Iran, also called Persia, with over 81 million inhabitants is the world’s 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2, it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world.
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, the country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the third largest number in Asia and 11th largest in the world.
Immersed in history, culture, and nature, Iran is home to a wealth of attractions. It might be difficult to figure out which places should be your priority, but here’s a list of 15 favourite attractions that you can’t miss on your trip to this exciting country.
Persepolis, City Of The Persians, is located within a fertile plain surrounded by mountains in what is today the Iranian province of Fars. The ruins of the former residence of the Achaemenid Empire are one of the greatest and most impressive palace complexes in the world, with mighty gateways, extensive barracks, reception and audience halls, as well as royal palaces. It is the most important architectural legacy of the first Persian Empire which had its heyday between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C. Daruis The Great began construction of his ceremonial capital city shortly after he had attained power as Third Emperor of Persia. Although he already had two capital cities, Pasargadae and Susa, he wanted to present to the world a third impressive city. For fifty-eight years, Ionic stonemasons, Babylonian brick makers, Median and Egyptian goldsmiths, worked in Persepolis and created what was an indelible symbol of the Achaemenid Empire. Today, cleared of rubble and sand, its former glory can be imagined in full: Persepolis the magnificent!
It is easy to spend an entire day meandering in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, alternating between marvelling at jaw-dropping architecture and haggling with business-savvy bazaar keepers. It is no wonder that the city of Isfahan is known as nesfe jahan (half the world). One of the first sites in Iran to be registered with UNESCO in 1979, this square was built by Shah Abbas in the 17th century. One major monument stands on each side of this grand square, and they are all connected by two-story arcades. Shah Mosque has the largest dome in the city, while Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dazzles visitors with its splendid tile work. Ali Qapu Palace is most notable for its music room, mosaic stairs, and views of the square, and the gate of the Imperial Bazaar will take you through one of the oldest bazaars in the region. At the end of the day, you will truly feel as though you have seen half of the world.
The “Palace of flowers” is a true masterpiece of the Qajar era, one the oldest of all historic monuments in the capital of city of Tehran and since mid-2013 listed as UNESCO world heritage site.
During the Pahlavi era Golestan Palace used for formal royal receptions. The most important ceremonies held in the Palace during the Pahlavi era that the coronation of Reza Khan in Takht-e Marmar and the coronation of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Museum Hall.
In its present state, Golestan Palace is the result of roughly 400 years construction and renovations. The buildings at the contemporary location each have a unique history.
The complex of Golestan Palace consists of 17 structures, including palaces, museums, and halls. Almost all this complex built during the 200-year ruling of the Qajar kings.
This ancient desert city of the southern Kerman province was registered with UNESCO in 2004. An overview of Bam immediately gives visitors the impression of being in a life-sized sand castle. The most recognized monument, Arg-e Bam, dates back over 2,000 years to the Parthian Empire. This citadel was built out of khesht (sun-dried mud bricks) in the 6th to 4th centuries B.C. and served as the governor’s quarters. Reconstruction of this landmark began after a devastating earthquake nearly flattened this mud brick city
Added to UNESCO in 2004, Pasargadae was the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century B.C., founded by Cyrus the Great, it is also known as the first multicultural empire that respected cultural diversity. Ruins of the palace and citadel remain, but the main feature is the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great, said to have been visited by Alexander the Great himself after destroying Persepolis.
Built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, this place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions (including a library, a mosque, a school, mausolea, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices). It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well-preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artefacts. It constitutes rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecture.
The first Iranian site registered with UNESCO, Chogha Zanbil is a 13th-century BC ziggurat in the Khuzestan province. The ruins of the holy city of the Kingdom of Elam, surrounded by three huge concentric walls, are found at Tchogha Zanbil. Founded c. 1250 B.C., the city remained unfinished after it was invaded by Ashurbanipal, as shown by the thousands of unused bricks left at the site.
The Valley of Stars is not simply a location; it is a rare geological phenomenon. Located to the north of Berkeh-ye Khalaf village, the Valley of Stars is 5km away from the southern edge of Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf. Residents in southern Iran believe that the Valley of Stars on Qeshm Island has been named after the falling of a star centuries ago.
The beautiful place is there thanks to soil erosion triggered by surface water, torrential rain and high gusts in the area.
Nasir al-Molk Mosque was constructed between 1876 and 1888, during the Qajar dynasty. It has been dubbed the “Pink Mosque” due to the plethora of pink-colored tiles blanketing the ceiling. With dazzling stained glass, thousands of painted tiles on the ceiling and Persian rugs covering the floor, this place of worship is a gorgeous rainbow of color in every direction, like stepping into a kaleidoscope.
The best time to visit the mosque is in the early morning, when the sun reflects the stained glass patterns onto the floor.
Anzali Lagoon is the northern Iranian province of Gilan attracts a large number of tourists each year due to its great weather and the greenest topography in the country.
This natural freshwater lagoon, which is recognized as an important bird sanctuary in the world, hosts about 100 species of birds such as swans, herons, ducks, etc. A variety of fish species like Caspian White Fish and Anchovy.
Water lilies that grow in summer add to yet another beauty of Anzali Lagoon. Pink water lilies with green heart-shaped leaves cover the lake giving it a magnificent view.
Whether it’s Si-o-seh Pol, the Khaju, or one of the other nine bridges, a romantic stroll along the marvellous architecture of Esfahan’s bridges on the Zayandeh River is a must. The Persian poetry often recited in these locales echo through the arched chambers and will seem like Scheherazade’s 1001 Nights.
The central Iranian city of Kashan is home to several historical houses with beautiful architecture and decorations. During the 18th and 19th century the prosperous merchants of Kashan were after building bigger and more luxurious houses to quench their wishes and suit their culture. Therefore, local architects’ knowledge and efficiency helped the accumulated wealth to create masterpieces which we call Kashan historical houses today.
These houses, including those of Boroujerdis, Tabatabaeis, and Abbasis, are among the most interesting tourist destinations in Kashan.
Located 25 km southwest of Fuman city north of Iran in Gilan province, it is a military complex which had been constructed during the Sasanian era (224-651), and later rebuilt during the Seljuq era .The castle is built on two tips of a mount, with an area of 2.6 hectares (6.4 acres). Its architects have benefited from natural mountainous features in the construction of the fort. Known as the “castle of a thousand steps” because that’s how many you have to climb to get to the top, Rudkhan Castle is worth the effort.
Iran’s first natural UNESCO site and hottest place on earth for seven years, the barren Lut Desert offers an unusual tranquillity. The sand ridges, known as yardangs, continuously change their shape, so if you visit the same spot at a later time, it might look completely different!
Taqe Bostan means “Arch of the Garden” or “Arch made by stone”is a site with a series of large rock reliefs from the era of Sassanid Empire of Persia (Iran), carved around 4th century AD.
This example of Persian Sassanid art is located 5 km from the city centre of Kermanshah. It is located in the heart of the Zagros Mountains, where it has endured almost 1,700 years of wind and rain.
The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sassanids, include representations of the investitures of Ardashir II (379–383) and Shapur III (383–388).