Across the mountains in Iran on motorcycle

Riding overland in Iran

Whatever Silk Road sounds to you and the name promises, it was not only about taking silk from China to Europe or a private package tour that Marco Polo hired. It is all about the cultures that are traveling from one place to the other by the hand of those travelers who would dare to take that bloody long road (let me be honest). Peter Scheich from Muztoo is certainly one of those adventurous travelers!

We met one cold night inside a yurt at a magical mountain lake 3000 meters above the sea level, lost amidst the mountains in Kyrgyzstan. He was leading a motorbike tour and I was leading an overland Silk road tour. We might have had a shot of vodka or not while we exchanged gazes, stories as well as our contacts.

Sonkul Lake in Kyrgzystan

 

A year and half later, Peter asked me whether I was interested in joining him to co-organize and lead the Iran part of his epic tour, the Silk Road on motorcycle! I was heels over heads and said YES! It took us some long Skype calls and strenuous hours of sharing maps till our ideas took some tangible shapes. It also involved me going through my contacts in Iran and asking around a lot of friends in Iran for good roads till Peter and his love for outdoors decided that we were going to do 2 versions: the Classic Iran and the off road Iran. We would be both on the off road trip together. What a great decision it was!

Off road motorcycle trip in Iran

We met at the Armenian border of Noorduz. It was a hot day and the group was already exhausted by the long waiting time and the inefficient customs at the Armenian border. The good thing was that it gave me time to make connections at the Iranian part to make the border crossing much smoother once they arrived in Iran.

Whatever happened during the next 8 days you might call an adventure or not, but for me it was all an experience. Each single road we took was thought to make an experience, we rode through dirt roads, avoided carefully the tarmac as long as time allowed us. Picked up the best sceneries, had some nice winding roads through the dense and green woods of northern Iran, gazed at Damavand pick, the highest volcano in Asia, overtook at full speed slow trucks on winding roads with heavy rain and mud covering the visors of our helmets, stopped on colorful rest areas for a glass of hot tea and juicy Iranian dates, waived at happy Iranian families overtaking our bikes while shouting us a warm welcome through their windows, stopped at many gas stations and took many pictures with friendly people gathering around. What a unique journey dotted by majestic landscape and hospitable people.

Motorcycling in Iran

 

You might come to Iran, you might ride your motorcycle to Iran and it certainly will be a very authentic and friendly experience. But crossing Iran on a motorbike from west to east through the mountain range and following the footsteps of the ancient Silk road on the less traveled paths is something that you will do only if you have a perfect understanding of nature and outdoors as well as Iran and its very varied geography as our team did. Welcome to Iran, the land of ever pleasant variety!

Riding in Iran

64 thoughts on “Across the mountains in Iran on motorcycle

  1. Esteban says:

    Hello,
    Two friends of mine are traveling throught Iran on motorbike, I am planning to join then for ten days, you know if it is possible to rent a motorbike there.
    Thanks

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Esteban,

      In Iran there are no official motorbike rentals yet. Some private people might do it but I cannot recommend anyone as I have never met them or tried their motorcycles. You might want to ask in Iran overland Facebook groups and there are many helpful people there and you can find some leads. Make sure you are clear about the driver and 3rd party insurance.

      Good luck!
      Mahsa

  2. Sam says:

    Hi there. Aa a New Zealand citizen do I need a guide to travel by motorcycle across Iran? Also is there an engine capacity limit on bikes entering Iran?

    Kind regards
    Sam

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Sam,

      So far you don’t need a special visa but it is best to ask the embassy if things have changed. there is no limit for foreign bikes but you need a carnet de passage.

      Good luck!
      Mahsa

  3. Dalibor says:

    Hi Mahsa,
    I am planning a motorcycle tour of Turkey and Iran then from Iran to Azerbaijan, Georgia this year 2022 in Jun. I want to start in Turkey and enter Iran for 4 days then exit to Azerbaijan……
    We are from Serbia and Bosnia and bout of us ride VFR1200 cc. I know that i need visa to enter Iran but i m not sure for bike cc is it alowed. Do I need Carnet for bike or we can eneter with outh Carnet. Or can we enter at all with 1200 cc bikes ?
    Thank you

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Dalibor,

      Usually, there is no problem with the CC of the bikes to enter Iran. There was a problem for a few months I think 2 years ago. Right now it is fine. It is best to check it on FB forums right before you leave to make sure this has not changed which I doubt. You just need carnet de passage and a visa.

