Almost everything about Mashhad relates to its role as the holiest city in Iran, even its name (literally: burial place of the martyr). As the capital of Iran's Khorasan province, Mashhad's year-round cool temperatures and fascinating insights into the Shi'ite heartland have much to offer visitors.
Mashhad started life out as Sanabad, a village pitstop for trade caravans headed towards Turkmenistan. But in the ninth century, the eighth Shi'ite Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza, the great grand son of Imam Ali who was the cousin & son in law of Prophet Mohammad was poisoned by the jealous caliph of the time. Imam Reza was buried in Mashhad, and his shrine became one of the holiest sites to the shi'ite muslims after the Holy Kaaba in Saudi Arabia and Karbala in Iraq.
Over the next thousand years, the shrine complex was levelled, ransacked and rebuilt a number of times depending on the ruling army of the day. Today the Shrine is the most important place in the city and in the whole of Iran.
One particular quirk about the character of Mashhadi citizens well known across Iran is their tendency to provide incorrect/false directions to tourists who wish to visit the shrine, so one would be better off writing down directions before visiting the shrine [or anywhere else in the city, for that matter], or taking a taxi.
Dress code for women is strict, as it is in any part of Iran, however a self encompassing chador is not a must for any lady in public place in city. For women, a simple headscarf or roo-sari, with a trenchcoat and pants are fine. Men are also not allowed to wear shorts. These rules are the same for any and all cities and villages in Iran; it is national law.
Photography inside the holy Shrine is not permissible as all visitors will be frisked at the various gates leading to the Shrine. There are separate entry gates for ladies and gents.
Gonabad is 260km from Mashhad. There are two roads to Tehran which is about 900km west of Mashhad.
There are flights from all the cities which have airport to Mashhad. The large cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz has flies everyday maybe more than 2~3 times a day.
One of the route to reach Mashhad is from Kish Island. Kish Air flies three times per week from Kish Island to Mashhad. The flight takes around 2 hours, the planes Tupolev TU-154M & McDonnell MD 83 are quite old, and gives a scary feeling. But the plane crew is decent and converse in good english.The return ticket will cost USD 120 can be bought from travel agencies in Kish (Near Kish Air head office)
There are International flights to Bahrain, Damascus, Dubai, Kuwait, Bishkek, Beirut, Jeddah, Dushanbe, Kabul, Doha, Almaty and Istanbul.
There is train to Mashhad from Tehran. There are more than 3 different trains in different prices and qualities every day (mostly they leave afternoon or evening). Its about 10~14 hours way.
You get here from Turkmenistan. There are trains from Ashgabat and Merv to the Sarakhs border. And at the other side of the border there is a daily train from Sarakhs border to Mashad.
There is mostly night buses to Mashhad from other important cities. There are NO international buses from Ashgabat or anywhere in Turkmenistan.
Mashhad has three large bazaars. Interesting things to buy include Khorassan crafts, fur-cloak, jewelry, perfume, saffron, and religious souvenirs.
Iranian cuisine is one of the best in the world. They do not eat spicy food but even then their food is very tasty. Chello Kebab is a very popular dish as well as Bakhtiari Kebab. Their are also different kinds of breads available. So eating will be a assured good and affordable experience in Mashhad
Mashhad attracts huge number of visitors specially during the summer months, so be sure to make travel reservations in advance. Mashhad can also be very cold during winters, hence heavy woolens are required during winters. Even in summers nights are pretty cold and requires light woolens.
Five-star hotels in the city are: Pars Hotel , Homa Hotel and Pardisan Hotel. There are also couple of good hotels near the Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza Shrine, namely Khayyam Hotel, Ghadir International to name a few. The Shrine is 10 min. walk from the Khayyam Hotel and the rent for double bedroom with attached bath is around 35-40 USD.
Mashhad Hotel reservation
Online Mashhad Hotel reservation
Since no public transportation goes across the Turkmen border, to get to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the following option is the most convenient:
Herat in Afghanistan is only a few hundred kilometers from here.