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Why You Should Visit Iran, Now More than Ever

Esfahan Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Iran

As a rustic blessed with extraordinary historic websites, a colourful and numerous tradition, and beautiful landscapes, Iran is a type of fascinating locations which have greater than sufficient to lure a wholesome dose of tourism. But, Iran has did not even make a blip on most individuals’s radar, particularly in relation to tourism.

Sadly, the nation has suffered from worldwide tensions and a troublesome home regime that has prevented it from being the treasured vacation spot it has the potential to be. It has, although, turn into a spot solely daring, adventurous, and seasoned vacationers want to discover. Nevertheless it doesn’t need to be that method.

Iran had been on my radar for over 5 years earlier than I even determined to significantly try the journey. To be trustworthy, at one level I even believed that as an American, I wasn’t allowed to go to or that it was going to be almost inconceivable to get a visa. However I used to be fallacious.

The Naqsh-e Jahan Sq. in Isfahan, Iran

Because the election of a average president in 2013, this as soon as out-of-bounds nation has steadily reopened its doorways and welcomed vacationers from everywhere in the world. Nonetheless, whether or not for lack of understanding or disagreements in its issues of civic legal guidelines, many individuals aren’t satisfied sufficient to go to this lovely nation.

However is it value visiting Iran? After visiting it and seeing issues with my very own eyes, my solely reply to that query is a large YES! Right here I’ll inform you why it is best to go to Iran and why it is best to go now greater than ever.

Iran is A lot Safer than Individuals Assume it’s

Iran has had a strained relationship with the Western world for many years now on account of political and financial causes, however this shouldn’t deter you from experiencing what I consider is among the most fascinating nations on earth.

The media paints Iran as a violent nation plagued with wars, riots, terrorism, and violence. That’s simply fearmongering at its greatest and it doesn’t examine, in any respect, to what you see once you’re in Iran (or a lot of the Center East, truly).

Azadi Tower, Tehran

The Azadi Tower, now a logo of freedom.

Sure, the nation skilled a defining revolution in 1979, when it turned the Islamic State of Iran and altered the course of its political and social tradition. It additionally suffered by way of the Iran-Iraq Conflict from 1980 to 1988, however since then, the good majority of the nation hasn’t seen any armed battle – 30 years and counting.

Any violence that occurs in Iran today is irregular and really uncommon. An enormous distinction to the almost-weekly routine mass shootings within the US. In truth, I’m snug saying that being in Iran is far safer than being within the US. The nation counts with a number of army checkpoints and strict safety, which aren’t solely in place to guard its residents, however vacationers alike.

And kidnappings? No, they don’t occur. I had a humorous second with Nadia, my Intrepid Journey information, once I requested her if kidnappings occurred within the nation. This occurred once we have been casually sitting at a café which had an indication outdoors saying “Skinny individuals are simpler to kidnap. Keep protected, eat cake.”

Cafe Kidnap sign, Iran

The “kidnap” signal on the cafe.

She replied nonchalantly, “I’ve had that occur 3 times on my excursions.” My tour companions and I checked out her with vast eyes, considering, “that is critical!”

When she observed our expression, she requested again, “wait, what’s kidnapping?”

Once we defined it to her, her horrified expression informed us she confused the phrase. She was desirous about pickpocketing. Sure, pickpockets occur, like in any nation. Kidnappings don’t.

I by no means felt in peril whereas within the nation, not even once I walked alone within the metropolis of Esfahan previous midnight.

Visiting Iran as a solo traveler is protected. People, British, and Canadian vacationers don’t have that luxurious of solo journey within the nation (for now), so being on a (required) tour provides one other security layer.

It’s About Individuals. They Make all of it Value it

Should you’ve learn something about Iran, I’m positive you have to already know that they’re among the many friendliest individuals you’ll ever meet. I’m yet one more voice who can affirm this.

Man in Shiraz Market

This man noticed me taking footage on the bazaar and posed to have his image taken, with out my asking.

Iran’s hospitality is second to none. They’re each heat and welcoming, however this isn’t only a façade to look good, that is a vital function of their tradition. It isn’t unusual to strike a dialog with Iranians whereas strolling on the road, sitting at a park, or simply at any given second.

After a couple of minutes chatting, it’s also not unusual for them to ask you over to their house to drink tea or have a meal with their household. This camaraderie isn’t reserved for vacationers. It additionally occurs amongst locals.

Positive, the nation is in the midst of an financial disaster the place many locals resort to reaching out to vacationers in hopes of creating a bit of cash by guiding them or promoting them one thing, however when you politely say “no, I have already got a information”, or “I’m not ,” they may instantly drop the topic and proceed the dialog with another matter. Pushiness just isn’t their type, which is one thing I extremely recognize as a traveler.

