Iran is a country of mountains, deserts, and fertile valleys – about 70% of it scarcely populated. The center of Iran, a vast plateau, is an empty desert made of salt, sand, and gravel. To the north, the Elburz Mountains tilts down to the landlocked Caspian Sea. In these warm waters, sturgeon are caught for their eggs, known as caviar. The coastal plains and valleys are green and fruitful. Farmers living in scattered villages grow tobacco, cotton, and tea while the nomads travel with herds of donkeys and sleep in round tents made of black felt, called yurts.
These are the top ten not to be missed places in Iran…
Treasury of National Jewels
The Treasury of National Jewels is one of the most brilliant museums you will ever see. The fascinating thing is not only the works of art presented in their classic sense, but also the beautiful jewelry in various shapes, types, and ages. (There are even relatively modern jewels such as the Crowns of the Shah and Queen Farha Diba, 1975.), You’ll also find endless cascades of gemstones in every shape and size, which seem almost forgotten in simple dishes.
This museum is worth seeing; if only to admire the so-called Peacock Throne, the globe of nations and the sea with precious stones (IRAN is the diamond) and jewelry. Most of the gems found here formerly belonged to the Shah while some come from Russian nobility, now owned by the National Bank of Iran. You can, in fact, find some in the vault of the building of the Bank. Jewelry, gold, silver and precious stones of all sizes and preciousness are kept and carefully preserved here.
You cannot take photos or even make videos. The room is huge and well-guarded. The
Treasury of National Jewels
is open daily and is free of charge. In the little bookshop, you can find a series of postcards depicting the most famous jewelry kept inside this attraction.
is a complex of buildings where inside you’ll find many fountains, buildings, and museums. You’ll be able to visit these places in about half an hour. There is a museum containing things from the Shah where you can see all of the mirrors, bathroom audiences, Shah’s throne room, and the shower room. Some are decorated with colorful frescoes with old tiles or enamel. This palace complex is the main attraction in Tehran. The exterior walls are decorated with Muslim-style mosaics. Some rooms inside those walls are also lined with mirror tiles. The inside is stunningly beautiful even if the outside appears a bit mediocre.
A visit to the Golestan Palace is always the starting point of a trip to Iran for those who need a glimpse of the early Persian history. You can tour the massive quadrangular court arena. The building is a perfect example of the Qajar architecture, which was most popular during the nineteenth century, when the last palace of the Shah was rebuilt. The buildings are decorated with tiles of various shapes that overlook the large courtyard. For a nominal fee, you can take a trip back in time to relive the splendor of the imperial palaces. Picture taking is allowed in these well-maintained gardens.
Tehran Grand Bazaar
The city of Tehran is at the foot of the Elburz Mountains. It is Iran’s largest city and capital. Here, you’ll find modern schools, hospitals, offices, and apartment buildings alongside traditional mud brick homes. Tehran has been the capital of Iran since the late 1700’s. The
Tehran Grand Bazaar
is located at the St. M. Darvaze Doulat (state gate) which is 100 meters away from the Golestan Palace. The bazaar is very large and has several input and output passageways. It is divided into sections, starting with the main entrance, where you can find trays that sell sundries – from teapots to copper handicrafts.
70% of the products here are imported from China. Inside the bazaar has many sections. In the depths of the market, Arabic people sell rugs and carpets mostly. There are several rows of shops selling jewels – gold, silver, and precious stones- that are sold by weight. Clothing is both nice-looking and cheap, especially if it is made in Iran. The bazaar is always full of locals and tourists, making it look fascinating and alive. The narrow streets are covered by vendors and busy porters with their carts of all kinds, which somehow seem to be able to avoid painful encounters with pedestrians.
is located between the buildings of the city, with the Alborz mountain range in the back. The rotating rooftop restaurant is for VIPs (and, therefore, expensive) but provides an excellent view. The 176 meter-high view is breathtaking. The building (upper and lower part) is very modern and splendid.
The tower – with all the other buildings in the capital- must be visited at least once (if possible) in the evening. Enjoying the restaurant (which rotates 360°) and admiring the panorama of the whole city is an absolute must. You can observe the city from a 284 meter high viewing point. If you take the high-speed elevator to the observation deck, there is a panoramic view of Tehran. Don’t fail to visit it at night as well, as it gets beautifully illuminated and can be seen from all parts of the capital.
National Museum of Iran
National Museum of Iran
holds the fascinating history of this fantastic country starting from the prehistoric man with its ancient dishes, potteries, artifacts, but especially everything about the bas-reliefs at Persepolis. You’ll need a guide for better understanding of all the items in this museum. They illustrate Iran – with details big and small – through the passage of time, and the various dynasties that have occurred and ruled the country.