      Have a great trip!
      Mahsa

  4. Hipolito Garza says:

    I am American working in Qatar and would like to ride thru Iran to Turkey. Would this be possible? Planning June 22

    Thank you,

    Hipolito

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi Masha, thanks for the interesting article! Can you put me in touch with some guides? We are two Americans, and will be riding our own bikes from Armenia and would like to cross through Iran to Turkmenistan. Thanks!

  6. jeffK says:

    Hi, I am a UK passport holder, is it possible I could ride across Iran? My engine is 280cc.
    I have had an Iranian visa in the past, but I flew there.
    I am struggling to organised to get a passage through to India (cancelled trip from the start of COVID)

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Unfortunately, Uk passport holders need a guide in Iran. Bike cc is no problem but you need to hire a guide to accompany you all the time.

      If you decide to go for it you can let me know and I put you in touch with some guides.

      Good luck!

  7. Levent says:

    Hi Mahsa,
    I’m Levent from Turkey. I’ve got some experience in adventure travel. Very interested in the off-road sections of your route. Looking down into mount Damavand sounds very appealing. Is it possible for you to share more info about your route?

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Levent,

      What a coincidence as I am in Turkey now. 🙂 Sure! I will pass you my number so that we can talk about off road trails or your trip on motorbike to Iran.

  8. Mohd Farid A Rahman says:

    Hi Mesha,

    since the the rules about 250cc is true, is there any rental bike (adventure bike) available somewhere in Tehran?

    • Mahsa says:

      As far as I know, you can enter Iran with any CC as long as it is not a US bike. This was just a temporary ban for a few months 2 years ago.

  9. Mundhir says:

    Hello Mesha,

    I am shipping my bike tomorrow to Iran from Muscat (Oman). Surprisingly, I was informed by the clearance guys in Bandar Abbas that Bikes over 250cc are not allowed!!

    I recall this doesn’t apply to people with carnet de passage.
    Any special arrangement is needed or papers to be filled/attached?

    Regards
    Mundhir –
    Insta: Extreme Overlanding Oman

  10. Eddy Cruz says:

    Hi Mahsa,
    Loved your post content.
    My brother,my son and myself are considering to cross Iran(each on a motorbike) from Turkey towards Qatar (for the World Cup Football season next year), the other option was to cross from Saudi Arabia ,having our bikes shipped/ ferried to Tel Aviv from Souther Italy, but I can only read negative reviews regarding road safety, restrictions,etc in S.A. ,hence why we are looking for a safer/friendlier route.
    The question is:we hold Peruvian Passports,do we need a guide and visa? and how does the carnet the passage work for Bikes registered in Holland?cost? (that’s where we are starting the trip from). And last point : how safe would you rate Iran for this kind of cross country trips? (since it will be our first time riding in the region).
    I would appreciate your input and suggestions;thank you in advance.
    Eddy

    • Mahsa says:

      Hola Eddy,

      Iran is one of the best destinations in the world according to most travelers so that I would not worry at all about riding in Iran. Obviously, you need to keep your bikes and belongings safe when you park but other than that people are very kind, hospitable and nice. You would need a carnet and a visa issued before at the embassy. Not sure where a Dutch bike can get the carnet. Ask Dutch bikers and if there is no car association there then ADAC in Germany might do it. Peruvians don’t need a guide but a visa like anybody else.

      Saudi is also fine, roads are good and people are very kind too. Maybe you can do a round trip entering from one point and exit for the other country? Israel is an expensive place in comparison to the other 2 countries and way less hospitable in comparison.

      When you travel in Iran and Saudi on a motorcycle you need to be cautious with traffic as people don’t drive well. I had an accident in Iran and many issues in Saudi.

