If there was ever just one historical place you should visit in Iran, rest assured it is Persepolis.
The city of Persians was once the center of the whole known world, and today it stands proudly as an invaluable piece of history, witnessing the might and splendor of the ancient Persian Empire.
Now I’m sure you are asking, “where is Persepolis today?” but don’t fret because this post will provide you with all the information you need to visit this ancient city.
What is Persepolis? – the Mystery of Persia Unveiled
Persepolis is the cherry on top of all mysteries about ancient Persia.
It is most likely one of the most important archaeological locations in the world.
The beginning of the city dates back to 515 BC, which makes Persepolis city almost 2600 years old, and although only a small fraction of the structure remains, you can still easily understand what a magnificent city it must have been in its glory days, making the ruins at the very start of the expansion of the Persian Empire.
The Persian Empire, one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen, dominated the Middle East all the way to India, parts of Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe.
Despised by the ancient Greeks who were afraid of their power and influence, Persians were their eternal enemy.
So much so that after they finally defeated Persia, they meticulously went about destroying all the traces of that powerful civilization.
That is one of the reasons why there is so little evidence describing Persian Civilization and one of the reasons why we don’t know much about them.
Luckily, in the 1930s, a group of archaeologists discovered Persepolis and started excavating the city, which was about to tell us more about the Persians.
To visit such a place is as if you are visiting the source of knowledge about one of the most important civilizations in the world.
Persepolis Ruins – Once the Richest City Under the Sun
Once you step onto the vast plain where Persepolis is located, you start feeling deeply humbled. The remains of the 2500-year-old city burst in front of your eyes, expanding in all directions.
It was just then when I started to genuinely understand why this city was called the Richest City Under the Sun.
Even though today, the city of Persepolis is left with just a skeleton of rock-made formations, reliefs, and columns, one glimpse at the mastery applied to Persepolis architecture will amaze you.
Once the city of Persepolis was rediscovered, archaeologists also discovered thousands of remaining written records made by the Persians.
Many of these records, carved in hand-sized rocks, depict the bills and spending needed to raise the city of Persepolis.
At this ancient archaeological site, it was discovered that the city of Persepolis was paying their craftsmen in gold and precious metal to keep them satisfied and devoted to making the city the most important city in the world.
It seemed the incentives and devotion did their magic, and the remaining artwork continues to stun until this day.
Ancient Persepolis Today
Persepolis is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, protected, taken care of, and reconstructed in such a way to help coming generations to keep absorbing the might of the Empire.
It is one of the most visited places in Iran, and it keeps bringing people from all around the world to learn about once The Richest City Under the Sun.
The Iranian Government has put a huge amount of money into restoring and protecting Persepolis, and the latest update is 3D Virtual Glasses.
You can walk around the entire area looking into how it used to be. It’s very well made and is a lot of fun.
How to Visit Persepolis – Iran
These days the closest modern Persian city is Shiraz, famous in Iran as the home of poets, but more famous in the west is the origin of the world-renowned grape that’s used in wine, the Syrah Grape.
These days wine and alcohol are strictly forbidden in Iran (but not for Jews and Christians), but the grape is still abundant.
Shiraz is located about a one-hour drive, roughly 37miles (60 km) southwest of Persepolis, and is most likely the city you will stay in when making a day trip to the Persian ruins.
There are no local buses taking you right there, so traveling with an organized group can be the best solution. Otherwise, you can hire a taxi from one of the nearby cities. But, keep in mind that you need to think of a return trip from Persepolis.
Namely, it is easy to find a taxi to take you to this amazing place, and many drivers will agree to wait for you for an hour or two.
However, if you plan to stay longer (which in my personal opinion you definitely should), make sure you organize someone to take you back to one of the nearby cities.
It is not necessary to take a guided tour, and it’s a lot cheaper to hire a local driver.
What Was Persepolis Built for?
The architecture of Persepolis, the center of the Persian Empire, will simply make you ask one question over and over again, how is it possible that they managed to make such a colossal structure such a long time ago and ( more importantly) why?
The first question of how they achieved such a feat still poses a mystery, but the reason for building Persepolis, on the other hand, is clear.
It was a city made to amaze. Built on orders of King Darius the Great, it was the capital of the mighty Persian empire. Persepolis was the political and cultural center from which the King was holding more than 30 different nations under his hand.
The King of Persepolis was called the King of the World, and this King of the World needed admiration.
The main role of this amazing city was to build and glorified as a place where all of the nations under the Empire come to bring gifts to the King and pay their respects.