There are comprehensive and precise instructions that will help anyone understand the Achmenidi, Sassanids, and all the history that has given us Darius, Xerxes, Cyrus, etc. The museum covers more than six thousand years in history. While the museum is actually quite small by European standards, it is full of archeological importance.
The once great city of
(popularly referred to as “the throne of Jamshid”) and the former capital of the Persian Empire is the most beautiful city of the East. The city has an interesting history; Persepolis was founded by Darius I (the Great), 500 years BC, and for 150 years it was surrounded by strong walls with towers. But in 331 BC it was captured and destroyed by Alexander the Great. Now it is a historical landmark, which maintains the former grandeur of this city.
The interesting Xerxes Gate, which is guarded by large stone piers, the winter palace of Darius, and the staircase decorated with bas-reliefs are still preserved. A room with 100 columns or the Throne Hall of Xerxes, the tombs carved into the cliffs and the buried Darius I, Xerxes I, Darius II are all also still intact. The most interesting part here is the Museum of Persepolis, where all the history of this great city is stored. What should be taken into account is that almost the whole tour is above ground under the sunny sky, so stock up with water, headdresses, and comfortable shoes.
Imam Square (Meidan Imam)
The Imam Square or the
Area Imam Khomeini is the largest city square in the center of the Esfahan city. It has a beautiful mosque where the Imam azure dome is decorated with the blue mosaic tiles along with two tall minarets. Inside, there is a large and beautiful park located in the center where a huge pond, lots of fountains, flowers, lawns and benches for rest can be found. The square itself is tremendous, but it doesn’t seem so special, although it is the second largest in the world. There are always lots of people walking around, mostly locals. Retail shops that sell souvenirs are in the gallery area, so do not expect to see typical Iranian food.
Women sell carpets, blankets, copper vases, candy, woodwork, and handicrafts. Shops with local dishes and a couple of trader’s spices can only be found in the depths of the bazaar, located next to the main mosque. Tip – do not buy souvenirs directly from the entrance of the gallery. It is best to take them in the northern part that can be found opposite from the mosque imam. In the square with a fountain, Iranians sit and look after children who play in it. There are plenty of places to sit. Go to the area where there are horse carriages being offered for tourists. Periodically, the entire area announces song shill for prayers in the main mosque. In general, a visit to this place is an eye opening experience for better understanding the city and its rich culture.
Chehel Sotun Palace
The Palace Chehel Sotun, more often called “The Palace of 40 Columns,” originally had only 20 columns but once reflected on the surface of the lake, it adds the missing 20 columns. The palace is surrounded by a beautifully manicured park where lots of roses and vases with flowers can be admired and photographed. The palace also has an admirable finish and you will find inspiring murals inside the palace. These paintings depict the life of the king in the palace, scenes of battles, and other historical events. On the walls of the palace, many paintings with portraits of ambassadors and Isfahan nobility can be found. The museum inside the palace includes an abundant collection of Iranian carpets, ceramics and porcelain, brass teapots, and porcelain saucers that strike everyone with their beauty and grace. There are many things to discover inside this majestic place, so please pay it a visit. Although it is called a palace, it is, in fact, not a very large building. Inside there is just one big room. Still the treasures that can be found here are amazingly grand.
is a form of elegant architecture whose steady rhythm of arches is interrupted by a hexagonal body in the middle, where large passable windows can be seen. The seasonal lack of water does not fully enhance its already enormous beauty. It is an active place for gatherings and discussions about the early inhabitants of Isfahan. An ideal time to visit is during the evening, when the lights make the place look even more beautiful.
Just like other bridges in Iran, this one stands out. There are stairs that gently enter the river (focusing on the current) where people sit to enjoy the sun and chat. The temptation of getting your feet wet is strong and the water is clear – and not even cold! Seeing the bridge from that perspective is gratifying for the eye. Under these arches, it is common to find men (young and old) singing beautiful and poignant romantic songs while the women sit and listen in silence.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
The venerable Lebanese Sheikh Lotfollah did not miss anything in terms of decoration. In fact, this mosque was his true gem here in Isfahan, in a context of lines and shapes that are harmonious and balanced. The enchanting play of light during the day highlights the tiles of the great dome and also gives different shades from creamy to pinkish in a plot with turquoise floral motifs. In the evening, when it is illuminated, it is even more enchanting and looks like an emerging blue light on the horizon.
It is another essential stop in the tour of the city. Situated at the UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site, the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah stands on Imam Square in one of the largest squares in the world. Following it makes the ancient history of Persia fabulous. Even in winter, you will be able to take unforgettable photos. The tiles leave anyone who visited this place speechless and in awe of its presence.