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Why You Should Drop Everything and Travel to Iran Now!

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About this post: I had many questions on my mind before my trip to Iran. Why go to Iran? How is Iran as a country? Is it safe to visit Iran? What is Iranian culture like? A month in Iran later, I think it might be one of my favorite places in the world. This post is my humble attempt to show you why.

Most people think that now is a terrible time to visit Iran. The renewed US sanctions on the country mean that popular travel websites like Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com don’t work in Iran. International debit and credit cards can’t be used to make payments or withdraw money from ATMs. Most travel insurance policies don’t cover Iran. And social networks like Twitter and Facebook are technically banned.

And yet, spending a month exploring Iran in Feb-March 2019 – thanks to the local all-women team of travel company Uppersia – filled me with immense wonder at its architecture and natural beauty. I fell in love with the country’s people, culture, poetry and language, and believe that NOW is the best time to visit Iran.

The renewed US sanctions have sent the Iranian Rial into a free fall, making it the most affordable time to explore the country – and contribute directly to ordinary citizens suffering the economic consequences. Tourism has been badly hit, which means you can have the exquisite Nasir-ol-Molk of Shiraz, the awe-inspiring Naqsh-e Jahan Square of Isfahan and the other-worldly Kaluts Desert, pretty much all to yourself. If you pick only one international travel destination this year, pick Iran, for this is a country where:

You’ll discover landscapes so unimaginable, you’d think you’ve landed on Mars

(like on Hormuz Island, with yellow rivers, white mineral peaks and red sand)

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Yet human creations will leave you in greater awe

(Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, said to be created by the gods of art)

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And compel you to reconnect with the poet in you

In an antique bookshop in Kerman, with works of great Persian poets S’aadi, Hafez and Rumi

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As you walk amid 900-year-old Cypress trees

(at Bagh-e Eram in Shiraz)

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Take in the awe-inspiring sight of a 12th century shrine

If you see only one thing in Iran, let it be Shah Cheragh in Shiraz by night

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Hear a sufi mystic sing within a shrine’s ancient walls

(at Shah Nematollah Wali Shrine in Mahan)

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And explore some of the world’s most incredible cities like Isfahan and Shiraz

Move over New York, London, Paris!

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You’ll slowly forget everything the media told you about Iran…

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Make an effort to speak a bit of Farsi

I highly recommend the Chai and Conversation podcast.

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Because you’ll not only fall in love with the language

Persian calligraphy gift from a local friend <3

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But also with the locals you meet along the way

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You’ll learn to picnic in the outdoors like Iranians

(at the Naqsh-e Jahan Square of Isfahan)

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Tuck into a “howzkhaneh” on a winter day

A sort of winter lounge in old Persian houses for cosy gatherings.

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And let “taarof” surprise, confuse and amuse you!

Taarof is Persian etiquette where you put others first; read more about it here.

(with Assad and his family at Assad’s B&B on Qeshm Island)

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On a rainy afternoon, you’ll slip in to a hipster cafe with a Persian twist

(at Balo Persian Cuisine in Shiraz)

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And warm up over “do pyaz alo” and dal adasi

Both accidentally vegan.

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If you’re lucky, you’ll even connect with passionate vegan Iranians

(at Khalvat House, a vegan guesthouse in Isfahan)

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And sample Persian food that will blow your mind

Vegan dizi, anyone?

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On a VIP bus, you’ll traverse the ancient Silk Route

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Sleep in a “Caravan Serai” to feel like a traveller of yore

Caravan Serais were inns built in the 16th century for travellers along the ancient Silk route.

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Take in the sights and smells at a historic bazaar

The one in Tabriz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

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Taste the most incredible dates and nuts

And wonder what you’ve been eating all along…

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Go back in time at an excavation site dating back to the second Iron Age

When women and men were buried with their pots and pans, and weapons. This one is in Tabriz.