The reliefs placed alongside the main staircase, visible even today and appropriately named the Staircase of Nations, show in astounding detail the lines and lines of people coming to Persepolis with gifts in their hands dedicated to the King.
You will notice the variety of gift bearers of all nations carefully presented on the reliefs, and don’t be surprised if you find it hard to divert your eyes.
The carvings were so perfectly made that they withheld their full glory hundreds and hundreds of years after the destruction of the ancient city.
The whole complex of the city was planned so that when the visitors came, they passed strategically through all the paths from which they could admire the size and might of the city.
The city builders wanted the visitors to arrive in fear and leave in awe, confronted with the incomparable beauty.
Once you arrive at Persepolis, don’t be surprised if you too began to feel overwhelmed. The size and dominance of the city will impress you, and don’t even try to fight it. Remember, that’s what Persepolis was made for.
Architecture of Persepolis
The old Persian ruins of the capital is made upon a big stone terrace as if to further emphasize how the city stood out from the rest of the world.
To enter Persepolis, you will have to walk through the Gate of All Nations. The symbolism is strong already at the entrance.
As Persepolis used to be the capital of the mighty empire and the residence of the King, the very entrance to the city has to be monumental to impress or scare away, depending on if you are a friend or a foe.
The entrance is guarded by human-headed bulls or minotaurs. These were mythical creatures that in ancient times represented the protection of all the evil which is why they were put on the entrance.
And once upon a time before the Persepolis was robbed and burned to the ground by Alexander the Great (Read about my trip to Babylon, the place where Alexander The Great died), these and many other structures in Persepolis were covered in gold and precious metals.
Passing through the Gate of All Nations, under the massive columns up to 16 meters high, you will Approach the Apadana, the audience hall.
The hall had a maximum capacity of 10 000 people, and it served as a place to gather gift bearers waiting to pay respects to the King.
They say the place was once covered and dimmed, and it was a place made to clearly show to the visitors that they are entering an extraordinary place.
Persepolis was improved and upgraded with every new ruler who was bringing something of his own to the development of Persepolis. In that manner, the ruler named Xerxes ordered the creation of the Hall of a Hundred Columns, also a part of the reception space.
Today, only some scarce remains of the glorious hall are left to spark imagination and witness the old glory of the place.
The Treasury is another part of the complex where all of many riches of Persepolis were held. Up to a point when allegedly there were too many of them.
When Persepolis became too rich with gifts of all its nations, they started using even the Hall of a Hundred Columns to keep the valuables.
However, all of these were salvaged by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. He wanted to see Persepolis, Persia, on its knees and gave all his strength and army to conquer the ancient city of Persepolis and, eventually, he made it.
The city was robbed, destroyed, and then burned to the ground by his army. The valuables were stripped away from the walls and taken out in the wish to destroy the history and legacy of the entire civilization.
But Persepolis wasn’t the last capital of the Persian Empire. The last of the Persian Capitals was Ctesiphon, which was located in Iraq.
Additional Information About Persepolis
Before you go about traveling to Iran and visiting this once great ancient city, some additional information is necessary to prepare yourself.
Don’t Forget to Include These Items in Your Trip
First of all, remember to bring a hat and put on suncream. Few places on earth have I encountered such a strong sun as here.
Once you set your compass to Persepolis, make sure you have some bare necessities with you. Depending on the time of the year, this part of Iran can be quite hot, so make sure to protect yourself from the sun accordingly.
Bring a water bottle and snacks, too, as the site is quite isolated. Also, you might consider hiring a tour guide to lead you through the history and value of this place to make sure you use your visit at the most.
Do all the prep work needed to be able to freely dive into the magic and mystery of Persepolis, the former center of the world.
Persepolis Ticket Price
All government-administered sights (mausoleums, Persepolis, most gardens, etc.) apply a fee of 200 000 Iranian Rials (which is what foreigners use ) or 3000 Tomans (currency that locals use). The Iranian Rial is the official currency, but locals still make use of Tomans.
Exchange rate 2021:
- 1$ = 42000 IRR (Iranian Rials)
- 1 Toman = 10 IRR
Final Thoughts on the Ruins of Persepolis
The ruins of Persepolis remain an awe-inspiring enigma leftover from the ancient world. Luckily, archaeologists were able to dig up the site of the Persian capital’s remains so that we can continue to admire its dominant style today.
So, grab your passport and get your visas in order, because a trip to the famous city of Persepolis is definitely worth doing. Follow this guide in order to have the best time in Iran exploring one of the wonders of the ancient world.