My epic overland adventure was about to continue. I’d already travelled from Shanghai across the vastness of China, into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, onto the dazzling blue tiled Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan, through the strange and bizarre country that is Turkmenistan and I was now in the final stages of my travels in Iran that would see me travel from Tehran to Turkey via Tabriz.
I have to admit I was more than a little relieved to leave the craziness of Tehran and to be making my way towards Turkey. Tehran was intense and I couldn’t quite believe I’d survived the traffic!!
My taxi ride from the hotel to the bus station was a little more interesting than I would’ve hoped for. My taxi driver could speak very good English and was very interested to know about me and my life back home, not uncommon for Iranians. But he was quite interested to know if I had a boyfriend or husband.
Attempting to defer any potential advances I said yes I had a boyfriend who was meeting me in Tabriz (my next stop). The driver was persistent in knowing more, ‘Were we in love’, ‘Was I coming back to Tehran’, etc!
I told him that of course I was in love and decided to evolve the story into we were so much in love we were getting married soon!
This clearly wasn’t sufficient a deterrent as the driver asked for my number when I was leaving the taxi. When I said no, he replied by saying ‘But I want it’ . I quickly told him to piss off and left.
Sadly guys like this can be found everywhere, and I would hate to think this is normal for Iran because it definitely wasn’t from my experience.
Time in Tabriz
My journey from Tehran to Turkey started with a nine hour bus trip to Tabriz in the far north west of Iran. Not only was Tabriz a logical stop on the way to Turkey but for me it was a must see given I was following the Silk Road and Tabriz is home to the world’s largest covered bazaar and was once among the most important trading centres on the Silk Road.
Tabriz’s bazaar was a wonderfully authentic labyrinth of undercover passageways with shards of light falling from the domed archways into the otherworldly maze of shops.
The shops sold absolutely everything one could want from handmade carpets, to honey, to sugar, to spices.
There were also places to eat and to smoke qalyans with the locals.
For me this was one of the most authentic bazaars in all of Iran.
Just down the road from the bazaar was the other highlight of Tabriz, the Kabud Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque.
Today only remnants of it’s former glory can be seen at the main entrance portal, actually at the rear of the building, as a result of one of history’s worst ever earthquakes. The wonderful intricate blue tiles rise high towards the sky.
Border Crossing into Turkey
After two nights it was time to leave Tabriz and I took a bus to the town of Maku, about four hours away. As soon as I got off the bus a taxi driver approached me and took me to the border town of Bazargan.
Thankfully this taxi ride was uneventful and I was dropped at some gates where I needed to take another taxi the last couple of kilometres to the actual border.
The border formalities were really straightforward and no questions were asked by either the Iranians or the Turks. I was simply stamped out and stamped in, making the trip from Tehran to Turkey the easiest border crossing in my travels to date!
Once stamped into Turkey I had to walk a bit down a sloped hill before I reached the dolmuses (minivans) which would run into Dogubayazit. A dolums was leaving straight away and I piled in with the locals and within half an hour I arrived in Dogubayazit.
I had made it from Tehran to Turkey. I was excited to be in Turkey, a country I knew well from spending four weeks there in 2004. It felt familiar, especially after having spent the last four months in such different countries and cultures.
But it was also sad to think a large chunk of my adventure was behind me.
Luckily I had more adventures to look forward to having set myself the challenge of travelling from eastern Turkey overland all the way to London in just three weeks!!
- Travelling in Iran as a Solo Female Traveller
- A Brief Journey Through Eastern Turkey
For more information about border crossings I highly recommend www.caravanistan.com a fantastic resource for all things Silk Road.