Kish is a small island in the south of Iran with clear blue seas, amazing beaches, lots of shoppings malls and resorts and because it is a free trade zone you don’t need to pay taxes or obtain a visa. You will be granted a 15 day visa on arrival. Apart from all that it is probably the most liberal side of Iran and the thought of wearings shorts in the country was enough for me to include it in the plan.
This beautiful island is located the Persian Gulf and it is just 90 square km in size. There is plenty todo in Kish and you can spend some amazing time scuba diving, parasailing or taking a flight around the island in a gyrocopter, exciting eh!
Kish airport is relatively small and resembles a typical Iranian airport (modern for Iran but functional by European standards). It has flights coming in from pretty much all neighbouring places as well as a lot of main cities from Iran. It is almost in the centre of the island so getting around to every point is easy and you can get the taxis from the airport which are more expensive.
Tip: Go out of the airport on the road towards the city and you will definitely get some driver stop to offer you a ride for money. You can bargain with them and it is relatively cheaper but I would advise against it if you do not speak Farsi.
You do not need a visa in advance to enter Kish and you are granted a 14 day visit visa on arrival. Make sure you provide an itinerary and hotel reservations.
Tip: Most of the staff at the airport speaks little english and make sure you google translate stuff and save it on phone or print it.
Women in Kish
Women are expected to wear decent clothes which means no naked arms or legs and a head scarf. On the women’s beach there is more freedom and you can wear burkinis. You will be loaned appropriate dress on arrival free of charge which you will need to return but I would suggest bringing just a headscarf and loose fitting clothes and you don’t need anything else.
You do not need to wear burqa or full veil or those black robes, they are only by choice and are most worn by Iranian or Arab women due to culture and not because of law. You can wear jeans and t shirts throughout the country especially if you are a foreigner and no one will bat an eyelid.
When to Visit?
Kish is very close to Dubai and Bahrain and that comes with he same type of weather. It is the perfect winter chilling spot. April onwards the temperature can get unbearably hot especially during the day and that can ruin the fun. I would advise going between October and March.
Tip: During summer nothing is open between 1 and 5 and not even the malls are open at that time so you’re better off staying indoors.
This was the most disappointing part of Kish. There are relatively few restaurants on the island and most of the people eat in the homes, food courts of malls or in the hotel restaurants. The only reasonable places that I found were Mirmohana restaurant which was quite fun with live music every night and Iranian food (predominantly seafood) and Energy cafe which has mixed food. Both are expensive by local standards but the food is decent. I loved the quails at Mirmohanna and if you book an evening cruise you will end up in one of these restaurants for sure.
The food courts are mostly dismal with little choice sadly.
The same rules apply here as in Iran and homosexuality is considered a punishable crime. Owing to the small population you will barely see 1 or 2 guys on the island and you should still be careful around using Grindr to meet guys here. If you do make sure you meet them in a public place first.
Public transport is a bit complicated here albeit the standard is good. Taxis are quite easily available to go around and your hotel will call you one. They are comfortable and clean. The best way for me to look around was cycles. You can hire them through your hotel or there are plenty of kiosks on the beach. Make sure to take your passport with you if you want to hire one. A typical one hour hire is roughly £1.50 or $2 and even if you come back in reasonable time they don’t charge extra.
There are a lot of nice hotels and resorts in Kish and you can book them through agencies. The best one is Dariush Grand Hotel. It’s has a great spa and rooms overlooking the Persian Gulf. I loved spending time in the lounge area outside with the sort-of infinity pool.
Most of the hotels are pretty good and I would suggest as close to the beach as possible because that’s where all the life is.
How to Kish in 2 Days
This beautiful island is very laid back and relaxed and because of its size you can see a lot in a couple of days. I have to admit, I was very lazy when I got there and other than a few activities I didn’t do much. You should look for other activities like the zoo, dolphinarium or the underground city.
Go to the Beach
Men’s and Women’s beaches are separate and disconnected but that doesn’t mean you can’t chill out together. There are other beaches on the island with more laid back atmosphere but of course wearing bikinis or short shorts isn’t really allowed.
Most of the Water activities happen on these two beaches and most of the shopping malls are also around these beaches.
Kish is a free trade port which means plenty of opportunities to shop and spend time in the shopping malls. There are some giant malls with lots of options for shopping and entertainment and shopping is very cheap.
Cruise around the Island
You can book a cruise to go around the island or just around the main coast, it brings you back to a restaurant with live music. The experience is really fun especially watching the sunset. I love Water and the sea and the cruise just made an evening amazing.
The area around Kish is perfect for scuba diving and after an initial experiment in Spain, I was ready to see the beauty of life underwater in Kish and it took my breath away. The whole experience cost us £20 with pictures former than an hour and the types of fish and saline we saw was beyond amazing. Some fish were more camera shy than other and they did get their moment to be filmed but there was a lot more to see and experience other than the video below.
There’s a range of activities you can do from parasailing to jet skiing to scuba diving to kayaking and they are all super cheap. We went scuba diving and the experience was amazing. We got to see the most beautiful fish around and the company takes some fish food and the swim with the fish is just amazing. An hour spent there cost us £20 with pictures and videos and you don’t need a license.
In order to book these activities you can go directly to the men’s beach and book directly or there are agencies around the island that offer the same services and after checking 4 or 5 places we found the price to be exactly the same.
Theres a zip wire called water Ski at men’s beach and it looked amazing but it was closed on the day but I wold recommend it. The poles stood in the water and I loved the idea of a zippier above water. (feels safer somehow ;))
if you can see the wires…
Harireh Old Town
Harireh is the first town that was built on the island and the ruins are some 7kms from the mens beach. We grabbed a cycle before sunrise and headed there to see the sunrise on the way and enjoy the ride before it got too hot. The ruins are quite rainy and theres a small palace and some foundations left but the ride and the views are breathtaking…
Cycle around Kish
There’s plenty of cycle hires around the island especially around the beaches and you can explore a large part of this island on the cycle. There are special cycling paths built around the island near the beaches giving you access to amazing sea breeze and views.
Shisha at Dariush Hotel
The pool lounge in Dariush Grand hotel has some amazing views. You can sit here, chill with a shish, enjoy the pool and watch the sunset.
Once you’ve had your fill of activities there are couple of spas around the island offering great relaxing treatments and massages. I would recommend booking in advance and checking out timings because men’s timings are different from women timings.
Chill out at the Greek Ship
The Greek Ship is an old ship and the perfect place to go early evening to chill out and grab a picnic. We took some stuff with us because there are no restaurants there.
Kish is an absolutely perfect little getaway trip and while the image of Iran, rest of the world has, this place completely turns it upside down. There are cultural restrictions and barriers but I didn’t feel like they had any bearing on my trip and I absolutely loved every minute of the two days we spent here.