In this article I want to introduce you to seven of the most beautiful and spectacular cities in Iran.
First of all, I would like to give you a brief explanation of Iran so that you can become more comfortable with this beautiful country and look at it with a more complete view.
Iran, also called Persia and officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. Iran is the world’s 17th most populous country; it’s the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world.
Iran is a culturally diverse country made up of many linguistic and racial groups. Officially, the majority are Shiites. Many Iranians speak Persian, Azerbaijani Turkish, Kurdish, Lori, Baluchi, Mazandarani, Gilaki, Taleshi, Achmi, and Arabic, but the official language in Iran is Persian. As a land and a nation, Iran has an ancient history and is considered one of the most historically rich countries in the world.
1. Teheran ( تهران )
Tehrān, the capital city of Iran and the centre of the province (ostān) of Tehrān, located in north-central Iran at the foot of the Elburz mountain range. Since its establishment as the capital city by Āghā Moḥammad Khān more than 200 years ago, Tehrān has grown from a small city to a major metropolis: situated in an urban region of 14 million inhabitants, Tehrān is Iran’s largest city.
The city can be roughly divided into two different parts – the north and south. The northern districts of Tehran are more prosperous, modern, cosmopolitan and expensive while southern parts are less attractive but cheaper.
Tehran is a heaven for museum lovers with more than 70 operating museums, Tehran has more to offer than you think. And many of these museums have objects to offer which you could only dream to see in Louvre or Metropolitan. With thousands of years of history and as home to one of the first civilizations in the world, you just can imagine what is waiting for you. Especially in the national and Jewelry museum where you can find pre-historic pieces, Abbasi museum with its mesmerizing craftsmanship, Moghaddam museum, Ceramic and glassware, Music and breathtaking carpet museum, Time Museum and Contemporary Art museum.
Jewelry museum :
Another advantage of Tehran is the mountains just around the corner. As Tehran is located at the foothills of Tochal, the mountains are a part of the view from almost every part of the city. In order to climb them you just have to grab the metro to Tajrish square and then a shared taxi will take you to Darband. From here you can start your trekking / climb in less than 10 minutes. Beside getting to visit Tehran itself, it’s an amazing opportunity.
If skiing and snowboarding are your thing, you will love Tehran. With Alborz mountains to the North, Tehran is the city for ski lovers. Dizin and Darbansar are well known international ski resorts just 1 – 2 hours away from the city.
As the most recent capital of Iran. Tehran has a lot to offer when it comes to royalty. From the modern Western style of royal palaces such as Saadabad complex and Niavaran Palace to the more Persian style ones such as Golestan Palace and Masoudieh Mansion and many more around the city, they reflect the history of royal families in Tehran.
2. Isfahan ( اصفهان )
Isfahan is the capital of Isfahan province and a major city of Western Iran. Isfahan is situated on the North bank of the Zayandeh River at an elevation of about 5,200 feet (1,600 metres), roughly 210 miles (340 km) south of the capital city of Tehran. Isfahan first thrived under the Seljuq Turks (11th–12th century) and then under the Persian Safavid dynasty (16th–18th century). In addition to being an important regional and provincial capital (of the Isfahan province), the city is one of the most important architectural centres in the Islamic world. In 1979 Isfahan’s Meydan-e Emam (Persian: “Imam’s Square”; formerly Meydan-e Shah, “Royal Square”) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is famous for its Perso–Islamic architecture, grand boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, tiled mosques and minarets. Isfahan also has many historical buildings, monuments, paintings and artefacts. The fame of Isfahan led to the Persian pun and proverb “Isfahan nesf-e- jahan ast”: Isfahan is half of the world.
Isfahan’s rich history and cultural heritage make it an attractive tourist destination. The city is famous for its handicrafts, such as silverware, copper work, woodwork, brass work, and pottery. The old art of tile making has been successfully revived in order to repair the ancient monuments. Carpet weaving was revived in Isfahan in the second quarter of the 20th century, and it expanded rapidly in production of exports of excellent quality and design for the European market. The city is also well known for its qalamkars, cotton fabrics hand printed with various designs.
