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Iran - A symphony of contraries

Iran - A symphony of contraries

Updated 21 Feb, 2020
location_on Iran

Imagine a land of hidden havens lying bare for you to explore.
Stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, Iran is a dream come true for our friends suffering from a true case of wanderlust. But the land of riches has been surrounded by a velvet curtain keeping the secrets in and the sunshine out.
But the curtain has recently been lifted. Recent negotiations with the U.N has led Iran to open its doors to the modern world, finally giving us an insight to its treasure trove complete with crown jewels and breathtaking architecture that will leave you star struck.
Despite the age old allegations of the country being surrounded by barbed wire and boiling with political insurgence, the reality is the exact opposite.
The Iranian people are some of the peace loving and welcoming people you will ever meet because hospitality is one of the pillars of their culture. Being welcoming to travelers and buying them a meal is basic etiquette, something as natural as a kind smile might be for you.
Get ready to be spellbound by magical cities and views to match, straight out of the fairy tale of Aladin and you might even find a flying carpet or two.

Ishafan - The Most Beautiful

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Looking for paradise?
This is as close as it gets. With bewitching architectural feats and whimsical gardens, you will be whisked away to an era of Persian Sultans where anything can happen.
Fun Fact: South of the city, you can stroll over to the
decorative Pigeon Towers, to get a peek and maybe feed the wild pigeons housed in nesting boxes.

Things to do:

1. The Imam Mosque - With its walls and domes adorned by calligraphy and intricate mosaic tiling, get ready to be enchanted by this 17th century beauty.

2. The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque - With its lofty domes, this one’s famous for the intricate carvings and calligraphy found on its walls.

3. Ali Qapu Palace – century palace built for Shah Abbas has a music room and a veranda peeking over the square’s fountains.
4. The Hasht Behesht Palace - century palace is surrounded by the Garden of nightingales, ready to enchant any traveler who dares cross its way.

5. Zayandeh River Bridges - The city’s 11 bridges cross over the babbling Zayandeh River creating a romantic pavilion for all the lovebirds out there
Local Restaurant Suggestions:1. Azadegan Café – Visit for the best authentic tea2. Ghasr Monshi Restaurant – Rumor is it, the rich lamb stew is to die for.
Best Time to visit:The summer months of November to May.

Pasargadae - The Most Historical

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Visit the homeland of the Persians, the seat of Kings in the ancient city housing the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the kind who united the country and ruled from this capital city of dreams.
Walk in the footsteps of the birthplace of Iran.
You will find this city on your way from Shiraz to Jazd so the best way would be to take a rental car or bike and drive.

Things to do -
1. Tomb of Cyrus - Here lies the famous emperor Cyrus, encased in a lavish rectangular tomb.

2. Prison of Solomon - The ruins of what was previously thought to be a fire temple and a sundial to honour the gods of old.

3. Darius's Garden - Recently added to the list of World Heritage Sites, this garden houses an elaborate irrigation system and a beautiful collection of flora to feast your eyes and soul on.

4. Cyru's private palace - Century old palace ruins that have been recently opened to the public houses the great king cyrus's private chambers and are a great addition to the must visit list for any history lover.

Local Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Half Khan Restaurant - The spicy stews will make for a memory you can't forget
2. Abbas Cafe - The locally brewed chai is heavenly.

Best Time to Visit -
The summer months of November to May.

Yazd - The Food Capital

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Remember seeing those deserted cities in old action movies or videogames?
This is as good as they come.
Complete with preserved ruins and mud brick houses intact with their original structures will transport you in the live setting of one of your favourite action flicks.

Thing to do -

1. The Amir Chakhmaq complex - Theis located in the heart of the city, in a square of the same name. The imposing three-storey façade flaunts a number of beautifully symmetrical iwans, which light up and glow after sunset.

2. The Zurkhaneh- A UNESCO world heritage site, this is an ancient Persian gym, one of the only ones that allows women.

3. Towers of Silence – Walk up to this tomb of ancient times and watch how the dead were buried.

4. The Old City – Get the feel of the rich culture in this mud village that will remind you of olden times and
see traditional homes with magical domes.

