GEOGRAPHY

 

TEMPERATURE, RAINFALL, PREVAILING WEATHER CONDITIONS, WHEN TO GO, WHAT TO PACK

Iran is a vast country and has different types of climate: mild and quite wet on the coast of the Caspian Sea, continental and arid in the plateau, cold in high mountains, desert and hot in the southern coast and in the southeast.
Generally speaking, Iran is an arid country, however, in the west and the north the rains are a bit more abundant than in the east and the south. The only rainy area is the Caspian Sea coast. Summer is sunny is everywhere.

1- THE CASPIAN SEA

Along the coast overlooking the Caspian Sea, the climate is mild, almost Mediterranean, with fairly mild and rainy winters, and hot and humid summers, when the daily averages are around 25/27 °C (77/81 °F), and sometimes thunderstorms may erupt. The Caspian Sea is actually a huge salt lake, and the coast is situated about 20 meters below sea level. In the western part, winter is a bit colder than in the eastern part: the January average goes from 5 to 7 °C (41 to 44.5 °F), from west to east.

The southern Caspian Sea is warm enough for swimming from June to October, as you can see in the following table.

On the slopes at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, the landscape is very green and covered by forests. This is the wettest area of Iran.

In the area to the east of the Caspian Sea, occupied by plains and hills (Golestan), the climate becomes arid, almost desert, with hot summers.
To visit this area, the best time is spring, especially in the month of May, because autumn, though mild, is rainy.

 

2- THE PLATEAU

Much of Iran is covered by high plateaus and mountain ranges. The plateaus experience high-temperature variations between winter and summer, and have a continental climate in the north, with cold winters and hot summers, while the climate becomes sub-tropical in the central-southern part, where winters are a bit milder, and summers are torrid and sunny. In the northernmost part, winter is very cold, because of the influence of cold air masses coming from Russia. In summer, the Iranian plateau heats up a lot, so that a thermal low-pressure forms, but the heat is usually bearable, at least when the temperature is not too high, because of the low relative humidity.

In Tabriz, located in the north-west, at 1,350 meters (4,400 feet) above sea level, winter is definitely cold: the average January temperature is -3 °C (27 °F). From November to March, it often snows, and frosts can be intense: the temperature at night can drop to -20 °C (-4 °F). Summer is hot and sunny, but a little less hot than in the rest of the plateau: the daily average in July and August is 26.5 °C (79.5 °F), however, there can be torrid days, with peaks of 38/40 °C (100/104 °F)

In Lake Urmia, west of the city, the climate is similar to that of Tabriz.
Although it’s located in northern Iran, the capital city, Tehran, has a milder winter compared to other northern cities such as Tabriz, because the Alborz Mountains partially protect it from the north wind. Of course, even here in winter it may snow and freeze, although less often, and with less intense frosts: temperatures don’t go below -8/-10 °C (14/18 °F). The average daily temperature in January goes from 2 °C (35.5 °F) in the northern area, to 4 °C (39 °F) in the southern one, while in July it ranges from 28 to 30 °C (82 to 86 °F). Summer in Tehran is hot, with torrid days, usually around 35/37 °C (95/99 °F) in July and August, but the humidity is low and the wind blows frequently.

In Mashhad, in the north-east of the country, at an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), the daily average goes from 1.5 °C (34.5 °F) in January to 26 °C (79 °F) in July. In winter, snowfalls and severe frosts are possible, so that the temperature can drop to around -20 °C (-4 °F), while in summer the heat is often scorching, with peaks of 40/42 °C (104/108 °F). In a typical year, 250 mm (10 in) of rainfall.
In the south-central and eastern part of the plateau, the climate is a bit milder in winter, although the temperature varies with altitude, and frosts are generally possible at night, especially at high altitudes.
In Isfahan, located in the center of the country and at 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level, the average in January is 3 °C (37.5 °F), while that of July is 29 °C (84 °F): therefore the temperatures are similar to those of Tehran.

At the latitude of Isfahan, the average in January is 0 °C (32 °F), while in July it’s 25 °C (77 °F): this gives an idea on how much the Iranian plateau heats up in summer.

Shiraz is located in the south, at an altitude of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet); at this latitude, the winter is quite mild even at an altitude so high: the average goes from 6 °C (43 °F) in January to 29 °C (84 °F) in July.

Persepolis is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Shiraz, at 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) above sea level, and therefore has a climate similar to that of Shiraz.

