Best Iran Cultural Tour for 2019
Through this article we try to give you some insight about the classic route of Iran tours, give you some information about the tourist attractions of each city and provide you the useful information you need in order to travel to this amazing country. Similarly, Best Iran Cultural Tour for 2019
The first thing we need to do is to elaborate on the classic route of Iran tours and explain about the interesting sights of each city. To be honest, apart from some of the famous attractions, even many Iranians have not visited a lot of these interesting spots.
On your Journey to this ancient land, you can enjoy the delicious food all made with love and patience; some of them even date back to 2500 years ago! Some of them could not be found in restaurants but there are still plenty of common Persian dishes you can taste such as Abgoosht, Ghorme Sabzi, Gheyme, different kinds of Kabab, Kale Pache, different types of Ash, Alu Mosamma, Fesenjan and plenty of others.
The classic route includes visiting Tehran, Isfahan, Kashan, Shiraz plus Yazd (enlisted on UNESCO World Heritage Sites and not mentioned in this article).
- 1 Tehran
- 2 Isfahan
- 3 Kashan
- 4 Shiraz
- 5 Useful Information about Iran Visa
- 6 Who Can Get Iran Visa on Arrival (VOA)
- 7 Final Word
Although the look of Tehran today is very different from the “Old Tehran” and its quiet and exquisite neighborhoods, it still has many places, historical houses, palaces and memories at its heart that narrates the history, culture, and the days not so far away of this lovely city’s prosperity.
There were times in which these historical places of Tehran were alive and prosperous and were working like the vital organs of everyday life of the people. Individuals may imagine Tehran as a big city, a metropolis, and a city full of traffic; but the truth behind these looks shows something completely different from what we may think.
The following attractions are some of the most interesting ones for tourists and also native visitors.
Golestan Palace is the name of a historical complex which was built and completed at different times. Regarding the architecture, attracting tourists and the value of artistic works held inside the complex, it is among the most important historical sites of Iran and is the host to many local and foreign visitors. The construction process of the building started from Shah Abbas of the Safavid era until the Qajar and Naser al-Din Shah era which made some changes under the influence of his trips to Europe.
This building has witnessed important events such as the Constitutional Revolution, the Coronation of the Pahlavi I and II. Moreover, beautiful artwork such as the Marble Throne and the Gravestone of Naser al-Din Shah were transferred from the city of Rey to this place. Works from Kamal al-Molk and other Persian artists are also being kept in this complex. Beautiful buildings such as Shams ol Emareh and Mirror Hall and Building of Windcatchers (Emarat e Badgir) are also popular among the visitors.
You can’t talk about Tehran without talking about the spectacular Niavaran Palace or Niavaran Complex. Niavaran Complex was where the last Iranian king was living. This palace also includes a very beautiful garden. This building is the only royal building which has a convertible ceiling, though its convertible ceiling doesn’t work anymore. Besides this building, you can see other historical buildings such as “Ahmad Shahi Pavilion” and “Sahebqaranieh Palace”.
Sa’dabad Complex is another important complex in Tehran and Iran. The fusion of Iranian and European architecture is conspicuous in this site. This place had been the summer residence for Pahlavi the Second and his wife. The art of stone plantation in the façade of the building is among the greatest works of its kind. Today a part of this building is dedicated to “Museum of the Nations”.
Museum of Time
Without a doubt, the Museum of Time is one of the most beautiful buildings in Tehran. This building is known as a masterpiece in Persian architecture. The exterior color of the building is blue with screened windows. The tools for estimating time are placed around the building.
Grand Bazaar of Tehran
Grand Bazaar of Tehran is an ancient and covert bazaar. The history of this bazaar dates back to the Safavid period. Despite being old, this ancient bazaar is still popular for various reasons and the existence of different markets and a few modern shopping malls does not lower its value.
The main sections of this bazaar are Abbas Abad Bazaar, Goldsmiths Bazaar, Amir Bazaar, Shoemaker Bazaar, Zeid Bazaar, Carpenters Bazaar, Bein al-Haramein Bazaar, Jame Mosque Bazaar, etc. If you feel hungry do not be worried, because several Kabab Restaurants exist in this area.
National Garden Gate
Before the building of Azadi Tower as the symbol of Tehran, National Garden Gate was the symbol of this city. National Garden Gate had been a gate for entering Mashgh Square. The reputation of this square was as same as Vali-e Asr or Enghelab Square of today’s Tehran.
It is among the most appealing historical sites in Tehran. This place was built by the decree of Naser al-Din Shah. Masoudieh Palace has several sections that are open to the public. Divan Khaneh, Sofreh Khaneh, Seyed Javadi Yard, Moshiri Yard, and Moshir ol-Dowleh House are some of the parts of this historical palace or mansion. In fact, you encounter a series of houses which are called Masoudieh collectively. It is worth mentioning that this place was one of the most important bases for Iran’s Constitutional Revolution supporters and a lot of activities were coordinated in this place.
