Alamut Valley

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Few places in Iran offer a more tempting invitation to hike, explore and reflect than the fabled Alamut and Shahrud Valleys. Beneath soaring Alborz peaks, the landscapes are both inspirational and amazingly varied, a wild melange of Patagonia, Switzerland and Outback Australia, all spiced by a uniquely fascinating medieval history. Nestled almost invisibly on widely spaced rocky knolls and pinnacles are the shattered remnants of more than 50 fortresses. Shrouded in fabulous myths, they were the heavily fortified lairs of the medieval world’s most feared religious cult and are collectively known as the Castles of the Assassins. The most interesting are at Gazor Khan (Alamut Castle) and Razmiyan (Lamiasar Castle). Note that Alamut Castle is not in Alamut town (aka Mo’allem Kalayeh).
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The Castles of the Assassins in the Alamut Valley

So the story goes, anyway. These days, the Castles of the Assassins are mostly dilapidated ruins scattered throughout the Alamut Valley in northern Iran. Don’t let the lack of remaining splendor deter you, though—the Castles’ architects had a serious eye for real estate, and the ruins are located among some of the most epic landscapes in northern Iran. If you’re staying in the city of Qazvin or Rasht, the Alamut Valley is well worth a day (or three) of hiking.

The road from Qazvin to and through the Alamut Valley and towards Alamut Castle twists and turns, traversing mountains blanketed with cherry trees and winding through stark gorges of red rocks.

Small, sleepy towns make periodic appearances along the road, and the occasional farmer could be seen picking at the ground, preparing for the planting season.

Otherwise, there were not many people in sight as we wove our way through shrubbery and sparse trees to explore the gorges lining the road.

After a longer and snowier winter than usual, it was refreshing to see signs of spring blossoming from the tree branches.

Eventually, the road led out of the canyon of gorges up to the base of a mountain–the foundation for the ruins of Alamut Castle. The steep pathway to the top zigzags up a side of the mountain invisible to the road. It’s quite fitting for an Assassins’ haven.

Though the remnants of the Alamut Castle are covered in scaffolding for restoration (estimated completion date: who knows when?)…

We can’t say that we endorse killing and kidnapping for money, but we’ve got to hand it to the assassins–they have excellent taste in real estate. The location of the Alamut Castle is absolutely out of this world.

If you’re ever in Iran, don’t miss the Alamut Valley and the Castle of the Assasins. It’s 4-5 hours of driving from Tehran, and it’s so, so worth it.

How to get to the Castles of the Assassins and the Alamut Valley?

Public transportation and shared taxis

It’s possible to visit the Alamut Valley from Qazvin using a mixture of public transportation and taxis, but if you want to visit multiple sites in the valley in one day, it’ll take a lot of luck with timing and/or a lot of money for shared taxis. NomadExpress has a good post on exploring the Alamut Valley using a combination of shared taxis and hitchhiking.

Hiring a taxi and local guide

If you’re with a group of people, it’s better to pool resources and hire a taxi for the day.

Sleeping in Qazvin and the Alamut Valley

Qazvin is the main base from where to explore the Alamut Valley and the Alamut Castle. There are several budget hotels in Qazvin, but it’s also possible to stay in a converted traditional Iranian house. If you plan to hike in the valley it’s possible to camp. There are also a handful of guesthouses in the valley.


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