Iran quickly became one of my top favourite destinations for so many reasons!
The natural scenery is beyond astounding. The food, even for me as a vegan, is absolutely mouthwatering with so many spices and new tastes melting together.
The architecture; detailed and colourful.
And the people… The people are so friendly and truly makes the travel experience worthwhile.
There are so many astounding places to see in Iran and unless you have months to spend in the country, there is no way you will be able to fit them all in your itinerary.
That’s why I’ve put together 5 highlights that you will be able to explore even with as little as 10 days in Iran. Get ready for a blend of both off the beaten path and popular places to see in Iran!
Places to See in Iran
View of Abyaneh, the 2500 years old village
Esfahan is said to be half the world. And it is in so many ways. If you ask me, this is the most beautiful city in Iran.
The centre for tourism is without a doubt Naqsh-e Jahan Square a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is one of the biggest squares in the world and is popular among the locals for chilling in the grass with family and friends.
On the square, you find several of the city’s main attractions.
Sheik Lotfollah Mosque is maybe one of the most modest mosques in the city, but once you get to the main hall, it will leave you breathless. The rays of sun lighting up the middle of the big, empty room, carefully decorated in golden and blue mosaics gives this corner of Esfahan a truly spiritual feel to it.
Spend time in there and feel it, instead of just rushing out once you have taken your memorable photos.
Just on the opposite side of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque is the Ali Qapu Palace, a 16th-century residential palace. The main attraction is the music room on the top floor and the large terrace with spectacular views of Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
On the end of the square, in a perfect triangle to Ali Qapu Palace and Sheik Lotfollah Mosque, you find the finest mosque in Esfahan, Shah Mosque.
Rising tall, it’s the first sight you’ll notice once you enter the square. Beautiful blue tiles blended with gold cover the whole structure inside out.
There is one point in the main hall where the acoustic is magical. It’s only allowed to sing Islamic verses so unless you know any, don’t try it yourself. However, if you hang around you might be lucky to witness Iranians sing.
On the opposite far end of Shah Mosque, you find the Geysarieh Portal which is the main entrance to the city’s bazaar. If you walk all the way through it, you will end up by the magnificent Jameh Mosque, which is the biggest mosque in Esfahan, and also one of the oldest.
Sheik Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan
Kashan is an old city on the desert trade route holding a lot of culture and history.
It is without a doubt a much more traditional and conservative city compared to Esfahan or Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Holding a great number of historical houses, you can easily spend a week in Kashan. The most spectacular are Abbasi House, which also holds a traditional restaurant and tea house, and Tabatabaei House.
Don’t miss out on Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse which is spectacular inside but also the rooftop is pretty cool!
Kashan holds one of the oldest gardens in Iran, Fin Garden, but also one of the oldest bazaars, which was an important stop for traders of carpets and other goods.
Just outside the Kashan, you can walk through the biggest underground city in the world, Noushabad Underground City.
Tabatabaei House in Kashan
The Maranjab Desert is one of the most important places to see in Iran. In a country that is 25 per cent desert, you can’t miss out on it.
Particularly this desert used to be an important part of the ancient Silk Road and you can visit an old caravanserai which welcomed travellers all the way back to the 16th century. The adventurous can even stay the night!
The Maranjab Desert also holds one of Iran’s Salt Lakes and like any desert, magical sunsets!
As mentioned above, the desert is among the places to see in Iran that you shouldn’t miss out on.
So what about staying in a desert oasis? Garmeh is the perfect place to combine this with a day out in the desert and half a day exploring the oasis itself.
There are old ruins of clay walls hidden between high grass and date palm trees, an old palace which now gives the feel of a ghost clay town.
Unfortunately, many of the rooms are now used as a local dump ground.
Nevertheless, it’s unique to walk through it and imagine how this place must have looked like back in the days when a wealthy family reigned here.
Make sure you see the natural spring and walk up the hill for views of the green oasis too!
In Garmeh there is one eco-resort which has accommodation. They are the ones offering the desert tours too.
Are you up for an authentic desert experience with a local? It will definitely be an experience of a lifetime where you among other places will see a salt river.
Garmeh natural spring
Nestled in the Karkas Mountains at 2220 meters of altitude you find one of Iran’s oldest villages, Abyaneh. It’s also called the red village as the houses are built with red clay.
The most unique about the village is that the villagers still speak the same language as they did 2500 years ago, before Islamic times.
They also have the same customs and dress in the same clothes as back then. You will recognize the women’s flowery headscarves.
To see the classical view of Abyaneh you need to head over to the old fortress ruins on the other side of the hill. The views are spectacular in all directions with the backdrop of the mountains.
The village is easy reached by car from either Esfahan or Kashan, but there is no public transport to get you there.
Reflections on Iran
Both in Garmeh and the Maranjab desert, they offer camel rides. Make sure you act responsibly and say no thanks to animal tourism. This includes the horse carriages in Esfahan.
There are so many other ways you can support the locals economically that you don’t need to let animals suffer on your behalf.
There are so many beautiful and unique places to see in Iran that you can gladly spend a lifetime exploring the country, but with these 5 places, you have a good starting point that covers a lot of what the country has to offer.
However, the most important thing you can do on your trip to Iran is to give yourself time to connect to the friendly people!
Guest Author bio:
Linn Haglund has mostly been travelling and living abroad after finishing her studies in Tourism and Communication. Her big passion is to travel, get to know new cultures, and spending time in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, she has also felt the negatives of tourism up close. That’s why she created Brainy Backpackers to help travellers explore the world in a responsible way respecting people, animals, and the environment.
For more reading on Iran check out Backpackingman’s post on why you should visit Iran.
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