Note: This post was published in November 2018 and now has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness.
After reading this article you will know where to go, what to see, which food you should eat and many other things to do in Iran.
1. Classic Traveler
Need a traditional guided trip? Do you think these kinds of travels are less stressful? Do you Search for a trip full of history and art?
If yes, so you may be into organization and stability. Iran has more than 3000 years of history, including ancient Achaemenes and Islamic history.
Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Kashan, Bam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Yazd are the best cities to visit many ancient Iran archaeological sites and also World Heritage Sites selected by UNESCO. Here you can find 15 days classic tour of Iran.
2. Gallery and Museum/Artsy Travelers
Never realize how time passes by while you are in a museum? Nothing is more appealing than spending time in an art gallery?
Iran has lots of museums. If you enjoy watching what researchers have found from ancient times, there are stunning destinations for you.
A trip to one of the most beautiful cities in Iran makes you feel good. Isfahan (which is also unofficially known as “Half of the world”), Shiraz (city of poems), Tabriz (Qajar’s second capital) Yazd (an incredible mixture of beauty and spirituality), Kashan and Tehran are most beautiful cities in Iran and have many museums worth spending time. You can also find art galleries demonstrating contemporary art in these cities.
Reza Abbasi museum, the treasury of national jewels and carpet museum are some of the great museums in Tehran.
3. Architectural Lover
Iranian architecture is one of a kind! The both ancient and Islamic styles are found here. If you are into architecture you shouldn’t miss these destinations:
Zoroastrian and Persian styles like what we can see at Chogha Zanbil, Susa, Ecbatana, Tomb of Cyrus the Great, Anahita Temple, and Sassanid Rayen Castle are located in Shoosh, Shiraz, Kangavar, Rayen.
Islamic styles like Jameh Mosque of Nain and Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, Chehelsotoon, Ali Qapu, Agha Bozorg Mosque, Shah Mosque, Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Naqsh-i Jahan Square are located mostly in Isfahan, Nain, and Kashan.
Besides, you can see Qanat (an old system of water supply from a deep well), thatched house, Badgir (wind-tower), thatched house as traditional Persian elements in Tabas, Garmeh, Yazd, Gonbad, Khorasan.
4. Budget traveling
Do you prefer to save money in your pocket rather than spending for a five-star hotel? Today Most of the young people love to travel and do adventure and Try to spend less.
If you are seeking for an economic vacation, you can plan a trip to Iran. Get your backpack ready and book your ticket to Iran. Why? Because Iran’s currency which is Iranian Rial is about 15 times cheaper than USD and Euro. This huge difference makes Iran a low budget destination for many young travelers and backpackers to experience a very different country with less spending. You can easily spend around 20$ a day, still don`t miss a thing and enjoy the food, safe and comfortable transportation and even buy something as a souvenir.
Public Transportation fare in Tehran (the capital) is less than 20 cents. You can have delicious food by spending around 1-3$ (it covers the spectrum between Falafel and Kebab). You can spend time in a coffee shop ordering coffee and enjoy the environment by spending around 2$. These prices are even cheaper in minor cities. More far from big cites cheaper prices, in some rural areas of southeast Iran, you can stay in local lodges for 4$ including breakfast!
If you haven`t planned your economic adventure in Iran yet, we have some recommendations for you:
Cities like Zahedan, Zabol, and Khash located in Sistan and Balochestan province are recommended for tight budget plans. In these cities you can see people walking around with the traditional clothes which is magnificent. Also, there are many castles in this area. The Mud volcano is also one of the unique attractions of the region which has therapy effects.
Visiting Qeshm Island can be truly memorable. The canyons, Mangrove forests and star valley are some of the amazing attraction of this mysterious island.
Kordestan province also has great nature and beautiful cities like Sanandaj and Marivan which worth visiting while traveling Iran.
5. I don’t want traveling like a tourist
Do you prefer to experience local cultures? Visiting local people and communicate with them?
Iran has many different ethnic groups which include Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Arabs, Baluchs, Turkmen and Turkic tribes. Each of these groups has a rich culture of food, music, ceremonies and etc.
