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The Wanderlust guide to the best of Iran

Wanderlust logoWanderlust 16-04-2016 Wanderlust
Iranian woman going to Friday mosque ( See main image below): Iranian woman going to Friday mosque. © Shutterstock Iranian woman going to Friday mosque.

Iran is one of the world’s best-kept travel secrets. A large and diverse country, Iran has rugged mountains, secretive forests, salt-plains, arid deserts, mysterious steppes and sleepy beaches.

The man-made attractions can be equally magnificent, with beautiful Isfahan way up any list of travel highlights, while Persepolis is one of the world’s greatest ancient sites.

But it’s the Iranian people who are the real surprise to the unsuspecting visitor; most Iranians are friendly and approachable, with many curious about the outside world. Add to this Iran’s fascinating history, its rich culture, its many contradictions, and you have a heady mix. Be prepared to have any preconceptions overturned.

Si-o-Seh Pol, Esfahax ( Si-o-Seh Pol, Esfahax. © Shutterstock Si-o-Seh Pol, Esfahax.
Looking for inspiration?

Watch the news and you could be forgiven for thinking that Iran is a land of terrorists, atomic bombs and fanatics who storm embassies. But that’s not the country Nick Bolous experienced when he recently spent two weeks in Iran. He found a land of immense beauty and great history and people showering him with unbounded hospitality.  And in most places, he had it all to himself.

That was the Iran Lyn Hughes experienced too when she toured the country a few years before. As a woman she was accepted by the local mothers and wives and invited into their world.

Mosque under Mount Davamand ( Mosque under Mount Davamand. © Shutterstock Mosque under Mount Davamand. Beyond the cities, an untouched world awaits the more adventurous traveller. Henry Wismayer climbed the country’s highest peak, Mount Damavand. Asia’s highest volcano, he found it offered a great challenge. And again, he had it pretty much to himself.

Friday mosque, Esfahan ( Friday mosque, Esfahan. © Shutterstock Friday mosque, Esfahan.
First hand advice

Still unsure about visiting Iran? Leon McCarron understands your apprehension and attempts to put it to rest with the 5 things he learned while travelling in Iran. The welcome is always warm he says, but be aware that the rural areas are more conservative than the cities. He also explains the complex etiquette system of Taarof.

Leon was in Iran making a travel film and his advice on how to deal with the country’s bureaucracy could help your journey too. Nick Boulos didn’t tell officials he was a writer when he visited and explains why.

Prayer in Shiraz mosque ( Prayer in Shiraz mosque. © Shutterstock Prayer in Shiraz mosque.
Capturing it all on film

The mosques of Iran are some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The blue-domed mosques in Esfahan almost demand to be captured on film.

Be aware, however, they are active places of worship and, as such, a certain level of sensitivity is needed when photographing there. As Steve Davey points out in his article on photographing places of worship, not causing offence is more important than any picture you may want to take.

These rules apply across all walks of life in Iran. Although sanctions have been lifted Iranian officials are still sensitive about pictures being taken in some areas. Common sense rules apply.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the photos taken by our readers on their travels in Iran.

Persepolis frieze ( Persepolis frieze. © Shutterstock Persepolis frieze.
Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Iran Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our Iran Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Iran too.

If you have a particular question about Iran, pop over to the myWanderlust forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Iran. The answer to yours might already be there.

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