The Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world. A number of towns with adequate hotels and good beaches and shops are found along what was once marketed as the Persian Riviera, an area that still functions as a popular getaway for many Iranians. Some of the towns that were developed for tourism include Naushahr, Rasht (inland, known for wood carvings), Ramsar (scenic greenery), Babulsar (caviar factory, museum) and Bandar-e Anzali (the main Caspian port). Travelers should be aware, however, that beaches are not exempt from the strict Islamic rules that still govern much of Iranian life. Men and women must swim at different beaches, and women must dress modestly, even while swimming. This rules out customary Western swimwear, unless suits are supplemented by coverings for arms and legs.
The Caspian resorts are also good bases for snow skiing and trekking in the Elburz Mountains, which parallel the south shore. The largest ski resort is Dizin, where men and women are required to use separate slopes. Although Shemshak has only one slope, its atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed—the sexes can mingle freely and women do not have to wear head coverings. Both Dizin and Shemshak also are easily accessible from Tehran.
Also of interest is the Alam Kuh, a rock rising 16,000 ft/4,875 m, in Mazandaran Province. The area is filled with picturesque thatched farmhouses. Three days to one week could be spent lazing on the beach, driving along the coast and stopping in towns that seem interesting. The Caspian Sea is about 60 mi/100 km north of Tehran.
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