Shiraz was my favourite city Iran (big call I know!). The Pink Mosque was just beautiful and I got quite lucky with lighting and got some great photos. The Shah Cheragh Shrine was a complete surprise to me and really blew me away with its stunning architecture and brightly coloured mosaics. Throw in a day trip to Persepolis and you have an extremely enjoyable few days of travel.
While this place is not really a hostel, they do have dorm rooms, and it was the best dorm room I had in all of Iran. Very spacious and comfortable. At only 400,000 IRR (10€) per night, it's your best option for a hostel in Shiraz. Niayesh Hotel is located walking distance to all the sights in Shiraz, except Eram Garden. I also used the services of Niayesh to visit Persepolis and the Necropolis on a guided tour. The cost of which was 25USD which includes all entry fees. I ran through the numbers and calculated that if I tried to visit both of these places myself using public transport the price would end up being nearly the same but would take longer and would also be less informative. Book Niayesh Hotel here!
Golshan Hostel is brilliantly located across the road from the Pink Mosque (Nasir Al-Molk Mosque). It is also a bit closer to the Karandish Bus station than Niayesh meaning you can walk rather than catch a taxi. Guests stay in either the main or building or a secondary separate building. The main building is a more comfortable place so ask for a bed/room there if you can. Book Golshan Hostel here!
Sights and Highlights
Persepolis and the Necropolis
Check out my blog post, Shiraz – Persepolis and the Necropolis, to read more about my day trip to Persepolis.
If you come to Shiraz, you have to visit Persepolis, the capital of Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire. An empire that stretched an astonishing distance from Greece and Libya in the west to and Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. At its peak it controlled more land area than the Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire or Ancient Macedonia did at their peaks while pre-dating all of them. The Achaemenid Empire was ultimately brought down by the conquering of Alexander the Great who burnt Persepolis down in 330BC.
Located only 12 from Persepolis, and included on all tours to Persepolis, is Naqsh-e Rustam or the Necropolis. Here you will find 4 tomb cut out of the side of a rocky mountain. These tombs belong to the Persian kings Darius II, Artaxerxes I and Darius I (Darius the Great) and Xerxes_I.
The cost to visit Persepolis and the Necropolis is 25USD when booked through Niayesh Hotel. This price includes all entry fees, transport and a guide. I ran through the numbers and calculated that if I tried to visit these places myself using public transport the price would end up being nearly the same but would take longer and be far less informative.
Prior to the construction of the city of Persepolis, for a period the capital of the Achaemenid Empire was at Pasargadae. Cyrus the Great began its construction in 559BC and today it is also where his tomb is found as seen in the image below. The tomb of Cyrus is the main reason for visiting Pasargadae. Generally speaking the ruins are not as well preserved or impressive as those of Persepolis. Upon requests, tours of Persepolis can include a trip to Persepolis. However, the Necropolis and Persepolis are located very close to each other, while Pasargadae is an 80km drive further away so the price and time required will both go up.
Pink Mosque (Nasir Al-Molk Mosque)
Check out my blog post, Shiraz - The Pink Mosque, to read more about my visit and a lot more photos.
For some, the Nasir Al-Molk Mosque is not just a thing to see in Shiraz, but one of the reasons they visit Iran in the first place. It's a bucket list worthy item. The Pink Mosque is located quite centrally and walking distance from both hostels mentioned on this page. Entry to the Mosque was 150,000 IRR (4€). The entrance opens at about 7:30am and my advice is to arrive exactly at that time. It is not uncommon for large groups of tourists to arrive at once and take over the Mosque. Don't be afraid to ask other tourists to politely move their jackets, cameras out of the way if they are ruining your shots and shepherd them down towards to entrance of the Mosque so that you may be able to take shots like the one below.
Shah Cheragh Holy Shrine
Check out my blog post, Shiraz – Shah Cheragh Shrine, to read more about this incredible holy site.
Shah Cheragh is very much an active pilgrimage site in Iran. Iranians come here in their droves to pay their respects. Shah Cheragh is a funerary monument housing the tomb of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of Musa al-Kadhim and brothers of Imam Reza, the 7th of 8th Imams in Shia Islam.
Shah Cheragh is located very centrally, easy walking distance from the hostels. Entrance into the shrine is free, a welcome change from many of the other religious sites in Iran. However you will need to be guided through the site. The guides are very friendly and approachable people. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get them talking. Shah Cheragh may well be the most beautiful site I visited in Iran. Visit in the evening just before sunset for some great photos.
The Vakil Mosque is one of many beautiful mosques that you will see in Iran. Vakil Mosque is located very close to a Vakil Bathhouse and Bazaar, two other places that you can consider visiting in Shiraz. The entrance fee here is 150,000 IRR (4€). Considering Shah Cheragh is free, if you only visit one mosque in Shiraz (other than the Pink Mosque obviously) visit Shah Cheragh instead. Still, Vakil Mosque is beautiful!
Eram Gardens are on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is a stunningly beautiful complex containing a vast network of gardens. It is quite similar to the Fin Gardens found in Kashan. Entrance to the gardens is 200,000 IRR (5€) but you will also need take a taxi to get there as Eram Gardens is located about 5km from the hostels and city centre. Taxi fare should be around 60,000 IRR (1.5€)
I didn't visit many cafes in Shiraz, mainly because Niayesh Hotel, the place I stayed at, has a very nice café and restaurant area. However a good round-up of your options can be found at Theculturetrip.com - Best Cafes in Shiraz. I have also created a map showing a lot of these options which should make it very easy to get your caffeine fix in Shiraz.
I ate almost exclusively in the restaurant at Niayesh Boutique Hotel. The breakfast at Niayesh is the best I had in Iran! Buffet selection of amazing Iranian foods. By far the most variety available of all the free breakfasts. After a busy day sight-seeing around Shiraz I would arrive back at the hotel and for around 100,000 IRR (2.5€) I was able to get a delicious meal from the restaurant there. For other options you should check out some of the cafes above, most of them also have a great selection of dishes!
There is a metro system being constructed in Shiraz but at the moment it is mostly still under construction. By far the easiest way to get around is with a local taxi. They are cheap and efficient. Always arrange a price before hand. A general rule of thumb in Iran is that a 5km journey should be around 60,000 IRR (1.5€). It depends on your bargaining ability as to how close to this figure you actually get.
Getting In and Out
Isfahan or Yazd
Buses to these two destinations can easily be found from Karandish Bus Terminal. The bus terminal is unfortunately not quite walking distance from Niayesh Hostel (3.3km), but from Golshan Hostel you can consider it. A taxi to the bus terminal from Niayesh Hotel should be no more than 60,000 IRR. The VIP bus ticket to these two destinations should be similarly priced at around 200,000 IRR (5€). There will be fewer buses departing for Yazd so for this I suggest arriving a bit earlier in the day for your tickets.
Of course you can catch a bus to Tehran in much the same way you would for Isfahan or Yazd from Karandish Bus Terminal and expect to pay around 600,000 IRR (15€). However cheap flights can also be had for this route. Flights can regularly be found for under 50€. Tickets for domestic airlines in Iran can be purchased online using credit cards, however not directly with the airline, you will need to use a 3rd party travel agent such as TravelFusion.com, Bravofly.com or edreams.com. Both Skyscanner and momondo can be used to search for this route.