How to visit Iran

Five of the country's must-visit destinations and three different ways to see them.

At the height of its power, Persia was home to 44 per cent of the world’s population, the largest empire in ancient history. Thanks to its legacy as the former centre of civilisation, modern day Iran offers countless World Heritage-listed ruins and archaeological monuments, as well as a vast salt desert, rugged mountain ranges, striking architecture and an ethnically and religiously diverse population renowned for their hospitable nature.

While political unrest, war and sanctions have kept tourists away, the country has recently been drawing interest from intrepid travellers. Luxury tour providers have risen to the challenge, with a number of specially designed itineraries popping up over the past year. Although some travellers prefer to go it alone, Iran is one destination where taking a tour allows you to get the most out of your trip and safely navigate the unique challenges of this fascinating country.

Isfahan

Tehran

The capital of Iran offers bustling bazaars, upscale dining venues and numerous museums where visitors can view crown jewels used by Qajar and Pahlavi royalty as well as ancient artefacts, with some pieces dating back to 7BC.

Yazd

This desert city was once a hub for Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of Iran. A day in Yazd is best spent meandering through the maze of historic alleyways, visiting Zoroastrian temples and stopping off at a teahouse or two.

Isfahan

The city of Isfahan served as a hub for international trade and diplomacy during the reign of the Persian Empire. Key attractions include the city square, Naghsh-e Jahan, which houses two of the world’s most spectacular mosques, and the Qeisarieh Bazaar where visitors can purchase some of the city’s art and handicrafts.

Shiraz

This 4,000 year old city is the birthplace of many of Iran’s most famous poets, writers and winemakers, and is known as the cultural capital of Persia. Shiraz is also home to a number of impressive botanical gardens such as Eram Garden, which was constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries

Persepolis

Dating back to the sixth century, Persepolis was once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The World Heritage-listed site houses the ruins of the palaces of King Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes

By Rail

European operator Golden Eagle Luxury Trains is the first and only private rail company to offer journeys through Iran. The 18-day Persian Odyssey (northbound) itinerary from Tehran to Moscow and the 14-day Heart of Persia journeys take in the region’s most fabled attractions as well as some less commonly visited destinations, such as the medieval mudbrick citadel of Rayen, and Mahan, which houses the tomb of the famous Soufi, Shah Nematollah Vali.

Prices for the Heart of Persia journey start from US$16,495 (about A$21,267) per person twin share. Prices for the Persian Odyssey journey start from US$20,995 (about A$27,069) per person, twin share. goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

By Road

Experiential travel specialists Abercrombie & Kent offer a 16-day journey through Iran’s most popular destinations, beginning and ending in Tehran. Special highlights of the trip include a visit to the oasis town of Kashan, on the border of Iran’s salt desert, and a stop-off at Susa, the site of one of the oldest civilisations in western Asia. Transport is primarily by car, with one flight from Tehran to Ahwaz.

Prices for Iran: A Journey Through Persia start from A$11,350 per person twin share. abercrombiekent.com.au

By Sky

National Geographic operates a 19-day private jet tour from Iran to Turkmenistan, Belarus, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Corsica. Guests spend three days in Iran, visiting Isfahan and Kashan, before returning to the luxe private Boeing 757 jet to travel to the next destination. Anthropologist and linguist David Harrison will be joining the expedition to share his knowledge and insights.

Prices for National Geographic’s Great Empires by Private Jet: Ancient Persia to the Mediterranean start from US$68,950 (about A$90,538) per person, twin share. The journey begins and ends in Madrid. nationalgeographicexpeditions.com

 

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Destination // Iran

Five of the country's must-visit destinations and three different ways to see them. …

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Weather to go

In order to avoid extreme temperatures, Iran is best visited in the spring and autumn months, from March to May and September to November.

 

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