Shiraz

Shiraz, the capital of Fars province, is a very delightful city. This city that is the fifth most populous city of Iran is located in south of Iran and in the northwest of Fars province with 919 kilometer (571 miles) distance from Tehran.
Some local writers believe that the Shiraz has been named after son of Tahmuras, the mythical king of the world mentioned in the epic of Shahnameh. But historically, the first reference to the city’s name is in the Elamite tablets from the second millennium BCE.
Shiraz has been known with various epithets since ancient times such as the city of poetry and wine, the city of flower and nightingale, and/or the city of love and romance. The people of Shiraz are interested in poetry more than any other people in Iran. This city is the birth and also burial place of some popular poets such as “Hafez” (14th century) and “Sa'di” (13th century). You can find their Divans (poem collection) almost in every Iranian’s house. Goethe, the great German literary figure, had a great interest in Hafez and his poetry, and he has mentioned Hafez as his role model.
Maybe, one of the reasons for Shiraz people to have such a great interest in poetry is that there are plenty of Persian gardens in this city. Shiraz has several Persian gardens, like “Eram Garden” which is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. Those who have an interest in botany and related issues can also observe different species of plants, in addition to the stunning beauty of these gardens.
You might also agree that coming together of elements like poetry, flower and nightingale can be a source of romantic inspiration and openness of heart. Although most of the Iranian cities have hospitable people, hospitality of Shiraz people is matchless.
In addition to famous poets and writers, this city is the home to rich historical, cultural and religious monuments, each of them representing the height of the Persian culture and civilization in different eras. Among these monuments, we can mention “Persepolis”, “Pasargadae”, “Vakil Bazar”, “Vakil Mosque and Bath”, “Arg-e-Karimkhani”, “Darvazeh Quran”, “Nasir al-Mulk Mosque”, “Narenjestan-e-Qavam”, “Shah-e-Cheraq Srhine”, and several beautiful gardens like “Eram Garden” and “Afīf Abad Garden”.
Two significant monuments,  “Persepolis” and “Pasargadae”, located outside Shiraz, have been registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, and depict bright culture and prosperous civilization of ancient Persia. These two monuments are reminiscent of the glory of the Achaemenid Empire.

Around this amazing city, there are plains that are home to the “Arab” and “Qashqai” nomads whose ways of life, traditions and hospitality should not be missed out by any traveler. 

 

 

Isfahan

sfahan, or as the Iranians name it, Nesf-e Jahan (half of the world), is the masterpiece of Iranian art and architecture and it is one of the most wonderful cities in the Islamic world. This city, which is located at a distance of 424 kilometers (263.5 miles) south of Tehran, is the third most populous city in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad, with a population of about 2,000,000.

Isfahan is located at the crossroads of the major north-south routes of Iran, and once this city was considered as one of the greatest cities in the world. In the 16th century, in the Safavid era, Isfahan was chosen as the capital of Persia, and the city experienced a rare glory.

Having unique cultural, historical and religious monuments, Isfahan is the symbol of Persian ingenuity and creativity. Old squares and streets, wonderful mosques and churches, glorious palaces, old schools and caravansaries, stunning bridges, and eye catching gardens astonish every viewer and make it almost impossible to leave. This precious heritage has been realized in the architecture of Naqsh-e Jahan (image of the world) Square and its surrounding monuments.

The wonderful Abbasi Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and Jame Mosque as well as Vank Cathedral immerse the person in the dream of a rare spirituality. In addition to the religious sites, this city has some palaces and mansions like Ali Qapu, Chehel Sotoun, and Hasht Behesht that vividly portray the glory of Safavid era. Since the city of Isfahan was built next to the Zayande Rood (River of Zayande), the inhabitants of the city have had to build bridges to cross it. Khaju Bridge, Si-o Se pol Bridge, Shahrestan Bridge, and Chubi Bridge are the splendid bridges of Isfahan. Art and engineering have been manifested in these structures with an exemplary elegance, and still, after several centuries, it makes the viewer to admire. You can walk in peace along the Zayande Rood after watching the bridges, and then drink a cup of tea with local people and enjoy talking with them. Isfahan attractions are not limited to the items mentioned above.

 

The intangible elements should be added to the tangible heritage. The name of Isfahan has always been associated with craft. Unique diverse crafts like Ghalam Zani (metal fabrication), Khatam (marquetry), and Mina (Vitreous enamel) have reached its perfection through efforts and skills of Isfahan’s craftsmen. Qeysarieh Bazaar of Isfahan, that adorns Naqsh-e Jahan square and has been built around it, is full of these handicrafts. In this colorful marketplace you can find and buy anything you like as souvenir. These handicrafts are not the only souvenirs that you take from Isfahan, pleasant and unforgettable memories will always stay with you, because you can see the fascinating combination of art, architecture, human creativity and endeavor in this city.

