cave & dome. I’ve never seen a salt dome prior to this, and it was just… amazing. Being in a dark cave with no lights and everything around you is practically made out of salt!
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This is the main entrance to the salt cave.

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On the floor there’s all these pieces of salt crystals formed from evaporation. Shin actually picked up some and kept them in his bag, they were perfect for seasoning our roasted potatoes at the campfire that night !

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The guys enjoying a glorious moment inside the cave

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Baba Jan came to tell us it was time to go! The sun sets rather early during the time that we were there so we had to make full use of our daylight!

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Once again, car problems… I contribute with my eyes and moral support 😉

 

The next place we headed was to Chahkooh Valley. It was slightly crowded when we went as there were tour buses of Iranian tourists. A group of ladies insisted on taking a picture with me and everyone gave me a nice warm hug after. It’s fun to imagine what they’ll tell their kids when they show them the pictures!
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Right as we entered the valley we saw a man taking water from some holes in the ground. Turns out they are water wells and it was fresh water, ready to be drank,  which is rare because even back at the home stay the tap was running with salt water.

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Took a short hike and got my hijab stuck on these gnarly thorns from a tree

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The tour bus drivers decide to barbeque some fresh fish while waiting for his group! Very cool.

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We went for kebab that night with a bunch of Tehran folks who assisted us with our car trouble. They were a great help and if there was anything I loved most about the country, it’s Iranian hospitality. People are constantly helping us, or offering us food. Never have I experienced such warmth in any country I’ve been to!

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Got back to the hut ready for a good night sleep, but it turns out there was another dance party… Too tired to function. Believe it or not, they were blasting Psy’s Gangnam Style through the speakers and I swear it was the last place I’d ever expect to hear that annoying song.

 

Apart from the attractions I also liked looking around at the locals and how they lived. It’s definitely a brand new culture for me, with different beliefs and something not every part of the world can relate to.
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Spotted a villager with her beautiful matching hijab and dress.

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This was the only local bus I saw, it might have been a tour bus but i’m unsure.

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This woman wears a traditional Persian mask as she walks her goat around the valley

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Two kids on a bike, I doubt they’re even 10 years old. Wish I could ride a bike at that age

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Local kid standing in front of his home right next to a hand painted mural. Love the colours !

 

The last touristy place we visited was a day trip to Hengam Island. We didn’t do any research or read about the place anywhere at all. In fact, coming to Qeshm in the first place was an impromptu decision made.
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We caught a boat over from the pier after Baba Jan dropped us off, and I actually made 2 trips to Hengam because the first time we got horribly ripped off due to the language barrier and some giant miscommunication that almost turned into a fight. Luckily the new friends we made form Tehran helped to translate and clear the air

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We pretty much spent our time on the shiny beach during our first trip to Hengam relaxing. Shiny beach was practically deserted, but it was really cool because the sand is black and glitter-like. We even started a wildfire with whatever we found and heated up some tuna and beans for lunch. Unfortunately the military came over to check our IDs and issue a warning midway because… I removed my Hijab and Flip was in shorts. So our attire must have offended some villagers and they reported us : (yes I thought the wildfire was the problem)

 

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There was a small marketplace on Hengam where the villagers sold crafts made out of seashells, or dried sea creature carcasses, traditional persian medication and what not. But it was sort of overpriced so I didn’t buy anything.

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Hengam is also THE place to go to see Indo-Pacific bottle neck dolphins! It was really cheap too! Although I don’t agree with such tourism because it chases the dolphins away from where they like to swim, and most of the time it’s basically the boats chasing after the whole pod of dolphins as they come to the surface.

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Random goat taking a stroll by the beach… haha

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$2 Henna done by the villagers in one of the huts! I got one done of my hands and it had the most intricate details ever!

 

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That night we were invited to another campfire by a beach.

Some random guy drove us and there was like 10 people squashed in the car, music blasting with the windows down. We drove into the darkness where there were no street lights, the roads were extremely bumpy, but when we finally arrived at the beach there was a real party going on around with traditional drums and music !

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The group we were with invited us over for dinner where we all shared a very hearty meal 🙂

 

The next morning two of the people in our group decided to head back to Bandar Abbas while we moved to another homestay with a really friendly lady, Maniya. It was great because she could speak English fluently, and we weren’t staying in a hut on straw mats anymore. This was a proper home with a bed and toilet !

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Her brother took us on drives around the island, showed us the other side of Qeshm that we haven’t explored yet. This was him asking us which fish we wanted to have for dinner.

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We picked the Stingray and he literally took it out and threw it in the car. That was enough for 2 big meals :O

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Maniya’s family whipped up a FEAST. This was so much food, and way too delicious ! They really spoilt us.

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Meet Melissa! There were many kids in this household and we played with them all the time whenever we’re not out exploring

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Breakfast was home made bread with fish sauce served with cheese and sunny side ups

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We took a mangrove tour with Maniya’s dad that day. Saw many different species of birds but it wasn’t anything too mindblowing, I guess mangroves are very common in Asia so it wasn’t my first time seeing one.

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Maniya’s dad couldn’t speak English well but many a times he would jokingly hold his knife and rope and tried to convince me with sign language that he was going to kidnap me for money… hhahaha

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& this was the last sunset we had in Qeshm before leaving for Dubai.

So that sums up my time in Qeshm. I honestly had such an amazing experience, it’s crazy how none of it was planned at all. Sometimes spontaneity just takes you places, and these moments are why I love backpacking! Writing about this now really makes me want to go back to Iran again. I’d highly recommend fellow avid travellers to go see Qeshm and Iran! It’s truly one of the more underrated destinations in the world to visit but I assure you it will open your eyes with everything that it has to offer.

