A Guide to Mashhad

Mashhad is located in the northeastern part of Iran. This city is the second most populated city in Iran after Tehran. There are a couple of things that have made it one of the most visited destination in Iran. Firstly, Mashhad is the religious center of Iran for accommodating the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the 8th Shia Imam. Secondly, Mashhad is the city of one of the most influential literary Persian poets, Ferdowsi. This 9th century poet is notably famous for his book of Epic Poetry ‘’Shahnameh’’. The white marble Tomb of Ferdowsi is in 40 kilometers of Mashhad. Thirdly, Mashhad is also one of the main health tourism centers in Iran. In this article, we will look more into Mashhad as a religious, literature and health center. We will also introduce other points of interest, its history, Local Food, how to get around and more.

Imam Reza shrine

The Story of Mashhad

Most of the history  is closely related to the 8th Shia Imam, Imam Reza. In earlier times, Mashhad was known as a small region called Sanabad near the ancient city of Tus. It was around 9th century that Imam Reza was martyred by poison. The plot and the reasons behind his assassination can be the topic of another post. Imam Reza was then buried in Sanabad.  After some times, the locals started calling this village, Mashhad of Imam Reza which is Arabic for The site of the martyrdom of Imam Reza.  The sacredness of this city saved it during the Mongol invasion. This indirectly turned Mashhad into the greatest city in its province. Mashhad gained more importance during the reign of Safavid Dynasty. It was for the reason that Safavid kings were the followers of Shia religion.

The Glory of Mashhad & Nadir Shah of Afsharid dynasty

The Greatest glory of this city began under the rule of Nadir Shah of Afsharid dynasty. As the crowned king of Iran, after his victories in India and Afghanistan, he chose Mashhad as his capital. This was due to the reason that Mashhad as the northeastern city of Iran was closest to these territories. In that way, Nadir Shah could keep a close eye on the mentioned regions. After the death of Nadir shah, the city somehow lost its glory. During the Qajar era, however, Mashhad witnessed many rebellious acts such as during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution In 1905. During the following era of Pahlavi, the city went through some renovations. After the Iranian Revolution up until now Mashhad has been one of the top pilgrimage cities in Iran. Below, we will be introducing the attractions and things to do in this city and even in its nearby regions.

What Makes Mashhad Exceptional?

This city used to be near the famous trade route of the Silk Road. Today, it is one of the important centers of intercontinental economic activates, industry and agriculture. On top of this, as mentioned earlier, the biggest shrine in Iran, the Shrine of Imam Reza is in Mashhad. Therefore, this Shrine is the symbol of Mashhad. Even the name of the city which translates as ‘’the Place of Martyrdom’’ is related to Imam Reza. Millions of people from all around Iran and the world come here to pay their respect to Imam Reza.

The Land of Poets & Nature

This spiritual city is, on the other hand, the birthplace of several artists.  These significant artists range from the 9th century epic poet Ferdowsi to the contemporary poets such as Mehdi Akhavan-Sales. The famous master of traditional Persian music, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, was also born in this city. Aside from these, there are many attractions for sightseeing which we will be introducing further on. Mashhad is also an exceptional destination for nature lover and hikers. Torqabeh and Kang are two of the villages where you can enjoy a hike and get to know their nomadic life. Now, let us start getting deeper into the history, points of interest, special souvenirs, handicrafts, and more.

Need to Know

People & the cultural customs

The people of Mashhad speak Persian with Mashhadi accent. As a religious city, there are many religious customs practiced by the locals and families. During Muharram, they hold ceremonies in holy shrine of Imam Reza. They also cook different dishes such as ‘’Sholeh’’ to give out to people. This act of giving out free food to people during special Islamic festivals is called ‘’Nazri”. Prayer for rain festival is also one of the interesting customs that is practiced in some parts of Mashhad.

What is the best time to travel?