 

 

Yazd

“Yazd” is a desert city which is located in central Iran, at the junction of “Kavir desert” and “Lūt desert”. This city, called “The Bride of The Desert”, is a unique city in Iran. Exotic architecture, variety of handicrafts, colorful and delicious sweets, and Zoroastrian faith are among peerless attractions of this ancient city rarely found anywhere else in Iran.

Added to the above attractions, it will surprise you that there are friendly people who have not yet lost their past sincerity and welcome you with open arms and happy faces. Perhaps, a reason for such a unique hospitality is the city's location in the desert, which has given it a different cultural and physical landscape.

A string of numerous subterranean water channels dug to supply the city water, the roof-top wind catchers (Badgir) erected to cool the buildings and ancient mud-brick technique used in the construction have made Yazd architecturally distinct.  

You can feel this city with all your senses while walking in the Old City and trying to get lost in it. This part of the city, which is full of adobe houses with badgirs, and labyrinthine narrow alleys with roofed lanes (Sababt), according to UNESCO, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Old City of Yazd is a rare example of ancient cities which is still inhabited. After a pleasant walk, you can spend awhile in a traditional restaurant to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Yazd.

Yazd does not end here. This city is the center of Zoroastrianism, a monotheist faith widely practiced in Persia before Muslim Arabs invasion. The number of Zoroastrians is now very small and most of them are living in Yazd. Yazd and its vicinity is a place for practicing the Zoroastrian rituals and rites. “Atashkadeh” (fire temple) and “Borje-Khamushi” (towers of silence) are some places where you can see the traces of this ancient religion.

The magnificent “Jame” Mosque of Yazd, amazing “Tekke Amir Chaqmaq” (Tekke is a place for public mourning), the “Prison of Alexander”, “Lariha” House, “Zūrkhāneh Sāheb-al-Zamān” (Persian traditional sport house), and “Dowlatabad” Persian Garden are some of other notable attractions of Yazd which can make a distinct memorable experience for every visitor.

Besides these historical and/or architectural attractions, you can buy finest fabrics and Termeh clothes of Iran from the Bazaar of Yazd, and if you like to eat sweets or buy them as souvenirs, you can try the“Baqlava”and “Qottab”.

 

 

Mashhad

“Mashhad”, the capital of “Razavi Khorasan” Province, is the second most populous city in Iran . This city which is located in the north east of the country is the holiest place for Iranian Muslims and one of the main pilgrimage centers for the followers of the “Shia” Islam. This city that is the burial place  of “Imam Reza” - the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims - attracts millions of pilgrims and visitors from Iran and other countries every year.

Shia is one of two major denominations of Islam, and Iran as the Shia center of the world is completely different from other Muslim (Sunni) countries.

Majority of Shiites of Iran are adherents of “Imam Ali”, the first Imam of Shia Muslims and cousin of the Prophet "Muhammad", and his eleven descendants, and so they are called the “Twelvers”. Shiites believe that Imam is an infallible person who has the responsibility to lead Islamic Ummah after the Prophet. Imam Reza is one of the popular Imams of Shias who has been martyred and buried in Mashhad, so the city is called Mashhad (the place of martyrdom). Shiites and even other Muslims come to Mashhad from other countries to pay homage to Imam Reza.

It is interesting to know that “Harun al-Rashid”, the fifth Abbasid Caliph (9th century), is also buried in this place. Imam Reza was martyred by order of “al-Ma’mun”, Harun’s son. Besides Imam Reza and Harun al-Rashid, two other important figures in the history, literature and culture of Iran are buried in Mashhad and its vicinity.

One of these figures is “Ferdowsi” (940-1020 CE) who is the greatest epic poet of Persian literature. He has written the “Shahnameh” (the book of kings) which consists of some 50,000 verses narrating the story of the kings, mythological heroes and their adventures. This book is considered as a masterpiece of Persian literature and many of Iranians believe that it is a treasure of Persian language. Ferdowsi's tomb is located at a distance of24kilometers from Mashhad.

“Nāder Shāh Afshār” is  another famous figure buried in the city of Mashhad. Nader Shah is remembered as the last great conqueror of Asia and the last emperor of Iran. So many people compare him with “Alexander the Macedonian”and “Napoleon Bonaparte”. Nader Shah tomb is located in a beautiful garden.

This city is a right choice for those who are interested in spirituality, religious spaces, pilgrimage and literature.

