Iran is a vast country with a rich culture and history. Many travelers choose Iran as one of their most favorite destinations to be visited due to its so many historical, cultural, archeological and natural attractions. There are many attractive pristine places to visit in Iran which needs more than some months to explore the country for visiting them. Anyway, some cities and destinations are more favorite than the others to be seen. We try to mention the most important destinations in Iran in this article. We hope it would be useful for those tourists who are planning to visit Iran for their next vacation.
Isfahan Province, half the world
Isfahan, the beautiful city which is one of the most interesting places to visit in Iran and famous as half the world, is the pleasant destination located in the center of Iran in a province of the same name with the dry climate and the environment composed of deserts and steppes and the minimum annual rainfall.
Shah Abbas I, the Great, after having reunified the country, chose Isfahan after Qazvin as the main capital of Safavid dynasty in the center of Iran to save Iran from any foreign sovereignty. He ordered the construction of suitable palaces and monuments and mosques which are prestigious examples of Islamic-Iranian art.
The striking architecture of Isfahan represented in the structure of the Sio-se Pol and Khaju bridges over the Zayandeh Rud River (the river that gives life to this beautiful city), in the splendid paintings of the royal residences such as the monuments of Chehel Sotun (40 columns) , Hasht Behesht (8 paradise) and Ali Qapu (the big gate), in the Charbagh Avenue with wide paved sidewalks, in the cathedral of Vank, in the mysterious Jame Mosque of Isfahan, in two famous mosques in Naghshe Jahan Square (Sheikh Lotfollah and Imam Mosque) amazes every visitor.
The beautiful square Naqsh-e Janhan (the image of the world) in the shape of a rectangle is located in the historic center of the city of Isfahan built in the 7th century AD. This square is selected to be among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979 together with the monuments dating back to the Safavid period that surround it; Imam Mosque in the south side of the square with its tiles in seven colors and with the curves of the arches and the entrance frames, the palace of Ali Qapu to the west decorated by the imposing drawings and the famous paintings where it was used for royal meetings with ambassadors and important visitors. Sheikh Lotfollah mosque in the east side covered with amazing mosaic decorations and splendid epigraphs. The Qeysarie Gate on the northern side of the square that opens towards the large Isfahan Bazaar. The square was surrounded by rooms all of the same shape located on two floors. Behind each room were corridors that led to the Bazaar where there are the workshops of the artists of Isfahan who create the magnificent works of art and crafts by working the inlaid wood, enameled metals, glass and printed fabrics.
This unique square as one of the most adorable places to visit in Iran, was used for the game of polo (Chogan), the military parades of the army and the collective meetings between the king and the people. It can be confessed that the square complex is a unique blend of Iranian-Islamic historical and architectural beauties. You can go around the square on foot or in a carriage and then chat with the inhabitants of Isfahan in one of the tea houses around the square.
Jame Mosque of Isfahan, where it reflects Byzantine and classical art in the form of a traditional Islamic building, was a religious center of the city 13 centuries ago in the Seljuk period, but no origins remain today. That is, the simple structure of the former was changed and embellished with various types of decorations during the Deylami, Seljuk, Gurkanid, Turkmen, Safavid and Qajar dynasties. The mosque includes the domes of Nezam al-Molk and Taj al-Molk, the central square courtyard with 4 arcades, the Mozaffari school and the Mihrab of Oljaitu, one of the most splendid in the world.
Most of Isfahan’s inhabitants are Muslims, but Armenians also live there in the neighborhood named the New Jolfa. The Armenian people have a deep connection with their homeland and this can be understood from the names chosen for the cafes and shops in the district such as the Ani coffee, taken from the name of the ancient capital of Western Armenia, the Akhtamar pastry shop, the island on Lake Van and the Armenian supermarket called Ararata. Walking in the Armenian quarter you can admire the grandiose cathedral of San Salvatore or Vank, which would be the next inscription on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage of humanity. The luxurious oil frescoes on the walls and the gilded ceiling on the inside of the dome are admirable. The architecture of Vank Cathedral is an extraordinary synthesis of Islamic, Armenian and European arts.
In the province of Isfahan there are still numerous cultural and natural attractions which are among the most favorite places to visit in Iran such as the ancient city of Kashan with the 7000 year history of the archaeological hill of Sialk. Kashan also owns the Fin garden, one of the Persian gardens inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The houses of Tabatabai, Abbasi and Brujerdi are beautifully designed with rooms decorated with desert elements, internal courtyards, high ceilings and colored windows. The great mosque of Aqa Bozorg with the elaborate architecture along with the traditional Bazaar of the city are worth visiting.
