Outdoor Adventure Agencies

Some of the travel agencies listed under Tours (p415) can arrange walking and climbing trips. We've had positive feedback about the following companies, which specialise in trekking, mountaineering and eco-tourism in Iran. If you have good (or bad) experiences with these or other agencies, please let us know at www.lonelyplanet.com/contact.

Aftab Kalout (§ 021-6648 8374; www.kalout.com) Professional Tehran-based outfit specialising in eco-tourism, desert trips, trekking and eco-cum-sociological tours.

Araz Adventure Tours (Map pi 10; §021-7760 9292; www.araz.org; 1st fl, 1 Chahar Baradran Alley, North Bahar St, Tehran; S 8am-4pmSat-Wed, 8am-12.30pmThu)This helpful outdoortourism agency has been recommended by readers. It offers a wide range of mountaineering, climbing, horse-and camel-trekking, plus cultural tours. Director and experienced climber Mohsen Aghajani speaks English. One reader who climbed Mt Damavand with Araz wrote that 'even the cook had made it with in 45 minutes of the Mt Everest summit'. Most equipment is provided. Kassa Mountaineering & Tourism (Map pp102-3; § 021-7751 0463; www.kassa.ir/tourism; 9 Naghdi Alley, off Shariati St, Tehran) This private trekking agency offers a full range of trekking and climbing tours, desert expeditions and more. Mountains include Damavand, Sabalan, Zardkouh and 'any mountain you want to climb'. It is run by Ahmad Shirmohammad, an experienced climber who speaks English.

Mountaineering Federation of Iran (Map p94; § 021-2256 9995-96; www.iranmountfed.com in Farsi; 15 No 17,8th Baharestan Ave, off Pasdaran St, Tehran; S 8.30am-6.30pm Sat-Wed) Experts in anything relating to mountain climbing and trekking, the Mountaineering Federation people are a mine of information and advice. Staff speak English, or can find someone who does.

Sepid Mountaineering Company (§ 0711-235 5939; 0917-313 2926; www.sepidtour.com orwww.iran sightseeing.com) Based in Shiraz, Abdollah Raeesiand crew organise mountaineering, cross-country skiing, nomad and tours by horse back.

also good downhill skiing available near Tabriz (pl52) and Ganjnameh (p205), and smaller fields in the Zagros Mountains near Sepidan (p253) north of Shiraz, and Chelgerd (p252), west of Esfahan.

The ski slopes are also some of the most sexually equal areas of Iran outside of the family home; skiing was banned after the revolution, and after the ban was lifted in 1988 the images were of women skiing in manteaus. But with Khatami's rise to the presidency in 1997 came a considerable easing of restrictions on the slopes. Women must still keep their heads covered, but on higher slopes there is usually plenty of hair to be seen. Needless to say, skiing is very popular among the affluent young.

The season in the Alborz Mountains (where most slopes are located) starts as early as November and lasts until just after No Ruz (ie late March); around Tabriz and at Dizin it can last until mid-May. The slopes are busy with Iranians on Thursdays and Fridays, and with diplomats and expats on Saturdays; other days it should be pretty quiet.

All the resorts have lodges and hotels, which charge from about US$30 to US$100 for a room. Ski lifts cost as little as IR40,000 a day. You can hire skis, poles and boots, but not clothes, at the resorts.

For more information, contact the Skiing Federation (Map p94; §021-2256 9595; www.skifed ,ir; Shahid Iran Ski Federation, 17 Baharetan 8 Alley, off Pasdaran Ave, Tehran). For reviews and comments about some slopes, see www.goski.com; and for a history of skiing in Iran see www.iran mania.com/trave 1/tours/ski/history.asp.

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