Ten Best Travel Destinations in Iran
Discover This Diverse And Enigmatic Country
From rich ancient empires to modern metropolises; beautiful beaches to snow-capped mountains; here’s why you should consider Iran for your next travel adventure.
When thinking of holiday destinations it’s unlikely that Iran springs immediately to mind. However, it’s somewhat of a hidden gem, with plenty to reward those prepared to give it a chance, including beaches, ski resorts, ancient wonders and modern vibrant cities.
Located in the north-east of the country, Iran’s second biggest city is also its holiest and is best known for its huge shrine dedicated to Imam Reza who was martyred in AD 817. Each year more than 20 million pilgrims travel to Mashhad to pay their respects to the Imam – an impressive and moving sight. Outside of the major pilgrim seasons there are some good deals to be had on accommodation.
The beautiful city of Shiraz, located in Fars province, is considered to be the bedrock of Persian culture. The city is home to many interesting sights, including the tombs of famous Persian poets Hafez and Saadi, as well as a number of elegant mosques and exquisite gardens. This historic Qavam house with its impressive ‘Garden of Paradise’ is well worth a visit.
Most people don’t equate Iran with winter sports. However, the country actually has some fantastic ski resorts. One of these is Shemshak in the Alborz mountain range. Just 35 miles from Tehran, it’s a favourite getaway for city dwellers and its steep runs make it perfect for more advanced skiers.
The historic city of Isfahan is one of Iran’s most popular tourist destinations – and with good reason. Visually attractive with its tree-lined boulevards, the city is also a treasure trove of traditional culture. Wander through the historic bazaar, take a stroll around the beautiful Persian gardens and pay a visit to the central square of Naqsh-e Jahan – a designated UNESCO world heritage site.
Located at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, the Iranian capital of Tehran is a modern metropolis that is relatively secular and liberal in comparison to other Iranian cities. While it may lack the historic buildings of Isfahan or Persepolis, culture can be found in the form of some fantastic museums. Art-lovers in particular are well-catered for, with the impressive Museum of Contemporary Art which houses works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and many more.
Qeshm is the largest island in the Persian Gulf and is home to beautiful beaches, traditional villages and mangrove forests. Inland, you’ll find the canyons and valleys that make up the UNESCO-recognised Qeshm Island Geopark. The island is particularly great for nature lovers with native wildlife including gazelles, sea turtles, and a variety of resident and migratory birds.
The ancient city of Persepolis in Fars Province was founded in 518 BC and was once the capital of the Achaemid Empire. Today it is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, earning it a place on the UNESCO world heritage site. The magnificent ruins help to give a fascinating insight into this ancient empire and it really is a must-see destination for any visitor to Iran.
While it may not offer the famous tourist sites of other Iranian destinations, this enchanting desert city is well worth a visit. The city is famous for its fabrics (particularly silk) its windcatchers, and it is also the heart of Iran’s Zoroastrian culture. Pay a visit to the ninth century Amir Chakhmaq Square, or simply spend a day wandering through the historic streets and lanes of the old town.
This appealing oasis city in western Iran is one of the world’s oldest human settlements and was once one of Iran’s most important trading centres. Today, it has plenty to offer visitors, including the Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kashan Bazaar, the exquisitely tiled Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse and the world heritage-listed Bagh-e-Fin Garden. Kashan is also known for its traditional Persian rugs, so it’s a great place to pick up souvenirs.
Situated on the coast of the Caspian Sea, this city is a popular tourist destination. Sandwiched between the sea and the Alborz mountain range, Ramsar is an incredibly scenic town, with views of the coast, snow-topped mountains, dense woodland and rolling green hills. Visitors can also relax at the hot springs, or take a cable car ride for birds-eye views of the city.
Visiting Iran can be a hugely rewarding experience, but is not as straightforward as many other destinations, so forward planning is key. Make sure you check the Foreign Office’s latest travel advice before booking, and do some research into visa requirements and any potential travel restrictions. Also, as with any trip, don’t forget to take out insurance. If you’re a frequent traveller, an annual multi-trip insurance policy could work out better value, leaving you with more money to enjoy all that Iran has to offer.