.5. Dolat Abad Garden – The name when translated means the wealth abound garden and it fits perfectly. Complete with Yazdi architecture, it boasts of pomegranate and cypress tree orchards along with a reflecting pool, as well as the world’s tallest wind-catcher.

Local Restaurant Suggestions:
1. Marco Polo Restaurant - Go straight for the kebabs, you won't regret it.
2. Baam Cafe - Famous for its seafood.

Best Time to Visit :
As the sun can be quite unforgiving in the summers, the winters are the best time to visit.

Kashan - The Most Beautiful

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Home to the highest peas and gateway to the central desert of Iran, Kashan is famous for its beauty with live safaris, salt lakes and shifting sand dunes and will let you get the pictures you need to show the world your tan lines came from your days in the mystical lands and not the local salon.

Things to do -

  1. Tabatabai House - A prominent historic house built in the shiraz era. It is one of the most well preserved royal houses of the century and a favorite haunt for historians.
  2. Borujerdi House - A bridal house especially created for the a wealthy Borujedi family heiress which currently makes for an amazingly well preserved museum.
  3. Agha Bozorg mosque - Located smack dab in the middle of the city, the mosque boasts of some of master-mi'mar Ustad Haj Sa'ban-ali's famous work.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Hall of Mirrors Restaurant - Spend a lovely evening surrounded by mirrors to reflect your meals and your memories.
2. Mozaffari Traditional Restaurant - Gorge yourself on the most amazing loghme kababs you will find in the region.

Best Time to visit -
The Winter months of June to September.

Tehran - The Most Developed

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The Capital city. Come watch the place from where modern day Iran is governed.
Enveloped by the majestic Alborz mountain, this metropolis maintains a wondrous balance of the country's regal past, its modern present and huge aspirations for the future.
Stay long enough and somewhere amidst its crazed pedestrian life and towering buildings, you'll discover the essence of Iran and leave a part of yours behind, to be added to the wealth of footprints that have walked the land.

Things to do -

1. Golestan Palace - Ever wondered how the mighty kings and queens lived? Come see for yourself in this preserved palace of the empire. Discover rooms adorned with glass and crystal work that will take your breath away.

2. The National Jewelry Treasury - This one's specially for the ladies. The most unusual jewels from all over the world are housed in this museum that will make you feel like you've stumbled across a heavenly treasure trove. Photography is not allowed but be sure to collect the specially made post cards they sell.

3. Tabiat Bridge - Feast your eyes on nature's own artwork, painted in hues of every color you can imagine and entrusted in a collage of trees surrounding you as you stroll down this feat of architecture surrounded by the hustle bustle of the city.

4. Darband - One of the older villages of Tehran, this is a gateway to the hiking trail into Mount Tochal. A breath of fresh air, Darband will offer you a taste of the local cuisine and can be an escape for those who want to get away from city life.

5. Tajrish Bazaar - Get a taste of local life in Tehran as you stroll through this traditional market and let the smell of local spices and food waft over you. From mountains of Safran to local fruits, this is the best place to tantalize your taste buds and get souvenirs.

Local Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Dizi - The best place to get Iran's favourite lamb, potato and chickpea stew.
2. Azari Traditional Tea house - Delve into the atmosphere in this chaykhaneh (tea house) and get a taste of the local, freshly made stews.

Best Time to visit -
The winters are usually unbearable for the inexperienced traveler. The months of March to May would be the perfect time to visit.

Qeshm Island - The Top Nature Lovers Destination

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Qeshm Island is house to the Unesco recognized Qeshm Island Geopark, a sight which can't be missed by any nature lover. It is also home to a large population of locals who still live the age old bandari way of life.

Things to do -
1. Geo Park - One of the oldest Geo Park sites in Iran, humming with a wide variety of flora and fauna.

2. Valley of Stars - Visiting this valley will feel like stepping into a painting. Gliding gorges and valleys form craters that will make you feel like you're walking through the stars.

