A voyage to the Castles of the Assassins

A visit to the Alamut Castle in the Alamut Valley in photos, and some information on how to get to the Alamut Castle from Qazvin, Iran.

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A long, long time ago, in a valley far, far away, there lived a mysterious band of mercenaries atop a mountain.

The mercenaries would occasionally descend into the towns below, kidnapping and/or murdering important people of their day and age. Their leader, Hassan-e Sabah, motivated his merry band of mercenaries with promises of future paradise.

To trick even the most suspicious of minds into believing his claims of paradise, Sabbah would bring his followers to lush gardens filled with dazzling young virgin girls… while they were high as balls on hashish.

Thus, his followers became known as the hashish-iyun, assassins.

The Castles of the Assassins

So the story goes, anyway. Though it’s likely just a myth, these days the Alamut Castle (also called Castles of the Assassins) are mostly dilapidated ruins scattered throughout the Alamut Valley in northern Iran.

Don’t let the lack of remaining splendor deter you, though—the Castles’ architects had a serious eye for real estate, and the ruins are located among some of the most epic landscapes in northern Iran. If you’re staying in the city of Qazvin or Rasht, the Alamut Valley is well worth a day (or three) of hiking.

A view of Evan Lake in the Alamut Valley in Iran

Evan Lake, one of the first scenic stops on the way west towards Alamut Castle from Qazvin.

The road from Qazvin to and through the Avalley and towards to Alamut Castle twists and turns, traversing mountains blanketed with cherry trees and winding through stark gorges of red rocks.


Girl looking at pudding rock formations

Due to their rounded shapes, these kinds of rock formations are known as “pudding rocks”. But obviously, they are more cake-like in form.


Small, sleepy towns make periodic appearances along the road, and the occasional farmer could be seen picking at the ground, preparing for the planting season.


A panoramic view of the Alamut Valley in northern Iran.

Welcome to the Alamut Valley.


Otherwise, there were not many people in sight as we wove our way through shrubbery and sparse trees to explore the gorges lining the road.


Two men crossing a stream to enter a gorge

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A man walking through red rock gorges

Exploring one of several gorges branching off from the road.


After a longer and snowier winter than usual, it was refreshing to see signs of spring blossoming from the tree branches.

Spring colors on trees in the valley


Eventually, the road led out of the canyon of gorges up to the base of a mountain–the foundation for the ruins of Alamut Castle.  The steep pathway to the top zigzags up a side of the mountain invisible to the road. It’s quite fitting for an Assassins’ haven.


Zig-zagging stairway up to Alamut Castle

Who needs gates and walls when you have multiple flights of steep stairs to keep intruders out?


Though the remnants of the Alamut Castle are covered in scaffolding for restoration (estimated completion date: who knows when?)…


Two men standing in front of scaffolding for renovation at Alamut Castle


… the views from the top of the Alamut Castle assuredly make up for it.


A view slanting of rock formations from the Alamut Castle

Made by giants? Gods?


We can’t say that we endorse killing and kidnapping for money, but we’ve got to hand it to the assassins–they have excellent taste in real estate. The location of the Alamut Castle is absolutely out of this world.


A man climbing the rock formations near the castle

Just… wow.

If you’re ever in Iran, don’t miss the Alamut Valley and the Castle of the Assasins. It’s 4-5 hours of driving from Tehran, and it’s so, so worth it.

How to get to Alamut Castle?

Public transportation and shared taxis

It’s possible to visit the Alamut Valley from Qazvin using a mixture of public transportation and taxis, but if you want to visit multiple sites in the valley in one day, it’ll take a lot of luck with timing and/or a lot of money for shared taxis. NomadExpress has a good post on exploring the Alamut Valley using a combination of shared taxis and hitchhiking.

Hiring a taxi and local guide

If you’re with a group of people, it’s better to pool resources and hire a taxi for the day. We went with a group of 4, and it cost $70 in total, or about $18 a person–not bad for a day that involved several hundred kilometers of driving and lasts nearly 12 hours!

Our guide, Yousef, was incredibly friendly, an excellent conversationalist and his English was superb. We enjoyed the conversation too much to notice how much time we had to spend in the car. Needless to say, we can’t recommend him enough. If you’re interested in getting a ride out to the Alamut Valley, you can:

  • Call Yousef at +989191807076
  • Email Yousef at yousef.sh.khoo@gmail.com
  • Check out the website of his new tour company, Alamutism

Let him know we recommended him, so he understands why he’s being emailed by random foreigners.

Where to sleep?

Qazvin is the main base from where to explore the Alamut area. There are several budget hotels in Qazvin, such as the Telighani Inn and the Alborz Hotel, but it’s also possible to stay in a converted traditional Iranian house. If you plan to hike in the valley it’s possible to camp. There are also a handful of guesthouses in the valley.

You can book hotels in Qazvin and the Alamut Valley online using 1StQuest (use the code LWP-QST to get a 5% discount).

And there it is, a complete guide on visiting the Alamut Valley and Alamut Castle. Let us know in the comments if you had any additions.

Disclaimer: This post and recommendation is based on personal experience, and every traveler’s experience is different.  Always use caution and discretion when organizing travels and interacting with locals.

The Castles of the Assassins in the Alamut Valley of Iran are truly spectacular. If you're traveling to Iran, make sure not to miss this off the beaten track destination! Click through for more photos of the Alamut Valley and information on how you can visit the Alamut Valley while in Iran.

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Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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25 thoughts on “A voyage to the Castles of the Assassins

    armin Gharib says:

    Allow me to mention some historical points about “hashashin”

    They where a religious cult with some ties to an ancient persian religion . at front they where a branch of shiat Muslims called “Ismhaelieh” and believed in 8 imams . their 8th Imam was Ishmael descendent of Mohammad (Muslims prophet). but historians say that behind the curtains they weren’t Muslim . this is the reason their other nickname was “Bateni” .means someone who has a inner & concealed

    Their main goal was fighting Suni regime that was loyal to khalifa .they were nationalist terrorists !

    About the name :

    The word “hashash” means “drug maker” in arabic .people called them Hashashin because their main occupation and source income was making and selling medicinal drug. and one of these drugs was hashish (back then considers medicinal)

    you probably saw a lot of herbs around alamut .locals harvest and sell them at the gate .these are remaining of their operation

    they were a cult and was willing to put their lives on the line for what they believes. as strange as it sounds middle east people did not need drugs to sacrificing themselves

    marco polo probably misunderstood or maybe it was lost intranslation

    Tim says:

    Do you have enough advertising in this blog?

    Alex says:

    Probably not enough to justify all of the time I invest in providing free information for the internet.

    Anita Yousef Shariatkhoo says:

    IRAN Qazvin ALAMUT Local guide Yousef Shariat / Shariatkhoo.
    Hi, I am a Victim of Love Swindler Yousef Shariat / Shariatkhoo.
    Yousef Shariat told me : I Love you very much, 3 days after our first Email, he asked me to advertise him on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor.
    Yousef Shariat grabbed me 3 times from the car and pushed me to the ground, he hit me on my head, he threatened me with a knife. The Hotel manager in Shiraz IRAN witnessed all.
    The last time I saw Yousef Shariat, he took US$2100. from me.
    I swear to God what I am telling you are facts.
    Please feel free to contact me anytime.
    Anita September 3, 2019

    Laleh says:

    never seen such a bad explanation & story for Assassins!!!
    please read more or ask someone who knows Iran’s history!

    Hassan-i Sabbah says:

    Agreed with Laleh this is a terrible and inaccurate historical depiction, you should be ashamed for such pointless xenophobia.

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