Asia / Iran / Middle East

Kaluts. To the Mars and back!

I’ve never been big on arid landscapes, but the Lut Desert in Iran with its sand castles was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to (so far!).

I used to imagine Iran to be parched, brown and rather unattractive (landscape-wise). I could not be more wrong! From stunning rock formations in Qeshm Island, through magical deserts in the plateau to verdant valleys and snow capped mountains in the north. Persia has it all! One trip was enough to turn me into a truly devoted advocate of Iran’s natural treasures.

We arrive to Kerman at 7am. After a long night on the bus we feel like zombies. The city is slowly awaking and the bazaar is still closed but we manage to find a restaurant which we use as our den until our guide picks us up.

Obviously you can grab a taxi and go to see the Kaluts on your own. Any hotel would be more than happy to organize it for you and it will be amazing. But being there with someone who can tell you more about the geology and the history of that place, really rounds up the experience. I’m pretty sure the young couple left on their own while their cab driver was puking around (true story!) will agree on this.

Now let’s rewind the tape. We are still in Kerman and Mansour has just picked us up from the bus stop. A couple of pics to stir up your appetite? Here you go:

Bazaar in Kerman.
Inside the bazaar.
Local market.
Everyday life in Kerman.
Hungry tourists in the house!

We grab a quick kebab on the way to the desert (if you love a good kebab as much as I do, Iran is the place to be!). Our first stop is the salt river in the middle of the desert. It’s so pretty! We explore the area for a while, then Mansour comes up with an idea how to celebrate our honeymoon – a barefoot sunset trek!

I can’t describe this experience. It’s funny, shocking, incredible and… a bit painful. Ouch!

When we get to the viewing point

the pain turns into AWE and

my jaw drops.

Www-OOO-AH – I stammer out. Am I dreaming?

All I can see are hundreds of majestic sand sculptures rising from the earth, looming and misshapen. If God exists, Kaluts are definitely one of his greatest creations.

We stay there for a while to enjoy the moment and the beautiful Sunset. If you read my blog you know how unlucky we were with the sunsets in Burma… oh well… This one sunset made it up for all our Burmese fiascos.

After the trek Mansour takes a sofreh out of the boot. Sofreh is a type of picnic blanket. Any respectable Iranian has one of these at hand in case of a sudden urge to picnic. 🙂 We drink tea and binge on kalompeh together. What a day!

The next day Mansour takes us to the local village where we can see a water reservoir and some ruins of an old caravanserai. We visit an underground irrigation system and learn how people manage water living in the middle of the desert. And guess what? We are the only tourists around.

On the way back to Kerman we stop for a picnic nearby the highway. Not the best place to picnic? This is in fact a very Iranian thing. As Namita Ravai in her “Tehran: The City of Lies” says: nothing could get in the way of an Iranian and a picnic, not even six lanes of roaring traffic!

Mansour asks us if we want to visit the canyon on the other side of the desert. As we get on so well, we would die to go there with him! We are pretty flexible with time but at the end of the day it’s down to money. You can’t withdraw money from any cash machine in Iran so the cash you have on you is your only money for the whole trip. It sucks. With an expensive trekking in Alamut valley in the pipeline we really have to watch our budget.

If we were talking about a random tour guide they would probably evaporate after getting the money. Mansour is different. He really wants us to fall in love with his country and experience the best of it. He comes up with an idea we could go to Meymand. You will love it – he says. At first we aren’t overly excited about the idea but he arranges everything and we trust him with our lives. So here we go!

Post scriptum:

On the bus to Shahr-e-babak the driver comes around with a gift for me. It’s a picture of Bam, Mansour’s home town. The attached note says: “please keep it and smile whenever you look at it. Your smile will send me positive energy“.

I couldn’t have dreamt of a better start of our adventure.

Disclaimer – this is not a paid post, but if you plan to visit the Lut Desert and you need some help you can contact Mansour here.  This guy is someone more than just a tour guide. He is a LEGEND. For that, and for making our experience unique, I shall be forever grateful.