Modern day Iran boasts ancient and amazing sights influenced by centuries of Persian culture and history. Such a simple term, ‘Persia’, is a far reaching and wondrous melange of ethnicities, environments, and events that developed into the delights to be discovered so near to the Cradle of Civilisation, where we all came from in one way or another.
Shiraz is thought to be over 4,000 years old. What is definite is its role in Persian culture – it is home to renowned and beloved gardens, wine, education, and poets, inspiring artists throughout the ages.
Eram Garden, one of the UNESCO Persian gardens, dates to the 12th or 13th century. Cypress trees are a feature, including one that apparently is almost 3,000 years old. Visitors now can see the results of the centuries – cultivating not just the plant life, but also the integrated architecture and art. It is now under the care of Shiraz University, open to both botanists and the public.
Tombs of Sa’di and Hafez: These two poets, who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries, have influenced scholars, writers, and lay people alike to this day. Their tombs have been maintained and visited by those who want to contemplate their writings in its tranquil gardens and serene marble mausoleums.
Zand Complex is an area of Shiraz featuring the Arg of Karim Khan, an 18th century citadel and fortress, and Vakil Mosque and bazaar. The mosque is an excellent example of the art of its time, and the night prayer hall features a minbar, or pulpit, carved out of a single piece of green marble.
Persepolis, once the richest city on earth, was founded by Darius I in 518 BCE. This capital of the Achaemenid Empire was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, with an impressive palace complex adorned in gold and silver, ivory, and precious stones. Considered one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Eqlid is close to the Zagros mountains and is one of the highest Iranian cities at 2250 metres. Considered the border between the mountains and the desert, it offers views of snow-covered peaks almost year-round.
Photo by destinationiran
Abarkouh is a desert city known for its ancient ice houses and windcatchers and for being home to the second oldest tree in the world, a 4,000-year-old cypress. Depending on the legend, it was either planted by Zoroaster or by Japheth, Noah’s third son.
Zein-o-Din Caravanserai is one of 999 travellers’ inns on the Silk Road built during the reign of Shah Abbas I. Dating back to the 16th century, it is one of two caravanserais built with circular towers at the corners of a square surrounding a courtyard with a pool.
Yazd, one of ancient Persia’s oldest cities and one of the largest made almost fully out of adobe, dates back over 5,000 years. A major Zoroastrian centre, it’s home to the famous Tower of Silence where the dead were left to be picked clean by vultures as well as the Fire Temple where a fire has been going since 470 AD.
Isfahan, a former capital of Persia and now Iran’s third largest city. Among its tree-lined boulevards, picturesque bridges, verdant gardens, and historic bazaars, visitors can appreciate how the reign of Shah Abbas I optimised urban planning to highlight its architecture and art such beauties as the UNESCO-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square and Royal Mosque.
Photo by irantraveltours
Kashan was an important centre for high quality textiles, pottery, and tiles from the 12th and the 14th centuries. It’s importance as a trade centre can be seen in the architectural wonder of its main bazaar complex, teeming with shops, inns, and restaurants and featuring an amazing light well. Beyond the hustle and bustle of business is another UNESCO Persian garden, Fin.
Photo by howtoiran
Iran’s capital city, Tehran, is where antiquity and modernity meet. The National Museum houses a priceless collection of artefacts, chronicling life, great and small, from pre-history to more recent times. Golestan Palace began as a citadel in the 16th century, became the seat of the capital in the Qajar era, and was rebuilt to its current form as a palace in the 19th century. This complex of intricate marble carvings, brilliant mirror works, and exceptional design was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.
Everywhere you travel in the region, it’s very likely that you’ll uncover more enchantments, from quaint farms and villages to vast world heritage sites, that hopefully will deepen your appreciation of this singular yet expansive culture. These destinations have survived so much through so the millennia and should continue to charm and be cherished. Don’t you think it’s time you joined in?
To find out more about these sites and about what else you can discover: