Five Things First Time Travellers To Iran Should Know
- Iran is a cash country. You won't be able to use a foreign credit card due to sanctions. Make sure you bring enough money to exchange that will last your entire trip. While the official currency is Rial, most places list their prices in Toman. To avoid confusion, just remember that 1 Toman equals 10 Rials.
- You need valid travel insurance to get your visa. The immigration officials will check to see if your policy covers Iran. If it doesn't, you'll have to buy insurance at the airport.
- Respect the Islamic dress codes. Women will need to cover their hair with a headscarf and can't wear revealing clothes. Men aren't allowed to wear shorts or walk around topless.
- You'll need a VPN to access certain websites. In Iran, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked as well as blogs that mention Israel. Make sure you install and set up a VPN before you leave.
- Prepare yourself for squat toilets. Many hotels and restaurants from any budget range often don't have western toilets. You'll also need to keep a roll of toilet paper in your bag, as this is rarely provided outside private homes.
Best Time To Visit Iran
The best time to visit Iran is during Spring. From March to May, the temperatures are a cool 15-25°C, making sightseeing and outdoor activities more bearable. March is also Persian New Year and an interesting event to attend if you want to learn more about Iran's culture.
However, the spring months are also Iran's high season. Prices for hotels will be at their highest and transportation over the New Year will be booked out solid. If you are planning a trip over this period, book your accommodation in advance to ensure availability.
Iran's summer is from June to September. During these months, temperatures soar to 40°C, and the warmer weather keeps most travellers away. While the heat can make sightseeing uncomfortable, prices start to dip making it an affordable time of year to visit Iran.
From November to February, the scorching hot temperatures are replaced with heavy snow. It's the best time of year for winter sports enthusiasts to visit Iran's premier ski resorts. Hotels will slash their prices by 50%, and you'll have Iran's top attractions to yourself.
Tehran is the capital city of Iran. Located at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, the sprawling metropolis contains more than 250 years of history. Its top sights include the opulent Golestan Palace, the ancient Grand Bazaar and the beautiful Azadi Tower.
Tehran is also home to plenty of excellent museums, gardens and is only an hour away from Iran's premier ski resort.
Estefan is the third largest city in Iran and was once the capital of ancient Persia. Today, it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world thanks to its iconic architecture and breathtaking Persian gardens.
Spend your days wandering down the tree-lined boulevards and visiting important Islamic buildings like the Imam Mosque. No visit to Estefan would be complete without exploring the markets home to the city's famous handicrafts.
Shiraz has been the centre of Persian culture for over 2,000 years. The city is the final resting place for two of Iran's most revered poets, Hafez and Sadi. It's famous for its Syrah wine and abundance of Persian gardens.
Shiraz's main attraction is Persepolis, the capital of Persia destroyed by Alexander the Great. Other top things to see include the Eram Garden, Qavam House and the Vakil Mosque.
Top Attractions in Iran
Located at the foot of Tehran's Grand Bazaar, the Golestan Palace is one of Iran's most visited attractions. Once the palace of the Qajar dynasty, it's full of early Persian architecture and intricate mosaic facades.
It's made up of nine different sections which all have separate tickets. The Mirror Hall, the Main Halls and the Iranian Painting Gallery should all not be missed.
Keep a lookout for the masterpieces by painter Kamal ol-Molk which can be found throughout the palace. If you have the time, dress up as a Qajar prince or princess and have your photo taken with the beautiful architecture.
Persepolis was once the capital of the Persian empire and is one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world. Construction started during the reign of Darius the Great in 520 BC and took 150 years to complete.
While Persepolis is a massive complex, what sets it apart is its cultural influences. Architects were hired from all over the Persian empire, and the result was a collection of buildings that reflected its diversity. Archeologists have found precious stones from India and Cedrus wood from Lebanon, proof of the collaboration that took place to bring Darius's vision to life.
To get a sense of the magnitude of the site, climb the steps of the Gate of All Nations for a panoramic view of Persepolis.
Nasir ol-Molk Mosque
Nasir ol-Molk Mosque is the most photographed piece of architecture in Iran. Built in the 19th century, its rosy-hued tiles have earned it the nickname the Pink Mosque.
Located in the city of Shiraz, the best time to visit the mosque is in the morning. From 9:00 a.m. the light streams through the windows illuminating the interior with a kaleidoscope of colours. If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive as soon as the mosque opens and plan your visit for a weekday.
The Pink Mosque is a must-visit even for the most non-religious person. It's an exceptional piece of Islamic architecture that deserves a spot on any Iran itinerary.
Zoroastrian Towers of Silence
The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence are part of a 3,000-year-old burial ceremony. Bodies of the deceased were placed on top of the towers and left to disintegrate. The Zoroastrians believed that this was the only way to prevent demons from contaminating bodies. After this purification process, the bodies were then buried in or around the towers.
Today, this ancient tradition is banned in Iran, and Zoroastrians have been forced to adapt to new burial methods. Although the towers are no longer in use, it's still possible to visit them as a day trip from the city of Yazd.
Hafez is one of Persia's most famous poets. It's said that every Iranian has two books in their home: the Quran and a collection of Hafez's poetry. His words on love, spirituality and protest have an important cultural significance to Iranians.
After his death in 1389, a tomb was built for him in Shiraz. It features a beautiful pavilion and a slab of marble engraved with a long verse from one his poems.
The best times to visit the tomb is at sunset. Many Iranians gather here to pay their respects and perform the popular ritual of faal-e Hafez.
Major International Airports in Iran
- Mehrabad International Airport
- Mashhad International Airport
- Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport
- Shiraz International Airport
- Kish International Airport