Iran is opening its doors to foreigners and a train ride from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea is a great way to get to know the country and its people.
The travel restrictions that are now being lifted were in place for decades. Many Iranians are hoping they will now be able to lead a freer life – and we meet many of these hospitable and welcoming people on our journey through the Middle Eastern nation.
The country’s most important rail link, the Trans-Iranian Railway, runs for approximately 1400 kilometers from the Persian Gulf via Teheran to the Caspian Sea. The journey starts in Khorramshahr on the Shatt al-Arab, the river border between Iraq and Iran.
Traveling past oil fields, the train reaches Shushtar. One of the top sights here is the historic hydraulic system, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After that, the train heads up into the Zagros Mountains. The journey is interrupted by a break for prayer. Breath-taking landscapes move past the train window until we reach the highest point not only of our journey but of the entire rail network: 2,200 meters above sea level between Dorud and Arak.
During a brief stop in Qom, travelers can refuel with sohan, a pastry made of wheat germ, flour and sugar. The next section of the track is high-speed and we continue on to Teheran at 160 km/h. The metropolitan area is home to more than 15 million people. The last leg takes us to the north of the country.
In the Alborz Mountains, we find out what role the Trans-Iranian Railway played during Stalin’s major offensive against the German army in World War II. Our oriental rail adventure ends in Bandar-e Torkaman on the Caspian Sea.