Iran as a tourist destination

Iran as a tourist destination


A brief glance at some of the tourist attractions of Iran

Javad Amini, cultural attache at the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Sofia

Unlike what the Western media has always been trying to portray, Iran is one the safest countries in the world for foreign tourists and travelers.

Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to the north, by Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, and by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south. It covers an area of 1.64 million square kilometers, making it the 17th largest country in the world, and has a population of 86 million.

Best known for its ancient history and interesting culture, the name of Iran has always been intertwined with diverse culture and amazing nature. This vast country is full of outstanding tourist attractions the history of some of which dates back to more than 5000 years ago. Depending on one’s choice and interests, there are plenty of different fascinating natural and historical attractions in this country, ranging from tall mountains and mesmerizing forests to unique geological sites and vast deserts. There are also many cultural/historical attractions in Iran including palaces, historical villages, mosques, and gardens 24 of which have been inscribed in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

The majority of travelers who choose Iran for spending their holidays have been fascinated by many of its tourist attractions in such cities as Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd, and Tehran. Those who are more adventurous choose to combine their Iran cultural tour with an Iran desert tour and explore the deserts near Kashan and Isfahan and many foreigners travel to Iran with the purpose of trekking in the Alborz Mountain Range and climbing Mount Damavand (5610m), the most prominent peak in the Middle East. In short, it is possible to combine all these options to get a taste of various Iranian tourist attractions and besides getting to know more about the culture and history of Iran enjoy its four-seasoned diversified nature.

Keeping in view that Iranian tourist attractions are numerous, some of the most outstanding historical places of this country are described here. 

Imam Reza’s Shrine

Located in Mashhad, this shrine is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Iran. Muslims from different schools of thought – and even non-Muslims – from all over the world come to this beautiful city to visit this shrine. It is the most outstanding masterpiece of Iranian-Islamic architecture and with more than 2o million visitors per year, Imam Reza Holy Shrine is one of the most important and most visited attractions of Iran. With its libraries, museums, research centers, seminaries, and outstanding architecture, this complex is one of the largest cultural centers of Iran and Islam. 

Imam Reza complex, a continuous artistic architectural style whose progress spreads over centuries, represents a unique masterpiece of creating a sacred space. The various chambers surrounding the tomb of Imam Reza (AS) are decorated with the Islamic style of tilework, mirrorwork, and silverwork, which have joined hands to create an exquisite form of art captivating the eyes of visitors. The portico is decorated with more than 8,000 square meters of mirrorwork.


Persepolis, the remains of the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid emperors, is the most famous UNESCO world heritage site in Iran and is a must-see attraction in the country. 

The construction of this Iranian monument was started by the Iranian kings Darius I and was completed by his son Xerxes I and his grandson Artaxerxes I. This splendid palatial complex was built on an immense half-natural, half-artificial terrace. This 13-ha ensemble of majestic approaches, monumental stairways, throne rooms (Apadana), reception rooms, and dependencies is classified among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. The terrace is a grandiose architectural creation, with its double flight of access stairs, walls covered by sculpted friezes at various levels, contingent Assyrianesque propylaea (monumental gateway), gigantic sculpted winged bulls, and remains of large halls. By carefully engineering lighter roofs and using wooden lintels, the Achaemenid architects were able to use a minimal number of astonishingly slender columns to support open-area roofs. Columns were topped with elaborate capitals; typical was the double-bull capital where, resting on double volutes, the forequarters of two kneeling bulls, placed back-to-back, extend their coupled necks and their twin heads directly under the intersections of the beams of the ceiling.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Also known as Imam Square, is the main tourist spot of Isfahan and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. “Naqsh-e Jahan” in Farsi means “The image of the world”. The square is surrounded by structures of different purposes and architecture, and together with the main bazaar of Isfahan, they comprise a huge complex to explore.

To commemorate the new role of Isfahan and also to create a place to hold national events, Naqsh-e Jahan Square was designed by the great Muslim scholar, Shaykh Bahai. The square is surrounded by several eye-catching buildings like the Shah (Imam) Mosque, the main bazaar of Isfahan, the Ali Qapu Palace, and the Shiekh Lotfollah Mosque.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square is 160 meters wide by 560 meters long, which results in a total area of 89,600 square meters. It is also surrounded by a two-story row of shops, reflecting the architectural style of the Safavid Era and events, such as Nowruz or polo matches, were held on the square.

From an architectural perspective, this square is very unique and the different monuments that surround it reflect upon the outstandingly beautiful Iranian- Islamic architecture and tilework.

As one of the most beautiful countries of West Asia, Iran has a total of 2500 km of sea frontiers as a natural gift. Its topography which includes the high Alborz range in the north, the Zagros range in the West and southeast, and the eastern mountains surrounding the plateau, beautify Iran with ruggedly mountainous and spectacular terrain.

Some of the Iranian mountains are more than 4500 m high and the world-famous peaks are Damavand in the northeast of Teheran, Sabalan in western Ardebil, Alam-Kuh in Mazandaran Province, Kuh-e Dena in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, and Taftan of Zahedan.

Caspian Sea

Tourists enjoy the northern shores of Iran, along the Caspian Sea for its lush green lands covered with forests. The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest lake. Located in the north of Iran, the Caspian Sea with its sandy shores and fine scenic views is one of the most popular regions for Iran relaxation and tourism.

Along the coastal regions of Iran stretch the lofty Alborz and Zagros ranges which stand as a barrier between the shores and the Central plateau of Iran. The mountain sites of Iran provide thrilling opportunities for winter sports and mountaineering.

Iranian deserts, namely Dasht-e Kavir with an area of 200,000 square km, and Dasht-e Lut are still considered to be the unknown and unexplored regions of the country. These wide plains with their salt and sandy deserts were traversed in the past by great trade caravans carrying goods between the east and the west.

Located in the dry belt of the globe, Iran has a dry climate. But owing to its location between 25 and 40 degrees of latitude and the presence of great heights, a variety of climates can be found in Iran. The average annual temperature increases from the northwest towards the southeast, from 10 degrees C in Azarbaijan to 30 degrees C in the south.

Winter Sports

In Iran, a tourist can enjoy winter sports in the mountains as well as bathing in the warm waters of the southern shores. And this can be done within only a few hours of travel by land. One also gets to meet people of different races and cultures. 

Tourists of all faiths and regions like to visit Iran for a variety of purposes. Muslims visit Iran for pilgrimage to its various shrines, while non-Muslims go to this country mainly for sightseeing, enjoying its nature, and experiencing the hospitality of Iranian people.

Spa Centers

Another attraction in Iran is its natural hot spring waters. The hot springs of Iran in Larijan, Mahallat, Sareyn, Bostanabad, and Ramsar, possess different chemical compositions and provide unique remedial uses and benefits. The Orumiyeh Lake with its highly saline water is an important mud-treatment center.

While the best way to travel to Iran is by air, one can go by land via Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Iranians and Indians owe their origin to the Aryans who migrated from Central Asia and the Pamirs.

The name Iran has been derived from Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at Naqsh-e Rostam, using the term Aryān. Being located between the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea in the south, Iran forms a land bridge between many countries of the region.

Photo: Naqsh-e Jahan Square

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