Some call it a rebirth, some call it a boost. It’s definitely a growth. Iran’s tourism sector is rapidly growing following the nuclear agreement and lifting of economic sanctions. This article is not about Iran’s tourism industry or Travel Tech. It’s an invitation to one of the most beautiful and safest places in the world. In this article, we also introduce some useful travel apps that make your visit as easy as possible.
Plan to Visit Iran. The Best Season Is On The Way!
Iran is a vast country with a rich culture, long history, and lots of stories to share. With 21 cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, indeed, it’s a travel package that every curious traveler may dream for. Iran is synonym to glorious ancient sites, mesmerizing mosques, spectacular gardens, historic mansions and bazaars, natural wonders as well as friendly people that marvel all travelers. Last but not least, Iran is the land of plenty of amazing Persian cuisines and pastries. If you’re interested in history, art, and architecture and want new experiences, it’s time to add a unique part to your travel diary by visiting Iran.
The best season to travel Iran is on the way! Iran is incredible in Spring! Early-March to mid-June (except Nowruz, the 2-week Iranian new-year festival in late-March) is the best time to visit the country. Temperature is just amazing. It’s the high season of foreign travels to Iran, and the next one will be Autumn.
No matter of your desired traveling style, on budget or in a luxurious way, Iran is an experience you should never miss. Here are what you need to know before visiting Iran.
Must see attractions in Iran
Thanks to its long history, Iran is home to many stunning ancient heritages on every corner of the country. The most prominent ones that you can’t resist visiting out are the ruins of Persepolis (Takht-e Jamshid) and Pasargadae located an hour from Shiraz, the capitals of the world’s first and largest ancient empire, the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC). The list goes on with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Throne of Solomon in West Azarbaijan, Chogha Zanbil and Shushtar Hydraulic System in Khuzestan, Bisotun Inscription in Kermanshah, Shahr-e Sūkhté (meaning the Burnt City) in Sistan and Baluchestan, and Abyaneh Village in Isfahan.
Persian Gardens are the other spectacular and lovely places in the country. Visiting these earthly paradises is obligatory. Eram Garden, Narenjestan-e Qavam, and Afif-Abad Garden in Shiraz are among the most beautiful gardens in Iran.
There are many historic palaces and mansions with stunning Persian architecture in Iran. Golestan Palace, a world heritage site, Sa’adabad and Niavaran complexes are three of the must see palaces in Tehran. Yazd, Kashan, and Isfahan are the cities you will find many historic mansions there and most of these mansions are renovated to serve as traditional hotels to foreign travelers.
Mesmerizing mosques with their Persian-Islamic architecture are the places that satisfy every curious traveler. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (17th century) in Isfahan and Nasir al-Mulk Mosque (known as the Pink Mosque, 19th century) in Shiraz are undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful mosques.
Historic bazaars, squares, bridges, tombs, and monuments are the other interesting places to see in Iran. Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, another UNESCO listed site, is one of Iran’s most popular tourist sites. Vakil bazaar in Shiraz, Grand bazaar and Tajrish bazaar in Tehran, and Tabriz bazaar are the most favorite bazaars among tourists.
Ranked eighteenth in size among the countries of the world, Iran is a vast land with many natural attractions. Head to the Great Salt Desert (Dasht-e Kavir) and The Emptiness Desert (Dasht-e Lut) in Iran’s heart and enjoy their mysterious and inspiring atmosphere. Qeshm Island in the south is home to several natural wonders including the Qeshm Geopark, Kharbas Caves, Hara Forest, Valley of the Stars, Namakdan Salt Cave, and Mangroves. Ski lovers can also enjoy Iran’s ski resorts with high-quality snow and plenty of carving space and gentle slopes in the winter and early spring. Finally what you will find in the northern parts of the country is the vast and beautiful lush forest stretches along the northern border.
- Google Map (Android, iOS) is a great navigation app to find your way to any corner of Iran, including hotels, tourist sites, hospitals, etc. Let say you are in Shiraz, decide to go to Nasir al-Mulk Mosque and see the breathtaking scenery of the morning light passed through the stained glasses windows. Just open this app, type your destination, and follow one of the offered paths.
- If you want to get around Tehran and discover Golestan Palace or Tajrish Bazaar, you can use Snapp (Android, iOS) or Tap30 (Android, iOS), the Uber clones operating in Tehran. Tehran Metro (Android, iOS) is another great app that helps you escape the traffic and find your way through Tehran’s subway system.
- Want to share your moments in Iran’s picturesque places with the world? Instagram, one the most popular photo-sharing apps is freely accessible in Iran.
Iranian people are very nice, especially to foreigners
There’s nothing like the hospitality of people to triple the joyfulness of a trip. Just forget everything you’ve heard in western media, do a simple search on Google, and discover what other travelers said about Iranian hospitality. Friendly, welcoming, helpful, kind, generous, awesome, and nice are just a few words travelers use to describe Iranian people. Iranians are proud of their long history of civilization and culture and are eager to talk to the world about them. Since cherishing the guest is a must in the Iranian culture, they do anything for their foreign guests to feel super-welcomed in their country. So don’t be surprised if you are invited by total strangers to spend a night with their family!
