Join up with a team of people aiming to summit Iran's Damavand along with some other 4000+ metre peaks in the range. This trekking expedition through Iran’s Lut desert follows in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Thesiger and crosses the hottest place on earth. You’ll be trekking during the ‘cool’ season and the adventure takes you to lunar landscapes, star dunes, and a cornucopia of geological phenomenon.
The highest peak in the Middle East is in Iran. At 5610 metres, Mount Damavand dominates the country’s Alborz range. It also happens to be Asia’s tallest volcano which has earned it a coveted spot on the list of the world’s Volcanic Seven Summits. And now, it’s going to be the location of your next great adventure challenge.
• Explore the raw and natural beauty of Iran’s Lut Desert
• Summit Asia’s tallest volcano
• Aim to reach the peak of Azad Kuh (4355m) as well as Kholeno (4375m)
• Experience Lar National Park
• Discover the ancient city of Tehran
The expedition’s aim is to trek across Lar National Park from west to east while making an attempt to summit Mount Damavand. Along the way, you and your team will make summit attempts on many neighbouring peaks – all over 4000m. These peaks, which are fantastic in their own right, will serve as valuable opportunities to acclimatise.
Mount Damavand is the world’s 12th highest peak, and second in Asia only to Mount Everest. Located between the capital city of Tehran and the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, the mountain has a unique place in Iranian mythology. Considered to be the home of Az I Dah’ka, a dragon immortalized in the people’s folklore, the mountain also appears on the country’s currency.
Despite its height, this is a popular peak that many find accessible. Your group will be approaching from the west, which is a less used route. It’s also the route that provides the most fantastic sunsets you’re ever likely to see. You’ll have more time to acclimatise and more time to soak in all the beauty.
The park itself is home to nomads, shepherds, and the elusive Persian leopard. Most of the Alborz Mountains lie within its borders. On a good day with clear skies, you’ll be able to see all the way to the Caspian Sea. The panoramic views with take your breath away every day.
The trip ends in Tehran – a city full of surprises. Wind your way through the alleys of the bazaars, visit ancient mosques, and discover monuments and palaces that date back to the great Persian Empire. Don’t miss the Golestan Palace or the Borj-e Azadi Tower as well as the cosmopolitan coffee shops, art galleries, street food vendors, and great opportunities for shopping.
Physical fitness is an important component to the expedition. If you live a healthy lifestyle with a good level of physical fitness, you’ll be fine. You also need to be willing and able to work as a team and cheerlead for each other.
This is your chance to join a Volcanic Seven Summits mountaineering challenge expedition. Adventure to Iran, push your limits, and get a few perspective on this wonderful country.
Enquire today to learn more.
Why We Love This Adventure
- Walk in the footsteps of the greats like Wilfred Thesiger (crossing in 1964) and Marco Polo (north-south expedition in 1271)
- Trek through parts of the old Silk Road and stop in Bam, a crossroads for traders from the 7th to 11th centuries
- Visit Kerman, one of the oldest cities in Iran and an ancient trading point between Persia and India
- Pass through the “Valley of Meteorites” outside of Dehsalm
Hottest place on earth
The thermal centre of the earth lies near this expedition’s route. This claim is based on NASA’s satellite data of land surface temperatures which claims that the hottest ground temperature on earth ever recorded (70.7 °C) was in the lowest area of the Lut desert in 2005.
Although you will not be trekking in temperatures nearly as high, the Lut Desert is an important research area for understanding many physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth and space.
The Lut covers a region of some 200,000 km2 it is surrounded by the South Khorasan Province, Sistan va Baluchistan and Kerman. It is around 185m below sea level in parts and hosts a varied display of wonderful desert-related structural phenomena and features. It experiences deadly high temperatures in the summer months and very little precipitation annually (under 5cm per year). Much of the desert is designated an abiotic environment as it cannot support any life although previous expedition teams have spotted wild camels and lizards.
In the eastern Lut there are high sand dunes and star dunes – towering pyramids that are among the highest in the world. They are void of life and have ripple marks like the ocean floor, created by the shifting winds.
Rather than guided tours with set daily plan this expedition is run with a framework itinerary. The following is the outline plan for this Lut Desert trek expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the expedition handbook which is available when you make an enquiry.
