Even before coming to Iran and knowing pretty much nothing about the must-see sights, I knew I wanted to visit Alamut castle. Alamut, a mountain fortress, used to be a stronghold of the Assassins, the Islamic heretical Ismaili sect created in 11th century, and led initially by Hassan Sabbah (1070-1124). The fortress used to bear a huge significance until the Mongols came and destroyed the castle as well as the order itself.
I was reading two great books while in Central Asia and both of them talk about Alamut castle. Imagine my delight when it turns out the castle is not far from Tehran and that we were lucky enough to have our own car to get there! I was so eager to see this place with my own eyes and personally for me it was the most anticipated site in all Iran 😀
The books I am talking about are “Samarkand” by Amin Maloof and the Conqueror Series (stories of Genghis Khan) by Conn Iggulden. I absolutely loved both of them and would definitely recommend reading them prior to your arrival to Iran or Central Asia.
How to get there?
Alamut castle is located in the heart of the Albroz Mountains in the Alamut valley and is only 250 km from Tehran. Alamut castle is not the only one in the valley, there are few others however the Alamut castle is the most known and the most preserved/renovated.
To get there you need a combination of public transport and taxis. Since we went to the Alamut castle by our own car I don’t feel right to explain how to do it by yourself. However I stumped across a nice article from April 2016 that talks how to get there and how much it will approximately cost. The price is mentioned as well as a phone number of a taxi guy the guys went with. Read it here.
Instead I will share the experience we had with a “shortcut” Jose found on the map.
Well, I must say it was far from a shortcut…the road took us almost 12 hours and we didn’t even make it to the castle that night, so we camped by the river in the Alamut Valley.
I have to admit we were recommended to avoid this “shortcut” but we always follow our hearts and a little “we know best” attitude that guides us. And you know, in most cases we do know best when it comes to travel, even more than the “ever fearful of the world around them” locals; the “we know best” trait is usually negative but on the road you must use it, for example if we had listened to people from the beginning we would have been sitting at home with Lia instead of traveling the world. However in this case the locals knew what they were talking about…. however we have no regrets as for our decision, it was epic!!! I would even say it was the most scenic route we took in Iran and one of the most memorable throughout our long trip across the world.
We camped by the river just 20 min drive from the fortress, so the next morning to beat the crowds the first thing we did was check out the long awaited Alamut stronghold. It is situated on the top of a massive rock and you can easily guess why Hassan Sabbah chose this location. In the heart of the Albroz mountains, hard to find and even harder to take over. Only Hulagu Khan managed to invade it and subsequently destroy it… Sadly not much is left, yet there is renovation going on and you can get a feeling of what it used to be if you have good imagination. The most impressive and rewarding was the view of the Alamut valley and the mountains on the background.
It took us around 1 hour to explore the ruins, take pictures, talk to other people, let them take pictures with Lia and then we started heading back to Tehran. This time, no “shortcuts”, we took the road through Qazvin and were back to Tehran in 5,5 h.
What is the entrance fee?
The entrance fees throughout all Iran are much, much more expensive than for Iranians. It is annoying and unfair, from our experience only very poor or asshole countries do that, like Russia.
Foreigner fee was 150 000 riels. Our friend Parham negotiated a bit and we purchased 1 foreign ticket and 2 local tickets (around 30 000 riels). Children go for free up to 7 years old.
Hence our tip for entrance fees is to bargain!!! Usually the big price on a tourist site is negotiable we tried it on different occasions while sightseeing in other cities and most of the times we bought 1 foreign ticket for 2 people (50% discount).
In Iran the situation with baby food (baby jars, cereals) is really bad. Even formula is rather hard to find, the options are limited and it is overpriced. The only good thing is there is plenty of fresh milk! You can buy milk in pretty much every shop.
There is no shop near the entrance so buy everything beforehand or in the villages on your way to the castle.
There is water in the water fountains however we always preferred to have bottled water with us, especially for a baby. The water is drinkable however it is very heavy in calcium deposits, which gave us slight stomach aches if we drank it constantly, even washing babies bottles with tap water left them white and grimy.
We carry Lia in a baby carrier and it has been great! The pass to the Alamut castle from the parking lot is not fit for strollers, so keep that in mind.
Read more about traveling with a baby in Iran here
- If you visit the castle in summer bring an umbrella and water bottles to refill cold water from the fountains.
- Bargain the entrance fee – sometimes it works.
- Food options in the nearby villages is limited and overpriced. Pack a lunch if you don’t want to spend money in vain.
- Don’t take “shortcuts” if you are limited on time 😀