Bandari’s and Port of Bandar Abbas
If your visit to Iran is not limited to just a few weeks of holiday and you want to get off the beaten track, Hormuz is the place you should not skip. The Island lies in the far south of Iran, about 8 kilometres from the coast of Bandar Abbas.
Even though there is not much to see in Bandar Abbas, the city is worth exploring for a day. The most fun we had was walking around the bazaar and meeting Iranian colourful dressed bandari’s. Black chadors are less common here. Instead, you will see women dressed in beautiful colourful pants with matching printed chador. Also, many of them are wearing small, embroided masks that represent the unique traditions of distinctive looks of the Bandari’s.
The masks are designed given ancestral tradition. Before children reach puberty, this headpiece is first worn at social events by children. Also, the masks are worn by both Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In Bandar Abbas and other Arab coastal cities, you will see many women clinging on to the tradition, where others choose the niqab or black chador. Simply because it is cheaper.
Hormuz used to be a Portuguese Island and the fortress, built by the Portuguese Empire is open for visitors. Hormuz used to be an emergency point for stopovers for ships travelling the Persion Gulf to Goa, Gujarat and Qeshm. In the 19th century Hormuz was occupied by the Omani, and after that remained a faintly inhabited fishermen’s island under Iranian government.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Hormuz island is by ferry from Bandar Abbas or Qeshm. Unfortunately, these ferries do not have a fixed schedule. When we arrived, 9 o’clock in the morning the port of Bandar Abbas was closed due to weather conditions. The port finally opened at 2 o’clock. Nobody can tell you when the port will open and what time ferries will leave. This is probably because there were some accidents reported in 2010 (check it here). If the weather conditions are favourable there should be ferries leaving Bandar Abbas at 7am, 9am, 12pm, 2pm, 5pm and 8:30pm. The ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs around 2.5$.
When you arrive at the Island, you will arrive at the port of the only village situated on the Island. There are few homestays available that you can find by just walking around -or talking to friendly men on the street. Most of them have a spare guest rooms where you can stay and get dinner made by their mothers. These homestays cost about 500.000 IRR including dinner. Even though we loved the sound of this experience, we chose another place for the night.
Most Iranians (and tourists) visiting the island bring their own tent. You can pitch your tent on the beach where you will encounter many other people next to you. Once you are off limits from the village women take off their Hijab and the tuk-tuk will start playing loud western pop music. Hormuz has an incredibly hot and humid climate, and the Islamic dress code makes it difficult to go in the water, so when you get the chance to swim go for it!
From the village you need to get a tuk-tuk. This motor vehicle will take you around the island for about 600 IRR and from the village to a beach 5 kilometres ahead for 200IRR (around $2). You can negotiate, but the basic price is 200 IRR per hour. Another option is renting a bicycle. We were off season and arrived late, so the rental places were all closed. It is a convenient way for transportation though, because if you wake up in your tent in the middle of nowhere without the phone number of a tuk-tuk driver, it can take a while before an empty one appears. If you decide to spend the night on the beach get a phone number of a driver (if he can speak English) or ask other Iranians on the beach if they can call a tuk-tuk for you. If this all doesn’t work out, hitchhiking is the best option. Many friendly Iranians are inclined to take up to two people with backpacks on the back of their motorcycle.
There is a lot to see on the island. I would personally recommend just hiring a tuk-tuk driver and let him take you to the places. If you go on your own bicycle there are places you will simply miss. For example, there is a cave hidden somewhere on the island without a road leading to it. The driver parked the tuk-tuk and after a small hike he brought us into the cave. It was incredible. He will also take you to the rainbow valley, salt caves, valley of the statues, red beach and the hole in the rock. The driver, who will also be your guide charges 200.000 IRR p/h, which is about 2$. After the ride, our driver even invited us to stay with his wife and children.
Don’t let the long way to Hormuz discourage you, this Island is one of the most unique experiences you will get while visiting Iran.