A Day Trip To The Kaluts Desert In Iran
Updated July 2022, A Day Trip To The Kaluts Desert In Iran was originally published in August 2020
I arrived to Kerman alone and spent a day wandering around its bazaar and playing in the surrounding hills and after the recommendation of contacting Amir Mahani, a day later I was on my way out for a day trip into the Kaluts, a section of the greater Dasht e Lut. With summertime temperatures that routinely exceed 50ºC, the Dasht e Lut is among the hottest and deadliest places on Earth.
In hindsight, I should have opted for an overnight trip to the Kaluts to experience the immense silence of the desert and the clear, starry skies.
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First Stop: Bagh e Shahzde
Heading out of the city of Kerman we first visited the Shahzde Gardens which are located just outside the nearby city of Mahan. The gardens were constructed in 1873 during the Qajar era and are dominated by tall green cypress trees and lovely pools that terminate at a villa that was a residence of Abdul Hamid Mirza, a prince of the Qajar Dynasty.
Bagh e Shahzde entrance: 500,000 IRR for foreigners
Heading south afterward? Don’t miss out on the rainbow island of Hormuz
Arg e Rayen
Continuing further south I explored the Arg e Rayen, an ancient fortress, and citadel that is estimated to be at least 1,000 years old but its exact date of initial construction is unknown. I found the more ruined areas of the citadel to be more interesting with the crumbling walls even containing an old Zoroastrian temple. One section which was the residence of the governor was restored in 1996 to give a better idea of what the rooms of the citadel looked like at its zenith.
Arg e Rayen entrance: 300,000 IRR for foreigners
Solo female? No problem! Check out my solo female guide to travel in Iran
Into The Lut Desert
From Rayen we bent north toward Shadad and the Kaluts. As you descend in elevation down into the Lut Desert you’ll almost instantly feel the massive difference in temperature from Rayen and Kerman. The day I visited the Kaluts, it was raining and cold in Kerman and by the time we made it to the fringes of the Lut Desert, it was nearly 30ºC.
The first stretch of the Lut felt quite barren, passing by an endless sea of flat sandy lands. Eventually, we began running into what looked like lumps of sand with large bushes rising from the flat landscape. Amir explained that these bushy trees are called gaz trees, and the small mounds they sit atop are called nebka.
Continuing on we reached a river that was seemingly outlined in white as is meandered away from the highway, the Kal Shur River (Salt River). Interestingly nearby (I, unfortunately, missed this), a salt lake formed near here in the Lut Desert temporarily due to the heavy rains that ravaged many parts of Iran in early 2019.
Onto The Kaluts
The Kaluts is a section of the Lut Desert famous for its formations of the same name. Kalut is the Persian word for a yardang, and a yardang is a protuberance-like formation created by wind erosion.
These yardang protrusions dot the sandy landscapes of this section of the Lut Desert. A popular theory behind the formation of the Kaluts is that this stretch of the Lut Desert was a sea millions of years ago, suggested by the evaporites (mineral or salt formations left behind after the evaporation of a body of water) found in and around the Lut Desert.
As time went on the sea evaporated leaving behind rivers and streams. These rivers and streams are believed to have eroded the landscape forming canyons and protuberances that would go onto be eroded by the harsh winds of the desert over thousands of years forming these Kaluts or yardangs.
The landscape of the Kaluts is fascinating and unique to say the least, I’ve spent some time in the desert areas of Uzbekistan, Utah, Bolivia, Yemen, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Turkmenistan, Arizona, New Mexico, Egypt, and more, but the Kaluts in many ways stands out amongst the rock formations I’ve had the chance to see. The sunset out here is not to be missed (and from what another traveler who I met in Iran said the sunrise isn’t either!).
Don’t miss out on my favorite city in Iran: The Shiraz travel guide
How To Get To The Kaluts
The Kaluts are actually located northeast from Kerman over the Kuhbonan Mountains. It is about a two-hour drive to reach the Kaluts from the city of Kerman, making this an easy day trip (or longer!).
If opting to take on the gardens of Bagh e Shahzde, the Rayen Citadel, and the Kaluts all in a day as I did you can expect roughly four hours driving time. If you are interested in visiting the Kaluts with a guide, I highly recommend contacting Amir Mahani who I arranged my visit with on WhatsApp at +98 913 342 5815 or by email at email@example.com.
Want to get in on some more desert action? Go check out the rarely visited Sistan & Balochistan Province
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