Iran is a country that is often met with a lot of trepidation and uncertainty.
However, those who decide to venture to this often-misunderstood country in the Middle East are rewarded with some of the most beautiful sights you’ll likely ever see.
Iran has so many incredible cities, landscapes and people, that you can easily spend a few weeks exploring this large and diverse country.
Although its location bordering Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan can be off-putting to some, it’s actually one of the friendliest countries to visit with incredibly hospitable people.
If you still need some convincing, here’s five reasons why you should consider visiting Iran for your next trip.
5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Iran
It has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world.
One of the standout reasons for visiting Iran is the chance to see some incredibly beautiful architecture.
Whether you’re gazing at the tiled ceilings of the mosques or spending the night in a historic house, it’s easy to be blown away by the beauty of the buildings in Iran.
The most attractive architecture that you’ve likely seen images of before are the intricately tiled mosques and palaces.
The walls and ceilings are often finely decorated with a mixture of pastel colours and bright splashes of blue, blended with traditional symbols and calligraphy.
The best place to marvel at this workmanship is Esfahan, often considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
At the centre of this city is the UNESCO-listed grand square where you’ll find the incredible domes and minarets of the Shah Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, both featuring stunning tiled interiors.
There’s much more to Persian architecture than tiled domed ceilings though.
In Yazd, you can explore the old town’s mud-brick architecture, and in Kashan, you can wander between the stunning historic houses owned by wealthy merchants.
Many of these places have even been converted into guesthouses, so you can spend the night in a traditionally decorated home to fully appreciate the unique Persian architecture.
Iran also boasts some incredibly modern architecture that often goes unnoticed by visitors who tend to head for the more historical sights.
The most impressive of Iran’s modern architecture can be found in the cosmopolitan city of Tehran.
Some of the noteworthy sights include the impressive Azadi Tower monument, the unique overpass known as Tabiat Bridge and the 435m-high Milad Tower with its observation deck.
It has a fascinating history.
Iran has a long and unique history. It’s home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world with ancient sites dating back centuries.
From the first Persian empire through to modern-day Iran, there are plenty of historical places to see on your trip.
By far the most famous site is Persepolis. Considered one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, this ruined palace complex is Iran’s most prized UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was founded by Darius the Great in 518 BC, who regarded it as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.
Today, it’s an impressive ruin complex of staircases, reliefs and gateways that you can wander through on your own or as part of a guided tour.
The Persepolis complex is 60km northeast of Shiraz and is generally visited as a day trip from the city.
All hotels and guesthouses in Shiraz offer tours and private taxis out to the ruins, which is usually combined with a trip to the nearby Naqsh-e Rostam archaeological site.
These impressive royal tombs are less visited than Persepolis but worth the stop.
The rock-cut tombs could easily be mistaken for something you might find in Petra.
If you’re a real history buff, there’s an endless number of historical sights to see beyond Persepolis.
Another fascinating place is the Fire Temple in Yazd to learn about Zoroastrianism, which is arguably considered the world’s first monotheistic religion.
For more recent history, there are numerous palaces from the Safavid Dynasty and Qajar Dynasty in Shiraz and Esfahan, which combine both incredible architecture and fascinating history.
The people are friendly and hospitable.
The first thing people recognise when they land in Iran is how incredibly friendly and hospitable the people are towards visitors.
It’s not uncommon for you to be inundated by requests to sit for some tea or go back to stay at someone’s family home.
Iranians are incredibly welcoming, with many trying desperately to reverse the bad reputation of the country that is so often portrayed in the media.
This is often what surprises people the most in Iran, and many leave with a completely different perspective on the whole country.
Iran is also a culturally and ethnically diverse place, which you’ll realise as you travel around the country.
The far northwest around Tabriz is home to Azeri-Turkish speaking people, the Iranian Kurds live along the western part of the country, and the Arab-influenced port cities and islands off the coast to the south are just some examples.
