Last updated: October 18th, 2023
Iran is an incredibly underrated country with an immense history, the friendliest people, and the most breathtaking architecture. Having spent 2 weeks there, I truly believe it should be on every traveler’s bucket list. However, the beauty of this country is rarely shown in the media; it’s sadly always buried underneath scary footages that only reflect the world of politics.
This guide on the most beautiful places in Iran aims to show you the side of Iran that rarely — if ever — gets represented in the news: the beauty of its landscapes, the details of its stunning architecture, the hospitality of its locals, the unique villages that still hold on to their centuries-old traditions, and so much more.
You’ll also find a detailed 2-week Iran itinerary with lots of information on what to see in Iran, what to do in Iran, how to dress in this country, and other helpful insider tips.
If you’re an American, Canadian, or UK citizen, there’s a whole section in this guide dedicated to how you can enter and explore Iran — it’s easier than you may think! I hope what you read will inspire you to visit this remarkable Middle Eastern country as well. It truly deserves more positive spotlight.
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Planning Your Trip to Beautiful Iran
- ✈️ Find the best flights to Iran with Skyscanner
- 📑 Get your visa from 1stQuest to avoid waiting for hours at the airport
- 💸 Get travel insurance from 1stQuest (budget) or True Traveller (for Europeans)
- 🏨 Find the best accommodations on Hostelworld
- 🧔🏻 If you’d like a tour guide, join this amazing 2-Week Iran Adventure Tour
- 🌐 Download a reliable VPN — ExpressVPN — to access Facebook, YouTube & Twitter
- 🚕 Download the apps Snapp and Tap30 to get cheap taxi rides in cities
- 🎒 Pack a pair of durable hiking shoes, a universal adapter, and a power bank
- 📚 Read Persepolis and Lonely Planet Iran to fuel your anticipation!
Is Iran Beautiful? (Why You Should Visit Iran)
There are so many reasons why Iran will steal your heart. First of all, the architecture in this country is absolutely mind-blowing. You’re looking at some of the finest Persian mosques and palaces in the world that have stood for centuries through multiple kingdoms and dynasties. You’ll learn about the incredible history behind these attractions and will get an insightful glimpse into life during the Persian Empire. History fans, this is your place!
Even if you’re not a big history buff, you can still spend hours admiring the intricate tilework on the buildings. It’s truly a marvelous sight. Iran is also filled with breathtaking nature, stylish traditional houses, and charming gardens. Even the restaurants and accommodations in the country are gloriously decorated with colorful stained-glass windows.
A trip to Iran is so much more than just a visually pleasing experience though; it’s just as culturally rich as well. The local cuisine is a must-try, the welcoming locals are more than eager to have a conversation with you, and you’ll most likely get invited to have a meal or two in their homes too.
Where to Stay in Iran
The first thing to know about accommodations in Iran is that many websites including Booking.com don’t have hotels in Iran listed, so booking hotels may be a bit trickier than usual. However, there are some great options on Hostelworld, which is where I found and booked all my accommodations.
You will find some absolutely gorgeous places to stay in; stylish, traditional, and cozy at the same time. Here are some hotels and hostels I highly recommend:
- Tehran: Arian Hostel (Budget), HI Tehran Hostel (Budget), Tehran Grand Hotel (Mid-Range)
- Shiraz: Sirah Traditional House (Budget), Taha Boutique Hotel (Budget), Homayouni Hostel (Mid-Range)
- Kerman: Khorram Hostel (Budget)
- Yazd: Silk Road Hotel (Budget), Firoozeh Traditional Hotel (Budget), Pars Traditional Hotel (Budget)
- Isfahan: Isfahan Hatef Hostel (Budget), Howzak House (Budget), Nargol Guest House (Budget), Ghasr Monshi Hotel (Luxury)
- Kashan: Amirza Traditional House (Budget), Kashan Persian House (Budget), Khademi Traditional Hotel (Mid-Range)
The Best Places to Visit in Iran: A Quick Overview
Day 1: Tehran
Day 2 – 3: Shiraz
Day 4: Day trip to Persepolis
Day 5 – 6: Kerman
Day 7 – 8: Yazd
Day 9 – 11: Isfahan
Day 12 – 13: Kashan
Day 14: Day trip / half day trip to Abyaneh
🖼 If you enjoy my photos of Iran, you can purchase some of them from my print store!
36 Most Beautiful Places in Iran to See in 2 Weeks
Day 1: Tehran
You’ll most likely be flying into the bustling capital city of Tehran, and it’s worth spending at least a day here as it’s home to one of the most historical places in Iran.
1. Golestan Palace, Tehran
One of the top things to do in Tehran is visiting the most magnificent historical monument in town — the UNESCO site of Golestan Palace. This majestic complex was the official residence of the Qajar dynasty (which ruled Iran between 1789 and 1925) and displays a remarkable mixture of ancient Persian and contemporary European architectural styles, which characterized much of Iranian art in the 19th and 20th centuries.
You can easily spend half a day admiring the 17 structures that make up Golestan Palace, including lots of spectacular halls, chambers, museums, and gardens. All of them were built during the rule of the Qajar kings.
Golestan Palace is absolutely huge, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where you should start your visit. A few of the key sites you won’t want to miss are the stunning Karim Khani Nook, which was the former residence of the founder of the Zand dynasty (1751 to 1779) and the brilliant Mirror Hall, which was used for royal weddings and coronations.
Be sure to also not miss the Edifice of the Sun, a palace that offered a panoramic view of the city for the Shahs, and Brilliant Hall, which is known for its incredible display of mirror work done by Iranian artisans.
It will likely take you 2 to 3 hours to explore the whole of Golestan Palace. You can relax by the gorgeous pond in the main garden after all the walking around. Next to the palace, you’ll also see the bustling Tehran Grand Bazaar, which is a great place to get a glimpse of local life.
Opening hours: 9:30 am to 6:30 pm daily (spring & summer) / 9 am to 6:30 pm daily (fall & winter) Entrance fees: 500k rials (~$4 USD) general fee + 1.1m rials (~$8 USD) for the Gallery Museum How to get there: It's a 5-min walk from Panzdah-e Khordad Station on Metro Line 1
2. Azadi Tower, Tehran
The unique Azadi Tower is the most iconic landmark of Tehran and is definitely worth a visit during your time in the capital. Completed in 1971, it was designed by an architecture student as a tribute to the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
This tower has a very distinct style that merges traditional Persian architecture with modern influences — you can see this quite clearly by its big iwan arch that’s covered with 8,000 pieces of white marble. Azadi Square, where the tower sits, is very symbolic too: a lot of protests happened there during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it’s still a popular site for demonstrations today.
You can climb Azadi Tower using the elevator or stairs to get a nice view of the city from the top. At the base of the tower, you’ll also find some galleries and a cafe.
Opening hours: Sundays to Thursdays: 9 am - 5 pm / Fridays: 10 am - 5 pm Entrance fees: 150,000 rials (~$1 USD) How to get there: It's a 5-min walk from Meydan-e Azadi station on Metro Line 4
3. Imamzadeh Saleh, Tehran
If you have extra time in Tehran, consider visiting the beautiful Imamzadeh Saleh, also known as Tajrish Mosque. This site is where Saleh, the son of Musa al-Kadhim (the seventh Shia Imam) rests.
You’ll witness some truly stunning tilework on the mosque’s minarets and dome, and the interior is decorated with brilliant mirror work, something that’s quite common in Iranian shrines. You can also stop by the colorful Tajrish Bazaar nearby for some souvenirs and more glimpses of local life.
🙏🏼 Top tip: Make sure to check local prayer times before you visit this mosque because foreigners are usually only allowed entrance outside of prayer times.
Opening hours: Fridays to Wednesdays: 5 am - 12 am / Thursdays: 5 am - 12:30 am Entrance fees: None How to get there: It's a 5-min walk from Tajrish Metro Station on Metro Line 1
Day 2 – 3: Shiraz — One of the Best Places in Iran
A very comfortable overnight bus from Tehran will get you into Shiraz in the morning (you can also take a short flight instead). Shiraz is often referred to as the city of poets and gardens. Spend 2 days discovering this artistic historical city.
4. Nasir Ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz
Shiraz is filled with gorgeous mosques, but the one that takes the prize is hands down the spectacular Nasir Ol Molk Mosque (also commonly known as the Pink Mosque). Completed in 1888 during the Qajar dynasty, this mosque is famous for its multi-colored stained-glass windows which allow the morning sun to play a glorious light show on the floor.
For this reason, Nasir Ol Molk Mosque is very popular among photographers and is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iran. You simply cannot visit Iran without seeing the rainbow colors and magical light reflections at this mosque! It’s something truly unique and really feels as though you’re stepping inside a kaleidoscope.
Nasir Ol Molk Mosque is stunning from the outside too. It has a marvelous courtyard with a pond, and its vibrant tilework is a symbol of western influences on Iranian architecture in the 19th century. In fact, a lot of the tiles used to build this mosque (and many other Qajar-era buildings) were imported from France, Germany, and the UK.
Depicted on these tiles are typical European art elements such as images of landscape, women, and European architecture. You can easily spend hours admiring the details of the tilework both on the interior and exterior of this mosque!
🌈 Top tip: Visit this mosque early in the morning, as soon as the doors open, to grab the best spot to shoot the colorful reflections of the stained glass windows. Tour buses stop here quite early so the mosque tends to fill up quickly, and you don’t want to be blocked by large crowds. The rainbow reflections are only visible in the morning when the sun is still low.
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays: 7 am - 5 pm / Closed on Mondays Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: I recommend staying nearby to be able to get here early with ease; this mosque is also close to other attractions
5. Shah Cheragh Shrine, Shiraz
Not too far from Nasir Ol Molk Mosque is one of the holiest places in Shiraz — the sacred Shah Cheragh Shrine, whose name translates to “King of the Light”.
There’s an interesting story behind this name: in roughly 900 AD, a traveler followed a mysterious light he saw from a distance and ended up stumbling upon an illuminated grave. The body of an important Muslim figure was found inside, and a tomb was subsequently built to house that grave.
As time went on, the site expanded and went on to become an important pilgrimage destination for Shia Muslims.
Today, after many rounds of renovations, the Shah Cheragh Shrine is a structure admired by tourists from all over the world. The interior of the shrine is even more spectacular than the exterior facade; as you step inside, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredibly intricate mirror work covering the walls and ceilings, sparkling and shimmering like diamonds. It’s truly a priceless sight.
📸 Please note: DSLR cameras are not allowed in the complex; you’ll have to store yours in an assigned locker nearby, but can take pictures with your phone. Non-Muslim visitors will be paired with an English-speaking guide at the entrance (it’s a requirement in order to enter), and women are required to wear a chador (a large piece of cloth that covers your entire body) — also given at the entrance.
Opening hours: 24/7 Entrance fees: None How to get there: It's a 15-min walk from Nasir Ol Molk Mosque
6. Sayyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine, Shiraz
About a 10-minute walk from the famous Shah Cheragh Shrine is a much lesser-known shrine: the Sayyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine. Built during the Safavid dynasty (which ruled Iran from 1501 to 1736), this site is truly a hidden gem; a place without the tourist crowds of Shah Cheragh Shrine, but equally splendid and impressive.
While it may look like just another mosque from the outside, the interior of Sayyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine is filled with millions of sparkling glass shards of all different colors, and you can admire the intricacy of the mirror work in peace and quiet — an authentic and less touristy experience than the previous shrine.
📸 Please note: Just like in Shah Cheragh Shrine, you’ll be paired with an English-speaking tour guide at the entrance and women will be given a chador to wear. If you want to use a DSLR or a tripod in this shrine, please ask your tour guide for permission first. They allow it on a case-by-case basis.
Entrance fees: None How to get there: It's a 10-min walk from Shah Cheragh Shrine
7. Eram Garden, Shiraz
Shiraz isn’t just filled with stunning mosques and shrines, it’s also home to one of the most beautiful Persian gardens in Iran — the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Eram Garden. In the Quran, ‘Eram’ refers to a paradise for the blessed, and strolling through this garden, that feeling becomes increasingly palpable.
In fact, you’ll be surrounded by over 45 species of plants, 200 species of roses, and countless fruit trees, including a famous 3,000-year-old cypress tree. With the sound of birds chirping and the smell of blossoms all around you, it’s hard to not feel at peace in this enchanting place.
No one knows when exactly Eram Garden was built, but it’s said to have been completed in the 13th century during the Seljuk dynasty. It was then passed down and restored multiple times before being handed to the University of Shiraz, which owns the garden today. On the majestic palace in front of the pool, you can also spot tiles inscribed with poems by the famous Persian poet Hafez.
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays: 8 am - 8:30 pm / Mondays: 9 am - 8:30 pm Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: The nearest metro station is Namazi Station
8. Vakil Mosque, Shiraz
A trip to Shiraz would not be complete without visiting the magnificent Vakil Mosque, a place that photographers and architecture fans would especially enjoy. Completed in 1773 during the Zand dynasty, this mosque has a distinct feature of 48 spiral pillars that create a very unique aesthetic; you won’t find many mosques in Iran that look like this!
Vakil Mosque is also a lot quieter than other tourist attractions in Shiraz; there’s a really peaceful vibe inside. I highly recommend visiting in the early morning right when it opens as you’re likely to be the only one there — a truly magical experience.
