A rich legacy recorded over three millennia makes Iran one of the most fascinating and diverse destinations in the world today. Persepolis and Isfahan are bursting with impressive architecture, elegant mosques and graceful palaces. Tree-lined boulevards and picturesque covered bridges and the 5 kilometre labyrinth of the Isfahan bazaar are sure to delight any visitor but the most special experience is sure to be meeting the locals. Hospitable, gregarious, generous universally kind, the Iranian people are guaranteed to make a lasting impression.
Tehran Packed onto the lower slopes of the Alborz Mountains, this is Iran’s most secular and liberal city and it attracts students from across the country. Expect relatively bold fashion statements, a range of ethnic and international restaurants, chic cafes and plenty of art galleries. And while Tehran lacks history, it makes up for it with impressive museums. But to get inside the real Tehran you need to get beyond the museums and into the cafés and teahouses and onto the walking trails. That’s where you’ll connect with Tehranis.
Located in south-central Iran and known for its literacy history, Shiraz is known as the poetic capital of Persia, because two of the greatest poets of the world, Hafez (1324-1391) and Sa’di (1209-1291), come from this city. Sa’di, the traveller saw a great part of the world before he finally settled in Shiraz, where he died. Hafez was a very different person who, except for one very short journey, never left his city. The city is also home to some of the most exquisite gardens and mosques in Iran.
Persepolis The magnificent ruins of Persepolis lie at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) in the plain of Marv Dasht about 650 km south of the present capital city of Tehran. Founded by Darius I in 518 BC, more than a century passed before it was finally completed by Artaxerxes I. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the King of Kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. Before any of the buildings could be erected, considerable work had to be done: this mainly involved cutting into an irregular and rocky mountainside in order to shape and raise the large platform and to fill the gaps and depressions with rubble.
Yazd With its winding lanes, forest of badgirs (windcatchers), and mud-brick old town, Yazd is one of the highlights of any trip to Iran. Wedged between the northern Dasht-e Kavir and southern Dasht-e Lut, it is a place to wander and get lost in the maze of historic streets and lanes. Yazd has been known for its silks and other fabrics since before Marco Polo passed through. It is also home to Iran’s second-largest population of Zoroastrians.
Isfahan Isfahan is Iran’s number-one tourist destination for good reason. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city, and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture. Walking through the historic bazaar, over the picturesque bridges and across the UNESCO-listed central square are sure to be highlights of your holiday.
Kashan One of the most alluring destinations in Iran,
The north experiences extremely hot summers and cold winters with rain pretty much in between! Moving south the Persian Gulf area enjoys a pleasant climate through most of the year rising to very hot summers. Iran also has mountains with the associated unpredictable conditions but we recommend visiting Iran in either the spring (Mar and Apr) or Autumn (Oct and Nov)
Anyone who knows me will endorse that I have quite an affinity with ancient cities. As I wander blissfully, my eyes glaze over as I imagine them bursting with people going about their daily business; kids squealing as they chase each other down usually ramrod straight streets, women with baskets on their way to the market, sellers and other business people yelling out the details of their wares all overseen by a temple or palace (or two). So the impressive palace complex of Darius I at Persepolis is a perfect fit! About 50km from Shiraz.
Persepolis was founded in 518 BC although there is evidence of some pre-historic settlement in the area. 200 years later, Alexander the Great plundered the city and burnt the Temple of Xerxes but the ruins are still reasonably well preserved and give strong attestation to the glory of its past. Persepolis is built on a large terrace with varying retaining walls and a truly striking double staircase leading to the top. Polished stones have been cut so carefully and laid so precisely, the buildings do not need mortar, with the names of the monarch’s carved into the stone. Huge columns in the entrance hall and in Darius’ audience hall help complete the picture of a mighty and successful King. I am not only fascinated by lumps of stone however, and always try to spend a lot of time with the local people, listening to their music, eating the local food and discovering their dreams for the future of their country. The Iranians are a passionate, articulate and artistically driven nation with a love of music and poetry. Food is also an important part of their heritage and culture and is inextricably entwined with all the important events of a person’s life. You really should try polo which is a delicious mixture of meat and rice with saffron, almonds, orange and raisins.
Kate Couling, Director
Language The official language in Iran is Persian – sometimes referred to as Farsi. English is used at the leading hotels and major tourist areas; however, much less outside the major cities.
Why we love it Iran is an incredibly culturally and historically rich country. Lots of fascinating places to see; rugged mountain ranges, atmospheric teahouses, bustling bazaars and deserts punctuated by historic oases.
Weather The north experiences extremely hot summers and cold winters with rain pretty much in between! Moving south the Persian Gulf area enjoys a pleasant climate through most of the year rising to very hot summers. Iran also has mountains with the associated unpredictable conditions but we recommend visiting Iran in either the spring (Mar and Apr) or Autumn (Oct and Nov)
Social customs & quirks Iran’s culture is deeply intertwined with its long and rich history, especially from the Persian Empire. There are many talented artists whose works can be seen at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. The Tehran International Short Film Festival showcases leading movie makers in Iran every October.
Festivals & eventsIranian festivals tend to centre around the Muslim religion, with most celebrating a holiday or event. Festivals vary greatly by region due to Iran’s multi-ethnic make-up. Visitors should note that when watching or participating in any religious event, conservative dress is a must and women may want to cover their heads. Ask your tour guide or hotel what customs need to be followed so as not to offend anyone.
Health* Please contact your General Practitioner for advice regarding the recommended vaccination programme for travellers to this region. The only compulsory health requirement is a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if coming from, or travelling through, an infected area. Malaria precautions should be taken.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.