If there's one symbol of Kashan, it would have to be the exquisite pink rose. The flower is grown in profusion around Kashan and is distilled into heavenly perfumes and libations within the city.
Persian roses are not the only source of romance in Kashan: the charming old city has a fairy-tale quality to it, perfect for wandering through, no particular destination in mind.
There's a sense of nostalgia, too, in the stunningly beautiful mansions here. Dating to the Qajar Era, some 200 years ago, they are opulent but also elegant, with cool, vaulted chambers daintily decorated with glittering mirrors and colourful stained glass. Here at Burrows&Bird, we advise everyone to stop at least one night in this magical city.
What to see
While there are beautiful 19th-century mansions in most Iranian cities, there's something special about Tabatabaei House. Its cool white interiors are lit by windows of azure blue and cherry red, while in the open courtyards gold fish flit about in pools of the softest aquamarine. It's a delightful place to while away an hour or two admiring the ornate plasterwork. A favourite feature is the balcony with small silver stars made of mirrors decorating the ceiling.
Sultan Mir Ahmad Bathhouse
This 500-year-old hammam is one of Iran's most superb bathhouses. A recent restoration removed 17 layers of plaster to reveal the sarough, a type of plaster made of egg white, milk, soy flour and lime that is believed to rival cement in strength. Climb up to the roof of the bathhouse for wonderful views of the bulbous skylights and of the surrounding city.
This shady garden has been rebuilt at various stages in its history but retains much of its Safavid-era layout. Its central water channel is tiled in turquoise while the central pavilion has a strikingly decorated dome with concentric, spiky stars in blue, bronze, gold and green. The garden was a popular resting place for 19th-century foreign dignitaries en route from Boushehr to the Tehran court. It remains a lovely place to relax with a bowl of iced faloodeh (noodles in rose water).
This village of winding lanes and red brick homes huddling below Mount Karkas (3,899m) is at least 1,500 years old. Amazingly, the population here – mainly elderly women – speak Middle Persian, an early version of Farsi that all but disappeared some centuries ago. About 2 hours from Kashan, Abyaneh is a ideal place to wander freely, stopping to haggle gently for dried quinces.