This is a sand lovers guide to the Iranian deserts and golden sand dunes. Let me show you the best places to see the desert in Iran and the pro’s and con’s of the Bafgh Desert, Varzaneh Desert and Maranjab Desert in Central Iran. I visited all three and show you how you can experience the Iran desert when you travel Iran.
I have a love/hate relationship with deserts. I love them and travelled to many deserts, like the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and the Atacama Desert in Chile. Unfortunately I’ve never made it to the great desert in Africa, but plan on seeing as many as possible. The sand, the waves, the shadows and the colours intrigue me. When I planned my travel to Iran, I didn’t have a set itinerary. I just knew I wanted to see the Iran desert.
As many times as possible. And I did. During my 2 week trip, I managed to see 3 deserts of Iran. And this post is about those three. Iran might have more deserts, but I’ll stick to these 3 as they are close to the tourist route in Central Iran and easy accessible.
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Yazd Desert- Bafgh Desert
You can’t go wrong in Yazd. This desert town is made from sand and only takes a half hour ride to go to these sand dunes in Iran. Located just outside of town, this is a popular destination for families and friends to visit on Friday. That is exactly what I did. Therefore, the Yazd desert was my most crowded experience.
You can go camel riding and sand buggy like I did in Peru, or just watch the sun set. I arranged for a private taxi to drive me there and wait for me. This was a bit expensive, but I was too late to join a tour and I really wanted to see this desert in Iran! So I forked over the Rials and off we went.
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Taxi ride to the desert in Iran
The taxi driver dropped me off at a parking lot an hour before sunset. I climbed the steep rocky hill that transformed into silky sand quickly. Calf deep into the sand, I tried to get away from the families picnicking near the parking lot.
I managed to find some untouched sands and tried to get a few shots with the dramatic mountains in the distance. As the sun set, an Iranian family came over to me to chat with me. So I missed the first sun set in the desert because of the friendly Iranian people who offered me a ride back into town. #onlyiniran
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Out of the 3 I’ve visited, this desert near Yazd was the easiest to get to and the best sun set.
Pros of the desert near Yazd
- Close to the town of Yazd
- Easily accessible by tour, private taxi or hitchhiking
- Gorgeous sun set
Cons of the desert near Yazd
- Very crowded and popular. This might have had something to do with my visit on a Friday
- Loads of mechanic noise from motorized traffic
- Close to the city, you can still see the industrial area around Yazd
- There was more plastic and garbage in the sand dunes then at the other sights.
Desert near Esfahan – Varzaneh Desert
After a few days of exploring Esfahan, I booked a tour with a few other people to Varzaneh desert. We would visit some places on the way from Esfahan to Varzaneh, visit a salt lake and the sand dunes. We would stay overnight near the desert and visit a caravansary at sun set.
On our way to the salt lake, we passed some massive sand dunes. Golden waves stacking up in huge piles. We wanted to get out of the car and play in the sand! But first we visited the salt lake. As we drove back, we had to stop. Our driver stopped at the highest sand dune and off we went.
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Climbing the highest sand dune of Iran
Trying to climb that huge pile of sand was not an easy task and I gave up 2/3 into it. I figured the views would still be pretty phenomenal from where I was and I found it already steep enough.
Little puffs of white clouds casted some amazing shadows on the wrinkly sand. It was of a breath taking beauty, I couldn’t peel my eyes from nature’s spectacle.
Too soon, we had to leave again. I would have loved to play in the sand a little longer! Out of the 3 I’ve been to, this desert in Iran came closest to that idea of perfect uninterrupted desert.
Pros of the Varzaneh Desert
- Beautiful golden sand dunes
- Uninterrupted sights of sand
- Phenomenal clouds making the sights very dramatic
Cons of the Varzaneh Desert
- You first need to drive 2 hours from Esfahan to get to Varzaneh
- The salt mines near the desert are still in use, so you see trucks driving back and forth
Desert near Kashan – Maranjab Desert
You know what they say: three time’s a charm! When I learned there was a 3rd desert in Iran I could go to, I had to visit it. By now, I was wondering how many more desert selfies I could take, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to visit just one more.
My taxi driver from Kashan bus station to my hotel, also offered his services as a private taxi guide. I settled on a full day of sightseeing around Kashan with him, including the Maranjab Desert.
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This also included the salt flats near the desert but not much salt to be seen. But the grand wide open nothingness did strike a chord with me. The silence was almost deafening. My head started to hurt with so much silence so we soon moved on to the actual sand dunes of the desert.
Untouched sand dunes outside Kashan
Maranjab Desert is an hour drive from Kashan and the only park where I had to pay an entrance fee (200.000 Rials, around €5). The driver parked the car near a toll booth at the other end of the park and released me into the wild.
Starting with the first sand dune and then I climbed some more. And then a few others. I walked for almost an hour in the cool sand. I noticed tracks of camels, birds and maybe wild cats? For the entire 2 hours I was completely alone and played in the sand. I could still hear the driver talk to other people way down below. The sound really travels far in the great open nothingness. The road was also quite busy with many trucks passing by. I could see and hear them from miles and miles away.
Did you know one of the hottest desert in the world is the Lut desert in Iran?
As it was getting a bit chilly, I decided not to wait another hour for the sunset but to return. Out of the 3 places, this desert in Iran felt the most untouched by humans and the sweeping views where marvelous.
Pros of the Maranjab Desert
- Endless salt flats near the sand dunes, giving it a very remote feeling
- Only 1 hour drive from Kashan, making it easy accessible
- Wild camels and untouched nature
Cons of the Maranjab Desert
- The only desert where I had to pay an entrance fee
- Although I was alone, the noise of other people and traffic from outside the desert does travel a long way
Best desert in Iran?
As you can see, each desert has his own unique features and some pros and cons. To visit all three of them was an amazing experience and I’m glad I got to see so much sand while I travelled in Iran. LOL.
As I didn’t visit each desert in Iran at the same day or at the same time, it is impossible to compare them with each other. I can only say: I loved the desert in Iran! Which is your favourite picture of the sand dunes in Iran?
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Have you ever visited the desert in Iran? Which one was your favourite place for a desert sunset? Which of these deserts in Iran would you like the visit? Let me know in the comment section below.
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I know this is old, but I saw the pictures on Google. The thing is that the “Bafgh” desert here is the desert area north of Yazd, it is not the actual Bafgh desert. Bafgh desert is the desert around the city of Bafgh, which is around 150 km east of Yazd.
The place normally considered as the “Bafgh desert” is a small area of dunes north of Bafgh, usually known as Caracal desert or Sadegh Abad desert (as that is the village immediately south of the dunes).
The dunes north of Yazd, such as those in the pictures, stretches for a much larger area than the Bafgh desert, but the Caracal/Sadegh Abad/Bafgh dunes are very tall, so called star dunes, nearly 100 m tall! It is also much more densely packed with dunes. I suppose they both have their place, for sure the rock formations in the desert you visited look very cool. However, it is not in the Bafgh desert.