When thinking about Iran, most people have in mind the immensity of its deserts or the beauties of its mosques and palaces. Few people consider Iran for its islands, yet the country is a great destination as well for those who craves white sandy beach and turquoise waters. In this article, discover Iran’s most beautiful islands.
Iran’s main islands
Two seas are running alongside Iran: The Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf in the south. While Iran only has one island in the Caspian Sea, it possesses no less than 34 islands in the Persian Gulf out of the 90 small and large islands in this area.
Not all of them can be visited, sometimes because they are military territories and sometimes because they are under environmental protection. But there are plenty remaining to offer wonders to travelers, among which the most famous are the two largest: Qeshm and Kish Islands.
Qeshm Island is the largest island of the Persian Gulf (1.500 square kilometers) and by far, one of the most interesting. The island has been a UNESCO geopark since 2006 and has many geosites of significance importance. The most famous are the Chahkooh Canyon, the Valley of Stars and the Salt Cave, which is the longest in the world. Qeshm Island also has a singular culture, deeply influenced by the neighbouring Arab countries and sea travels.
Visiting Qeshm Island is easy, as there is an international airport and daily flights to and from Tehran. Furthermore, most nationalities can stay in Qeshm without a visa for 30 days.
To find out more about the island and the many reasons to visit it, read our article about Qeshm Island.
Kish is Iran’s second largest island, yet it’s already pretty smaller than Qeshm. The island covers an area of 90 kilometers and is famous for its pristine sandy beaches and fancy hotel resorts. Like Qeshm, visitors do not need a visa to enter Kish and can access the island by flight. Kish Island can be a rather expensive destination, as it focuses on providing great entertainment (waterpark, dolphinarium, zoo, various watersports, etc) and plenty of shopping centers. While Kish Island is famous for its modernity, there are also several natural and historical attractions, such as the Old Greek Ship and the Underground Kariz City.
Other famous islands to visit in Iran
For most way smaller than Kish and Qeshm islands, there are plenty of other beautiful islands that attracts visitors in the South of Iran.
Its red sand beach made it worldwide famous: the island of Hormuz, situated between the port city of Bandar Abbas and Qeshm Island, is a must-see. It is sometimes called Rainbow Island, as it’s famous for its colorful mountains and soil. The island is of great geological interest and is a stunning succession of various natural landscapes. In the past years, Hormuz has become quite touristic and can unfortunately suffer from this situation, so make sure to avoid visiting it during the Nowruz Holidays (end of March).
Read more about this beautiful island on our travel guide to Hormuz Island.
Located just 2 kilometers south of Qeshm Island, Hengam Island is famous for its dolphins that can easily be observed from autumn to spring. Hengam Island is a small (33 square kilometers) inhabited island that attracts many visitors for its fauna and flora. Besides dolphins, there are also many gazelles on the islands. Furthermore, it’s a perfect destination for swimming, with kilometers of pristine beach with crystal clear waters full of multicolor fishes!
Larak Island is another beautiful island located near Qeshm and Hormuz. While it’s not much visited yet, it’s becoming increasingly popular for its pristine and beautiful nature. The island is 77 square meters and is inhabited by about 500 villagers, who speak their own dialect. Like Qeshm, Hormuz, and Hengam, Larak combines small mountains and sandy beaches. There are also the remains of a Portuguese Castle. There is no public transportation to get to Larak, but it’s easy to get a boat from Qeshm pier and cross the 10 kilometers separating the two islands.
Lavan Island, located in the west of the Hormozgan Province, is Iran’s third largest island. It can be reached by the port city of Mogham in 30 minutes by boat. While mostly residential and inhabited by fishermen families, Lavan Island is not yet so touristic. However, the island also has a beautiful and lush nature, with most of its surface covered with shrubs and tall trees, and vast pristine beaches of white sand.
Maroo (Shidvar) Island
Maroo Island, also called Shidvar Island, is located near the port city of Mogham, in the western part of the Hormozgan Province and can be reached via Lavan Island. The small island is famous for its white sand beaches and its seabed full of colorful corals, which makes it a paradise for divers. Because of its rich and fragile ecosystem, the entrance of tourists on the island is regulated and requires getting authorization from the Environment and Maritime Organization.
Ashura Deh Island
Ashura Deh Island, or Ashour Island, is the only island located in the Caspian Sea, in the north of Iran. Within the Golestan Province, the island is part of Bandar Turkeman. While it was once inhabited, the 300 families of its village have now left. The island has very fertile soil that makes it proper for sour pomegranate trees and raspberry bushes. It’s also where 40% of Iran’s caviar is produced. On the island, visitors can discover the remains of two historical buildings dating back from the Russian occupation in 1837: The Russian Fort and the Russian counsellor’s house.
The protected islands of South of Iran
There are many other small islands in the Persian Gulf, both in the Hormozgan Province and the Bushehr Province. Because these islands are breeding grounds for many species of migratory birds and have a fragile ecosystem, entering them is only possible after getting permission from the Environmental Protection Agency. Most of these islands are uninhabited and only fishermen come by sometimes.
Among the most beautiful of these islands are Nakhilo Island (small enough to be visited in an hour by foot), Umm Al-Gorm Island and Tahmadon Island (one of the largest, with a length of about 12 kilometers). These three islands can be reached by boat from the city of Bordekhon. We could also mention Dara Island, Kharak Island, Kharko Island, and Ghabr-e Nakhoda Island. On this latter, which can be crossed in less than 30 minutes by foot, is something resembling a tombstone, which, according to local stories, would be the tomb of a captain (“nakhoda” in Persian) from Bushehr.
The islands you won’t be able to visit
There are still plenty of small and medium islands in the Persian Gulf that belong to Iran, but that are not accessible to visitors. Indeed, many of these islands are used for military purposes, as the Hormuz Strait is a strategic military area. One of the most famous islands is Abu Musa Island, which is disputed by the UAE. The majority of the island is inhabited by Iranians while a minority of Emiratis live in the southern part. The Greater and Lesser Tunbs, the Siri Island and the Great Faror Island are other islands whose access are forbidden.