📸 Photography Tip: Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the grandeur of this mosque — it’s a bit too majestic for standard lenses to take in! I use the Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8 and can highly recommend it.
Opening hours: 8:30 am - 8:30 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 20-min walk from the Shah Cheragh Shrine area
9. Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz
Nestled inside Musalla Gardens in northern Shiraz is the tranquil Tomb of Hafez, a place filled with poetic vibes and of great importance to the locals.
Born in Shiraz, Hafez (1315 – 1390) is considered to be one of the most notable and beloved Persian poets of all time. He’s essentially the Shakespeare of Iran — a national hero and a prophet to Iranians. A collection of his work can be found inside the famous Dīvān, and it’s widely read by Iranians of all ages. In fact, pretty much every household in Iran has a copy of this book.
Today, the Tomb of Hafez lies inside an open pavilion underneath a gorgeous dome ornate with intricate mosaic tiles. The surrounding garden provides the perfect relaxing atmosphere to soak in the significance of this place and if you’re in the mood for it — to read some of Hafez’s poems. You’ll also see locals gathering around the tomb to pay respects to this great poet, especially on October 12th — the National Day of Hafez.
Opening hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays: 8:30 am – 10 pm / Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays: 8:30 am – 11:30 pm Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$4 USD) How to get there: It's an enjoyable 30-min stroll from Vakil Mosque
10. Maharloo Lake, Shiraz
Don’t leave Shiraz without visiting the stunning Maharloo Lake, also known as the Pink Lake due to the amount of red tide in its salty water. This fascinating natural wonder is just a one-hour drive from Shiraz and totally worth the excursion if you want to witness the beautiful landscapes surrounding the city.
The best time to visit this salt lake is between the months of July and September, when the water from the lake is more likely to evaporate, making the pink hues more intense. For the same reasons, the lake is likely to be less pink during the rainy season (April to June). Don’t forget your camera, as this is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iran.
Cost of trip: A roundtrip with a taxi should cost you around 2,000,000 rials (~$15 USD) How to get there: It's a 1-hour drive from Shiraz; either hire a taxi or a tour agency to take you there
Day 4: Day Trip to Persepolis
A visit to Iran would be incomplete without seeing the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550 – 330 BC). From Shiraz, hire a taxi or a tour agency to explore this place on an easy day trip — it’s only 1 hour away by car.
11. Persepolis — One of the Most Famous Places in Iran
Located around 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Shiraz is a place of incredible historic value: the UNESCO site of Persepolis, the glorious ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550 – 330 BC) and a great source of pride for Iranians.
Taking a day trip to explore the ancient ruins of this city is one of the top things to do in Iran. Walking among the pillars, arches, and remains of what used to be majestic palaces, you’re likely to feel incredibly small and humbled by the vast history of ancient Persia.
Persepolis was believed to have been built by Darius I in around 518 BC and construction took around 120 years. Darius I was known to be a very kind king who regularly paid the construction workers and treated them very well, which was unusual for kings at the time.
To this day, the primary function of Persepolis remains a mystery, although it’s speculated to have been a large ceremonial complex that was only occupied seasonally.
Unfortunately, Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid Persia in 330 BC and destroyed Persepolis as a drunken act of revenge. After burning down the city, he used 5,000 camels and 20,000 mules to carry all the gold and silver he found there. Persepolis was eventually excavated in the 1930s by a French archeologist.
🚗 Good to know: To get here from Shiraz, it’s around $20 USD for a half-day trip or $50 USD for a whole day trip with a shared taxi (you can arrange this with your hotel). A tour agency would charge you a lot more, but the advantage of that is having a tour guide who can help you learn more about this place.
Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm in the winter / 8 am - 8 pm in the summer Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$4 USD) How to get there: Hire a taxi or go with a tour agency (1 hour drive)
12. Naqsh-e Rostam
Only a 10-minute drive from Persepolis is Naqsh-e Rostam, the royal necropolis of the Achaemenid Empire. Being so close to Persepolis, your taxi driver or tour guide would usually include this place in your day trip itinerary, and it’s definitely worth stopping here to admire the four majestic rock-cut tombs of ancient Persian kings.
Historians are still debating about which kings were buried inside the tombs; they’re only sure that one of them is the king who built Persepolis — Darius I, but the other three are speculated to be Darius II, Artaxerxes I, and Xerxes I. Cut into the cliff faces above each tomb are carvings depicting the kings as god-like figures.
There are also other carvings that portray battles won by the Achaemenid Empire. Perhaps the most interesting one of them all, though, is a carving so ancient that it seems to suggest this site was used even before Achaemenid Persia existed.
Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm in the winter / 7:30 am - 8 pm in the summer Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) Transportation fees: It's usually included in your trip to Persepolis and you won't have to pay extra to stop at this place How to get there: It's a 10-minute drive from Persepolis
Day 5 – 6: Kerman
From Shiraz, take a comfortable night bus to Kerman to explore the incredible desert landscapes there. A VIP night bus ticket costs around 1,400,000 rials (~$10 USD) and the journey is approximately 8.5 hours.
13. Rayen Castle
Start your journey in Kerman by visiting the second-largest adobe castle in the world — the magnificent Rayen Castle. Built in the Sassanid era (224 – 651 AD), this majestic structure rising gloriously out of the desert will take your breath away and leave you in absolute awe. It’s a must-see during your time in Iran!
The castle is also really well-preserved despite the natural disasters it had to endure. It’s said that around 5,000 people lived in this citadel up until roughly 150 years ago, and the current structure you see has been built over the ruins of an older fortress.
Rayen Castle was divided into three parts: a section for the kings, a section for the lords and the wealthy, and a section for the ordinary people. Walls and towers separated each of these areas.
The castle was well-situated on a major trade route and was therefore a popular hub for caravans and merchants. There were also a lot of workshops here with people making guns, knives, and swords. Today, you can still see some of them by the entrance.
Opening hours: Saturdays to Wednesdays: 8 am - 5 pm / Thursdays & Fridays: 8 am - 1 pm Entrance fees: 300,000 rials (~$2.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 1.5-hour drive from Kerman; grab a shared taxi (cheapest option) or hire a tour agency that can take you there on the way to Dasht-e Lut Desert (more below)
14. The Kaluts (Dasht-e Lut Desert)
The gem of the Kerman province is undoubtedly the breathtaking Dasht-e Lut, a UNESCO salt desert home to some truly ethereal clay-rock formations known as Kaluts. I highly recommend camping overnight here to fully soak in the magic of this place, especially if you enjoy stargazing.
The best way to do that is to hire a tour agency (Visit Kalouts is a great option) that’ll take you here with a 4×4 (you will need it in order to really venture into the desert). Your tour can easily stop at Rayen Castle before moving onwards to the desert (roughly a 3-hour drive). You can arrive just in time to spend the night here and catch an unforgettable sunrise from the Kaluts.
