Things to do in Iran
Five thousand years of culture
Cultural influences flowed into ancient Persia from the Far East, Arabia, Russia and Europe. Whilst from afar, modern Iran is dominated by the singular might of Islam, the culture here is every bit as rich and varied as its history suggests. The people here are Persian, not Arab, and embracing culture in all its forms is part of the Persian character.
One thing which is repeated again and again by those who have returned from Iran, is how friendly and open minded Iranian people are. Well educated, curious about the West, keen to show the best of their country – and demonstrate that they are not the same as their government. Any trip to Iran should allow you to meet and chat with local people, use Iranian guides, and really discover what life is like – away from the newspaper headlines.
Bazaars are wonderful cultural immersions. Every Iranian city has one – a space where past meets present, and spices and silks are sold alongside Persian rugs and pomegranates. Tehran’s Grand Bazaar has 10km of corridors, Esfahan’s is part of the huge Imam Khomeini Square complex, and Tabriz’s – described as the most beautiful – even contains mosques. Amid all the eye-level enticements, don’t forget to look up; the intricately adorned ceilings are the bazaars’ loveliest features. If you take tea with a stallholder, sip it hot with a sugarlump between your teeth. Or if you’re feeling brave, try the doogh – a salted, carbonated, yogurt drink, seasoned with mint. Um… cheers?
Our Iran Holidays
Strategically situated between Asia, Arabia and Europe, Iran was a hub for silk and spice traders, as caravans travelled across the known world, bringing religion, art, culture and cuisine
Follow the Silk Road
Today, the Silk Road is as much a concept as a physical road – and modern travellers can traverse selected parts of this 4,000 mile route in considerably more comfort than those who rode these trails centuries before. The Iranian section, skirting around the shores of the Caspian Sea, is the link between Central Asia and the Caucasus – leading on into Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan via mountains, desert and the former capitals of magnificent empires.
Walking & cycling holidays
Surrounded by so much cultural candy, it’s easy to overlook Iran’s scenic delicacies – but a walking tour in the Alborz Mountains is a delicious indulgence. The slopes are sprinkled with Alamut “Assassins” castles, named after the secretive medieval sect that was headquartered here. You’ll meet nomadic Shahsevan pastoralists, spend the night in local villages – or attempt to summit the 4,811m Mt Salaban.
A cycling holiday in Iran gets you just as close to the scenery and culture while also covering more ground. Pedalling out of Tehran, you’ll see just how quickly this metropolis transforms into desert, and you’ll have the chance to visit not just the big attractions of Shiraz, Esfahan and Persepolis, but also join up the lesser-visited dots between them, including cities such as Kashan and Abadeh. Covering over 900km on two wheels is also the best way to take in the scale and barrenness of the desert – and to really appreciate the oases where it bursts into life.
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In Iran, time is measured in millennia, and the minarets, mosques and mausoleums glinting across the country are what draw travellers to this ancient land.
Admire the architecture
Mirrored, mosaiced and majestic, Iran’s ancient monuments are shrines to the things held most dear to the Iranian people: Islam, poetry, powerful emperors, and above all – beauty. The sprawling ruins of Persepolis is one of the earth’s greatest archaeological sites, while a whole rainbow of mosques invites visitors to feel spiritual stirrings, as mirrorball-like interiors and elaborate stained glass take you one step closer to whatever your vision of heaven may be.
More about Iran
Our month by month guide breaks down the Iran calendar, with popular festivals and events.
Our Iran travel guide reveals an ancient nation where history is tangible everywhere.
Use our interactive Iran map and highlights to find out more about where to go in Iran.
Iran's ancient civilisations are undoubtedly the big draw for modern travellers to the country.
Cooking and food holidays in Iran journey to the heart of the country via its delicious cuisine.
Where better to experience bike touring than Iran, whose people are among the warmest in the world.
Once capital of Iran, Shiraz is a major winemaking centre and hugely important to the Islamic world.
Esfahan is packed full of enough mosques, palaces and museums to keep you busy for days.
More than just the gateway to Iran, Tehran is the country’s beating cultural heart.
Enjoy health & safety tips for Iran - as well as recommendations shared in our holiday reviews.
Tourism in Iran is in its infancy, and responsible tourism in Iran even more so.