Interactive map of Mashhad (OpenStreetMap)
Almost everything about Mashhad relates to its role as the holiest city in Iran, even its name (literally: burial place of the martyr). As the capital of Iran's Khorasan province, Mashhad's year-round cool temperatures and fascinating insights into the Shi'ite heartland have much to offer visitors.
Mashhad started life out as Sanabad, a village pitstop for trade caravans headed towards Turkmenistan. But in the ninth century, the eighth Shi'ite Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza, the great grand son of Imam Ali who was the cousin & son in law of Prophet Mohammad was poisoned by the jealous caliph of the time. Imam Reza was buried in Mashhad, and his shrine became one of the holiest sites to the shi'ite muslims after the Holy Kaaba in Saudi Arabia and Karbala in Iraq.
Over the next thousand years, the shrine complex was levelled, ransacked and rebuilt a number of times depending on the ruling army of the day. Today the Shrine is the most important place in the city and in the whole of Iran.
Dress code for women is strict, as it is in any part of Iran, however a self encompassing chador is not a must for any lady in public place in city. For women, a simple headscarf or roo-sari, with a trenchcoat and pants are fine. Men are also not allowed to wear shorts. These rules are the same for any and all cities and villages in Iran; it is national law.
Photography inside the holy Shrine is not permissible as all visitors will be frisked at the various gates leading to the Shrine. There are separate entry gates for ladies and gents.
There are flights from all the cities which have airport to Mashhad. The large cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz has flies everyday maybe more than 2~3 times a day.
One of the route to reach Mashhad is from Kish Island. Mahan Air flies 6 times per week and Kish Air flies three times per week from Kish Island to Mashhad. The flight takes around 2 hours, the planes Airbus 300 & McDonnell MD 83 are 20 years old on average, and might give you a scary feeling. But the plane crew is decent and converse in good english. The return ticket will cost USD 200 can be bought from travel agencies in Kish (Near Kish Air head office or Mahan Air Office)
There is train to Mashhad from Tehran. There are more than 3 different trains in different prices and qualities every day (mostly they leave afternoon or evening). Its about 10~14 hours way.
Apart from Imam Reza shrine there is a number of large parks, the tombs of historical celebrities in nearby Tus and Nishapur, the tomb of Nadir Shah and Kooh Sangi park and Mellat Park that have modern attractions for children such as the tallest Ferris wheel or fanfar in Iran and Koohestan Park-e-Shadi Complex that includes a zoo, where many wild animals are kept and which attracts many visitors to Mashhad. It is also home to the Mashhad Airbase (formerly Imam Reza airbase), jointly a military installation housing Mirage aircraft, and a civilian international airport.
Some points of interest lie outside the city: the tomb of Khajeh Morad, along the road to Tehran; the tomb of Khajeh Rabi' located 6 kilometers north of the city where there are some inscriptions by the renowned Safavid calligrapher Reza Abbasi; and the tomb of Khajeh Abasalt, a distance of 20 kilometers from Mashhad along the road to Neishabur. (The three were all disciples of Imam Reza).
Among the other sights are the tomb of the poet Ferdowsi in Tus, 24 kilometers distance, and the summer resorts at Torghabeh, Torogh, Akhlamad, Zoshk, and Shandiz.
The Shah Public Bath, built during the Safavid era in 1648, is an outstanding example of the architecture of that period. It was recently restored, and is to be turned into a museum.
Mashhad has three large bazaars. Interesting things to buy include Khorassan crafts, fur-cloak, jewelry, perfume, saffron, and religious souvenirs.
Iranian cuisine is tasty, while not spicy. Chello Kebab is a very popular dish as well as Bakhtiari Kebab. Their are also different kinds of breads available. So eating will be a assured good and affordable experience in Mashhad
You can find lots of great restaurants and all kinds of fast-foods are available. the most advertised restaurant of Mashhad (and one of the most expensive) is 'Padide Shandiz'. There are also numerous other decent restaurants in Shandiz. Full meals with rice cost from 5 to 20 dollars.
Padide Shandiz address: Shandiz town.
You can find a kind of ice-cream named ice pack "persian: آیس پک" in mashhad. it's really great to taste it. There are lots of Ice Pack bars in mashhad. The main one is placed at "Shariati Sqr". This kind of ice-cream can be found with all kinds of flavors like "chocolate , apple , cherry , strawberry , coffee , peach and all kind of fruits you can imagine" This type of ice-cream invented in Iran, is even getting popular in the United States of America.
Mashhad attracts huge number of visitors specially during the summer months, so be sure to make travel reservations in advance. Mashhad can also be very cold during winters, hence heavy woolens are required during winters. Even in summers nights are pretty cold and requires light woolens.
Five-star hotels in the city are: Pars Hotel , Ghasr Talaee international Hotel , Ghasr International Hotel and Pardisan Hotel. There are also couple of good hotels near the Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza Shrine, namely Khayyam Hotel, Ghadir International to name a few. The Shrine is 10 min. walk from the Khayyam Hotel and the rent for double bedroom with attached bath is around 100-120 USD per night. but the rent for Ghasr Talaee Hotel is very expensive about 400 USD per night. But there are lots of rooms for rent around the shrine which are pretty cheap and suitable to rent, they are ranged from 30-90 USD per night depending on the distance from shrine.
Buses to Yazd cost 160.000 rials and take around 14 hours overnight [Sep 2012]
Visas and permits
Following countries have Consulate in Mashad: