Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels” as Want to Read:
The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  569 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Hailed as a classic upon its first publication in 1934, The Valleys of the Assassins firmly established Freya Stark as one of her generation's most intrepid explorers. The book chronicles her travels into Luristan, the mountainous terrain nestled between Iraq and present-day Iran, often with only a single guide and on a shoestring budget.

Stark writes engagingly of the nom
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 24th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1934)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Valleys of the Assassins, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Valleys of the Assassins

West with the Night by Beryl MarkhamMy Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-NéelThe Valleys of the Assassins by Freya StarkStraight on Till Morning by Mary S. LovellEighty Days by Matthew Goodman
Trailblazing Women Adventurers
3rd out of 211 books — 90 voters
Blood River by Tim ButcherA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonIn a Sunburned Country by Bill BrysonChasing the Devil by Tim ButcherThe Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Have Passport Will Travel
65th out of 462 books — 484 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,856)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Aug 26, 2012 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mary Kay Feather, Micky Ryan, Jim Lammers
Freya Stark was the kind of adventurer and writer the world doesn’t really know anymore. She was fearless, at least she made it sound on paper. Trained as a geographer and cartographer, she lived in Baghdad in the Thirties and traveled throughout the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan intrepidly, sometimes gathering intelligence for the British, sometimes on Archeological expeditions and other adventures. Freya went places that few westerners at the time would go, let alone a woman traveling al ...more
I learned about her by reading Lawrence Durrell's "Bitter Lemons of Cyprus". He just mentions her briefly but I was quite interested when I read her bio on wikipedia.

For me this book was amazing. She seems to have a great ability to relate to people and there are many instances where some kind of savvy was required, from simple humility and politeness to more tricky manipulations. She also does what little humanitarian aid she can, like dispensing medicines or trying to help make a splint for a
Aug 07, 2015 Ruthie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
Freya Stark lived a fascinating, fearless, adventurous, long life. She spent most of it traveling in the Middle East, much of that travel in regions where women traveling alone was unheard of. She traveled as a native, on a pack mule, sleeping in homes in small villages, learning how the locals lived.

She wrote many articles about her discoveries that were published in the journals of the Royal Geographic Society, and drew up maps of regions that were until then unmapped. She took photographs and
This is a collection of Stark's writings about her adventure travels in the middle east during the early 1930s, mostly in the Iran/Iraq border region. She traveled on foot and on horseback through what was then (and probably is still) very wild and dangerous country, in a place where women were expected not to be, and managed to face down a good many very difficult and dangerous situations. It's surprising that she survived; but in fact she continued to travel for decades, and died at age 101.

Grady McCallie
In 1930, 1931, and1932, Freya Stark traveled as a single woman (with one or two hired henchmen) through mountain regions of what was then Persia, now Iran. Her exotically titled 'the Valleys of the Assassins' recounts those several trips, including one to see the ruins of Alamut, the castle of the Old Man of the Mountain, the original assassins.

Stark's writing is beautiful, with terrific descriptions of the landscapes she passes through. While most of what she does is not physically grueling (s
"Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or a penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic problems. The fear of an unbroken tête-à-tête for the rest of his life should, you would think, prevent any man from getting married. (Women are not so much affected, since they can us ...more
Dana Stabenow
One of my 2014 favorite reads.

In 1930 and 1932 Freya Stark, a British woman in her 30s, traveled into Persia (Iran) as far as the rock of Alamut, the stronghold of that madman who seduced his followers with hashish into carrying out for-hire assassinations from Jerusalem to Marseilles. She went alone, on the proverbial shoestring, hiring guides as she went. Everyone thought she was mad as well, but when she came back from her second trip she wrote this book, which was an instant sensation and de
Jenny Yates
She was an amazing person, Freya Stark. She traveled by herself throughout Iran and Iraq in the 30s, making maps, meeting the locals, and looking for bits and pieces of history. She traveled by mule and on foot, using local guides, and every night she’d arrive unexpectedly at a some nomad’s tent and be invited to dine and given a place to sleep (often under the stars).

