Iran Tourism: Attractions and Activities

Places to visit and things to do in Iran

Farzad Hosseinpour Aug 7, 2019 9 min read
Iran Tourism
Iran offers a wide range of attractions and activities

The mere range of tourism options in Iran works great to encourage visits across the ancient land. Tourists face no shortage of historical and natural attractions and exciting activities in Iran, regardless of the time of the year they visit the country.

Whether you are interested in exploring famous monuments or looking for some adventure in amazingly diverse landscapes, Iran will never let you down. Here we list Iran’s popular attractions and activities which accommodate all tastes and preferences.

Iran Tourism: Attractions

Iran with famous ancient cities and amazing natural landscapes has always been a popular destination in the Middle East. There are cities across Iran which are particularly popular among tourists and usually find their places on visitors’ itineraries.

Following we have listed the cities and some of the most-visited attractions in each. However, there is much more to Iran than these popular places. Discovering Iran’s lesser-known gems is an adventure in itself.

Isfahan

The central city of Isfahan is perhaps the most visited city in Iran. If you are traveling to Iran for the very first time, then you might want to pay a visit to the vibrant city. It is known for its Islamic architecture, beautiful mosques and old, scenic bridges.

Iran Tourism - Naqsh-e-Jahan
Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan

The magnificent UNESCO-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the world’s largest city squares. The picturesque Si-o-se-pol Bridge is a popular attraction among both Iranians and foreigners. Chehel Sotoun Palace is the most famous palace in Isfahan built by Shah Abbas II for his entertainment and receptions. The UNESCO-listed Jameh Mosque of Isfahan is the largest mosque in Iran. Hasht Behesht Palace used to be one of the residences of the last Safavid rulers.

Shiraz

Shiraz used to be the heartland of the ancient Persian Empire. With more than 4000 years of history, the city and nearby tourist sites are must-see places.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, in the old quarters of Shiraz boasts intricate designs and exemplary architecture. Persepolis is the site of the ruins of the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

Iran Tourism - Shiraz
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz

Pasargadae was the first capital of the Achaemnid Empire. It was constructed at the order of Cyrus the Great who is a revered king of the Persian Empire. Naqsh-e Rustam is home to the tombs of four Persian kings from the Achaemenid Empire. With colorful rosebushes and soaring cypress trees everywhere, Eram Garden is an excellent example of the Persian Garden. A beautiful mausoleum and a memorial hall on the northern edge of Shiraz honor one of the most famous Persian poets Hafez.

Tehran

As the Iranian capital, Tehran draws large numbers of tourists each year. Besides its numerous attractions, the fast-growing metropolis is the best place to get a real sense of modern-day Iran.

Iran Tourism - Golestan Palace
Golestan Palace in Tehran

The Golestan Palace is a must-see in Tehran. The former royal palace along with the Sa’adabad Palace showcases the excesses of Iranian rulers before the 1979 revolution. The Golestan Palace is close to Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. If you are a fan of history then the National Museum of Iran will surprise you with its wealth of valuable collections. You can find one of the finest collections of jewelry at the National Jewels Museum. A world of excitement lies on the northern edge of the vibrant Iranian capital at the Tochal resort.

Yazd

You should need to visit Yazd to experience the city’s truly unique feel. Located in the middle of the limitless deserts of Iran, Yazd is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in the country.

Iran Tourism - Yazd
Yazd Old Neighborhood

UNESCO has listed the old town of Yazd as a world heritage site. Although Yazd is in the middle of central Iranian deserts, there are vast, beautiful gardens including Dowlat Abad Garden inside the city. Alexander’s Prison is one of the sights in the Fahadan neighborhood in Yazd’s lovely old town.

Kashan

The city of Kashan is particularly favored by tourists for its architecture, handicrafts and natural attractions. You just need to walk through its streets and alleyways to appreciate the beauty of the city.

Iran Tourism - Kashan
Tabatabaei House in Kashan

Tabatabaei House is one of the best examples of Persian architecture in the city of Kashan. Fin Garden, or Bagh-e Fin, in the city of Kashan in Iran’s central Isfahan Province is a traditional Persian garden. When in Kashan make sure to pay a visit to the beautiful Abyaneh Village or the Red Village. Maranjab is one of the most wonderful deserts in Iran and is a must-see near Kashan.

Mashhad

Mashhad is considered Iran’s religious capital as hosts the holy Shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. It hosts millions of pilgrims each year.

Iran Tourism - Mashhad
Imam Reza Holy Shrine in Mashhad

Nader Shah Afshar Mausoleum is an important historical attraction of Mashhad. Many historians believe the founder of the Afsharid dynasty was the most powerful ruler of post-Islamic Iran. Khorshid Palace is an architectural masterpiece near Mashhad. The final resting place of Arsalan Jazeb, who once governed Tous, is now a historical site near Mashhad attracting a rising number of visitors. The Mausoleum of prominent Iranian poet Ferdowsi is also among the top attractions of Mashhad.

