First Things to Know
“If travel is most rewarding when it surprises, then Iran might just be the most rewarding destination on Earth. If you fancy travelling somewhere neither East nor West, and exotic and fascinating yet perfectly comfortable” (lonely-planet)
Iranians are endlessly welcoming. If you are going to visit Iran, it is very likely that you’ll be invited to an Iranian house and through such invitations, you get to experience the ancient and sophisticated Iranian culture first-hand. These experiences will live the longest in the memory and beyond all the stereotypes, Iran is a country desperate to been seen for what it really is.
There’s a lot to see from the years when Persia was a great empire. Traveling to Iran is not only about knowing the history but getting to know a nation thriving to build a better future. Once, Persia was a cradle of science, contributing to medicine, mathematics, science, and philosophy. Trying to revive the golden time of Persian science, Iran’s young generation of scientists are now cautiously reaching out to the world. According to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iran increased its academic publishing output nearly tenfold from 1996 to 2004 and has been ranked first globally in terms of output growth rate. Women have had a major role in this scientific revival as they constitute more than 60 percent of graduate students in Iran.
With a growing economy boosted from lifting sanctions and with a youth population, Iran is looking forward to a better future through communicating with the world. The easing of political relations has led to working out more flight routes, more straightforward Visa process, and increasing international investments in tourism. This made Iran one of the top destinations in 2016 for travelers all around the globe.
Iran in a Glance
capital city: Tehran (population 9 million)
Population: 82 million
Official Language: Persian
Currency: Iran Rial
Government: Islamic Republic of Iran (since 1979)
Located in the southwest corner of Asia at the Middle East and Central Asia crossroads, Iran is the 19th largest country in the world. Iran shares borders with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Caspian Sea.
As an ethnically diverse nation, Iranians speak dozens of different languages and dialects that are mostly related to Persian (Farsi), the official language and the native tongue of 58% of Iranians. Some of them are Luri, Gilaki, and Mazandarani. Approximately 89% of Iranians are Shi’a Muslim, while 9% more are Sunni. The remaining 2% are either Zoroastrian, Jewish, or Christian.
Being one of the oldest continuously inhabited civilizations in the world, modern-day Iranian culture is enriched by centuries of tradition. As a Muslim nation, for the most part, Iranian culture is also tied up with religion. Iran’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in its 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 12th country with the most World Heritage Sites in the world. This list includes Arg-e Bam as the largest adobe structure in the world and the remnants of the magnificent Persepolis, which are an awe-inspiring reminder of Iran’s glory during the Achaemenid Empire.
Mosques are regarded as the masterpieces of Persian Architecture, with stunning tiles and Islamic calligraphic inscriptions. A detailed tour of Persian architecture provides the opportunity to trace back the nation’s long journey from the prehistoric era to the medieval period and the Islamic golden age and modern era. We encourage you to experience our culture by getting to know our people. In Iran, you will find people with incredible hospitality who are in love with art and poetry.
Iran Art and Literature
Arts in Iran is the legacy left from one of the oldest civilizations and richest cultures in the world. It is expressed in the form of literature, architecture, painting, music, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking, and stonemasonry. Iranian modern and contemporary art is also a vibrant scene.
Persian carpets are renowned for their superior design and vivid colors. It is like a dream of paradise filled with birds and flowers and the indication of a desire for beauty and nature. Iranian hand-woven carpet is ranked first among Iran’s non-oil export items and it holds a great portion of the global market.
Persian literature and poetry, in particular, are by far the best expression of Iranian genius. Iranians regard the poet as a highly valuable figure. Some notable Iranian poets are Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Hafiz, Attar, Sa’di, Nizami, Rumi, Jami, and Shahriar. Many of these Persian poets have had a significant influence on a whole generation of western writers and poets. The Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi, is the world’s longest epic poem and one of the major works of the world’s literature. Ferdowsi has a unique place in Iranian literature due to his impact on the revival and protection of the Persian language and culture. Khayyam and his mystic quatrains bring solace to every soul. We invite you to visit our Iran and his tomb as he also invites you:
“Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise.
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once blown for ever dies.”
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald
Iran is home to one of the world’s ancient civilizations that have ever existed, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC. The Iranian civilization predates the Egyptian one by 500 years, the Indian one by 1,000 years, the Chinese one by 2,000 years, the Greek one by 3,000 years, and the Roman one by 4,000 years.
The Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, united all the known nations of the world under the reign of the largest empire of the time.
Located at the center of the middle east, Persia witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations around.
In 637 AD, Islam was brought to Persia. The population gradually adopted the religion, and by the 11th century, the majority of the nation was practicing Islam. Although Islam found its way to Iran by the sword, it is incredible how Iranians accepted its message by heart. Despite adopting the religion of the conquerors, Persian culture, style, and art were preserved mainly and yet influenced by and integrated with Islam, which led to the ‘Islamic Golden Age’ – a time where Persian literature, philosophy, science, and art blossomed (750-1258).
In 1219, the Mongol invasion of Iran brought a devastating loss of culture due to the massacre of figures, demolition of mosques, destruction of libraries, famine, and violence. By the onset of the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736), Persia began to restore its strength and memory after a long time, and the modern nation-state of Iran was established.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Iran struggled with famine, poverty, and incompetent rulers. The discovery of oil in 1908 changed Iran’s faith. This discovery also increased the interest of other nations who wished to capitalize on this precious commodity.
Iran endured many changes in leadership due to invasions and coups during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, which led to the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The US has admitted its role in the organized coup to remove Prime Minister Mosaddeq, who nationalized the British-owned oil industry. In 1978, the Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic Revolution), led by Ayatollah-Khomeini, ended the 2500-year-old monarchy and gave birth to the Islamic republic.
Iran also endured the imposed Iran-Iraq war, which lasted for eight years, from 1980 to 1988. The Iraqi’s use of chemical warfare during this time caused international fury and led to the deaths of many Iranians. In 2014, Iran reached an agreement with six great powers about its nuclear program.
Much of Iran’s terrain is mountainous. The Alborz and Zagros Mountain ranges in the north and western Iran, and the two deserts of Markazi and Lut have filled Iran’s heart. The deserts of Iran are less inhabited, and most of the population lives in the basins, plateaus, and plains. By having dense rain forests in the north, warm sunny beaches in the south, snowy mountains in the west, and scorching deserts in the east, Iran is one of the few countries that gives the joy of experiencing four different seasons at the same time to travelers. Iran nature is a safe haven for many endangered species. Among them are the Persian leopard, black bear, and Fallow deer. Asiatic Cheetah, also known as the Iranian Cheetah, is the world’s fastest land animal, and the last few are known to survive mostly in Iran.
With two-thirds of Iran’s population under 25, many sports are played in Iran, both traditional and modern. Iran’s diverse climate gives visitors the chance to experience different sports at the same time in the country. While some people enjoy skiing at the Tochal resort as the world’s fifth-highest ski resort, other people might enjoy the silence of a starry night in a desert Safari in central Kavir of Iran or even swimming, diving, and water skiing on Kish island.
Are you interested in these experiences? Check out our Iran adventure tour packages
Mountains like Alborz and Zagros are major attractions for trekkers coming to Iran. Trekking in Iran gives you the chance to walk amongst these giants with various flora and amazing landscapes. Also, many of Iran’s trekking regions are encompassed by deserts with a diverse range of wildlife, some rare and endangered. Some sports found their roots back in Iran’s history, such as košti e pahlevāni, meaning the “heroic wrestling.” and polo, known as čowgān in Persian.
“Experiencing Iranian dishes will tell you a lot about their passion for taste, color, and aroma. Iranians respect food and in particular bread as God’s blessing.” -Louisa Shafia
A visit to Iran yields a stunning variety of culinary delights. Between the familiar kebab and the decidedly outré grilled lamb’s testicles, there’s a vast spectrum of foods: caviar, pickled, and smoked fish in the north; samosas, falafel, and hot and sour shrimp in the south.
If you are going to visit Iran, make sure not to miss the taste of Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew) or Iranian Kebabs, which come in many kinds like beef, chicken, and lamb liver.
Interested to learn more about Persian cuisine? Read the following blog and learn about the best dishes on the Persian table: Persian Food Premier; 10 Essential Iranian Dishes
If you like to experience the taste of Persian dishes or you love to learn cooking with Iranians, check out our Food and Culinary Tours.
For the dessert, try flatbread and rosewater ice cream flavored with orange blossom, rose water, honey, nuts, or saffron which makes Persian ice cream different from western-style desserts. Hope you enjoy this Iranian sweet treat.
Noosh-e jan! (Yes, that’s Farsi for “bon appétit.”)