      From Iran, you would need to take a ferry to UAE or you leave your bikes and fly to Qatar and then come back.

      Let me know if you need any other information about Overlanding in the Middle East. 🙂
      Mahsa

  11. ASIF says:

    Hi Mahsa. That was a quick. 😁 Thank you.
    So from Bandar Abbas to Serow border crossing is about 2000 km which we plan to do it in 7 days with stopover in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran.
    We are planning to start from Bandar Abbas in the last week of April or 1st week of May.

  12. ASIF ATTARWALA says:

    Hi. I am a Canadian, currently traveling in India on a Royal Enfield Himalayan. I and my brother in law (Indian Citizen) have done over 10,000 KM in India in the past 2 months and now we starting to plan a longer trip from India to western Europe sometime this year or April 2022.
    Our plan is to ship our Himalayan bikes to Iran, Bander Abbas port (both the bikes are registered in my brother in law name in India), and then start riding from there into Turkey and enter Easter Europe hopefully on our way to UK. We have started our research and mostly found out that after crossing Turkey it seems to be somewhat sorted out.
    Now my question to you is me being a Canadian, how do I work the Iran part of the trip. Visa, Guided tour, hotels, cost etc. Can you guide me through the process or get me in touch with a reputed guided tour company who can help me figure out the process.

    Thank you
    Asif

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Asif,
      Sounds like a great plan! 🙂
      If you are traveling on a Canadian passport you will need a special visa and a special guide who will be with you from the entry point to the departure point of Iran.  This means you will need to pay for his accommodation, fees, and transportation. If you wish to have a price estimate for this trip please pass me your approximate entry date in Bandar Abbas y your approximate itinerary and exit date so that I can check for you the costs. April is the high season in Iran and prices are more expensive. 
      Looking forward to hearing from you.
      All the best!

  13. Muhammad says:

    Hi Sir,

    I read you blog, and to be honest it was really informative. I need your advise, I am from Pakistan and planing to travel to turkey via Iran. I have searched a lot but didn’t find they process and requirements to enter Iran and Turkey on a 125cc. So can you please guide and share some information that how to streamline the process and what are the requirements to cross the border on 125cc bike, 🙂

    Regards!

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Muhammad,

      Thank you! There is nothing specific and the regulations are the same for your bike. You will need the bike paper and a carnet de passage. Make sure you have enough gas with you as in Iran there is a lot of distance between the gas stations.

      Good luck!
      Mahsa

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Richard,

      As an EU citizen, you can travel to Iran and there is no need for a guide. You just need carnet the passage for your bike. If you want to have a guide let me know and I will try to help.

      Enjoy planning your dreams! 🙂

  14. David says:

    Hi Mahsa,

    I ride a Canada registered Harley Davidson 108 and I’m planing to travel Iran end of the year or next year, (after COVID-19) Could you let me know if I will have problems getting the Harley Davidson 108 in to Iran with the Harley model?

    Waiting for your reply, thanks

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi David,

      Canadians cannot ride in Iran without having a travel guide. I am not sure if the Canadian number plate can. I would say yes but I am not sure. I know as of 2019 American brands like Harley were not allowed in Iran and I doubt this has changed this year. You can check Facebook group Overland in Iran for current information. Good luck! 🙂

  15. Ermiya says:

    Hi mahsa
    Your site is so exciting…
    About Iran,
    I heard ,in new law , there is Forbidden traffic ( over 250 cc) only in capital city- TEHRAN-
    And also that’s for Iranian motorcycle driver not FOREIGN ،Is that true?
    Is it true for only Tehran or big cities or all of the routes?
    Any how I’d like experience this trip,if you have plane for Iran, plz notify
    Thanks
    ermiya.x7@gmail.com

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Ermiya,

      Sorry for the delay. All Corona’s fault. 😉 As a foreigner, you can take your bike to Iran and it does not matter how many cc and you can circulate anywhere. So all good! 🙂 In 2019 they passed a law to forbid the entry of American brands such as Harley. For a few months, they also banned bigger bikes but it is now lifted again. I was riding in Iran just in Oct and Jan before the Coronavirus caught us all. Let me know if you need any help and let’s hope for a free world again.

