When Marco Polo visited in 1271, Kerman was already a major trade emporium linking the Persian Gulf with Central Asia. A crumbling section of the city's bazaar is still today referred to as the Hindu caravanserai, hinting at the city's importance in the trade of goods also from India.
While Kerman remains a bustling entrepot, very few foreign tourists make it this far from Iran's more famous sites so you may find yourself feeling like a modern-day Marco Polo when exploring all this region has to offer.
What to see
Just 30 minutes from Kerman city, Shazdeh Garden, also known as Prince's Garden, was built in during the Qajar Era, in 1850. It's an excellent example of a traditional Persian garden with its giant trees, bright flowerbeds, and long central waterway of gravity-powered fountains. This Unesco World Heritage Site is a serene spot to relax for an hour in the shade on a hot day.
SHRINE OF SHAH NEMATOLLAH VALI
The village next door is home to another must-see, the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Nematollah Vali. Tranquil and beautiful, its red brick exterior is topped by a turquoise blue dome, while its central courtyard is leafy and cool. Inside the shrine, white walls sweep up to wedding-cake domes of concentric circles, octagons and triangles. Royal blue glass chandeliers, and turquoise tiles on the lower walls, add a burst of colour to the serene elegance.
Two hours from Kerman, Bam Citadel is the biggest adobe structure in the world and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Occupied at least from the Achaeminid Era (6th to 4th centuries BC), but probably long before this, the citadel was badly damaged in an earthquake in 2003. It is now being carefully rebuilt and is still worth a visit.
The closer Rayen Citadel is equally impressive, with its imposing walls, well-restored interior and stunning surrounding scenery. Don't miss climbing up onto the ramparts to get a better look at the structure from above and take in the magnificent surroundings. Both citadels are barely visited so you can explore these storybook castles in the quiet of your own imaginings.