Iran Travel Guide
Iran,an old country with a long history,is one of the world’s ancient parts.Some experts say Iran is more than10000 years old and it was one of the residences of ancient people.Even before Indo-europeans entered this country ancient civilizations like burnt city in Sistan,Ilamic in north of Khuzestan,Jiroft in Kerman,Sialk in kashan and a few others have existed there.
Throughout history Iran has generally been a fourtunate empire controlling what now we call the Middle East.It was conqured three times one by Alexander of Macdonia,Arabs and Mongols,although damages and destructions were made Iran has remained to be one of the greats cultural civilizations.As an strategic area it was a bridge between East and West and an important part of the Silk road crossed through it.
More recent dynasties ruled in Iran are Safavid,Qajars and pahlavies which a great deal of historical and cultural sites and relices left of them.In 1979 the last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahalavi was overthrown and Islamic revvolution under leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini took its place which continues till now.
You can find diverse climates throughout Iran.In the northwest winters are cold with heavy snowfall but at the same time in south the weather is moderate and pleasant but in summers it gets very hot (more than 100F in july and even in some desert parts 122F)and also humid across Persian Gulf shores.
In general Iran has a dry climate except for Caspian sea coastal plain.The hottest part of Iran which on NASA’s report has the highest temprature in world is an area in Lut desert called Gandom Beryan.
The ancient persians arrived about 1500BC,one branch of the great Indo-europeans movement.They named themselves Aryan and their country became Iran.Persian language or Farsi although affected by Arabic is an Indo-European language.Persians are ethnically and linguistically unrelated to their neighbours on the west, the Arabs and Turks,but it has many othe ethnics other than persian Turks,Kurds,Arabs,Lurs,Baluchis,Armenians and Zorosties.
Despite their differences all of them are living in coordinationa and tolerance with each other.Iranians are amazingly hospitable and friendly people.No matter in which part of Iran they all welcome guests even to their own homes.
Cities & Destinations
More notable cities of Iran are as follows:
Tehran:Iran’s beautiful and modern capital with exceeding 7 million population.
Mashhad:Religious capital of Iran for having Imam Reza Shrine which has many Shiaa visitors during the year.
Isfahan:The former capital in Safavid period with stunning arcitectural masterpieces and tree-lined boulvards.A persian saying claims it as half of the world.
Tabriz:Some say that this western provincial capital is the Biblical Garden of Eden.
Shiraz:Royal capital of persian past empires has the Persepolis to show of together with its many joyful gardens and famous Saadi and Hafez tombs.
Yazd:The home of Zorost the prophet is built in desert area with an arcitecture inovated for this climate using wind catchers and underground waterways.
Hamedan:One of the old cities in the world dating back to Median era.
Kermanshah:A western city with rich history and two world known sites:Taghe Bostan and Bistun.
Kerman:A great place for desert lovers with amazing desert hot spots.
Other touristic destinations in Iran are:
Dizin:An adventurous destinatons for ski fans and one of the world’s highest ski resorts,Dizin, is only two hours far from north of Tehran.
Abyaneh:This historical village near Kashan is a UNESCO world heritage site characterized by a reddish hue and the untouched rural culture and traditional arcitecture.
Persepolis and Pasargadea:You can visit these remnant sites of Acheamenid and Sassanid period in an excursin from Shiraz.
Kish and Qeshm Islands:Kish island is a free trade zone in Perisan Gulf with numerous malls and shopping centers and resort hotels a place for a break,also home of Dariush Grand Hotel, a magnificent hotel in Iran and one of the top ten best hotels in the Middle East.
Qeshm island is Persian Gulf’s largest island with several ecotourism attractions like Hara marine forests.
Susa:It’s Iran’s most ancient city 110Km north of Ahvaz.The ziggurat of Choghazanbil is the famous monument of this area.
Sarein:Sarein is a city in northwest of Iran near Ardebil which is known as Iran’s spa city.It has 12 mineral hot springs.
Candovan village:This 800 years old village is located 52Km from Tabriz and has a unique arcitecture with houses that are built in the heart of mountain.
Things to Do
There are lots of activities that can be done in desert such as desert tracking, camel riding, bicycle riding and 4×4 driving excursions.In some parts you can stay in desert camps.Visit the oasis village of Garmeh surrounded by date palms;a place where you get the chance to experience the profound quiet of desert.