The Kavir desert (Dasht-e-Kavir, “Great Salt Desert”) is a large, arid and inhospitable area, located south-east of Tehran (see the green area in the map). There are sand dunes, but also salt lakes fed by rivers flowing down from the mountains, which are dried for much of the year, partly because of the strong evaporation. The desert is located at an altitude of about 700 meters (2,300 feet). Here winter is quite cold, while summer is torrid.

To visit Tehran and the cities of the plateau, the best times are spring and autumn, especially the months of April and October. In the coldest northern cities such as Tabriz, you can move the date two weeks towards summer (so mid-April to mid-May and mid-September to mid-October), while in warmer cities like Qom, you can move it two weeks towards winter (ie mid-March to mid-April and mid-October to mid-November).

 

3- THE MOUNTAINS

Iran is a particularly mountainous country. This map only gives an indication of the distribution of the main mountain ranges. The major ranges are Alborz, whose highest point is Mount Damavand, 5,610 metres (18,405 feet) high and located south of the Caspian Sea, and Zagros, a long chain located in the west, whose highest peaks are around 4,200 metres (13,800 ft), and which isolates the Iranian plateau from the mild currents of Mediterranean origin. In winter, high mountains experience snowfalls, frosts and strong winds. The snow cover lasts for many months on the tops, but then it melts almost everywhere because summer is hot even at high altitudes. Only in the north, on the peaks of Alborz, there are glaciers above 3,500 meters (11,500 ft), for example on Damavand and Alam Kuh.

 

4- THE SOUTH

The southern part of Iran, compared with the rest of the country is really a world apart, being warm most of the year, semi-desert and with virtually no winter.
The winter is mild in the west, at the border with Iraq, in the plain of the Shatt-al-Arab, where cities like Dezful, Ahwaz and Abadan are found, and where the average in January is about 11 °C (52 °F), while summer is scorchingly hot, with highs around 43/45 °C in July and August, and peaks of 52 °C (125.5 °F). In winter, sometimes cold air masses can lower the temperature, and there may be some frosts at night.

Along the coast of the Persian Gulf, winter becomes even milder, with January averages going from 14 °C (57 °F) in Busher, to 18 °C (64 °F) in Bandar-e-Abbas, the latter located in the Strait of Hormuz. The Persian Gulf is a bit cool in winter, while in summer it gets very warm, exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) for a few months.

North of this area, and south-east of the Kavir desert, we find another desert, even more inhospitable, the Lut Desert (Dasht-e-Lut, the area circled in orange on the map). The Lut, generally sandy, is mild in winter during the day, but with cold nights, and very hot in summer, especially in the southern part, where the altitude drops to 200 meters (650 feet) above sea level. The peaks of summer heat, around 55 °C (131 °F), make it one of the hottest deserts in the world.
Further south, the region of Sistan and Baluchistan, at least in the part below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), has a similar climate. In Iranshar, the average goes from 14.5 °C (58 °F) in January to 37 °C (99 °F) in July, with an average maximum temperature of 45 °C (113 °F)

In this southern region of Iran, the best months are March and November in the area of the Persian Gulf, while in the eastern part, from the Strait of Hormuz to the east, and also in Sistan and Baluchistan, the best period runs from December to February.

WHEN TO GO

Given the vastness of Iran and its different climates, it is difficult to find a period that is best for all the country, however, you can choose spring, in particular, April, which can still be a bit cold in the north and in the mountains, and can already be hot in the south, in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and even more so in Sistan and Baluchistan. Even Autumn can be nice, especially the month of October, but in the south, it’s even hotter than in April, while it may be rainy on the Caspian Sea.

WHAT TO PACK

In winter: on the coast of the Caspian Sea, warm clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella. In Tabriz, the northern plateau and high mountains, very warm clothes, down jacket, hat, scarf, gloves. In Tehran and Isfahan, warm clothes, sweater, coat, hat. In the Lut, spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, sweater, jacket, scarf for the sand. In the coast of the Persian Gulf and Bandar-e-Abbas, spring/autumn clothes, jacket and sweater; for the Gulf of Oman, spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, light jacket and sweater.

In summer: on the coast of the Caspian Sea, light clothes, light sweatshirt for the evening, scarf for the breeze, possibly a light raincoat or umbrella. In Tehran and the major cities of the plateau, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, light and long shirt and pants of natural fibers (cotton, linen), a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, comfortable and breathable shoes, desert turban, a sweatshirt for the evening. Above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), you can add a jacket for the evening.
On high mountains, warmer clothes depending on the altitude. On the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, tropics-friendly, lightweight clothes, desert turban, sweatshirt and scarf for air-conditioned.
To visit mosques, you must cover shoulders and knees, and have bare feet. Women should avoid low-cut dresses.

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