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And land up in a desert oasis bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan

(at Shefiabad near the Lut Desert)

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To see the Kaluts, the most surreal desert formations

(and home to Gandom Beryan, the hottest place on earth)

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And gaze at a star-studded night sky <3

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The compulsory hijab might annoy or disturb you

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But you’ll meet badass, independent, free-spirited women across the country

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Come to empathize with your Iranian friends and their yearning for personal freedom

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And when time comes to say goodbye, you’ll be glad you picked Iran

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Because it’s only here that you’ll find Nesf-e Jahan – half the world!

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Also read:

Bahrain: Land of a Thousand Friends
Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Your Travel Dreams
Travelling Abroad First Time? 10 Questions on Your Mind

Is Iran among your dream travel destinations? What are you most looking forward to?

*Note: I travelled to Iran in collaboration with Uppersia. Opinions on this blog, as you can tell, are always mine!

Join my adventures around the world virtually on InstagramFacebook and Twitter!

Order a copy of my bestselling book, The Shooting Star.

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99 Comments

  1. Stunning pictures Shivya. Had never thought about Iran, but would definitely look it up now. You seem to have even ventured into the off the beaten track places. Did you ever feel unsafe? Just wondering.

  2. Raman says

    Is it possible to visit the ancient Iranian Parsee fire temple, all the parsees came from Iran, do visit it if you can

  3. That’s lovely post Shivya. Iran has been my dream destination for a long time now but never planned it for obvious reasons. Your post has inspired me to think about it now :).

  4. I have thought about going to Iran before but not quite got around to it. These pictures are stunning! Thanks for sharing, and whetting my appetite further.

  5. Gaye Gibson says

    Did you do a custom tour with Uppersia or did you do a package tour and if so, which one? Beautiful pictures!

  6. Hey Shivya, following your blogs since 3 years now and I love every bit of it. I certainly have read all your blogs and not exaggerating but I wait for you to upload the new ones.
    Have been following on your Iran journeys and you have inspired me enough to take my first international trip to Iran. It would be great if you could pen down some insights on ‘How to sort the Visa permissions’ and ‘An estimated budget (maybe!?)’.

    Thanks in advance!
    Love,
    One of your vegan follower 😀

  7. Ira Banerjee says

    Wow…I am mesmerised. The pictures are breathtaking and honestly for a person like me who always looks forward to the next travel, you inspired to take Iran as the next destination. It would be really helpful if you rpovide some details about the planning, budget and your tourism partner uppersia, since you get much less information over the internet regarding Iran.
    Thanks in advance and cheers 💕💞

  8. Priya says

    Iran has been one of my travel destinations for a very long time, thank you for the stunning pictures !

  9. Iran is certainly one of the most beautiful places on this earth, I never miss any article regarding traveling in Iran. Hope someday I will be able to visit it.

  10. Nappie Dee says

    You have inspired me to drop everything and visit Iran!

  11. It looks gorgeous and interesting. But i think I would never stop being depressed by the compulsory covering I would have to do as a woman traveling there. It’s enough to keep me away.

  12. Sindhu Murali says

    I traveled to Iran about two years ago and your pictures brought back a lot of lovely memories and the urge to go back. Thank you. 🙂 Iran is a truly wonderful place and their hospitality is something else! I am curious about your experience as a vegan in Iran. I struggled finding vegetarian food and was often served korma sabzi with the meat chunks removed. My Iranian friends tell me that they do cook a few vegetarian/ vegan dishes at home but they are just not popular in restaurants.

  13. Roshini says

    Hey!! I was wondering if you could tell me how you got your visa? I am going on the 19th and was under the visa on arrival assumption. Is that the case for Indians?

  14. Great post with top-notch images. Loved to visit Iran once in my life. Thanks for information.

  15. Being a travel enthusiastic Iran is always is in my bucket list!
    Thanks for writing this post, really appreciate it. Keep writing.

  16. chirag says

    Hi Shivya… stunning pictures. Have you changed your style of writing

    • Barbara Harrison says

      Yes, it was known as the Paris of the Middle East and the second language was French. Now almost everyone speaks English.

