December 29, 2009 GMT
Iran - Shiraz

Leaving Yazd behind was a bit iffy because I thought I would never see all the lovely people I met there - Ove, Matthias, Zoe, Marc etc, but it turned out I was quite wrong. After doing the day ride from Yazd to Shiraz (most of the route is at an altitude of over 2000m - thank Allah the sun was out), I found the "camping" I had so been looking forward to... I was unfortunately right to be sceptical about the quality of a campsite in an Iranian city - it was basically a concrete square (you know, the one for cars to drive around), with lawn in the middle. Ta-daaa! We have a camping! At $8 a night it was grossly overpriced too. (what do you mean "breakfast"?)


Its list of follies included being a part of a "tourist complex" which meant people with many complexes would supposedly randomly walk around the "camping square", all the while their eyes just happening to be fixed on you. Very discreet. Oh, and the bloody PA announcements... you think you've conjured enough Zen to get over the $8 for a grassy patch and then all of a sudden 100dB announce to your brain "PERSON XYZ IN RECEPTION NOW!" It was seriously loud. Loud enough to wake ME up (and I do sleep heavily). Very annoying.

To top it all off it was bitterly cold at night (remember the whole altitude thing, the whole December thing also doesn't help - what sort of an idiot would be camping in Iran in December in between freezing his butt off on a bike for days?), which resulted in a fitful sleep.

So I woke up EARLY, packed up, provided sincere feedback at the reception when they asked me how I liked it ("Your camping sucks, Sir." - sniff of the nose, 180 degree fast turn and walk out - THAT taught them!) and got the hell out of there. I drove around Shiraz a bit to have a look at 2-3 hotels (okay, one of them was a military barracks, but it didn't take outsiders for lack of running water - so I'm cheap), got utterly stuck in the permanent traffic jam amplified by a poor sod who had hugged the wall with his car in a very central tunnel/underpass, and after a few hours of effort I managed to check-in to a decent hotel with decent parking for the bike and a very matter-of-factly approach to solving practical problems.


I then proceeded to go out to walk the centre of Shiraz a little bit. Perchance I found myself outside Pars Tourist Agency (which LP says are the next best thing since sliced bread) and walked in to ask whether Persepolis would be open tomorrow (as it was Friday, Muslim rest day). On entering, I was faced with two beaming travelers saying "oh hi, we met you in Turkey!". I was so surprised that I couldn't remember who these people were, until further hints were dropped into the mix... Cappadocia... bicycles... ah, but of course! It was Battista & Morgane, the Swiss couple who travel the world by bicycle!

My only excuse for not remembering instantly was that I met them very briefly in a dark campsite, we exchanged perhaps 50 words, and it was the day I had seen the good doctor off from Ankara, so I had been considerably upset and disoriented.

Meeting these lovely chaps again in Shiraz made me realise that they covered the same distance with me in the same time, with me having a motorised vehicle and them only their leg power. Slightly concerning, that.

So we quickly arranged a guided tour to Persepolis for the next day, I had dinner and went to bed (what? it was almost 7 o'clock!) and the next day lo and behold! the minibus that was taking us to Persepolis stopped in front of Marc from Yazd! In Persepolis itself we met Matthias (on the road to Shiraz), and by the end of the day Ove had ridden in too! So the gang had re-assembled in Shiraz. As the good doctor would say "quite amusing, actually".

At this point let me make a note to digress from the ravings of the LP guide about Pars Travel Agency - perhaps they are the best, I never tried the others, but the guide allotted to us for Persepolis sucked. The guy was bored out of his brain, making stuff up as he went along (obviously thinking tourists will believe anything, including the theory that the Persian empire was a democratic welfare state - honestly!) and in general quite annoying. Certainly not worth his money.

So we visited the Necropolis with the majestic tombs of kings in mind-boggling sizes:


...and mysterious buildings the use of which noone supposedly knows:


Next was Persepolis proper:


with its trademark angry birds:


Getting back from Persepolis we all scrambled for food. Here is the gang having a meal at one of the few recognisable restaurants of Shiraz, which sported a "tourist menu" which had 10 items which basically boiled down to "rice with meat or chicken". All the while, people around us were having kebabs, daals, salads etc... Feels nice to get the tourist treatment...

Anna, Morgane, Battista, Marc & my arm

After a couple of hours Matthias reached Yazd as well - we had met him on the road back from Persepolis on his bicycle. I helped him check into a decent hotel...


...and fooled around with the camera while he got ready to go:


That evening we also checked out the local cinema scene and watched an Iranian film at a movie theatre:


(of which of course we understood zilch)

Luckily our cultural balance was promptly restored by a small concert by Matthias and his guitar, who did not waver under the constant flashes of people taking snaps/video footage and did very well indeed. You can listen to his music online at Matthias' website.

The next day we walked around a bit with Ove, checked out the castle (a tower of which partly collapsed when some genius built the road underpass and dug through the castle's foundations)


...and then visited mosques with lovely floral-inspired decoration:


...which as you can see I was extremely happy about:


Ove was having a blast snapping away:


What rocked my boat more than the mosques and whathaveyou was this old house, ex-restaurant and current modest carpet museum. It's worth a visit just for the exquisite internal architecture of the building.


...and some of the specimens:


(click on an image if you'd like to see a larger version - then look for the button "all sizes" above the image)




That night we went to another "proper" restaurant, which had the most annoying live music in the world (thankfully at some point the guy ran out of breath and just HAD to shut up). I was taking pictures to keep sane.



Battista & Matthias:


Morgane & Battista:


We then returned to our hotel which was OK because thankfully we knew which direction to pray towards. Obviously, if you're more than 2 degrees off your bearing, the prayer doesn't hit the right god and it's never heard (unlike all well-directed prayers which as we all know are dealt with instantly).


The next morning we took a stroll around the many bazaars of Shiraz... they are quite spectacular when it comes to colors and smells...


...but let us not forget that they have their un-spectacular side as well:


This is a choice I've been struggling with, actually. Showing only the beauties of a country/land portrays it in a false light. Truth be told, there are plenty of slums/shantytowns/dilapidated neighbourhoods in Iranian cities.

Leaving the bazaars behind we pondered at some more religious/war propaganda (which is to be found in ample quantities in Iran)


...and visited the tomb of Havez, who I must obligatory quote as "one of the most loved poets of Iran"


The gardens were quite nice, although again didn't live up to my expectations from hearing/reading raving descriptions about how sublime the gardens are etc.


On the way back, Matthias spotted a concert hall and we walked in, only to be pleasantly surprised by a traditional music festival! I can't tell you how delighted I was to sit there, watching this lovely tribute to music under (o, the irony) the clouded faces of the current and past Supreme Leaders. (who basically persecute music in Iran as un-islamic, banning the display of musical instruments in TV, banning music schools altogether etc)


All in all Shiraz did not meet my (high) expectations - the bitterly cold weather didn't help either. After a few days the gang was ready to move on and we spread in the four winds... Me East to Kerman, Matthias, Battista & Morgane South to Bandar-Abbas and Ove West to Bushehr. It was lovely to hang out while it lasted. Safe journeys dear travelers!


Next stop, Kerman. Slowly making my way to the border...

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at December 29, 2009 02:22 PM GMT

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Scottoiler automatic chain oilers. The most important accessory for your next motorcycle adventure!

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!