In the northeastern province of Khorosan lies Mashhad, Iran’s holiest city. Though Mashhad’s top sight is Haram-e Razavi, a shrine complex commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Reza in 817, the city holds many other delights. Find out more about this most unique of destinations with our guide to making the most of a day in Mashhad.
Begin your day bright and early by heading to Mashhad’s main attraction – the Haram-e Razavi shrine. At nearly 600,000 sq metres (64,583,463 sq feet), this is a place to take your time over. Cameras and bags aren’t allowed, and men and women enter from different draped portals. Women must wear a chador, which you can sometimes borrow from your hotel.
There are seven courtyards in the complex filled with huge crowds of pilgrims who travel around the world to make the pilgrimage to the shrine – around 20 million visit each year.
Walk around the grounds where you will see clusters of domes, minarets sparkling in blue and gold and several flowing fountains and huge arcades. Alternatively, this is also a great spot at night when the grounds are illuminated.
It’s not just inside of the complex that is worth seeing – the outside proves an interesting visit too. The complex includes a 15th-century mosque, which is a 72-Martyrs (Shah) that shows an insight to the Khorosan religion. The mosque is well-known for its Timurud tilework and there are wonderful tracery lamps on display too.
After all that walking around the Haram-e Razavi complex, you’ll definitely need a lunch break, so head to Kooh Sangi park for a sit down. There are plenty of coffee shops here serving of drinks and snacks. Kooh Sangi park stands as one of the most famous parks in the city where there is a bit of everything on offer – be sure to take in the lake and the beautiful mountains. There is even an amusement park too – great if you are travelling with children!
Just under an hour’s drive away from Mashhad is Kang village, which is commonly described as ‘Khorosan’s Masouleh’. Highly photogenic, this village is full of steps and mud-brick homes. Many of the houses feature earthen roofs and porch-balconies with running streams flowing through alleyways and a tiny orchid garden too.
After all that walking, it’s time for dinner. Do as the locals do and eat a speciality from the area – shishlik. This is tender and marinated grilled meat that is more like ribs, so gives you something different to the chelo kebabs you may already be familiar with. This is usually eaten with rice and tahdig, crispy rice which is cooked at the bottom of the pan. There are plenty of side dishes that are eaten with the dish as well, such as yoghurt and olives.
Head northwest from Mashhad to Ferdowsi, also known as Tus. This is where the famous poet Ferdowsi was born – he was the author of the poem Shahnameh, which narrated the adventures and exploits of Iranian Kings. The Tomb of Ferdowsi is a complex constructed of a white marble base and a decorated edifice with four pillars around it showing scenes from the Shanameh. There is also a stone memorial for Ferdowsi to admire, and the surrounding gardens make a lovely place to stroll around as well.