Remote, beautiful, mysterious, and unique, islands are worlds of their own where life has evolved a bit differently. Imagine: your eyes are closed and you can hear the sound of water hitting the shoreline. You open your eyes and set your sights on the raging waters of the Persian Gulf, shining under the sun. What you just visualised is the hot, humid, and vividly beautiful island of Qeshm. Even though it’s the largest island of the Persian Gulf, it was hardly a tourist hot-spot 10 years ago; but that’s all changed!
Little by little one travels far
Qeshm Island from above, a few kilometers off the southern coast of Iran (Persian Gulf)I have payed a visit to the dolphin shaped island of Qeshm that’s just below the southern coasts of Iran a couple of times. From treading through desert terrain under the scorching hot son, to flying over one of the greatest mangrove forests of the region, I can assure you that we were never bored!
They say that coral reefs are the lungs of the ocean and Qeshm is surrounded by them, so it wasn’t surprising to learn scuba diving was a popular sport on the isle. If I recall correctly, there were a handful of diving establishments that had more than enough instructors who helped us get the hang of things and taught us how to dive.
And guess what! After a long day spent diving in the beautifully colourful, cool, and clear water, you can simply relax on the pier or near the shore and watch fishermen empty their boats laden with the catch of the day. You can even join them the next day if you’re a fan of fishing. I personally could never sit still long enough for the fish to bite!
Global Geopark Attractions
Now let’s get down to my most favourite places. I hope you’re already familiar with the Golabl Geopark Network (GGN), since you should definitely take a tour of the island’s UNESCO Global Geopark. Qeshm’s Global Geopark is a part of Iran’s huge Zagros mountain range and includes a total of 25 sites (to this day that is). The oldest human settlement of the geopark is about 40 thousand years old. I’m only going to highlight a couple of the sites and attractions here though! You can simply checkout the park’s official website for the rest.
Mangrove or Hara Forests
Qeshm has rather diverse and exotic ecosystems that thrive in relation to one another. For example, in the Khuran Strait (native name given to Iran’s Clarence Strait), which is sandwiched between Qeshm and the mainland (Khamir Port), there is a protected area lushly covered with thickets of mangrove trees.
Just so you know, healthy mangrove forests can protect shorelines from waves and storms, and can greatly reduce the amount of sediment that runs off land and ends up on coral reefs. So we couldn’t enter without permission and a guide. As soon as we entered the forest, we were faced with a random maze, a tangle of branches and roots that gave the area an ‘out of this world’ atmosphere.
Interesting facts! These salt-water trees can survive thanks to their roots, which filter out salt. And as if this fact weren’t enough, during low tide, when their roots are exposed, they switch their function and can absorb oxygen directly from the air.
Tandis-ha Valley (Statues Valley)
Next we drove for about 25 kilometers to the south of the Hara forests and came across a valley known for its beautiful geological structures; an area that was once immersed beneath the water. Statues Valley is where I let my imagination run wild and looked for familiar shapes, animals, and figures hidden on the rock faces. In all honesty, I kept looking for dragons and I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
The Valley of Stars
If you’re a fan of strolls, then you can also take a long walk in the ‘Valley of Stars’. I vividly remember that as soon as we entered the area a series of majestic gorges and canyons greeted us with open arms. According to local folktales, a falling star is to blame for the creation of this massive indentation. In reality however, wind, rain and general erosion are the sculptors of this roughly 2 million year old valley.
Namakdaan Salt Cave
Does it end here? Not really, I still have more up my sleeve!
Come brave the darkness and squeeze through the tiny passageways of Namakdaan Salt Cave. Believe it or not, this salty crystalline structure is actually the longest salt cave in the world and currently has a length of 6600 meters (that’s as far as anyone’s gone so far). Oh, I almost forgot! In Persian “Namakdaan” is a ‘salt shaker’.
Step on the path the occupants of the Khorbas and Ramchaan villages took when they hid from Pirates. This almost vertical limestone cliff dotted with caves is also believed to have been a place of worship where the locals prayed to the goddess of water Anahita.
I remember that our guide at the time also mentioned that they had found many human remains in the winding passages as well and therefore some sections of the interior may have also served as burial chambers.
The Naaz Islands
And I kept the best for last. Here’s a small piece of heaven on Earth for you! For 2 hours each day and 2 hours each night the tide is out. During these 4 hours the Naaz islands stop being islands and become a part of the mainland.
But I really can’t describe the feeling of walking on wet sand dotted with sea shells. Nor can I describe the excitement I felt at the site of big and small crabs scurrying here and there. You’ll have to see it and feel it for yourself.