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Beautiful Iran: Most Beautiful Places In Iran – Explore The Beauty Of Iran!

I have travelled to over 70 countries and after travelling to Iran twice I can honestly say Iran is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Sure, Iran is not your typical holiday or backpacking destination and it certainly doesn’t have a great reputation nowadays. But you know what?

IRAN IS SAFE. Iran is beautiful.

Iran is absolutely one of the best places to visit in The Middle East, and if you’re willing to look beyond how the Western media portrays Iran, and see the country and the people for how they really are, you are going to have a trip filled with happiness, adventures and the most wonderful memories of a beautiful country.

Isfahan iran ladies lotfollah mosque

Plus you will leave having made a lot of Iranian friends as Iranian people are some of the most friendly people in the world!

In this article I will show you some of the most beautiful places in Iran – whether you fancy spending one week, 10 days in Iran, two weeks or even more! Or even if you don’t have plans to go but you are just interested to see pictures of Iran.

Personally I spent two weeks in Iran and followed the itinerary below, which will show you some of the most beautiful places in Iran, as well as the best things to see and do. Below the itinerary you’ll also find some invaluable tips to help make your travel to and around Iran as hassle-free as possible.

Isfahan iran imam mosque

How Is Iran Beautiful?

Iran has some of the most breathtakingly beautiful architecture and scenery I have seen. The amount of intricate detail on these historical centuries-old buildings, the mosques especially, was absolutely mind-blowing.

And what’s even more crazy to me is why these kinds of images of Iran are never shown to the public. Anything that is in the media about Iran is always negative, and sadly is always focused around geo-politics.

When I visited Iran I wanted to document as much as I could about this wonderful country, so I could show people the beauty of Iran and hope to inspire people to look at Iran with a fresh pair of eyes and curiosity.

For photographers, I definitely recommend bringing a wide-angle lens such as the Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8 to be able to capture all the detail in the architecture.

Persepolis iran

 

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Beautiful must visit places in Iran itinerary recommendations:

Tehran (1-2 days)

Kashan (2 days)

Abyaneh (half day)

Isfahan (2 days)

Yazd (2 days)

Persepolis & Necropolis (1 day)

Shiraz (2 days)

Qeshm (2 days)

 

Tehran

Tehran, Iran’s capital, is extremely large and pretty chaotic. But it is also very modern and the most liberal city in the Islamic Republic.

Despite there being so many things to see and do in Tehran, Iran’s capital, tourists often skip visiting this modern city and head straight to the picturesque and historical cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.

In fact, most Iranians who are not from Tehran will tell you to just skip Tehran when travelling through Iran. Compared to the other big cities Tehran does lack a lot of history and grand buildings that other Iranian cities and towns possess. 

It can feel like a rat-race in Tehran too as it is so busy. Traffic is always bad, and so as a result the city is often covered in smog due to the pollution. 

Despite this, I firmly believe Tehran is definitely worth visiting and should be included on any Iran itinerary.

Tehran is modern day Iran – you’ll see a real mix of people: from beautiful young women with their headscarfs barely covering their heads next to women covered head to toe in black chadors. You’ll see a mix of modern and traditional architecture. Tehran is the future of Iran.
 
Spending time in this chaotic metropolis will really help you to understand Iran’s interesting modern-day history and the views of the Iranian people.
 
Tehran is very easy and cheap to get around on the metro – although the metro does get pretty packed! Alternatively you can use the ‘snapp’ app for taxis (Iran’s version of Uber).

Golestan Palace

The impressive Golestan Palace should be your first stop when in Tehran. The walled palace is one of Tehran’s oldest buildings and is UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. It was the residence of the Qajar Dynasty, who from 1785-1925 ruled the Persian Empire. 

Stroll around the beautiful gardens inside the walled palace and admire the colourful Persian tiles that Iran is known for.

golestan palace tehran iran

Going inside, the lavish Palace is stunning with such incredible details.

Golestan Palace is open 7 days a week 9am-6pm (9am-5pm on Fridays). 

Entrance to the courtyard is IRR 150,000, and it costs another IRR150,000 to enter the main room (mirror room) which was used for coronations and Royal Weddings. There are several other sections of the museum you can also pay to visit, all costing IRR 50,000 each. But many people, myself included, only pay to visit the gardens and the main room (mirror room) as these are the most beautiful parts.

The best way to get to Golestan Palace is by metro: get off at metro stop Panzdah-e Khordad on line 1 (red line).

golestan palace tehran iran

Tajrish Bazaar

Head up to the last stop on line 1 (red line) to Tajrish Metro station. Your first stop in Tajrish is the bazaar – a beautiful aesthetically pleasing and tourist-friendly bazaar.

You can shop for lots of nice crafts, souvenirs and traditional Iranian sweets here, as well as buy some cheap fruit and vegetables or stop in the many Iranian tea houses.

The bazaar is open 9am-9pm.

Tajrish bazaar iran tehran

Imamzadeh Saleh Shrine

Tajrish Bazaar backs onto the picturesque Imamzadeh Saleh shrine (also known as Tajrish Mosque). This is a very popular pilgrimage site for local people as it is the burial place of Imamzadeh – one of the sons of the seventh Shia Imam. 

The shrine is beautiful, with the dome covered in beautiful tiles. Inside, like other shrines in Iran, it is covered with many mirrors. Visitors will be allowed inside the shrine outside of prayer times.

imamzadeh saleh shrine tehran

As you come out of the shrine you will see the incredible snow-capped mountains very close to you. Head in that direction next to the beautiful village of Darband.

darband iran tehran

Darband

When the hustle and bustle and traffic smog of Tehran starts to get too much, the beautiful and unique village of Darband is the perfect escape.

Darband is one of Tehran’s oldest rural villages and was always known for it’s country life, fresh mountain water and cool fresh air. Today the neighbourhood is one of the most upmarket destinations in Tehran for tourism, relaxing and casual dining, whilst still retaining it’s quaint village vibe.

The village lies at the foot of Mount Tochal and is so unique and makes a totally different experience from the rest of Tehran. Darband is definitely an absolute must-visit on any trip to Tehran.

A 5-10 minute taxi ride from Tajrish Square (500 metre walk from the metro – close to Imamzadeh Saleh Shrine), takes you to Darband. 

It is always a lot cheaper to get a shared taxi as opposed to just getting a private taxi. A shared taxi should cost around 15,000 IR. A private taxi however can charge 4 or 5 times more as it knows you are a tourist!

Alternatively you can just walk to Darband from Tajrish metro station – it is just under 3km walk uphill and it should take around 30 minutes.

darband iran tehran

Darband is the ideal place to relax and enjoy being away from the chaos of the city. Strolling along the pedestrianised street you’ll see lots of cute food stalls selling kebabs and dried fruit, as well as many restaurants and cafes dotted along a lovely little stream that runs below the middle of the street.

No visit to Darband is complete without enjoying a tea or some food in one of the many cafes or restaurants here.

Darband is also the start of the hiking trail to Mount Tochal, which is another reason why people, especially the locals love to visit Darband. In fact Darband actually means ‘gateway to mountain‘ in the Farsi/Persian language. The hike to Mount Tochal is not challenging but it does take around 3 hours walking to reach the top of the mountain.

