What is it like to stay in a Caravanserai on the Ancient Silk Road?
I was lucky enough to stay in a Caravanserai hotel in Iran. Why would you choose to stay in a Caravanserai in the days of modern hotels?
- A true silk route experience
- Feel how life was in the 16th century
- Caravanserai has won a UNESCO award
- No WiFi, escape the internet
- Stargaze at night
- Wake up early for a desert sunrise
For anyone taking the silk route, a stopover in a caravanserai is a must! Another reason to choose this particular caravanserai is because it’s unique in shape. Yet another fact that could persuade you is that it’s one of the largest caravanserais in the world.
Zeinodin Caravanserai – Location
The Zeinodin Caravanserai is located 60 km south of the UNESCO city of Yazd. As a matter of fact it’s an Oasis in the Iranian desert. The hotel received a reward from UNESCO in 2006 for the best restored building. Not only has the building been immaculately restored but the interior has also been furnished wonderfully. In Iran they have access to the best Persian rugs and there’s no better way to decorate such a unique building than with these iconic pieces of art.
Imagine the events which have happened in the inner circle throughout the years. This would have been where traders gathered and discussed their journeys etc. Today however, it’s tourists enjoying the caravanserai experience who gather here to discuss their silk road experience. If you choose an inner room, this is where you’ll exit your room to. This is also a good location to stargaze, but I do recommend you go upstairs to the roof to enjoy the stars.
Inner Guest Room
The inner rooms feature beds in a traditional room full of Persian rugs. I recommend the inner rooms for architecture lovers (and of course Persian rug lovers). Be aware that you can hear the noise from anyone chatting in the inner circle communal area. Having said this, noise is part of the caravanserai experience. I expect the noise is much lower today than it was back in the day. Imagine all the noise from the traders and their animals. Back then you could drink alcohol, so things could have been quite rowdy!
Outer Guest Room
The outer guest rooms offer a little more intimacy than those on the inner circle. As a solo traveler, this was my room. I’d also recommend this room for young couples. A night in here felt a lot like a night in the Divan Cave House in Cappadocia, Turkey. Additionally, there are similar style room but larger available on the outer ring of the Zeinodin caravanserai. These rooms are a little quieter than the inner rooms, but you can still hear people in the corridor and surrounding rooms. This is the true silk route experience!
Rooms on the outer part are accessed by a very Instagram worthy corridor. On the floor are stunning Persian rugs in contrast to the traditional architecture of the roof. The curtains keep the privacy of each room. As a result of the design, you can literally hear everything which is going on in each room, as well as the corridor. With 500 years of history in these walls, can you be sure every noise is from fellow guests? Could ghosts walk these halls at night?
When deciding whether to stay in a caravanserai, you may wonder what the bathroom facilities are like. After all, you’ll be staying in a 500 year old building. The bathroom facilities at the Zeinodin caravanserai are shared. In the male bathrooms there is the choice of urinal or a European style sit down toilet. In addition there are several shower cubicles as well as sinks. The next question will be, is there hot water? Yes, there is hot water and you’ll enjoy a good shower experience here. I expect the women’s facilities are identical, minus the urinals. The bathrooms are kept extremely clean, the only negative is they may get a little busy during peak times. If you’re getting up at sunrise, shortly after the event the bathrooms are likely to be empty.
Complimentary Evening Buffet
I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the buffet and the options available. There was a good selection of meat, potatoes, vegetables and salads. However much food you require, you will leave the buffet with a full stomach and no doubt completely satisfied.
You may think before arriving, should I bring some snacks? Snacks are not necessary, you will be fed! In fact, you can eat quite a lot as you’re welcome to revisit the buffet as many times as you wish. From the fridge, you may take a soft drink or a water. I took an extra bottle to enjoy later whilst stargazing on the roof. Do you prefer a tea with your meal? unlimited Persian tea is also available.
Stargazing at Night – Stay in a Caravanserai
As you can imagine, there is very little light pollution in the desert. For this reason, stargazing should be your activity of choice when the sun goes down. In addition, the sunset can be pretty spectacular too. As a result of the perfect conditions I was able to take an excellent photo of the milky way. For non-photographers, you can occupy yourself by spotting the star constellations. I recommend you download an app to help you identify them.
Your reward for waking up early will be a peaceful sunrise over the desert. I was alone for the sunrise despite there being several guests at the hotel. Sunrise is a must for photographers. Additionally, if you’re traveling as a couple, a special and unique moment in your lives is guaranteed. An added bonus of waking up for sunrise it that once it’s over, you’ll be the first to use the shared bathroom!
Complimentary Buffet Breakfast
I did not mention the architecturally stunning dining room. Just this room alone is enough to warrant the UNESCO award the building won. Both the evening meal and breakfast are served here. If you decide to drink a Persian tea in the afternoon, you’re welcome to use the dining room. The breakfast buffet will satisfy your hunger with several options including fresh fruit and eggs. Again, freshly brewed Persian tea is on tap!
How to get to the Zeinodin Caravanserai?
The first question you must answer is, how do I get to Iran!? The visa process can be quite an effort. If you’re British, American or Canadian you must be part of an organised tour with a pre planned itinerary to visit Iran. All other nationalities can visit without being on a tour, however, there is a good reason to choose a tour over independent travel in Iran. Although Iran is completely safe, they do like to overcharge foreigners. As a result, the price you pay to go on a tour will save you what you would have been overcharged as an independent traveler.
I chose Uppersia who supplied me with an honest tour guide called Ali. If you wish to stay in the Zeinodin Caravanserai, I recommend booking through Uppersia and requesting Ali as your guide. Alternatively, contact me directly for his contact details.
If you do wish to travel alone, hiring a car is the best way to arrive, I’ve included the coordinates below. Enjoy your Caravanserai experience!