Qeshm, Iran

Photo: Ebrahim nikkhoo [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D
Qeshm is full of natural wonders. Forte de Queixome, a historic Portuguese fort with ancient tombstones. Kharbas Caves, whose passways were created by erosion. Stars Valley’s canyons were, too. Laft, a fishing village full of traditional badgir (windcatchers). Hara Marine Forests, a dense mangrove that attracts migrating birds. Chahkooh Canyon with its twisted rock formations. Namakdan, the largest salt cave in the world.

It’s not surprising that this dolphin-shaped island was named a UNESCO Global Geopark. These are places that are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development. Though Qeshm has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Period, it’s stayed secluded and untouched. Colorful canyons and caves fill the interior. Flamingos, sea turtles, and camels congregate along the rocky coastline. Sandy bays dot the northwest coast. Plus friendly people maintain their unique culture.

How has such an unusual and fascinating spot remained under the radar for so long? It’s only because the island belongs to Iran. Qeshm, whose name means Long Island in Arabic, is the largest island in the Persian Gulf. It lies just a few miles off the southern coast of Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. Khasab, an Omani port, is only 37 miles away. Nearly 30 years ago, the island became a free-trade zone. That gave it more leeway to set its own policies and act independently. Visas aren’t even needed for visits less than two weeks.

Still, Qeshm is in Iran. The Middle Eastern country isn’t exactly friendly with most of the Western world. Diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States officially ceased in 1980. A few years ago, when a new Iranian president was elected and a nuclear agreement was reached, there was hope. You started dreaming about finally visiting Tehran and Isfahan. Then the results of the United States’ own election reversed any progress. The risk is high. So, for now, Qeshm will remain a magical, remote place. While you’re left wondering.

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