Iran is becoming a tourist hotspot this year, with tour operators reporting significant increases in tourists booking trips to the Middle Eastern country.
Perhaps that’s because of a slight thaw in its relationships with the West — or simply because of the allure of exploring a little-known tourist destination with few other tourists.
Americans are allowed to visit Iran — in fact, Iran is actively encouraging visits from American tourists — but Americans who do visit must travel with an official tour guide and get their itinerary approved by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in order to get a visa. Travel within Iran is considered safe if you tour responsibly, but the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning to Iran.
From ancient cities with breathtaking mosques to gorgeous natural landscapes, here are some of Iran’s most beautiful, and untouched, tourist attractions.
Isfahan, located in the center of the country, is perhaps Iran’s most touristy city. The historic city is famous for its Islamic architecture, covered bridges, palaces, and mosques.
It’s home to several major tourist sites, like Imam Square (Naqsh-e Jahan Square), one of the largest — and most beautiful — city squares in the world. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts gorgeous Iranian and Islamic architecture.
There are also gorgeous mosques here, like the dreamy Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.
Tehran, the nation’s capital city, is surrounded by snowy mountains.
The Azadi Tower marks the entrance to the capital city.
Marvel at the incredible craftmanship and detailing of Persian carpets at the Carpet Museum of Iran.
Or, buy a carpet for yourself. Haggle with locals while shopping for carpets, spices, and more at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.
Here, vendors sell all sorts of Western clothing, like bras, jeans, and T-shirts.
There’s lots to choose from.
Tea is a huge part of Persian culture.
Locals meet in outdoor cafes in Tehran.
For a quick meal, vendors sell fresh kebabs all over the city.
Pair a kebab with a slab of fresh-baked, chewy Persian bread.
Shemshak Ski Resort is less than an hour from Tehran. Wealthy Tehran is love to escape here on the weekends.
Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, dating back to around 515 BC. The ancient city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Incredible reliefs are carved into the rocks at Persepolis.
Shiraz, known as the city of love and Persian poetry, is another city tourists love to visit. It’s home to the historic Eram Garden (Garden of Paradise).
Several famous Persian poets are buried in Shiraz in elaborate tombs. This is the mausoleum of Saadi, a 13th-century poet.
There are also gorgeous mosques here, like the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque.
Ramsar is a popular beach resort area on the coast of the Caspian Sea.
There are beach resorts here, but it’s also a quiet area filled with fishermen.
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