Over the course of the city’s history, various religious minorities have flourished in Isfahan. A number of Armenian churches, including the Vank Cathedral (built in the mid-17th century), can be found in the city. The city also bears significance for Bahais: in the 1840s the Bab, one of the three central figures of the Bahais faith, arrived in Isfahan and there composed some of his major works; a Bahai community flourished in the city in the late 1800s.
3. Shiraz ( شیراز )
Shiraz, a city and capital of Fars ostan (province), is in southwestern Iran. It is located in central Fars in the southern part of the Zagros Mountains, on an agricultural lowland at an elevation of 4,875 feet (1,486 metres). Famous for its wine, it is both a historic site and an attractive modern city, with gardens, shrines, and mosques. Shiraz is the birthplace of the Persian poets Sadi and Hafez, whose garden tombs, both resplendently renovated, lie on the northern outskirts.
Shiraz is the city of love, Persian literature, joy and food!
Many foreign visitors are surprised that the city itself has so few surviving historical monuments when there are such archaeological treasures in the neighbouring countryside, but earthquakes over the centuries have taken a heavy toll.
Shiraz is the place to smell the beautiful Shiraz roses and to buy the perfume and rose-water. Shiraz is also a nice place to walk in the gardens. The city has many tourist attractions, some of which I will introduce.
Hafez is one of the most beloved figures among Iranians. Most of his poetry is themed around love and faith. “Hafez reading” is a thing in Iran which is regularly practised by anyone from young teenagers to the older generation. His poems are also frequently used in Persian traditional music and calligraphy. If you don’t know who he is or have never read any of his work, make sure you look him up before heading to this place. It definitely makes the experience remarkably different.
Sa’di is another major Persian poet of the medieval period. He is quoted for his deep moral thoughts throughout the world. He was a well-educated man who happened to wander around the world for decades due to the Mongol invasion. He writes exquisitely about his experiences, observance and the people he meets during his journey which happen to be mostly survivors of the war. His pieces reflect first-hand experiences of ordinary Iranians who suffered displacement and agony throughout the turbulent Mongol invasion.
This place is without a doubt the main highlight of Shiraz for any visitor. Although it’s about 70km outside of the city, it’s absolutely worth every minute. There is a unique sense of glory here. A feeling of power, dominance, inconstancy and certainly the passage of time. Persepolis is a UNESCO world heritage, constructed and glorified during the time of Darius I and later invaded by Alexander the great. It was set on fire after the invasion which is believed by many historians to have been a revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the Persian invasion of Greece.
Persian Garden has been frequently quoted in Persian literature and poetry as the earthly paradise. Its traditional style has influenced the design of gardens throughout the world, from gardens of Alhambra in Andalusia to their biggest interpretation in Taj Mahal of Agra. Eram Garden is a dazzling show of all the Persian garden elements and definitely a moment of delight whenever you’re in need of some peacefulness.
The most photographed piece of Iranian architecture is the Nasir al-Molk Mosque adorned with colourful tiles and stained glass windows. Visit the winter hall early in the morning and you’ll witness the theatrics of sun rays streaming through stained glass windows and dancing over elegant Persian carpets.Here’s where you find the most remarkable tile work of the Zandieh dynasty known best for their dominant pink colour.
Nasir al-Molk Mosque
4. Yazd ( یزد )
Yazd dates from the 5th century CE and was described as the “noble city of Yazd” by Marco Polo. The climate is completely desertic. A network of qanats (tunnels dug to carry water) links Yazd with the edge of the nearby mountain Shir Kuh. Historically, Yazd has been the link between Fars and Khorasan and between Persian Iraq and Kerman, and it was situated at the intersection of the trade routes from central Asia and India. It served as a provincial capital and earned the title of Dār al-ibada (Home of Piety), because of its many religious buildings. Some of the city’s inhabitants are Zoroastrians whose ancestors had fled toward Yazd and Kermān when the Muslim Arabs conquered Iran. Yazd is now the last centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran.
The historic city of Yazd, famous for its delectable sweets and historical attractions, is the only city in Iran registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a city. The recently booming Yazd tourism owes its popularity to a wide range of attractions, including museums, mosques, temples, bazaars, and historical gardens.