The unique and incredible shapes of the Kaluts were formed by erosion due to strong wind and water. Some of these rock structures are easily climbable, and you can get a fantastic view of the desert from the top.
🏜 Top Tip: Dasht-e Lut is one of the hottest places on earth — its highest registered temperature is 70° C (158° F)! For that reason, it’s best to visit in the spring or autumn. If you go in the summer, try to be there in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.
How to get there: Hire a tour agency to take you to Rayen Castle before getting you to this desert, which is roughly a 3-hour drive from there Tour fees: Typically, a private 2-day tour that includes Rayen Castle, the Kaluts, and other surrounding sites costs around $100 - $150 USD per person (with accommodation included)
Day 7 – 8: Yazd, One of the Best Places to See in Iran
The next stop on your Iran itinerary is Yazd, a must-see historical desert city. There are buses leaving throughout the day in Kerman for Yazd; the journey is roughly 5.5 hours and a bus ticket costs around 750,000 rials (~$5.5 USD). I recommend leaving in the early morning so you have more time in Yazd.
15. Yazd Old Town
The UNESCO town of Yazd is one of the most ancient cities on earth, and it’s definitely worth spending at least two days discovering its unique charms. Wandering around the historical Old Town is the perfect way to start exploring this city. You’ll be immediately drawn in by its quiet and laid-back atmosphere, and will also feel as though you’re traveling back in time.
The Old Town is filled with mudbrick walls, adobe houses, hidden courtyards, splendid mosques, rooftops with views, and tons of wind towers (Yazd is actually nicknamed “City of Windcatchers”). It’s quite easy to get lost in the Old Town; the countless narrow alleys will make you feel as though you’re walking inside a maze, but it’s honestly a maze you wouldn’t want to leave!
16. Amir Chakhmaq Complex, Yazd
The stunning Amir Chakhmaq Complex is one of the biggest gems in the Old Town of Yazd. This square houses a majestic mosque, a bathhouse, a mausoleum, and several cafes and restaurants. There’s also a bazaar behind the square where you can try some jigar, the local liver kebabs.
You’ll immediately love the relaxing atmosphere of the square, and it’s a great place to sit down on a bench, people-watch, and admire the captivating Amir Chakhmaq mosque.
Completed in 1438 during the Timurid era, Amir Chakhmaq mosque is the star of the square and a symbol of Yazd. From the outside, this 3-storied structure looks very different from other mosques in Iran; its facade consists of several symmetrical sunken alcoves — a truly unique sight.
🌙 Top Tip: Visit this square both during the day and night because after sunset, the entire building lights up, and the alcoves of the mosque emit beautiful orange light. Photographers will especially love seeing this structure gorgeously glowing in the dark!
Opening hours: 24/7 Entrance fees: 300,000 rials (~$2.50 USD) for the mosque How to get there: It's located inside the small Old Town of Yazd; I recommend staying in this area for easy access to most major attractions
17. Bagh-e Dolat Abad, Yazd
Bagh-e Dolat Abad is a charming pavilion inside a UNESCO garden, and it’s one of the most serene places in Yazd. Built in 1750, it was once the residence of the founder of the Zand dynasty, Karim Khan Zand.
The interior of the pavilion is simply mesmerizing. You’ll be greeted with large colorful stained-glass windows of all kinds of patterns and designs. You’ll see a lot of local tourists taking photos there! The garden itself is also an amazing place to go for a relaxing stroll; it has a long pool surrounded by trees, and the vibe there is super peaceful.
Opening hours: 7 am - 11 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 30-min walk or a 10-min drive from the Old Town
18. Sar Yazd Castle
One of the best places to visit in Iran is Sar Yazd Castle, an adobe castle rising out of the desert about 50 km (31 miles) outside of Yazd. It takes around 50 mins by car to reach from Yazd Old Town, but it’s worth every minute of the trip.
Exploring this ancient fortress is an incredibly raw and authentic experience as there are barely any other tourists around. You’ll feel like a true explorer discovering quiet alleys, hidden entrances, and abandoned chambers that will take you back in time.
Built in the 7th century, Sar Yazd Castle was used to protect Yazd from attacks and invasions. A lot of food, grains, gold, and other valuables were also stored there. The premise has 3 floors and 450 chambers, and it’s very easy to get lost wandering around.
In fact, wandering around the castle will feel as though you’re inside a maze. This is because the castle was purposely built to make it difficult for intruders to enter and navigate. Most of the alleys inside are also only made to fit one person at a time, and it’s truly a special experience to squeeze your way through them.
🧗🏼♀️ Top Tip #1: Make sure to climb to the top of the castle’s tallest tower. You’ll be greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding desert and mountains, including Shirkuh, which, at 4055 meters (13,300 ft) high, is the tallest peak in Yazd.
🏜️ Top Tip #2: It’s a good idea to get a guide before visiting this castle because it can be very difficult to navigate this maze-like fortress on your own; you may never be able to find a lot of the hidden chambers and entrances. Our taxi driver was kind enough to guide us around himself and made sure we didn’t fall into any pits on the ground (there are many of them!).
Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 50-min drive from Yazd Old Town; either grab a taxi or hire a tour guide
19. Jameh Mosque, Yazd
One of the most unmissable sights of Yazd is Jameh Mosque, a spectacular 12th-century structure that’s still in use today. Its beautiful entrance portal is truly impressive, but that’s not the only thing that will amaze you about this mosque.
This building is crowned by two minarets, which at 52 meters (170 ft), are the highest ones in Iran. Its ceiling is also adorned with some incredible artwork, and the mihrab inside showcases even more stunning mosaic tiles.
Essentially, this mosque is an architectural masterpiece and a paradise for those who love looking at intricate tilework. It’s no wonder that this excellent structure is also featured on the front side of the 200-rial Iranian banknote!
Opening hours: Sundays to Thursdays: 8 am - 9 pm / Saturdays: 8:15 am - 8 pm / Fridays: closed Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's located at the heart of Yazd Old Town; I recommend staying in this area for easy access to the city's main attractions
20. Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, Yazd
About 11 km (6.8 miles) away from the mosques and adobe houses of Yazd Old Town lies another site filled with history and tradition. The Towers of Silence (also known as dakhmas) were where Zoroastrians performed their sky burial rituals up until 40 years ago.
Zoroastrians believed that when people die, their bodies could be contaminated by demons and made impure. So in their tradition, they’d purify the corpses by laying them in 3 concentric circles on top of the Towers of Silence. The bodies will then slowly decompose while being picked apart by desert vultures. The bones were moved into ossuaries inside the towers.