  17. Hann Moon says

    Ow.. you make me cry a little. I was in Iran last september and just fell in love with the people, the beauty, the country, the atmosphere. I was thinking about going back to Isfahan next month, just for a week or so. But with the floods it feels kind of rude. The information on the internet is unclear. Iranians shouting out that 3/4 of the country is under water and it is a huge disaster, ignored by the western countries. And others saying there is no problem at all. I don’t know what to believe. For me it just feels too oportunistic right now to go. So, I’ll wait till after summer and try again to go. Because one thing is for sure: I want to go back to Iran. Again and again and again.

  18. I was in awe until the end of the blog. Seeing the splendor of the country have mesmerized me, thanks to the photos shared by Shivya. It indeed is an amazing country. History has been well preserved.

  19. Sarah says

    It looks amazing! Your pictures are great and I love your writing!! x

  20. I have dreamed of going to Iran for several years now. Your beautiful images and descriptions make that longing even stronger. How did you handle the money situation if you can’t use credit cards and ATM’s?

  21. What a pleasant travel and experience! I can see it worded every moment! My next trip: Iran! Thanks a lot for share all the information! Beautiful and amazing photos too! I’ve been traveling a lot this year but honestly, I never thought in Iran as a destination, well, maybe yes but Egipt too! You just give me the push, in the right moment! Have a nice day!

  22. Such an intriguing country! I think the fact that Iran is usually presented in a negative light in the West just makes it more exciting to visit!
    The pictures, by the way, are stunning.
    Literally breathtaking!

  23. I’m traveling in South America right now but your post really inspired me, I wish I would just go now! Beautiful pictures too!

  24. Wow! I think media reduces our perpective to politics but there is always so much to see in a country that gors beyond what we see in the news! Superb!

  25. Love this post. I think it’s so important to display the wonders of the Middle Eastern regions that Western media choose not to convey to their viewers told to fear such areas. Did you notice any glaring sociocultural scars left by Western interference in Iran? I’d be interested to hear the general perceptions that locals share about the select people in militarily strong nations that have unfortunately shown such disregard to places these people call home.

  26. Amazing post. I remember my travels to Iran in past years and its Always the best part to travel. Extremely beautiful images . Cheers. Happy palm Sunday.🌿🌹

      • Iran is amazing country many things to see Persian culture, i can list out few places as below for you, you can browse further to research.

        The first Iranian site registered with UNESCO, Chogha Zanbil is a 13th-century BC ziggurat in the Khuzestan province. Baked bricks with cuneiform inscriptions are layered in the structure, and a centuries-old footprint of a child in the stone is roped off towards the back.

        Qeshm offers pristine nature and a world of mystery, but if there’s one attraction not to miss, it’s the Valley of the Stars. Marl and sandstone make up the other-worldly rock formations, and with a little imagination, you can see animals, faces, and hands among other things.

        capital of the first Persian Empire and birthplace of Persian civilization, it’s vital that you visit Persepolis. In fact, you haven’t seen Iran unless you’ve walked in the footsteps of the ancient kings.

        Nasir ol-Molk is like walking inside a kaleidoscope. Nicknamed “the Pink Mosque” for its rosy-hued tiles, you’ll love discovering the hidden nooks of arguably Iran’s most beautiful mosque.

        royal polo field, Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Esfahan holds Ali Qapu Palace, Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and the Imperial Bazaar. For sure a full day trip to complete .

        an ancient irrigation system dating back to the 5th century BCE, is sure to leave you awe-struck. Climb the hill behind it to marvel at the view from above before exploring the details of the mechanism and the many bird species living here. A feat of engineering, the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System.

        Whether it’s Si-o-seh Pol, the Khaju, or one of the other nine bridges, a romantic stroll along the marvelous architecture of Esfahan’s bridges on the Zayandeh River is a must. The Persian poetry often recited in these locales echo through the arched chambers and will seem like Scheherazade’s 1001 Nights.

        Sufi shrine the most beautiful, Located in Ardabil, this shrine is the tomb of Sufi mystic leader Sheikh Safi al-din. Different areas such as a library, mosque, school, and mausoleum make up this site, and the architecture is in keeping with the principles of Sufi mysticism.

