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The Best of Iran, A Guide to the Best Places to Visit

As an American traveling to Iran, I had to plan my Iran itinerary and had it authorised earlier than I might even apply for Iran visa. I had to decide what to do and where to go in Iran months earlier than my departure. As soon as accepted, no modifications to the itinerary are allowed either. A huge change from how I often journey (I often change my mind about 1000 occasions throughout a trip). Nevertheless, I was just joyful that at the time People have been nonetheless allowed to journey to Iran. Who is aware of if/when issues are going change.

Ali Qapu palace in Isfahan

Most first-time guests to Iran comply with “classic Iran itinerary”: Shiraz, Yazd, Persepolis, and so on. It’s a well-liked route the place you’ll sure to come throughout different foreigners. Its reputation has good reasons. The basic itinerary highlights the greatest of Persia’s structure. Iran’s mosques, gardens, and palaces are in any case some of most well-known places to visit in Iran. I made a decision to loosely comply with this itinerary, swapping certain things for activities that I used to be more curious about.

Nevertheless Iran additionally has numerous natural landscapes that shouldn’t be missed if in case you have the additional time. Gilan province in the north of Tehran is lush and virtually tropical. Qeshm island is full of canyons and swimming holes. Lut desert’s moon-like landscape is spectacular. I didn’t go to all of these locations whereas I used to be in Iran due to time constraint, but I included them here since you ought to think about them when planning your journey to Iran.

When it comes time to plan your Iran itinerary, listed here are some of the greatest locations to go to in Iran to embrace in your itinerary.

Gilan Province

Should you’d like to do some trekking or climbing in Iran, Gilan Province is where you have to head to. With its subtropical local weather and forests, it’s an element of Iran you don’t typically affiliate with the country. This area north of Tehran has lovely lush mountains and valleys suitable for outside actions: mountaineering, multi-day trekking, and even mountaineering. I might’ve undoubtedly spent more time in Gilan if I had recognized about this space.

The Assassin Citadel/Alamut Fort

What an awesome identify, right? Regardless that the fort is in mere ruins now, its spectacular location in Alamut Valley makes this a place value visiting. The greatest method to go to the Murderer Fort is by hiring a taxi for the day (~$70/automotive) from the nearest city, Qazvin.

Remains of Alamut Castle Clinging to a Crag Above the Valley

Stays of Alamut Fort Clinging to a Crag Above the Valley by Julia

Masuleh

Masuleh is an ochre-colored village, perched excessive on a steep cliff. Surrounded by lush jungle on all sides and sometimes shrouded in fog, Masuleh is world’s away in local weather and look from Iran’s different cities. A widespread holiday destination for rich Iranian urbanites, it’s not on most foreigners’ radar just yet however it may change soon.

Pretty Masuleh, Iran

Fairly Masuleh, Iran

Tehran

Tehran reminded me a bit of my native hometown, Jakarta. Identical to Jakarta, it’s not a simple city to love. It’s chaotic and busy. Crossing its streets is the most dangerous thing a customer can do. I’m glad we solely stayed in the future in Tehran – someday was enough to see every part of interest to me in Tehran.

Nationwide Jewellery Museum

I did take pleasure in visiting the Nationwide Jewellery Museum. As you possibly can anticipate, you’ll be able to see quite a bit of glittery things right here. My favorite merchandise though is the jewel-encrusted, big globe that’s as tall as an individual. The line was lengthy since the quantity of individuals inside the one-room museum is restricted.

Tehran Grand Bazaar

Giant and chaotic particularly after work hours. Although the bazaar may carry anything and the whole lot beneath the sun, the tough part is discovering them.

Azadi Tower

Value a quick stop for a photograph op. Tehran’s most recognizable landmark marks the west entrance to the metropolis. It’s much more impressive up shut.

Azadi Tower, Tehran

Azadi Tower, Tehran

If in case you have extra time in Iran:

Milad Tower – At over 430 meters tall, Milad Tower is the sixth tallest tower in the world. Situated on the outskirt of Tehran, it’s a perfect place to admire Tehran cityscape throughout sundown.

Golestan Palace – Inbuilt the 16th century, the Golestan Palace is one of Tehran’s most visited points of interest. It’s a posh of numerous royal buildings, gardens, and museums housing Iranian craft-works in addition to presents from European dignitaries.

Qom

Shrine of Fatima Masumeh

Fatimah tomb is taken into account to be one of the most sacred spiritual sites by Shia Muslims. Ladies visitors are required to wear chador (on prime of Iran’s already strict gown code) which are available to borrow at the entrance. Iranian ladies had mastered the artwork of wrapping and gripping the additional material round their physique (even holding it in their mouth) so it doesn’t get in the approach. Me, on the other hand, not a lot.

