Iran — Overview
Iran is an incredibly culturally and historically rich country. Its past dates back to the Lower Paleolithic era and is considered to be one of the oldest civilizations in the world, which means it is home to some of the most incredible archaeological sites on the planet. On the other hand, a little known fact about Iran is that it is the 18th largest country in the world, and its size and geographic location bridge Asia and the Middle East. These attributes make Iran a fascinating and diverse place to visit and explore.
Iran was known as Persia until 1935 and their long and colorful history of literature, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy is well documented. Persia was an important center of arts and music, and the amazing history can still be seen today. Today, Iran is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, but since its political history has been tumultuous, the number of western travelers to the country is limited, adding to its mysticism.
Tehran, the capital, remains the country’s cultural, political and commercial center and where most visitors start there journey. Although there are plenty of amazing sights to explore here, the main archeological and historic marvels are far from Tehran. Although traveling within Iran can be both complicated and dangerous, some worthwhile destinations to check out are Kermanshah, Persepolis, Susa, and Dizin. Rental cars are an option; however, hiring a travel agency to explore the area is the safest choice as westerners are sometimes targeted in the countryside.
Most travelers will have to use an agency to book lodging in Iran. In Tehran, visitors will find international level, five-star hotels; however, outside of the capital, be ready to adjust to guesthouse-type accommodations. Visitors should note that a man and woman cannot share a room unless they can prove they are married. Although westerners are generally exempt from this rule, it makes sense to carry a copy of your marriage certificate just in case.
Imam Khomeini International Airport is the main gateway into Iran. There are currently no direct flights from North America so connections have be made through Europe or the Middle East. It is also possible to get to Tehran via train or car from Turkey. However, non-airport routes are not recommended for visitors who require a visa on arrival.
Political instability and international sanctions remain an issue. Although most visitors will no doubt enjoy an uneventful and amazing vacation in Iran, remain vigilant to the situation. This means regularly checking travel alerts from the embassy and having emergency contacts on hand. Always avoid places where large groups are congregating, demonstrations or political rallies.
- Enjoy skiing in Dizin, with some of the best powder, reasonable prices and few tourists
- Explore the ruins of Persepolis, which date back over 2,500 years
- Visit the world-class museums in Tehran, the Carpet Museum and the National Museum of Iran
- Hike or ride a camel through one of the Iranian deserts
- Enjoy the beautiful ocean and marine life in southern Iran along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman
- Take in the beautiful views over Tehran from the top of Milad Tower
- Visit the architectural marvel of the Golestan Palace
- Soak in history and culture by exploring the archaeological sites dotted around the countryside, including Isfahan and Bisotun