We strongly suggest you stay at Local guesthouses ( Eco-lodge, called Boomgardi in Persian). Local guesthouses are mostly old houses repaired and repurposed as tourists’ accommodation. There are many of these local guesthouses in most cities and you can experience living in a house with local architecture, local food and meeting people. You may try traditional clothes and get familiar with traditions and customs. You will have the chance to know each ethnic group better by living inside these local guesthouses. Find a list of them here.
This also can be a chance to support the locals’ culture, encouraging them to save their heritage and help rural economies.
Iran has many regions where you can experience a rural lifestyle. South and eastern south of Iran are good destinations for this purpose. Since these areas are less known even for Iranian tourists, they remained untouched and, most interesting Locals like to host you as a guest and show you their daily routine.
Here comes a list of where you can find each ethnic group in Iran.
Lurs: Lorestan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Isfahan, Fars, Bushehr and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad provinces.
Arabs: Khuzestan Province
Baluchs: Sistan and Baluchestan province
Turkmen: provinces of Golestān and North Khorasan.
Turkic tribes (include Qashqai people, Khorasani Turks, Afshar people, and Qarai Turks): Fars, Khuzestan and southern Isfahan, North Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, and Golestan provinces
Persians include the Mazandaranis and Gilakis: Tehran province, Isfahan province, Fars province, Alborz province, Razavi Khorasan, South Khorasan, Yazd province, Kerman province, Bushehr province, Hormozgan province, Markazi province (Arak), Qom province, Semnan province, Qazvin province, Hamadan province, North Khorasan, Khuzestan province, the northern half of Sistan and Baluchistan (Zabol), the southern and western half of Golestan province and also Mazandaran and Gilan provinces. Kurds: Kordestan province, West Azerbaijan province, Kermanshah, Ilam provinces, and North Khorasan province
Staying with Nomad people (Bakhtiari, Qashqai, Shahsavan) will let you experience the feeling you can’t find anywhere else.
6. Altruistic Traveler
Want to help others on your trip? Making the world a better place to live calms you down the most and makes you feel you’re a better person? You are an Altruistic traveler. So you will enjoy service trips:
Sistan and Baluchistan, South Khorasan, and Kurdistan, are where you can help others and also perceive the local sense by visiting rural areas and village life.
7. Nature Lover, Eco-tourist, Adventurist, sport style
Do you love nature? Do you prefer adventurous trips that harm nature less than others? You are an Eco-tourist. This kind of tourists Love thrilling activities and Want to be immersed in the great outdoors. You never stop moving! Love to stay Active!
You are an extreme traveler and should definitely visit all natural wonders here in Iran:
Desert trekking and camping, Desert safari, off-road at Garmeh village, Mesr village, Bayazeh village, Tabas, Badroud, Maranjab. Described in more details at no. 8
Visit the Iranian UNESCO Geopark, Hara Marine Forests (Mangrove forests), Crocodile farm, Namakdan Salt Cave at Qeshm Island;
Learning how to dive at city and villages at the seaside of Persian Gulf;
Dark craggy mountains of Alborz Mountain, Alamut Valley and visiting Ovan Lake at Qazvin Province, Alamut;
Rudkhan Castle, interconnected houses in Masule village in Fuman city;
Visit Shiraz Canyon, Falak-ol-Aflak Castle, Bisheh Waterfall, Gahar Lake in Zagros Mountain: Lorestan province, Khoram abad city, Douroud city;
Hiking Alborz and Zagros Mountain range, described in more details at no. 9
Do Rafting at Zayandeh Rood River, Haraz River, Sefid Rood River, Arvand Rood River, Sirvan River described more at no. 10
Go skiing at downhills at Dizin, Shemshak, described in more details at no. 10;
Are you one of those people who can’t take their eyes off the mysterious world of stars at night? Do you like finding constellations in the sky?
Most of the tourists traveling to Iran, come to visit famous deserts in Iran. How about you?
The major part of Iran is desert. In the past cities and villages in the areas has their own culture. You can stay in these cities and experience the life of the desert. Riding a camel, walking on yellow sand hills while watching the magnified shadow of yourself.
For having such experiences, you can go to Maranjab or Mesr. You can stay in the guest houses with historical architecture. Other cities and villages in the deserts are Matin Abad, Zaman Abad, Mahan, Meybod, Ardakan and Tabas.
If you like camping, there are some places like Matin Abad where you can set up your tent safely or you can stay in one of the ready erected tents. Find a desert and salt lake tour here.