All teammates fly into Tehran to arrive by 1200hrs on 11 November. Teammates will make their own arrangements to get to a local hotel (local transport connections are excellent) where the expedition leader will await. The expedition officially begins at the hotel with an introductory briefing, followed by an organised tour of Tehran. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in readiness for an internal flight (organised by Secret Compass and included in cost) to Birjand. In Birjand, the team will meet the excellent local support team and will pack and prepare to commence the desert traverse the following day.
Days three to ten of this epic desert expedition involve trekking across the Lut. You’ll be dropped off at the trailhead then let loose on the desert. This route encompasses many striking desert features as outlined in the Trip Notes section.
The team’s first obstacles are massive sand dunes rising over 200m high. Progress will be slow as the terrain is arduous, the heat oppressive. Moving east, you’ll pass through the Eye of the Lut evaporated lake and the meteorite valley. Then it’s on to flatter ground, crossing salt plains and encircling star dunes.
This is a wholly trekking traverse. The 4WD vehicles are for support only and will make themselves scarce once they replenish the team’s water supplies in the morning.
Teammates will each carry daysacks with clothing layers, water (at least three litres per person), lunch and personal items and a share of team med kit. Cooking equipment and the tents will travel in the 4WD vehicles, which will rejoin the team every evening. Throughout the trek, the team will camp in tents beneath the vast desert skies. Needless to say, there will be no showers as all water will be needed for cooking and drinking.
Nearing the end of the traverse and west of the main star dunes, you’ll enter into kalut territory. The team will then complete the traverse on foot before (finally!) getting to travel in the vehicles for the journey to Kashit, a small desert village. A sight for dry eyes, Kashit offers a very welcome dose of civilisation at the close of the trekking phase of this the wild and remote expedition.
Lut traversed: excellent effort.
Following a night and the following morning in Kashit, you’ll drive to Kerman for a proper celebratory meal and a shower, stopping off at sites of interest en route, time permitting.
A contingency day is built into the above itinerary to allow for team speeds and the demands of the desert – this really is an exploratory expedition and so teammates should be prepared to flex with the plan as needed. Kerman has a lively bazaar and buildings made of mud bricks, and was a classic stopover for the Silk Route traders.
On the penultimate day in country, you’ll fly back to Tehran for the evening and stay in a hotel. The expedition officially ends after breakfast on the final morning, with teammates free to book return flights at any time on this date including early hours. Teammates are responsible for organising their own transfer back to the airport.
- Professional expedition leader with full communications kit and medical kit.
- In-country support and vehicles.
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary except for airport transfers.
- Hotel, guesthouse or tented accommodation throughout.
- All food (snacks and meals) and soft drinks.
- Visa application assistance.
What's Not included
- International flights/ travel to and from Tehran and airport transfers.
- Travel insurance (obligatory).
- Visas where relevant.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary).
- Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).
- Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
- Any accommodation, travel or tour guide arrangements outside of the itinerary.
Trip Duration14 days
Start LocationTehran, Iran
End LocationTehran, Iran
Average Group Size12
You will stay in mid-range hotels in Tehran and basic guesthouses (or equivalent) in Birjand, Kashit and Kerman. You will be camping while in the desert in tents provided by the expedition team.
The team will be accompanied by a cook while in the desert who will prepare basic but filling local dishes. In towns you will eat in local restaurants and eateries. In urban areas the team will visit local restaurants and cafés. Though sufficient calories will be provided by the organisers you may wish to bring your own snacks to supplement the food provided and to help keep personal morale high.
Transport on this minimalistic expedition involves desert trekking (on foot) as described, plus 4WD journeys to reach the expedition location. The terrain will vary during the expedition from soft sand dunes to rocky desert so you should have comfortable, well-fitting desert boots. The desert trek will be supported by the 4WD vehicles. The expedition team will organise your internal flight.
This Trip is Suitable For
This expedition is achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness.
Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. As a team member, you should have an adventurous and robust spirit. The biggest challenge on this 220km-long desert trekking expedition will be the long trekking days, the heat and the foot care in challenging and often sandy terrain.
Applicants will receive a handbook with further expedition information and fitness guidance and training ideas.
Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go! Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: up to 30km per day across rocky, sandy and sometimes steep terrain. With a slower start, later daily distances will increase by several kilometres per day but a 25km daily distance is a good rule of thumb.