3. Chahkooh Canyon - The exposed rock structures of the canyon turn into a symphony of turns and edges which will leave you spellbound.

4. Qeshm Portugese Castle - Made with red bricks, the castle and the adjoining yard is a sight to behold and another excuse to visit the beach.

Restaurant Suggestions -

  1. Delshodegan Restaurant - Best place to experience the local cuisine.
    2. Badil Restaurant - Badil means clouds and trust me, you soon will be walking on clouds after you start eating.

Best Time to visit -
The Summer Months of November to May are the perfect time.

Ahvaz - The city of brid

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The carefree life of this city will get you addicted. Take your time strolling over the numerous bridges over the Karun River and watch how the seasons change around you. The UNESCO heritage towns around the city will also keep you engaged for as much time as you need to remember who you are.

Things to do -

1. White Bridge - One of the oldest Bridge built by Sweden in olden times. In the current times, you can stroll through the bridge which is lit up at night with beautiful lights to enchant you.

2. Pol-e-Siah - The oldest bridge in Iran, also called the black bridge hangs over the Karun river proudly displaying Iran's heritage.

3. Mapar House - See how the natives lived in this preserved, ancient house, founded in the pahlavi era and easily accessible as it is situated near the Karun River.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Konjed Cafe - Spend a sunny day lazing around here.
2.Green Cactus Restaurant - Best Place for a ta local delicacies.

Best Time to visit -
The Beginning of Spring, which also happens to be the Persian New Year

Mashhad - The city of shrines

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Ready for a holy pilgrimage?
This city is decorated with the vast, holy shrine of Imam Reza, the tomb of scholar Sheikh Bahai
and the mausoleum of Nader Shah so get ready for the holy pilgrimage.

Things to do -

1. Imam Reza Holy Shrine - Enjoy this complex filled with museums, art galleries and architecture to enthrall you. Get there early and spend a peaceful day strolling through history.

2. Water Waves Land - A fun filled water park awaits you with thrilling rides, amazing adventures and ever lasting memories.

3. Koohh Sangi Park - The perfect place for novice hikers. Enjoy the journey up the mountain through the man made steps carved into the rock and visit the temple atop.

4. Kang Village - Try this cozy homestead to feel at home in Iran. Discover a second home with the locals and experience the kind welcome you deserve as you observe the age old village with its wooden doors and crumbling architecture that has stood against time for 3000 years.

Restaurants to visit -
1. Chelokababi Omid - Enjoy the local delicacies cooked on coal grills.
2. Pesaran Karim - This one's for the meat lovers. Find the best kebabs in the country here.

Best Time to visit -
The winter months of June to September.

Hormuz Island - The most backpacker friendly

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Looking for your spot?
This is it. Complete with alluring beaches full of red sand, astounding peaks and traditional delicacies to satisfy your palette, this is the ideal place for solo backpackers looking for another dream destination to add to their travel diaries.

Things to do -

  1. Rainbow Valley - Imagine a collage filled with all hues of colors you can imagine. The valley is a puzzle made up of multi hued sand and makes for a very unique view.

2. Valley of the Statues - Watch how nature sculpts its own art on its canvas in this rocky valley, making up statues to defy even the wildest of imaginations.

3. Turtle's Bay - One of the largest egg laying spots for a variety of species, including the endangered Hawksbill turtle, visit for a look at one of the most spellbinding moments of the lives of these ancient beings.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Singow Cafe - Being welcomed with a rose drink and food that gives you the feeling of being at home on a hot summer day feels like a dream come true.
2. Red Beach Restaurant - Enjoy the view of water running over the red sands of the Island as you devour your meal.

Best Time to visit - November to March are the months to visit this island as otherwise, it get unbearably hot.

Kish Island - The top beach destination

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Located on the southeast coast of Iran, Kish Island is surrounded by beaches but the city has a lot more to offer. Dolphin Parks, Coral reefs, Underground cities are just the cherry on the top.

