With the world famous historic cities of Isfahan and Shiraz on the same soil, Kashan, a small city sitting at the western edge of the Dasht-e Kavir desert, is often the last choice for tourists in Iran. Sometimes it’s even forgotten.
How can a city as small as Kashan compete with giants like Isfahan and Shiraz, known for their colourful history and legacy?
Yes, Kashan may not have the beauty and charms of the two cities but the oasis city has enough to draw tourists out of Tehran.
For one, Kashan is only a three-hour drive or 250km away from Tehran whereas Isfahan is 450km and Shiraz even further at 930km away.
The drive on the Tehran-Kashan Highway is itself an attraction. The golden desert landscape of rocky valleys, ridges and formations with rustic abandoned houses will keep one awake
along the journey.
Kashan’s main draw is a huge collection of historic houses, all beautifully restored to their original splendour and within a short drive from the city centre.
Some of the houses have been turned into boutique hotels, museums and galleries, and there are impressive mosques, shrines and, of course, the bazaar.
Sialk Hill, one of the world’s oldest ziggurats, and Fin Garden (a beautiful Persian garden) are less than 10 minutes from the city centre.
Kashan has its link to the Silk Route, the main trade route that connected Asia and China to Europe from around 100BC. The 6,500km road linked ancient Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilisations.
A branch of this route skirts the western and southern edges of the Dasht-e Kavir desert, passing through a string of cities, Kashan included, on its way to India.
As a result, Kashan is dotted with caravanserai built to host the merchants and pilgrims. The caravanserai, a traditional hotel of sorts, is an architectural masterpiece of its age.
Mayor S. M. Nazem-Razavi says there are plans to turn the caravanserai in Kashan into a tourist attraction.
“With the Silk Road history and our strong heritage and history, Kashan makes a good day-trip destination for tourists from Tehran,” he says.
“A day trip is enough to get to know the architecture and heritage that Kashan is so proud of but it’s best to stay overnight to experience more of our food, craft and hospitality.”
By Zalina Mohd Som