Plan Your Visit to Kerman, Kaluts, Mahan, Rayen, and Bam – with useful tips!

This article is part 12 of 12 in the series Iran: Trip of a Lifetime

The province of Kerman is full of interesting places to visit. Rayen and Bam are famous for their citadels and ancient cities. Mahan gets its fame due to its impressive Persian garden. Kaluts is well-known for being the world’s hottest and driest place. They are all so tempting to visit, don’t you think?

That would not be an issue at all for those who have unlimited time to explore. However, many of us, including me, do not have the luxury to travel for months. So choosing the right place to visit is crucial, to ensure that you get the most out of your visit to Kerman.

In this post, I am going to share with you how to properly plan your trip to Kerman, including some useful tips to get the best out of this province!

Planning Your Visit

Why do I need to plan?

The residential palace at Shahzadeh Garden, MahanMost of the places of attractions around the Kerman province are all located so far away from each other. That’s probably one of the drawbacks of Kerman. To give you an idea, here are the distances between each place of interests:

  • Kerman to Kaluts: 150 kilometres (2-hour drive)
  • Kerman to Mahan:  37 kilometres (35-minute drive)
  • Mahan to Rayen: 71 kilometres (1-hour drive)
  • Rayen to Bam: 136 kilometres (1 1/2 hour drive)
  • Bam to Kerman: 190 kilometres (2-hour drive)

As you can see above, the distance between the tourist attractions is quite huge (with the exception of Kerman-Mahan). The last thing you want when you have limited time is to spend too much time on the road. Hence, a proper advance planning is needed! 🙂

Which ones should I visit: Rayen, Kaluts, Mahan, and/or Bam?

The first question you should ask yourself when planning a trip to Kerman is: how many days do I have for Kerman province? As a general guideline, you need at least 2 days to explore this province; although 4 days are ideal. Of course, the most ideal and easiest way is to visit all four places: Rayen, Kaluts, Mahan, and Bam.

However, no matter how exciting that sounds, it may not be possible for some people to stay for more than 2 nights due to the time constraint. Some people may even want to stay longer exploring one place. If that’s the situation you are having, then the second question you should be asking yourself is: which of the 4 attractions would I be willing to omit? Put it simply, there are two things you can consider: choosing between Rayen and Bam or between Kerman and Mahan. I am not going to suggest skipping Kaluts here because it is a must place to go when you are in Kerman! Yep! So anyway…

Bam vs Rayen

Rayen and Bam are practically similar. They are both an ancient town guarded by a huge castle. They are both ruins with some parts renovated and polished so that visitors can see the former glory of the castle. The earthquake badly affected Bam in 2013 and most parts of the castle were unfortunately destroyed. When I visited Kerman in February 2017, the reconstruction was still ongoing and that’s the reason why we decided to skip Bam and focus on Rayen.

However, I’ve recently seen some recent pictures of Bam and it looks like the castle has been refurbished. Although I really enjoyed my time in Rayen and the whole castle was amazing to explore, I still prefer Bam over Rayen and I would definitely suggest going to Bam if you have the time. Bam looks more grandeur compared to Rayen, with its castle towering over the rest of the ancient village as if it watches over the entire village. The view looks really amazing and it is much bigger compared to Rayen!

If you have limited time, going to Rayen can be a journey worth taking. You’ll be able to explore the castle at your own pace without being rushed by time. In the winter, Rayen offers a beautiful landscape with a snow-capped mountain in the background. We were able to explore every corner of the citadel and climb to the top of it to see the whole ancient town. It is a magnificent view – though I wish they didn’t polish the citadel too much — as it does not feel as archaic and ancient anymore.

Rayen Citadel

Kerman vs Mahan

Jame Mosque of KermanKerman has a number of historical places worth visiting, like the Tower of Silence, Ganjalikhan Complex, and Jame Mosque. Those who have visited other popular cities of Iran may find these attractions in Kerman quite repetitive and homogenous. Indeed, the long bazaar looks similar to the one in Esfahan or Tehran; the Ganjalikhan Bathhouse resembles the Vakil Bath in Shiraz; the Jame Mosque somewhat reminds me of the mosque with the same name in Yazd. Of course, there are still differences in terms of architecture details (mosaics, colours, etc) and historical wonders behind them which make these historical places interesting to visit. I wrote in more detail about each of these attractions in the post below.

