Cities & Regions

Major towns and historical centers are spread all over the country. Such as the country's largest cities of Tabriz in the far northwestern corner; Mashhad in the far northeastern corner; Esfahan to the south; and Shiraz to the distant south of the capital, Tehran.

Tehran The Capital Of Iran

Tehran is the city of contrasts that plays out on geographic lines. It is modern and traditional, secular and religious, rich and poor – north and south. Most of the spark comes from the affluent north, but wander through southern Tehran. You will see a contrastingly conservative, religious and poor city with little of the North’s brashness. At a practical level, Tehran has a decent choice of hotels and the best range of restaurants in Iran. There are enough museums to keep you interested. Compared with resident of many capitals, Tehranis are surprisingly welcoming. Certainly, some travelers will find Tehran’s traffic, smug and uncontrolled Urban sprawl overwhelming. If you can persist through it, or better yet, make short repeated visits – you will find it opening up to you in ever more rewarding ways.

Highlights

Take in the extravagance of the Golestan Palace, a monument to Qajar. To see true beauty, visit the National Jewels Museum, which features a 51,366-gem globe of jewels. Ski the slopes of Dizin and Shemshak for a fraction of what you’d pay at home. Relax Tehran-style by taking a mountain walk from Darband to Park-e-Jamshidiyeh, enjoying the views, food and company. If you are feeling really adventurous, take a motorcycle taxi trip across Tehran! It will be a white–knuckle ride you’ll never forget!

Northeastern Iran

Northeastern Iran is right between Dasht-e-Kavir (a large empty desert) and Caspian Sea. A mountain goes throughout Northeaster Iran and becomes more lushly forested the further west you go. East of Minudasht is the Golestan National Park. Golestan translates to “paradise”, and this wilderness does not fall short of that. More forests and the Grand Alborz Mountains rise above the Caspain coast. You can travel across the mountain range on one of three busy, yet beautiful roads. There are also lesser-known alternatives to get to quieter zones around Alasht and Baladeh. Historically, the area developed as Khorasan (where the {Iranian} sun rises) and Tabarestan/Mazandaran (the southeastern Caspian Littoral).

Northern Iran

Millennia of Culture peaked in Northern Iran around 1000 years ago, producing many of the era’s greatest scientists, poets, and philosophers. However, Mongol ravages in the 13th and 14th century wiped out most of Taberastan’s civilization. Left behind from this period are glorious towers, found at Radkan and Gonbad-e Kavus. The 16th century Safavid regime’s move towards formal state Shiism was a major factor in the growth of Mashhad from a shrine-village to the region’s foremost city.

Central Iran

Ever since Cyrus the Great’s dramatic rise from provincial overlord to ruler of the largest empire on earth, central Iran has been something of a showcase for the region’s greatest civilizations. The unrelenting splendour and majesty of Esfahan, the refined elegance of Shiraz and the mud-brick antiquity of Yazd, Abyaneh and Kharanaq are a fascinating contrast, representing the fusion over 2500 years of myriad cultures and starkly different terrains. Then, of course, there’s that monumental expression of artistic harmony commissioned by Darius I – Persepolis.

With so much on offer, it’s no surprise that the towns of Iran’s central provinces are where you’ll probably spend the most time. But it’s not just about ticking off the popular sights, because central Iran has many an unsung gem. Kashan, with its splendid mosques, gardens and magnificently restored traditional houses, is one. If you want to get off the beaten track there’s the desert oasis of Garmeh, the cave village of of Garmeh, caravanserai stops such as Zein-o-din and Toudeshk, or the chance to camp with nomads in the Zagros Mountains. Central Iran’s people are as diverse as the places they live. In Qom they’re conservative and religious, Shirazis are laid-back and fun-loving, and the Qashqa’i and Bakhtiari nomads live a lifestyle dictated by nature. Often you will experience the region’s cultural richness and physical beauty in combination: sitting in the garden of Hafez’s tomb discussing the ways of the world with a Shirazi medical student, perhaps; watching a nomad woman make yogurt by hand; or drinking tea with a carpet salesman in Esfahan’s Imam Sq. Whatever it is you happen upon, central Iran is a place you’ll remember for a long time.

