Your Iran itinerary may skip from city to magnificent city, but there will be historical sites lining the way – worth stopping off at for half an hour, or half a day. This is a country with more than a liberal sprinkling of UNESCO World Heritage sites – as well as many castles, caves and carvings that didn’t make it onto the list, but are just as astounding.
Naqsh-e Rustam and Naqsh-e Rajab, 12km north of Persepolis, may not be household names – but in any other country they would be top of the bucket list. Naqsh-e Rustam is a Petra-like series of tombs cut into the rockface, a vertical necropolis between two and three thousand years old. Darius the Great and Xerxes I are amongst those buried here. The carved cliffs are astounding – huge reliefs of warriors on horseback, and Persian rulers triumphing over Roman emperors that are said to have acted as ancient billboards – warning the enemy what fate would befall them if they messed with the mighty empire.
Before Darius the Great’s capital, Persepolis, Cyrus the Great ordered the construction of Pasargadae in the 6th century BCE. Today, the remains of great palaces and Persian gardens can be seen, as well as Cyrus’s tomb.