You can also get a cablecar up to Mount Tochal from Darband if you don’t have the energy or time to do the hike! From Mount Tochal you get views all over Tehran – just note that often the view down over the city can be a bit overwhelming if the city is covered in smog, as it will mean the smog will obstruct the skyline down below!

darband iran tehran

Whatever you decide to do, don’t skip this beautiful village in Tehran. It makes the perfect retreat from the bustling city below.

Lots of the restaurants in Darband have little tents (like in the picture below) where you can eat and drink in private if you wish for some peace and quiet. I definitely recommend to eat in one of these tents – for me it was something I had never done before and I just loved the informal setting!

Of course in these tents you will sit on the floor on a Persian rug for your meal and there will be a little table for your food. There is also shisha (hookah) available if you wish. You are welcome to stay in the tents as long as you want – it’s a place to relax so you can stay there long after you’ve finished your meal if you want!

You’ll also find lots of local Iranian people here as Darband is a popular place for them to enjoy, especially at the weekend. Nevertheless, it definitely doesn’t feel crowded.

Personally I love meeting the locals of a country, and Iranian people are so friendly and welcoming and really love to chat to visitors to their country.

darband iran tehran

As Darband lies at the foot of Mount Tochal it is a little cooler here than in the rest of Tehran. I visited at the end of February and it was snowing a little! Therefore you might want to bring an extra layer or two! 

Azadi Tower

The Azadi Tower, also known as the Freedom Tower, is Tehran’s iconic landmark. The tall white marble futuristic building completed in 1971 pays tribute to the 2500th Anniversary of The Persian Empire. It is adjacent to Mehrabad Airport, Tehran’s domestic airport and marks the entrance to the west gate of the city. It is a must visit when you are in Tehran and has a really unique mix of both traditional Persian and modern architecture.

If you will be taking a domestic flight from Mehrabad Airport, if time allows you may want to time your visit to Azadi Tower with your trip to/from the airport to cut down on unnecessary journeys in Tehran’s traffic!

azadi tower tehran iran

For 150,000 rials you can take the elevator or stairs to the top to enjoy the view – you’ll be able to see the mountains and the city from here.

Opening times are 9am-5pm Sunday to Thursday (10am-5pm on Friday).

Azadi Tower is located in Azadi Square – which was the site of many protests during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Traffic is very busy around Azadi Square so allow extra time if you come in a taxi. If you are coming by metro, the nearest metro is Meydan-e Azadi Station (line 4), which is about a 5 minute walk from Azadi Tower.

azadi tower tehran iran

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Kashan

Kashan is famous for it’s traditional 18th Century Persian houses historically used by wealthy families. You absolutely must visit a couple of these elegant houses during your time here in Kashan! The houses are all decorated remarkably, with intricately detailed stuccos, frescoes, and colourful stained-glass windows.

kashan traditional house iran

Tabatabai and Borujerdiha Traditional Houses are the most famous Traditional Houses and are both worth a visit as they are so unique and beautiful.

From the outside, Iranian Traditional Houses look like nothing special as they are built in an inward design with the courtyard in the middle of the house to provide privacy. But inside they are absolutely stunning – some of them with multiple courtyards and up to 80 rooms!

kashan traditional house iran

Tabatabai Traditional House

Tabatabai House is a really calming and mesmerising place, full of beautiful frescos and detailed stuccos. Being here really takes you back in time to Iran’s heyday.

kashan traditional house iran

Wander around and admire the beautiful symmetrical architecture and lots of incredibly intricate carvings. Also spend time exploring the underground rooms and the open courtyard.

kashan traditional house iran

Tabatabai Traditional House is open 8am – 8pm.

You can buy a combined ticket for 900,000 rials for Tabatabaei House, Abbasi House and Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse.

Almost next door to Tabatabai is Borujerdiha Traditional House so stop off here too – open from 9am-5pm daily. Entrance to Borujerdi House is 300,000 rials.

kashan traditional house iran

Abbasi House is also stunning, however if you don’t have time to visit this Traditional House then just go for lunch or a tea at the Abbasi House  Teahouse & Restaurant. It’s an absolutely beautiful restaurant with a lovely vibe and ambience. The food is also so delicious!

Make sure to also stay overnight in a traditional Iranian house when in Kashan – many have been converted into boutique hotels due to the increase in tourism here. They are very luxurious and incredibly beautiful.

kashan traditional house iran

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse

Just around the corner from these two traditional houses is Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse – one of the most spectacular bathhouses in Iran!

Whilst this beautiful 16th Century Ancient Persian spa no longer functions as a working bathhouse, it has been incredibly well preserved and provides a glimpse into life here in the past.

Going to the bathhouse was a long and important task for Iranians. It was a place to socialise, chat and relax with others. It wasn’t just to go for a quick wash and then go home, it was a place to socialise and really enjoy.

Inside the bathhouse is decorated with beautiful turquoise and gold tiles on the ceiling and walls, and it is so incredibly detailed and intricate.

Even outside the roof is beautiful with it’s many small convex glass domes that provide some natural light into the bathhouse. You are allowed onto the roof and from here you can get a stunning view of Kashan city. Definitely not to be missed during your trip to Kashan!

Open 8am – 8.30pm 7 days a week. 

Entrance fee is 200,000 rials. You can also buy a combined ticket for 900,000 rials for Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Tabatabaei House and Abbasi House if you know you will visit all 3.

Fin Garden

9km from Kashan (about a 20 minute taxi ride) lies the famous Fin Garden, also known as Bagh-e Fin in Farsi. Fin Garden is a beautiful traditional Persian Garden and is supposedly the oldest remaining Persian garden in Iran, dating back from the early 1600’s.

kashan traditional house iran

The architecture here is very impressive, with a mix or architectural styles from the Safavid, Zand and Qajari eras. The dome in the middle of the pavilion also has stunning intricate detail (see picture above).

The lush gardens lie within an arid part of the country and lots of fruit trees and beautiful flowers can be found here. A beautiful water feature runs down the middle of the garden, which is very traditional Persian style. It felt so serene and relaxing here.

  kashan traditional house iran

The Fin Garden is also very well known for it’s hammam (bath house) where Amir Kabir the Qajarid Chancellor of Iran was murdered by the Shah in 1852.

Fin Garden is open 9-5pm every day.

Entrance fee: 500,000 rials.

Kashan Bazaar

Located in the heart of the city, Kashan Bazaar is architecturally stunning, plus a great place to shop for souvenirs or anything else you need! It’s main caravanserai has a spectacular domed roof full of beautiful decorations and colours.

There are also plenty of areas underneath the dome where you can sit and watch the world go by and even chat with the locals if you wish – they are so friendly!

There are some nice traditional Persian restaurants and coffee shops inside the Bazaar where you can enjoy lunch. One restaurant I really enjoyed was Hamman-e Khan Coffee Shop. As you can probably tell from the name, it used to be a traditional bathhouse.

It is now a family owned restaurant that has been in the same family for generations. It has a cosy atmosphere and provides an authentic Iranian experience of sitting on cushions on the floor enjoying traditional Iranian dishes (make sure to try dizi – a popular Iranian dish!).

Hamman-e Khan is located in the eastern end of the main Bazaar, down the steps.