Mashhad is located in the valley of the mountain ranges of Hezar masjid and Binalood. The Kashafrud River runs through this valley.  This semi Mountainous area creates a moderate temperature during most seasons in Mashhad.  That said, the best time to travel to Mashhad is:

  • During spring From mid-April to mid-June
  • During autumn from mid-August to early October

Keep in mind that most locals travel to Mashhad during the second week of September. From July to august, the hot summer weather prevails in Mashhad. However, from January to March, it is cloudy and the weather goes toward semi cold winter weather.

What is the best way to get to Mashhad?

You may find weekly direct flights to Mashhad mainly from Dubai, Istanbul, Kuwait, Qatar, and Beirut. These flights land at Shahid Hasheminejad International Airport (MHD) which is the second busiest airport in Iran.  As the biggest religious center, there are also many domestic flights from around Iran to Mashhad.  You can also travel there by train. As one of most popular ways of getting to Mashhad, these trains are equipped with lots of comforts. You can accordingly get on the Mashhad-Tehran, Mashhad to Isfahan, and Mashhad to Bandar Abbas trains. You can also drive to this city or use the intercity bus services. If you need a private guide, driver or simply if you need to book domestic flights, trains or intercity buses, you can get the best deals through Travelopersia.

How to get around Mashhad

Mashhad is one of the five cities in Iran that has an operating metro system. The bus services are also available through the city The latest Mashhad’s Bus Map and Metro Map. Another best way to get around the city is by taking a Taxi or simply using the available Online Taxi Apps.  Also, if you are looking for car rentals for your trips you can rent a car through Travelopersia.

Nadir shah
Iranian foods

The City Map

Trip Ideas

Points of Interest

When talking about Mashhad, the first thing that comes to mind is the holy shrine of Imam Reza. But this in not all Mashhad has got to offer. You can find more information on the following attractions by checking out our Blog’s posts. Mashhad is not only the center of religious tourism in Iran but also:

  • One of the main centers of health tourism. Many hospitals and clinics there are ready to receive tourists for different cosmetic and curative surgeries. Some of the most experienced and famous surgeons in Iran are in Mashhad.
  • the resting place of several Scholars, poets and other Persian literary figures
  • the center of traditional Bazaars and some of the greatest shopping malls in Iran

The Natural attractions

Before getting to the cultural attractions, we will be talking about its natural sites and nomadic centers. One of the most popular part of the city is Mellat Park. Its rose garden, lake, and amusement park are open to the public. Kooh Sangi Park which is among the high mountains is also another famous Park in Mashhad.

The natural wonders around Mashhad are:

  • Chalidareh Dam Complex with chairlift, paddle boats, zip line, and more ( within 35 km of Mashhad)
  • Shandiz Countryside (within 44 km of Mashhad). This region is famous for its springs, cherry gardens, and mostly its nomadic life.
  • Akhlamad waterfall (within 91 km of Mashhad)
  • Ortokand Waterfall and Khorshid (sun) Palace in Kalat Naderi town (within 160 km of Mashhad)
  • Neyshabur’s Wooden Village and Mosque ( within 122 km of Mashhad)
  • Village of Torqabeh that leads to Kang Village. This village is known as the Masouleh of Khorasan where the rooftop of each house is the yard of another. (within 44 km of Mashhad)

Now let us get into the main points of interest.

The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza

Imam Reza is the only Shia Imam that is buried in Iran. Thousands of Iranian Muslims visit this holy shrine year by year to pay their love and respect. Non-Muslim and foreign travelers can also visit this glorious shrine. This great holy shrine has a golden dome that blends with the blue background of the tilework of the walls. The interior Mirror and tile works are also special in their own way.

Aside from the Shrine of Imam Reza, you can visit other parts of this shrine complex which are:

  • The Goharshad Mosque with its turquoise blue dome which is the masterpiece of middle age Timurid era. The Plaster and mirror works of its interior has caught the interest of many visitors.
  • Astan Quds Razavi Museum with a vast collection of ancient parts of the shrine, tiles, calligraphies, old coins, and paintings.
  • Tomb of Nader Shah, the founder of Afsharid Dynasty who wished to be buried near Imam Reza’s Shrine. You can see the monument of Nadir Shah on a horseback in Naderi Garden near the Shrine of Imam Reza. There are also two museums with collections of old maps of Iran and weapons in this tomb complex.

