The largest island in the Persian Gulf, Qeshm is fringed with biologically diverse mangrove forests, attractive beaches and 60 Bandari villages. Its sun-scorched interior features geologically significant canyons, hills, caves and valleys, most of which are protected as part of the Unesco-recognised Qeshm Island Geopark – bliss for nature-lovers.
Qeshm is a duty-free zone, but in a gulf increasingly full of gleaming skyscrapers it remains refreshingly attached to the age-old Bandari way of life. If you’re after an authentic island experience, Qeshm won’t disappoint. Here, locals wear traditional dress, live in houses cooled by badgirs (wind towers) and work in boat-building yards turning out lenges, the large wooden cargo boats that have criss-crossed the gulf for centuries.
The island has an abundance of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, dolphins and turtles.
This fishing village on the northern coast of Qeshm Island is the best place in Iran to encounter the fast-disappearing traditional culture of the Persian Gulf. Perched on a rocky slope overlooking the Khoran Strait, Laft has a wonderfully photogenic roofscape of badgirs (wind towers) and minarets. Views are best from the hill near the ruins of the Portuguese-built Naderi Fort. From this vantage point you’ll also see dozens of ancient wells and a white-domed ab anbar (water cistern).
In the island's northwest lies this sinuous canyon seemingly carved into the earth by a master builder. The exposed rock and lack of plant life are quite startling and invoke a quiet sense of awe. The canyon's rounded edges and sharp corners create a symphony in stone of imposing proportions. You can climb up to the intersection of two narrow vertical canyons and drink from a chah (well) that has been used by shepherds for centuries.
This lovely island off the southern coast of Qeshm is surrounded by impressive soft-coral reefs that offer great diving. Hengam is also known for its wildlife, including birds, gazelles and dolphins. The beaches are pristine, but only men are allowed to swim. The small fishing village overlooking the main beach features a row of simple eateries selling seafood. Get there by boat from the village of Shibderaz.
One of the most spectacular natural sites on Qeshm Island, the Valley of Stars features a series of majestic gorges and canyons that were formed over centuries by erosion. Wandering amid the valley is a magical experience – it's like stepping into a Dalí painting.
Qeshm’s main settlement, Qeshm Town lies on the far-eastern tip of the island. Many Iranians come here to shop in one of the numerous duty-free malls dotted around the centre. The main attractions include the crumbling Ghal’e-ye Portoghaliha (Portuguese castle), the extensive Bazar-e Bozorg, which extends along the main drag, and the family-friendly Zeytoun Park, a patch of greenery that overlooks a large beach.
In the local dialect, harra is the word for grey mangrove, and this protected area is the Persian Gulf’s largest mangrove forest – a definite must-see for nature-lovers. During spring, more than 150 species of migrating bird can be found here, including the great egret and the western reef heron. The finless porpoise, humpback dolphin, common dolphin and endangered green turtle are also regularly spotted. Boat tours are easily organised from Tabl or Laft.
This picturesque village enjoys a long beach where hawksbill and green turtles lay their eggs between April and July. Residents of Shibderaz work in shifts to protect the eggs from predators, and you’ll be able to watch the action at night (from a distance, of course). The village is also the obvious base for those who want to visit nearby Hengam Island or take a dolphin-watching excursion.
This 3km-long golden strand caressed by clear, shallow and mostly calm waters is easily the most popular beach on Qeshm Island. In high season it's full of holidaying Iranian families. There are no amenities, but you can enjoy paramotoring and camel riding along the beach. At low tide, it's possible to walk to the three tiny Naz Islands, which lie just offshore Qeshm Island Geopark Headquarters Head here if you're after information about the island's Unesco-listed