This tradition dates back to the early 9th century AD, but in the 1970s, the use of these towers was banned in Iran, so Zoroastrians started using other burial methods.
Today, you can walk up to these towers, which are located on top of small hills. It’s an absolutely incredible place to get to know the traditions of the Zoroastrian community.
One thing I learned there that really struck me was that around the towers, there are buildings that used to be inhabited by nesasalars — the people who were in charge of funeral services. Because they spent so much time around corpses, they were not allowed to enter the village at all due to fear of spreading infectious diseases, which many corpses carried.
Standing in this place surrounded by so much history and tradition, I felt incredibly humbled and in awe at the different cultures that grace our world, and at how much there is to learn.
Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 35-min drive from Sar Yazd Castle; grab a taxi and ask the driver to take you here after the castle, or hire a tour guide
Day 9 – 11: Isfahan — One of Iran’s Famous Places
From Yazd, take a bus to Isfahan — the next stop on your Iran itinerary. The journey is around 5 hours and a bus ticket typically costs 750,000 rials (~$5.5 USD). You can leave in the early afternoon of day 9 if you want to spend more time in Yazd — it should still give you enough time in Isfahan.
Isfahan was once called ‘Isfahan nasf-e jahan’, which means ‘Isfahan is half the world’. This city has been ruled by 14 empires, has 162 mosques, and is one of the most fantastic and historically rich cities in Iran. It’s no doubt that it will be a highlight of any trip to Iran!
21. Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan
The best way to start exploring Isfahan is by spending some time in the magnificent Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the heart and jewel of the city. This UNESCO square totally encapsulates the beauty of Isfahan. Built in 1602 during the Safavid era, it’s one of the largest squares in the world and hasn’t changed much for the last 400 years.
The atmosphere inside the square is simply incredible; the fountains and gardens in the middle exude calmness and serenity, yet the bazaars on the side are filled with movement and activity. They’re also the perfect place to have a friendly chat with the locals!
Finally, the mosques and palaces surrounding the square will take your breath away. It’s no doubt that Naqsh-e Jahan Square is one of the most beautiful places in Iran, and you can easily spend an entire day here.
☀️ Top Tip: For an extra peaceful experience, get to this square early in the morning, as soon as the sun rises. You can even go for an early morning jog around the gardens and fountains! Why? You’ll get to have one of the biggest and most magnificent historical squares in the world almost all to yourself, with only the sound of birds chirping in the distance. It’s truly an enchanting experience.
Opening hours: 24/7 Entrance fees: None How to get there: I highly recommend staying within walking distance of this square as it's a good base for seeing most of Isfahan's attractions
22. Shah Mosque, Isfahan — The Best of Iran’s Tourist Places
Perhaps the biggest gem inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the breathtaking Shah Mosque (also known as Imam Mosque), whose intricate multi-colored mosaic tiles will leave you absolutely speechless. Completed in 1629, this UNESCO mosque is considered the epitome of Persian architecture from the Islamic era, and one of the greatest masterpieces of the Safavid dynasty (1501 – 1736). As soon as you see this mosque, you’ll understand why.
One can easily spend hours simply admiring the tilework details on the entrance gate itself. Once you step inside, more stunning patterns and calligraphy will greet your eyes. It’s truly one of the most jaw-dropping things you’ll see.
Underneath the central dome of the mosque, there’s a stone on the ground that marks a key acoustic point in the building. From there, the sound echoes loudly through the rest of the mosque, meaning the imam can speak more quietly while still being heard by everyone inside the structure.
When we were there, there were visitors testing this out themselves by singing in that spot and listening to the sound of their own echoes. It was truly a unique experience!
Opening hours: 9 am - 5 pm daily Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$3.50 USD) How to get there: It's located inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square, on the southern side
23. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan
Another astonishing place to visit inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square is Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, also a masterpiece from the Safavid era. Completed in 1619, this mosque took 25 years to build and is said to have exceeded anything ever created in Iran before in terms of beauty and quality.
This mosque used to be reserved for royal use only — in fact, it was closed off to the public for centuries. This is also why it’s a lot smaller and showcases even more splendid tilework than Shah Mosque, which was used by the public. If you were blown away by Shah Mosque’s remarkable mosaic tiles, just wait until you visit Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque!
It’s also said that Shah Abbas (the ruler at the time) had the architect build a tunnel from Ali Qapu Palace (his residence) to this mosque so that the women in his harem could get here without being seen in public.
When we visited, a local man told us that the first-ever foreigner to visit modern-day Iran would come back to the country again and again for the sole purpose of visiting this mosque. He’d stay in this mosque for hours on end each time, and when asked why, he just said, “you see the entire world here.” Despite only being here twice, I wholeheartedly agree.
Opening hours: 9 am - 12:30 pm / 2 pm - 6 pm daily Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$3.50 USD) How to get there: It's located inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square, on the eastern side
24. Ali Qapu Palace, Isfahan
Directly opposite of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is Ali Qapu Palace, an incredible UNESCO site which served as the official residence of the Safavid emperors. Opened in 1597, this palace is 6-stories tall and each floor is connected by a spiral staircase.
Inside, you’ll get an interesting glimpse into the life of the imperial families back in the days, and will also see lots of fantastic floral artwork and paintings. The highlights of the place, though, are the elegant stucco decorations of the Music Hall on the top floor. Many singers and ensembles used to perform there, and its ceiling is stenciled with shapes of vases to enhance sound. It’s truly a brilliant example of secular Persian art!
You can also get a really cool view of Naqsh-e Jahan Square and Shah Mosque from the terrace of the palace and marvel at the fact that around 400 years ago, that’s where the Safavid emperors used to watch horse racing and Chowgan, a traditional Iranian horseback team game!
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays: 9 am - 6 pm / Sundays: 9 am - 5 pm Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$3.50 USD) How to get there: It's located inside Naqsh-e Jahan Square, on the western side
25. Khaju Bridge, Isfahan
One of the most relaxing things to do in Isfahan is to visit the beautiful Khaju Bridge in the evening. This historical bridge lights up splendidly in the dark, exuding an incredibly magical and peaceful vibe. It’s also the perfect place for photography and a glimpse into local life in Iran, as it’s a popular gathering spot for families and teenagers.
The bridge is also decorated with gorgeous tilework and paintings, and there’s a pavilion in the middle where Shah Abbas II (the 7th Safavid king) used to hang out and admire the beauty of the Zayanderud River beneath.
The main reason this place is worth visiting, though, is that in the evenings, you can find local singers underneath the bridge performing amazing Persian music. The atmosphere there is unforgettable, and it’s truly an unmissable experience if you’re interested in Iranian culture!
