6 best places to visit in IRAN
Iran is the jewel of the Middle East. And recently it has been gaining popularity among international tourists, especially since it has implemented a visa on arrival policy to encourage tourism.
If you are looking for a unique place that doesn’t attract too many tourists (like it is with Egypt and Turkey), Iran is the place! Despite all the bad press, Iran is definitely worth a visit. And judging by the traveler’s reviews, it’s a safe country to travel to.
Iran is a large country. It’s the largest in the Middle East and 17th largest in the world. So it may take some time for you to decide what to visit and what not. To make this task easier, we’ve created this list of some of the best places to see in Iran.
6 best places to visit in Iran
Tehran, the capital of Iran, is a place where most of the tourists start their trip around Iran.
And it’s a good place to get accustomed to the Iranian culture, learn more about its history and admire Iranian traditional art and crafts. Tehran is one of the most liberal and modern places in Iran.
Many experienced travelers agree on one thing – to get to know a country better, visit its markets. In Tehran start with Tehran Grand Bazaar where endless labyrinths of covered alleys are packed with shops and stalls selling all kinds of goods, including world-famous Persian carpets.
Head to Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which has a good collection of Western modern art. If the above-mentioned bazaar is a traditional place, this museum is quite the opposite – it’s a place where liberal Tehranis go to spend their free time.
Visit Tehran’s most iconic landmark – the Azadi Tower. It’s an impressive piece of architecture, clad in cut marble. The tower is a part of the Azadi Cultural Complex which also has a museum.
Isfahan, or Esfahan, is a city south of Tehran known for its magnificent Islamic architecture and mosques and grand, tree-lined boulevards.
One of the most famous and unique places in Isfahan is the Fire temple of Isfahan which is the place of worship for Zoroastrians – one of the oldest practiced religions on the planet. This unique temple stands on a hill some 8 km from the city center.
The majestic Naqsh-e Jahan Square has a great collection of impressive Islamic buildings: the Masjed-e Shah with its blue-tiled dome, the beautifully decorated Ali Qapu Palace and the intricate Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah.
Masjed-e Jameh, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Iran, should not be missed. It’s also one of the oldest mosques in the country.
Yazd is an impossibly beautiful desert city fringed with mountains.
Yazd is so much like a city from a fairytale – with its laid-back atmosphere, gorgeous ancient architecture, ancient Zoroastrian buildings, desert and mountains in the background.
Yazd has an old and important history. It used to be an essential spot on the trade route from Asia to Europe.
Yazd old city is one of the oldest towns on the planet. And since 2017 it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The narrow winding streets of the old town feature yellow sandstone houses, traditional shophouses, and workshops.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Yazd is the Zoroastrian sky burial site – The Towers of Silence. Zoroastrians believe that the earth is holy, and that’s why the bodies should not be buried as they will pollute the earth. That’s why the Zoroastrians left the bodies in a Tower of Silence for birds to eat. However, now the Yazd Towers of Silence are no longer in use.
Yazd is also the gateway to the Bafgh desert.
Shiraz is one of the most beautiful cities in Iran. It is known as the city of poets, gardens, and nightingales.
A great Persian poet, Hafez Shirazi, was born in Shiraz. Now Shiraz still is a center of Iranian culture and literature. The tombs of Hafez and Sa’adi (another great Persian poet) attract pilgrims from all around Iran.
If you want to see a traditional Persian garden, the Eram garden is the place to go. It is one of the most stunning attractions in Shiraz, if not in all of Iran. The Eram garden is not the only old garden in Shiraz. Visit also Afif Abad Garden and Delgosha Garden, which also are historical gardens.
Tabriz is one of the historical capitals of Iran. Now it is one of the largest cities in the country, and also one of the best places to visit in Iran.
Tabriz Market, which the city is famous for, once was a major Silk Road market. Head there to shop for carpets, jewelry, and spices.
The ancient Blue Mosque is a historic mosque that retains original turquoise mosaics on one of its entrance arcs.
Arg of Tabriz, which are remnants of a large fortification, is another important landmark in Tabriz.
Kandovan, a cave village south of Tabriz, is a unique place you shouldn’t miss, too.
Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built by kings Darius and Xerxes. Now, in ruins, this ancient place is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins of Persepolis date back to 515 BCE.
The ruins travelers see today is only a shadow of the ancient city’s former glory.
Iran travel tips
- Visa on arrival. Iran has implemented visa on arrival policy but there are still some rules you need to follow. You will have to provide a passport-sized document photo and an invitation letter or hotel reservation voucher (e-mail screenshot counts) upon arrival. And you shouldn’t forget to get yourself travel insurance valid for Iran. Without it, you will not be allowed to enter Iran. To speed up the arrival procedures you can apply for an e-visa online. Visa on arrival is not available for the citizens of the UK and USA.
- Iran’s dress code. Men should avoid wearing shorts in public. Women are required to wear clothes that cover most of the body. Skinny jeans are fine, as long as you wear a long tunic over it. A scarf is a must for women. Women are required to cover their heads with a scarf, whenever they are in public.
- Do not shake hands with Iranian women – unless they initiate it. The same stands for women – don’t shake hands with Iranian men unless they initiate this.
- Bring small gifts to “repay” acts of kindness. Or if you’ll be visiting local people. It is customary to bring a small gift when you’re visiting an Iranian family. Bring something from your country. If you forget about it and need to find something on the spot, remember that sweets and flowers are always a good idea. Iranians love them.
- Do not use thumbs up a signal in Iran. It’s a sign of disrespect there.
- Iran is large. Fly to save time, if you want to see more than a few sites.