Karaj (Persian: كرج pronounced [kæˈɾædʒ]) is a city in and the capital of Karaj County, Alborz Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 1,377,450, in 385,955 families, making it the fifth-largest city in Iran. It is situated 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Tehran, at the foothills of the Alborz mountains. The city is surrounded by mountains which give it great landscapes.
The history of Karaj dates back many centuries. The stone built Zoroastrian fire temple of Takht-e-Rostam from the Parthian era is a testament to this.
The Soleimanieh palace (currently housing a college of Agriculture), the mausoleum of Shahzadeh Soleiman, Imamzadeh Rahman and Zeid Palang Abad-e-Eshtehard are other historical relics of the Karaj area.
During the Pahlavi dynasty era, the Morvarid Palace was constructed in nearby Mehrshahr district, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Especially after the Islamic Revolution thousands of people started to migrate to this pleasant small town making it one of the biggest cities of Iran in less then 3 decades. Currently Karaj is the center of Alborz province located at west of Tehran. Alborz province itself is the youngest and smallest province of Iran. It is named after Alborz mountain range, which is located at the north of Iran. It also provides a great share of water supply of Tehran because of its rich resources such as rivers and springs.
It is connected by freeway, railway to Tehran 40 km east and Qazvin 100 km northwest, and by commuter rail to Tehran subway system (Metro).
Karaj's climate is a bit cooler than Tehran and it receives 260 mm of rain annually. The economical base for Karaj is its proximity to Tehran, where transportation of products between the capital and the Caspian Sea is central. Chemicals, fertilizers and processed agricultural goods are also produced here. It possess importance in agriculture and industry. Many of the most important factories of Iran are located near it.
Karaj is a multicultural city, due to migrants from all around Iran, that is why Karaj is called as Little Iran.
By Train: Karaj is easily accessible using the metro system of Tehran. Line 5 takes passenger to the city in less than an hour. There are 3 metro stations in Karaj at the east, center and west. The trains are very comfortable and the price is less than 500 Tomans.
By Car: Karaj is connected to Qazvin (80km) in the west and Tehran (35km) in the east. It takes less than an hour to drive from Tehran to Karaj. Since there are a lot of people who drive between these two cities every hour, there is a very high chance to do hitch-hiking as well. People are very nice to foreigners and most of them are very happy to drive you between the two cities. From Mazandaran province Karaj is connected to Chalous city by the famous Chalous road. It is one of the most beautiful roads of Iran, which runs between mountains. However it is not recommended in the winter season because the road may become a little slippery because of possible snow.
By Taxi: There are many taxi routes which are between Tehran and Karaj, most of which pass through Tehran-Karaj Highway. The best places where you can get a taxi to Karaj in Tehran are: Azadi Square, Vanak Square, Tajrish Square etc.
By Metro: The Karaj Metro is an efficient way to travel inside the city. At the moment there is only one line which connects to the west and east of the city. It continues eastward until Tehran. On its way to Tehran, it stops at Chitgar Park and Azadi Stadium. The second line of Karaj metro (north to south) is currently under construction.
Karaj has a very pleasant climate in all four seasons. It is very famous for the natural attractions. The stunning Alborz Mountainrange provide a natural beauty to the landscape of Karaj. Karaj is also the starting point for a pleasant drive along spectacular Chalous road forced north through the alborz mountain to the Caspian Sea.
Mahestan is one of most well-known shopping malls in Karaj. There, beside cloths and other things you can find souvenirs and handicrafts from different parts of Iran.
Fardis street is one of the liveliest parts of Iran. you can find anything you can imagine from traditional foods of different regions of Iran till handicrafts, Qalyans, clothes etc. There are many traditional tea houses. The street is located in suburb so the prices are very low.
Gohardasht very similar to Fardis, but with higher standards. The prices are of course higher.
Taleghani street another shopping district, full of shopping malls restaurants, etc. You can walk eastward from Taleghani crossroad to reach Imam Khomeine crossroad(known as Karaj square) which is one of oldest districts of Karaj.
Khansalar tea house A hardcore men-only traditional tea house. Here you can eat very traditional Iranian foods such as "Dizi" and smoke Qalyan in a very traditional atmosphere. One of things that you can try here Khwansar Qalyan which is real traditional Iranian Qalyan with natural Tobacco. The place is to be found near Imam Khomeine(Karaj) squere; beside Hejrat Cinema. Since it is in old and poor district of Karaj the prices are very cheap.
Shah Abbasi Carvansaray a recently restored Carvansaray from Safavid era. While taking a look is free, the Carvansaray has a traditional restaurant, which you can enjoy Iranian foods listening to traditional live music. The prices are unbelievably very reasonable. The carvansaray is located in old district of Karaj close to Imam Khomeini square.
Karaj is located on main highways. [Qazvin] is a historical city near Karaj. Take bus or taxi or simply hitch hike on Tehran Qazvin highway. From Kalantari bus terminal you can find comfortable(VIP) buses that leave to major western cities; [Tabriz] 35000Tomans, [Rasht] 20000 Tomans. There are also buses to Kermanshah, Hamedan, Sanandaj, Ardabil, Astara, Qom, Kashan, Isfahan, Shiraz and all other major cities. The buses leave hourly and they are very comfortable.
Karaj train station is located not far from the metro station. From there you can get train to different directions including Mashhad, Tabriz, Ahwaz etc