Tripping all over the chador, I made my means by means of the complicated and gawked shamelessly at the dazzling gold and silver encased honeycomb vaulting (or muqarnas).

The muqarnas of Fatimah tomb in Qom

SHRINE OF FATIMA MASUMEH in Qom

Fatima Masumeh tomb in Qom

What to Eat: Sohan

Whereas in Qom, you’ve got to attempt sohan, an area toffee brittle flavored heavily with saffron in addition to cardamom, rose water, and pistachios. Actually a desert made of all of my favorite issues! It’s soooo heavenly. Iranian desserts could be very regional specific and I received to attempt all types of totally different Iranian sweets, but sohan is my favorite. Be careful, because of its high butter content, it tends to “melt” in excessive temperature and can make a multitude in your backpack (yep, completely talking from expertise).

Kashan

Kashan is understood for its assortment of lovely historical homes constructed by the wealthy merchants of Kashan. Some of these at the moment are open to the public. Whereas in Kashan, it is best to attempt to get to the rooftop (ask your guesthouse proprietor). The rooftops of Kashan homes typically join and you may go from one to the other. I had fun exploring the metropolis from above, peering into secluded courtyards, and having fun with the skyline at sunset.

Tabatabai and Boroojerdiha homes

Are some examples of superb residential homes in Kashani.

BOROOJERDIHA HOUSE, Kashan

Left: BOROOJERDIHA HOUSE, Right: Fin Garden

Kashan's hammam rooftop

The rooftop of Kashan

The rooftop of Kashan

In case you have extra time in Kashan:

Fin Gardens
Persian gardens have been once renowned around the world for their designs, particularly its irrigation system; swimming pools and fountains that utilize underground canals, powered by gravity as an alternative of pump.

Abyaneh Village
The homes in Abyaneh are of a singular reddish hue, a shade that comes from the native soil. The village is one of the oldest in Iran and nonetheless relatively conventional. Native Abyunaki lady sometimes wears a white scarf with floral sample. Strolling around the village I acquired a way that it’s a dying city with only the older population remaining. I’m guessing that the young era has left to greater towns for work.

An Abyaneh woman

An Abyaneh lady

Isfahan

Many of Isfahan’s landmarks are some of the most photographed sights in Iran. The 2 mosques round the Royal Sq. (Shah Mosque and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque) are often thought-about to be the most lovely mosques not just in Iran, however the world. There aren’t sufficient superlatives, really. The architecture and the tile works are merely beautiful.

Isfahan can also be recognized for his or her carpets and their miniature paintings – yow will discover these at the bazaar. I ordered a customized miniature painting of our beloved orange tabby and was actually pleased with the outcome.

Naqsh-e Jahan/Royal Sq.

Listed as world heritage website by UNESCO in 1979, the royal sq. is the middle of activities of Isfahan and residential to some of Iran’s greatest recognized landmarks. The square is lined with mosques, the royal palace, and related by a coated bazaar that has been around since the Center Ages. On Friday and vacation evenings you’ll discover local residents picnicking, enjoying soccer, and families having a stroll around the superbly landscaped backyard and fountains.

The Royal Square in Isfahan and the Shah Mosque

The Royal Square in Isfahan and the Shah Mosque

Shah Mosque

Shah Mosque is a extensively thought-about to be one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. Superbly adorned with 7-colored tiles and calligraphies, it is deservedly one of Iran’s most lovely locations to visit.

The entrance to the Shah Mosque

The entrance to the Shah Mosque

The Shah Mosque in Isfahan is one of Iran's most popular tourist attractions

Shah Mosque in Isfahan

Shah Mosque in Isfahan

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Also referred to as the “Queen Mosque”, this smaller mosque was truly constructed by the ruling family as a personal mosque and subsequently has no minarets. A tunnel connects this mosque to the Ali Qapu, the royal palace across the square. See in the event you can spot the peacock at the middle of the dome.

The magnificen dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The magnificen dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Ali Qapu Palace

The unusual architecture of the music room undoubtedly makes Ali Qapu one the most original places to go to in Iran. Overlooking Imam Square and dealing with Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu was inbuilt the 16th century as a residence of the royal family. It appears pretty unassuming from the outdoors. However for those who go the prime flooring, you’ll discover the “music room” – a room with honeycomb vaulted ceiling with deep circular niches shaped like musical devices.

The music room in Ali Qapu palace

The music room in Ali Qapu palace

What to Eat: Gaz

No visit to Isfahan is full without making an attempt gaz. Gaz is Persian nougat made with pistachios and rosewater, utilizing the sap of the angebin plant which is native to the Isfahan region. It’s softer and gooey-er than common nougats.

