Karaj (Persian: كرج pronounced [kæˈɾædʒ]) is a city in and the capital of Karaj County, Alborz Province, Iran. In 2011, its population was estimated to be about 1.6 million, making it the fifth-largest city in Iran. It is 20 km (12 mi) west of Tehran, in the foothills of the Alborz mountains. The city is surrounded by mountains which give it great landscapes.
The history of Karaj dates back many centuries. The stone built Zoroastrian fire temple of Takht-e-Rostam from the Parthian era is a testament to this.
The Soleimanieh palace (which houses a college of Agriculture), the mausoleum of Shahzadeh Soleiman, Imamzadeh Rahman and Zeid Palang Abad-e-Eshtehard are other historical relics of the Karaj area.
During the Pahlavi dynasty era, the Morvarid Palace was constructed in nearby Mehrshahr district, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Especially after the Islamic Revolution thousands of people started to migrate to this pleasant small town making it one of the biggest cities of Iran in less than 3 decades. Karaj is the center of Alborz province west of Tehran. Alborz province is the youngest and smallest province of Iran. It is named after Alborz mountain range, in the north of Iran. It also provides a great share of water supply of Tehran because of its rich resources such as rivers and springs.
It is connected by freeway, railway to Tehran 40 km east and Qazvin 100 km northwest, and by commuter rail to Tehran subway system (Metro).
Karaj's climate is a bit cooler than Tehran and it receives 260 mm of rain annually. The economical base for Karaj is its proximity to Tehran, where transportation of products between the capital and the Caspian Sea is central. Chemicals, fertilizers and processed agricultural goods are also produced here. It possess importance in agriculture and industry. Many of the most important factories of Iran are located near it.
Karaj is a multicultural city, due to migrants from all around Iran, that is why Karaj is known as Little Iran.
By train: Karaj is easily accessible using Metro system of Tehran. Line 5 takes passenger in less than an hour to city. There are 3 metro stations in Karaj at east, center and west. The trains are very comfortable.
By car: Karaj is connected by to Qazvin (80 km) in the west and Tehran (35 km) in the east. It takes less than an hour to drive from Tehran to Karaj. Since there are a lot of people who drive between these two cities every hour, there is a very high chance to do hitch-hiking as well. People are very nice to foreigners and most of them get very happy to drive you between the two cities. From Mazandaran province Karaj is connected to Chalous city, by the famous Chalous road. It is one of the most beautiful roads of Iran which runs between mountains. However it is not recommended in winter season because the road may become a little slippery because of possible snow.
By taxi: There are many taxi routes between Tehran and Karaj most of which pass through Tehran-Karaj Highway. The most famous places where you can get Taxi to Karaj in Tehran are: Azadi Square, Vanak Square, Tajrish Square etc.
By metro: Karaj Metro is an efficient way to travel inside the city. One line connects west and east of the city (from Karaj Station to Golshahr Station). It continues eastward until Tehran. On its way to Tehran, it stops at Chitgar park and Azadi stadium. The second line of Karaj metro (north to south) is under construction.
Karaj has a very pleasant climate in all four seasons. It is very famous for the natural attractions. The stunning Alborz Mountain Range provide a natural beauty to the landscape of Karaj. Karaj is also the starting point for a pleasant drive along spectacular Chalous Road forced north through the Alborz Mountain to the Caspian Sea.
- The stony fire-temple of Takht-e-Rostam belong to Parthian and Sassanian eras,
- Shams Palace also known as Pearl palace remained from Pahlavi dynasty. It is located in Mehrshahr district. It was built on 1966 for Shams, the twin sister of Mohammad Reza Shah. The whole complex is around 50,000 square ft. There is an artificial lake surrounding the main building.
- Soleimanieh Palace (which is part of the Agriculture Faculty of University of Tehran),
- Shah Abbasi Caravanserai (from Safavid Era),
- Pre-Islamic bridge
- Mausoleum of Shahzadeh Soleiman are among Karaj's cultural heritage.
- Imamzadeh Hasan a mosque and tomb to one of Shiaa Imamzadehs (Saints).
- Taleghan town an amazing old town beside Karaj with stunning landscapes of lakes and mountains. Beside that, Taleqan is quite rich in culture and history. There are numerous pre Islamic and medieval fortresses. The most famous are Arjang qale, Qale Keiqobad, Qale Mansoor, Qale Dokhtar and so on. There is a graveyard which dates back to the Iron Age and several tombs around the town. A glacier is located near Khodkavand Village beside Taleqan. The town itself has a very old structure, in which most of buildings are from several centuries ago.
