Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alamut Valley

One of my favourite places I visited during my trip in Iran is the trip to Alamut Valley. Famed for some great scenery, trekking opportunities and a famous castle ruin, backpackers and guidebooks gave really positive feedback for the place.

However, I went when the season was plunging into winter (Nov), and the night before, there was a heavy snowfall that blocked parts of the road such that I almost could not make the journey. So, I didn't have any trekking opportunities, but the resulting white landscapes more than made up for it! The whole journey as we entered the valley had us glued to the car window, and forcing our driver to make a couple of photography stops. And the amazement did not stop as we reach the village of Gazor Khan, our entry to Alamut Castle.

Perched on a steep cliff, Alamut Castle is one of the famed Castles of Assassins. This castle, led by Hassan-i Sabbah, is a stronghold of a Ismaili Muslim group. Part of this group, The Assassins, target high level figures and many stories of their history and origins etc can be found on the Net. As romantic as the history may sound, the hike up the snowy paths and stairs were alot more down-to-earth. Reaching the entrance, a soldier-cum-guard would register our presence, and then escorted us into the castle ruins. The ruins itself, though, were just stones and corrugated metal sheetings. But it's the commanding views that catches our breath away, and possibly explained why Alamut roughly means “Eagle’s Nest”! The view of the entire Alamut valley, with pretty Gazor Khan below all covered in a beautiful white coat was simply phenomenal! Truly one of the best landscapes I've seen in a while!

Alamut can be reached via shared taxis from Qazvin, a city north of Tehran. I managed to meet up with 3 other travelers in Qazvin, and shared taxis can be arranged from the hotel. From Gazor Khan, shared taxis back to Qazvin leaves early mornings 5-6am. There are a couple of homestays in Gazor Khan (as listed in Lonely Planet guide), and it's definitely recommended to stay a night or two if you're intending to trek/hike (where weather permits).

For me, the views atop Alamut Castle would stay foreever etched in my mind....

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