  16. arul KC says:

    Hi Masha
    I represent a bike club from Malaysia. One of our rider wishes to ride across Iran. The plan is to ride from Pakistan to Dubai through Iran. He probably will ride his Harley Sportster but no final word on the vehicle yet. We need an escort for him as he will be riding solo. From Zahedan to Bandar Abbas. Would you be able to help.? Please email me. thanks.

    • Mahsa says:

      Dear Arul,

      Nice meeting you! I have very good friends in Malaysia, Anita or Faizal for example. You might know them. Sure! I would be happy to help. I don’t think he will require an escort by law but if you need me to arrange the trip logistics, guide, etc. I surely can do it. Let me know what you need and we can move on from there. It is best to avoid the hot summer months if he can. June-beginning of Oct can be very hot and that entire part is very desertic.

      Cheers from Tehran! 🙂

  17. Thelma says:

    Hi
    I’m enjoying reading your blog. Can I ask two questions. Can a women ride a motorbike in Iran, I have read various accounts of ‘no, definately not’ or ‘yes you can’? Secondly what cc motobike is allowed to cross the borders of Iran through to Pakistan? Thanks for any advice

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Thelma,

      Thanks a lot. Please ignore all those that say things that are not true and are not based on facts. As a woman, you can ride in Iran and there is no restriction on the type of bike you take to Iran and Pakistan. This is the latest news as of 28th Aug 2019. 😉

      Enjoy your rides!
      Mahsa

    • ronald redeker says:

      Very brave….I am also planning to do the same. When are you planning to go and do you have more information now about everything?

  18. iain says:

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading your article. I am from Scotland and hoping to pass through Iran from Turkey to Pakistan in around 6 months time with Versys 650. I believe due to my citizenship I will need to apply for Visa and be accompanied by guide. I am unsure of the process for carnet de passage and how to find a guide or the expenses involved in having guide. If you have any information that could help me I would very much appreciate if you could pass it on. Thanks, Iain

    • Mahsa says:

      Thank you Iain.

      As a British passport holder, you will need a guide to accompany you from the entry border to the departure border and his car, hotel and food expenses have to be covered by you too :(. Let me know if you need a guide and your dates so that I can see who could do it and what the price will be. 14 days in Iran would be the least you should spend. But obviously, it depends on your time and budget.

      For Carnet you need to contact the automobile association of your country.

      Have a great NYE!
      Mahsa

      • iain says:

        Hi Masha
        Thanks very much for the quick response. I have a feeling this is going to be too expensive and too much trouble for a journey on my own therefore I will maybe get the bike air freighted from Europe to India. The guide situation is a real shame as I really wanted to visit Iran but I will just need to do it another time with a group and do a Pakistan tour at the same time. Just out of interest what would be a rough figure for the cost of a guide for a fortnight?

        Thanks

        Iain

        • Mahsa says:

          Hi Iain,

          Very true. The politics make the world a difficult place for us :(.

          Prices can change depending on the season, hotel prices, etc. Let’s say 150-200 USD maybe per day. However, this can be a bit less or more.

          Wish you best of luck!
          Mahsa

  19. Saied says:

    Hi im an Iranian living abroad havent been to Iran since 2005 plan on riding from China to south of Iran and ship my bike back im riding Suzuki M109 it’s going to be a bit challenging to get the carnet the passage. The big question is!! Is there any page or website to find others who might be interested in doing this as a group?

  20. Saied says:

    Hi im an Iranian living abroad havent been to Iran since 2005 plan on riding from China to south of Iran and ship my bike back im riding Suzuki M109 it’s going to be a bit challenging to get the carnet the passage. The big question is!! Is there any page or side to find others who might be interested in doing this as a group?

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Saied,

      I am not sure if your question is about Iran or China. For Iran you need to have a carnet or you can pay the value of your bike at the “gomrok” in Iran to deposit it on an account in Iran and once you leave Iran you will get it back. To enter china you better join a group to be able to share the expenses.

