Ancient towns that date back to the Silk Road era, elaborate mosques that beam out the evocative call to prayer and modern cities where fashion-conscious youth rub shoulders with conservative elders – it’s time to demystify the misconceptions about Iran! Exquisite palaces, domed mosques, brilliant bazaars and gracious people all make Iran a true travel gem. But don’t believe us… come and experience the splendour of Iran yourself.
At a glance
Capital city: Tehran (population 7.2 million)
Population: 76.9 million
Time zone: (GMT+03:30) Tehran
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Dialing code: +98
Best time to visit Iran
The climate of Iran is mostly arid or semi-arid with a subtropical climate along the Caspian Coast. Generally, the hottest month is July, the coldest months are December and January, and the wettest month is January. Tourists visit Iran during the summer months (June – September) for the sunshine and regional festivals, and during the winter months (November – March) for skiing. So no matter what time you choose to go, Iran is a great place to travel all year round.
Being one of the oldest continuously inhabited civilisations in the world, modern-day Iranian culture is enriched by centuries of tradition. Years of trade, conquest and invasion have created a distinct culture with myriad influences from far and wide, resulting in an overriding national identity and culture rich in symbolism. Religion plays an important part in many aspects of Iranian society – the legal and educational systems, dress, marriage, architecture, the arts and the media are all affected. As Iran is an Islamic nation, visitors can expect to see the hallmarks of Islam throughout Iran; mosques, the call to prayer, strict dress codes and the observance of Ramadan are the most easily noticed, although there is a complex network of rules, customs and traditions at play every day.
Although Iran’s population is largely youthful and urban-centric, rich Persian artistic traditions are alive in contemporary Iran, with much of the elaborate architecture, cuisine, handicrafts and popular poetry of Iran having their origins in ancient Persia. Iranian hospitality is world-famous; guests are often touched by the sincerity, politeness and generosity of spirit of their Iranian hosts. Accepting tea and food is considered polite if offered, as is acting graciously and modestly while visiting someone’s home.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating! Whether you’re sampling street food, savoring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
With access to some of the world’s best produce, prepared following age-old ancient culinary traditions, foodies will love traveling through Iran.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating! Whether you’re sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
With access to some of the world’s best produce, prepared following age-old ancient culinary traditions, foodies will love travelling through Iran.
Things to try in Iran
1. Dried Fruit & Nuts
Dried apricots, prunes, dates, raisins and figs can be bought from shops, street stalls and bazaars and make wonderful, healthy snacks. Also, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of nuts sold by the bag – pistachios, almonds and walnuts are usually the best picks.
2. Persian Ice Cream
Flavoured with orange blossom, rose water, honey, nuts or saffron, Persian ice cream is different to western-style desserts. Often made with chunks of cream and wedged between two waffles, don’t miss the chance to try this type of sweet treat.
This hearty Persian stew can be found everywhere in Iran and has many variations. Meat eaters will love the split-pea and lamb combination while the eggplant, mushroom and spinach options will delight vegetarians.
Geography and environment
Sharing borders with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan, Iran is located in the south-west corner of Asia. The Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman provide shoreline in the north and south, and while Iran lacks a major river system, there are several small rivers and streams throughout the country. Much of Iran’s terrain is mountainous, with most of the population living in the basins, plateaus and plains. The deserts of Iran are mainly uninhabited with the exception of a few oases, while the major cities are quite modern with well-developed infrastructure and housing.
History and government
The country now known as Iran was known as Persia for hundreds of years and has been occupied by people for many centuries. Archaeological evidence suggests that people populated the land here as long as 7,000 years ago, with civilisations and societies developing as the surrounding nations and areas evolved. Persia’s fate was very much tied up with the destinies of neighbouring countries, so as empires rose and fell (and leaders came and went), Persia was affected by invasions and confrontations with the Greeks, Mongols, Romans, Arabs, Turks and others.
Under the reign of Darius the Great and Cyrus the Great (during the Achaemenid Empire), the Persian Empire expanded to be the largest empire of the time. During this period, coins were first introduced as a form of currency, building works on Persepolis began and a system of far-reaching highways and canals were built. Islam was brought to Persia around 637 AD; the population slowly adopted the religion and by the 11th century, the majority of the population was practising Islam. Despite adopting the religion of the conquerors, Persian culture, style and art was largely preserved, which led to the ‘Islamic Golden Age’ – a time where Persian literature, philosophy, science and art blossomed (750-1258).
This time of creativity and prosperity was brought to an end by the Mongols, who invaded in 1219. This invasion proved devastating, with a monumental loss of culture occurring due to the widespread demolition of infrastructure, libraries and mosques. Famine and violence accounted for a steep decline in population, which was worsened by the arrival of the Plague during the 14th century. Persia was in better shape by the 16th century, with the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736) establishing the modern nation-state of Iran.
The Great Persian Famine of 1870 and 1871 accounted for up to 2 million deaths in the region, but Iran’s fortunes changed with the discovery of oil in 1908. This discovery also increased interest from other nations wishing to capitalise on this precious commodity. Iran endured many changes in leadership due to invasions and coups during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, leading to the Iranian Revolution.
Top 10 Beautiful Buildings of Iran
With ancient bazaars, handicraft centres and modern boutiques, there are a huge variety of ways to shop in Iran – from bargaining with a bazaar vendor to buying fixed-price items from a museum gift shop.
It’s a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Festivals and Events in Iran
Also known as Persian New Year, this is one of the most important traditional holidays on the Iranian calendar. Heralding the advent of spring, this celebration with Zoroastrianism roots is a time of feasting with family, celebrating in nature, springcleaning the home and purchasing flowers and new clothes for the New Year. Many different types of rituals are performed during this time and can vary from family to family, area to area.
Ramadan and Eid
The ninth and holiest of months in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is observed by most in Iran and is thought to be a time of spiritual rejuvenation. For this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid marks the end of fasting with three days of feasting and celebration.