 

Maranjab Desert

In the evening take a desert safari into Maranjab Desert, located about 60km from Kashan. I always find the desert a magical and relaxing place, and you just can’t beat the incredible sunsets here.

maranjab desert iran

Our local guide was really knowledgeable and entertaining, and we even stopped off to see some of his friends who live in the desert, who invited us in for tea and a traditional Iranian music performance.

maranjab desert iran

maranjab desert camel iran

 

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Abyaneh

From Kashan, make sure to stop off at Abyaneh, which is about a 1 hour drive, on the way to Isfahan.

Abyaneh is the most famous village in Iran and absolutely worth a visit as it is unlike anywhere else in Iran you will visit.

Abyaneh is known as the Red Village as it is full of red clay buildings, and it is one of the oldest villages in Iran! It was honestly one of my favourite places to visit in Iran as it was so different to everywhere else!

abyaneh iran

Time has stood still in the mountain village of Abyaneh – people still live in the same ways they did over 2,000 years ago! The village is UNESCO protected as it has such well-preserved local culture, architecture, costumes and language.

abyaneh iran

You may see some old women walking along the cobblestone streets speaking an ancient language/dialect specific to Abyaneh – even other Iranians cannot understand it! This ancient language can be dated back as far as 3 BC.

The ladies wear colourful traditional floral scarves and dresses that are specific to this region. I met some local ladies when I was here and they seemed so lovely!

abyaneh iran

The unique red soil and wooden houses, along with the ancient houses built into the side of the mountain make Abyaneh a really unique place to visit. Wander amongst the quiet streets, climb the stairs and enjoy the picturesque views of the Kharkas Mountains in the background.

The fact Abyaneh has been able to preserve their language, culture and architecture like this throughout the centuries and changing dynasties is incredible.

The way these people live their lives is very authentic – Abyaneh hasn’t been adapted for tourists and the locals go about their normal day when they see you. The streets were so quiet when I was there and there wasn’t another tourist in sight which was amazing.

abyaneh iran

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Isfahan

Isfahan (also known as Esfahan), was once capital of Ancient Persia and is often nicknamed “Isfahan nesfe-Jahan” , meaning “Isfahan is half of the world” in the Farsi language. This is because it was the finest city in all the land in it’s day.

The city is still so impressive and was my absolute favourite in Iran! Isfahan has such a fascinating history (it was ruled by 14 Empires!) and it has really grand and intricately detailed Persian architecture. In fact, Isfahan has an impressive 162 mosques!

Imam Square / Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Start off your day in Imam Square, also known as Naqsh-e Jahan Square. This impressive square is the heart of Isfahan and without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Iran. Naqsh-e Jahan Square very large – one of the largest squares in the world in fact, and hasn’t changed much since it was built over 400 years ago. I was honestly in awe at the sheer size of the square when I first came here.

Despite the square being so big, it is incredibly peaceful. There is lots of green and water around, and many beautiful buildings surrounding the square. The bazaar is also on the side of the square, which makes a change from the calmness of the square as there is lots of hustle and bustle in the bazaar.

Isfahan iran

The central part of Esfahan and many significant palaces and mosques are here in the square: Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and Imam Mosque.

The Quysarieh Gate is also in Imam Square, which is the entrance to the labyrinth that is Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar. There is a lovely little cafe with an outdoor roof terrace above the gate where you can sit and watch the world go by down below – make sure to stop by!

Imam Square is really beautiful and peaceful in the evening when the mosques are lit up beautifully and the square is a lot emptier. Even though the square gets quite busy in the day, it is so large that it never feels too busy.

Isfahan iran

Imam Mosque / Shah Mosque

Also known as Shah Mosque or Abbasi mosque, this mosque is absolutely breathtaking with it’s turquoise and blue ceramics with intricate detailing. It is a masterpiece of Persian architecture from the Islamic era and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Imam Mosque is probably the most breathtaking place inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square, located on it’s southern side.

imam mosque Isfahan iran

Both from the exterior and once you are inside, the detail here is incredible stunning. It is honestly a masterpiece and jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Isfahan iran imam mosque

Built in the 1600’s, Shah Mosque has unique architecture in the sense that it’s entrance gate doesn’t face Mecca (all mosques are built facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia).

But when you go through the entrance gate, you’ll come into the mosque courtyard, then you’ll make a right turn and find the entrance to the mosque, which faces Mecca. Due to this you can see both the entrance gate and the mosque dome from the main square.

Isfahan iran

Opening times are daily from 9am-6pm.

Entrance fee is 200,000 rials (this is the pretty much the standard entry fee for foreigners to enter most mosques here in Iran).

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Also known as the Ladies Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque stands opposite Ali Qapu Palace (the residence of Shah Abbas) on the eastern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is another absolute masterpiece built in the 1600’s and is another absolute must visit when in Iran. It took 25 years to build, and whilst it doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside, the inside of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is absolutely magnificent and breathtaking inside.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is another example of an Iranian masterpiece. In fact when it was built it was said to have exceed anything created in Iran before. Blue ceramics adorn the walls and the gold detail here is magnificent.

Isfahan iran ladies lotfollah mosque

Previously Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was used solely for Royal use and was closed to the general public for centuries. The mosque was guarded and could only be admired by ordinary folk from the outside.

The Shah and his family used Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque as a private mosque, whereas Shah Mosque was a public mosque. For this reason, the inside of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a lot grander and features more intricately detailed tilework than the inside of Shah Mosque. 

In order to avoid the ladies of the Shah’s family being seen going to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the ruler Shah Abbas had an underground tunnel built under the square so they could cross the square from their residence at Ali Qapu Palace to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.

sheikh lotfollah mosque Isfahan iran

The size of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque size is modest as it was built as a private mosque, but it is incredibly beautiful and a must visit when in Esfahan. 

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is open daily from 9am-12.30, and then from 2pm-6pm.

Entrance is 500,000 rials.

Isfahan iran ladies lotfollah mosque

Near to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a small courtyard with a restaurant upstairs called “Traditional Banquet Restaurant”. Head here for food, it has great traditional food and a fantastic atmosphere.

There are beautiful stained-glass windows, colourful tiles, and everyone sits cross-legged at the table to enjoy the traditional Iranian food. The restaurant is always busy, and especially full of Iranians.

Isfahan iran

 

Ali Qapu Palace

Opposite Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on the western side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square is Ali Qapu Palace which was the official residence of Shah Abbas and other Safavid Emperors. Ali Qapu Palace is was completed in 1597 and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can go inside Ali Qapu Palace to get an understanding of how life was for the Safavid Emperors and their families. The inside of the Palace is very ornate, and you can also get a lovely view of Naqsh-e Jahan Square and Imam Mosque from the upstairs balcony.

Ali Qapu Palace is open from 9am-6pm daily (9am-5pm on Sundays).

Entrance fee is 500,000 rials.

Ali qapu palace Isfahan iran

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar of Isfahan is an absolute rabbit warren filled with many many shops. Luckily the shops are pretty much grouped by trade, so you’ll see all the jewellery shops together, all the fabric shops together etc.

When you see something you like, don’t forget to haggle! Don’t be shy to do so, it’s part of their culture! In Imam Square you’ll see the famous Persian carpet shops before you enter the bazaar.

My absolute favourite place to get the best quality and beautiful Persian rugs is from a shop called “Black Tent“. 

