Bam is a pleasant town where the eucalypts are likely to make any Aussie homesick, and the date palms clearly indicate a desert oasis. But it’s the incredible ancient city which makes Bam truly special. Although some of the surviving structures must have been built before the 12th century, most of what remains dates from the Safavid period (1502-1722). Up to 13,000 people once lived in this 6 sq km (2 sq mi) city until it was abandoned following an Afghan invasion in 1722. The city was abandoned again in about 1810 after bloodthirsty invaders from Shiraz popped in, and then was used as an army barracks until the 1930s. It is now completely deserted.
Numerous steep and narrow stairways lead to the pinnacles of the outer clay wall which almost circles the entire city. From the wall you can see the curved ice house, which housed enormous chunks of ice in winter, melting to become drinking water in summer. The inner citadel dominated the town – the extraordinary echo in the garrison is thought to be a deliberate, ancient loudspeaker system.
Bam is in south-eastern Iran. The bus from Tehran, 1260km (780mi) away, takes about 21 hours, so you might consider flying. There are two flights a week between Tehran and Bam, and more frequent flights between Tehran and Kerman, which is about three hours north-west of Bam by bus or shared taxi.