Kish is a 35-square-mile island about 12 miles off the coast of Iran. Once a private resort of the former Shah and his elite guests, Kish is the more luxurious and developed of the two main Iranian islands. Like Qeshm, it is also a free-trade zone, and foreign tourists require no visa for up to 14 days, meaning that even if you cannot make it to the mainland, you can still hop over to Kish to get a taste of Persian hospitality. Summers can be unbearably hot and humid, so the best months to visit are between November and March. Here are the top ten things to do and see on Kish Island.
From parasailing to scuba diving, wake-boarding to jet skiing, Kish has it all. These activities are led by young, perfectly bronzed Iranian men and women who remind you that no matter what corner of the world you are in, surf culture is the same. While the mandatory hijab is still required on these islands, it is a bit more lax. For participation in these water activities, a swim cap suffices as hijab for women. If you do not want to actually get in the water, you can try the glass-bottom boats to catch a glimpse of the colorful sea life of the Persian Gulf’s aquarium.
The 47-mile-long bike path snakes all around the island and is independent of car roads, making for a scenic and especially easy way to find secluded beaches and stop at your leisure to take pictures against the picturesque backdrop of the Persian Gulf’s azure water. Rental stations are located throughout the island, and bicycles, tricycles, tandem bikes, and scooters are all available to rent on an hourly or daily basis
Khoula F. has been anchored on the southwest coast of the island since 1966. The ship was built in Britain and changed owners several time before reaching the last owner, who was Greek. The ship finally went offshore off of Kish, and though an attempt was made to save her, it proved futile, and she has remained in place since. The Greek Ship is especially picturesque at sunset, when tourists come to take pictures of her.
Located on the east side of the island, this beach is named for the beautiful coral that can be found there. The coast is lined with pergolas, which, along with the palm trees and landscaping, provide an especially panoramic view. This beach is a particularly popular site to watch an unforgettable sunrise. Many of the sea sports clubs are also located here, making it easy to make reservations for any of the activities.
Water being a scarce resource in many parts of Iran, ancient Iranians came up with the qanat system — gently sloping vertical wells that lead water into arid areas. Kariz is one such 2,500-year-old qanat, and visitors can take a walk through its tunnels and get an up-close view of this kind of system. The tunnels extend more than five miles, making Kariz look more like an underground city. This ancient structure has been preserved but modernized with the addition of handicraft stalls and a traditional teahouse.
It is said that this 8th century city is the same one that renowned Persian poet Sa’adi mentioned in his work, Golestan. Located in the central, northern part of the island, Harireh offers a glimpse of ancient architecture, and though not much of it remains intact today, the ruins suggest a once thriving region. Excavation of this site estimates it having been established around 1000 and abandoned 600 years later.
The Twin Water Reservoir was built in 1993 upon remnants of an existing water reservoir, and the architecture is highly reminiscent of the water reservoirs of Yazd. In places with a scarcity of water, such structures were build to store water. The badgir (windcatchers), an ancient Persian architectural structure used to create natural ventilation, help to keep the water at near freezing temperatures.
On the southern and western coasts of this coral island between the months of March and August, hawksbill turtles come out onto preserved lands to lay their eggs. These beaches give tourists the opportunity to view these giant turtles swimming against the waves back into the sea. Grab your camera and set out to these tucked-away beaches to spot heads popping out of the water and photograph the turtles digging out holes to nest their eggs (from a safe distance, of course).
The north of the island, a particularly green area known as the Portuguese Valley, is the location of the Green Tree Complex, which was build around one of the oldest lur (banyan) trees. Said to be around 600 years old, many believe this tree is auspicious and come here to make a wish and tie a thread around the thick twisted branches to make it come true, a necessary act for finding your soulmate! The rest of the complex provides a wonderful green space in which to relax with a glass of hot Persian tea or perhaps a cold ice cream.
The Dolphin Park is a 170-acre park that not only has marine life but also a variety of gardens, including butterfly, orchid, and cactus, as well as the largest pool on the island which houses dolphins, sea lions, and whales. The park’s Bird Garden includes over 47 species of birds and other animals. A full visit to the park takes a few hours, but it could be an exciting stop especially for visitors with children.