Jameh Mosque

If you wander all the way through the Grand Bazaar you’ll come to the architecturally stunning Jameh Mosque of Isfahan. It should take you about 25 minutes from leaving Naqsh-e Jahan Square – that’s how big the Grand Bazaar is!

Jameh Mosque is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest Friday Mosque in Iran at over 1200 years old!

Jame Mosque is said to have been built as a Zoroastrian place of worship in the 8th Century, with the intricate detail telework added several centuries later.

Even though there are many mosques to see here in Isfahan and Iran in general, the great thing is that they are all so unique and varied and no two mosques are the same!

Isfahan iran

Jameh Mosque is open 6am – 8pm daily.

Entrance fee is 500,000 rials.

Sio-se-pol Bridge

A 20 minute walk from Imam Square will take you to Siosepol Bridge (meaning ‘bridge of 33 arches’ in Farsi). The two-storey Sio-se-pol Bridge is very beautiful and impressive another iconic tourist attraction in Isfahan. Sadly however, there is almost always no longer water flowing underneath the bridge.

siosepol bridge Isfahan iran

The once mighty Zayanderud River used to flow underneath the eleven bridges of Isfahan but since the last few years the river has been dry due to poor water management and a rainfall shortage.

Seeing the river boats abandoned on the dried-up river bed is really sad, and seeing the river like this makes the locals sad.

Sometimes when there has been rain in the winter, water will flow underneath the bridge again. The locals are cheering and happy, however it is short-lived and only lasts a few days.

siosepol bridge Isfahan iran

Dust storms and dust blowing from the dry riverbed has led Isfahan to become one of the most polluted cities in the world with regards to air quality. You’ll see some locals covering their mouth with masks or scarfs to protect themselves.

Khaju Bridge

2km east down the river (less than a half an hour stroll if you want to walk along the river bank) is Khajoo Bridge, another impressive two-story bridge across the Zayanderud River.

Both locals and foreigners come to the Siosepol Bridge and Khaju Bridge in the evening to relax as it is a popular local hangout place. You’ll also hear the locals singing Persian music, it’s a really nice peaceful and relaxing atmosphere down there! 

Locals relax both on the bridge on it’s wide pavilion, and under the bridge when there is no water – it’s such a unique experience if you want to get a glimpse into local life here.

Khaju Bridge is more ornate than Siosepol Bridge, with intricate detailed tiles. At night Khaju Bridge is lit up beautifully and you can get some great photos here under the arches.

siosepol bridge Isfahan iran

From Isfahan you can take a bus to Yazd. The bus costs around 750,000 rials and the journey takes about 5 hours.

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Yazd

Yazd is a charming historical desert city located 270km from Isfahan. Situated in the middle of the desert, Yazd is a two-season city with extreme climates (frosty winters and scorching dry summers).

It is a very beautiful city, with a very well-preserved mud-brick Old Town and wind catchers scattered amongst the skyline. 

Infact, Yazd is the second mud-brick city in the world remaining from ancient times and is said to be over 2000 years old – one of the oldest cities in the world!

It is also the first Iranian city registered as a World Heritage UNESCO Site and is a must-see any trip to Iran.

Make sure to spend time strolling around the Old Town and get lost amongst the narrow alleys. Yazd is a quiet laid-back city, much quieter than the likes ofIsfahan and Shiraz.

yazd iran

Iran’s old desert cities are full of narrow winding streets with high walls made of clay. This is the optimum form of architecture in the desert to keep the buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and also to minimise the effect of dust storms.

These alleyways are amazing to go round, explore and get lost in! It can sometimes feel like a bit of a maze!

Amid these narrow streets in the residential neighbourhood are many Iranian Traditional Houses, which are very typical in Iranian desert cities such as Yazd. Although from the outside you wouldn’t even know that they exist, as the houses were built off these alleyways in an inward design, with the courtyard in the middle of the house.

This was in an effort to defend these cities from foreign invasion and also to provide maximum protection. The gardens are enclosed also so nobody can view them from the outside. This provided privacy, and during times of danger, it protected them.

The gardens are always beautiful, with a water feature in the centre, and they provide a sense of tranquility and really feel like a little paradise!

yazd iran traditional houses

Masjid Jam-e

Also located in Yazd Old Town is the spectacular Jame Mosque. Jame Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the world and is an absolute masterpiece. It dates back almost 1000 years and is still in use today!

Jame Mosque is a fine example of Persian architecture and features the tallest minarets in the world at 52 metres high!

yazd iran

The detail on the turquoise blue tiles at the entrance is absolutely stunning. All mosques use blue tiles to keep the insects away (although I found Yazd was the only place in Iran that had a lot of mosquitos!). Jameh Mosque is an absolute must see when in Yazd.

yazd iran

Jame Mosque is open 8am-9pm every day except Fridays when it is closed to visitors.

Entrance fee to go inside is 200,000 rials.

Amir Chakhmagh Complex

Amir Chakhmagh Square is a social gathering point for the people of Yazd and is another example of stunning architecture in the Old Town. The large facade has many symmetrical sunken alcoves and the complex also has a mosque, a mausoleum, a bathhouse, restaurants and a bazaar.

yazd iran

The Amir Chakhmagh Mosque was completed in 1438 and is the main feature of the square. Three stories high, it is quite different to other mosques in Iran. If you wish to go inside the mosque it costs 300,000 rials.

Visit just before sunset to see the square in the day as well as in the night, when the complex is lit up beautifully.

Rooftop Restaurants

As well as being known for beautiful mosques and mud-brick walled streets, Yazd is also known for having spectacular rooftop views.

– Visit Karizma Cafe for lunch – make sure to go upstairs onto the rooftop. You can see all the mountain ranges and the desert surrounding Yazd and get a really good view overlooking Jame Mosque. Click here for Google maps location.

yazd iran

– Yazd Art House has a really nice and relaxed roof terrace – see picture below of the view from the rooftop terrace. Click here for Google maps location.

You can also see a wind catcher in the photo – Yazd is actually known as the City of Windcatchers as there are so many wind towers here!

yaz iran rooftop

Zoroastrian Fire Temple

Long before Arabs came to Iran and made Islam the official religion, Ancient Persians practiced the ancient Zoroastrian religion. Whilst the majority of people living in Yazd now are Muslims, a significant amount of Zoroastrians live here.

yazd iran zoroastrian temple

Take time to visit the famous Zoroastrian fire temple and learn about this ancient religion that is still important in Iran today. This Zoroastrian Fire Temple contains a flame that has been burning for over 1,500 years. Open 07.30am-9pm, it can get quite busy here as the temple is quite small.

yazd iran zoroastrian flame

 

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Persepolis & Necropolis

On the drive from Yazd to Shiraz stop off at Persepolis and Necropolis first. Persepolis and Necropolis are on the way to Shiraz, so head straight there after Yazd to save time and avoid going back on yourself later.

The drive from Yazd to Shiraz is pretty uneventful, consisting mainly of desert, and about 1 hour before you get to Shiraz you will arrive at Persepolis.

Alternatively if you won’t be arriving to Shiraz via Yazd driving, you can visit Persepolis and Necropolis on an easy day trip from Shiraz. Persepolis is around 60km north-east from Shiraz and it takes around one hour to drive to Persepolis from Shiraz.