      I hope this helps. Have a great journey!
      Mahsa

  21. Richard Luck says:

    Hi Mahsa,
    I ride a US registered KTM 690 and plan on traveling through Iran sometime next year. Could you please let me know if I will have problems getting in to Iran with this motorcycle
    Many thanks, Richard

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Richard,

      For the bike you will need a carnet the passage. You can try to contact private people to arrange it for you too. But it can be expensive (400 usd approx) and unreliable. However, if you have a US passport you will not be able to travel to Iran by yourself and need to apply for a visa y have a guide with you. This means that you need to pay his expenses too. Let me know if you need any help with that and good luck :).
      Mahsa

  22. Jonvet87 says:

    I think that in Iran only the police can have motorbikes bigger than 125CC… Check that out. you might end up not been able to sell the bike!

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi,

      The limit is 250cc. But there are many people with bigger bikes which don’t have a permit. So they can only use it when the police is not around ;).

  23. Daniel says:

    I am planning a motorcycle tour of Turkey and Iran late in 2018. I want to start in Turkey and maybe finish in Shiraz.
    What is a good 250cc bike to purchase with the idea of selling it in Shiraz before flying home to Australia?

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Daniel,

      You can find Honda CRF 250cc to buy. But they are more expensive than in other countries because of import taxes and if you have little time trying to sell it might not be easy since it takes time. I hope this helps.

  24. Jason says:

    Awesome story. I’ve been interested in taking riding trips in other Countries, thanks for the in depth experience. So far I’ve only gone cross Country in the United States.
    Now the big question is, do I make the trip to Iran by myself? Or find a riding buddy!?

    • Mahsa says:

      H Michael,

      :). I hope it won’t be possible to ride to the top. We got to look after the nature a little bit ;).

      Cheers,

  25. Maarten says:

    Hi Masha,

    I am a Dutchman living and working in Dubai and will get my new Honda here next week. The aim is to cross into Iran and make my way up (leisurely and possibly in a few legs with flights back to Dubai in between) to Baku. There my wife will join me and we plan to drive to Batumi together. Subsequently I will be making my way back via a different road (Armenia?) into Iran and back to Dubai. I would appreciate your council and assistance to make it all hassle free. Thanks in advance for getting back to me.

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Maarten,

      That’s a great plan as any plan that involves Iran ;). Please send me an email to info@notjustatourist.com with your dates, the itinerary you have in mind and what kind of help or services you will need.

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Cheers,

    • Mahsa says:

      Hi Maarten,

      I hope you are well. I’m not sure if you got my first email but if you still need some information please let me know.

      Gracias,
      Mahsa

    • ronald redeker says:

      Interesting….. I also have wild ideas about a mega trip. I am dutch as well, (ben niet zeker of je nederlands spreekt) but I am also in doubt. Would like to travel from Lisbon to Karachi thru Iran or to Dubai thrue Iran. Regarding Dubai, do they let you drive with my own european registered motorcycle drive in Dubai? Maybe interesting to get in touch. My email is rmredeker@hotmail.com and I live in Portugal.

      • Mahsa says:

        Hi Ronald or Marteen, 🙂

        UAE/Dubai is very easy and you can enter without a carnet and with your number plate. For Pakistan and Iran, you would need a carnet.

        Enjoy Portugal!

  26. John Batty says:

    Hi There
    I am from U.K. and a well accomplished Solo Motorcycle Adventurer
    I am desperately wanting to travel through Iran but I read that you may not travel alone.
    Is there any way around this.

    • Imran afgan says:

      hi there me and my brother are think of ride to Pakistan from the u.k we are concerned about being allowed through through Turkey .. Iran… and Afghanistan do you have any advice

      • Mahsa says:

        Hi Imran,

        You can ride through Iran and Pakistan as well as through Turkey. If you have a British passport the only way to get a visa for Iran is to have a guide and pay for him/her. About Afghanistan, I am not sure about safety or visa. You better contact the embassy. For Pakistan visa if you need one at the time of applying don’t tell them that you go through the land border as you might not be given a visa then.

        All the best and enjoy the adventure!

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