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How to get to Qeshm:

BY LAND
Took a bus to Bandar Abbas and from there caught the speedboat over to Qeshm Island.
Costs about 100,000 IRR, takes approximately 30 minutes

BY AIR
Within Iran, Qeshm Air flies from major cities
From Dubai, Kish Air flies for approximately US$40

 

Dara

Wanderer of lands, searcher of souls. Last seen tree hugging and running wild into the mountains. Might have eaten all the ice cream in the tub.

7 Responses

  1. Shaad says:

    Dear agha y – e Dara joon,
    Salaam! Hol – e Shoma Chhetorey? Man Khoobam, Shokr – e Khoda!
    Have so enjoyed reading about your authentic Persian experiences of Qeshm, and Southern Iran, and I dare say that now I would love to sample some of that for myself! So, would it be possible to give me the homestays information, where you were hosted, and their contact e-mails, please, as I have never been to Iran and my knowledge of Farsi is most limited?
    Am interested in meeting those educated, cultured and genuine Persians from the middle class, which is basically who I happen to be as well. Except that I also happen to be some blocks away in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, and need a visa to visit the exotic land there!
    Thanking You in Anticipation and Here’s Wishing Every1 for the upcoming Feast after the mah – e Ramzoon Mobarak, with an emphatic and heart – felt “Eid Mobarak!” from Yours Truly,
    Shaad

    • Dara says:

      Salaam Shaad! I didn’t have any of the contacts for the homestay, but I can roughly tell you how I got about it. I stayed in Niayesh guesthouse in Shiraz and there we decided to go to Qeshm. One of the staff working there had a contact of a local guy who owns a homestay in this quiet village somewhere in Qeshm. He called and arranged for us to go there because we couldn’t speak Farsi. When we got to Qeshm we simply got a taxi and called the owner where they conversed the location of the place. Once we got there, the owner of the homestay arranged for a driver (baba jan) for us, and we took a car ride around Qeshm.

      The second homestay contact I had was through the first homestay owner who could speak little English. We told the owner that we would like to check out some other villages to stay for a different experience and he recommended his friend. The owner’s name is Mania, and she can speak english fluently. Her homestay location was in a different village, one that was closer to the beach and she was the one who arranged for her brother to take us around. This, in my opinion was a more authentic experience as we stayed with her family and her mother cooked all the meals for us! The first guy was running more like a hostel, but there were a lot of middle class Persians mainly from Tehran and all of them were super friendly and can speak English too!

      Sorry I can’t provide any emails, but I hope this is helpful enough 🙂 Maybe there is no need to plan so much since Iranians are so hospitable, you can first go there then see what falls into place.

      • Shaad says:

        “WOW!” ve “MERCI!”
        Cheshmemoon Ro Roshan Kardin!!!
        What a fascinating account to hear how everything just fell so perfectly into place for you dear Dara!
        Remember how you described your first month or so planning to make your Iranian trip a reality? Well, Dara, I’m going thru that stage now. And the ongoing Ramzaan month doesn’t help much as a sense of lethargy now sets in over this Persian Gulf (PUN!).
        I’ve heard great things about the Niayesh hotel. Like really great things? Does it live up to its hype? Or do you prefer homestays? Do you have the name and contact information at the personnel working there or any reputable homestay? Also, any e-mail / contact info. of Khanum – e Mania? Or anyone else who can help me in Iran, in general, and Qeshm, in particular?
        You’ve said that if you know somebody there then they can send a letter of invitation and my visa is complimentary! Also, since English – speaking North Americans are required to have a guide whist travelling in Iran, this means that I won’t be able to travel independently without first knowing some Persian natives. Or else risk getting stuck in the red – tapeism, especially since Canada and Iran have recently severed all diplomatic relations.
        So, dear Dara, how do you suggest I get to know a host guide and secure an invite from a local Irani? May be that’s where the generally well – recommended Niayesh would step in? I know that they have been known to cater to journalists like us!
        Any source / cue / scoop in the right direction will be most appreciated.
        Ghorbooneh Shoma Beram,
        Shaad

        • Dara says:

          Sometimes the beauty of travel is letting coincidences happen 🙂 Hmm Niayesh Hotel was good, I liked the vibes of the place and people were nice. But I stayed in the dorms and one of the beds I was in had bed bugs so it was unfortunate. Still, don’t let that affect your decision, they have a superb buffet spread breakfast to make up for it haha.

          I’m sorry I don’t have any contact information to provide you 🙁 But I recommend that you try going on communities like Couchsurfing to reach out to locals. Try chatting with them first, especially those in Tehran who are well versed in English, and if you can get them to host you in their homes it will be an authentic experience for sure. They are mostly VERY friendly people, willing to help keen travellers.

          As for invitation letters, I’m not too sure about how the procedure goes for Americans to apply for a visa as I’m from Singapore and the rules are rather different. If you have another passport perhaps it would be wise to use that to enter Iran instead.

          • Shaad says:

            Mohteshakkerom Khanum – e Dara for this sharing of your insightful and entertaining travels throughout the Persian Nation. You have indeed provided a fascinating portrait of Iran and of the Persian Gulf and, in no small measure, have been instrumental in shedding Light on the Islamic Republic against the backdrop of the recent Arab Spring, along with the highlights of the essence of the True Persianness. “Thank – You Dear Dara!” ~ Shaad_b@hotmail.com

  2. Mania says:

    Hi, Dara !
    I Red your Weblog to day . IT was very nice thanks for all you Wrot about ME and my Family . Hope to See you again .

    Warm regards
    Mania

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