Azadi Tower is the first symbol of the capital city of Iran. This tower was built years before Milad Tower and many people still believe that it is the main symbol of Tehran. This beautiful construction is one of the contemporary architectural masterpieces. Hossein Amanat built this tower in 1349 of Jalali Calendar for the commemoration of the 2500-year royal celebrations. The architecture of Azadi Tower is a combination of Sassanid and Islamic architecture. Museum, library, Gallery, and Theatre Halls are some parts located in the lower part of the construction.
Local Food: Sar Gonjeshki, Dami Balghur of grain, Spinach Eshkeneh, Dampokhtak, Ash Reshteh
Note: Some of them could not be found in restaurants.
We can call this city a perfect picture of history, art and Persian imagination that are manifested in various attractions of Isfahan. This city is so full of beautiful and mesmerizing details that people have nicknamed it “half of the world”. You can swim in the blue of its tiles and quench the thirst of the eyes with its colorful delicate crafts.
Watch the details of Isfahan’s architecture and imagine stories about the residents of the historic houses and beautiful gardens. Listen to the songs under and around the historical bridges and set foot on the footsteps of Safavid kings.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
This square is a spot in Isfahan which upholds a series of historical events at its heart. Naqsh-e Jahan square has seen delights, wars, military marches, and polo games during history. Timurids constructed this square in the center of the city. Shah Abbas I expanded it and it gradually found this glory and splendor.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the well-known tourist attractions of Isfahan. The details of this mosque will amaze you for a long time. This mosque was designed by the philosopher, architect, and poet Sheikh Bahai. A mosque that was built without a court-yard for the royal court that takes different colors in different hours of the day.
This mosque is one of the national heritage sites and after the record, a common stamp was published by China to make its reputation international. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque has one of the most circular domes among the mosques throughout the world. Interior design, adornments, and the color of tiles show the peak of beauty in Islamic-Iranian architecture.
This amazing bridge was built at the time of Shah Abbas II and it is known as a masterpiece of Persian architecture. Khaju Bridge, with a symmetrical shape, is constructed over the Zayandeh Rood River. This structure has had functions such as dam and regulator of water current and has remained intact over the years. Khaju Bridge is among the national heritage sites. Right in the middle of the bridge, there is a small space, with simple adornments, but suitable for the royal family so that they could see the spectacular view of the Zayandeh Rood River.
Si-o-se-pol is one of the main icons of Isfahan. It could be known as a major attraction in the city of Isfahan. This bridge was built at the time of Shah Abbas and by Allahverdi khan to be an eternal symbol of Isfahan. Si-o-se-pol has hosted many celebrations and important events such as Ab Pashan, Nowruz, Khaj Shuyan, etc; through which the people would gather together to celebrate and interact with each other.
Chehel Sotoun Palace
The construction of the palace was started at the time of Shah Abbas I and was completed and opened during Shah Abbas II. This palace, like many other historical sites in Iran was built to show the glory and power of the government. Gardens are major parts of the attractions of Isfahan and the garden that has surrounded Chehel Sotoun Palace is an example. This palace has also been enlisted as a national heritage.
Vank Cathedral is located in Isfahan Julfa neighborhood and is where Armenian people live. Armenians decided to build this cathedral after settling in Iran. When you enter this cathedral you can see some fresco about Jesus Christ on the ceiling and on the interior. The graves of both Orthodox and Protestant Christians exist on the perimeter and a beautiful belfry can also be seen. The Armenians built the Cathedral by their asset and the cooperative help of other Christians.
Another historical building of Isfahan on the side of Naqshe Jahan Square from the Safavid period; that was built by Shah Abbas and it was used as a palace. It is said that the king used to bring his guests over to the balcony in order to show them the view of Naqshe Jahan square. Inside the building, you can see a couple of Persian paintings from the famous painter Reza Abbasi on the walls that have added to its beauty. The stucco of the last floor of the palace which is called “Music Hall” or “Music Room” is fascinating and makes the site unique though it is not always open to the public.
Local Food: Halim Bademjan, Halim Adas,Beryuni, Fereni, Gushfil Dough, Kale Gonjeshki, Yakhni Lubia
Kashan is a city near Isfahan and is mostly known for its unique style of architecture. This city hosts one of the most famous customs in Iran which is Rosewater extraction. This city also has the potential for desert hiking. Kashan is a small city and has a population of over 360,000 people.