When you’ve got extra time in Isfahan:

Armenian Vank Church
Having been to Georgia and Armenia, I didn’t discover this Armenian church to be notably fascinating. Nevertheless, the paintings inside are value testing. They depict the numerous tortures that Armenian saints had to endure and oh boy, these individuals acquired artistic. The admission ticket is sort of high (220,000 tomans).

Yazd

Despite the fact that Yazd doesn’t have the sort of main structure wonders like Shiraz or Isfahan, I enjoyed my time in Yazd immensely. I had quite a bit of enjoyable exploring Yazd’s engaging previous town. Yazd’s skyline is dominated badgir or windcatchers while the previous town itself is a labyrinth of slender alleys meandering by way of conventional mud-and-straw homes. One of these houses features a working, public hammam (Mirza Reza Traditional Hamam).

Yazd was the middle of Zoroastrian throughout Sassanid empire and still has a large Zoroastrian inhabitants. I knew nothing about Zoroastrian earlier than my visit to Yazd and I’m all the time joyful to study something new. Morbid by nature, I discovered Zoroastrian burial rites absolutely fascinating (see Towers of Silence under).

Yazd Previous Town

The neatest thing to do in Yazd is just exploring its previous town. Head over to the rooftop of Art Home or the Vacationer Library – each situated in Yazd historic previous city – during sunset to discover the greatest view of Yazd skyline. My favourite thing to do in Yazd was to end the day with some artistic cocktails (sans alcohol of course – this is Iran in any case) and a slice of do-it-yourself cake at one of the many rooftop bars in Yazd.

Yazd Grand Mosque

Ultimately you’ll find your method to Yazd Grand Mosque. Not the grandest mosque I’ve seen in Iran, but its facade with the twin minarets is a putting sight certainly.

Yazd Old Town

Yazd Grand Mosque

Prime: Yazd skyline. Backside: Yazd Grand Mosque

Towers of Silence

The Towers of Silence is a taxi-ride away from Yazd. The round structure on prime of a rise is an historic burial website of the Zoroastrian faith. Custom dictates that the our bodies of the lifeless are placed right here, uncovered to animals and the weather. Once picked clean, the bones have been then collected in the ossuary pit at the middle. Despite the fact that this burial ritual is not practiced, you possibly can nonetheless go to the complicated and see the place this used to happen.

The Towers of Silence near Yazd

The Towers of Silence close to Yazd

Amir Chakhmak Complicated

The 15th century complicated is particularly beautiful in the evening when every of its arched alcoves is lit by orange lighting. It’s one of the most lovely places to go to in Yazd.

Amir Chakhmaq Complex, one of Iran's highlights

Amir Chakhmaq Complicated by Zenith210

Haj Khalifa Confectionery

Whereas in Yazd, you could have to visit Haj Khalifa Confectionery in Amir Chakhmaq Sq.. It’s a well-liked establishment among sweet-loving Iranians. You possibly can attempt the famous Iranian baklava pastries, ghotab, loze nârgil, and pashmak (sweet floss). To be trustworthy, I discovered each single thing I tasted here tooth-achingly sweet (usually I discover Iranian desserts too candy anyway).

Shiraz

Shiraz is one of Iran’s highlights for many visitors due to its treasures of Persian architecture. It’s the birthplace of Iran’s most celebrated poet: Hafez. It’s additionally the birthplace of one the world’s most celebrated purple wine: Syrah.

Pink Mosque

The sunlight filtering by way of the stained home windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque or Pink Mosque casts colourful patterns on the ground and makes this one of the most Instagrammed spots in Iran. Be sure to lookup and respect the particulars and colours of the tileworks that gave the mosque its nickname.

It was lovely for positive, but the vibe was undoubtedly totally different right here than with the different mosques. The scene could possibly be chaotic at occasions with guards yelling at guests to maintain their headscarves on and Instagram would-be stars preventing over the greatest spots. It distracted from the magnificence of the room.

Nasir-ol-molk Mosque is one of the places to visit in Iran

The Instagram-famous pink mosque, Shiraz

The Instagram-famous pink mosque, Shiraz

Vakil Bazaar and Vakil Mosque

The foremost bazaar in Shiraz has lovely courtyards, caravanserais, and lots of of previous outlets selling all types of Persian rugs, spices, copper handicrafts, and antiques. One of the greatest spots to store for souvenirs. Vakil Mosque that’s hooked up to the bazaar can also be value visiting for the inside decorations. The room with the arched ceilings and spiral columns was notably photogenic.