Persepolis

One of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world is Persepolis, meaning “Persian City” in Greek. Persepolis dates back as far as 515 BC and is one of the most important sites in Iran.

A trip to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins of the Ancient City of Persepolis is an absolute must during your time to Iran!

Persepolis was the ancient ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire from 550 BC to 330 BC. Built under King Darius I, construction took around 120 years! Sadly in 330 BC, Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid Persia. As a drunken act of revenge he destroyed and burnt down Persepolis and used thousands of mules and camels to transport all the silver and gold there.

Persepolis iran

You can see many quality ruins, Palaces and engraves here. It is a very impressive place but get here early to avoid the tour groups and the sun as there isn’t much shade. There is quite a lot of walking to do around the site, so wear comfortable shoes.

Persepolis was built on a large terrace so visit one of the viewpoints from the top so you can really get a sense of the scale of the place. There aren’t too many signs explaining things but you’ll get the gist.

Entrance to Persepolis is 200,000 rials.

Opening times are 8am until 5.30pm.

Persepolis iran

Necropolis (Naghsh-e-Rostam)

Just a 10 minute drive and a few kilometres from Persepolis is Necropolis (“The City of the Dead”). Also known as Naghsh-e-Rostam, Necropolis holds the impressively large rock-cut out tombs of 4 Ancient Persian Kings.

The tombs are at a significant height from the ground and are cut into the cliff edges in the shape of crosses. Only one of the tombs has been identified with certainty as Darius I – the King who built Persepolis. The others still remain to be identified and historians are still debating who they could be.

The tombs have great detailed carvings on them, and serve as a reminder of the once powerful Archaemenid Persian Empire (500 BC to 330 BC). I actually preferred Necropolis to Persepolis as it was a lot quieter, easier to stroll around, and it felt pretty mysterious. 

Opening times are 8am-5.30pm (you can also click here to access the opening times and entry fees to both locations).

Entrance fee is 200,000 rials.

As Necropolis is so close to Persepolis it is usually included on any tour from Shiraz to Persepolis.

necropolis iran

*If you are flying into Shiraz and not driving there from Yazd, you can get a driver to take you to Persepolis, Necropolis & Pasargadae for around 40,000 toman.

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Shiraz

Note that if you want to alter the route and want to go straight from Tehran to Shiraz, you can get an overnight bus from Tehran to Shiraz. I took it on my first trip to Iran and it was very comfortable and spacious and staff onboard gave you a blanket and a meal.

Alternatively, you can get cheap flights from Tehran to Shiraz.

Shiraz is absolutely one of the best cities in Iran. It is full of history and is a very artistic city.

Pink Mosque (Nasir ol Molk) 

Nasr ol Molk – also commonly known as The Pink Mosque, is the main reason many people want to see the city of Shiraz. This mosque is absolutely stunning and so unique and is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Iran.

Built in 1888, this mosque is not very big but it’s very popular because of it’s gorgeous stained glass windows in the winter prayer room. When the sun rises in the morning the room bursts with colours as the sun shines through the multi-coloured stained glass windows – it is so beautiful!

You’ll definitely want to get there early to avoid the crowds (it opens at 7am) and also if you arrive at sunrise you’ll see the sun beams coming through the window.

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

The best time to visit The Pink Mosque is between 8-10am on a December morning, when the sun lies low in the sky and beams through the stained glass windows creating a wonderful ever changing kaleidoscope of colours.

As the sun comes through the different coloured stained glass windows, the light in the room constantly changes. One minute it is an intense red then a second later it changes to yellow, green and then blue. It is so surreal to witness and it is such a magical place.

We got there on a December morning at 7.30am and had the whole place to ourselves for an hour, it was so magical. Luckily just as we were leaving, herds of tourists started to arrive. I was so glad we got to experience the sunrise and beautiful mosque in peace.

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

The second time I went back to The Pink Mosque, the place was so crowded and the experience was a lot different, so I definitely advise you to get there early to avoid the crowds.

Remember you need to arrive in the morning to see the light shining through the stained glass windows. If you arrive later you won’t be able to see the sun shining through the windows.

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

After you’ve captured the photos inside, head outside to the courtyard to see the beautiful pink tiles on the wall and admire the pond in the centre of the courtyard.

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

Like most mosques in Iran, the entrance fee is 200,000 rials.

The Pink Mosque is open from 7am until 5pm daily, except on Mondays when it is closed!

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

Shah Cheragh Mosque 

After visiting The Pink Mosque, head to the nearby Shah Cheragh Mosque (15 minute walk), which is so different to The Pink Mosque!

This mosque is a very important pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims and one of the holiest places in Shiraz.

The Shah Cheragh Mosque (meaning “King of the Light”) holds the tombs of the brothers Muhammad and Ahmad, sons of the 7th Shiite Imam Musa al-Kadhim. They took refuge in the area during the persecution of Shia Muslims and were killed here in 835 AD.

shiraz iran shah cherag mosque

The inside of Shah Cheragh mosque is even more beautiful than the outside.

Almost every surface inside the mosque including the ceilings is covered in mirrors and glass. It is literally like a disco ball from floor to ceiling, there is no other way to describe it – it is so impressive to see. This is one thing I love about the mosques in Iran is that they are all so different to one another.

The glittery mosque was erected in the 14th Century and has been maintainted to a very high standard.

It is free to enter, and you will be given a free English speaking guide to show you around as non-Muslims aren’t allowed to go in alone. Women will be given a free chador cloth to wear to cover themselves from head to toe.

You aren’t allowed to bring a DSLR camera inside this mosque – you will need to store it in a locker. You can however take photos with your smart phone.

shiraz iran

If you’re looking for an equally impressive mirrored mosque that is a lot quieter and unknown to tourists, walk 10 minutes to the Sayyed Alaeddin Shrine. It is also free to enter and you’ll need an English speaking guide to show you round.

Vakil Bazaar and Mosque 

A 20 minute walk from the Shah Cheragh Mosque will take you to Vakil Bazaar and Vakil Mosque.

Stroll around Vakil Bazaar, another traditional Iranian bazaar full of spices, Persian rugs and handicrafts amongst other things. The bazaar also has a traditional hammam (Vakil Bathhouse) and beautiful courtyards and caravanserais.

shiraz grand bazaar

Next to the bazaar you will find the beautiful Vakil Mosque, built in 1773. The mosque is stunning and not very crowded.

Vakil Mosque is open daily from 8am-8pm.

Entrance is 200,000 rials, like other mosques in Iran.

Hafez Tomb 

Hafez was one of Persia’s greatest and most beloved poets and is a national pride for Iranians. He was a 14th Century writer who was essentially Iran’s equivalent of Shakespeare. 

Hafez was born in Shiraz and the marble tomb is in his birthplace in the peaceful Musalla Gardens in the north of Shiraz. The walled gardens are very beautiful and even though it is quite busy, it is a very peaceful place. His tomb is in a stunning open pavilion underneath a stunning dome adorned with intricate mosaic tiles (see photo below).

It is better to come at night time as his tomb is lit up so beautifully and you can see the details of the mosaic tiles more.

The Tomb of Hafez is a very important place for the local people here. Every day many people young and old come to his tomb to pay their respects. All Iranians love Hafez and regard him as a hero, and you can see many people reciting his poetry here.  