You should definitely take the chance to sit down for some tea with a local as this is one of the best ways to learn about the interesting cultural landscape.
However, just like in any other country, you shouldn’t be completely relaxed and complacent.
There have been cases of foreign nationals getting mixed up with the Iranian authorities, and this is often what you might hear in the news.
However, for the most part, foreigners are treated by the local people with the utmost respect, and you’ll find it hard to deny the numerous offerings for a place to stay.
As long as you use common sense and abide by the local rules, such as covering your head as a female, you’ll have an enjoyable and memorable time.
Iran is also a extremely safe country to travel around, as long as you stay away from politics; in fact, Iran is a much safer country than every western country in the world.
The landscapes are incredibly varied.
Often people’s first assumption about Iran is that it’s covered by a large vast desert.
Although this is certainly true in some respects, you’ll be surprised to find some varied landscapes if you spend time exploring the south to the north.
However, approximately one-third of Iran is covered by desert, so it’s hard to completely avoid the arid, dusty plains on your visit.
The desert is often what lures many people to travel to Iran, as it’s such a different landscape to what so many of us have experienced before.
The two most well-known deserts include the Dasht-e Kavir or the Great Salt Desert around the north-central part of Iran and the Dasht-e Lut in the southeast of the country.
Visiting the Dasht-e Lut or the Lut Desert is undoubtedly one of the real highlights of travelling to Iran.
This unique landscape is characterised by eroded sandy mountains known as Kaluts and is considered one of the driest and hottest places in the world.
It’s not the easiest place to reach and is best explored from Kerman, which is the nearest major town. Kerman is around 5 hours from Yazd or 7 hours from Shiraz by road.
From there, you can easily hire a taxi or organise a driver through your accommodation to reach the desert.
If you’re looking to escape the hot sand dunes, you can head north to the mountains.
Another third of the country is actually made up of mountainous areas, with snow even falling during the winter in the northern provinces.
The most accessible mountains are immediately north of Tehran, which you can even see from within the city itself.
However, if you travel further to the Caspian Sea coast, you can enjoy the much more lush and green countryside. It’s certainly a country characterised by dramatic changes in climate and landscape.
It offers an unforgettable and affordable adventure.
Overall, Iran offers an incredibly rewarding travel experience.
The country is still off the well-travelled path in Asia and the Middle East, and it seems far fewer tourists compared to many other countries.
This makes it a truly unforgettable adventure as its less commercialised and not as tourist-oriented than other places you might have visited before.
Iran is also a relatively cheap country to travel in, making it a great place to explore for people with all different budgets.
The exchange rate fluctuates often depending on the impact of sanctions and the fragile economy, but in general, it’s a pretty affordable place to travel.
Just be aware that cash is still king in Iran, and foreign cards are not accepted in the country.
Iran is these days probably the cheapest country in the world for tourists.
It’s best to carry cash with you and exchange it once you arrive.
The major cities of Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and Yazd are the most tourist-friendly destinations in the country, with souvenir shops and plenty of accommodation and restaurants to cater to visitors.
However, it’s easy to get away from these busy cities and explore less visited areas, with plenty of opportunities to feel that real sense of adventure.
You can head to the western Kurdish province for a different cultural experience or down to Qeshm island off the coast in the Persian Gulf, or even to the far northeast corner of the country to explore the mountains in Golestan National Park.
No matter where you go in Iran, you can guarantee that it will be an unforgettable experience.
Wednesday 6th of January 2021
I love reading your posts challenging readers to travel to definitely places off the beaten track! My husband taught for two years in the American School in Tehran and has talked about how beautiful Iran was. Not so sure how wise it is for North Americans to visit but I would love to go one day.
Wednesday 6th of January 2021
Thank you for that great post. You forgot to mention that when you are invited by an Iranian, visitors should first learn about the concept of Taroof. It is one of the most fundamental things to understand about Iranian hospitality and you are required to refuse 3 times before accepting.
It's well explained in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taarof#In_social_situations