Trans Eurasia travel

Around Rasht

Gilan's main attractions are wooded hinterland villages accessed via Fuman. Once the capital of Gilan, Fuman is a leafy junction town, its boulevards lined with date palms, plane trees and numerous tacky plaster-cast statues. The mountains on its southwest horizon stay snow-topped well into April, though it's often too hazy to see them. Fuman is the most famous place to buy klucheh fuman, typical Gilan cookies filled with walnut paste, available hot from the oven at several bakeries around town. Savaris to Rasht leave from a bizarrely hidden yard at the northeastern edge of town. West of the bazaar at Velayet Faghi Sq, the roads to Masuleh (Blvd Imamzadeh Mirza) and to Qaleh Rudkhan divide; savaris to either leave from 400m up each respective road. Rice has being cultivated in this region for many years, where some indigenous cultivars (landrace) were conventionally bred by farmers

Qaleh Rudkhan
This very impressive Seljuk-era mountain fortress (8am-5pm) covers the top of an idyllic wooded butte ringed by a curl of forested mountain. The ruins of the brick ramparts are relatively complete, with many photogenic towers, arches and wall sections calcified white with age or tufted with wild flowers. Access requires a steep, sweaty but gorgeous 50-minute walk starting out along a streamside full of mossy rocks then climbing pebble-studded concrete steps to the chorus of birdsong and tapping woodpeckers. The trailhead is beyond a pair of teahouses at Qaleh Daneh hamlet. That's 7km from Qaleh Rudkhan village.

Even if you don't make the climb, the 25-minute drive from Fuman to Qaleh Daneh is delightful, crossing rice paddies and skirting hills with neat green-tea haircuts. If cloud and rain make climbing impractical, a scale model of the castle in Rasht Museum shows what you missed.

Lahijan & Around
Famed for its tea, Lahijan is one of Gilan's oldest towns with some tree-lined charm to its main streets.

Several minor sights are ranged around central Vahdat Sq. These include the Masjed-e Jameh (Jameh Mosque; pierced by a bine-tipped brick minaret) and a charmingly rundown old men-only domed hammam (6am-7pm). Across the square is the tile-roofed Chahar Padeshah Mosque. Some of its famed carved wooden doors have been removed to Tehran's National Museum, but there are attractive pseudo-medieval-styled murals on the front wall.

Alleyways around Vahdat Sq hide a few old buildings with mossy, tiled roofs, notably the intriguing Akbariyeh Mosque (4th West Kashef Alley).

A kilometre further east, the austere, grey Mausoleum of Kashef-ol-Saltaneh (East Kashef St; 8am-6pm Tue-Sun) entombs the man who is credited with introducing tea cultivation to Iran. It houses a slightly under-whelming museum of tea paraphernalia.

The easternmost 800m of Kashef St climbs Sheitan Kuh (Satan's Mountain), a tree-covered ridge fringed with tea gardens. It's crowded on Friday with local tourists enjoying fine views over Lahijan's rectangular lake. A cable-car (10 min ride; 9am-dusk) whisks sightseers across to another neighbouring hilltop that's slightly higher.

The blue, pyramidal roof of the distinctive wooden Sheikh Zahed Mausoleum (Boqeh Sheikh Zahed; admission by donation) is Lahijan's architectural icon. The holy man buried here supposedly lived to the ripe old age of 116 (1218-1334). The present mausoleum was rebuilt after a devastating 1913 fire. It's in a quiet, rural setting 2.3km east of the artificial lakeside cascade at the base of Sheitan Kuh. Take the small tea-field lane that parallels the main Ramsar road (from which the mausoleum can also be glimpsed).

Of several attractive villages in the appealing semi-alpine mountain hinterland, the best known is Deilaman (60km).