There are five ski piste near Tehran also one near Shiraz.The longest one is at Dizin north of Tehran but the more professional one which is used for national and international tournoments is Shemshak also near Tehran.
You can enjoy Iran coastal areas too.Kish island is a known place for its beaches where you can enjoy the pleasant sunshine(There are covered places designed for women).Diving is also available for those who like to see the colorful marine life of Persian Gulf both in Kish and Qeshm island.
By plane: All international flights to Tehran land at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport, There are 70 smaller regional airports,which some like Shiraz, Mashhad, and Isfahan, Tabriz,Kermanshah have daily flights to many international destinations.Dubai has scheduled flights to many Iranian cities,including Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kerman, Mashhad, Tabriz,Kish island,Kermanshah and some other therefore worth considering travelling to Iran from.
Iran Air and Mahan Air connect Tehran with some of the major European cities as well as destinations in Asia and Middle East. European companies landing in Tehran include BMI, Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot and Middle-Eastern airlines: Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates, and Etihad. AirAsia also has flights to/from Kuala Lumpur beginning on August 2010 ,so finding a flight to Iran should not be hard.
Due to sanctions there are no direct flights at present from Canada or the USA, but you could travel via either Europe or Persian Gulf States. Non-stop flights fromDubai via JFK, IAD, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston or Toronto are good bets. Visitors from Australia or New Zealand can consider travelling via Dubai or Abu Dhabi, or can use a combination of Iran Air and Malaysian Airlines to get from any major city in Australia to Tehran, via Kuala Lumpur.
By train:You can use Trans-Asia Express service runnig weekly from Ankara, includes a ferry over Lake Van, crosses the Iranian border then stops at Tabriz before arriving in Tehran. The journey takes 59 hr (2 nights travelling).
Other train services connect Azerbaijan,Turkmenistan,Syria,Afghanistan,Iraq and Pakistan to Iran.
By bus or car:If you choose to drive to Iran you should have an international driver’s license and a Carnet De Passage that can be acquired from your local drivers association (such as the RAC in the UK) and the route is via Turkey.
There are also modern bus services from Turkey and Amenia to Iran.
By boat:Starting in late 2007 and 2008; high quality semi-luxurious ferry service started between Kish Island and Abu Dhabi and Dubai.It is not currently known what the Customs and Entry Visa process is like using this service however as the boats do not enter via the airport. While the entry/exit process at the airport is fairly well established, it is unknown if the process is as well managed when entering via the docks. It is likely to be more chaotic and it is not know whether visas are issued on the spot as is the case at the airport.
There are also ferries from Bandar Abbas to Dubai and Sharjah in UAE, and also ferries from Bushehr to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
It might not be as fast as Europe or North America but Iranian trasportation is of high quality and affordable.
There are frequent and reliable air services by The major national carrier Iran Air, and its semi-private competitors such as Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air and Kish Air link Tehran with most regional capitals and offer inter-regional flights.
Tickets can be bought at airports or agencies existing in most cities. You can also find domestic tickets in some Iran Air offices abroad, such as in Dubai. Expect to pay a little more due to the exchange rate applied.
If you choose to travel on surface you can opt for train,bus or car. Although train services are limited but its comefortable and provided with sleeping berths.
Road traveling services are extensively used and almost every city and even small towns are provided with reliable and modern buses and contrary to what has shown it is safe and with very few accidents.
If you decide to travel between cities by car we can assure you that roads are safe and regularely maintenanced and in this case you also have the chance to visit many enroute attractions.
The rial (IRR) is the currency of Iran, however prices are often quoted in toman. One toman is equal to ten rials.You can get about 30,000 and 40,000 rials for US$1 and €1 respectively.Banknotes produced in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 , 50,000 and 100,000,If you remember that a yellow 50,000 note is approximately equal to a euro you won’t get confused. For large amounts you will see Iran Cheques being used, in 500,000 (~US$15) rial denominations. It is now used in the same way as cash.
Unfortunately credit cards are of no use in Iran so it is recommended to have enough money on you for the duration of your trip but if you are worried about carrying too much cash it is a possibility to get a pre-paid no-name gift card without any service fee and surcharg and get the exact amount of money you put in it.All ATMs support English language
Different communication facilities are largly expanded in Iran.you can use telephone,mobile,internet,email and fax in almost everywhere during your trip.