Nature lovers can spend at least one day in the impressive central desert of Iran, an expanse of sand and salt, enjoying the absolute beauty of nature, deep silence and extraordinary oases. Your trip to Iran cannot be considered complete without having experienced the adventure of the deserts at least for one night. The experience of walking on the sands of one of the 25 largest deserts on the planet crossing the dunes from Garmeh to Anarak and visiting the magnificent natural scenes such as the wind transport of sand would be fantastic. The visit of the Salt Lake and desert octagonal shapes and the caravanserai of Shah Abbas together with the golden hills and endless horizons at Maranjab Desert and Mesr Desert is highly recommended.
The tourist village of Abyaneh is a beautiful ancient village located on the slopes of Mount Karkas in Isfahan Province. The houses of this village with traditional-style balconies and windows were built from raw clay bricks and create an ocher-colored that attracts many tourists every year. The inhabitants of the village have kept their traditional costumes constantly; the women wear a long white scarf with pink or red flowers printed and also a skirt below the knee and the men wear long and loose dark-colored trousers.
The city of Yazd, the capital of a province of the same name, is located in the center of Iran between two deserts: Dasht-e Lut to the east and Dasht-e Kavir to the north. Yazd, the earth-colored city made from mud bricks, is the symbol of human efforts to control the constraints imposed by desert nature. Traditional techniques used in architecture such as the structures of the Qanat, the wind catchers (Badgir) and the glaciers amaze every visitor. The traditional concept is expressed in the authenticity of the labyrinths of the narrow streets with high walls and of the Sabat structure and in the variegated colors of the windows and in the refined designs used in the old houses.
Yazd is the first city of bricks and the second historical city in the world after Venice which was listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2017. The magnificent Jame Mosque of Yazd, the Khan’s Hammam, the prison of Alexander, the garden of Dowlat Aabad with its wind towers, Ziaeie School, the traditional houses like Lari House, the complex of Amir Chakhmaq, the water museum, the qanat and the reservoirs (Ab Anbar), etc. are other attractions in the city which are among the most important places to visit in Iran.
Yazd is famous for its sweets among which are Baqlava, Qottab, Haji Badami, etc and it also considers itself as the center of textile production and tourists can choose fabrics as souvenirs.
Yazd has a religious heritage and Muslims coexist with a large group of the Zoroastrian minority. There is the largest community of Zoroastrians in Iran and in the center of the city you can visit the Zoroastrian fire temple. According to the Zoroastrian religion, none of the 4 elements should be contaminated, so they used the towers of Silence where corpses were stored and left to decompose by the forces of nature (by birds).
Among other attractions of the Yazd province, we recall that two of 9 Persian gardens are located there: Dowlat Abad and Phlevan pour Gardens.
The 4000-year-old evergreen cypress with the height of 25 meters at Abarghu in Yazd Province is a beautiful symbol of life’s resistance against the desert nature. The cypress in the designs of Persepolis was the symbol of royal eternity in the Achaemenid period.
The city of Meybod in Yazd province is famous not only for its historical attractions such as Narin Qale fortress with 7000 years, but also for its brilliant industry and economy especially for the production of tiles and ceramics. The glacier and the dovecote are among the other attractions of Meybod.
Tehran, the capital city of Iran, is located in the province of the same name almost in the center-north of the country. A chaotic city, but at the same time quite fascinating for its traditional or modern museums, palaces, gardens and markets, among which are the complexes of the Golestan, Sa’ad Abad and Niavaran palaces, the National and Islamic Art museums, the royal jewels museum, Carpet Museum, various gardens such as Laleh, Mellat, Abo Atash and Tabia’t (Nature) bridge, Milad and Azadi towers, Tohid and Niayesh tunnels and the traditional Grand Bazaar with labyrinth of the shops. It can be said that Tehran in spring is a piece of paradise. Mount Alborz to the north embraces us and the Tochal ski slope hosts many tourists who are passionate about winter sports. The mausoleums of Imamzadeh Saleh and Abdol Azim and the shrine of Imam Khomeini are the religious centers of the city. Tehran is a good example for the coexistence of believers of different religions. In 30th Tir street, there are a mosque of the Muslims and also two churches of the Christians, a synagogue of the Jews and the Zoroatrian fire temple. This street is also in the list of most attractive places to visit in Iran.
