BEST TIME TO GO
March – May
September – November
During the religious festival of Ramadan, many sites, hotels and shops are closed, so it is best avoided. Ramadan occurs at different times each year.
Direct BA flights from London Heathrow to Tehran, 5hrs 45mins
A journey to Iran is a unique experience – travelling back in time through cities and towns connected by well-trodden trade routes. Marvel at the abundance of art and architecture at every turn, as it visually tells the story of Iran’s rich and fascinating history.
Together with your expert local guide, explore cultural heritage sites, giving you a glimpse of the lives of the Shahs as well as the modern citizens of Iran.
Ancient kings created formal gardens of rare plant species and water features, building their own private paradise. Persian gardens, in turn, inspired the garden designs around the world, including that of the Taj Mahal. Whilst some of the most impressive Persian gardens are found in Shiraz, but there are many wonderful informal gardens to see throughout Iran.
Desert Trading Towns
Desert towns in southern Iran are some of the oldest settlements in the country. Merchants travelling the caravan routes would stop for respite and to trade their wares. Here in the middle of the harsh desert, these towns became the hub of trade and commerce, and many of the traditional crafts such as carpet weaving, miniature painting, pottery, textiles and enamel work can still be found. The rudimentary mud walls belie the incredible merchant’s homes or holiday homes of the rich from the 19th century. Today, a few of these have been restored to characterful boutique hotels, and for a night or two, imagine yourself a rich Persian trader.
Palaces and Mosques
With no expense spared, Iran’s palaces and mosques are out of this world, showcasing wealth, architecture and craftsmanship. Each dynasty strived to make their mark and you can see interesting renovations and influences taken from both the east and western worlds. A fine example is the glittering Golestan Palace in Tehran that has undergone around 400 developments in its life. Its lavish interiors and colourful exteriors with ornate carvings, ceramics, gilt and mirrors are quite something!
The mosques are equally impressive, dominated by huge domes whose interiors and minarets are covered in exquisite ceramic tiles and detailed decorative painting. Fine examples of this craftsmanship can be seen in the beautiful pink light in the Nasir Mosque in Shiraz, or in the intricate 17th century tile work of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dome in Isfahan.
Still a vital part of everyday life in Iran, the bustling bazaars go on for miles with business and trade happening around every corner. In the desert, bazaars were built underground to be shielded from the strong sun in the summer months. Meander through the bazaar’s narrow streets, enjoying the different sections selling spices, textiles, precious metals, miniature paintings and leather goods to name a few.
As you travel through the land, visit towns and cities with their own trading specialities: Shiraz for rose water; Kerman for Caraway seeds and carpets, Kashan for pottery, Isfahan for carpets and nougat, and Yazd for silk cloth – be sure to come equipped with extra bags for your purchase.
Ancient Sites – Persepolis
Iran has many significant historical sites which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and of huge archaeological importance. One of the most important is Persepolis the ceremonial capital of the First Persian Empire in 550 BC. Here, the vast ruins are all that remain of grand palaces and tombs of the Achaemenid Kings. Excavations only began in the 1930s which have restored it to some of its former glory.
The food is colourful, healthy and full of flavour. Sample delicious dishes from hearty stews and soups to beautifully cooked fish and meat. When in Shiraz, be sure to try tahdig – bottom of the pan, crisp golden saffron rice.