Hafez Tomb is open from 8.30am-10pm.

Entrance fee is 500,000 rials.

Saadi was also one of Persia’s great poets, and you can also visit his tomb here in Shiraz if you have time.

hafez tomb shiraz iran

Eram Garden

Shiraz isn’t just about shrines and mosques – it also has one of Iran’s most beautiful and famous Persian gardens: Eram Garden.

Eram Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, completed in the 13th Century, and the word ‘Eram’ comes from an Arabic word meaning heaven/paradise. Stroll around the gardens and it’s easy to see why the gardens were named so.

Admire the Pavilion and the water feature, as well as the 3,000 year old Cypress Tree, the many fruit trees and over 200 species of roses!

Nearest metro station: Namazi Station

Open daily 8am-8pm (Mondays open 9am-8pm).

Entrance 250,000 rials.

eram palace shiraz Iran

Pink Lake

Maharloo Lake, or the Pink Lake as it is also known, is another absolutely beautiful place in Iran you can’t miss!

This natural wonder seasonally turns an intense pinky red in the summer time months due to high evaporation water levels exposing the salt and the pink-coloured algae. Therefore from July to September are the best months to visit to see the lake at it’s pinkest.

I was there in March and it had a pinky-orange hue to it which was still lovely and so impressive! So I definitely recommend you to stop by regardless of what time of year you are here!

The peaceful vibes and unique landscape here makes a lovely change to being in the city.

The Pink Lake is located about 30km from Shiraz, near to the airport. It will take about an hour to drive there from Shiraz, so you can time it with your trip to the airport if you’ll be flying out of Shiraz. Otherwise, a roundtrip in a taxi will cost around 2,000,000 rials.

 

pink lake maharloo shiraz iran

BEAUTIFUL IRAN TRAVEL ITINERARY

Qeshm

From the Stars Valley and it’s beautiful rock formations to idyllic beaches, Qeshm Island is an untouched paradise full of attractions. The island has lots of natural sites and wildlife and is surrounded by incredibly blue waters – a complete contrast to the rest of Iran. Qeshm has it all: from islands to caves, valleys and forests, the natural beauty of this island is incredible. 

Qeshm, also known as Gheshm, is an Iranian island located in the Persian Gulf, specifically in the Strait of Hormuz south of Iran.

The Persian Gulf (sometimes also referred to as the Arabian Gulf) separates Iran from the Arab Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Qeshm is very near to the coast of Oman (60km away) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE – 180km away). It is the biggest island in the Persian Gulf at 500 square miles and is shaped like a dolphin.

Stars Valley

Stars Valley, or Valley of the Stars as it is also known, is a giant valley full of canyons and gorges, with hundreds of towering stone formations several metres high. 
 
This natural wonder dates back 2 million years and is considered a unique geological phenomenon not only in Iran, but in the world! The formations were created due to the erosion of the earth and stone from rainstorms and wind.
 
valley of the stars Qeshm iran
 
Locals however, believe that a star/comet hit the earth, thus creating the valley and these geological formations, and they call the area “Estalah kaftah”, meaning Fallen Star.
 
The Valley of the Stars is one of the most beautiful places in Iran. Walking amongst the beautiful canyon, underneath the towering structures is so amazing.
 
You can also climb to the top of the canyon, where you can look down at the impressive formations and get the most incredible view (there are stairs you can climb up). Be very careful though if you are near the edge as the rock could erode.
 
valley of the stars Qeshm iran
 
This incredible landscape is completely natural and you can easily spend a couple of hours in this stunning magical place. There is quite an air of mystery here and Stars Valley is said to have many jinn (spirits/ghosts).
 
Local people will even warn you not to stay in the valley after dark due to these spirits and strange sounds that can be heard.
 
valley of the stars Qeshm iran

Best time to visit Stars Valley

Even though Stars Valley is the most visited of all the geosites in Qeshm, it never feels crowded and is easy to get pictures without anybody else in.

Late afternoon is the best time to visit Stars Valley, as to avoid the heat and to see the colours changing on the canyon as the sun starts to go down. Seeing the sunset here is really nice, but make sure to leave before it gets dark!

Stars Valley is open every day except Saturdays.
 
The entrance fee is a very modest 20,000 rials (about 50 cents). 
 
Stars Valley is located just past the village of Berkeh Khalaf. Click here to view the location of Stars Valley on Google maps.
 
valley of the stars Qeshm iran

Hara Mangroves Forest

In the midst of the harsh climate in Qeshm lies another unique and natural phenomenon: the mangrove forest, known locally as ‘hara’ (Avicenna marina species). The forest is a UNESCO protected biosphere area of 8000 hectares with trees growing to about 3-4 metres tall. The mangroves are important to the ecosystem as they provide food and a home for many species of animal especially fish.

The tide varies greatly here at the mangroves, and at high tide the Hara trees become partially submerged in the salt water and look like a floating water forest. During the low tide you can see the sludgy mud flats of the river bed and the roots of the Hara. You can see crabs, fish, migratory birds and even the odd venomous water snake and turtle here. This is honestly one of the most unique Qeshm tourist attractions!

mangroves Qeshm iran

How to get to Hara Mangroves

To see the Hara forest you will need to get there by boat, it’s the only way. The mangroves are near to Qeshm Airport and the ferry port if coming from Bandar Khamir on the mainland. Just head down to the harbour and get one of the locals to take you out on their speed boat where you will ride amongst the trees. 
 
You can hire a boat for about 10 euros altogether for about 45 minutes. They’ll take you amongst the trees and you can even get out of the boat and walk onto the little island if the tide is low enough.
 
The best time to go is early morning or at sunset if you want to see the mangroves at their most beautiful. The local people rely on the mangroves for tourism and fishing so try to leave a little tip too.
 
The mangroves are very near to the historic village of Laft (“Bandar e Laft”), so it’s worth checking that out whilst you are there as it is the best place to see the local traditions and customs of Qeshm. This fishing village is very traditional, full of wind catchers (“badgir”) – an ancient Persian architecture used to create natural ventilation in the buildings.
 
mangroves Qeshm iran

Portuguese Castle

The Portuguese Castle was built in the early 16th Century by the Portuguese, who ruled the Persian Gulf area for about 150 years from the early 1500’s. This castle is one of the only remaining monuments that still survives in the area from when the Portuguese ruled here.
 
It is made of red stone and you can still see the old canons and ramparts here. There is also a lovely view out to the sea and Hormuz Island from the top.
 
The Portuguese Castle lies in a residential area very near to Qeshm town on the north east of the island where you can find a couple of shopping malls. Click here to see it’s location. It is open every day 8am til 6pm.
 

Hengam Island

Located on the southern part of Qeshm Island is Hengam Island. Hengam Island is known as a place where you can see dolphins playing in the water, particularly in the early mornings between October to May.
 
You can reach Hengam Island by hiring a motor boat – the distance is about 2km and the dolphins will come and swim next to your boat. The island is full of incredibly friendly people – most of whom are fishermen and the island is very peaceful with no vehicles or streets even.
 
There is lots of wildlife at Hengam Island besides the dolphins. At particular times of the year, due to the phytoplanktons in the water the water glows blue at night time which is really impressive to see. Year round you’ll also be able to see the Persian deer (“chinkara“) that are native to Iran. They press their hooves into the ground to get fresh water. You’ll also see the odd camel roaming around the island near the shore.
 

