When the hustle and bustle and traffic smog of Tehran starts to get too much, the beautiful and unique village of Darband is the perfect escape.
Darband is one of Tehran’s oldest rural villages and was always known for it’s country life, fresh mountain water and cool fresh air. Today the neighbourhood is one of the most upmarket destinations in Tehran for tourism, relaxing and casual dining, whilst still retaining it’s quaint village vibe. The village lies at the foot of Mount Tochal and is so unique and makes a totally different experience from the rest of Tehran. Darband is definitely an absolute must-visit on any trip to Tehran.
Is Tehran Worth Visiting?
In fact, most Iranians who are not from Tehran will tell you to just skip Tehran when travelling through Iran. Compared to the other big cities such as Isfahan and Shiraz, Tehran does lack a lot of history and grand buildings that other Iranian cities and towns possess. It’s a lot more modern and definitely not as picturesque. As a result the city doesn’t always capture people the way other Iranian cities do.
It can feel like a rat-race in Tehran too as it is so busy. Traffic is always bad, and so as a result the city is often covered in smog due to the pollution. In fact Tehran is one of the world’s most air-polluted cities! Getting around by metro isn’t much better – the metro is always packed and you’re lucky to get a seat.
Despite all this, I firmly believe Tehran is definitely worth visiting and should be included on any Iran itinerary.
How To Get To Darband Tehran
Nearest Metro: Tajrish Metro Station
Head up to the last stop on line 1 (red line) to Tajrish Metro station. As you come out of the metro you will see the incredible snow-capped mountains very close to you. This is in the direction of the beautiful village of Darband – Darband is located right at the foot of these mountains.
A 5-10 minute taxi ride from Tajrish Square (500 metre walk from the metro – close to Imamzadeh Saleh Shrine), takes you to Darband.
It is always a lot cheaper to get a shared taxi as opposed to just getting a private taxi. A shared taxi should cost around 15,000 IR. A private taxi however can charge 4 or 5 times more as it knows you are a tourist!
Alternatively you can just walk to Darband from Tajrish metro station – it is just under 3km walk uphill and it should take around 30 minutes.
What To Do In Darband, Tehran
Darband is the ideal place to relax and enjoy being away from the chaos of the city. Strolling along the pedestrianised street you’ll see lots of cute food stalls selling kebabs and dried fruit, as well as many restaurants and cafes dotted along a lovely little stream that runs below the middle of the street.
No visit to Darband is complete without enjoying a tea or some food in one of the many cafes or restaurants here.
Darband is also the start of the hiking trail to Mount Tochal, which is another reason why people, especially the locals love to visit Darband. In fact Darband actually means ‘gateway to mountain‘ in the Farsi/Persian language. The hike to Mount Tochal is not challenging but it does take around 3 hours walking to reach the top of the mountain.
You can also get a cablecar up to Mount Tochal from Darband if you don’t have the energy or time to do the hike! From Mount Tochal you get views all over Tehran – just note that often the view down over the city can be a bit overwhelming if the city is covered in smog, as it will mean the smog will obstruct the skyline down below!
Darband is also a popular place to visit in the evenings, especially with the locals.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t skip this beautiful village in Tehran. It makes the perfect retreat from the bustling city below.
Darband Tehran Restaurants
Lots of the restaurants in Darband have little tents (like in the picture below) where you can eat and drink in private if you wish for some peace and quiet. I definitely recommend to eat in one of these tents – for me it was something I had never done before and I just loved the informal setting!
Of course in these tents you will sit on the floor on a Persian rug for your meal and there will be a little table for your food. There is also shisha (hookah) available if you wish. You are welcome to stay in the tents as long as you want – it’s a place to relax so you can stay there long after you’ve finished your meal if you want!
Meals are very reasonable at the restaurants here, and the locals all say that Darband is said to have the best shish kebabs (meat and vegetable grilled sewers) in the whole of Tehran! This is because they only use the highest quality, 100% organic meat. You can buy shish kebab meals here for around 140,000 IR.
You’ll also find lots of local Iranian people here as Darband is a popular place for them to enjoy, especially at the weekend. Nevertheless, it definitely doesn’t feel crowded.
Personally I love meeting the locals of a country, and Iranian people are so friendly and welcoming and really love to chat to visitors to their country.
Darband Tehran Weather
As Darband lies at the foot of Mount Tochal it is a little cooler here than in the rest of Tehran. I visited at the end of February and it was snowing a little! Therefore you might want to bring an extra layer or two!
Things To Do Near Darband, Tehran
Luckily you can combine a visit to Darband with a couple other popular places in Tajrish: Tajrish Bazaar and the Imamzadeh Saleh Shrine.
Tajrish bazaar – located right next to Tajrish Metro Station, is much more aesthetically pleasing and tourist-friendly than the centrally located Grand Bazaar. You can shop for lots of nice crafts, souvenirs and traditional Iranian sweets here, as well as buy some cheap fruit and veg or stop in the many Iranian tea houses. The bazaar is open from 9am-9pm.
Imamzadeh Saleh Shrine
Tajrish Bazaar and Tajrish Square back onto the picturesque Imamzadeh Saleh shrine. This is a very popular pilgrimage site for local people as it is the burial place of Imamzadeh – one of the sons of the seventh Imam. The shrine is beautiful, with the dome covered in beautiful tiles.
Other Things to do in Tehran
The Azadi Tower, also known as the Freedom Tower, is Tehran’s iconic landmark. The tall white marble futuristic building mixes Persian influences with modern architecture and pays tribute to the 2500th Anniversary of The Persian Empire. It is adjacent to Mehrabad Airport, Tehran’s domestic airport and marks the entrance to the west gate of the city.