The Tombs of the Influential Persian Scholars & Literary Figures

Mashhad and specially its surrounding areas were the birth place of many ancient and even contemporary figures. Some of these tombs and mausoleums are located in Neyshabour (within 120 km of Mashhad):

  • The Tomb of Omar Khayyam. He was a famous Iranian scholar, mathematician, philosopher and poet. This 11th century poet’s iron and stone mausoleum is structured in a special geometrical shape.
  • Tomb of Attar Neyshaburi. Attar is known as the famous Iranian poet who was also a theoretician and hagiographer. His octagonal mausoleum and onion shaped dome with blue tilework creates a spiritual atmosphere.

By visiting the ancient city of Tus which is located within 36 kilometers of Mashhad, you can visit:

  • The Tomb of Ferdowsi. The white marble tomb of this Persian poet of epic myths is a place of worship for Persian literature enthusiast. Ferdowsi is famous for his literary masterpiece known as Shahnameh. This great national Persian epic poem is one of the world’s longest epic poems.
  • Harounieh Dome which is the only reminiscent of the ancient city of Tus. This 15th century monument has special baroque stucco reliefs.

The Many Shopping Malls

As mentioned earlier, there are many great and famous Shopping Malls around Mashhad. You can explore these Shopping Malls for buying souvenirs and more. You can also visit Bazaar Reza which is a historical Bazaar. Bazaar Reza is near Imam Reza Shrine. The Shopping Malls on the other hand reflect the modern life of the metropolitan area of Mashhad. The top Shopping Malls in Mashhad are:

  • Almas Shargh Mall
  • Vesal Shopping Mall
  • Proma Shopping Mall
  • Arman Shopping Center
  • Atlas Shopping Center
  • Morvarid Goharshad Shopping Center

Other Attractions

  • Mahdi Gholi Beyk historical bathhouse
  • Tavakoli Historical House
  • Vakil Abad Garden

Local Food & Signature Dishes

Among the many local dishes of Mashhad, Sholeh and Shishlik stand out the most. Sholeh is a kind of stew that has special range of beans, rice, and beef or lamb meat in it. Shishlik, on the other hand, is a kind of lamb ribs Kebab which is coated with yogurt, lemon, and fresh herbs. Rhubarb Stew, Polo Makhloot (mixed rice), Reshteh Polo, Mashhadi Yatimche are among other famous local dishes of Mashhad.  You can try the main Iranian dishes and some local dishes in Mashhad’s restaurants around the city. Here is a list of hand-picked Restaurants and Cafes in Mashhad. Now, there are also some world famous edible souvenirs that you can find in Mashhad.

 Some of the main food souvenirs  are:

  • Nabat which is a kind of crystal rock candy
  • Noghl which a hard candy with sugar and rose water

Mashhad is also the world capital of high quality Saffron. Saffron is one of the most expensive Persian spices. It has a sweet and floral taste which can give different Persian dishes and specially deserts a special tone.

Handicraft & Souvenirs

The art of stone carving is one of the most ancient arts that is practiced in Mashhad. This is due to the reason that there are Turquoise Stone Mines around Neyshabour, a region near Mashhad. The art of mining and carving these stones goes back to 2000 years ago. Agate stone rings with Islamic prayers written on them are another special craft of Mashhad. Prayer Rugs and Misbaha are also among the main souvenirs of Mashhad which come in different and colorful kinds.

Other handicrafts  are:

  • Mashhad carpets which have large patterns. Interestingly, one of the largest Mashhadi Carpet is held in Mellat Palace in Sa’dabad Complex in Tehran.
  • Mashhad Leather that is known worldwide. There are two famous brands of Mashhad leather that offer unique designs of leather clothing, bags, shoes and accessories.

You can purchase these handicrafts while exploring Mashhad Bazaars and Shopping Malls.

Explore the City