How is the Persian Gulf different to the rest of Iran?

The Persian Gulf is different to mainland Iran in several ways:
 
– Like the Arabian counties, the majority of people on Qeshm Island are Sunni Muslim. This is in contrast to the rest of Iran who are mainly Shia muslim. Therefore you will find one minaret on the mosques here instead of the 2 that you will see throughout the rest of Iran. Also, like Arabian mosques, the mosques here are very simple in comparison to the intricately detailed mosques in Isfahan.
 
– Architecture here is more similar to traditional Arabian architecture on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Also, despite windcatchers being Persian architecture, you’ll also see them in Oman and to a lesser extent, the UAE.
 
– The cuisine is also different in Qeshm to the rest of Iran, with a heavy focus on seafood, not surprising considering the location. There are also lots of fishing villages, and this along with tourism, is the main occupation of people on the island.
 
– The weather on the Persian Gulf is also a lot hotter than the rest of Iran.

How to get to and from Qeshm Island?

Domestic flights

You can take a domestic flight to Qeshm International Airport (also known as Dayrestan Airport) from Tehran (Mehrabad Airport), Shiraz and Mashhad. Qeshm Air is the national airline of Qeshm, although Iran Air, Iran Airtour and Iran Aseman Airlines also operate domestic flights from here.

International flights

Qeshm Air flies from Qeshm International Airport to Dubai International Airport (Terminal 2). There is only one flight a day, and it takes about 40 minutes to fly.
 
You will need to get an Iranian person to book your ticket as the website only accepts Iranian cards to purchase the ticket.
 
You can go into a travel agency when you are in Iran and get them to book it for you. Often you can get the fares for around 50USD.

Ferry

You can take the ferry (“lenj“) from the port city of Bandar Abbas (Shahid Haqani Port) on the mainline to Qeshm’s Bahman Port.
 
Qeshm is only 12 nautical miles from mainland Iran so the ferry doesn’t take long (about 45 minutes). It costs 150,000 IRR (about 4USD), or you can take a speedboat for 30 minutes that costs 3USD.

Things You Need To Know Before You Visit Iran:

Visa

You must check the visa requirements for your country before you travel to Iran!! 

Certain passport holders MUST obtain a visa beforehand at an Embassy (such as UK, USA and Canada and several countries neighbouring Iran).

The majority of other passports require visa on arrival for €75, but some countries such as some Arabic countries and countries on the Europe/Asia border require no visa, so make sure to check beforehand.

Fortunately Iran no longer stamps your passport, so as to avoid any problems for you when travelling to other countries afterwards. However you MUST hold onto your visa paper for the duration of your trip and present it at immigration when you leave the country.

You are also advised to bring 2 passport photos when applying for your visa (ideally for women their hair should be covered) but they didn’t ask me for them. Also have your return flight details handy just incase they ask for them.

Can Americans, Canadians and British Tourists Travel To Iran?

British, American and Canadian passport holders can travel to Iran.

However, the mandatory requirement for British, American and Canadian passport holders to enter Iran is that they must be accompanied for their whole trip by a tour guide.

British, American and Canadian passport holders absolutely cannot travel around independently as these countries no longer have Embassies in Iran. There will be lots of checks at the airport to check this is the case, so don’t try to get around it if your only have one of these passports.

Intrepid Travel have some really good Iran tours that cover all the most beautiful places in Iran. Their tours are reasonable and even include a homestay!

If you have dual nationality, that can be a way to get around this requirement if you prefer to travel solo.

 

kashan traditional house iran

Travel Insurance:

In order to get a visa for Iran you need to have travel insurance specific to Iran and you will be asked to show it at the airport.

Many American, British and even Australian travel insurance companies don’t provide cover for travel to Iran due to the sanctions imposed by the USA, so be sure your insurance states it is valid for Iran – it is not enough for your travel insurance to state ‘worldwide’ – it specifically needs to state Iran.

Insurance company IATI covers travel to Iran, but their policies are a little expensive.

If you’re on a budget then I recommend purchasing insurance through 1stQuest – a really helpful Iranian company that charges only €15 for 2 weeks. Alternatively you can purchase it for €14 at the airport.

Isfahan iran

Booking accommodation:

Make sure you have booked at least your first night’s accommodation in Iran before you arrive.

The immigration officers WILL phone your hotel to check you have a booking there, so make sure you have this already sorted, otherwise they could deny you entry into Iran.

Websites such as booking.com don’t list hotels in Iran, however you will find accomodation to book on hostelworld.com. I definitely recommend you to try and stay in Iranian traditional houses

Many historical and traditional luxurious Iranian houses have recently been converted into cute boutique hotels. The houses still keep their traditional features and style, thus giving visitors a truly local and unique experience. When stepping into the boutique hotels tourists are often amazed as it is often only a simple door on a street, and then it opens into a beautiful spacious hotel and courtyard!

kashan traditional house iran

Bring Euros with you:

It’s almost impossible to get your hands on Iranian Rials outside of Iran as many countries don’t want to deal with this currency. Therefore you’ll need to bring cash (USD or preferably Euros) with you to Iran.

You can’t withdraw any money from any International bank card (VISA/Mastercard etc) at cash machines in Iran due the limitations placed by the USA: pretty much all global banks have refrained from dealing with Iran. Once you get to Iran you can change the money into Iranian Rials at the many currency exchange shops.

However if you’re travelling around Iran for a while or you don’t like to keep too much cash on you, luckily a new Iranian company has introduced the Mah card – a prepaid debit card for travellers in Iran.

It gets delivered to your accommodation in Iran, you load it up with your preferred currency and it changes it into Iranian Rial. It can be used anywhere in Iran and once you are finished with it when you leave, any money you have left over on it you will receive back in cash (Euros or USD). Click here to visit the website and order your card (you will need to pay a one-time €19 service fee). 

shiraz iran lotus guesthouse

Two different currencies (rial and toman):

Iran confusingly has 2 types of currency: rial and toman.

The Iranian rial (IRR) is the official currency of Iran (all money is printed in rial), but Iranians all work in toman and prices will commonly be given to you in toman.

The same bank notes (rial) are used for both currencies, it’s just one toman is equal to 10 rials, so to convert rial to toman you just take 1 zero off the end of rial and you have toman. Simple right?!

Just be careful when you’re paying for things that you check your money carefully – there are a lot of zero’s on the notes and you don’t want to accidentally pay 10 times more than what you should have paid by giving the wrong note (although I’m pretty sure most Iranians would tell you if you accidentally paid more). 

When you’re asking for prices, sometimes it is worth to just double check whether it is in rial or toman, to avoid any confusion.

It may seem confusing for Iran to have two currencies, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. The reason for both currencies being used is because for centuries the currency was in toman but in 1932 it changed to rial.

However, the locals preferred the old toman system and still referred to it, plus it has one less zero so that of course makes things easier!

pink mosque Nasr al molk shiraz

Actual currency rate v artificial currency rate:

When you download the exchange rate on a currency converter it will tell you 1USD is worth roughly 42,000 rial because this is the “official” exchange rate – what the Government wants it set at, but it is artificial and not accurate!

In Iran 1USD is actually worth around 100,000 rial (10,000 toman). Confusing I know, but trust me on this.