Amir Chakhmaq is one of the most prominent names that come to mind when one thinks of Yazd tourism. Located in the square of the same name, Amir Chakhmaq is a large religious complex containing a mosque, bazaar, Hosseinieh (a place where people of Shia faith gather to mourn the death of Imam Hussein) and two historical Ab anbars (reservoir). The perfect symmetry of the architecture is the first thing you notice upon visiting the complex, with its beautiful three-story view of symmetrical Iwans (arched alcoves).
The Amir Chakhmaq square is a popular spot for locals to gather and sit around its central fountain. This, and the confectionaries and shops make the square a great choice for experiencing the Yazdi culture firsthand.
Fire temples are the place of worship in the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Each of the fire temples is built to serve the holy fire inside of it, and is named after the grade of fire that is burning within. The highest grade of fire is called Atash Bahram (meaning Victorious Fire). The Yazd Atash Bahram has been a place of worship for Zoroastrians since almost 2500 years ago, and its fire has been burning since 470 AD. The temple is built in Achaemenid Architecture style and is made of bricks. The winged deity, Ahura Mazda, can be seen on the front door of the temple facing a beautiful garden full of fruit trees. Inside the temple, the sacred fire is in a glass chamber that only Zoroastrians are allowed to enter. Non-Zoroastrians, however, are allowed to watch from behind the glass.
When you think of Yazd and its hot and dry climate, it’s hard to imagine green gardens full of fruit trees. But Dowlat Abad Garden, one of the most charming works of architecture in Iran, is located in Yazd and is one of the 9 Iranian gardens that are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Tall cypress trees surround a long pool that leads to the main entrance. Behind the cypress trees, gorgeous grape and pomegranate trees give the garden a lush green look. The buildings themselves are also eye-catching. Dowlat Abad Garden is home to the world’s longest wind tower. This octagonal tower is seen far from the garden and is different from the other wind towers in the city since it has eight sides instead of the normal four. Inside the building, the wooden doors and colorful lattice windows give the room a colorful atmosphere.
5. Kerman ( کرمان )
A great number of those people traveling to Iran, have had memorable days of their visits to Kerman tourist attractions. Kerman is the largest province of Iran and has got several ancient sights to offer. On the other hand, it is growing into a large industrial center in Iran and preparing for much better services for those who stay there as travelers. Fabulous architecture, a lot of local culture, Zoroastrian faith and fire temples, traditional handicrafts and beautiful landscape are some of the highlights this province offers to its visitors.
Kerman is a fast-growing city with a population of approximately 750,000 people. Farming is still the main source of income for this province. When you travel to Kerman from Yazd, you see a lot of pistachio gardens stretched across the desert for tens of kilometers. Also, it has the second-largest copper mine of the world in Sarcheshmeh. Carpet weaving is also another craft that has made this city quite famous among Iranians and the people of the world since a long time ago. Also, the word Pateh reminds every traveler of this city in Iran and nowhere else. It is an embroidered piece of cloth traditionally made in this province from wool in traditional colors and with patterns.
The Ganjali Khan Complex is a Safavid-era building complex, located in the old center of the city of Kerman, Iran. The complex is composed of a school, a square, a caravanserai, a bathhouse, an Ab Anbar (water reservoir), a mosque and a bazaar.
Kaluts are sandy mountains that are formed as a result of desert “wind” erosion and enchanting shapes are formed that leaves everyone bewildered for its unique beauty.
Kalut is formed by the combination of two words: “Kal” meaning “village” and “Lut” meaning “desert in Persian.
When you suddenly open your eyes in the heart of Lut Desert and see strange soil structures and there are many of them as far as they meet the eyes, you feel yourself in a new city. It is a city devoid of inhabitants that seems to have been made for the ghosts. Perhaps that is why this city is said to be for the fairies.
“Shahdad” is one hundred kilometers from Kerman and 40 kilometers away from the legendary city of “Kalutha”. This region is known among geologists as one of the “geothermal poles”. The very desert dryness might drag many tourists from green lands of Europe to Iran.