So what’s unique about Kerman, then? To me, the city of Kerman has the best Tower of Silence in Iran. That statement is quite strong coming from a person who has never even been to the other Tower of Silence(s) in Iran (apologies in advance!). But judging from the existing pictures of the Tower of Silence in Yazd, I just have to make a conclusion that the one in Kerman is very unique! The Tower of Silence in Kerman is a ruin and it was never reconstructed since its abandonment years ago. So we can see its authenticity that is free from any sorts of modern refurbishments. This makes the place a great spot for photography. Not to mention the beautiful 360-degree scenery of the mountains and the nearby city of Kerman — AMAZING! I also love the fact that there were no tourists visiting this place.

View of a snow-capped mountain from the Tower of Silence

Let’s move on to Mahan. Mahan is totally different compared to Kerman. It is a very very quiet town and it is for this reason that we chose this town as the place to rest and chill (i.e. sleep all day) after a week of travelling around Iran non-stop. Mahan offers visitors with a few attractions, namely Shahzadeh Garden and Shah Nimatullah Wali Shrine. In my opinion, Shahzadeh Garden is the most beautiful and stunning garden in Iran. What makes this garden so unique compared to other Persian gardens is that it has an impressive water cascade feature, which allows the water to flow from the upper ends towards the lower ends. I do recommend visiting Shahzadeh Garden as it is more epic than Kashan’s Fin Garden and Shiraz’s Eram Garden. I wrote more detail about Mahan below:Shahzadeh Garden, Mahan

If you really have to skip Kerman and/or Mahan, I would suggest visiting the Tower of Silence and Shahzadeh Garden at the very least. Tower of Silence can be visited before going to Kaluts or Rayen/Bam and Shahzadeh Garden can be visited on your way to Rayen/Bam. These two places are very much memorable for my husband and me. I would definitely revisit them if I have the chance!

Itinerary Options

So, based on the above considerations, here are some of the itinerary options that you can choose. These itineraries are made based on the minimum time you need to explore these places. It is always possible to stay longer in one of the towns and start the journey from the south (Bam or Rayen). So feel free to make some adjustments.

Option 1: Visit all attractions – Kerman, Mahan, Kaluts, Rayen, and Bam

  • Day 1: Kerman city tour
  • Day 2: Mahan & Kaluts
  • Day 3: Rayen and Bam

This is just a guideline as some people would prefer to explore Kaluts for one full day or even stay a night in the desert. Some may want to spend the whole day in Bam and stay for a night. Some would probably want to stay in Mahan (just like what we did!). So it really depends on which attraction(s) you would like to see the most.Kaluts

You can also combine Kerman and Mahan in one day as both cities are located 30 minutes apart. But that means you’d spend less time exploring Kerman and more time in Kaluts on day 2.

Option 2: Choose between Rayen or Bam

Rayen CitadelDue to the similarity between Rayen and Bam, I do think that skipping either Rayen or Bam is a good idea. If you are taking this option, then this is how the itinerary looks like:

  • Day 1: Kerman & Kaluts
  • Day 2: Mahan and either Rayen or Bam

Mahan is on the way to Rayen or Bam, so it doesn’t hurt to visit one or two attractions here if you leave early in the morning. Keep in mind that the distance between Mahan and Bam is around 157 kilometres, which means that you’ll spend at least 4 hours return on the road. However, with this itinerary, you will have the option to stay in Bam for a night.

Option 3: Choose between Kerman or Mahan

If you think that omitting Rayen and Bam is not an option, then you can choose between visiting either Kerman or Mahan.  You can read my post here to help you decide whether the places of interests in Kerman are better than Mahan (or vice versa). The itinerary for this option would be:

  • Day 1: Either Kerman or Mahan and Kaluts
  • Day 2: Rayen and Bam

With this itinerary, you can only visit one or two attractions in either Kerman or Mahan as you need to head for Kaluts immediately after lunch. You will have the option to stay for a night in Kerman/Kaluts and Bam.

Option 4: Most economical option

The beautiful mosaics of Jame MosqueThe above 3 options, however, require you to book a two-day tour at the very least (assuming you are not taking any public transports). If you can only afford following a 1-day tour, then I would suggest you going to Kaluts and Rayen for the tour and do sightseeing on your own for Kerman and Mahan. Mahan is reachable by public transports so it is easily accessible from Kerman. Visiting places of attractions in Mahan can be done by taking a taxi. You can also skip Mahan or Kerman altogether if that’s what you prefer.

  • Day 1: Kerman and Mahan
  • Day 2: Kaluts and Rayen

If you are choosing this option, do remember to leave early in the morning (around 7 am) and make sure you depart from Rayen to Kaluts no later than 1 PM so you can go around Kaluts before it’s completely dark and catch the sunset.

