Located between the opening of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Qeshm Island is Iran’s second free trade zone and a unique tourism hub. Qeshm has semi-equatorial climate and is hot and humid most of the year. The island experiences pleasant falls, mild winters and springs, and very hot summers.
Qeshm was known as Abarkawan in Sassanid (226-651 CE) times when it was an important trade and navigation center. The island continued to flourish after the advent of Islam when trade ships traveled between Qeshm and China, India and Africa.
One of the largest islands in the world, Qeshm boasts numerous natural, historical, religious and trade attractions. The Portuguese Castle built by Portuguese commander Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1507, the Bibi Ab-Anbar (cistern), the historical Laft Port where the Lanj boats used by the inhabitants of southern Iran to sail, trade and fish on the Persian Gulf are made and the Achaemenid era (550-330 BC) Gooran Dam are some of the historical attractions of Qeshm.
The island has several villages that are unique in their culture, costumes and nature. Konarsiah Village is where visitors can explore local traditions and taste local delicacies and Shibderaz Village is where Hawksbill turtles hatch.
Qeshm is home to the world’s smallest mammal, the white-toothed pygmy shrew, as well as the world’s biggest mammal, the blue whale. Qeshm is also home to pods of dolphins that swim close to the island in the waters of the Persian Gulf.
Tourists or those visiting the island on business can enjoy recreational activities such as fishing, horseback riding, auto racing and water sports or rejuvenate at Qeshm natural spas.
With its beautiful sunsets and its sensational historic attractions, Qeshm can be a perfect tourist destination for those seeking a truly memorable experience of the Middle East.
The island’s top natural attractions include as follows:
Naz Island is situated on the southern coast of Qeshm. At low tide, you can stroll on the soft sand full of colorful seashells and coral. During the ebb, this stretch of land is also the preferred spot for cars and trucks to race. Once high tide rolls in, however, it is hard to imagine that all of this was completely dry just a few hours earlier, theculturetrip.com wrote.
Located just behind Qeshm’s northern ‘fin,’ this forest is an 8,000-hectare biosphere reserve of mangroves, or hara as they are known locally. The mangroves, roots, and sludgy beds surface during the low tide, but this forest disappears during the high tide. The mangroves are rooted in the salt water of the Persian Gulf, but the filtration system of the bark extracts the salt, allowing sweet water to reach the leaves. This forest is mainly used for fishing, tourist boats, and a small amount of leaf-cutting for livestock feed. Sea turtles, crabs, shrimp, snakes, herons, cranes, and pelicans are among the animals that call this forest home.
Located south of Qeshm is Hengam Island, where the tourist boats stop to see the dolphins play in the early morning. There is also a variety of tropical fish and stingrays in the natural ‘aquarium’ of the Persian Gulf. Gazelles inhabit the island, and it is said that they obtain fresh water by pressing their hooves into the ground. Hengam Island itself is full of fascinating rock formations and glistening black sand sprinkled over beige sand.
Valley of the Stars
Locals believe that a star once fell on this area thereby creating the rocky shapes that make it seem as if from another planet. In fact, it is the result of years of erosion by heavy precipitation. The valley is composed of marl and sandstone, and the rock formations vary from tall pillars, creating canyon-like paths, to hollowed-out spaces and smooth, round stones. With a little imagination, the eye can make out the shapes of faces, hands, animals, and even the map of Iran. A short hike to the top and you can see the layered mountain rock embedded with seashells.
Bandar Laft is situated on Qeshm’s ‘fin’ next to Hara Forest. Few abanbar (ancient water reservoirs) also exist and are still used by locals today. This fishing town is also home to the Talla Wells, which store clean water and were created by cutting holes into layers of stone. Though in the past the number of wells was equal to the number of days in a leap year, it has dwindled to less than 100, each one with a unique name.
Close to Bandar Laft is a ship-building yard. Lenj, as they are known locally, are mainly used for fishing. Upon entering, you will notice lenj in different stages of building, from those in the beginning phases that are reminiscent of Noah’s Ark to those setting out into the water on their maiden voyage.
Namakdan Salt Cave
At 6,850 meters long, Namakdan, literally salt shaker, is the longest cave in the world. Situated in the southwestern part of the island, the cave is a result of sea water accumulating in the faults. The long corridors lead to the breathtaking dome decorated with white, salty chandeliers and stalactites.
Overlooking the Persian Gulf, Khorbas Cave is part natural, part man-made. The caves are connected from the inside by a series of tunnels said to have been carved out by ancient Iranians. It is said that this cave may have been used as a look-out system to warn against impending attacks.
The striking natural beauty of Chahkooh, literally mountain of wells, has been named as such because of the wells at the beginning of the pass. The pass starts out wide but becomes more narrow, the walls nearly touching at some parts. Similar to the Valley of the Stars, Chahkooh is the result of erosion from rainwater on sedimentary stone.
This fortress was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century when they seized Qeshm in a strategic effort to maintain control over the Strait of Hormuz. The fortress was used for over a century, and today, four watchtowers, a number of cannons, and two cisterns still exist.