Discover the Underrated Islands of Iran: Hormuz and Qeshm

When the tide is low, Naz Island can be accessed from Qeshm by foot, motorbike or even on a camel
When the tide is low, Naz Island can be accessed from Qeshm by foot, motorbike or even on a camel | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
Iran is well-known for its dramatic landscapes, including the highest mountain in the Middle East, Mount Damavand, and the salt lakes of the Maranjab Desert. But there are also lesser-known places worth exploring at the country’s southernmost point: the islands of Hormuz and Qeshm.
Star Valley on Qeshm Island is a place of fables | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
The Islands of Qeshm and Hormuz are often left out of most of the tours organised for foreign travellers | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip

Iran’s Islands of Hormuz and Qeshm lie in the Persian Gulf. They mark the southernmost point in Iran – accessible by boat from Iran’s coastal cities – and are arguably the country’s best-kept secrets. “The Islands are still very left-out destinations for most of the organised tours in Iran,” says photographer Giulia Frigieri, who travelled there with an Iranian friend and her camera. “Many Iranians would admit that the Islands look amazing on Instagram, too, but they have never visited.”

Hengam Island is a semi-desert island, which you can reach from the little Kandalou port in Qeshm | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
The Islands of Qeshm and Hormuz are well worth a visit | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip

Hormuz is particularly fascinating in terms of its geology. It adopted the name Rainbow Island for the unusual colours of its sands and rock formations: silver, black, orange and red being the most notable. These colours are apparently the product of high percentages of mineral concentrations and layers of volcanic material on its surface; 70 types of minerals appear in the so-called Rainbow Mountains. Elsewhere, the salt mountain known as Hormuz’s Goddess of Salt draws visitors for the positive energy it is said to release.

Hormuz’s soil is unique because of its colour | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
The geological composition of Hormuz is a spectacular phenomenon | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip

Qeshm Island is best known for the giant craters in its Star Valley. Ancient tales, as told by locals, suggest the craters were made by fallen shooting stars. One of the most popular tourist activities in Qeshm is heading out to a tiny deserted island called Naz – by camel is by far the most stylish means to go about it. Hengam Island is also a popular destination for camping – its exotic fauna and warm crystal-clear seas are a lure for many Iranian families.

The burqa is part of traditional Bandari dress | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
The Salt Goddess mountain is said to give off positive energy | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip

Surrounded by the sea, both Hormuz and Qeshm are designed for seafood lovers. Shark, calamari, octopus and fried shrimp are some of the dishes on the menu – seasoned, of course, with local spices. Meanwhile, in both destinations you will see local women wearing the burqa, as part of traditional Bandari dress. However, you might notice the colours and patterns differ on the island, with colourful designs and rectangular shapes being typical of Hormuz.

The islands of Qeshm and Hormuz are a culinary paradise for seafood lovers | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
Hengam Island is a popular camping destination | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip
Enjoy a seaside sunset when you visit the Qeshm and Hormuz Islands | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip