Iran — by luxury train

As more tourists return to the country, a new rail service lets visitors explore in style
The Jāmé Mosque in Isfahan, Iran.©Christophe Boisvieux/

The Jāmé Mosque in Isfahan, Iran.

Three days before we were due to board a flight to Iran, it wasn’t looking good. The Iranian security services had decided I’d been reporting from Tehran in 1982, and not one of them had thought to follow up by looking at my date of birth. I may have been a precocious child but at six years old, that still would have been rather far-fetched. A flurry of emails, calls and two flights to the Iranian embassy in Dublin later, the elusive visa had somehow materialised and I was finally permitted to go.

And yet, for many tourists, getting to Iran is becoming easier. Just before my visit last month, Iranian officials announced a big rise in the number of foreign visitors. In the year to March, 4.5m tourists came to the country, an increase of 35 per cent on the previous year, with a 200 per cent rise in European visitors. Iran is now hoping to hit 20m annual visitors by 2025 and, visa hiccup aside, my visit was symptomatic of such ambitions. I was to join the Golden Eagle Danube Express on its inaugural journey from Tehran to Budapest — the first time the Iranian authorities had permitted a European luxury train to operate in the country.

The train pulled into the platform in Tehran, met by a wall of smartphones flashing. Handsome attendants, immaculately attired, stepped down from historic carriages and rolled out the red carpets, while television crews pushed forward, straining for a better view. The scene would not have looked out of place inMurder on the Orient Express if it weren’t for the media presence and, of course, the many times life-size poster of Ayatollah Khomeini watching every move.

We were to spend two weeks on board, taking in a circuit of Mashhad, Kerman, Yazd, Shiraz, Persepolis and Isfahan, before leaving over the Turkish border. Though it is now British-run, the train’s carriages were built in the mid-20th century to transport Hungarian officials around the Balkans; the wood-panelled cabins, silk furnishings and piano in the bar still have the feel of a bygone age. Until the light fades, the 52 passengers can watch Iran fly by the picture windows from their cabins, then spruce up for a drink and a three-course dinner. While they are dining, the cabins are made up for the night. Though the sound of the wheels on the tracks does take a little getting used to, it’s constant enough to lull you into a dreamless sleep.



Veröffentlicht am 6. Dezember 2014 in Eisenbahn, Iran, Tourismus und mit , , getaggt. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink. Kommentare deaktiviert für Iran — by luxury train.

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