Impressive archaeological sites, carefully planned museums, and ecological wonders await the curious traveler in Iran, a country that has something for everyone.

Iran successful domestic market has laid the groundwork for an increased amount of foreign visitors interested in the history, natural beauty, and business opportunities Iran has to offer.
Travelers seeking to delve deep into history and the origins of civilization need look no further than Iran, where a mosaic of cultures and natural landscapes transcends the perception of the country in the international arena.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) is the related authority in Iran.
With the goal of capitalizing on the already productive domestic market, ICHTO has identified 1,200 Tourism special Zone that investors can take advantage of it .With the support of OIETAI, ICHTO aims to attract a much  larger  FDI figure to the  tourism industry in 2013.

Iran’s Potentials in Tourism

  • 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 10th Country on Tourism Attractions and 5th on Ecotourism
  • One of  the rich countries of the cultural places, ecotourism sites and historical monuments which called the cradle of civilization in other way the history of theCountry  goes back to 7000 written history
  • An array of museums
  • Amyriad of ecotourism opportunities
  • Numerous religious sites
  • Affordable healthcare services
  • Extensive bus network and air and rail infrastructure in the country

Historical Tourism

Until now, UNESCO has designated 15 of Iran’s various historical and natural sites as part of world heritage; includes:
especially for those interested in religious history it is estimated that there are more than 28 messengers of God have tombs throughout Iran.
Some of top sites are as below:
• Persepolis, the complex of Xerox palaces having the detail of 2,500 year-Old Persian reliefs.
• The ancient Mesopotamian ziggurat and complex of Chogha Zanbil is an intriguing remnant from the Elamite Empire more than 3,500 years ago which stand as a testament to the feats of ancient engineering.
• Soltaniyeh Dome, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, is an  architectural masterpiece that was built  in 1302 AD. As the  oldest  double-shell dome  in  the  country, the structure paved  the  way   for  construction of holy  buildings throughout  the  Muslim  world and  has  captivated the  attention of both  pilgrimsand historians for centuries.

The Iranian government has established a number of museums to showcase artifacts and present the stories of civilization to an international audience
• The  Treasury   of  the  National Jewels in Tehran,  the  National Museum,  Golestan  Palace in Tehran,  and the Sheikh Safi Museum in Ardabil are just a handful of venues that feature  the  collage  of Iran’s historical and traditional past.
• In addition, Tehran’s Contemporary Art Museum showcases over 7,000 texts in both Persian and English as part of a specialized library.
• Iran’s natural beauty   and   conservation efforts are nothing short  of impressive. Stunning waterfalls, deserts, forests,  lagoons, caves, swamps,  and  lakes  represent a diverse   array  of  climatic  zones  and  landforms, comparable only to the  continental US.

In total, the country boasts 28 natural parks,43 protected wildlife zones,  and  166 protected areas,  committing  nearly 5% of its land-an area of 8 million  hectares-to ecotourism and  the  preservation of natural resources. Among  the  most popular destinations for eco-holidaymakers are Galestan  National  Park,   Kavir   National  Park, Lar Protected Area,  Bakhtegan Lake,  and   Bamou National Park.

Sea and Coastline:

Due to the  extensive bus  network and  air and rail  infrastructure  in  the   country,  domestic tourists most  often  travel  to  visit  friends and family  during the  summer months. Given the country’s abundant natural beauty and coastal destinations, approximately 24% of domestic tourists traveled for sightseeing or entertainment purposes in 2011. However, medical tourism and pilgrimage make up an additional 23% of travel throughout the country.
In addition to beaches 700 Km alongside the Caspian Sea are the most popular destinations for domestic tourism.

Religious Tourism

The city of Mashhad, visited  by the Muslims to  pay homage to the  Holy Shrine of   am  Reza, the largest  mosque in the world  by area which  accommodates 20 million pilgrims and  tourists every   year.   Other   notable  holy sites include the
Danial-e Nabi Mausoleum, one the messengers of God in shosa,

Shrine of  Hazrat-e Masumeh, the sister of and  the  Chak  Chakoo  Fire Temple, which is famous  for the legendary dripping water that  falls from surrounding rock formations.

Plans for Future:

As part of Vision 2025, the government aims for Iran to achieve a stronger position among global tourism destinations, setting a target of 7.5 million foreign arrivals.
Although the number of international arrivals  has  been  steadily increasing-up  from  2.2 million  people  in  2009  to  3.6  million  from  in 2011 at a growth rate of 58% domestic tourism is a key segment of the  sector  overall.

A large majority of Iranians frequently travel within the  country on  a yearly  basis,  and  although they do not typically inject  as much  money  into the  economy as foreign  tourists are known to contribute, the development of transportation and communications infrastructure is fueled by the  large  amount of domestic traffic.

