Eastern Provinces - Iran
South Khorasan is an explorer's delight. This region combines arid mountains and semi-deserts and is famed for saffron and barberries. However, you will discover a wealth of old mud villages that seem to have been left almost complete as though to tempt archaeologists-Old Esfandiar and Old Deyhuk are relatively accessible.
Mashhad's inexorable growth is starting to engulf outlying villages while once quaint hamlets in the Binalud foothills are turning into strip towns of upmarket restaurants, most notably at Shandiz.
Prettier teahouse-retreat Torqabeh remains somewhat more rustic, but to get a little further from the concrete of urban sprawl, the stepped village of Kang makes an appealing option, especially if you're hiking.
For devotees of Iran's great medieval poets, the garden-set mausoleums of Omar Khayyam at Neishabur and Ferdosi at Tus might appeal, but be aware that both were built in the 20th century.