It sounds pretty glamorous, and it really is remarkable. But I have to say that this book was a bit hard to get through. Geograp
Freya Stark is the closest to a real Indiana Jones that I've encountered. Her adventures across the Middle East in the early 1930s are fascinating, with beautiful descriptions of the land, the people, and the history of the places she went. As a modern reader, it's hard not to think about the complicating factors. In particular, her archaeology is of the adventurous Indiana Jones type that often seems to create more ethical questions than it provides historical answers.

There are, I am sure, boo
This is the story of several journeys undertaken in the early 1930s by that intrepid Englishwoman, Freya Stark. Travelling only in the presence of local guides and speaking nothing but Persian for week after week, she leads us into the high mountain country of ancient Kurdistan, Luristan and Lakistan (and possibly a few other -stans), searching for traces of ancient civilizations (as well as Bronze-age man). She follows old trails through remote villages, occasionally coming across some major wo ...more
Julie Whelan
Reading Valley of the Assasins which describes the travels of this brave woman Freya Stark, as she travels through "Persia" in the 1930s, one has to admire her courage and great sense of adventure. Riding either horses or donkeys she explores first the region of Luristan then the Valley of the Assasins. This name comes from the leader Hasan-i-Sabbah (1071), whose name "Hasan" became corrupted to Assasin, due to his habit of drugging and then killing his enemies in his garden. Much of the writing ...more
I'd read a biography of Freya Stark first, the excellent Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark that was a full account of Stark's life and adventures, and was curious to read something by Stark herself. The Valleys of the Assassins is the first I have read by her.

Her adventures in the Middle East, including experiencing different cultures as a lone English woman in many cases, are incredibly interesting. She traipses through the Arab world after Lawrence but while there is a largely British
Christina Hanson
Stunning travel narrative, equal parts introspection and vulnerability, and bullheaded adventurer. That Freya went more or less alone, and often took the more difficult route in order to bag her experiences makes the tales more captivating. She never loses her humanity though, which keeps her narration accessible.
i didn't enjoy stark's writing as much as thesinger's. i had really been looking forward to reading this after seeing a review of a new biography about stark. her life was really interesting, being english, growing up in italy, and then later traveling on her own in the middle east after studying arabic in lebanon. the reviewer recommended this book, saying it was the best among the several she had written.

i suppose one could say her life was more interesting than her writing. she writes, at ti
Karol K
I am sure it was a very important book in it's time. However I was completely put off by the description of every rock, tree and mountain. There was not enough description of the people for me. I am sure it was enjoyed by many, however I did not enjoy and forced myself to finish.
Jeannette López
Se narra la historia de Freya, quien viaja a Persia por los años 1930 aprox. (?)

Me pareció una historia interesante por ser la primera que leo de este tipo, pero además porque no conozco nada de la región en donde sucede la historia, así que todo resultó nuevo e interesante.

