Stories in this Iran Travel Series:
Iran Road Tour: Tehran to Mashhad via the Caspian Coast
- Our Iran road trip is really an Escape
- How to plan a road tour of Iran
- Touring Iran’s countryside: Our first night
- Iran Road Tour: Mt. Damāvand’s first sighting
- Iran road travel: Tehran to Caspian Sea trip
- Iran Caspian Trip: Journey into the clouds
- Touring Iran’s Caspian Region: Filband Day 3 of our aimless escape to the highest point in Iran's Mazandaran
- North Iran Tour: Fantastic local food
- Waking in a traditional Iranian village home
- Tour of Caspian Coast: City of Sari
- Mobster turned Moslem servant
- Camping in Iran: Alendan of Mazandaran
- Badab Soort hot springs of north Iran
- Our Iran Road Trip > Meeting a shepherd
The tiny village of Filband is like a sci-fi sky port for clouds, an island in the middle of sea of white dreamy fluff, we are finding out touring Iran’s Caspian region. From up here the clouds look like the ocean surrounding us in every direction.
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We are on the third day of our escape from Tehran to Mashhad.
In the morning, you see the clouds approach from the direction of the Caspian Sea in the north, slowly obscuring the view of the wooded landscape below.
By the midday, the clouds completely surround the 3260 MT peak on which this little village was built – and remained unknown to tourists until a few years ago.
“You just want to dive into the clouds because it looks like an ocean. You forget they are clouds,” Saeideh giggled.
All the while, the sun shines most of the day. The Persian rug spread on our porch had warmed up by 9 am under the warm sun, drawing us outside. The air was cold but the sun’s rays so warm – felt like Arizona’s bright sun! – as if being closer to the sun by 3,000 meters makes the sun warmer.
We felt privileged to be here touring Iran’s Caspian region on this early November day. Perfect timing. The locals keep reminding us that in about 20 days the place becomes inhabitable because of the impassable snow.
Strangely, the fall colors are not yet in full swing. Up here, we’re told, winter skips over fall.
“Look, the snow is already on that peak,” said our host Ali Babaii pointing. “Everyone in this town must be gone by the time it gets here.”
Things to see in Filband, rural coastal Iran
There is a lot of climbing to do here for those who are into it. For history buffs, there’s an ancient stone fort still standing on a nearby peak. There is a glacier on the same peak, Babaii said.
But the most popular activity seems to be bundling up in warm clothing – especially for protection from the constant afternoon winds – and walk the green hills on the southern side of the village to watch the ocean of clouds.
For me, it’s hard to stop taking pictures. It’s one of those sights that just grabs you by the throat. You keep staring and wish you could take it home It’s like I’m trying to stop time with the camera, preserve the moment, but it can’t be captured by pixels.
I don’t think any of my pics do it justice.
You have to visit to know what I mean.
The ever-changing weather this high up touring Iran’s Caspian region
By late afternoon, the weather turned much colder and windier. “Weather acts really fast here. The rain and snow come before you can blink,” Babaii said.
A young man warming up over a wood fire said he drove from Tehran in just 2.5 hours. “We just came up to see the clouds and we’ll head back soon,” he said.
It took Saeideh and I three days to get up here, but it is really a day trip from Tehran, I suddenly realized.
Escape from Tehran is not that hard if you just will it.
Warm Persian hospitality in Filband, Mazandran
At night, our host Babaii joined us for conversation. He is full of energy, the classic fast-thinking Iranian go-getter, fearless of barriers – a creature shaped by Iran’s recent difficult decades.
He constantly asked us if we needed anything. Brought us tea and eggs from the market. Showered us with questions about our lives abroad.
This is part of the privilege of traveling in Iran. You are never alone. People want and need to interact with you. Persian hospitality is a huge part of travel in Iran.
When to visit Filband, Mazandaran
The season in Filband – or pretty much any high-altitude destination touring Iran’s Caspian region – starts in mid-spring when all the snow has melted away and ends by late October.
The entire town is abandoned in the winter, save for a lone man who patrols the area. “It’s like the movie The Shinning (1980). You know, the crazy man with an ax,” I quipped.
Babaii didn’t miss a beat.
“He is really crazy. He wants to be alone. Has wife and kids in Babol, but prefers to be alone up here all winter.”
Where to stay in Filband, Iran, on a tour north Iran
There are probably more “suite for rent” signs and phone numbers scribbled on the walls in this town than there are people. Roadside hawkers urgently pitch villas for rent as you arrive.
Homes for rent in the Caspian Sea region
The people of Mazandaran and Gilan provinces know that visiting fellow Iranians are willing to pay a premium to stay in their beautiful region.
So practically everything is for sale here, including stays in private homes. Shomali people figured out Airbnb long before Airbnb. They just do it without the Internet. Wherever you go in the Caspain Sea region, there are signs advertising “suites for rent” and young people yelling offers at passing cars. Prices are negotiable, of course. Afterall, how can you make a deal with an Iranian without haggling?
End of the season is approaching, and sellers are urgently trying to make the most of it. But the prices are surprisingly high even now at the very end of the season – because just like in Hawaii, everything has to be shipped here.
We could haggle our apartment down to 400,000 tomans from the 600,000 Babaii first offered. But that was on our first night, a week a night. Last night, a weekend night, we paid 1 million tomans (about 33 USD). He said he regularly gets 2.5 million each weekend night during the summer.
How to travel to Filiband
The road to Filiband from Haraz Road sits about 30 km south of Amol. It is difficult to miss. We were charged 15,000 tomans at that beginning of the road and another 10,000 up arrival in Filband, for “road maintenance”.
Neshan, an Iranian map app, provided perfect step-by-step directions up the steep mountain through the fog.
There is no bus service. And no, this is not Switzerland. Definitely no trains or cable cars. For that, you need to visit in another century or two.
Where to go after Filband
The road from Haraz Road is the only road to Filband so not possible to continue to journey deeper into the wooded landscape. You have to take the same road back to Haraz Road.