Women in Eqlid, Iran

The conservative ladies of Eqlid, sporting their chador.

Even in probably the most conservative cities, I had ladies (sporting chadors) attain to me in a pleasant method and ask to have their image taken with me. Contemplating how conservative they appeared to be, I might have by no means made an try to speak to them, however right here they have been, reaching out and being pleasant.

For my part, their hospitality is considered one of Iran’s greatest qualities.

Eating with traditional family in Iran

Having dinner with an area household within the metropolis of Kashan.

Its Historical past is World Heritage

Iran is house to one of many world’s oldest steady main civilizations, with historic and concrete settlements courting again to 7000 BC. It additionally counts with 23 UNESCO World Heritage websites as of 2018. Of all of those websites, Persepolis –the traditional ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire courting again to 515 BCE– is certainly probably the most well-known one.

Persepolis - Gate of Nations - Iran

Gate of Nations, Persepolis

Whereas most UNESCO websites are unfold everywhere in the nation, you possibly can simply cross off eight of them by visiting the Fars, Yazd, and Isfahan Provinces, that are often included in most excursions and are straightforward to go to.

Iran’s wealthy historical past spans from Historic Persia to modern-day Iran, and as you journey via the nation, you’ll see hints of the Achaemenid Empire, the Sassanian Period, Safavid Interval, and Qajar Dynasty, amongst many others.

To not be missed can also be the significance and impression the Islamic Revolution had on modern-day Iran, its society, faith, and the way it in sure methods clashes with the nation’s previous.

One factor is for certain, Iranian historical past is just not boring. It’s as stormy, convoluted, expansive, and as fascinating as it could possibly get.

Golestan Palace, Tehran

The inside of the Golestan Palace

I linked to the listing of UNESCO Websites above, but when it’s a must to decide simply 5 to go to, I’d say don’t miss Persepolis close to Shiraz (and the necropolis subsequent to it), Golestan Palace in Tehran, the Historic Metropolis of Yazd, The Persian Gardens (any, in any metropolis), and the Naqsh-e Jahan Sq. in Isfahan.

It’s Mosques and Structure are Excellent

From its lavishly adorned mosques to its palaces and bazaars, and even its trendy monuments, Iran has developed its personal architectural language that’s well-known for its decorative magnificence.

Since historic occasions, pastel colours have gracefully interacted with shiny hues. Facades have been rigorously adorned with conventional calligraphy whereas minarets and domes have dominated the skyline. High quality carvings and elaborate work have graced the partitions of many palaces whereas detailed structural parts formed their ceilings.

Kashan Bazaar Architecture

The ceiling of the bazaar in Kashan

As an architect myself, I couldn’t cease taking a look at their fantastic Persian structure; from probably the most sacred and delicately adorned areas at their mosques to the most typical pathways on the bazaar. Iran is aware of how one can share its historical past by way of its structure as its many types and options evoke the dynasty they belong to.

One of the distinctive belongings you’ll see in Iran is the inside decorations of their mosques, a Shi’a Islam custom that started round 450 years in the past. Each inch of lots of their mosques and mausoleums are lavishly adorned with an enormous mirror mosaic.

Mosque Interior in Iran

The mirror mosaics on the mosque.

It’s fascinating how this idea of mirror mosaics started. In the course of the Safavid Dynasty (16th-17th century), the king Shah Abbas the Nice needed to see himself and his spouse on a mirror, so he positioned one in his palace – Chehel Sotoun. Ultimately, he needed extra and larger mirrors, so he ordered them from Italy.

Again then, these huge mirrors have been transported from Venice to Iran with camels, so all of them broke alongside the best way. He requested a designer to provide you with an answer to those damaged mirrors and that’s when the thought of utilizing them as mosaics was born.

He first wrapped the partitions with mirror mosaics, adopted by the ceilings. Ultimately, he needed the individuals to additionally take pleasure in this lovely luxurious of mirror mosaics, so he allowed their use to embellish the mosques.

It’s surreal getting into these solemn areas and abruptly seeing your reflection, damaged into hundreds of tiny items – virtually like a kaleidoscope. One other lovely facet of those areas is their lighting. The chandeliers mirror their mild on the mirror fragments, creating an evenly lit area with naked minimal lighting. And through the day, the pure daylight enters by way of the multicolored stained-glass home windows, bathing the area in hues of pink, inexperienced, yellow, and blue.

Shah Cherag Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Shah-e-Cheragh Mausoleum in Shiraz

In all, the sweetness and a spotlight to element converse to the significance mosques have in Iranian society.