Opening hours: 24/7 Entrance fees: None How to get there: It's an 8-minute taxi ride from Naqsh-e Jahan Square, or a 45-minute stroll
26. Mollabashi House, Isfahan
One place you absolutely have to visit during your time in Isfahan is the spectacular Mollabashi House (also known as Motamedi House), the most breathtaking historical mansion I’ve ever stepped foot in. This house gives you a really good idea of how the wealthy in Iran used to live during the Zand (1751 – 1779) and Qajar (1789 – 1925) eras.
Mollabashi was the famous 19th-century astronomer of the Shah and used to live in this house, but much of what you see today is thanks to the Motamedi family, who acquired this place in 2000 and spent 7 years restoring it.
You can easily spend hours admiring the gorgeous details and patterns that decorate the rooms and courtyards of this historical house. Make sure to visit the fantastic guest room during the day to see the unbelievable colors and lights radiating from the stained-glass windows — one of the most beautiful sights you can witness in Iran!
Exploring this house can also feel like an escape room experience as there are tons of stylish rooms hidden behind a chain of doors, and you can try each door to see which ones open (some are locked).
Visiting this historical house is honestly such a unique experience, and the best part about it is that most tourists don’t visit this place, meaning you get to have the mirrored walls, stucco decorations, and elegant ceilings almost all to yourself!
Opening hours: 9 am - 8 pm daily Entrance fees: 150,000 rials (~$1 USD) How to get there: It's a 20-minute walk from Naqsh-e Jahan Square
27. Vank Cathedral, Isfahan
The stunning Vank Cathedral is a great place to learn about another side of Isfahan’s past.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Shah Abbas ordered 150,000 Armenian artisans and entrepreneurs to leave their country to work for the Persian Empire. He created an Armenian quarter in Isfahan called New Julfa, and soon after, Vank Cathedral was built there for the Armenian community.
From the outside, the cathedral may look like just another ordinary Islamic building, but the interior is absolutely breathtaking; you’ll see a unique mixture of rich frescoes, gilded carvings, and intricate tilework. These elements represent a mesmerizing blend of Islamic and Armenian architectural styles, and it’s truly a remarkable sight.
In the courtyard of the cathedral, there’s a memorial for the Armenian Genocide of 1914 – 1923 in Turkey, a library containing 700 handwritten books, and a museum where you can learn more about the history of the Armenian community in Isfahan.
Head over to the charming Jolfa Square after visiting Vank Cathedral — it’s only a 5-minute walk away and you’ll find several restaurants, cafes, and local boutiques there!
Opening hours: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) How to get there: It's roughly 20 minutes by taxi from Naqsh-e Jahan Square
28. Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan
The elegant Chehel Sotoun is a 17th-century palace located at the end of a long pool inside the UNESCO-registered Chehel Sotoun Garden. It was built by Shah Abbas II as a place for entertainment, reception, and ceremonies (such as coronations).
This palace is not only a great place to travel back in time and learn about the history of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, but also a haven for architecture and photography fanatics. Moreover, the surrounding garden is a great place to go for a peaceful and relaxing stroll.
The interior of the Chehel Sotoun palace is ornate with absolutely stunning paintings and frescoes, some of which depict battles won by the Safavid shahs to showcase how powerful they were. The ceilings also display incredibly beautiful geometrical patterns and artwork.
The exterior of this palace is just as interesting. The structure is supported by 20 wooden pillars which reflect in the long pool in front of the building — giving the illusion that there are actually 40 pillars in place. In fact, ‘Chehel Sotoun’ means ‘40 columns’.
Opening hours: Saturdays to Wednesdays: 9:30 am - 3:45 pm / Thursdays & Fridays: closed Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$3.50 USD) How to get there: It's a pleasant 10-minute stroll from Naqsh-e Jahan Square
29. Jameh Mosque, Isfahan
Isfahan is also home to the oldest Friday Mosque in Iran — the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jameh Mosque. No one knows for sure when this mosque was built, although it most likely dates back to the 8th century and started off as a place of worship for Zoroastrians.
Jameh Mosque started off as a mere adobe structure, and today, it’s ornate with glazed tilework and muqarnas, largely thanks to the decorative additions of the Safavid era.
The cool thing about this mosque is that walking around, you’ll see rooms showcasing many different architectural styles. In fact, this mosque has evolved a lot over 12 centuries, with a series of remodelings and renovations by different dynasties.
Wandering around the complex, you can learn a lot about the evolution of Iranian architecture in the course of history. You’ll also get to see countless decorative elements that demonstrate how Islamic art evolved over the last 1,000+ years! If you’re a big fan of art, history, and architecture, then make sure this mosque is on your Isfahan to-see-list.
Opening hours: 6 am - 8 pm daily Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$3.50 USD) How to get there: It's a 25-minute walk from Naqsh-e Jahan Square, or less than 10 minutes by car
Day 12 – 13: Kashan, One of the Top Iran Destinations
From Isfahan, take a bus to Kashan on the evening of day 11 so that you can have two full days to enjoy the beauty of this city — my personal favorite in Iran. Kashan truly stands out for its unique architecture, laid-back vibes, and the friendliest locals. The bus ride from Isfahan takes 3 hours and a ticket costs around 750,000 rials (~$5.5 USD).
30. Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Kashan
Start your visit to Kashan by exploring one of the most spectacular bathhouses in the country. The 16th-century Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is an exemplary ancient Persian spa and gives you an insightful glimpse into what local life was like back in the days.
Bathing was a long and important process for Iranians; it wasn’t just a quick wash. Bathhouses were where people gathered to relax together, socialize, gossip, and even pray. It was a big part of social life in Iran and still is today.
Walking inside Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, you’ll be mesmerized by the exquisite decorations on the walls and ceilings. You’ll see tons of colorful mosaics, intricate gold and turquoise tiles, and brilliant paintings all around you.
The exterior of the bathhouse is perhaps even more intriguing. You can walk on the roof, which is made of numerous domes with convex glasses that bring light into the bathhouse.
What I liked most about this place is its calm and soothing atmosphere. Once you wait for the occasional tour group to leave, the bathhouse gets almost completely quiet, leaving you alone with one of the best architectural masterpieces of ancient Persia.
Opening hours: 8 am - 8:30 pm daily Entrance fees: 200,000 rials (~$1.50 USD) / 900,000 rials (~$6.50 USD) for a combined ticket to this bathhouse, Abbasi House, and Tabatabaei House How to get there: It's located in the heart of the city; I highly recommend staying nearby as it's very close to lots of other attractions in Kashan
31. Kashan Bazaar
The magnificent Kashan Bazaar is not only a great place to shop for souvenirs, but also one of the most stunning cultural and architectural sites in Iran. Its main caravanserai is topped with a domed roof that showcases some incredible kaleidoscopic patterns and decorations — it’s truly a remarkable sight.
