Sunrise, sunset: a visit to the Kaluts

A photo essay of our sunset and sunrise visit to the Kaluts in Iran’s Lut desert, one of our favorite sights in Iran. The Kaluts desert is certainly not to be missed by anyone traveling or backpacking in Iran.


Scorching sun, dry, cracked earth, and not a single sign of life in sight. There are no clouds for shade, no trees to cool the air. No water can be found, and there are no animals. There is only us, the sun, the sand… and the Kaluts.


The sun setting over the Kaluts in Iran

Sunset over the Kaluts.

Visiting the Kaluts

The Kaluts are part of the Lut desert, which stretches through the southeast of Iran. It is one of the hottest and driest places on earth, with recorded temperatures of up to 70°C (approximately one billion degrees Fahrenheit). Wise travelers visit the desert in winter, when it is possible to walk barefoot on the sifting sands, and explore the rocky outcrops during any time of day.


Shifting sands of the Kaluts in Iran.


Of course, being the perpetually unwise travelers that we are, we ended up in the Kaluts during the scalding heat of summer.


Kaluts desert Iran

Seemingly contemplative. Actually just melting.


It was indeed swelteringly hot, but what was truly remarkable was how dry it was. Our sweat evaporated instantly, and mouths transformed into parched plains in the span of less than a few seconds. Luckily, we were smart and only brought a half-filled bottle of water for the two of us.


Dehydrating in the Kaluts of Iran

Suffering from the repercussions of our excellent planning skills.


We weren’t the only ones suffering from a lack of water. Much of the Lut desert is barren, too hot and harsh for anything to survive. The only signs of life occur around small oasis towns, visible from afar thanks to the few trees and plants that grow there.


The small desert town of Shahdad, Iran in the heat of summer.

The tiny desert town of Shafi Abad, Iran, the jumping-off point for the area and location of several small guesthouses.


A single road runs through the desert area, carefully monitored by police. Many of the drugs smuggled from Afghanistan travel over the border into this area. Foreigners are required to be accompanied by a guide, to reduce the risk of being kidnapped by smugglers and used as leverage against the police. A charming prospect!


A driver guide during our sunrise visit to the Kaluts in Iran

Our “guide” (driver) to save our clueless foreign souls from all of those pesky smuggler types.

A road running through the Kaluts desert in Iran

But never fear, you’re more likely to be amiably abducted by a friendly Iranian wanting to share a cup of chai than an enterprising smuggler looking for some leverage.


Despite the lack of life in the surrounding areas, the Kaluts are absolutely stunning. Towering sand sculptures rise from the earth, looming and misshapen.


A panoramic view of the Kaluts desert in Iran

Even in the “high season” of summer, there wasn’t a soul in sight.


Some say they are giant sand castles shaped by giants. The more logical (but less fun) explanation is erosion by constant winds over time.


Waves of sand and stone in the Kaluts desert in Iran


A girl looking over the Kaluts desert in Iran

Giiiiiants… giiiiiiiiiiiiiants… come out, come out wherever you are!

A sunset and sunrise visit to the Kaluts in Iran


Walking on the Kaluts

Going for a sunrise stroll atop one of the Kaluts.


In the sweaty summer months, visitors to the Kaluts are allowed to visit only between sunset and sunrise. The heat is too painful at any other time–even the local village people refuse to go outside during the hottest points of the day.

Sunrise in the Kaluts was superb. Groggily falling out of our car at an ungodly 4 in the morning, we quickly perked up in the cool, brisk desert air. There are no paths throughout the Kaluts (that we were aware of, anyway), so at that point, we just walked.


Walking during sunrise in the Kaluts.

So still you could hear a pin drop, and much cooler/more bearable than sunset.


… and walked. And walked. Up and down, over and around, wherever the sand was strong enough to carry our feet, and the earliest rays of light shone to guide our eyes.


Walking around in the vast Kaluts desert in Iran


Sunset, though equally beautiful, was harder on the body–there is not much cool to be found under the burning rays of the sun.



Shade please.


We were truly at Nature’s mercy in the harsh, dry desert climate… but the blazing heat is worth the voyage. Humans like to think that they’re so big, so important–it’s places like these that remind us how infinitesimally small we truly are.


Sebastiaan wandering around in the Kaluts

Can you spot a Sebastiaan wandering around the landscape?


A man wandering around in the Kaluts of Iran

How about here?


A taxi waiting during a sunrise visit to the Kaluts in Iran.

Small indeed.

We organized our tour through Akhavan Hotel. It cost us 3,200,000 rial, which is about $95. This included a driver, accommodation, dinner and breakfast.

The deserts of Iran hold many mysteries and histories, and the Kaluts are one part of them that absolutely cannot be missed! An area filled with towering sand formations easily accessible from Kerman, a city in the south. A sunset OR sunrise visit to the Kaluts of Iran will prove spectacular, and a tour of both is affordable even for those backpacking in Iran.

The Kaluts was one of our favorite stops in Iran. Don’t miss our photo essay about another favorite of mine: our day at the horse races in Gonbad-e Kavus!


Quick camera tip: Want to start taking photos like this yourself? Don’t know where to start? People always ask me what camera I use, so I’ll answer here. I always carry a Nikon D7100 camera, and I absolutely swear by my Nikon 18-200mm lens. There’s also a Canon version, of course. A tip for aspiring photographers: when buying a camera, the body is not so important–it’s the lens quality that matters most! The 18-200mm is a quality lens, and allows for wide-angle shots and telephoto zoom. Say goodbye to dust in your camera–you’ll never have to switch your lens on the road ever again!

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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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9 thoughts on “Sunrise, sunset: a visit to the Kaluts

    Saleha Tariq says:

    Its so beautiful and serene ?? so glad to know u enjoyed nature and most importantly the exquisite sunrise and sunset…they are amazingly beautiful ❤❤ ur post raised an urge in me to go to this place !!!

    True that! Sunrises are always so incredible, but it’s so rare for us to bother getting up early enough to see them… the Kaluts are a beautiful place, and we truly hope you’ll be able to witness the beauty for yourself one day 🙂

    Anna says:

    Hi guys! How did you guys get there? I see you had a car – did you rent it or ordered a ride? Thanks!

    How careless of us. We meant to add this to the post, but it seems for totally forgot. We arranged it through Akhavan Hotel, which is located on the Ayatollah Saduqi St. The place should be mentioned in the LP as well, in case you can’t find it. CHeers

    Juliette says:

    That look just fantastic.
    I have few questions:
    Is the road nice between Yadz and Kerman?
    I understand you got a tour from Akhavan Hotel, so is this just for the day or do you actually sleep in the Kaluts desert? Or do you just go there for the full day and drive back to the hotel @ night for sleep?
    As it it located quite far from Yadz, how many days do you recommend to spend there?
    Thanks a lot in advance

    Sebastiaan says:

    It’s definitely beautiful. He main roads in Iran are generally good. And yeah, we stayed in a homestay near the desert for the day. It is possible as a day trip, but it’s better to sleep there overnight so you can see sunset and sunrise. Kerman is a few hours from Yazd.

    Ivaylo Tonev says:

    Hi guys, what is the name of the village where you spent the night? Is it Shafi abad from the photo?

    Alex says:

    Yep, that’s the one!

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