Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin Dasht-e-Kavir desert

Sven Hedin in Iran

Sven Anders Hedin, the Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer arrived by paddle steamer in 1886. He journeyed to Persia twice in 1886 and 1890. In 1887, Hedin published a book about these travels entitled Through Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus.Sven Hedin is Sweden’s greatest explorer and adventurer of all time. He was born in Stockholm in 1865 and decided to follow this path in his early teens. The first step in his career was in 1885 when he was just 20 years old. He had the opportunity to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, to work as a private tutor for the son of a Swedish engineer in the Nobel-owned oil industry. When Hedin had fulfilled his duties as a tutor, he set out on a three-month journey through Persia – today’s Iran. This was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Iran’s rich nature, history, and culture so much so he returned twice (Wahlquist 2007).
Hedin’s second visit to Iran was as a member of the Swedish King Oscar II’s diplomatic mission to the Persian King Naser al-Din Shah in 1890. After the formal assignment was completed, Hedin followed the Shah to the Alborz Mountains and made a successful attempt to ascend Mount Damavand – a snow-capped volcano reaching 5,671 meters above sea level and also the highest mountain in the Middle East. This achievement constituted the basis for Hedin’s doctoral dissertation two years later.

Sven Anders Hedin in Iran
Sven Anders Hedin in Iran

Before returning to Sweden, Hedin set off on a reconnaissance trip from Tehran towards Central Asia that took him all the way to Kashgar in westernmost China. Along this route, he got his first glimpse of Iran’s central salt desert, the Dasht-e Kavir. In the following decade, Hedin conducted two extended scientific expeditions focusing on the deserts of Xinjiang and the high plateau of Tibet.
Hedin’s third expedition, 1905-1908, was like the previous two, the Tibetan plateau is the primary goal, but first, he decided to take an approach route through the deserts of eastern Persia – overland to India. This resulted in a two-volume scientific work with a detailed series of maps of Iran based on his 232 sheets of original map sketches (Hedin 1918).
Hedin was interested in long-term environmental changes. On the Tibetan plateau, he discovered how lakes dry up, lose their outlets and become salty. The vast deserts and drainage-less basins of Iran provided him with an area for comparative research (Wahlquist 2007). Hedin was a relentless field researcher and recorded all the information he could get in the form of diaries, photographs, drawings, and watercolors. He developed a method of capturing the landscape by making panoramic drawings at all his camps which were extraordinarily accurate (Dahlgren, Rosén 1918).

This trip’s itinerary has been designed to take into account the travels of Sven Hedin in Iran. Keeping his book (Through Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus) in mind, it has guided us through the routes he had taken while traveling in the desert. For those who are in love with books and adventures, we advise reading his book before starting this journey as books can be so inspirational. You will experience a route traveled by a European adventurist and scientist, and will most probably visit the sites seen by him more than a hundred years ago.

Sven Hedin was also a photographer. He took a lot of pictures during his travels to Central Asia and Persia. Please have a look at the Sven Hedin Photographs post below which is about his photographs during his trip to Iran. 


To remind us of his journey, Adventure Iran has created the SVEN HEDIN TREK which is one of the longest expedition desert trekking that we offer. The chosen route is part of the ancient Silk Road, more or less in continuous use for about 2,000 years before modern transportation put an end to it. This route was taken by the Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin, who followed this path about 100 years ago.



Silk Road

Iran Caravanserais


Sven Hedin Photographs