Na’in: Gateway to the Iranian Desert

When people think of Iran, they think of the large square and bustling bazaars of Isfahan, the ruins of Persepolis and the tea houses of Tehran. But, when I think of Iran, I think of the desert city of Na’in, the mountain village of Abyaneh and Yazd, the city of wind towers, Zoroastrianism and the one that has a sweet tooth. I think of the rich Iranian hospitality, the beautifully woven carpets, the endless conversations had over many cups of tea, the super friendly people and the ubiquitous door knockers.

Male and female door knockers of Iran - seen at Na'in

In this article, I wish to talk about Na’in, one of the cities mentioned above. Located 140 kilometres east of Isfahan, Na’in is one of those Iranian cities where it feels like time has come to a standstill. It’s citadel, it’s mud houses, its gorgeous mosques and its busy bazaars transport you to a different era.

You cannot stop admiring the door knockers on its house doors as you walk past its narrow lanes. Each door has a male and a female door knocker and they came in different shapes, sizes and designs. And as you are admiring these door knockers, you will find a hospitable local inviting you into his house or shop for a cup of tea and a lovely conversation. Na’in is famous for its gaz (a marshmellow kind of candy) and hence don’t be surprised if you are given some gaz to go with your cup of tea. Iranians love their sweets, their tea and a conversation with musafirs (travelers). As your tea keeps getting topped, they will ask you about your home country, your culture, your family and so on. Sometimes, people are so kind that they even invite you for a meal and even allow you to stay in their house. That is the heart of Iranian people for you, who treat random strangers with as much respect as they treat the almighty.

Super Hospitable Gaz shop Owner from Na'in, Iran

Once your belly is full of gaz and tea, you will learn that Na’in is one of the top carpet weaving destinations of Iran. Their handy knot carpets woven with extremely thin wools are of a much higher quality and much different than the rest of the carpets woven in other parts of Iran. In addition to carpets, Na’in is home to fully functional qanats (an underground aqueduct designed over 3000 years ago), an outstanding monument in Jame mosque, a pre-Islamic Narej fortress, a Pirnia traditional house and a maze of a bazaar that is connected by main alleys as well as tributary passages to centres of neighbourhoods.

The Narenj citadel is a great place for photography and the bazaar is a fabulous place for carpet shopping.

if you feel like some camping, dune bashing or dune boarding, head to the sand dunes nearby.

Sunset over the sand dunes of Verzaneh, Iran

Naein, in spite of all its simplicity is a magical little place. Its friendly people, their hospitality, their sweets and their hand woven carpets are the icing on the cake. Time stops in this place that is the gateway to the Iranian desert. It is one of my favorite places in Iran and I recommend it with multiple thumbs up.

Procession at a mosque in Na'in, Iran

Best season to visit:

The winter months from October through February would be the ideal time to visit Na’in. The rest of the year would get too hot to explore the outdoors.

Walking carefully on the salt flats of Maranjab, Iran

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Tehran international airport, about 453 kms or 5 hours away.

Road connectivity to Na’in is excellent. And one can either opt for a taxi or a bus. Hitchhiking is also common in Iran. Na’in has excellent bus connectivity with Isfahan and medium connectivity with Tehran, Yazd and Kashan.

One has to hire taxis to reach the sand dunes of Verzaneh or the salt flats and caravanserai of Maranjab.

Street Photo - Iranian Motorcycle at Na'in

Where to stay:

Simple budget accommodation run by friendly owners can be found in Na’in.

If you wish to stay close to the salt desert, I would recommend staying at the caravanserai. The facilities are basic, but the access is excellent.

If you wish to stay close to the sand dunes, I would recommend staying at Toudesk Cho village. I stayed at Taku Taku homestay, a simple village home run by a very friendly family.

If you care for creature comforts, base yourself at one of the luxury hotels in Isfahan.

A barren view of Na'in, Iran

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The salt desert and caravanserai of Maranjab: A scenic pit stop on the ancient silk road

2) The rolling sand dunes of Verzaneh: One of the largest sand dunes of Iran

3) Isfahan: The cultural and bustling city of central Iran

4) The desert city of Yazd, known for its Zoroastrianism roots

5) Abyaneh: The scenic mountain village famous for its fruit orchards

6) The architectural wonder city of Kashan: Famous for its mosques, houses and gardens

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