- Iranians are nice people and if you need any kind of help just ask them. They will be ready to spend their time to meet your needs. In case you need to communicate with locals, Google Translate (Android, iOS) is one of the most convenient ways to translate words and short sentences from Persian (Farsi) to English and vice versa. To use the app offline, you can download the app and the language packages.
- Just in case you want to learn some essential, real-world Persian sentences to ask for directions, getting a taxi, or bargaining, Learn Persian (Android, iOS) can help you with that.
Iran is incredibly safe to visit, according to travelers
Despite its location on the globe, Iran is an incredibly safe country to visit. Crimes are very rare. There is no military violation in the country. There are not any drug cartels like those are in South America or Africa. More than 95% of people are Shia Muslims, so there is no religious variety in the country that usually cause violations in Islamic countries. Major terrorist groups including Taliban or ISIS believe Iranian Shia are not real Muslims, so they don’t have any supporters or territories in Iran. Just look at the following picture. It shows the countries ISIS supporters are tweeting from. Most of them are not on President Trump’s travel ban list. Traveling with kids and family, or as a solo female, or a backpacker, you will feel incredibly safe in Iran.
- The best way to find out what real travelers have shared about their journey in Iran is social media. Check out the See You in Iran group on Facebook to find some of these travelers.
- Whatsapp, Telegram and Skype, are the most used apps for sending instant messages or making free international calls from Iran. All of these applications work fine in Iran, and you can use them to keep in touch with your friends and family.
Etiquette and Customs you should care about
The first and most important thing is the dress code. As advised in Iranian’s ancient culture and not necessarily because of the religious rules, women should dress modestly in Iran. They have to cover their hair and wear dresses with long sleeves. Iranian women are not obliged to wear Burka like the other Islamic countries. Any physical contact is just accepted by same genders and family members.
One of the most interesting and also complicated customs in Iran is a concept called Taarof. In its simplest type, it’s just a way for emphasizing the priority of friendship over anything else, usually monetary stuff. So if you are invited to a friend’s home or offered anything, just in case that it may be a Taarof (and not a real invitation or offering) you should decline until the insistence becomes greater.
The best things to buy in Iran
Be ready to go on a shopping spree! Shopping is one the most interesting parts of a trip, and it will be even more interesting in Iran’s historic bazaars. Beautiful Persian carpet and high-quality Saffron are the top souvenirs you can take home from Iran. But Iran’s bazaars are full of other great affordable goodies including handicrafts, antiques, rugs, and pastries. They all reflect the richness of history, culture, art, and ethnicities in Iran. Iran’s other admirable and unique souvenirs are handicrafts including Minakari, Qalamkari, Khatamkari, Pottery, Miniature Paintings, Ceramic tiles, Metal works, Copper works, Jewelry, and Termeh. If you prefer a foodie way to surprise your family and friends you should try Iran’s foodie souvenirs. Herbs and spices, the world’s best pistachio, pastries and sweets including Gaz, Sohan, Qottab, Loz, Baqlava, Pashmak and Haj Badom, a delicious fruit leather called Lavashak, all are tasty souvenirs you should leave enough space in your luggage for them.
- Finding the best café or restaurant to eat Chelo-Kebob, or the best shops and bazaars to buy beautiful souvenirs will be easy with Foursquare. You will find fairly helpful reviews form locals and also travelers about anything in this application.
Plan ahead for a memorable trip
The first step to get a tourist visa for Iran is getting an Authorization Number from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Tehran. The tour company you plan to travel with or some Iranian travel agencies can handle the bureaucracy of getting this letter for you. Then, you must personally refer to Iranian consulate specified before in the application form, submit your documents including the Authorization Number, and pick up your visa. Visa on arrival is the other option that the travelers to Iran have. Keep in mind that visa on arrival is not issued for nationalities from the USA, UK, Canada, Colombia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
- Although accessing high-speed Internet in Iran isn’t ideal yet, it’s quite easier than the past. There are two main mobile operators providing 4G internet access in all major cities and most of the hotels provide Wi-Fi for their guests. Travelers can easily find SIM Cards upon arrival in the airport and also from the numerous private service providers everywhere in the cities.
- In case your devices run out of memory space in Iran, you can use the 15GB free space on Google Drive (Android, iOS) just with a Google account.
- To be sure about the weather condition during your trip and prepare in advance, AccuWeather (Android, iOS) helps you stay connected to the latest weather forecasts.
- TripAdvisor website and apps are the best ways to find fairly new tourist reviews from all around the world on hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites in Iran. It’s a great tool to find the tourists’ favorite places in Iran.
- If you want to be sure you bring everything essential for you trip, PackPoint is a great app to help you with packing stuff. It helps you pack your luggage based on your gender, destination climate, travel purpose, length of stay, and activities.