The spiral columns in Vakil Mosque

Vakil Mosque in Shiraz

Vakil Mosque in Shiraz

Tomb of Shah Cheragh

One of my travel mates in Turkmenistan stated that the Shah Cheragh’s tomb was so lovely she was moved to tears. The beautiful mirror work that covers every inch of the walls and ceiling of the tomb are the handicrafts of artisans of Shiraz. This place was merely beautiful and have to be seen to consider. Add it immediately to your listing of places must visit in Iran. Entrance is free and english talking guide is obtainable for foreigners.

The stunning Shagh Cheragh tomb

The beautiful Shagh Cheragh tomb

Persepolis

Typically visited as a daytrip from Shiraz, Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of Achaemenid Empire (500 BC). Nice Persian kings similar to Darius and Xerxes constructed palaces here. Alexander the Great attacked it. Nearby is Naqsh-e Rostam, the necropolis of the Achaemenid empire the place you’ll find large tombs reduce excessive into the cliff face. This where the nice kings of the empire have been buried.

For architecture and history buffs, Persepolis must be in your record of Iran’s should see places.

(I made a decision to skip it in trade for a visit to the nomads as an alternative).

Naqsh-e Rostam

Naqsh-e Rostam Necropolis (credit score: Wikipedia)

Pink Lake

Marhaloo Lake is a seasonal pink salt lake close to Shiraz. The depth of the colour varies on the water degree. I was informed that in the spring time, close to summer time it’s at its pinkest. Throughout the summer time and after a protracted drought, there won’t even be any water. We received lucky. This lake isn’t on our itinerary, however we drove past it and requested our driver if we might stop for a better look. I’ve been to a pink seashore in Indonesia, however this was the first pink lake I’d ever been to. So surreal!

Pink Lake near Shiraz

Pink Lake near Shiraz

When you have more time in Shiraz:

Hafez Tomb and Eram Backyard
These two websites are often included in Shiraz itinerary. These locations are quite good however for my part aren’t value the hefty admission worth for foreigners. But your mileage may differ.

Margoon Waterfall
One hour from Shiraz, you’ll find this 60m tall waterfall that lives up to its identify (margoon means “snake” in Persian), slithering down the rocky walls in snake-like style.

Lut Desert

Dasht-e Lut, is a big salt desert near Kerman. Here you’ll discover big alien-like formations shaped by wind erosion, some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, and forgotten castles. It can be unbearably scorching in the summer time.

How to Visit:
A lot of four×4 excursions from Kerman, the nearest major town.

Lut desert, places to visit in Iran

Lut Desert by Ninara

Different Notable Spots of Interests in Iran

Badab-e Surt

Travertine swimming pools that’s not in contrast to Pamukkale in Turkey. Situated in northern Iran in Mazandaran Province.

Qeshm Island

Qeshm is the largest island in Iran, situated in the Strait of Hormuz. My guide stored telling me that I want to go to Qeshm island on my next trip to Iran. It’s a destination to visit in Iran for nature lovers as a result of of its unimaginable landscapes. Sculpted canyons and swimming holes may be present in its inside while traditional Bandari villages dot its shores. Namakdan salt cave and Chahkouh Valley are a couple of the island’s most famous landmarks value visiting.

Hormuz Island

Small and frivolously inhabited (there’s just one village here: Hormuz), you’ll discover pristine beaches and sleepy, laidback angle. The island is understood for its red-ochre coloured sand that’s presently being mined and exported (sigh). The inside is full of colourful geological formations.

Planning a Journey to Iran

Know Earlier than You Go

Is it protected to go to Iran?

As a lady, I felt really protected strolling the streets of Iran. A lot safer than I do in San Francisco. I didn’t have to worry about petty crimes or undesirable consideration. It was very liberating in a approach. I wrote an extended guide on visiting Iran as an American (with recommendations on how to gown, and so forth). Go test it out right here.

Visa to Iran

Not to sugarcoat it, but getting a visa to Iran as an American was an extended and tedious course of. You will have to contact a journey company to apply to the Ministry in your behalf. A day-by-day itinerary needs to be authorised. A licensed information is obligatory. Unbiased travels is strictly unattainable. Don’t even give it some thought. Read the software course of I had to go through right here.

Advisable Pre-Journey Studying

  • Lipstick Jihad – a memoir by an Iranian-American. I learn this for the first time in school, this ebook and my Iranian roommate was how Iran entered my consciousness for the first time.
  • Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope – this is the story of an Iranian female lawyer preventing the regime on behalf of Canadian journalist – Zara Kazemi. This ebook was a troublesome read as a result of of the topic and it stayed with me for a very long time.
  • I, Who Did Not Die – a true story set in the little recognized, but extraordinarily brutal Iran-Iraq struggle in 1980’s.
  • The Present: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master – you’ll be able to’t go to Iran and never hear about Hafez, a much-beloved Persian poet who hailed from Shiraz. Iranian youngsters study Hafiz in class and his works might be present in virtually each Iranian residence.