A Guide to Gilan

Gilan is one of the Northern Provinces of Iran that is located along the shores of the Caspian Sea. The exceptional cities of Gilan stretch from the Astara on the west to Rudsar on the east. The cities and villages located within this province are each an exceptional destinations in their own way. The central city of Gilan is Rasht which is connected to Hyrcanian forests on Alborz Mountain Range. Gilan is a heaven for nature and beach lovers yet it does represent a cultural and historical importance. For this reason, Gilan is one of the top Eco touristic destinations in Iran. Among the seas, waterfalls, beaches, Jungles, Lagoons, and green mountains, there are many activities to do. In this article, as a travel guide to Gilan, we will be introducing the points of interest, local dishes, handicrafts, how to get around and more.

about north cities
old Gilan

The Story of Gilan

Before introducing the natural and historic wonders of Gilan, we will take a look at the history of this province. The story of Gilan most probably starts before the Islamic era. Gilan was influenced by many empires (Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian) before 7th century. According to some documents, after the Arab conquest, Gilan demanded independency that lasted for several years. During the Safavid era (about 400 years ago), Gilan became the center of Silk trade. In the following era of Qajar dynasty, Gilan had its part in several nationalistic movements. Many important figures of the Constitutional revolution were among the people of Gilan. In the history of Gilan, this province had always been somehow under the control of Russians or the Russian troops. During the 19th century, after several rivalries between Iran, Russia and Britain, the county of Iran was divided into three parts. During those years, Gilan Province became a part of the Russian’s zone. Today, Gilan as one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Iran, continues in prosperity.

What Makes Gilan Exceptional?

Rasht as the capital city of Gilan is known as the city of Rain. This city was called the Gate to Europe for being the business and trade center of Iran and Russia and Europe. Its nearby jungles, beaches, and lakes along with the historical attraction of Rasht have made it an exceptional destination for Iranians and Foreigners. Aside from Rasht, Other exceptional cities and villages of Gilan are mentioned as below.

  • Astara as the neighboring city of Azerbaijan is one of the coastal cities of Iran.
  • Talesh is the second biggest city of Gilan which is famous for being one of the major centers of Caviar. The mountainous nature of this city among its plains has caught the interest of its visitors.
  • Rezvan Shahr as one of the most beautiful northern cities in Iran is located between the mountains and the sea. The beautiful Ponel Road to Khalkhal passes through this city.
  • Bandar Anzali is another coastal city of Gilan which is a free trade zone in Iran. The Anzali Lagoon is one of the most famous attractions of Bandar Anzali.
  • Sowme’eh Sara is known as one of the academic cities of Gilan for its universities.
  • Fuman as one of the mountainous cities of Gilan has many historic attractions such as Rudkhan castle and the stepped village of Masuleh.
  • Lahijan is known as the bride of the cities of Gilan. This city is famous for its tea farmlands, forest-covered Mountains and many other attractions.
  • Rudbar is another famous city of Gilan which is known for its olive trees and gardens.
  • Langarud and its plains hold inside them many beautiful villages and natural attractions of Gilan.
  • Amlash is connected to Gilan’s plains in the north and its mountains from the south. There are waterfalls, caves, and villages around this city.
  • Rudsar as the eastern city of Gilan has many attraction. Its beach side continues for about 30 kilometers. The mountains along the sea in this area have created a wonderful sight for its visitors.

The list of villages and exceptional regions of Gilan is endless. In this article, we will be also introducing the natural and historic points of interest of these cities and mainly in Rasht.

Need to Know

People & the cultural customs of Gilan

The Locals of Gilan speak Gilaki Language which is a Caspian language. This language is divided into several dialects that are spoken in different villages and cities of Gilan. The Talyshi, Tati, and Kurdi languages are also spoken in some regions of Gilan. However, like other cities in Iran, the official language is Persian. As for the customs and traditions of Gilan, different villages and cities of Gilan hold their own ceremonies and festivals.  These ceremonies range from traditional weddings to Nowruz (New Year) and harvesting rituals of rice, pomegranate, and hazelnuts.

What is the best time to travel to Gilan?

The best time to visit Gilan is from mid-March to April when the weather is moderate. During these months, you can enjoy the breathtaking sceneries of forests and the beaches. From the end of April till mid-September, the weather of Gilan Province gets more humid. From the end of September to October, the weather gets cold and rainy. If you want to see the Hyrcanian forests in autumn, the best time to travel to Gilan is during the rainy days of October and November. During winter, the mountainous regions of Gilan are covered with snow most of the time. Keep in mind that some cities in Gilan like Rasht are known to experience rain all year long.

What is the best way to get to Gilan?