There are “Nebkas” (desert vases) near Shahdad whose height reaches 10 meters at times, while the highest Nebkas in African Desert are 3 meters tall.
Shazdeh (Shahzadeh) Garden is one of the most beautiful historical gardens in Iran. This garden is located about 2 kilometers away from Mahan City and in the outskirts of Tigran Mountains and is related to Qajar period. The garden was established in 1276 solar hijri year. Tourists visit this beautiful Iranian garden every year and enjoy its beauty and freshness.
This garden is one of the nine Iranian gardens and information regarding this garden is translated into 35 languages by UNESCO and it exists on the UNESCO tourist map. Shahzadeh Mahan Garden, with lofty trees and the streamlet whose pleasant sound is heard from around the corner, is like a precious diamond in a desert chest.
6. Qeshm ( قشم )
Qeshm is an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf with many natural, cultural and tourist attractions. The island is considered a tourist hub which has the capacity to absorb more domestic and foreign travellers. Qeshm, an Iranian island with a total area of about 1,500 square kilometers, is located in the Strait of Hormuz. It is the world’s biggest dependent territory whose area is larger than the total space of the world’s twenty-two smallest countries. The island, which comprises 65 hamlets and three towns, is also the biggest island in the Persian Gulf and is home to more than 100,000 people.
The Hara Mangrove Forest is a restricted biosphere located in the Northwest of Qeshm. The hara forests are said to host about 1.5% of the world’s migratory birds in the cold seasons. If you get lucky, you can watch herons, pelicans, flamingos, and countless other rare birds on your trip to Hara Forests. You can rent boats to get to the different parts of the forest through the waterways. Don’t be surprised to see people jumping off the boat and swimming in the waterways. If you’re up for the thrill, ask the boat driver to give you a ride at high speed! 😊
The Valley of Stars is going to blow you off your feet. This surreal stone valley is one of the most beautiful, untouched natural attractions of Qeshm. It is said, according to locals, that the unusual stone shapes of this valley were created one starlit night when one of the stars fell off and collapsed onto the ground.
The Valley of Stars is a perfect place to take walks in the daylight and capture beautiful photos. It is, unfortunately, closed at nights to visitors, which could all be for good reason because the locals believe that Jinns and ghosts roam the valley at night!
If you enjoy hiking on rocks, and ethereal shapes, the Charkooh Canyon is bound to be a memorable experience.Many consider the Chahkooh Canyon to be the first and most important of Qeshm’s ‘Seven Wonders’. The Chahkooh Canyon, or Chahkooh Valley, is located in the Chahu-ye Sharqi village about 70 Kilometers off Qeshm. The Canyon goes about 100 meters deep into the ground. On your journey down, you can see a wide range of sedimentary rocks and their erosion in magnificent shapes on the walls and in cavities.
7. Gilan ( گیلان )
The province of Gilan is the jewel on the green belt of forests in northern Iran. You may come to Iran from a lush country and think how a forest can fascinate you, but when you visit awe inspiring attractions of Gilan province with its verdant and intact nature and hospitable people, you will find out why it is strongly recommended.
Gilan is located at the west of the Mazandaran province, east of Ardabil, and north of the provinces of Zanjan and Qazvin. It also borders the Republic of Azerbaijan in the north, as well as Russia across the Caspian Sea.
“Masuleh” is a lovely village which is located in the lush highlands of Gilan. Its architecture is spectacular because the yard of the above building is the roof of the below building. Spend some time walking around its streets, admiring beautiful Masuleh. Motor vehicles won’t disturb your peace since they aren’t allowed to enter this place. The landscape surrounding Masuleh is lush and mountainous with frequent fog.
“Rudkhan Castle” is a castle which was built in the Sassanid dynasty on top of a hill and near to the city of Fuman. Its steep path and steps amongst the foggy forest and green highlands makes this place one of the most beautiful spots of Gilan Province. It takes about one hour to climb up to the castle through a beautiful forest, but it is certainly worth the climb and there are really breathtaking views from there.
And finally, if you think that traveling to Iran is dangerous and you are afraid that you will come to Iran, I suggest you watch these two movies and be sure that you will change your mind.