Underneath the dome, there are plenty of places to sit down, people-watch, and have a friendly chat with a local. The relaxing atmosphere only makes it more enticing, and there’s even a local teashop in the corner if you want to try some Persian tea.
The bazaar has been a trading hub in Kashan for almost 800 years and houses several small mosques, madrasahs (Islamic schools), and bathhouses amid its rows of busy stores. You can find everything from handicrafts to spices and fruits in the shops.
🥘 Top Tip: Be sure to check out some of the fantastic local restaurants around — especially the unique Hammam-e Khan Teahouse. This cozy family-owned restaurant used to be a traditional bathhouse. Today, they give you the authentic experience of sitting on a cushion on the floor while enjoying some very tasty local dishes.
Opening hours: Saturdays to Thursdays: 9:30 am - 12 pm & 5 pm - 8:30 pm / Closed on Fridays How to get there: It's located in the heart of the city — stay in this area for easy access to almost all of the attractions in Kashan
32. Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kashan
The 18th-century Agha Bozorg Mosque is a lot more simple and modest in appearance than most other famous mosques in Iran. It may not be as ornate or embellished as the Shah Mosque in Isfahan or the Pink Mosque in Shiraz, but that’s exactly what drew me to it the most.
This mosque was actually my favorite place in Iran, mostly because of its humble facade, the pleasant symmetry of its architecture, and the incredibly peaceful vibes it exudes. We also didn’t see as many tourists here as most of the other famous mosques in Iran, which enhanced the experience even more.
This mosque houses a madrasah as well, and you can see many student rooms around the stunning sunken courtyard. Many local families visit this place, creating a great laid-back and vibrant atmosphere.
🌅 Top tip: Get here right before sunset to see the mosque both in the daylight and in the dark. It’s particularly peaceful during that time, and you can simply sit down and listen to the soothing call to prayers while watching the mosque slowly light up in different colors as the sky dims. It’s an absolutely mesmerizing experience that’s impossible to put into words — you simply have to see it for yourself.
Opening hours: 9:30 am - 6 pm daily Entrance fees: 300,000 rials (~$2.50 USD) How to get there: It's located in the heart of the city; I recommend staying in this area for easy access to most attractions in Kashan
33. Fin Garden, Kashan
The historical Fin Garden is an absolutely gorgeous place to go for a relaxing stroll. Built in 1590, it’s one of the oldest gardens in the country and used to be where the shahs hung out to rest. It also has a slightly eerie past; a former chancellor of Iran was murdered by the Shah at the Fin Bath inside this garden in 1852. You can visit that exact spot today.
Today, Fin Garden is home to lots of fruit trees, pools, fountains, blossoms, canals, and as with most attractions in Iran — remarkable architecture. In fact, there’s a stunning blend of Safavid, Zand, and Qajar era architectural styles inside the complex, and the pavilion in the middle has a magnificent dome ornate with colorful patterns — it’s truly the highlight of the garden!
So grab your camera and make sure to not miss out on this place, especially if you enjoy a mix of serene nature and splendid architecture.
Opening hours: 9 am - 4:30 pm daily Entrance fees: 500,000 rials (~$4 USD) How to get there: It's around a 20-minute taxi ride from the Agha Bozorg Mosque area (where all the other Kashan attractions are)
34. The Historical Houses of Kashan
Kashan is famous for its elegant 18th and 19th-century traditional houses, which offer an interesting insight into how wealthy families used to live back in the days. A visit to this city would be incomplete without spending at least a couple of hours exploring some of the most impressive historical houses: Tabatabaei House, Abbasi House, Borujerdi House, and Ameriha House.
All of these houses have an internal section reserved for family members and an external section for guests. They each have several courtyards, gardens, and some houses even have 40 to 80 rooms! You will see some absolutely remarkable decorations inside these houses, including intricate glasswork, mirror work, frescoes, stucco, and tons of colorful stained-glass windows.
If you don’t have enough time to visit all four houses, I’d recommend seeing Tabatabaei House and Borujerdi House. The best stained-glass window chambers are found inside Tabatabaei House, and Borujerdi House has a very unique interior ornate with kaleidoscopic patterns and stunning paintings — it’s a sight you won’t want to miss!
🥘 Food Tip: Even if you don’t have time to see Abbasi House, definitely grab a meal at the traditional Abbasi Teahouse & Restaurant. Just do it. This restaurant took my breath away the second I walked in; I’ve couldn’t even believe my eyes. The stunning interior decorations there are truly out of this world, not to mention the incredible ambiance, the traditional seating arrangement, and the tasty authentic food. Hands down the best restaurant I’ve been to in Iran!
Opening hours: Abbasi House: 7:15 am - 12 am daily / Tabatabaei House: 8:30 am - 8 pm daily / Borujerdi House: 9 am - 5 pm daily / Ameriha House: 9 am - 7 pm daily Entrance fees: 900,000 rials (~$6.50 USD) for a combined ticket to Tabatabaei House, Abbasi House, and Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse / 300,000 rials (~$2.50 USD) for Borujerdi House / 150,000 rials (~$1 USD) for Ameriha House How to get there: All of these houses are located next to each other in the heart of the city; I recommend staying in this area
35. Mohammed Helal Shrine, Aran va Bidgol
Just a 20-minute drive from the heart of Kashan lies Mohammed Helal Shrine (also known as Shrine of Hilal ibn Ali), an absolutely breathtaking hidden gem that most visitors don’t know about.
The amazing thing about this place is that you’re likely to be the only tourist around in one of the most beautiful places in Iran, which is quite rare given that most attractions in this country are quite crowded. The people working at this shrine are also very friendly and will offer to help guide you around.
This shrine displays some true gems of Islamic architecture, including intricate mosaic tiles, a large blue-tiled dome, and glittering minarets. Once you’re inside, it’s basically completely quiet and you’ll likely find a few locals praying. The atmosphere is incredibly peaceful, and you can simply sit in silence while admiring the stunning decorations all around you.
🙏🏼 Please note: This place is obviously very sacred and mostly only frequented by locals, so please be mindful of that when you’re there. In order to enter, women have to wear a chador — a large piece of cloth that covers the entire body. You can rent one for free at the entrance.
How to get there: It's only a 20-minute taxi ride from the center of Kashan
Day 14: Day Trip / Half Day Trip to Abyaneh
If you have strictly 2 weeks in Iran, then you most likely have to head back home via Tehran on day 14 (hire a taxi from Kashan directly to Tehran’s airport, which should take roughly 2 hours and cost around 1.1m rials / ~$8 USD). However, if you can allocate an extra day or at least half a day before flying off, it’s definitely worth doing so for a chance to see the unique red village of Abyaneh.
