While central Iran's gem cities are deservedly a far bigger draw, the southeast offers cave-houses, classic gardens, fortresses, deserted villages, oases and fabulous erosion patterns all set in scenery that intersperses great expanses of desert with chains of high mountains. Especially if you're mobile, this is a thrilling region in which to feel like a real-life explorer discovering timeless ancient sites...and enjoying them all on your own.
If planning a multiday loop, do it clockwise: Birjand and Kerman seem far more delightful if you've yet to see Yazd and Esfahan. And crossing the Dasht-e Lut westbound provides a scenic crescendo that reaches a glorious climax at the Kaluts.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Southeastern Iran.