The overall goal of the Tourism industry is to attract 2% of the world’s tourists, or 20 million people, to Iran by 2025. In 2011, the country earned approximately $6 billion from the tourism sector, and in 2013 analysts expect the tourism industry to grow by a significant 135%.


Hammam-e Sultan Mir Ahmad roof


With the world famous historic cities of Isfahan and Shiraz on the same soil, Kashan, a small city sitting at the western edge of the Dasht-e Kavir desert, is often the last choice for tourists in Iran. Sometimes it’s even forgotten.

How can a city as small as Kashan compete with giants like Isfahan and Shiraz, known for their colourful history and legacy?

Yes, Kashan may not have the beauty and charms of the two cities but the oasis city has enough to draw tourists out of Tehran.

For one, Kashan is only a three-hour drive or 250km away from Tehran whereas Isfahan is 450km and Shiraz even further at 930km away.

The drive on the Tehran-Kashan Highway is itself an attraction. The golden desert landscape of rocky valleys, ridges and formations with rustic abandoned houses will keep one awake

along the journey.

Kashan’s main draw is a huge collection of historic houses, all beautifully restored to their original splendour and within a short drive from the city centre.

Some of the houses have been turned into boutique hotels, museums and galleries, and there are impressive mosques, shrines and, of course, the bazaar.

Sialk Hill, one of the world’s oldest ziggurats, and Fin Garden (a beautiful Persian garden) are less than 10 minutes from the city centre.

Kashan has its link to the Silk Route, the main trade route that connected Asia and China to Europe from around 100BC. The 6,500km road linked ancient Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilisations.

A branch of this route skirts the western and southern edges of the Dasht-e Kavir desert, passing through a string of cities, Kashan included, on its way to India.

As a result, Kashan is dotted with caravanserai built to host the merchants and pilgrims. The caravanserai, a traditional hotel of sorts, is an architectural masterpiece of its age.

Mayor S. M. Nazem-Razavi says there are plans to turn the caravanserai in Kashan into a tourist attraction.

“With the Silk Road history and our strong heritage and history, Kashan makes a good day-trip destination for tourists from Tehran,” he says.

“A day trip is enough to get to know the architecture and heritage that Kashan is so proud of but it’s best to stay overnight to experience more of our food, craft and hospitality.”

By Zalina Mohd Som

Nowruz is the traditional Iranian festival of spring which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. It is considered as the start of the New Year among Iranians. The name comes from Avestan meaning “new day/daylight”. Noruz is celebrated March 20/21 each year, at the time the sun enters Aries and Spring begins.

Noruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Today the festival of Noruz is celebrated in Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikestan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo by Negar Honarmand

The Zoroastrian Parsis of India celebrate Noruz twice, firstly in common with their Iranian brethren on the vernal equinox as Jamshedi Navroz (also referred to as the Fasli New Year) and secondly on a day in July or August, depending upon whether they follow the Kadmi or the Shahenshahi calendar. This is because the practice of intercalation in the Zoroastrian calendar was lost on their arrival in India. The Kadmi New Year always precedes the Shahenshahi New Year by 30 days. In 2005, Noruz is celebrated on August 20 (Shahenshahi).

Although the Persian Calendar is very precise about the very moment of turn of the new year, Noruz itself is by definition the very first calendar day of the year, regardless of when the natural turn of the year happens. For instance, in some years, the actual natural moment of turn of the year could happen before the midnight of the first calendar day, but the calendar still starts at 00:00 hours for 24 hours, and those 24 hours constitue the Noruz. Iranians typically observe the exact moment of the turn of the year.

History of Noruz


The name of Noruz does not occur until the second century AD in any Persian records. We have reasons to believe that the celebration is much older than that date and was surely celebrated by the people and royalty during the Achaemenid times (555-330 BC). It has often been suggested that the famous Persepolis Complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Noruz. However, no mention of the name of Noruz exists in any Achaemenid inscription.

Our oldest records of Noruz go back to the Arsacid/Parthian times (247 BC-224 AD). There are specific references to the celebration of Noruz during the reign of Arsacid Emperor Vologases I (51-78 AD). Unfortunately, the lack of any substantial records about the reign of the Arsacids leaves us with little to explore about the details of Noruz during their times.

After the accession of Ardashir I Pabakan, the founder of the Sasanian Dynasty (224 AD), consistent data for the celebration of Noruz were recorded.

Throughout the Sasanian era (224-650 AD), Noruz was celebrated as the most prominent ritual during the year. Most royal traditions of Noruz such as yearly common audiences, cash gifts, and pardon of prisoners, were established during the Sasanian era and they persisted unchanged until the modern times.