Tabriz

The city of Tabriz has been the crowning jewel of Iran’s Azerbaijan since ancient times. The city has a history dating back to Iron Age settlements some 3,500 years ago and is home to a host of historical attractions.

Iran Tourism - Tabriz
The Blue Mosque in Tabriz

The Blue Mosque is the only noteworthy Qara Qoyunlu structure still standing in Tabriz. Arg of Tabriz includes remnants of a big fortification and a city wall in downtown Tabriz. El-Goli is a historic park with an artificial lake which was once the largest water reservoir serving irrigation needs in the east of Tabriz. The Constitution House of Tabriz, showcasing important historical documents, is among the top attractions in the northwestern Iranian city. It is within the walking distance of the famous Bazaar of Tabriz. Azerbaijan Museum is Iran’s second largest archaeological museum after the National Museum of Iran. The rocky village of Kandovan near Tabriz is also too good to miss.

Kerman

The ancient city of Kerman is second to none in Iran when it comes to history and cultural heritage. Kerman’s architectural marvels and lush gardens will definitely leave a long-lasting impression on your mind.

Iran Tourism - Kerman
Ganjali Khan Complex in Kerman

Ganjali Khan Complex in the old town of Kerman is a Safavid-era building complex. Shazdeh Garden is arguably the most mesmerizing specimen of a Persian garden. The 6,000-year-old village of Maymand is a village of troglodytes in Kerman Province which is definitely worth visiting.

Iran Tourism: Activities

You will have a host of opportunities to enjoy your stay in Iran if you are looking for some adventure. The country’s diverse landscapes allow for a large number of activities including desert trips, mountain climbing, trekking, skiing, rafting, and diving. When it comes to Iran tourism options, these activities draw large numbers of tourists and professional athletes each year. Here we go over only some of these activities.

Desert Adventures

Iran’s central deserts with their other-worldly scenes can win the heart of any traveler. Maranjab Desert in Kashan, Rig-e Zarin, Fahraj Desert and Bafgh Desert near Yazd are amazing places to get active.

Iran Tourism - Desert
Tourists can enjoy a host of activities at Iranian deserts

Camel riding, dune bashing, sand-boarding, watching the sunset, night sky watching, and photography are some of the activities you can enjoy in Iranian deserts.

Rafting

Iran also offers the most exciting experiences of rafting. For instance, within a two-hour drive from Isfahan, you will get to Lordegan County where you can enjoy delightful boating on the Khersaan River and an unforgettable rafting experience there.

Iran Tourism - Rafting
Iran Tourism: Rafting in Isfahan Province

Mountain Climbing

Iran is also a popular destination for mountain climbers. The country is home to dozens of high mountains, many of which can be climbed without special equipment. The Alborz Mountains which rung along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea boasts 70 peaks with a height of over 4000 meters.

Mt Damavand is Iran’s highest peak

The highest and most famous peak in Iran is Mt Damavand (5671m). It is located northeast of the capital Tehran. Mt Alam (4850m) is Iran’s toughest peak to climb with an 800m granite wall on its northern face. Mt Sabalan in Alborz Mountain range is Iran’s third highest peak. Meanwhile, Mt Oshturan is the most accessible peak of the Zagros Mountains extending northwest-southeast.

Rock Climbing

If you are a professional rock climber then Iran has several challenging routes to offer. Yafteh Wall near Khorrammabad with a 700-meter limestone wall is one of the top three climbing areas in Iran.

Iran Tourism - Rock Climbing
Iran has several challenging routes to offer rock climbers

There is also good climbing in Maku in the West Azerbaijan Province. Farhad Tarash cliffs at Bisotun near the city of Kermanshah also feature a challenging rock face. You can also opt for more accessible climbing areas near Tehran including Band-e Yakhchal.

Skiing

Skiing in Iran is growing in popularity among enthusiasts. The country features over 20 ski resorts all with lodges, chalets and hotels. Tochal, Dizin, Shemshak, and Darbandsar in the Alborz Mountains are easily accessible from Tehran.

Iran Tourism - Tochal
iran Tourism: Tochal Resort near Tehran

You can also find good slopes in western Iran. There are ski resorts near Tabriz, Ardabil, Hamedan and Bijar. The Zagros Mountains feature smaller fields including Chelgerd, west of Isfahan, and Sepidan, near Shiraz.

Scuba Diving

If you are looking for some scuba diving and snorkeling then you can visit Kish Island and Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf. There you can be rewarded by the sight of fascinating coral reefs and colorful marine creatures.

Iran Tourism - Scuba Diving
Iran Tourism: Diving near Qeshm Island

Please note that women and men don’t dive together in Iran.

Cycling

There are tourists who have cycled their way through Iran. The country’s secondary routes are suitable for cycle touring while main highways can sometime prove dangerous for cyclists.

Iran Tourism - Cycling
Iran’s secondary routes are suitable for cycle touring

Most women in Iran don’t ride a bicycle because it used to be considered unusual but there is no ban on women’s cycling. These days more and more women turn to cycling in the big cities.


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