The center of Persian culture, Shiraz is located in southwestern Iran and was the capital during the Zand Dynasty over 200 years ago. Shiraz is home to poetry, literature, and the arts, and a trip to this cultural gem is like making a rendezvous with the past.

Pretty gardens, known as baghs, with reflective pools, fragrant flowers, and nightingales inspired the city’s world-renowned poets like Hafez. His famous tomb is often visited by those hoping to be touched by his verses of love and the Divine.

Nestled among the UNESCO-listed Eram Garden’s blossoming trees, roses, and lines of palms, is a palace formerly inhabited by the ruling family. Gardens were an important part of Persian culture as a symbol of Eden and the four sacred Zoroastrian elements.

Mosaic-filled mosques call out to the faithful in Shiraz. Travelers should not be dismayed by the plain exterior of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, built in 1888. The interior is a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors, especially in the morning when the light hits the stained glass and leaves a blinding burst of color on the woven rugs. Intricate tiles decorate the many arches and niches.

Beautiful places of worship are scattered like gems throughout Shiraz. The dome of the Shah Cheragh Mosque is inlaid with thousands of small glass pieces interspersed with green, yellow, red, and blue tiles that make travelers feel like they are inside a glimmering world of magic fairy dust.

The climate in Shiraz is comfortable year-round, inviting travelers to explore the ancient streets filled with jasmine-scented trees and cafes where herbal drinks are served in abundance.

The Bazar-e-Vakil is an 11th-century vaulted market of maze-like lanes selling carpets, pungent spices, and handicrafts. Bath houses were also centers of socializing in the past and many are still standing today.

Take a trip outside the city to Pasargardae, the ancient former capital of the Archaemenid Empire, built by Cyrus the Great and now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After a day of exploring the historic relics and tranquil gardens, cool off with a Shirazi specialty known as faloodeh, a cold dessert made of vermicelli noodles immersed in rosewater sugar syrup and sprinkled with pistachios.