- Daily activity: up to 10hrs per day.
- Carry: up to 10kg in a day sack including water, layers and food.
- Swim: not required!
- Climate: very hot (up to 35C) and dry, potential sandstorms, cooler nights.
- Age: 21+
Please be aware that if you have an Iranian visa in your passport or have travelled to Iran (or a number of other countries), you may not be eligible for the USA ESTA visa waiver service and will be required to apply for an American visa for travel to the USA. In addition British, American and Canadian visitors to Iran must be accompanied at all times by a government approved guide – this is arranged by the expedition organisers for the duration of this expedition, however if you are extending your stay you will be responsible for ensuring you have an appropriate tour guide. These nationalities will also be required to provide a CV and links to social media profiles when applying for their visa.
Kaluts, also known as yardangs, stand like enormous sand castles. They are like broken teeth jutting up from the sand and punctuating the landscape as far as the eye can see. According to UNESCO, the Lut’s widespread Kalut system is the longest in the world at approximately 120km long and 80km wide. Kaluts are formed by wind erosion and can reach heights of 80m, although most are smaller hills and long elongated furrows. Between kaluts there are salty desert lands similar to ploughed lands, with a hard mineral base. Teammate photography from the Lut teaches us more about this incredibly diverse terrain from one year to the next, it is truly a jaw-dropping environment to be able to trek through.
A Nat Geo first
An Award-winning travel writer joined the group’s first ever expedition to cross the Lut in 2015. As a world first endeavor, this Iran expedition earned the attention of National Geographic – make an enquiry about the trip and we’ll send you a link to the article to read. This is great preparatory reading for anyone considering stepping up to this desert challenge in 2018 as it reveals the reality of life on the ground on this physically and mentally arduous and therefore highly rewarding expedition.
Salt plains and meteorites
The Lut Desert has a high potential for finding meteorites due to its persistently dry climate. A small collection that has come to be known as the Valley of Meteorites has been discovered approximately 100km from the village of Deh Salm. In the central Lut, massive flat plains can be found, covered with unusual shapes where saltwater has accumulated and been evaporated by the ferocious sun over the years. The team does not explore this exact region but the route encompasses a smaller example of this phenomena in the form of an evaporated inland lake, whose banks are covered with these salt-encrusted patterns.
Frequently Asked QuestionsCan I arrive a day late?
There is a chain of transport to get teammates out to and back from Tehran and so start and end dates are not flexible.Can I charge my electricals?
This will be very challenging with limited access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.Do I need a visa?
Most nationalities require a visa to visit Iran, this can be a lengthy process. A visa application advice document will be provided to teammates, with visas remaining teammates’ responsibility.Will there be toilets or showers?
There will be no toilets or showers available during the trek. You should be prepared to duck behind the nearest sand dune ‘al-fresco’ and limit yourself to wet-wipe washes. Toilet paper is generally burned. The water for this expedition is being carried by the support vehicles so there will not be enough to provide showers of any nature. Wet wipes are the way forward: you’ll all be in the same position so don’t worry about it.Dietary requirements?
Vegetarians and coeliacs may find they have very limited options in Iran. Feel free to supplement the meals provided with your favourite trail snacks. Give as much details as possible when applying to help us best provision the team.How can I find out more?
Send a booking enquiry and we’ll get in touch with full details for you.
Dates & Availability
- 03 Nov 2019 – 16 Nov 2019
This trip can be tailor made for your perfect travel dates. Please make a booking enquiry for more information.
When it comes to getting off the beaten track these guys can’t be beaten. They lead pioneering expeditions to some of the most remote regions on earth. The organisers are dedicated to creating imaginative experiences for adventurers around the world and their team of expert military guides are some of the most experienced in the industry. Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy. They have achieved ground breaking world firsts such as mountain biking in Afghanistan and mountaineering in Iraq and their first ever expeditions to walk across Madagascar and pioneer white water rafting in South Sudan both made the headlines…. and a bit of history.
Being wild and wacky is one thing but with their background as commanders in the British Army and experienced team of specialists in every kind of terrain and environment means that all of their adventures are thoroughly planned and the safety and security of teams is always their highest priority. Expeditions can be inherently risky, but they do everything possible to minimise potential hazards and for that, and the utterly extraordinary trips they put on, we salute them.
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