Get off the metro at Meydan-e Azadi, and be careful when you have to cross the road. Traffic is extremely busy around Azadi Square and cars do not stop for you. You can take the elevator or stairs to the top to enjoy the view (costs 150,000 rials) – you’ll be able to see the mountains and the city from here.
Opening times are 9am-5pm Sunday to Thursday (10am-5pm on Friday). Or you can just admire it from the outside like I did.
Islamic Revolution & Holy Defence Museum
I am not normally a fan of museums as I can find them overwhelming sometimes, but this was honestly one of the most interesting and informative museums I have ever been to.
It focuses on the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, in which 1 million Iranians died. The museum shows the bitter reality of the bloody war between Saadam Hussein’s regime and Iran, and was very educational.
It will take you at least an hour or two inside as the museum is very large. It is a really impactful museum with incredible state-of-the-art visuals. Amongst many things the museum shows remarkably realistic reconstructions of war-torn cities and tanks weapons used during the war.
You are NOT allowed to take photos here (and there are cameras everywhere!). Opening times are 08.00-12.00 and again from 13.00-17.00, 7 days a week.
Former US Embassy
The former USA Embassy in Tehran is a very interesting place to visit. In 1979 during the Iranian Revolution, several Iranian military students seized the Embassy and held 52 American Diplomats hostage here for 444 days.
They claimed the USA was undermining the Iranian Revolution as it had been providing support to the last Shah (King) of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. After the hostages were released, all diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed and have been ever since.
There were many things that led to the 1979 Revolution, but it occurred in part because the monarchy wanted Iran to be westernised and secularised. Reza replaced Islamic laws with Western laws, and so leaders of the Revolution (clerics) claimed Reza was destroying Islam in Iran, so the monarchy got overthrown and was replaced by the Islamic Republic.
The former US Embassy permanently closed after the Revolution and is now known more commonly as The Den of Espionage. It is used by a pro-Revolution armed Iranian group – the Sepah militia and has also very recently been turned into a museum too. It is full of anti-American propaganda and you’ll see big slogans outside, declaring America the Great Satan, and murals of a skulled Statue of Liberty.
This is a really interesting place if you wish to understand modern day history in Iran and see the contrasting opinions between the Revolutionists and the open-minded general public. Entrance is 200,000 IRR and the museum is open Saturday – Thursday 09.00-12.30 and 14.00-18.30.
Tehran Grand Bazaar
Just down the road from Golestan Palace is Tehran Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is a labyrinth, and with more than 10km of covered alleys and thousands of shops it is the biggest bazaar in the world! The bazaar is mostly full of products for locals to buy, such as spices, teas, carpets and fabrics, but it is still a very popular tourist attraction in Tehran due to it’s sheer size.
The Persian carpet and rug shop owners will often invite you into their shop and tell you about their carpets whilst they offer you chai (tea). Even if you don’t want to buy one, it’s still very interesting to go in and admire and learn about the Persian rugs. The vendors are very good at their job so you will probably walk away having bought a rug, even if you hadn’t intended to! Along with shops there are many restaurants and teahouses in and around the bazaar you can relax in and watch the world go by.
Most shops in the bazaar are open from 10am-5pm. Head there before lunch when it isn’t too busy, so you can stroll around leisurely. Prepare for lots of crowds if you go in the afternoon though – the alleyways will be full!
Other useful information when visiting Tehran
Despite Tehran being a huge sprawling city with over 8 million inhabitants, there is no ‘downtown’ as such. Tehran however can be divided socially into north and south, with the richer and more liberal people living in the cosmopolitan north, and the poorer, more religious regime supporters living in the south.
It’s almost impossible to get your hands on Iranian money outside of Iran as many countries don’t want to deal with it. Therefore you’ll need to bring cash (US dollars or preferably Euros) with you to Iran. You CAN NOT withdraw any money from any International bank card (VISA/Mastercard etc) at cash machines in Iran!!
This is due the limitations placed by the USA – pretty much all global banks have refrained from dealing with Iran.
Once you get to Iran you can change the money into Iranian Rials at the airport and at the many currency exchange shops. Exchange just a little bit at the airport to last you, as the rate won’t be as good there. When you are in Tehran, local people may approach you asking if you want to exchange your money in the black market.
As the Iranian currency is always fluctuating and can be quite confusing, I would recommend to go to an exchange office to change your money so you know you won’t get ripped off.
Transport in Tehran:
Tehran is a very large city and it can often seem quite overwhelming, however it is very easy and cheap to get around on the metro. The metro is very modern, super clean and very efficient. A one-way metro ride costs 10,000 rials (10 cents!). The metro runs very frequently and also has ‘ladies-only’ carriages.
A metro ride in Tehran is unlike one you will have come across before – it is like a mini-market inside with vendors selling things all day long on the metro. Many of the passengers buy the products, which can be anything from socks to tissues to face masks. It was fascinating to watch, even if I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.
‘Snapp’ is Uber in Iran. You can use it to get anywhere in Tehran for a reasonable price.
I once took the bus in Tehran and was stuck on it for absolutely ages. The traffic is pretty bad and even the pedestrians outside were moving at a faster rate than us. Therefore stick with the metro or Snapp – they’ll get you where you want to go and in a much quicker time!
Travel to other cities in Iran:
If you want to take the bus from Tehran to another city in Iran, buses depart from Freedom Square. Click here for prices and bus timetables.
Where to stay in Tehran:
For those looking for an economical or social place to stay, head to Heritage Hostel. It is a modern hostel with several dorm rooms, although they also have yurts, private rooms or an underground room you can stay in! The staff are very friendly and helpful, and Baherestan Metro is just a couple of minutes walk.
How safe is Tehran?
I felt very safe in Tehran. Iran is a very safe country from a crime point of view and I often felt much safer here than I do in many European cities.
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