One last thing to note is that: it’s not possible to go to Kaluts and Bam on the same day as both places are very far from each other. So don’t ever think about it! 😀

Staying in Kerman

Kerman City

Kerman is home to a number of hotels. These are some of them, as suggested by some travellers:

Akhavan Hotel

Our twin room in Akhavan HotelWe stayed in the Akhavan Hotel when we were in Kerman. The hotel is not located nearby the tourist attractions, but we stayed here due to the good reviews and the cheap tour that the hotel offers. The nightly rate for Akhavan Hotel is USD $40 for a decent double room with a private bathroom, which includes breakfast.

Akhavan Hotel
Address: Sadoughi Blvd, Kerman (Google Maps)
Phone: +98 34 3244 1411 / +98 343 244 2799 / +98 34 3251 5065

Keykoshro House

Keykoshro HouseI went to Keykoshro House for snacking and tea and it was a nice place to relax. The courtyard, where the restaurant is at, is beautifully decorated with fountains and water features. Located nearby the centre of Kerman, the Keykoshro House was built around a century ago to accommodate Zoroastrian priests of the nearby Zoroastrian temple and they have a few guestrooms available. Bear in mind that the music from the restaurant can be too loud.

Keykoshro House
Address: Borzou Amighi Street, Kerman (Google Maps)
Phone: +98 937 243 8211 / +98  (0) 34 3312 7264

Naz Hotel

The Naz Hotel is within a walking distance from the Akhavan Hotel. We didn’t stay here as we wanted to do the tour with Akhavan.

Naz Hotel
Address: Sadoughi Blvd, Kerman (Google Maps)
Phone: +98 34 3244 6786

Mahan

Since Mahan is a small town, there are quite a limited number of accommodations that are available here. Here are some of them.

Eyvan Hotel

This hotel in Mahan is conveniently located next to the Shah Nimatullah Wali Shrine. In fact, we could see the shrine complex from our rear balcony of our room! There are also a few restaurants and eateries around this area as one of the main roads of Mahan is just in front of the hotel.

Eyvan Hotel The view from our balcony

We were lucky to be invited to stay here for free by our Iranian friend and given a clean room with the most beautiful view ever, a snow-capped mountain. We loved every bit of our stay here.

Eyvan Hotel
Website: http://eyvanhotel.com/
Phone: +98 (0) 34 337 789 56 / +98 (0) 34 337 789 55
Email: eyvan.hotel@gmail.com

Mahan ITTIC / Mahan Tourist Hotel

This hotel could be a good choice if you find Eyvan Hotel to be expensive. It is located within a walking a distance from the Shah Nimatullah Wali Shrine.

Mahan ITTIC / Mahan Tourist Hotel
Address: Gharani Square, Mahan (Google Maps)
Phone: +98 34 3377 5700 / +98 34 3377 2700

Kaluts

There is an eco-lodge located nearby Kaluts and unfortunately, I don’t have the contact number for this lodge as I was told that the owner could not speak English. If you would like to stay here, do contact one of the guides in Kerman (see below) and they’ll be able to arrange a Kaluts tour with a night stay at the eco-lodge.

Rayen

Apparently, there are not many visitors staying in Rayen, so it is maybe quite a challenge to find a decent hotel. I would advise contacting one of the guides below for the booking of the accommodation in Rayen. For your reference, here is one of the hotels I found in Rayen:

Rayen Arg Tourist Hotel

I found an old review of this hotel here. Bear in mind that I’ve never stayed in this hotel before.

Rayen Arg Tourist Hotel
Phone: +98 342 662 3578

Bam

We didn’t manage to go to Bam but here is the guest house that I saved before going to Iran.

Akbar’s Tourist Guest House
Phone: +98 (0) 9131 444 148 / +98 (0) 344 2314 843
Email:
 akbartouristguesthouse@gmail.com

Tour & Transportation Options

It is possible to either take public transports to the main points of attractions or take the guided tour. Those with limited time, I would suggest taking a guided tour instead as it will save

Guided tour

A number of tour operators are available in Kerman. Here are some of them:

Akhavan Hotel

Akhavan Hotel provides a tour to all places of attractions around Kerman. Before coming to Kerman, I did a research on all tours that were available and this hotel provided the cheapest tour in Kerman. That’s the reason why we stayed in this hotel.

For USD 45 per day per car (4 people + driver), we could choose whichever places we want to visit. You can combine Mahan and Kaluts in one day while doing Rayen and Bam the following day. It is also possible to skip Bam (like what we did) and only visit Rayen and Kaluts. Do note that combining Kaluts and Bam in one day is not possible as the distance between the two places is too great.

