We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Marta and Jandirk of In Search of Umami (@in_search_of_umami) discuss their recent trip to Iran. 

Until recently, Iran never appealed to me. I didn’t know if it was safe or if there was much to see. Somehow, it felt distant and unfamiliar.

On our ‘around the world’ journey, those factors are what started to intrigue me. I wanted to visit places I didn’t know much about, places where I wouldn’t have expectations built on other people’s travels. So I started to consider Iran as a destination.

Smells and colors of the bazaars

After the bland cuisines of South America, Iran was just what we needed.

The omnipresent smell of roses, pomegranates, spices, and herbs was a dream come true, and it all tasted even better. The food was as colorful as art. Red saffron, yellow cumin, and pink roses stacked to the ceiling of every bazaar we visited.

Nothing compares to observing the vibrant life of the bazaar while sipping saffron tea on a Persian carpet.

Epic mosques

After few days, I mastered the art of tying my scarf so that it covered my hair without strangling me at the same time. That and loosely covered arms and legs was modest enough for most places, but to enter some shrines I had to wear a chador, a large piece of fabric loosely wrapped to cover the whole body. It flew open like a cape in the wind, pulling my hair and making it difficult for me to hold the camera and the cloth at the same time. I could only envy the Persian women who moved around gracefully, accustomed to wearing the covering.

As soon as I entered the women’s section of any shrine or mosque, I was captivated by the atmosphere. There were always children running around and women chatting on the thick carpets, and I was surprised to find that it all felt like a warm family reunion. Due to my upbringing in Poland, I had grown accustomed to more strict, cold Catholic churches. I didn’t think Islamic places of worship would be any different, but they were.

Looking around, I was mesmerized by the intricate architecture. The play of light, intricate mosaics of mirrored pieces, and lush carpets made my jaw drop every time.

Mesmerizing ceilings

The walls and gardens are captivating, but one can easily forget to look up. The ceilings were the most vibrant, colorful, and detailed structures we have ever seen.

Many even had an incorporated cooling system of holes for those hot, summer days. Some say that ancient air conditioning was one of Persia’s many inventions. Hearing about the oppressive desert heat made me relieved that we had decided to travel to Iran in the winter and didn’t have to test those cooling systems.


The Middle East is associated with sand and deserts. Sounds boring, right? Not if you add jaw-dropping rock formations, canyons, and valleys.

The Kalout desert, Qeshm Island, and Maharloo Lake convinced us that nature in Iran shouldn’t be underestimated. Those natural wonders are just a fraction of what there is to see. Even snow lovers can find all the snow-peaked mountains to be quite a treat. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to travel too far to see some snow — even Tehran turned into a beautiful winter wonderland.

Ancient history and culture

Behind the country we see today is a long, powerful history of one of the greatest empires. It’s still alive in the people, their language, traditions, and pride. The Persians were the first to invent a refrigerating system, abolish slavery, and build a stadium. In addition, they created Persian carpets, which are still famous all over the world. But watch out, “Aladdin” fans — these don’t fly.

To catch a glimpse of the glory of the ancient Persian empire, we went to see Persepolis and Necropolis. No words can explain what amazing constructions these are, and it’s due to a miracle or the genius of their construction that they have survived for so long.

When people ask me how Iran was, the first thing I like to tell them is that it was safe. That’s the biggest concern everyone has, the one thing everyone doubts, the one factor that keeps so many from visiting. But a place of this beauty and variety can’t be kept a secret for much longer. It’s one of those destinations to visit now before a mass influx of tourism comes. I have no doubt it will soon.