I extremely advocate visiting the Shah-e-Cheragh Mausoleum in Shiraz, because it is likely one of the greatest examples of this lovely Iranian Mosque styling. The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan can also be to not be missed.

Past mosques, don’t miss the historic homes of Kashan, the Golestan Palace in Tehran, the traditional bathhouses, the Zoroastrian tower of silence in Yazd, and lots of different buildings.

And it’s not simply constructed structure, Iran is aware of find out how to construction magnificence with their Persian gardens and nature too.

Yazd, Iran

The wind towers within the metropolis of Yazd.

Expertise a Cultural, Ethnic, and Spiritual Gradient

Iran is culturally and ethnically numerous, with every area having its personal customs, traditions, and in some instances, even language.

The tradition shock isn’t restricted to overseas vacationers, as even locals expertise a few of it when touring to totally different provinces. You possibly can see this gradient strongly marked if you go from Azeri-Turkish talking Tabriz, to Kurdish talking Kordestan, to Farsi talking Tehran, to the nomadic areas within the Fars Province, and even right down to the Arab-influence southern coast. Iran, as a collective, is a mixture of various cultures, all influencing one another in numerous methods.

Whereas Shi’a Islam is the dominant faith within the nation, it isn’t the one one practiced there. There’s Christianism, Armenian Christianism, and Zoroastrianism, amongst others.

Zoroastrianism is claimed to be the oldest monotheist faith on the planet that’s nonetheless practiced – courting again to the fifth century BCE. Regardless that solely about 25,000 individuals nonetheless apply the faith in Iran, it nonetheless has a robust presence within the nation – particularly within the metropolis of Yazd, the place you’ll be able to nonetheless see a few of its historic buildings for excarnation and its many temples nonetheless in use.

Tower of Silence, Yazd

The Zoroastrian tower of Silence in Yazd.

Identical to each different Iranian, Zoroastrians are equally heat and welcoming, so in case you have the expertise of interacting with them, I extremely advocate it to see a barely totally different perspective of Iran from their viewpoint.

And the nomads, one other wealthy and fascinating subculture that sadly is slowly dying.

Nomadism, a Dying Way of life

Iran’s nomadic communities –the Qashqai– settled within the nation through the 11th and 12th century. Whereas most of those nomadic pastoralist tribes have turn out to be sedentary nowadays, a small group nonetheless practices nomadism on a seasonal foundation. These nonetheless journey roughly 480 km (300 miles) with their flocks twice yearly to spend the summer time within the cooler highlands and the winters within the hotter lands close to the Persian Gulf.

Nomad in front of his tent

A semi-nomadic man within the village of Kahkaraan

I extremely advocate spending an evening with a nomadic household. Most of the settled households open their doorways for vacationers who need to see and study their former way of life that also lingers of their day by day traditions.

Spend the night time with the household sharing traditions, consuming their scrumptious house cooked meals –that are conventional nomadic dishes– and studying about their handicrafts – particularly their handwoven carpets. Many sedentary Qashqai households nonetheless preserve their conventional nomadic tents the place you possibly can spend the night time or have breakfast.

No, People aren’t Hated in Iran (Neither are British or Canadians)

Of all of the nationalities, People, British, and Canadians are the one ones that require a tour information to enter Iran. Of the three, sadly, People have it the toughest (particularly now because of our infantile 45).

Nonetheless, visiting Iran is feasible for each nationality. These three simply have it a bit more durable to get the visa.

Additionally, opposite to what you see within the media, Iran has completely no hatred towards People. Ignore the fearmongering. I already informed you ways pleasant they’re, and this extends to each nationality.

Norbert at Qaranagh, Iran

Having fun with the ruins of the traditional metropolis of Qaranagh

I’ll be the primary one to confess that in my first day, I used to be a bit hesitant to inform individuals I used to be American. I didn’t understand how they might react nor if that may put me in any sort of hazard. These fears have been unfounded.

As quickly as I met my information, I requested her about it simply to be protected and she or he instantly put to relaxation any delicate considerations I had about sharing brazenly that I’m American. Nobody had a problem with it.

As I traveled the nation, numerous locals requested me the place I’m from, as a part of the standard “interested in you” and “how are you having fun with Iran” conversations. I used to be equally interested in them. To each single one in every of them, I advised I’m American. I child you not, all of them smiled or opened their arms with enthusiasm saying a variation of, “Ah! America!!”

One among my favourite random encounters occurred on the Azadi Tower, simply hours earlier than leaving Iran. There I met a couple of early 20-something native guys who in typical Iranian trend, stroke a dialog with me. As quickly as certainly one of them discovered I used to be American he expressed with pleasure how a lot he’d love to go to the US and shared an general information of the nation – virtually in admiration. In reality, he was sporting an American flag bandana.