9. Hiking, trekking
Can’t resist the temptation to hike every pick you see on the road? Enjoy visiting nature while hiking the mountains?
Did you know that Iran has two mountain ranges? Zagros and Alborz mountain ranges are located in Iran and many cities are built around them.
Alam Kooh is a great choice if you wanna go for a rock climbing. Sabalan (Ardabil province, 4811m), Alamkooh (Mazandaran province,4851m) and Azadkooh (Mazandaran province, 4395m) are some of the most popular destinations for climbers.
Damavand is the highest peak in Iran (5610m). To climb Damavand, you need to be prepared mentally and physically.
It might be interesting to know that Tehran, as a metropolis with population of 12 million, is located very close to Alborz mountain range and you can reach the hill side and enjoy hiking only 30 minutes from the city center. In Isfahan also you can hike mount Sofeh and enjoy the view when you reach the top. You can also hike mountains around Tabriz, Sanandaj and Shiraz.
10. Rafting, skiing
Do you like to add more excitement to your journey? Are you looking for a unique experience?
Rafting can be an unforgettable episode of your trip to Iran. Nothing would compare the excitement of river rafting while enjoying the view of forest around you.
There are some rivers in Iran where you can enjoy rafting. Zayanderud close to Isfahan during spring is recommended. You can also go rafting Haraz River in Mazandaran province. There is also a river proper for rafting in Karaj. It’s not far from Tehran and you may go there while staying in Tehran.
Moreover, if you like skiing you can try it in different ski resorts around Tehran. Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak resorts are proper for snow skiing, no need to mention that winter is the season!
11. More Luxury and business style travel
Do you prefer to lie on a bed at a five-star hotel and Enjoy fascinating interior and exceptional services? Or do you travel to Iran for your business goals and need time to relax and stay concentrated on your work?
You might have heard that there is no chained-brand hotel in Iran. But you can still find five-star hotels in big cities of Iran which offer you services according to the world standards (exclude serving alcoholic drinks). Cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, and Tabriz are ready to host you for your luxury vacations and business meetings.
12. Tech and Startup guys
Are you a techie who follow businesses and startups news? Is it interesting to know about the startup ecosystem in Iran?
Yes! Iran is really booming in this area! And Tehran as the capital is the best place to get updated in brand new businesses and the startup community of Iran. Many IT events and exhibitions are held in Tehran and, moreover, many incubators and accelerators support startups and help them to grow and improve their business. FINNOVA, DMOND and AVATECH are a few of them.
IranbyBit (More about our business) is also a fin-tech startup which is providing services for travelers to Iran, services like booking hotels, Hostels and local lodges and also tours with offering new payment methods.
13. Shop Lover
Many people like to shop. If you never get enough of shopping and window shopping, we have a lot of bazaars! Some never end!
There are destinations a shop lover may like: Iranian carpets, Termeh, Mina Kari, and Khatam Kari are made with Iranians artistic passion and will always help you remember how fabulous your trip was.
Visit great Bazaar of Tehran, Tabriz Bazaar, Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz and Reza Bazar in Mashhad, to buy souvenirs and handicrafts.
14. Harmonious Traveler
Need a journey full of “Me time” and looking for a place to relax?
If you need your “me time” back, you are a harmonious traveler. If you care about peace all the time and you might feel a responsibility to others, so you may need a journey for retreatment.
There is a handful of choices in Iran for relaxing and seeking the meaning.
Staying in a desert and being away from all the buzz in the crowded cities can be a touching experience for you. Being alone with your thoughts and feelings is more possible in the deserts where there are no distractions.
To relax and feel healthier you can also experience Salt cave in Qeshm Island, get water therapy in Sarien Ardebil, and Sabalan, use Mud volcanoes in Chabahar and Sistan va Baluchestan.
If you like to experience Islamic style beaches, two islands of Persian Gulf, Kish Island and Qeshm Island and also Caspian Sea coast at Ramsar city, “Chaloos”,” Namak Abrood”,” Bandar Anzali” city have lots of spots. (More about the dress code, tip no. 4)
15. Traveling for Medical Reasons
Did you know Iran is one of the most rewarding destinations for Medical and health tourism?