- Gachsar on Chalus road. It is very famous for its Annual Tulip Festival. The mountains and the road which runs through the forests makes it one of the most beautiful roads of Iran. There are a lot of different types of traditional restaurants (Sofre khane, Kababi, and so on) on its way which let you enjoy various types of Iranian foods or Smoking Qalian (Hubble bubble) beside Cahlous river in the forest.
- Urs Tree a 2500-year-old tree located at Shahrestunak, a beautiful village near Karaj. It is 17 meters high.
- Baraghan is a small village near Karaj with a fascinating nature. It is surrounded by a forest with a lot trees which possess different colors from green, yellow, orange and red. The village which has a very long history, is preserved well. The people are extremely warm and welcoming.
- Apple Garden a huge garden located at Mehrshahr. It makes stunning landscapes in spring and summer. It is 400 hectares near Shams Palace.
- Yakhmorad cave a very interesting cave in Gachsar area. It is located 2640 m above the sea level. The best time of the year to visit it is February–April and it is characterized by amazing icicles. The other unique feature of this cave is that it is consists of different floors. The fossils of molluscs at its entrance suggest that the cave used to be beneath the seas 50 million years ago.
- Hiking Azimie Mountain is very fun activity. On Fridays a lot of people come there for picnic and spending the weekend from the early morning. The mountain is easy to climb but gives opportunity to meet a lot of people. Climbing takes 2 to 3 hours to first peak. There are different routes for coming back. The nearest one ends in a spring with a pleasant water drink which is in a small park with some of facilities for exercise, relaxing as well as tea houses. The other route continues to Chalous Road which has stunning nature during spring and fall but it needs probably half a day to come back to city.
- Amir Kabir Dam Lake in the road of Chalus. This area is used for sports such as canoeing, fishing, water skiing, swimming and gliding. The lake behind the dam makes a stunning view to enjoy your time.
- Skiing Karaj surrounded by mountains provides an amazing spot for skiing. There are a lot of resorts around it. Dizin Ski Resort is one of the oldest and the longest route in whole middle east and one of the longest in the world. The other resorts are Khur Ski Resort and so on. All of them provide all services including cable cars, equipment rental, etc. The extremely cheap price beside its great quality makes skiing one of the best attractions of Karaj for Iranian and foreign tourists.
- Khanevadeh Park - biking roads.
- Road to Chaloos which is the most beautiful road in Iran.
- Varian Village; the only means of accessibility to the village of Varian is by canoe from the lake of the dam.
- Yakh Morad Cave, the cave is in the district of Gachsar. Low temperature within the cave is as such that even till the months of May/June icicles can be still observed here.
- There are several shopping centers in Azadegan Sq.
- Gohardasht Main Street.
- Qazvin Street
- Derakhti Street - Forty-five (45) meters Street
- Mahestan Shopping Center (Nabovat Square)
- Parsian Shopping Center (Mulla Sadra Boulevard - east side of the Nabovat Parks)
- Amut Tower (Taleghani)
- Mulla Sadra Shopping Center (Rajai Shahr, Motahari Ave, Maleshahr Crossroads)
- From Taleghani to Shahada Square
- Kare Fast Food (Karaj, Derakhti Street). Some various tasty sandwich and pizza type options here.
- International Restaurant (Azadegan Square, Roof Tower of Milad Tower)
- Traditional and international restaurant Safahan (Mulla Sadra Boulevard, Mullah Sadra and Jomhoori intersection)
- Orkideh Restaurant (Nabovat Square)
- Arya Restaurant (Jahanshahr, Sepah Square)
- Fish and Chips Restaurant
- 1 Hotel Amir Kabir, Beheshti Ave, Foroughi St., ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 14:00. US$25-30.
- 2 Hotel Saman, Karaj Square, Dr Humayun St., ☏ (in Iran 02632227115). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 2-star hotel that was established in 1977 and reconstructed in 2008. US$30 about.
- 3 Mar Mar Hotel, Doctor Shariati St. Foroughi St.. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 14:00. US$25-30.
- 4 Pardis Hotel, Esfahaniha (off Zakariya Razi Street), ☏ . Nice grounds and breakfast.
Karaj Area Code is 026
At late nights and when the streets are not crowded and full of people, it's better to avoid going out or to go out with a native partner.
- Police: 110
- Fire department: 125
- EMS: 115
- Road EMS: 115 or 112