Things to do -

1. Kish Dolphin Park - Have fun with dolphins at this adorable park and let out that child inside of you.

2. Kariz-e-Kish - Walk through this underground cite filled with walls encrusted with pearls and century old fossil fuels.

3. Harireh - This one's for the historians. Walk through this 800 year old preserved village and see for yourself how times have changed.
4. Damoon Shopping Center - Have fun doing some tax free shopping on your way back and stock up on those souvenirs.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Kooh Noor - Enjoy your meal sitting inside a beautifully lighted cave.
2. Mirmohana Restaurant - Enjoy fish delicacies with live music.

Best Time to visit -
The summer months of November to May are the perfect time to visit.

Ramsar - The Most Offbeat Destination

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Lying on the coast of the Caspian sea, this off beat destination is for the solo traveler. Walk through dusty parks and vineyards and discover yourself in the beauty of a town.

Things to do -

1. Casino Boulevard - Age old Boulevard that you can stroll through, pondering over the world.

2. Ramsar Museum of Anthropology - A museum of tools that have been in use over the past 100 years.

3. Ramsar Castle - Visit the opulent Ramsar castle and experience royalty.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Baradaran Restauarant - Enjoy the local cuisine with a heavenly backdrop
2. Angels Old Hotel - The meaty stews are sincerely recommended.

Best Time to visit -
The smmer Months are a little unbearable but the water is perfect. November to May.

Hamedan - The Most Historical

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Hamedan is said to be one of the oldest cities of Iran. Surrounded by the Alvadan Mountain, the historical sites in this place are worth a visit.

Things to do -

1. Ganjnameh - Home to two Achaemenid Descriptions for the historians to ponder over.

2. Avicenna Mausoleum - Small complex including a museum and a mausoleum where you can spend a few hours observing the artifacts.
3. Tomb of Esther and Mordechai - A Jewish Pilgrimage site, the tomb houses the biblical characters of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Dareta Cafe - Eat, Pray, Love at reasonable prices.
2. Shandiz Haje - Enjoy the local, slow-cooked delicacies

Best Time to visit -
The months of June to November.

Darband - The city of Towers

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Located near Tehran, Darband is the city of towers and royalty and makes f

Things to do -

1. Golestan Palace - Watch true royalty in the making in one of the oldest palaces of Iran. As the cherry on the cake, the palace is also a world heritage site so make sure to visit.

2. Milad Tower - The sixth tallest tower in the world.

3. Azadi tower - Housing an underground museum, this tower is the entrance to the western part of the city and makes for a beautiful view.

4. Sa'dabad Palace Complex - Visit the Royal palace built by Qajar monarchs and as an added bonus, the residency of the President of Iran lies adjacent to this complex.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Baghe Behesht Restaurant - You'll be drooling over the kebabs.
2. Koohpaye - An amazing experience with persian cuisine under a sophisticated backdrop.

Best Time to visit -
Best Time would be the months of July to November.

Shiraz - The city of gardens

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Located in south-central Iran and proven to be a historical center for education and learning, this city will lure you in with the promise of a history edged with ancient lessons from the past and dazzle you with a plethora of magical gardens.

Things to do -

1. The Tomb of Hafez - Built completely in marble, honoring the highly praised poet Hafez, resides within its own garden.

2. The Saadi houses -Lying to the east, this 13th century mausoleum houses the famed writer’s mosaic tomb and an underground pool.

3. Persepolis - The ancient 6th-century B.C. capital of the war ridden country is a sight to behold with its far fetched gateways, columns and spiraling architecture that will remind you of days gone by.

4. The Nazar Garden - Home to the compact Pars Museum, the garden makes for a wonderful day trip to see the Zand-period paintings and intricate calligraphy.

Restaurant Suggestions -
1. Shater Abbaz Restaurant - The best taste of the local cuisine.
2. Half Khan Restaurant - Amazing Decor and the best local drinks won't make you regret it.

Best Time to visit -
The Months of November to May will be perfect.