Hitchhike from Zanjan to Tehran
Hitchhike from Zanjan to Tehran
If you are making a beeline from the Turkish border to Tehran there really is only one road you can travel along: Highway 2 – which travels from the most important city in Iran’s north-west, Tabriz, to the Iranian capital. Happily, there are many wonderful cities and sights to visit along the way including the hidden gem of Zanjan, slap bang in the middle of the two.
Our hitch-hiking experience
The hitchhike from Zanjan to Tehran was a first for us, a race with another couple, who had been couchsurfing with the same host as us in Zanjan. We were all dropped off together by the CS host on the motorway and from there the race began. Our first ride was with a young guy who spoke some English and was on his way to sell something to a hospital. So far, so good in the race. Then it went a bit wrong, a slow moving truck picked us up and we watched our opponents sail past us. We did get to the edge of Tehran however and after one more lift with a taxi driver who was convinced into taking us by the other passenger we arrived close to our next accommodation in the west of the city. Needless to say, we lost the race by 30mins. Bugger!
Distance: 335 km
Number of lifts: 3
Estimated journey time: 3.30h
Estimated waiting time: 10 mins
Alternative transport costs: Train 60,000 – 120,000 RIAL
Despite seeming on the surface to be a modern functional city, behind the veneer Zanjan is an attractive gem with some quirky sites to keep you interested. Zanjan bazaar is one of the prettiest in the whole of Iran and is a great place to catch of glimpse of working life in the country. There are a few nice mosques as well as Rakhtshurkhaneh, a Qajari era washing house to explore. As a unique souvenir idea, Zanjan is famous for its knife making and if that doesn’t interest you, the city is the ideal base from which to explore the nearby UNESCO listed Soltaniyeh, the largest brick dome in the world.
What it lacks in history, Iran’s capital city more than makes up for in chaos. Tehran is the country’s biggest city and at times can feel unmanageable, but there is plenty to see and do in the city so it deserves at least some of your travel time. The one thing that Tehran can boast about are its wonderful museums: the Treasury of the National Jewels which contains the largest collection of jewels anywhere in the world and the National Museum of Iran, which contains artefacts dating back to Ancient Persia are both wonderful and there are over 50 museums and 100 art galleries to enjoy in the city. The UNESCO listed Golestan Palace, is the oldest monument in the city and is an oasis of calm with many elegant palaces, halls and museums to explore. The U.S. Den of Esponiage (the former U.S. Embassy) is an unusual tourist destination, but is a nice insight into the government led vilification of all but themselves and if it all gets to much head for the hills in the north around Darband and see how Tehranians like to relax.
What to visit on the way?
Handily positioned alongside the road from Zanjan to Tehran lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Soltaniyeh. Built by the Ilkhanid Mongols in the early 14th century, the city survived less than a century before being destroyed in 1384 by Tamerlane. There are however three monuments that survived, with the most important being the Mausoleum of Il-khan Öljeitü or, as it’s more commonly known, the Dome of Soltaniyeh. Constructed between 1302 to 1312 AD it is the largest brick dome anywhere in the world, the third largest dome on Earth and an absolute wonder of architectural genius. The other structures are also well worth visiting: Khanegah Dervish Monastery (1330) lies 500m south-west of the main complex and contains restored cells around the central courtyard; and the blue-domed Mullah Hasan Kashi tomb, 1.5 km south, which was built in honour of the 14th century mystic Hasan Kashi.
How to reach the hitchhiking spot
① Fortunately hitchhiking out of Zanjan shouldn’t prove too difficult. The key to starting is to get on the motorway that swings around the city to the south and the east and there are two points from which to do this. Either locate the Train Station, cross the river on Zanjan-Bijad and meet the motorway here, or in the south-east corner near the village of Sayan. The second is probably the better spot but more difficult to reach. Public transport is confusing so just ask locals to help. Iranians are lovely and they most certainly will!
Written by: Jon