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 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. However, photography with mobile phones is permitted. If you appear foreign and/or do not speak Farsi, you may be directed to an office catering to non-Islamic "pilgrims", where you will be given information and a free guide to take you around the Shrine complex.
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)
A taxi from the airport to a hotel near the Shrine area should cost between 100,000 and 130,000 rials as of August 2015. Most drivers will not give change - assume that they will keep all that you give them.
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.
There is also a train connection to Kerman: 14 - 16 hours, departs at 1 pm, but not everyday. 300000 Rials.
There is also a high speed daily train between Tehran and Mashhad (Moves about 6 am everyday)which travels the distance in 8 hours.
Sarakhs border crossing: the area near the border is not safe and considered dangerous even by Iranians, incident of two guys raiding a tent and trying to rape a female while camping at night occurred on Sep 2012 around 20km from the border (not reported to the police). Cross early and cycle at least 50km before trying to find camp. The road is in good condition, a few ups and downs and one good uphill before reaching Mashhad.
Mashhad's Metro(better said city train) is newly utilized and surprisingly high quality and organized. It currently has only one line. This line is in east-west direction and connects Vakilabad to Ghadir St. (Nakhrisi). It also takes you to Imam Reza's shrine. This line is soon going to be extended to the Mashhad international airport. The second line of Mashhad's metro is currently under construction. It will connect the north east of the city to the south west of it and will meet the first line in Shariati Sq. (Taghiabad) There are two payment systems. You can either buy tickets (One way and return)or buy none-contact cards known as "Man Kart". These cards can also be used for buses all around the city. Each inner trip deducts 500 Tomans (15 US Cents)from your card which is a quite cheap price. There are partitions exclusively for ladies but they have the choice to travel in other sections. This metro/train travels half a way above the ground and other half underground.
A huge squad of clean and new buses take you almost everywhere in the town. In each bus station, there is a shelter with glassy walls in which there is a clean wooden bench and a map attached on the wall. They could be easily recognized by outsiders. Unfortunately, all the maps, guides and bus numbers are written in Persian numbers but don't worry. Friendly people are always there and will be more than happy to help you. The only way to pay for the buses is none-contact cards called "Man Kart = my kart". You should hit your card either at the front or the rear door at the time of getting on the bus. You can buy the card and charge its credit in booths which can be found in some main stations and all the bus terminals. You can also do it in Metro stations. If you get in the buses and you don't have a card, you can ask a passenger to hit their card for you and you can pay them 200 Tomans. Most of them will refuse to take the money though. Before getting a bus, make sure you know which station to get off. A computer system automatically announces each station right before getting to it.
There has recently installed some stations in many locations around the city, in which there are nearly 20 uniform bicycles all colored in yellow. The system is not officially utilized but it's supposed to be within next few days. These bicycles most probably can be unlocked by the "Man Kart". The rules and regulations of the city bicycle system are yet unknown. There are rumors that use of the bicycles are not allowed for ladies.
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 ai of Padide Shandiz.]]
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.