12 reasons why you should travel to Iran at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Should I or should I not visit Iran?

Travel to Iran

You’ve been pondering, mulling over, thinking about it, even planning, yet you still haven’t booked your trip to Iran. You don’t even know why, maybe holidays for you are synonymous with beach so you head to Thailand, maybe you think spices are only available in India, or maybe you think ancient history can only be experienced in Rome.

Whatever has been keeping you from booking that flight, here are my ten reasons why you should visit Iran as soon as possible and overcome all of your doubts.

1. Traveling to Iran is safe

Is Iran a safe country to visit? Whether you travel alone or in a group, whether you are a woman or a man, or whether you arrive day or night time, Iran is very safe. It’s without hesitation that I can say that Iran is the safest country in the tormented region

2. It’s hitting the headlines all over the world

Let’s face it, now it’s totally Iran moment. Listed by many publications as one of the most popular travel destinations for 2014, after soaking in tourist crowds for two weeks I can only say that this year is the beginning of what will finally be an era of never-ending tourism flow for this west Asian country. Among the reasons people are flocking in Iran, curiosity is definitely a big draw. If you add the pride of saying you have traveled to the Islamic Republic, saw that things are not as mainstream media say, that you challenged all prejudices and warnings from family and friends, I say, book your ticket now. If you ask me, one of the reasons why you should travel to Iran soon is to go before the crowd gets too big!

3. The people and hospitality

Iran tends to get a lot of bad press, but somewhere in the mix, the good word about Iranian hospitality somehow got out. It’s not only the remains of Persepolis, mosques of Isfahan, and wind catchers of Yazd that have drawn travelers in, but also that unshakable curiosity about this renowned hospitality. This centuries old tradition has only intensified in recent years, solidifying that initial curiosity for travelers, and leaving a lasting impression much stronger than any tourist attraction ever could.

4. A long history

Hardly in need of any introduction, Persepolis is possibly Iran’s most famous ancient site, even though not the only one. From ancient Persia to modern Iran, from the Achaemenid Empire to the Sassanian era, from the Safavid period to the Qajar dynasty, to finally the Pahlavi family and the Islamic Revolution, Iranian history is as stormy as it gets. With so many historical places to visit in Iran, traveling all around the country you can soak in every period and delve into the nation’s tangled past. After you enjoyed your Persepolis tour, don’t forget to add to the list also other Iran points of interest such as the Golestan Palace in Tehran, Ali Qapu Palace in Isfahan and the Fire Temple in Yazd, just to mention some. If this is not a reason to visit Iran, I don’t know what is.

5. Architecture

Be it a mosque, a palace or a bazaar, Iranian buildings are finely decorated and glow with ornamental elegance. Pastel colors gracefully interact with bright hues, tapering minarets and seemingly ubiquitous domes outline the landscape, symbols and traditional calligraphy coexist in a charming interplay. Whether inside or outside a building, the sophisticated Persian architecture is always something tourists marvel at every time they visit Iran. Also, the architectural styles and features evoke the dynasty they belong to. Getting enchanted by mesmerizing decorations, fine carvings, and elaborate paintings is one of the best reasons why you should visit Iran.

6. UNESCO World Heritage Sites

From exquisite mosques to stunning feats of engineering, Iran boasts twenty-one UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including 20 cultural and one natural. While they are scattered around the country, you can easily cross off six by visiting the areas in and around Shiraz and the Khuzestan province. For those interested in Persian culture, there are also a number of intangible cultural heritage elements in Iran that are worth exploring during your stay.

7. Handicraft

Each province, each city, each village has their own handicraft. In Yazd, you will certainly buy the beautiful termeh, handwoven silk and wool fabric (and baklava sweets), in Isfahan tiles and blue chalices and plates to decorate your home or use to offer sweets to your guests with a Persian touch. Different cities different handicraft. Visit Tabriz (and everywhere else) for their particular carpets of all sizes, colors, and patterns, or their nuts, get to Hamedan for their colorful pottery or spend a day or two in Nishapur for their turquoise stone jewelry. Wherever you travel in Iran, rest assured that you’ll get back home with the loveliest of gifts and Iranian souvenirs.

8. Food

From pistachio to black tea, from saffron to kebab, from Mirza Ghasemi to Ghormeh Sabzi, the heavy presence of aromatic herbs makes Iranian cuisine appetizing and addictive, especially when it comes to pistachio and baklava if you ask me. While there are national dishes that you can find everywhere, like herb stew Ghormeh Sabzi, there are others that are exclusive, or at least typical of a particular region. If for food you consider also the single ingredients, Iran is famous for its saffron, much cheaper than in Europe in case you are thinking about some Persian gift shopping or their delicious pistachio.

9. Romantic Persian gardens and poetry

Parks are plentiful throughout Iran, even in the megacity of Tehran which surprisingly has a lot of green spaces. This love of the outdoors perhaps stems from the past when the elite ensconced themselves in lavish private gardens such as Fin in Kashan, Eram in Shiraz, and Shazdeh in Kerman, which are a few that make up UNESCO’s collective listing of Persian gardens. The tombs of poets Hafez and Saadi are also surrounded by immaculate landscaping and pools of cascading water, providing the perfect backdrop to recite some romantic poetry. Iran has made a comeback on the travel scene in recent years, being listed as one of the hot spot destinations, and certainly with good reason. And although it may not rank as high with some travelers as it does with others.

10. Natural beauty

Iran is commonly thought of as a vast desert country, but it has a plethora of other natural beauties as well. From lush green forests to plunging waterfalls, to caves and hot springs, the country’s topography is about as varied as its ethnic diversity.

11. Visit Iran because it’s still cheap

Be it for the sanctions or for the dropping of their currency, traveling to Iran right now will turn very cheap. It mostly depends on the exchange rate, by since now euros, dollars and pounds are still strong compared to the rial, try to visit Iran as soon as possible before things change too much.

12. You will have a truly authentic experience

Probably due to sanctions that allow little commercial exchange with other countries, especially in the West, Iran can boast its own products on a variety of manufacturing areas, from food to textiles to ceramics. Apart from goods on sale, Iranians are very proud of their culture and traditions. This is why they will never miss the opportunity to illustrate what you might be seeing, eating, drinking, listening to, and so on and so forth. This will give anyone who decides to visit Iran a great chance for a genuine local experience. This is also what allows you to better delve into the society and understand an ancient culture preserved with pride.