Noruz, along with Sadeh that is celebrated in mid-winter, were the two pre-Islamic celebrations that survived in the Islamic society after 650 AD.

Other celebrations such Gahanbar and Mehragan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians who carried them as far as India. Noruz, however, was most honoured even by the early founders of Islam.

There are records of the Four Great Caliphs presiding over Noruz celebrations, and during the Abbasid era, it was adopted as the main royal holiday.

Following the demise of the Caliphate and re-emergence of Persian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Noruz was elevated into an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sasanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. Even the Turkish and Mongol invaders of Iran did not attempt to abolish Noruz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Noruz remained as the main celebration in the Persian lands by both the officials and the people.

The mysterious site of Assassins (medieval Nizari Ismailis) in the Alamut Valley of Iran’s Alborz Mountains is still under excavation. The castle had a unique library that lured many scholars, including Tusi, considered the world’s greatest astronomer of the time, to Persia during the Mongol invasion. The sky of Alamut is still as starry as when Tusi explored it in the 13th century.

A meteor’s streak and the arc of the Milky Way hang over the mountain fortress of Alamut in the central Alborz Mountains of Iran. Alamut Castle was built into the rock in during the ninth century.

Don’t believe what people tell you about Iran

Iran was undoubtedly the most surprising country for positive experiences. After months of being told that I would be killed there, and the media reporting that it’s a country full of terrorists, I was humbled to enter a country of incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and kind people. I shared many nights in the houses of strangers and wouldn’t be allowed to leave in the morning without having my bags filled with food and gifts. They have many problems of their own in Iran, and are also aware of how the Western media portrays then, yet they still took it upon themselves to help me as best they could.

The beauty of travel by bike is how slow it is, and how it offers intimate view of the lives of strangers. I cycled between 60 and 80 miles a day, occasionally much more, sometimes much less due to weather, altitude or people I would meet on the way. It’s been hard, but the experiences it has given me sure beats working in an office. My freedom and lack of deadlines or destinations led to aimless wandering, mainly guided by the avoidance of bad weather systems and fitting around the seasons. All I really knew was that I wanted to circumnavigate the world and that I was doing that in an easterly direction.

Whenever I struggled to motivate myself to continue, it was the strangers I met on the road that helped me carry on. I’ve lost count of the favours I’ve been granted and the times I’ve been offered assistance. Wherever I went, human goodness shone through.

If you are interested in visiting old part of Tehran then 30 Tir is the best place to go.
To go to 30 Tir you can take a taxi, bus or Metro. If you start your journey from Khomeini street then First you should go to the National Arch of Tehran. This place is so beautiful and many Iranian historical movies were made here. There are some lovely buildings here that are superb for taking photos including foreign ministry of Iran. Also national museum of Iran is in this street but back to the main subject ( Visiting religious sites) you should walk to 30 Tir street.

Haim Synagogue

Well for exploring the First religious site you should go to Haim synagogue (find Iraj alley on the map). The building is 100 years old and it has some nice story behind it.
For example its interesting to know that Polish Jews stayed here during the second world war and they could practice their religion freely. This synagogue is the most well-known one in Tehran and it has a nice decoration inside.

(The Synagogue was built in 1913 by Solayman Haïm, the Jewish Iranian lexicographer and translator, in the era of Ahmad Shah Qajar) (Wikipedia)

Adrian Fire temple


The second place that you can visit is Zoroastrian fire temple. This building dated back to 1916 . This fire-place was made with the financial help of Parsian in India and Iranian Zoroastrian.
Outside of the building was made in the form of old Mansion but inside there is a simple room with a fire burning in it. This is the only fire temple in Tehran that is open to public.

On the right side of it there is Firooz Bahram school which is for Zoroastrian students which has a nice architect but unfortunately it is not open to public.

Maryam (Merry) church

The most well-known church in Tehran is in the villa street(Saint Sarkis Cathedral ) but this one is also interesting. There are some painting inside the main hall but the interior decoration is simple.
Outside of it in the backyard there is a small museum of Armenian artist and also picture of different Churches in Iran. Just turn right from the main entrance and you can see the museum. You should buy a ticket to visit it.
Ebrahim (Abraham) mosque

Well there are lots of mosques in different cities of Iran but this one worth mentioning because it is located in the same street with a synagogue, a fire temple and a church.( There are of course better and older mosques in Tehran.)
30 Tir street is one of my favorite streets in Tehran. What I introduced above is just the religious side of it. There are important historical places and Cafes in this street.

Van cafe with Christmas decoration

Recently some stalls and Van cafe( In the beginning of street from Khomeini side)  sells coffee and tea so its fun to buy a snack and a drink from them and start your journey to your destinations.

Unfortunately you can not take photos inside  Adrian fire temple and Maryam church.

By Mohaddeseh Moheimani

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