Yazd City Guide
Located between two deserts, enchanting Yazd is one of the most ancient inhabited cities in the world. Alexander the Great marched through the sun-scorched streets of the city on his path to Asia and later as a major post on the Silk Route Yazd became famous for its textile products (and that reputation hasn't changed much today). Today you can explore the mud brick old town, visit UNESCO heritage sites, go down winding alleys or simply cradle a cup of tea in a local café while savouring traditional Iranian sweets.
Unique architecture & design
Walking the streets of the city and exploring the architecture is quite an experience in itself. Most buildings in Yazd are closely knit together, creating long, narrow passages that provide shelter from the harsh desert wind and sun. Take a stroll down one of these hushed winding passages for a chance to feel the vibe of the city, take a sip from an outdoor water fountain or climb atop a flat rooftop for a splendid view.
Yazd is a city with enduring ancient architectural and engineering traditions which have evolved as a result of people trying to adapt to life in the desert for centuries. The simple, parred-down houses have been designed in such a way as to provide comfort from the harsh climate. Residential homes have quite unusual ventilation systems in the form of wind catchers (bagdirs), which cool the interiors via air circulation.
One of the most impressive things about Yazd, however, remains the city's ancient water-supply network, which predates Roman aqeuducts. Water is carried from the mountains via underground canals known as qanats, then it is stored in reservoirs where it is kept cool via wind catchers circulating air inside the reservoir. To learn more about this unique system you can visit the Yazd Water Museum and descend underground to see two of the waterways. One of the city's reservoirs can also be visited with a guide.
The most enchanting attraction in Yazd is Dowlatabad Garden. Laid out according to traditional Persian garden designs, this beautiful oasis is a UNESCO designated world heritage site. The tranquil garden is filled with vines, flowers, cypress and pomegranate trees planted around a refreshing pool – a real achievement of irrigation given the desert location. The walled garden is part of a mansion that belonged to one of the Persian rulers of Yazd. The residence is no less impressive – it boasts the biggest wind-catcher in the city as well as splendid architecture featuring internal pools and bright stained-glass windows.
Historically significant temples are scattered all around Yazd. The Jame Mosque is one of the most beautiful sites in the city. It's famous for its intricate mosaics painted in all shades of blue. The Amir Chakhmaq Complex is also worth a visit. Apart from a mosque and other religious buildings, the complex also houses a bathhouse, a caravanserai and a sweet shop. The complex is at it most splendid at night when it is lit up.
Before converting to Islam, the population of Iran practised Zoroastrianism, an ancient belief that is still popular in places like Yazd. Two significant places associated with that religion are located in Yazd. One of them is the Ateshkadeh or the Fire Temple. The sacred fire in it has been burning for 15 centuries. The other important venue is known as the Towers of Silence, a tomb of sorts, just on the outskirts of the city where Zoroastrians left their deceased.
Traditional treats and pastimes
Visit the Zurkaneh for a chance to see one of the most unusual sports practised in Iran. Part gymnastics, part martial arts and acrobatics, the pahlevani (aka zurkaneh) is a discipline that was developed in ancient times to train warriors. Today it is a popular sport practised only by men. At the Yazd zurkaneh you can watch locals as they sweat out and display their strength by juggling club bells to the rhythmic accompaniment of traditional instruments.
Once you are done with sightseeing, devote some time of your visit to enjoying the finer things. Dining out is a must but so is a visit to a café where you can savour coffee and local sweets in the company of locals. Yazd is famous for its confectionery sold in many sweet shops. Hand-made pottery, silk linens and carpets are the other products that the city is known for. After all, Yazd has been on the Silk Road for centuries, so there's no better place to stock on fine fabrics.
If you fancy going further afield, take the chance to hike the mountains during the day or visit the Zein-o-Din Caravanserai at night. In this restored 16th-century inn on the famous Silk Road, you can gaze at the stars in the desert sky just as travellers and merchants did in the olden days.