Highlights

Watch the sun set over Esfahan’s many-splendoured Imam Square from the rooftop Qeysarieh Tea Shop Sit on the hill behind the sublime Persepolis , just soaking it all up Haggle over a carpet or kilim in the vaulted arcades of Esfahan’s Bazar-e Bozorg or Imam Square lose yourself in the historic laneways of Yazd, and find yourself in a traditional hotel.

Treat yourself to a dose of Safavid-era luxury in the wonderfully restored Caravanserai Zein-o-din experience a real desert oasis at simple, silent Garmeh.

Southeastern Iran

The region Stretches east across ancient Kerman province, through high deserts scarred by brown snowcapped mountain rangers and colored by occasional oasis towns and seasonal lakes. Kerman is the main city and is, in effect, the cultural border separating the Persians of the central plateau and the more eastern-oriented baluchis, whose dress and costumes feel more Pakistani than Iranian. Following ancient caravan routes southeast across the edge of the forbidding Dasht-e-lut, most travelers will stop in historic bam and the Zahedan, the capital of Sistan va Baluchestan province.

For travelers, the region hasn’t been quite so attractive since the Bam earthquake in 2003 flattened the city and wrought havoc upon the monumental adobe arg-e-bam. Rebuilding work on the arg is ongoing, and bam’s soothing date groves and strong tradition of hospitality still reward a visit. But taking in a few other places will round out your trip. Sleeping in the cave hotel in Meymand is a fun way to start, and Kerman itself is interesting, and an ideal base for day – and overnight – trips to the small but historic Towns of Rayen and Mahan, excursions to nomad communities and camel-trekking trips. But the highlight is surely the journey to shahdad and the kaluts, where enormous ‘sand castles‘ stand like broken teeth punctuating the earth for as far as the eye can see and you can sleep in ‘million star hotel‘.

Western Iran

From paddy fields to blizzards to the regional Garden of Eden, this region will shatter your preconceptions of Iran. standing at the frontiers with Mesopotamia and Turkey, western Iran has witnessed many of civilization’s great empires , fortunes oscillating between trading glories and military decimation. The deeply hospitable region lacks the ionic gem-city sites of central Iran so it’s often skipped by first-time western visitors. But that make it all the more appealing for those who relish delving a little deeper and being the ‘only tourist‘.

western Iran is a linguistic and cultural patchwork: Kurd predominate in Kordestan and Kermanshah provinces; Lor in Ilam and Lorestan; Arab inhabit southern Khuzestan; Talesh and Gilaki are the traditional languages of Gilan (The southwest Caspian hinterland); and Azari whose language is more Turkish than Persian, predominate in the rest of the northwest. In the more remote regions, and more Generally in Kurdish towns, traditional dress is still worn.

Persian Gulf

Whether you’re watching the sun set over the Gulf, scrambling over the ruins of the Portuguese castle at Hormoz, or just dropping down several greats to the ultra-relaxed pace this region operates, you can’t escape the fact that the Persian Gulf offers a different experience to the rest of Iran. There’s the Geographical contrast – the coast and islands of the Gulf itself- but the major difference comes from the Variety of people and how they live. The history of the Gulf is tied inextricably to trade. Africans, Arabs, Indians and Europeans as far back As Alexander the great have passed by this way, some finding business so good they’ve set up shop and Stayed.

The result is a rich hybrid of ancient Persia and Arabia that is best seen in Bandari communities, Such as Bushehr, Hormoz and minab. These communities are unusual in Iran, with most bandaris being Sunni Muslims, speaking Arabic at home and wearing more colorful cloths. They’re known as Bandaris because they leave in Bandars (ports). Qeshm island is probably the highlight of the gulf, and it’s tiny Village of laft is the jewel in its sun – scorched crown. Sitting with the locals as the sun sets over the forest of badgirs (windtowers), and lenges (traditional wooden boats) is almost worth the trip to the Coast by itself.