Ker & Downey’s luxury Iran travel guide tells you what to see, where to stay, and why Iran should be next on your travel list.
Is it too bold to say that Iran just might be the next big travel destination? It’s already a popular travel destination among Europeans, and we think Americans are about to find out what Europeans already know – Iran is a rich and rewarding destination, not just for its sights, but for its people. Ker & Downey’s Reid Bader and Nicole Porto traveled there to experience Iran for themselves and share their tips in this Iran travel guide. And be sure to check out the itinerary we’ve just launched here. It’s a journey to Iran that hits all the highlights.
Why You Should Travel to Iran:
There’s nothing worse than traveling somewhere new only to be engulfed by a crowd of tourists. With visas only recently being reintroduced, take advantage of going to Iran while crowds are minimal. That way, you’ll get a true feel for the country and its local flair.
Iran has incredibly rich history – both ancient and modern. It is home to some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments and 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stunning architecture dots the landscape in the form of soaring minarets and colored tiled domes of the mosques. The glittering ceilings in the centuries-old churches invite travelers and the faithful to admire their unimaginable beauty.
But perhaps the best thing about visiting Iran is the people. The Iranians are incredibly friendly and love Americans. Their hospitality can be felt from the hotels to the streets, with people often asking how you are enjoying their country.
When to Go:
The best time travel to Iran is between March and May but avoiding Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. If you can’t make it there between March and May, then September and October are also good, but you’ll want to avoid summer because it gets very hot. Similarly, the winter months can get quite cold.
You should also note that Thursday and Friday are the weekends in Iran, with Friday being the Islamic Day of rest. Saturday and Sunday are normal working days.
What to See:
Spend a full day exploring the ruins at Persepolis, founded by Darius the Great 2500 years ago. The capital of the Achaemenid Empire, it was once the richest city in world. Today, it’s one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. In 330 BCE Alexander the Great captured the city. He later left the city, but not before burning the palace to the ground. The ruins reveal the glory from the Achaemenid Empire but are marked by Alexander’s fire as seen by the visible scarring on the columns from the flames over two thousand years ago.
In Yazd, head to the Towers of Silence to learn about the Zoroastrian religion and their burial traditions. They believe that once someone has died, their body can be contaminated by demons. To prevent that, Zoroastrians exposed dead bodies to the elements and local fowl by placing them on top of flat-topped towers in the desert called dakhmas until their bodies were stripped by vultures and their bones were bleached. Then the purified bones would be placed in ossuaries near, or inside, the towers. Since the 1970’s the use of dakhmas has been illegal in Iran, so orthodox Zoroastrian’s have developed new burial methods (like burying bodies beneath concrete), but their towers and ossuaries can still be visited today.
A trip to Iran isn’t complete without a visit to the stunning palaces, mosques and souks in Isfahan, Iran’s top tourist destination. Isfahan is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world due to its intricate hand-painted tiling, tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens, and artisans displaying the traditional culture of Iran. Visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the largest historical public square in the world after Tienanmen Square in Beijing. There you’ll find two mosques, including the Imam Mosque – a masterpiece of Persian architecture, a palace, and the bazaar. You should also pay a visit to the Sheikh Loft Allah Mosque while you’re in Isfahan. It is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in Iran.
Where to Stay:
Espinas Hotel, Tehran | The 5-star Espinas Palace Hotel is located in the city center of bustling Tehran with soaring ceilings, glittering chandeliers, and opulently decorated rooms. Friendly Persian hospitality and its central location make this hotel ideal for a stay in Tehran.
Zandiyeh, Shiraz | Located in a historical area in the heart of Shiraz, the Zandiyeh Hotel was inspired by the architecture of Shiraz, and built to blend seamlessly into the bustling street where it is located. It features a traditional Persian bath, health club, and a restaurant serving up traditional Persian dishes.
Moshir-al-Mamalek, Yazd | Moshir-al-Mamalek is a true Persian experience in Yazd featuring many original features dating from the 19th century. Stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and colorful murals and tile work make this 45-room hotel charming, but the real selling point is it’s beautiful Persian garden and orchard of mulberry, fig, pine, and pomegranate trees.
Abbasi, Isfahan | Originally a pit stop for merchants on the ancient Silk Road, the Abbasi Hotel was built around 300 years ago during the Safavid dynasty. In the 1900’s it was used as a military complex then fell into disrepair until the 1950’s when French archaeologist and architect Andre Godard renovated it. At the Abbasi Hotel, it’s all about the atmosphere – florals of emerald green, blue, gold, and orange are painted on the walls, chandeliers glitter, and mirrors shimmer among the exquisite architectural details.
The Islamic dress code for women might have, somewhat, relaxed, but is still the same as before, i.e. women would need to wear a headscarf (of any color or pattern) and clothes that cover their body at all times outside hotel rooms. They can wear the regular ‘Islamic manteau’, easily purchased here at the cost of around $20-40, or long sleeved knee-length tunic/dress over long loose pants or skirt.
You should also note that women should wear a headscarf as soon as they leave aircraft on arrival so it’s a good idea to pack one in your carry on.
Men can wear T-shirts and short sleeves, but they should refrain from wearing shorts.
To make a trip to Iran your next Ker & Downey journey, contact your Luxury Travel Consultant.