        Zoroastrian temples in yazd province.

        Castle of 1000 steps called RudKhan castle.

        Jurassic period caves called Katalekhor caves.

        Shiraz Hafiz tomb

        Island called Harmoz.

        14. Unesco site hottest place on earth desert called LUT.

        Bisotun and Taq-e Bostan are two historical sites located near each other in the Kermanshah Province. Rock reliefs and the statue of Hercules are fascinating remnants of Bisotun, as is the prehistoric “hunter’s cave” said to have been inhabited 40,000 years ago. Rock reliefs are also under the archway of Taq-e Bostan, the most notable image of which depicts the last king of the Sassanid Empire with Ahura Mazda (the creator in Zoroastrianism) and Anahita (a Zoroastrian diety).

        Dont forget saffron fields and process places also dates the best in the world.

        If you have interest you can see the most biggest oil processing plants refineries bitumen manufacturing units, world famous bandar abbas port and many small sea ports of old ages but most modern utilities .

        Tehran its hard for vegetarians but can live with plenty fruits and dates. The world best fruits available here and can enjoy the best of their taste. Its an endless journey we can’t complete in one month travel for sure to see in detail ideal to split as per seasons and visit few times.

        Check your country passport and diplomatic relations
        Before simply jumping to travel check the consulate cultural dept or tourism board for more details. Research google for the seasons as summer will be super hot, not advisable for most of cold country people for sure.

        In past i lost my camera and fail to preserve the pics i took but now less chances to go back there again due sanctions and troubles, crowd can be violent as well most of the times as reforming going on. Also must follow strict religious respects as it may trouble one for violating, people are kind if you greet them local language or in respectful way . In general take best advises from the local embassy they will be kind to guide you. Some day if you plan to go there don’t forget to taste delicious fruits and dates , we wont get same taste for sure In the of the world i can say.

        All the best ,

        • Thanks – as an Australian I’m well aware of the sweltering conditions that are apparent in summers! I appreciate your detailed response, hopefully I can scrape together the funds to get to Iran someday soon!

          • Good to read from you. Wish you amazing time when ever you travel. There are many more beautiful places too other than cultural attractions that tourism dept can inform you. Have a wonderful day and good week ahead. Cheers. 🙏🌷✨🌹

  27. Oh my gosh! That looks so beautiful! Great pictures throughout. Did you travel solo? Any suggestions for planning a trip there?

  28. sarmientofarm says

    Amazing! I have never conceived Iran as such. From what I learned from an Iranian friend everything is so limited just like what you mentioned, the facebook, banks, money remittances, etc. I thought people are so boxed that they hardly have windows to the world. I love the way you described Iran and I began to love it. In time i may visit the place. How I wished I could.
    Thank you very much. that was great!

  29. sarmientofarm says

    Amazing! I would love to see Iran in the future. Thanks.

  30. My view about Iran changed when i visited their stall in the Global Village in Dubai. Your post just adds more fuel to the fire of me wanting to visit this place.

  31. Sarahmente says

    Thank you for your post!!! I’ve been thinking about visiting it for a long time now.. I might just do it 😀

  32. I would personally like to thank you for writing such an amazing article i barely blink in 10 minutes reading your article feels like i am also there Iran Nation has suffered a lot from United Nation and US Banned they do not have basic facilities that we use in our daily life with limited resources Iranians surviving this country is full of religious rituals picture you are relating with Mars is beautiful
    i am One the leading and best immigration solicitors in London belonged from Pakistan will recommend my tourist clients to read you article

  33. Do you genuinely believe Iran, is this beautiful Country? Where women are “free”? Why aren’t there other people around you while you visit? I hope you are not an American; if you are, stay there, see how long your freedom last!

