elcome to what could be the friendliest country on earth. Iran is the jewel in Islam's crown, combining glorious architecture with a warm-hearted welcome. In the footsteps of empire Echoes of ancient civilisations resonate down through the ages in Iran. Some of history's biggest names - Cyrus and Darius, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan – all left their mark here and the cities they conquered or over which they ruled are among the finest in a region rich with such storied ruins. Walking around the awesome and beautiful ancient capital at Persepolis, experiencing the remote power of Susa (Shush), and taking in the wonderfully immense Elamite ziggurat at Choqa Zanbil will carry you all the way back to the glory days of Ancient Persia. The beauty of Islam Iran is a treasure house for some of the most beautiful Islamic architecture on the planet. The sublime, turquoise-tiled domes and minarets of Esfahan's Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square gets so many appreciative gasps of wonder, and rightly so, but there are utterly magnificent rivals elsewhere, in Yazd and Shiraz among others. And it's not just the mosques – the palaces (especially in Tehran), gardens (everywhere, but Kashan really shines) and artfully conceived bridges and other public buildings all lend grace and beauty to cities across the country. Iran is a treasure house for some of the most beautiful Islamic architecture on the planet
odern and sophisticated This is your chance to get to grips with Iran's modern history, too, particularly in Tehran. Enter part of the former US embassy, now called the US Den of Espionage; gaze up at Tehran's beautiful Azadi Tower, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to mark the 1979 revolution and, in 2009, to protest against the regime the revolution delivered; and visit the haunting Iran Holy Defense Museum to learn all about the Iran Iraq war that so traumatised the country. Tehran is also where you can take Iran's contemporary pulse at creative contemporary art galleries and liberal cafe spaces. Women arrive at Naghsh e Jahan square for the festival of Eid-al-Fitr in Isfahan.
edefining hospitality Across Iran, a nation made up of numerous ethnic groups and influenced over thousands of years by Greek, Arab, Turkic and Mongol occupiers, you'll find the people are endlessly welcoming. Offers to sit down for tea will be an everyday occurrence, and if you spend any time at all with Iranians, you'll often find yourself invited to share a meal in someone's home. Say yes whenever you can, and through it experience firsthand, Iranian culture, ancient, sophisticated and warm. It's these experiences that will live longest in the memory. Iran's top five experiences Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, Esfahan.
. Meet the people Ad Feedback In any competition for the title of the world's friendliest people, Iranians would be definite finalists. It's the people that leave the most lasting impressions from any journey to Iran, their warmth and their hospitality, their willingness to set aside enmities between countries and welcome you with open arms and doors. Whoever you meet, you will regularly be asked what you think of Iran, told 'You are our guest' and brought tea and food. Meeting Iranians is, quite simply, the best experience in Iran. 2. Esfahan, half of the world Amir Chakhmaq Mosque Complex, Yazd.
here are moments in travel that will long stay with you, and your first sight of Esfahan's majestic Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square is one of them. This square is home to arguably the most majestic collection of buildings in the Islamic world: the perfectly proportioned blue-tiled dome of the Masjed-e Shah, the supremely elegant Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and the indulgent and lavishly decorated Ali Qapu Palace. Far from being a static architectural attraction, the square and the nearby teahouses overlooking the river throng with life. 3. Yazd Few places have adapted to their environment as well as the desert city of Yazd. It's a gem of winding lanes, blue-tiled domes, soaring minarets, bazaars, and courtyard homes topped by badgirs (windtowers) and watered by qanats (underground water channels). Several of these homes have been restored and converted into evocative traditional hotels. Many travellers declare Yazd to be their favourite city in Iran, and it's not difficult to see why, combining as it does a whiff of magic on the cusp of the desert. More than kabab: Khoresht.
hen to go: High Season: (Mar–May) Ideal temperatures in most of Iran. Prices are highest and crowds biggest during No Ruz (21 March to 3 April), especially at Esfahan, Shiraz, Yazd and the Persian Gulf coast. Prices in hotels go up and availability goes down in April. Shoulder: (Jun–Oct) Warmer weather in June means fewer travellers. September and especially October temperatures moderate; good for mountain trekking. Prices slightly lower than March to May. Low Season: (Nov–Feb) Extreme cold, especially in the northeast and west, but good for skiing. Some mountain roads can be impassable. Hotel prices are discounted by 10% to 50% and there are fewer crowds. Currency: Iranian rial (IR) Language: Farsi (Persian) and ethnic languages, primarily AzariTurkish. Money: Bring enough cash (in US dollars or euros) for the duration of your trip. You cannot use credit or debit cards, travellers cheques or ATMs. Visas: A valid Iranian visa is required. Start the process at least two months before you plan to arrive. Some nationalities can get a visa on arrival if arriving by air. Mobile Phones: You will need a local SIM card for cheap local and pricey international calls. Your home SIM will not work. Daily Costs Midrange: US$50–200 One-way flight Shiraz–Tehran: US$70 Half-day trip from Shiraz to Persepolis by taxi/driver-cum-guide: US$40/50 Double room with bathroom: US$40–149 Meal in midrange restaurant: US$8–15 Top tips for first-timers to Iran - Plan your trip (including visa application process) well in advance. - Don't be too ambitious – Iran is big and trying to see everything can lead to frustration. - Learn some Farsi before you go – a sure way to make local friends. - Take some small gifts from home to repay the many small acts of kindness and hospitality you're likely to receive while in Iran. What to wear Few questions occupy the minds of first-time female visitors to Iran quite like the question of what to wear. Like all females aged nine and older, women travellers will need to wear hejab while in Iran. That means covering hair, arms and legs and wearing clothes that disguise your body shape when in public. Bring something long and loose from home and, if you want to look less like a tourist, shop for a manteau (an overcoat that covers your bottom, at least) once you arrive. Ditto for scarves, which will require constant attention lest you expose too much hair. As for men, the main dress restrictions are that you shouldn't wear shorts, or singlets that show your shoulders. - Stuff --- --- ...