You can take a trip to Iran for low-cost medical treatment. Highly experienced and skilled doctors make Iran one of the popular destination for medical tourists. Many people each year choose to come to Iran for different medical purposes such as rhinoplasty, plastic surgery, eye surgery etc.
These are the places you should go:
Gandi hotel hospital and Moheb Mehr Hospital in Tehran, Mehr Hospital in Mashhad, Namazi hospital and The Central Hospital of Shiraz in Shiraz, they are cheap and have great medical facilities for Rhinoplasty (Nose Job), Plastic Surgery, Weight Loss, Cosmetic Dentistry, Cardiology and Medical Dentistry.
16. Family trip
Are you planning a trip for your family? Do you want your children to enjoy the trip as much as you?
The good news is that you can find many family-friendly destinations in Iran.
Iranians love children. You can see this in a day walk through the city. If you plan to stay in local guesthouses (Boom Gardi) you can let your children feel free and discover the place by themselves. They might end up finding some friends while playing (and yes, it`s safe).
Good news for family travelers, a brand new experience, staying at a museum, a journey to puppets world, a flashback to childhood, all in one fantastic place in the heart of “Kashan” historical city. If you are willing to being familiar with Iranian toy history and watching especial Iranian puppet shows or play gracefully and freely as a little child by your own or with your children, It would be the best option for you, a museum and a traditional guesthouse and hostel all in one historical house named “Puppet & Toy Museum Guesthouse”
17. Gastronomy Tourist
Do you call yourself a food lover? You are a gastronomy tourist. No matter you are a meat lover or seafood fan, you can get the best of them in Iran.
Rice, meat, vegetables, nuts, and herbs are Iranian main dishes combinations. Saffron, dried lime and other sources of sour flavoring, cinnamon, turmeric, and parsley are used in Iranian dishes.
Kebab, Khoresht (Stew), Polow, are some of the main courses of Iranian food.
You can go south to taste new kinds of spicy and fried food. None of them? Are you a meat-lover? Go west and eat the best of meat dishes there. If you are into seafood you will love those incredible foods in Coastal areas of Iran north and south!
If you are a vegetarian and have a plan to visit Iran, don’t worry at all.
However, going out to eat can be tough in Iran for vegans as veganism but there are some vegan restaurants in Tehran, the capital, and at other major cities.
Although, you could find so many traditional foods that are vegetarian. As Iranian cousin has a wide range of variety, it can cope with everyone’s taste and desire.
First of all, there are so many foods made of eggplant. Kashke bademjan, a popular meal made all over the country and made of eggplant, whey, fried mint, and onion.
Mirza Ghasemi, an especial food originally for the north of Iran but cooked everywhere in the country. It is made of eggplant, tomato, garlic, and egg.
Another category is kuokuo, an Iranian egg based fast food. It is made of potato, flour, and egg. It can also contain fresh vegetables instead of potato. Falafel is another Iranian fast food originally for the south of Iran which is popular and you can find it in every corner of the streets. Samboose from the south, made of potato, herbs, onions, and spices. If you like spicy foods, then you’d better buy some from vendors in the south.
The other popular recipe is especial soup called Aash. It literally has everything on it! Different beans, vegetables, noodles, and whey. Each city has exclusive Aash which is worth to try.
In the soup category, there are also some traditional foods like Eshkeneh and Kale joosh. You may find them in some lodges in small cities.
The last category is for Plow. Plow means rice and is considered anything with rice. It can be Adas polow, which is lentil rice; loobia polow, beans with rice or even Shirin polow, sweet rice with pistachio, almond, cinnamon, and sugar.
If you visit Iran, don’t miss these delicious foods and If you couldn’t find any of them, just ask your host or the restaurants to easily cut the meats out. As Iranians are known as their hospitality around the world, they won’t let you get disappointed.
Khalvat guesthouse, a 100-year-old mansion is the first and only accommodation in Iran which is vegan friendly, and it is located in Isfahan.
19. Offbeat Traveler
Do you often search for meaning? The offbeat traveler you are; you can have the most of the Iranian’s spirituality.
Iran’s religious pilgrims will give you a new taste of Eastern historical mysticism.
So you must take a trip to Bastam, Yazd, Mashhad, and Qom (Islamic), Jolfa in Isfahan (Christianity), Chakchaku (Zoroastrian) and Pir Shaliyar (Mithraism and Zoroastrianism).