Travel to Iran – Episode 435

categories: asia travel, middle east travel

Hear about travel to Iran as the Amateur Traveler talks to Shara Johnson from about her recent trip to that country. George W. Bush called it part of the Axis of Evil but Shara found a warm and inviting country.

When asked why she went to Iran Shara says, “I had wanted to go to Iran for ages, largely because of my interest in ancient history, the Persian Empire and all that. I have always been interested in the ruins and the history, and the architecture and everything. The political climate seemed to be really good. This was in April when I went. The prices were affordable. My travel voice said ‘Go! Go now!'”

Unlike the previous Amateur Traveler episode we did on Iran (Travel to Iran by Bike – Episode 134) which was done by a couple with Canadian passports, Shara and her husband are from the U.S. and cannot travel independently in Iran. They were required to either sign on with a tour group or hire a private guide. Shara says, “That’s not my usual type of travel. I am normally a very independent traveler. I had no idea what to expect from this. My husband and I hired a private guide so he was going to be attached to us at the hip pretty much for 15 days and nights… and it was fantastic! It was totally affordable for one thing and our guide was just absolutely phenomenal.”

“We flew from Tehran to Shiraz. It is a really pretty city, well known for its gardens. It has some opulent palaces, beautiful mosques. The highlight of that city is this really sweet mosque which is relatively small, the Nasir-al-Molk Mosque. There are gardens called the Orange Gardens and this palace where we started to get an idea of one of the hallmarks of Persian architecture is they use mirrors in a lot of their interior design and cut it almost like tile. It is a place for literature and poetry, an educated kind of city. It was fun to meet local people and feel a friendship for them.”

“Shiraz is where you access Persepolis from, which is the highlight archeological ruin in Iran. There is also a necropolis nearby of the early rulers.”

“My ultimate surprises for Iran came from the people that we met, our guide’s friends. The younger generation is not at all how we think that they are. A lot of Americans tend to see the people of Iran as very religious, very traditional conservative. I think that has a lot to do with the way we see them dressing. The younger generation, aren’t really religious at all. They known more about American television shows than I do. They have social media even though it is illegal.”

Shara also visited their guide’s hometown of Kerman with its nice bazaar with a traditional bath house. “One thing I wanted to see is called The Kaluts and is just outside of Kerman It is a desert and the weather has carved out of the layers and layers of desert sand these amazing sculptures. It’s like castles made out of the sand. The bottom layer is black and then the sculptures are red. I have never seen anything like it anywhere else.”

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Show Notes

SKJ Travel
Shara’s photos of Iran
Travel to Iran by Bike – Episode 134
Visit Iran
Nasir-al-Molk Mosque
Narenjestan (Orange Garden)
The Kaluts of Kerman
Shahzadeh Garden
Towers of Silence
Imam Square
The “Red Village”
Rick Steves’ Iran


Leo wrote:

Hi Chris,

I’ve been listening to your podcast for many years and have found it helpful for my own travels to places I’ve already been and has inspired me to visit new destinations. So, thanks to you and your guests.

I was wondering if you would be kind enough to provide me with a list of the typical questions you ask your guests. The best part of the trip, the most unusual, the bit the travel guides didn’t mention, how would you describe etc etc.

I’d like to send them to a friend who has just left Perth for a holiday to the UK and parts of Europe and want him to keep your questions in mind while he is travelling, so as he gets the most out of his trip.

Hope you are able to oblige. I would be very grateful.



The  questions I usually ask:

  • Why should someone go to XXX?
  • What should you see?
  • weather / when to visit
  • What do the guidebooks recommend that you think are a waste of time?
  • What do the guidebooks/tourists miss?
  • Where should you stay?
  • Where should you eat?
  • How do you get around?
  • What side trips would you recommend?
  • what was the biggest surprise?
  • best day you had?
  • one warning you would give?
  • language
  • what do you wish you had known?
  • picture that best brings back your trip?
  • most memorable person you met?
  • best resources for planning a trip to XXX
  • when did you feel closest to home, furthest
  • one thing that makes you laugh and say only in XXX
  • one thing you should know and one thing you should pack before you go to XXX
  • What’s your best money saving tip?
  • you really know you’re in XXX when
  • what 3 words would you use

Western Sahara, part of Morocco or not?

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

3 Responses to “Travel to Iran – Episode 435”

Jeff Perkins


Hi Chris,

The drinking of tea from saucers isn’t uncommon. It typically occurs in cultures where the tea is served very, very hot; the drinkers pour some into their saucer, which has a wider surface area and is shallower and therefore it cools down quicker.

There is also a habit presumably derived from Britain, for some people to pour some of their milky tea into the saucer where it its easier to dunk their biscuit (cookie) or cake into the tea to make it pleasantly warm and soggy (avoiding dunking in the cup due to the high probability of some disintegrating and adding odd lumps to the remaining tea.)



Yes, you may find some people drinking from saucer, of course, more among working class people and out in the countryside. However, a mixer of milk and tea is something I’ve never seen anyone drinking or appreciating in Iran.



thanks for the clarification

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