Visiting Iran has been one of the most beautiful experiences that I’ve had. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Iran is amazing beyond words, from the foundation of its culture to the genuine warmth of its people.
Perhaps, we got lucky from the very start. I’ve always been intrigued with the unknown, and to be able to discover it without being clouded by judgement and preconceived notions was refreshing for me. I must say though, that some of my family and friends were worried about me because of how negatively Iran has been portrayed in the media. As for me, I was intimidated with the possibility of having some issues in the US border control.
My worry was for nothing.
All our worries were for nothing.
For the most part of our trip, everything was a breeze.
The visa on arrival process was straightforward.
Apart from that, the local transportation and the inter-city connections were efficient and reasonable. Traveling with my dependable, well-researched boyfriend, we were able to do local transfers even if we don’t speak Farsi. On occasions when we got a bit lost, we were fortunate to find very helpful people along the way.
I think, the only challenge that we faced was to stick with our ideal itinerary. We were flexible with our schedule but wanted to visit a lot of places. In every destination, we ended up staying a day or two more because it felt right to spend more time with our friends while at the same time, we wanted to see more of the city.
A glimpse was not enough.
In almost every important structure in every city, you could see the quintessential Iranian design.
We had to embrace our destination as much as we could.
Golestan Palace, Tehran
You could be anywhere, whether it be in a bazaar, in the mosque, or even in a mausoleum. You’d still see the Iranian artistry.
Carpet Bazaar, Tabriz
Ceramics, Isfahan Bazaar
Nasir-Al-Molk (Pink Mosque), Shiraz
Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan
Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz
Intricately created and really beautiful, the Persian art is one of the riches and most influential heritage in the world. Seeing it up close has always left me in awe and somehow made feel that they have raised the bar really high, to the point that I fear nothing else would compare.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Also Called “Half of the World”, Isfahan
Shah Cheragh, Shiraz
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan
Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan
Also, being one of the most powerful empires in history, we made it a mission to visit the ruins of Persepolis, an ancient capital of the Archaemenian kings of Persia. Standing since 518 BCE, this archaeological site sits magnificently at the Kuh-e Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy). Battling with the unpredictability of weather, we were more than happy to walk along the grounds of this very impressive ruins.
Gate of All Nations, Persepolis
The Ancient Capital, Persepolis
Close up of a bas relief, Persepolis
Not far off was the Naqsh-e Rustam where some Sassanid bas-reliefs and the necropolis of some of the great rulers of the Archaemenid dynasty could be found. There were other ancient ruins that we have (unfortunately) missed because there’s only so much we can visit in our limited time.
Other than Persopolis, there are other places that have withstood the test of time. What’s truly amazing was to witness how firm and beautiful these places are until today.
Iran also has desert towns. The old town in Yazd is one fine example. It was easy to get lost walking along its streets, and somehow, it takes you to a different era as you observe your surroundings. I think the best part was to be able to view the town from a rooftop, seeing the traditional “air-condition” (windcatcher), the minaret and domes of different mosques, and the golden desert color of the whole town.
Desert town of Yazd
Myself, somewhere in Yazd (captured by the boyfriend)
But Iran doesn’t only have desert towns. On the Northwestern side of the country lies a village of the still-inhabited cave homes of Kandovan. It was unbelievable and one of the few things that totally made me feel like being out-of-this-world.
Cave Homes, Kandovan Village
Around Iran are not just mountains, lush greens, deserts, and bodies of water (Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea).
Traveling to different parts of Iran, I was amazed with the varying landscape. Some of those that I have seen is totally different from what I’ve been used to (in the tropics). Seeing desert hills and mountains was totally new for me.
I was mostly astonished by the surrounding rainbow mountains between Tabriz and Zanjan. They are everywhere! Some stretching for at least a few kilometers, these mountains made our heads turn from left to right as we stood up from our seats, holding our balance. I might be exaggerating, but it was hard to blink because I didn’t want to miss anything.
Rainbow Mountain, between Zanjan and TabrizRainbow Mountain, between Zanjan and Tabriz
From rainbow mountains, there were also snow-capped mountains from afar during the ride back to Tehran and even Mars-like hills that made you feel like you’re in that planet (no captured photo/video of Mars, unfortunately).
Snow-capped mountain somewhere near Tehran
Seeing all these was something that I did not imagine nor expect at all.
As I try to paint a picture of how Iran was like, what makes it more special was the genuine kindness and hospitality we’ve experienced all through out. We met some locals who, in spite of just knowing us during a train ride, had invited us, welcomed us in their homes with their whole family. Spending time with them was one for the books, especially since we barely even talk Farsi and Turkish while they barely speak English.
Apart from that, we used Couchsurfing in every destination and have been very fortunate to be hosted by wonderful people. We explored some places together, have been invited to picnics, shared meals, and drank too much tea all in between. All these shared moments have made our stay more memorable, making us want to spend more time with them and the city.
At the top of the mountain with our friend in Zanjan
Sightseeing with our friends in Yazd
My boyfriend had the idea of Couchsurfing during our whole stay in Iran. I was a bit hesitant but overall, it was amazing. The most difficult thing in this experience is how it made saying goodbye really hard. It was beautiful to make friends and truly connect. But as a human, we couldn’t help to be a bit attached to each of them.
Every departure meant not just bidding farewell to the city but, saying goodbye to our new found friends.
Much of the world thinks Iran as unsafe. I honestly cannot speak for the whole country. But in my experience, I felt more secured walking on the streets there than in my own city. The political relationship of Iran towards the rest of the world is something I cannot comment on, nor the issues with some of its neighboring countries.
Setting all of those things aside, Iran is made up of warm, kindhearted and passionate people who desire to show those to the rest of the world. Iran is a must-see that will fill up your wanderlust, whether it be in history, culture, arts, architecture, or nature.
At the Golestan Palace, Photo taken by the boyfriend