Qal'eh Rudkhan

Top choice in Iran

The incredible Seljuk-era walled fortress of Qal'eh Rudkhan defends a steep, wooded spur of the Alborz mountains some 50km south of Rasht and makes a lovely day trip, especially when coupled with a visit to nearby Masuleh. From spring to autumn, the winding, vertiginous ascent through lush forests, moss-clad streams and evenly spaced teahouses should take about an hour. Start early in peak season, as the fortress is popular with locals and foreigners alike.

In winter the views of the snow-capped towers and intact ramparts are even more stunning, but be aware that the steep, icy steps can turn quite treacherous, so take your time. When passing through Fuman on the way, look out for its signature cookie, klucheh fuman, filled with walnut paste, available hot from bakeries all over town.

Expect to pay from $US50 for a private taxi return from Rasht (including waiting time). By savari, head first to Fuman (IR60,000), cross town to where the Masuleh and Qal'eh Rudkhan roads fork, then grab another savari (IR60,000, 20 minutes) to Qal'eh Rudhkan village; the final 7km to the Qal'eh Daneh trailhead will cost another IR60,000. Don't leave your return too late as you may get stuck in Fuman.