Hamadan: Probably the Most Ancient City in the World

Hamadan is believed not only to be among the oldest Iranian cities but probably one of the oldest in the world. Laying in a temperate mountainous region where the north and northeast of the province are influenced by strong winds,  Hamadan is in fact one of the coldest cities in Iran.

My initial plan was to head to Yazd after Esfahan followed by Kashan. However, along the way I was told by some locals to visit Ali-Sadr Cave in Hamadan if I got the chance. I’m a cave-mountain-jungle kind of girl so this got my curiosity. Up until I reached Soffeh Bus Terminal, that I made a decision to bus to Hamadan. 

It took about 7-hours from Esfahan to Hamadan. As we are approaching Hamadan, the weather was so much colder. It started to rain and was so windy I wouldn’t be surprised if trees being blown away. I was quite amused as this was the first time seeing rain after 2-months in Middle East! 

By now, I left with about USD100 (starting budget: USD250) to last me for another 4 days. Hamadan is indeed a very old and quiet town. Since I didn’t plan to come here, I did not do much of research as well. I did not know where to stay, how far is the cave to the city and if i would have enough money or not. The only thing is know was that I wanted to go to the cave. 

Using google translation, I approached a group of taxi drivers to drive me to a cheap hotel in town. They discussed among each other for awhile and asked me to follow one of them. It’s a 30-minutes drive and costs me USD3. The driver brought me to Ordibehesht Hotel which located right in the center of town for USD15 per night. 

The hotel receptionist only can speak few simple English words. I believed there are hardly any tourists visiting this old town. He told me that from town to the cave will take about 2-hours drive and cost about 80,000 tomans (USD25) for one-way trip. The entrance to the cave would cost about USD10-USD15. Without needing to do any math, I knew I have not enough money to do it.

Accommodation: 15 x 2 = USD30

To & fro cave: USD50

Entrance fees: USD15

Bus back to Tehran: ~ USD10

Food: ??

Taxi from Tehran bus terminal to Airport: ??

In my mind I was thinking: No, I am not coming here and not doing the cave! 

And so, I went to search for my emergency cash which is SGD100. I’m not sure if it’s acceptable but gonna try it anyway. I asked direction to money changer from the receptionist and hoped for the best.  

In the center of this town is a roundabout, there are 7 other deviations for you walk into from the roundabout. Each street and alley has its own name but all look the same to me. I shown the street name the receptionist wrote for me and asked around, but different people pointed different directions to me. Nevertheless, while trying to find a money changer, I began exploring other nearby attractions as well. 

Center of roundabout

Alavian Dome – Back view of the place as it was closed

Great Jame Mosque

Old building structure in Hamadan

After loitering on the street for 3 hours (and unable to find my way back to the hotel but luckily I got the name card), I still can’t find a money charger. Hungrily, I settled my dinner with biscuits and fruits. 

Next morning, I decided to try the local bank opposite the hotel. I knew the rates would be much lower but what other choice would I have? Unfortunately, the bank refused to change the currency with Singapore dollar because there was no exchange rates listed in their system.

I went back to the hotel and told the receptionist I no money to do the cave. He made some calls and told me a money charger will come here and change with me!!! I used XE currency app to show the money changer the rate between SGD and IRR. He did his own calculation and offered me 200,000 tomans (USD65). Honestly, I would accept any amount as long as I could go for my cave trip!

The next plan was to bargain a good price for cab. I tried my luck by asking the receptionist if it was possible to have cheaper rate to drive me to the cave because I am really really poor now. So, he called his uncle and he offered me 70,000 tomans (USD23) for 2-ways! 

Ali-Sadr Cave

This 70-million years old cave is the largest water cave in the world. There are no living creatures in the cave’s water and its temperature is 12 degrees Celsius. The water is so transparent that one can see to the depth of 10 meters with the naked eyes and ordinary light. 

The natural entrance to Ali-Sadr cave (sinkhole) has been made accessible by stairs and concrete walkway. After that, the rest of the cave can only be covered by manual-paddled boat (Pedlo) by the guide. Water level can be as deep as 14-meters, thus life jackets are issued to a guests upon entering the cave. It took me about 2.5-hours to finish the cave.

Ticket to the cave

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The crew (left) and a passenger (right) sitting in front from have to paddle for whole boat to move 

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Met a local girl from Tehran

and a group of uncles from Korea who thought I am a Korean

If you do not wish to stay too far from this main attraction in Hamadan, the is a Tourism Complex which offers basic amenities. There is a 27-room hotel, 10 wooden villas (single and double beds), a restaurant, handicraft shops, a mosque, a parking lot and a park for children.