Although some sources say that it has an important minority of Jews, the majority of people in this city are Shi’a Muslims. A UNESCO enlisted heritage of humanity, Fin garden exists in this city. The traditional custom of Carpet Washing (Qalishuyan) is also held near Kashan.
Tabatabai House like other buildings of its era has a mesmerizing architecture and adaptability to the hot weather of Kashan. Kashan is a historical city near Isfahan and is known for its particular and beautiful style of architecture. The pools in the middle of its yard; along with fountains and water vessels result in a cold breeze inside this dry climate. Another interesting feature of this House are the colorful glasses; that with the help of some light make the interior view so special.
When you arrive at Kashan, make sure to visit the Borujerdi House and Amir Ahmad Neighborhood. This house is a gem at the heart of Kashan city and your tour is not complete without visiting this house. This building belongs to the Qajar period and is a sophisticated masterpiece of the 18th century.
This large house with a courtyard and a backyard, a big Persian pool, a beautiful gate, wooden doors, and mesmerizing decorations on the walls attract any viewer. One of the important factors that also attract the visitors in Borujerdi House is the “windcatchers” that provide pleasant and cool air even during the summer; this cool air is very important to the residents of the desert.
Located in Amir Kabir Street, Fin Garden is enlisted as a World Heritage Site under the title of Persian Gardens (along with 8 other Persian Gardens). The greenery of the garden along with the special architecture play a pivotal role in attracting visitors.
Fin Bathhouse is another appealing site in Kashan that due to its historical background is famous among Iranians. This bathhouse is located on the southern side of the beautiful Fin Garden. In fact, it consists of two bathhouses. One of these bathhouses known as the Big or Royal Bathhouse was built under the decree of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. The other bathhouse by the name of Small or Safavid Bathhouse is the place where Amir Kabir (a great Persian chancellor and politician) was murdered, thus this building is of great importance.
Abbasi house, like many other historic houses of Kashan, is located in Amir Ahmad Neighborhood and this place has added to the beauty of the area. This building is near perfection and has accumulated anything related to this type of architecture. Abbasi House has spectacular stucco, professional symmetry and unique design among Kashan attractions.
This place, due to the appealing architecture, has been the location for some historical television series such as “Mollasadra” and “The Traveler of Rey”. It is important to note that it also has a decent restaurant which can add to the pleasure of your experience.
Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse
It is one of the most important and most valuable sites in the city of Kashan. This bathhouse is known for its amazing design and adornments. Sultan Amir Ahmad bathhouse is among the most appealing attractions and is located in the historic district close to Borujerdi House, Abbasi House, and Tabatabai House.
The interesting point about this bathhouse is its roof which consists of unique geometrical shapes that are incomparable to their kinds. The roof is made out of several small domes covered with convex lenses. These lenses allow the light to enter the building though you cannot see the inside through these lenses.
Ghamsar is the colorful and fragrant region of Kashan. This spot is known for its high-quality aromatic rosewater. Ghamsar is a beautiful attraction, especially during the second month of the spring, the pink rose harvest season. Each year, thousands of visitors come to this area to see the special festival of making rosewater from different cities and foreign countries.
Local Food: Meat and Beans, Ab-Somagh Meatloaf, Nokhod Ale Stew, Chelo Dizi, White Bean Abgoosht
Shiraz is the city of poetry, history, and art. You can see beautiful architecture decorated with amazing tiles and adorned with meaningful poems of great Persian poets. In addition to being the capital city of Zand Dynasty, the palaces and tombs of the ancient Persian Empire can be seen a few kilometers away from this city.
After the Arab invasion and their dominion over Shiraz, the city was neglected. However, during the 4th and 5th centuries of the Lunar Calendar, the Buyid Dynasty declared Shiraz as their capital city. Buyids were Shi’a Muslims but were tolerant toward other religions. Shiraz survived the Mongol invasion and massacre by Timur and became the capital city of the Zand Dynasty.
This city is also known for the remaining of ancient Persian Empire and the Achaemenid dynasty such as Persepolis and Pasargadae. Two of the famous Iranian poets, Hafez and Saadi are from Shiraz and their mausoleums are open for all visitors.
Persepolis is a complex of different palaces and it was built in 518 BC by Darius the great, the mighty king of the Achaemenid Empire. The pad in which the complex was built is on the Rahmat Mountain. The length of this historical site is equal to Acropolis in Athens but is four to five times wider. Some of the Different sections of this site are The Gate of All Nations, The Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, The Palace of Xerxes (who attacked and destroyed Athens) and etc. This place eventually was burnt in the wrath of Alexander the great.