Quedé impresionada con la actitud de Stark, quien se adentró en una región sin conocerla y, mayormente, por su cuenta, valiéndose de sus conocimientos geográficos y cartográficos para establecer rutas a seguir y descubrir la
Jan 29, 2013 Abby added it
I find I don't really like this person that much. But I keep reading her, because I admire her sheer guts and intellect, her uncanny ability to size up personalities, perceive truth and falsehood, bargain, barter, and schmooze. Her endless energy and interest. Her absolute fearlessness. And most of all, the way she puts all this together to get exactly what she wants. She would make a fantastic politician--seriously, make this girl Secretary of State. But that, I suppose, would violate her code ...more
Mike  Davis
I read this book as a monthly discussion group assignment. It is an interesting account written in 1937 of the travels of British author Freya Stark, a lone traveler, archaeologist and geographer. Stark documents her travels in Persia (Iran) by mule and foot, mapping the terrain and searching for bronze age remnants of civilizations. Her descriptions of the remote villages and peoples she encounters as well as the country are well done and it is interesting reading, although names of towns are u ...more
I really liked this book, the memoir of Freya Stark's travels in Persia in the early 1930s. She has such humor and wit, and such courage to just pick up and go into these remote places, places where the local people have often never seen a Westerner, let alone a British woman. She has a gift for language and for describing the places she visits and the people she meets. Her books are truly a portrait of a people and a way of life that was on the cusp of changing forever even when she was there a ...more
Deon Stonehouse
Flitting about exotic locations must be invigorating, Freya Stark lived 100 adventure filled years. She travelled all over Persia as a lone woman and thoroughly enjoyed herself. It is refreshing to read the travels of an independent woman, who defied tradition, enjoyed her fellow man, and appreciated the beauty of her surroundings. Freya Stark said, “One life is an absurdly small allowance”. I agree. She relished life, took chances, did things most of us will never attempt, and fortunately chose ...more
The Hancock
I really enjoyed this book. I would not characterize this as a page-turner but it was usually fascinating. Ms. Stark was a traveller/writer/geographer/cartographer/adventurer in what is now Iran & Iraq. This book is a synthesis of several trips made there in the 1920s & 1930s. Her tales are remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is that she is single woman traveling alone in the Islamic world of the early twentieth century.
Sheila rood
After reading this amazing travel journal it made me appreciate the courage and strength of Freya Stark.
She is sadly rarely mentioned with explorers of the early 20th century.
Her witicisms still hold true today.
The only disturbing parts I found were that with the advent of technology the natural beauty of the areas has been degraded.And the unfortunate position in society that the local women held.
There are some pretty funny quips in this book - but overall it's just really boring. What a shame, since I'm usually pretty interested in the area she visited and she has some good insights. I just wish her travels didn't come across as drudgery day after day, and the people she travelled with as lacking in any interesting characteristics.
Seth Shaw
I first heard of Freya Stark on the "Stuff You Missed in History Class" Podcast. I thought she sounded like a very compelling individual with some very interesting stories to tell. Reading this book confirmed that. She has a wonderfully descriptive narrative style that I greatly enjoyed. Most passages were good but some were remarkably beautiful.
I was hooked on Freya Stark several years ago and read everything of hers I could get my hands on. She is still my favorite travel writer. Yes, some of the draw is the "woman on her own" thing but mostly I love the beauty of the way she uses language in her writing. I could see, hear and taste everything she described. What more could I ask?
I was intrigued by Freya Stark the woman; impossible to imagine her strength and perseverance to travel in such isolated areas as a young woman alone in a man's 1930's world. Sadly however, I found the detail of her journeys a bit too demanding of a read. I am now reading her bibliography and enjoying it immensely.
Its a book about travel and adventure, meeting people from different cultures, and how the author, more difficult in her case for being a woman, manages to surpass with success difficult or even possibly dangerous situations.

Iran and Central Asia, its always interesting, so much history behind every story.
Oct 23, 2008 Ida rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: gave-up
I have tried twice now, for days at a time, to read this book...because I feel like I'm supposed to like this book. I love travel essays, and so many of the authors I enjoy reading recommend or were inspired by Freya Stark. But it's just dull description/narration and I just can't get into it.
Actually didn't finish this book. I became bored with descriptions of traveling from unpronounceable name to another unpronounceable name without being able to locate any of them on a map. There just seemed to be no way to relate to a real location.
And I was appalled at her attitude on grave looting.
Brita Johnson
I read parts of this and enjoyed the novelty of the idea of a woman traveling alone in the Middle East in the 1930s. Her writing is strong and no-nonsense - an enjoyable voice - and some was simply beautiful. I wondered if this book had any influence on Robin McKinley's fictional land of Damar.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 95 96 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • News From Tartary
  • Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
  • My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City
  • The Road to Oxiana
  • The Royal Road to Romance: Travelers' Tales Classics
  • My Life as an Explorer
  • Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus
  • The Marsh Arabs
  • Travels in West Africa
  • Kabloona
  • Travels Into the Interior of Africa
  • In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon
  • Starlight and Storm
  • The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes
  • Voyages & Discoveries: Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation
  • Scrambles Amongst the Alps
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
  • Eothen
Freya Stark was born in Paris, where her parents were studying art. Her mother, Flora, was an Italian of Polish/German descent; her father, Robert, an English painter from Devon.

In her lifetime she was famous for her experiences in the Middle East, her writing and her cartography. Freya Stark was not only one of the first Western women to travel through the Arabian deserts (Hadhramaut), she often
More about Freya Stark...
A Winter in Arabia The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut Baghdad Sketches (Travel) The Journey's Echo: Selections from Freya Stark (Travels) Ionia: A Quest

Share This Book

“Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic troubles.” 9 likes
More quotes…