Selfie taken at Azadi Tower

A selfie taken by one of many native guys on the Azadi Tower.

It’s a disgrace how we don’t have an identical appreciation for a overseas tradition, like theirs, the identical method they do about ours.

It’s Slowly Getting Extra Common

As sanctions get slowly eliminated and political points get solved, increasingly vacationers at the moment are visiting Iran (although nonetheless not almost sufficient). Add to this the truth that extra publications are sharing the individuality of this nation, inspiring much more adventurous vacationers to go.

Curiosity can also be one other massive draw. Pair that with the delight of visiting a rustic that isn’t on the crushed path and the truth that you challenged all of the prejudices and warnings from family and friends, and you find yourself with an expertise you realize won’t examine to another vacation spot on the earth.

Iran, for probably the most half, continues to be extremely remoted from the remainder of the world.

It’s Nonetheless Low cost

This might range drastically from the purpose of writing to whenever you’re studying this because the financial state of affairs in Iran is dire. Sanctions have crippled their financial system, bringing down their foreign money with it. Whereas that is very unlucky for Iranians, it makes the nation very low cost for us.

Spices at the market

Spices on the bazaar

Through the two weeks I stayed there, the foreign money modified from $1 = 100,000 Rials to $1 = 130,000 Rials, roughly (that is the “black market” price). That’s how unstable it’s. Relying on whenever you go, it might go up or down, however nonetheless, even with their foreign money as robust because it was years in the past, Iran continues to be a really reasonably priced nation to journey to.

To provide you an concept of costs, a pleasant meal can value you 400,000 Rials, a can of Coke 20,000 Rials, and a taxi round 300,000 Rials.

Their Handicrafts are Artwork

Every province, metropolis, village, and sub-culture have their very own handicrafts. Yazd has the gorgeous Termeh, Shiraz has the “metropolis carpets,” the Qashqai have the “nomad carpets,” Isfahan has Persian copper handicrafts, and so forth.

You can find all of those handicrafts in most cities, however it’s all the time good to purchase them within the metropolis the place they’re strongest at. Additionally, totally different cities have a tendency to supply totally different colours and patterns of their artwork. You will get so many high-quality hand-made gadgets for a fraction of the worth of comparable gadgets in Western nations.

Vegetable Market in Shiraz, Iran

On the Shiraz Bazaar

Persian Meals…

Okay, writing about meals is certainly not my forte (I’m a choosy eater) however I at the least have to say it’s scrumptious. I liked their flatbread a lot I ate approach an excessive amount of of it. Their model of cinnamon rolls is stupidly good, and the camel stew is scrumptious! Sure, camel.

Iranian Cinnamon Buns

These cinnamon buns are superb!

When you have a candy tooth, Iran is your home to go. They’ve so many sorts of conventional sweets that you simply gained’t even have time to attempt all of them.

Final however not Least, You’ll have a Really Genuine Expertise to Type Your Personal Opinion

Whether or not it’s because of the sanctions that restrict business change with many different nations or their delight in the direction of their tradition and traditions, Iranians have manufactured their very own id that could be very totally different from even its surrounding nations.

On the subject of real native experiences, Iran is on the prime of their recreation. There are not any western quick meals chains, no western clothes shops, and a really restricted number of western snacks and drinks. Iranians really perceive their historic tradition and protect it with satisfaction.

Persian Food

A typical meal in Iran

Whether or not you’re going unbiased or on a tour, take your time to find the nation and see issues for your self. That is an important step to type your personal opinion a few nation (any nation), particularly one with such unfavorable views within the mass media.

Whereas unbiased blogs and social media have performed a task in bypassing this unfavorable media by offering extra trustworthy and unbiased firsthand views, I nonetheless advocate not taking our phrase for it.

Go and see it for your self. Discover it. Really feel it.

Nothing will examine to that.


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Important Information

I visited Iran with Intrepid Journey on their two-week Iran Journey Tour. The expertise was past what I anticipated, not solely by Intrepid’s effort but in addition by Iran’s character itself. Intrepid Journey additionally helped tremendously to get my visa. I’ll go into extra element about this within the subsequent publish.

Earlier than the tour, I booked my pre-tour and post-tour hostel with HostelWorld, one of many few websites that may present me hostels/lodges in Iran (on the time).

You have to have journey insurance coverage in Iran. With out it, you’re not allowed to enter the nation. I exploit and advocate World Nomads.


Why You Should Visit Iran, Now More Than Ever

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