All operators offer relatively cheap,rechargable SIM card to travelers. GPRS and MMS is also available at very low prices, specially at nights, for surfing the web or checking your email. WiFi with your mobile phone or tablet is a good option in Iran and you can readily access WiFi internet services (depending upon network availability) in many areas, and in all provinces.
Iranian Post Company provides many of the international postal services even in some rural centers.
There are newspapers published everyday in Farsi,English,Arabic and French etc,like Tehran times and Iran Daily which are more known.
There are also many different local,national and international radio stations broadcasting programs in Farsi,English,Arabic etc, everyday
Religion,Social Custom and Conducts
Iran is a country with diverse ethnicities and therefor different religions and beliefs like Christian and Jewish communities and Zorostarians.Although formal religion is Islam but on contrary to populare belief other reliogions are tolerated and respected as long as don’t get insulting.
Maybe the most visible part of islamic Iran is the special way of clothing although many women wear Chador which is a long black scarf but you can wear normal clothes as long as it covers all your body excluding hands,feet also wearing a loose scarf on your hair covering most of it.All colors and designes are acceptable and there is more tolerance shown towards foreign women over the details.
Men are also required to have some points in mind;short sleeved shirts and T-shirts are acceptable but shorts are only worn on the beach.Neckties are also acceptable except in government bodies.
There are some rules according to opposite sex relations;introduce yourself normally without handshaking but it is OK to handshake with the same sex.Western music and dancing is banned in public but certainly you will hear music in all public places like malls,shops,resturants etc.
Food and Drinks
Although you can’t have alcoholic drinks but there are plenty of exquisite and delicious food and drinks to experience.
The most common food consumed daily by Iranians is boiled and steamed rice(berenj) which at homes often eat with a thick stew(khoresht) containing a modest amount of meat.Iranian stews has many varieties that may differ localy.Some of more populare ones are sweet and sour Fesenjan with pemogrant syrup,Ghorme Sabzi prepared with fresh herbs and Gheimeh made with split-peas.There are also some flavoured rices as an accompeniment to main courses like Baghali polo with broad-bean and Sabzi polo laced with parsley,dill and mint.
Another favorit food of Iranians is different kinds of kebabs a grilled skewed meat and rice garnished with butter,grilled tomatoes,a sour spice called Somagh,raw onions and basils.
Maybe the most traditional Iranian meal is Ash(a kind of soup) variations which the more populare one is Reshteh Ash a combination of herbs,peas and thick noodles.
Black tea is the national drink of Iran which is served with cubed sugare.If you prefer coffee it is also available both in coffee shops and instant packaged ones.
Soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available in every supermarket in cities.Doogh is also a populare drink among Iranians which is a combination of yoghurt,salt and water and sometimes flavoured with mint .Tap water is safe in safe almost in every part of country if you are extra sensitive abou this issue you can always use mineral botteled water which is widely available.
Don’t worry if you are less adventurous in food area or have special diets like vegetarians because many resturants in major cities can serve you international cuisines and vegetarian food and snacks.
Staying safe and healthy
In contrary to what westerns might expect Iran is a really safe place especially for tourists.Iranians are genuinely friendly people who care for you to have a good time as their guest.As said before you can’t use international credit cards in Iran so in case of carrying cash just take the usual precautions in crowded bazaars and places but don’t worry because Iran is a relatively low-crime country.Iranian traffic might get chaotic,it is recommended that pedestrians be cautious when crossing the roads and streets.
In general almost all part of this big country is safe.You may heared that southeastern part of Iran shoul be avoided but not all part of this province is dangerous especially Chabahar a trade free zone which is calm and friendly filled with beauty and attraction.
According to health services it is good to say that Iran has modern health care facilities.Except your travel vaccination updates you won’t have any special needs for traveling to Iran.In case you need any treatment an English-speaking doctor will be asked by your hotel.You can also get a travel insurance.
Of course you won’t have any worries concerning safty and health if you are traveling with a guide or as a group tour.
Handicrafts and Souvenirs
Lots of beautifull stuff for different uses are produced in exotic bazaars of Iran.Most of them are handmade and an abstract of their regional history an culture.Some of them which are internationaly more known are carpets and rugsthat their patterns and colors which is mostly inspired by nature differ in every part of the country,curved silver and woodworks,glass and ceramics,silk and tablecloths.Iran has many edible souvenirs too.Iranian caviar is the best caviar produced in the world.Also different kinds of nut like pistachio which is an exclusively Iranian fruit.