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 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 and he was to return 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-ed-din Shah in 1890. After the formal assignment Hedin followed the Shah to the Elburz Mountains and made a successful attempt to ascend Mount Damāvand – 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. 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 a first glimpse of Iran’s central salt desert, the Dasht-e Kavir. 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 as primary goal, but 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 and on the Tibetan plateau he had found 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 information he could get in the form of diaries, photographs, drawings and water colors. He developed a method of capturing the landscape by making panorama drawings at all his camps that were incredibly accurate (Dahlgren, Rosén 1918).
This itinerary has been designed taking into account the travels of Sven Hedin in Iran. Reading his book guided us through the routes he had taken while travelling in the desert. For those who are in love with books and adventures, reading his book before starting the journey can be so inspirational. You will experience a route travelled by a European adventurist and scientist and will probably see the scenes seen by him more than a hundred years ago.