Iran is totally back on the tourism radar after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office removed its advice against all but essential travel to the majority of the country. So, where should you go? Let’s see!
It seems President Rouhani has been doing Iran a lot of good. The FCO has changed its travel advice, citing a less hostile atmosphere in the country under his government. Iran is looking to make a come back as an unusual but cultural tourist destination for more than just intrepid and adventurous travellers.
Up until now, it’s been really difficult for travellers wishing to book flights to Iran to secure travel insurance due to the FCO’s advisory. It’s important to note that while the FCO says the majority of the country is now safe for British travellers, there are still some parts which should be avoided like the border areas with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Travellers should also note that independent travel is not allowed. You must visit on a pre-arranged tour and must have pre-booked accommodation and visas on an itinerary designed by a tour operator.
What to see in Iran
Golestan Palace – This is the finest example of what’s left in Tehran from the Qajar rulers. This palace is made up of several grand buildings and a beautifully manicured garden. Each building requires a separate ticket. The palace was inspired by the European ones that Nasser al-Din Shah saw on his travels.
Persepolis – As far as archaeological digs in Iran go, this is the most popular one to visit. There’s still enough here today to give you an idea of what the ancient Achaemenid Empire was like, from its broken columns to its exquisite reliefs. Don’t forget to bring a hat; there is little shade here from May to October.
Azadi Tower – This is one of the most recognisable buildings in Tehran. It was built in 1971 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the first Persian empire. It’s a beautiful mix of 1960’s modern architecture an traditional Iranian influences. The exterior features no less than 8,000 cut stones!
National Museum of Iran – For a good dose of history while you’re in the capital, head to this museum that was designed by the French architect Andre Godard. It was completed in 1928 and is without a doubt one of the prettiest buildings in the city. Inside you’ll find everything from pottery to carvings.
Vank Cathedral – Also called the Holy Saviour Cathedral or the Church of the Saintly Sisters, this is one incredible place to visit, whether you’re catholic or not. It’s located in Isfahan and was one of the first churches established by Armenian deportees in the 1600s.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – If you can appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into mosaics, then this is the place to go. Located in Esfahan, the mosque is home to some of the most impressive mosaics surviving from the Safavid era.
Eram Garden – This Persian garden in Shiraz is a stunning green oasis at the northern shore of the Khoshk River. The building and the garden were built in the middle of the 19th century and are today an UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Shiraz University.