Tehran is the seat of the presidential institutes, ministries and government bodies and hosts almost half of the country’s industrial activities, mainly related to the automotive sector, electrical and electronic equipment, sugar, weapons, textiles, cement and chemical products. The population of the city has grown exponentially and every day around 12 million inhabitants commute each other either via general transport such as the subway or express buses or via customized transport.
Shiraz, the city of Poets
Shiraz is the capital of the province of Fars in southwestern Iran and is located in the slopes of the Zagros mountains where it enjoys a sub-continental temperate climate with hot summers and mild winters. Karim Khan Zand, the founder of the Zand dynasty, chose Shiraz as his capital from 1750 to 1794, then the capital of Iran was moved to Tehran in the Qajar period.
Shiraz is the center of world-renowned poets, philosophers, mystics and artists, among whom important Shiraz-born poets such as Sa’di and Hafez, the mystic Ruzbehan and the philosopher Mulla Sadra.
Shiraz today is considered among the centers of medical tourism in Iran and belongs to 34 specialized and super-specialized hospitals and every year it hosts many Iranian or foreign patients especially from the countries of the region. Namazi hospital which is famous for organ implants is located in Shiraz.
The province of Fars has more than 4500 years of history behind and its main cities were located along the important roads of southern Iran such as Bishapur to Estakhr during the Sassanid period and Susa to Persepolis and Pasargadae in the Achaemenid period.
The architecture and art of the province of Fars and particularly of the city of Shiraz and its surroundings are divided into two parts: the pre-Islamic period and the Islamic period.
Near Shiraz there are archaeological attractions and mythical and spectacular places which date back to the pre-Islamic period, when there was the great empire of the world, namely the Achaemenids. In Pasargadae, the first capital of the Achaemenid empire founded by Cyrus, the Great, you can enjoy visiting the first Persian gardens and colonnaded palaces and also the solitary and glorious tomb of Cyrus and his wife. Persepolis, the spring and solemn capital of the Achaemenids with its grandiose rooms and particular drawings and bas-reliefs reflects the art and talent of the Persians of that time. To visit other funerary masterpieces carved in the rock, we advise you to organize a tour to Naghsh-e Rostam where there are the tombs of Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II and the Ka’be (cube) of Zarathustra built in 520 B.C. These sites are undoubtedly the most important places to visit in Iran.
In the Safavid period, numerous palaces and buildings embellished with the same architectural style used in Isfahan, the capital of the time, were built. After the Safavids, Shiraz began a sort of decline, but after in the Zand period the city immediately regained its prosperity and a royal quarter with a citadel were built (Arg of Karim Khan, the house with mixed military and residential architecture surrounded with high walls connected by four round brick towers), the numerous administrative buildings, the Vakil complex in the city center (consisting of the covered Bazaar with the beautiful courtyards, the caravanserai and the old shops and the Vakil mosque with two arcades decorated with the typical tiles and the colonnaded prayer hall with spiral carved monolithic columns, from the Vakil Bath,
Among the other palces to visit in Iran which are located in this wonderful and spectacular city with the atmosphere of a “Thousand and One Nights” we remember the innovative Shapouri pavilion and its cheerful garden; the botanical garden of Eram (one of the 9 Persian gardens registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site); the memorial tombs of Hafez and Sa’di, two famous Persian poets, engraved with excerpts from their poems and surrounded by gardens, paths and waterways; the Bagh-e Jahan Nama complex; the complex of patrician residences of Qavvam Garden (the house with orange groves and the anthropological museum of the house of Zinat al Mulk); the elegant mosque of Nasir al Mulk (also known as the Pink mosque, the place of Islamic worship of the city, characterized by the beautiful external facades of the arcades, from the play of light of the large stained glass windows of the prayer room and from the internal columns decorated with polychrome tiles); the shrine of Shah Cheragh, the brother of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of the Shiites, adorned with the work of mirrors and waves of lights, inscriptions, an internal iron dome with a brick and glazed tile cladding; the garden of Afif Abad (Golshan) and Quran Gate in the north of the city.
These cities and their attractions are our experts suggestion to find the places to visit in Iran. Also, there are more attractions which are not mentioned in this article. If you are looking for a specific location or special tour plan, we will kindly help you.