36. Abyaneh Village
The final stop on this 2-week Iran itinerary is a special one. Abyaneh is one of the most ancient villages in Iran. It dates back to 2,500 years ago and is also known as the ‘Red Village’ thanks to its picturesque cluster of red clay buildings.
This village is registered by UNESCO for its very well-preserved local culture, language, architecture, and costumes, which stood the test of several centuries and dynasties. In fact, the locals here speak a special dialect of Farsi that is specific to this village only, and some of the words they use date all the way back to the 3rd century BC!
One of the top things to do in Abyaneh is to simply get lost inside the alleys of the village. You’ll find the best hidden gems that way, and almost every corner is photogenic. Some of the red houses have rooftops you can access via stairs, and once you’re up there, you’ll be greeted with an epic view of the Karkas Mountains.
There’s a very authentic vibe as you’re wandering around Abyaneh; you’ll see locals living their everyday life without many tourists around, and local women wearing traditional floral headscarves. If you want to get closer to Iranian culture, then definitely don’t miss out on this unique village!
Entrance fees: 100,000 rials (~$0.75 USD) How to get there: It's a 1-hour drive from Kashan; hire a taxi or a tour guide
More Unique Things to do in Iran
Those were 36 of Iran’s beautiful places, but they definitely don’t cover all of the amazing experiences you can have in this country. Here are some more incredible things to do and see in Iran if you have more time:
- Paddle your way through the mystical waters of Ali Sadr Cave
- Explore the unique landscapes of Chahkooh Canyon in Qeshm Island
- Meet the modern-day cave dwellers in the village of Troglodyte in Kandovan
- Discover the Rainbow Mountains and Red Beach in Hormuz Island
- Climb a thousand steps to get to the picturesque Rudkhan Castle
- Visit the ancient and fascinating Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Where to Eat: the Best Restaurants in Iran
One cannot travel to Iran without tasting the exquisite local cuisine, which is meat-heavy but also offers a lot of delicious vegetarian options! Here are the top restaurants I recommend for your Iran itinerary — I marked the ones that offer *vegetarian options with an asterisk.
- Tehran: Alborz Restaurant (famous for their kebab), Ananda Vegetarian Restaurant* (their dishes are tasty for non-vegetarians too!)
- Shiraz: Kateh Mas Restaurant* (gorgeous decor and authentic vibes), Haft Khan Restaurant* (a bit fancy but has a friendly atmosphere with live music), Baghe Raaz* (romantically located in a lovely garden)
- Yazd: Termeh & Toranj* (stunning interior decor), Khane Dohad Traditional Restaurant (great atmosphere with live music), Fooka Cafe* (go in the evening and watch sunset from their rooftop!)
- Isfahan: Ghasr Monshi Restaurant* (breathtaking stained-glass windows and the friendliest staff — a must-go), Naghshe Jahan Restaurant (another must-go; the most beautiful restaurant in Iran with amazing food), Shahrzad Restaurant* (very popular among locals; try their exquisite biryani!)
- Kashan: Abbasi Teahouse & Restaurant* (an absolute must-go; the most breathtaking ambiance and top-notch food), Hammam-e Khan Teahouse* (super authentic and cozy family-run place), Manouchehri House Restaurant* (delicious food in a beautiful hotel)
Can Americans Travel to Iran?
Yes, if you’re an American citizen, you can definitely travel to Iran. There is a mandatory requirement though: you must be accompanied by a tour guide during the entire trip. The same rule applies to UK and Canadian citizens.
The tour agency I recommend is Intrepid Travel — they provide a variety of amazing Iran tours that cover the best attractions in the country as well as enriching cultural experiences. Their wonderful local guides provide some truly unique and unexpected experiences, such as dining with a Zoroastrian family or playing board games with the local youth.
If you want to enjoy complete cultural immersion as you explore Iran, then consider some of Intrepid Travel’s awesome Iran holiday packages:
- Iran Adventure: a 14-day experience covering almost all the spectacular historical sites and beautiful attractions detailed in this article
- Iran Express: a unique 9-day trip in the winter packed with fun cultural experiences (such as mingling with the local youth at a board games cafe!)
Is Iran Safe to Travel to?
The short answer is yes, absolutely — Iran is extremely safe to visit. Although I went there with another female friend, I often walked around alone as a solo female and can honestly say I felt safer in Iran than all the 40+ Western countries I’ve been to.
Unlike living in London, where I’m constantly clutching my phone in fear of people on mopeds snatching it, or being wary of the infamous pickpockets in Europe, I never had to worry about anything of the sort in Iran. Never once did I feel threatened or uncomfortable during my time there.
Though the crime rate in Iran is very low, I do suggest getting familiar with some essential Iran travel & safety tips before you go.
The media has sadly portrayed Iran to be a dangerous country that hates Americans, but this honestly couldn’t be further from the truth. What many Iranians actually hate is being associated with the politics of their country — in fact, Iranians are genuinely some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I’ve met. They go out of their way to make you feel welcomed.
During our time there, we got tons of invitations by locals to have tea or dinner in their homes, and it’s something that happens very often for foreigners (yes, Americans included!). So in short, Iran is one of the safest and friendliest countries to travel to. Go and see for yourself! 🙂
Essential Tips for Visiting Iran’s Best Places
- How to dress: According to the law, women have to wear a headscarf at all times in public. Women should also wear loose long sleeves and long pants that hide their curves and cover their wrists and ankles. Men should wear long sleeves and long pants.
- (For women) Bring a headscarf with you on the plane — you’ll be required to have your head covered the minute you step onto Iranian soil, meaning you’ll have to cover your head right before stepping off the plane.
- VPNs: Many western sites (including Facebook and Twitter) are banned in Iran. I highly recommend getting a VPN in order to access them — I tested many VPNs and ExpressVPN is hands down the fastest and most reliable one!
- Booking intercity bus tickets: The easiest way is to have your hotel book them for you once you arrive. You can also buy them directly at the bus stations or book them online on 1stQuest.
- Taxis inside cities: Download Snapp and Tap30 — the Ubers of Iran. They’re cheaper than taxis and very easy to use.
- Visas: While citizens of many countries are eligible for a visa on arrival, the safest option is to get your visa for Iran with 1stQuest. The process is very simple and it’ll spare you hours of waiting at the airport.
- ATMs/credit cards: No Western card is accepted in Iran, so you’ll either need to bring lots of cash or get an Iranian debit card like Mah Card.
- Photography tip: Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the majestic architecture in this country! I use Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8 and am very pleased with the results.
My Travel Photography Gear
This is the gear I used to capture the beauty of Iran. You can also see my recommendations for the best cameras for bloggers for more options other than the ones listed below.
- Cameras: Nikon D610 + Sony A6400 (check out the best Sony lenses)
- Main lens: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8
- Wide-angle lens: Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8
- Prime lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G
- Tripod: Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod (Ball Head)