People, Travel

Cycling in Iran

Cycling in IranCycling in Iran

James Desmond lives in Lake District, England.  He can usually be found cycling or hiking in the fells. In July 2012 James quit his job to go in search of adventure. He set off on his bike to cycle the world. After 1,700 km cycling across Iran with his French buddy Xavier, James recounts his experiences in his site

If you are thinking of cycling in Iran there are a few points to consider. Iran is big. Really big. It is also extremely hilly. Much of my trip, cutting north to south, was spent in the mountains above 1,500 m, and as such the winds were very strong, at points debilitating.

Searing summer heat and snowy mountain winters can also cause problems when combining with a longer trip (i.e. if heading east to China before winter or trying to avoid the worst of the Turkish summer/winter en route). October seemed to be perfect for cycling; cool and dry, with only a few cold nights in the mountains.

Distances between big cities are large. It can often be hard to find supplies or food on the road. We passed 100 km stretches of nothingness in the desert, running out of food and water on a couple of occasions. Luckily help is at hand and countless cars would stop to offer fruit and water to keep us going.

The long distances between cities with hotels mean it would be wise to take a tent while cycling through Iran. There are lots of space around to camp. It seems perfectly reasonable in Iran to pitch a tent in a city park for example.

In the end we didn’t camp half as much as expected. In the countryside, as the nights drew in, we would find a farm to ask permission to camp, and without fail we were invited to stay in the farm or family house, often being fed at the same time. The generosity of the Iranian people was incredible and it never felt unsafe cycling into the dusk.

Should I cycle Iran?

Cycling is tough both physically and mentally. The wind and mountains slowed us to a crawl, but with just a 30 day visa we had to keep a reasonable average daily distance to make the border. You can however extend your visa by another 30 days. Although we had a lot of local interaction, we went weeks without seeing other tourists. Outside the cities not everyone spoke English, meaning Xavier and I had to put up with each other's company for nearly a month without break – so make sure you are travelling with the right person!