Gilan Province is located east of Ardabil and north of Tehran, Zanjan, and Qazvin. Each road that you would take to reach Gilan, you are faced by unique and beautiful greeneries. The mountains are covered by forests and the valleys are vast. That being said, the best way to travel there and enjoy the exceptional nature of the northern part of Iran on your way, is by getting on the road (like car rental). You can use intercity bus services from the Tehran and other major cities in Iran. 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 Gilan

The best way to get around Gilan and its cities and villages is by a car. You can book a private driver or guide to take you wherever you want. You can also take a Taxi or simply use the online Taxi apps to explore around Gilan. Also, if you are looking for car rentals for your trips you can rent a car through Travelopersia.

Gilani food

The City Map

Trip Ideas

While traveling around there you can enjoy not only the ever-green nature and beaches of Gilan, but also the mountainous regions of this province. There are many villages and touristic spots in this Province. You can also hike the dreamy roads of the northern Iran such as Asalem-Khalkhal Road. This road leads to the foggy forests of Gilan. The Heyran Pass is also another beautiful road that passes through the beautiful sceneries of Alborz Mountain Range in this region. There are many beaches, national parks, lakes, waterfalls, and forests among the villages of Gilan. Below, we will be introducing some of the highlighted historic and natural attractions of mainly Rasht and other villages of Gilan. You can find more information on these attractions by checking out our Blog’s posts.

The attractions of Rasht, the capital of Gilan

  • The Shahrdari Building as one of the most notable landmarks in Rasht. This building has some kind of a colonial style. Its whitewashed color with red mini-dooms create a fantastic view especially in rainy nights of Rasht.
  • Rasht Grand Bazaar as one of the biggest open-roofed and traditional Bazaars in Iran. This Bazaar is one of the most important centers of commerce in Rasht.
  • Rural Heritage Museum which is located within 18 km of Rasht. This museum showcases the rural history and life style of Gilan.
  • Mirza Kouchak Khan Tomb as one of the prominent figures in the history of Iran. He is known as the Jangali leader of Soviet Iran.

Attractions around Gilan

  • Rudkhan Castle is located within 50 kilometers of Rasht. This castle in the heart of the lush woods of a forest is located on a mountain hill. After climbing about 1000 stairs of Rudkhan Castle, you can have a wonderful view over the nature and surroundings of this historic castle.
  • Anzali Lagoon as one of the most beautiful wetlands of Iran is located within 54 kilometers of Rasht. This region is also the perfect place to watch different types of migratory birds.
  • Bandar Anzali Bazaar is one of the liveliest Bazaars of the northern Iran. You can find a variety of the local amenities and products of the northern Iran while exploring this Bazaar.
  • Masuleh Stepped Village is located within 65 kilometers of Rasht. The village is one of the most visited and most see villages of Gilan and Iran. The houses of this village are built on a steep hill in a way that the rooftop of one house is the yard of another house.
  • Laton waterfall is located in Astara. The waterfall is 105 meters and is known as one the highest towering waterfalls in Iran.
  • Visadar Waterfall is located in Rezvan Shahr, 90 kilometers away from Rasht. You can reach this waterfall through a beautiful forest road. The waterfall is about 15 meters high.
  • Sadaf beach in Astara, Chamkhaleh Beach, Rdusar beach, and Gisum beach are some of the most notable beaches along the Caspian Sea in Gilan.

Local Food & Signature Dishes

The Gilani cuisine is a significant part of the lifestyle of Gilan. Rasht, as the Capital of Gilan was inscribed on the UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network list for its gastronomy. The Gilani dishes are flavored with special local spices. Most importantly is the Gilani rice that is served with most Gilani dishes. The Kateh Rice (a kind of boiled rice) is one of the most common ways of serving rice in the northern part of Iran.

As for the signature dishes of Gilan, fish dishes, Kateh-Kebab, Sour Kebab, and Sour Chicken are among the most popular dishes. Mirza Ghasemi which is made of grilled eggplants is also another signature dish of Gilan. Baqali-Qatoq is one of Gilani’s most famous dishes which is based on beans as the main ingredient. The list of Gilani Traditional dishes is endless. You can find these dishes along with several Iranian dishes in the restaurants around Gilan. Here is a list of hand-picked Restaurants and Cafes in Gilan. Gilani Rice, Lahijan Tea, Fuman Cookies, and Rudbar olives are among the most famous souvenirs of Gilan.

Handicraft & Souvenirs

Around Gilan Province, in each city, there are a range of handicrafts that are represented by the locals. These handicrafts are sold in the Bazaars of Gilan. Below, we are going to introduce some of the most significant handicrafts of Gilan.

  • Wicker products as one of the main handicraft of many villages in Gilan. For making wickers a plant called lee is used to make wicker baskets, hats, and other creative products.
  • Rashti-Duzi is one of the most beautiful crocheting and sewing works in Rasht. The crocheting is done by special hooks for sewing silk yarns on Mahut farbric.
  • Chamush which is a kind of traditional Shoe is handwoven and worn by the villagers in Gilan. These shoes are made of Leather.
  • Hand-made pottery is one of the oldest crafts of Gilan. The potteries in terracotta color are of the most significant ones in Gilan. This color is symbolic among the artists for representing the richness of iron on earth.

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