 

 

Tabriz

“Tabriz”, the capital of “East Azerbaijan” Province, is the fourth most populous city of Iran. It is located in the north west of country at a distance of 625 kilometers (388 Miles) from Tehran. This city is located on a vast plain surrounded by several Mountains. The geographical features of Tabriz cause the city to have harsh winters and mild summers.

Through different historical periods, Tabriz has experienced a turbulent history. So, a varied treasure of historical monuments with different architectural styles and a variety of customs have been developed by Tabriz people.

Since Tabriz is located on the “Silk Road”, its prosperity has been increased throughout history. It was appointed as the capital of Persia in “Ilkhanate Era” (1256–1335) and at the time of “Shah Ismail”, the founder of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736). And, in the last two centuries, it has become one of the most important cities in Iran in terms of politics, culture, economy and education.

One of the memorable experiences of the city can be a walking tour in the biggest covered bazaar of the world. This complex, registered as a World Cultural Heritage, is considered as one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East, and is a center for trade and social interaction. Besides the stunning architecture and lively atmosphere, bazaar allows you to purchase different products and also interact with locals.

Grand bazaar is not the only appeal of Tabriz. The magnificent “Kabud Mosque”, the remains of the great “Arg-e Tabriz, “Constitution House” of Tabriz, “El-Göli Park”, “Azerbaijan Museum”, “Maqbaratoshoara” (mausoleum for poets), holy shrines, and several churches and mosques are among the highlights of the city.

Tabriz is ethnically and linguistically different from other major cities of Iran. The Tabriz people, who speak Azari, have different traditional music, dance, cooking style, costumes and, of course, language. For those who prefer deeper contact with local cultures, these differences can be thrilling.

Furthermore, Tabriz has always been a place to raise great persons each of whom has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of Iran. Among these individuals, the famous Azari poet, “Shahriar”, and the heroes of the Constitutional Revolution about a century ago, “Sattar Khan” and “Bagher Khan”, can be mentioned.

At a distance of 40 kilometers from this metropolis, there is a rocky village, Kandovan, that is very similar to “Cappadocia” in Turkey. This village which is still inhabited by local people is a perfect example of harmony between man and nature.

 

 

 

Tehran

 You might think of Tehran, the poltical, economic and even cultural center of Iran, as a polluted, crowded city with lots of noise, but it is far more than this, a city with variety of things to offer.  

 

Tehran is located at the southern slopes of the “Alborz Range”, in a vast plain in central Iran. Four centuries ago, it was only a small village in an agreeable area. “Agha Muḥammad Khan-e-Qajar”,the founder of “Qajar Dynasty”, after his coronation in Tehran in 1786, chose it as his own capital. From that time on, Tehran began to flourish in various economic, political and social dimensions and became the current metropolis with a population of over 8 million people.
This city is not all about the crowd, congestion and noise; it enjoys many attractions making it worth visiting. Cultural and historic monuments, a variety of museums, welcoming people, numerous parks, plentiful restaurants and pleasant climate encourage people to spend several days in Tehran.
Although Tehran has a short history, it has many historic monuments from Contemporary history. “Golestan” Palace, located in the center of city, is the oldest palace of Tehran.This Palace had been the residence of Qajar kings and it is a World Cultural Heritage Site. Near the Palace, there is the Grand Bazaar of Tehran that is the heart of the business in Ira

 

The historical “30 Tir” Street is located at a relatively short distance north of these two sites.This street includes several cultural and historical monuments. “National Museum of Iran”, “National Garden Gate”, “Abgineh Museum”,“Saint Mary's Church”, and “Firooz Bahram” fire temple are some of these monuments. There are also several other important museums like the“Museum of the Crown Jewels” and “Museum of Coins” in this area. In other parts of the city, other museums can also be found that each one represents a part of the Persian taste. One of the most important of these museums is the “Carpet Museum” that exhibits Persian carpets with historical, cultural, scientific and artistic values.
The north of Tehran that is the affluent part of the city, in addition to mountain trekking areas such as “Darband”, “Darake” and “Tochal”, has two beautiful large palaces belonging to “Pahlavid” dynasty, namely “Niavaran” and “Sa'dabad”. These palaces which are aligned in the same direction at a distance of 14 kilometers from each other are collections of several mansions, most of them currently used as museums.
“Azadi” and “Milad” Towers should also be added to the above attractions. Azadi Tower that is the symbol of Tehran was built in 1971 in commemoration of the 25,00th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Milad Tower, almost10 years old, is a telecommunication tower with tourism facilities.This structure that is one of the world's tallest towers is the symbol of Iran's progress and development.