Pasargadae is a monument from the golden age of the Achaemenid Empire. This complex consists of different parts such as the Persian Garden (Pardis), Gate or Darvazeh Palace, Public Permission Palace, Pavilions, and so on. The major and most prominent attraction of this complex is the Tomb of Cyrus the Great. Pasargadae complex was recorded as the 5th UNESCO World Heritage Site of Iran.
Located 6 kilometers away from Persepolis, This historical complex has monuments from three different dynasties. These are Elamite, Achaemenid and Sassanid dynasties.
Ordinary people call this complex by this name, making links between Sassanid monuments and Shahnameh warriors of the epic poetry book by Ferdowsi. Major Kings have rested in graves up there in the rocks like Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I. There is a separate building that we do not completely know its use by the name of Ka’beye Zartosht.
Karim Khan Castle
This Castle or Citadel was the place of residence of Karim Khan Zand. As you know the king doesn’t choose an inappropriate site for his residence. Although this site had been used as a prison in the Pahlavi period, it hasn’t lost its appeal and you can still see the greatness and splendor of the building.
This Castle is the combination of Safavid and Achaemenid architecture. The existence of Shiraz between the city of Isfahan, as the throne Safavid kings and Persepolis and Pasargadae in Fars Province, related to the Achaemenid Emire, has influenced its architecture.
Hafez mausoleum or Hafezieh is located in the northern Shiraz and is where Hafez, a great Iranian poet, was buried. The importance of this poet is so much that Persian people put his book beside Qu’ran on their special table when the first day of spring or the Persian New Year comes.
It was built in 1452, 65 years after he was buried. The tomb’s dome is adorned with different mystical colors; turquoise (the symbol of heaven), purple (the symbol of primordial wine), Black and white (the symbol of night and day) and brown (the symbol of soil).
It is one of the most important attractions in Shiraz. Saadi Mausoleum was at first his Khanqah (the place of worship for Sufis) and he spent his last days at this place. In the 7th century of the Lunar Calendar Shams ol-Din Mohammad Saheb Divani, Abaghakhan’s famous minister built a mausoleum over his grave.
In the 9th Century (Lunar Calendar) Yaghub Zolghadr, the governor of Fars destroyed Saadi’s Mausoleum completely. In the 11th century, a royal construction made out of plaster and brick was built over Saadi’s grave again by the decree of Karim Khan Zand.
Local Food: Do Piaze Alu, Kalam Polo, Shirazi Polo, Shekar Polo, Ghorme Beh, Kufteh Holu
Useful Information about Iran Visa
Traveling to Iran requires a visa; unless you are a citizen of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Malaysia, Egypt or Venezuela. These countries are exempt from applying for Iran visa if they are going to stay for less than three months. However, citizens of a few countries cannot enter Iran due to some political issues. For more information, you can visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran issues 11 types of visas based on the purpose of the trip and staying duration. In order to understand which type of visa applies best to you, which documents are required and the other details please check or contact the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran; or the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in your country. Please note that the required documents and visa issuance process may change on short notice; therefore, contacting the Embassy is a must before starting the process.
Please note that the nationals of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have to arrange a guide; that is recognized and approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran in order to obtain a visa. This guide will be in their constant attendance during their visit to Iran.
Visitors must make sure they have at least 6 months of passport validation beyond the date of their trip completion; and enough pages for the required visa and travel stamps. Also, please consider that obtaining a visa is a time-consuming process; and you must allow at least three months for it, before the date of your travel. For more information consult e-Visa page.
Moreover, females over nine years of age are out to be covered due to Islamic law. Hence, the females over nine must attach a photo of themselves wearing a headscarf to their visa application form.
Who Can Get Iran Visa on Arrival (VOA)
All tourists, except citizens of Somalia, Colombia, the United States of America, Britain, Canada, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have the possibility to obtain airport visas.
Citizens of Bangladesh and Afghanistan must visit the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran in their respective countries and apply for the visa in person. In case these nationals live in other countries (other than Bangladesh and Afghanistan), they can apply for an Iranian visa by presenting valid documents related to their residence in those countries.
The citizens of the United States of America, Canada and Britain must contact Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran for further considerations, after applying for a visa online.
Citizens of Israel cannot enter Iran under whatever circumstances. However, those applicants who were only born in Israel and bear the citizenship of another country may be issued a visa under special circumstances.
It is possible to obtain an airport visa at the following International Airports: Imam Khomeini (Tehran), Mehrabad (Tehran), Mashhad, Shiraz, and Tabriz.
Iran has a lot of tourist attractions and explaining about them in one article is not possible. I tried to give you some insight into different aspects of cultural tours so you could choose the best tour based on your interests.
- You can also check out our Cultural Tours
- To know more about how to get an Iran Visa, visit the Iran Visa page
- If you want to know more about Persian cuisine check out Persian Food page