You see, not only are there two currencies, but there are two exchange rates in Iran!! One that is formally fixed by the Central Bank of Iran (1USD:42,000 rial) and the other rate – the “street” rate, the open market rate which is the one sold to the public at exchange shops and by street vendors (1USD:100,000 rial).

So therefore, don’t use a currency converter app if you want to convert prices as it won’t be accurate.

If you’re struggling, ask any local Iranian, they all know the exchange rate and will be able to help you. Alternatively, just write some conversions down on a piece of paper like me, if you’re prone to forgetting and getting confused!  

Isfahan iran

Dressing appropriately:

As a woman you will need to wear a hijab (head scarf) to keep your hair covered when in public in Iran. This is required by the law for every female, regardless if you are Iranian or a foreigner.

Arms and legs need to be covered at all times (up to the wrist and ankle) and you’ll need to wear loose clothing that doesn’t show your figure. You can wear an ankle length skirt or trousers, so long as the shape of your buttocks can’t be seen (many women wear fitted jeans but with a jacket covering below their buttocks).

It is really important to abide by these rules, not only as respect, but you could get in trouble with the police if you are dressed inappropriately.

Therefore make sure you take time to pack your suitcase and plan your outfits otherwise you’ll be stuck wearing the same couple of outfits for the whole trip (although fortunately clothing in the bazaars in Iran are very cheap if you do get stuck)!

Luckily for me it was winter and pretty cold so I was wrapping up and wearing layers to keep warm anyway, but even in the heat of the summer women need to wear long sleeves and cover their legs, so just bear this in mind if you plan to visit in the summer.

Also make sure to pack one scarf in your handbag as you’ll need to wear your headscarf before you leave the plane when you touch down in Iran, so keep it somewhere accessible (Immigration won’t let you through unless you have a headscarf on).

Males should wear long pants and long sleeves.

shiraz iran lotus guesthouse

Internet:

The internet in Iran is censored.

The Iranian Government wants to control what information people have access to over the internet, so they block a lot of non-Iranian social networks and international media.

Therefore I recommend to download a VPN before you go, so you can access websites that the Iranian Government blocks and otherwise you would not be able to view, including Facebook, Youtube, CNN and BBC news.

I downloaded Turbo VPN which is really good and gives you a free 7-day trial (after I left Iran, I just cancelled it so I wouldn’t get charged anything).

Also, to make your life easier, I recommend to download an offline map of Iran on your phone (personally I use maps.me) so you can see a map and get directions to places even when you have no access to the internet.

Downloading Google translate and the Farsi (language spoken in Iran) keyboard may come in handy, but many young people in Iran speak English so you won’t often have problems with a language barrier. Still, it’s always handy to have.

You can also consider buying a local SIM card for very cheap as often wifi is not readily available in many restaurants and public places (the only place I ever found wifi in Iran was in my accommodation – even I couldn’t get it at Iran’s International airports).  

shiraz iran lotus guesthouse

Iranian hospitality and Taroof:

Persian (Iranian) people are so friendly and welcoming – locals will often invite you in for tea and it’s not considered strange at all.

They don’t want anything from you, they just want to practice their English and genuinely want to get to know you as they don’t see many tourists.

People will even sometimes come up to you in the street and thank you for coming to visit their country, or thank you for not listening to the media and making up your own mind about Iran.

You also need to know about taroof. Taroof is an etiquette custom unique to Iran that tourists may find quite confusing at first.

Taroof is an unwritten rule and a way of showing respect and politeness. Basically it is where Iranian people will decline something they want, or say something they don’t mean, out of respect for the other person.

For example, taxi drivers may decline money for the ride they just gave you, so you will need to ask again, sometimes even a couple of times. In the end you will always need to pay, you just need to insist more if they keep declining!

They are only being polite by refusing your money at first. It may seem strange, but taroof is a behaviour that is highly valued in Iran, and it shows people how they should treat each other: with respect.

Just one more important thing to add about the Iranian people. They are Persians. They are not Arabs and may get offended if you mix them up. 

Persians are very proud of their unique identity, culture and their history and they are very different to Arabs, both culturally and appearance-wise.

Yes the Farsi (Persian) and Arabic languages look and sound fairly similar and Iran is a Middle Eastern country with a Muslim majority, but it is not an Arabic country.

kashan traditional house iran

Taxis and transport:

At the airport when you arrive, just change enough money for a taxi as the exchange rate at the airports is not as good as in the cities, and there are plenty currency exchange shops in the cities.

Taxi:

When getting taxis, before you get in, ask a local how much the trip should be, as it is very hard to negotiate with the taxi drivers, so just stick to the price the local told you. Fix the price BEFORE you get in the taxi.

Unofficial taxi drivers (just normal people driving their cars) also will sometimes offer you a lift, this is much cheaper than regular taxis.

Snapp:

A great little app to download is ‘snapp’ – Iran’s answer to Uber. The price is set beforehand so there is no need to haggle with the taxi driver, making your life easier. Also the website is in English, making it very popular with tourists in Iran. I used it a few times and definitely recommend it!!

Metro:

Around Tehran you won’t even need to use taxis as you can use the metro very easily – it is pretty easy to navigate round, and a ride is only 10,000 rial (10 cents!) so you can’t go wrong there! The metro is really clean, with separate carriages for women.

Definitely try to ride the metro if you can, it is fascinating – like a full on market in the carriages! People selling all sorts of nic-nacs and people often buying from them! I never saw anything like this before in my life, it was so interesting to observe!

Travelling between cities in Iran:

Iran is easy to travel round – there are lots of good bus and internal flight connections. Unless you find a cracking deal or you just don’t like last minute travel, a good tip is to wait until you are in Iran to book your domestic plane tickets if possible, and get a local to help you book flights on Iranian websites such as flightio as fares are much cheaper than on international websites.

You’ll need a local to help you as the website is only in Farsi and you’ll need to pay with an Iranian debit card.

qeshm iran traditional houses hotel

Is Iran Safe?

As a female solo traveler I felt extremely safe in Iran. I honestly felt safer than I do in Europe. Petty crime here is extremely lot compared to Europe and South East Asia, and the people were honestly some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.

Western Media makes Iran out to be a dangerous country who hates the Western world, but I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw just how far this is from the reality. Normal civilians are so happy to meet foreigners – even British and American foreigners, and will often invite them for a tea as they just wish to speak to people from different cultures. 

It if very hard for Iranian people to leave Iran (financially and due to their passport and visa restrictions), plus as their internet is heavily censored, they are extremely intrigued and eager to learn about the world outside of Iran.

The majority of Iranians do not want to be associated with the politics surrounding Iran, and despite there being so many mosques everywhere and Iran being an Islamic Republic, you absolutely do not feel Islam pushed upon you like in some other Middle Eastern countries I have visited.

Conclusion on Beautiful Iran:

I hope you do decide to visit the beautiful country of Iran and it’s kind people and breathtaking architecture. That you will see the country for what it really is, not for how to is depicted in the media, and know that many of the Iranian people do not agree with their Government. 

I feel this country is so misunderstood and so underrated, and during my time there I felt SO safe and welcomed, far more so than in any other Islamic country I have travelled around.

Give Iran a chance, I promise you won’t regret it!