It is also worth to mention that the tour that the hotel provides is a transport-only tour. There is no tour guide that would go around with you explaining the history of each place. You are on your own, which may be a preferable option for some people.

For Kaluts, you will be visiting the salt lake and watch either sunset or sunrise. You won’t be taken deep into the desert (as this may require a 4-wheel drive, I think?). If you would like to visit the off-beaten path of the desert, then it is better to go with the “Visit Kaluts” tour below.

Visit Kaluts

If you prefer to stay longer in the desert or you want to experience staying a night there, then Visit Kaluts is a better option. It provides a one full day guided tour of Kaluts to experience the sunset or a 2-day guided tour of Kaluts for both sunrise and sunset experience. You will also experience a more in-depth Kaluts as you will be exploring the off-beaten path of the desert.

I contacted Shiva, one of the tour owners, and she said that the private tour costs 120 euro (this price was given based on 2 people). She also gave us an option to join other tour group doing the same journey on that day (if available), which costs about 35 euro per person. In addition to that, she can also organize a combined Rayen-Kaluts tour for 170 euro for two persons.

The guided tour was unfortunately quite expensive for us, as we earn in Malaysian Ringgit and we didn’t meet any travellers who could share the cost with us. We also found a cheaper alternative (read above). However, if I were travelling with more people, I would definitely consider booking a tour with Visit Kaluts.

I would suggest contacting Visit Kaluts directly for an updated price for the tour packages and the maximum number of people that can join the private tour.

Visit Kaluts
Websitehttp://www.visitkalouts.com/
Phone: +98 913 297 78 39 / +98 936 673 66 57
Emailinfo@visitkalouts.com

Other tour guides

You can try contacting Sajjad Askapour as I can see him being referred by a few travellers on social media. He can arrange a Kaluts desert tour for 75 euro per person including dinner, breakfast, and a 1-night accommodation at an eco-lodge nearby the desert. A tour of Bam and Rayen costs 45 euro per person including lunch and guide around the castles. These prices are based on 2-people and it is probably possible to get a slightly cheaper price for group tours.

Sajjad Askapour
Phone: +98 913 745 5672
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sajjad.askarpour.3

Public transport

It is possible to take a public transport to Mahan, Rayen, and Bam. But of course, this option is not for those who are rushing with time. If you only have 2-3 days, then it’s better to take a guided tour to these towns.

Mahan

Minibuses and shared taxis to Mahan leave from the Kerman’s Khaju Square (Google Maps).

Rayen

Rayen is 108 kilometres away from Kerman, or about 1.5-hour drive. Buses to Rayen are available from Kerman’s bus terminal, departing every hour or so.

Shared taxis (savari) are more frequent and you can hop on one of them to Rayen from the Khaju Square, Kerman (Google Maps).

Bam

Bam is reachable by bus and train from Kerman. The 3-hour train ride costs around 200,000 rials (USD 6), originating from Tehran. The 2-hour bus journey costs way cheaper, around 90,000 rials (less than USD 3) and you can get tickets on the spot (except during the Nowrooz/Persian New Year). The bus leaves from Kerman bus terminal (Google Maps).

Tips on Visiting Kerman

If you want to visit Kaluts, it’s better to go in the afternoon. Check for the exact time of the sunset and plan your way around it. As a general rule, you should be there around 3-2 hours before the sunset. Trust me, you don’t wanna stay there for too long especially during the summer as it can get really, really hot! You can visit the salt lake before going to the main spot of Kaluts and then wait for the sunset, which should be an epic experience.

KalutsSome people prefer a longer tour of Kaluts and this is worth checking out especially for those who are not chased by time and are travelling in winter. A 1-day Kaluts tour will include exploring the off-beaten path of Kaluts desert with a jeep. See above for more information on the guides.

Mahan is located very close to the city of Kerman and you only need a half day to explore this tiny town. So it is possible to combine the tour with either Kerman, Kaluts, or Rayen.

If you decide to visit Bam, you will pass through Mahan and Rayen on the way, so you will have the freedom to choose between visiting both of them or only one of them. Bear in mind that the time to explore each attraction is shorter if you decide to visit Mahan, Rayen, and Bam on the same day. Since Rayen and Bam are practically similar (read here), it may be a good idea to choose between Rayen or Bam, especially if you are running out of time.

If you are keen on taking a guided tour, make sure to finalize the arrangements in advance, especially if you go during the high season. I came to Kerman rather unprepared. I was lucky that it was not a high season, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to book a tour!

Join See You in Kerman Facebook group where you can ask questions about anything related to Kerman.

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