    • Hann Moon says

      Well, as a European woman who was in Iran last September, allow me to tell you some things.
      First: a country is not its government. And a government is not the country. Let alone its people. (and depending who’s side you’re on, I think you don’t want people to think Americans are like pres. T. Or maybe you don’t want people to think Americans are like former President O.)
      Second: Iran/Persia is the cradle of our western civilization. And it shows! And it is stunningly beautiful!
      Third: the information about Iran you get in America and to a lesser extent in Europe, is not.. well, let’s just say it is not accurate.
      I’ve been to a lot of places the last 50 years. In Europe, America, Asia, Africa. Never before have I met so many people with such a great inner civilization and such kindness and hospitality as in Iran.
      No, I don’t want to live there. I wouldn’t want to live in any country with a dictatorship. Then again I wouldn’t want to live in most places I visited, even when I enjoyed being there, including the States for that matter.
      But I do, I absolutely do want to go back to Iran again sometime soon.
      And, if not for anything else, I find it a good thing to be there, listen to people, talk to people, exchange experiences, ideas, information. I think connection makes a difference, now and in the future.
      And by the way, inside their houses most Iranian women might be even more free and equal than the American women whom I have met who happened to have quite dominant husbands.
      I wish for you that one day you will find out what I am talking about as Yes!! Iran is this beautiful country. More breathtaking than any picture or any story will ever show you.

  34. I have become a huge fan of yours after seeing this post. Simple awesome article. Thanks for post!

  35. I’d go to visit Iran today, if I knew I could. I have had students from Iran (I teach ESL) and I have one now. She’s my friend as well as a student. One of my mother’s best and oldest friends is Iranian. They are warm, smart, amazing people. I hope I get to visit one day. 👍🏼✌🏼

  36. Lovely photos. Thank you for sharing.

    ***But in the Age of Trumpland, a notice for US citizens and tourists, if you travel to Iran, you may not be allowed back into or into USA. So if you plan your round the world trip and want to go to US and Iran…go to US first. Just a friendly reminder, from one who has backpacked around the world twice already ……unfortunately these are not things we had to think about before…but now….a daily reality!
    xo CeciliaYu.com

  37. juliemsa says

    Wow! These are some incredible photos. Absolutely convinced me to travel to Iran. Do you think it will be fine to go without a tour company?

  38. Hi,
    I am seeing a few people write about Iran and I am intrigued to say the least. I think like everyone else safety is the first thing that comes to mind. Could you elaborate a little on the perceptions of safety. For example, is there a real concern for travelers or not, did you feel safe? Also, how would an American (well British person with US Green Card) go about getting a visa? I looked at Uppersia, and looks really reasonably priced I just could not figure out if they can sort out the visa’s.
    The photos are amazing! The mosques and bizars are so colorful – how can anyone resist.
    I also enjoyed reading your followers comments. I think they sum it all up really well. What we get exposed to in the States in never the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth😊 I’m sold, I want to go now!
    Thanks for sharing – Nikki

  39. your photography is so mesmerizing that it makes a story and convincing people to visit!

  40. Excellent , mind blowing. very nice post I really love this. I always love Iran because I feel this is a good historical place and have very rich culture.

  41. Never considered visiting Iran, but now you convinced us! Love your article sweetie. Wish we could visit all those stunning places and witness all that beauty Iran offers with our eyes.

  42. PC says

    Very inspiring! sheds many myths about Iran! I am sure a visit will shed many more. You provide enough reasons to visit Iran. Geo-Political situations are dynamic and keep changing. They cannot be and should not be an excuse. Hopefully! I visit soon.

  43. Such a lovely photos Shivya! In special the one of the women walking between the rocks, I think it is made at Hormuz Island. Is that right? The light of this photo is perfect!
    I got good memories about Iran too and I hope to be back there one day

  44. Backyard Travel Family says

    Wow Iran is a place I’d never really considered. Your photos are really beautiful. Still not sure I’d consider it with kids at the moment but I can really see why you liked it

  45. breath taking picture,
    iran has been my dream destination for a long time now but never planned it,Your post has inspired me,thanks for sharing.

  46. nice collection of pictures and Amazing post.I hope I can travel iran soon.Anyways thank you for the details.

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