Explore fascinating Iran and discover two distinct sides of a cultural coin. There’s ancient Persia, with its UNESCO World Heritage sites, relics from the world’s first civilisations, an incredible array of Islamic art and architecture and endearing time-honoured traditions. Then there’s modern Iran, its burgeoning petals blossoming under the light of a new dawn.
Iran’s most liberal city is a cosmopolitan jungle magnificently embraced by the snow-capped Alborz Mountains. It’s a lair of wonders with many captivating palaces, museums, monuments and gardens. Take time out from sightseeing to visit teahouses, have a picnic in Nowrooz Park, and interact with locals - maybe you’ll get invited behind closed doors to truly see modern Iran.
- Archaeological & Islamic Art Museum. The finest museum in Iran that contains artifacts collected from major sites across the country, some dating back 7000 years ago!
- Visit Tehran’s Carpet Museum that houses over a hundred exhibits dating back from the 17th century. This is a great place to see the full range of regional patterns plus a few unique carpets.
- Visit the stunning complex of Golestan Palace, a monument to the glories and excesses of the Qajar rulers.
- Next to Golestan Palace you will find the Masjid-e-Imam and Masjid-e-Jomeh (Friday Mosque) which are fine examples of the Islamic architecture of the Qajar period.
- After you have seen the art at Golestan Palace you would have noticed the amazing jewellery with which the Safavid & Qajar monarchs adorned themselves with. You can visit the National Jewels Treasury and drool over the real thing!
- Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and visit Darband where you can hike the foothills of the Elburz Mountains, visit restaurants perched on either side of the canyon and enjoy the serenity away from the city noise
It’s heralded as a living museum and is the sapphire jewel in Iran’s crown. Wander down tree-lined boulevards, iconic bridges, and endless passageways of the bazaar. Lose yourself amongst aromas of exotic spices and the sound of artisans crafting goods just as their forefathers did. Witness the glistening mosaic of Islamic architecture and relax in picturesque Persian gardens
- Imam Mosque regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian architecture.
- The beautiful Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dedicated to Abbas’s father-in-law.
- Ali Qapou Palace that was built to make an impression and at 6 storeys and 38 metres it certainly does this!
- Jame Mosque where you can witness the evolution of Islamic architecture over the last ten centuries.
- Vank Church whose interior is covered with fine paintings, gilded carvings and some intricate tile work.
- Sample some of the best nougat in the world!
- During your stay in Isfahan make sure you experience Iran's fascinating national sport of Varzesh-e-Bastani, in a Zurkhabeh, a traditional gym. To Westerners it might resemble an odd combination of wrestling, strength training and meditation.
- Stroll from Imam Square down to the Zayandeh River, which snakes through the heart of the city. A series of stunning historic bridges span the broad waterway, some of the best known being the Khaju Bridge and the three hundred metre, thirty three arched, Si-o-Seh Bridge.
- Tasting the national dish of Chelo Kebab is a must while you are here!
Absorb the atmosphere of the enormous Imam Reza Holy Shrine. It’s been called the ‘Vatican of Iran’ due to its holy significance, ornate architecture and intricate artworks. The main mosque and tomb are off limits to non-Muslims but there are endless squares, buildings and museums to explore – sure to elicit a positive energy no matter your religious preferences.
- Experience the unforgettable shrine complex of Emam Reza!
- Although it's a little out of town (6km's) the tomb of Khajeh Rabi is well worth a visit. The beautifully proportioned, blue domed mausoleum, decorated with inscriptions by the renowned Safavid calligrapher Reza Abbasi and the surrounding gardens is one of the major attractions of Mashhad.
- Nader Shah, is an enigmatic figure in Iranian history, elsewhere in the Middle East he is considered somewhat of a tyrant however here he is local hero. In Mashhad you can visit Nadah Shah Park and Mausoleum and see the axe-wielding Nadah on horseback, a monument to the "Napoleon of Persia", in a beautiful garden setting in the heart of the city.
- Visit the Carpet Museum and grasp an appreciation for the hard work, creativity and attention to detail that go into these masterpieces.
- Check out Mehdi Gholibek Hammam one of Iran's most interesting and spacious bathhouse museums.
- See the ancient city of Toos that is considered to be the main origin of the present day Mashhad. Visit the Ferdowsi Shrine and Museum, the tomb of the great Iranian poet has become a place of worship for lovers of Farsi Literature.
Witness the mesmerising kaleidoscope of shimmering Mosques, scent-filled lively bazaars and hear the whisper of ancient Persia as you explore Persepolis, with its eclectic patchwork of grand structures, monuments, staircases, portals and reliefs.
Stroll around the peaceful alleyways and delightful mud houses in Yazd’s old town. Visit the Amir Chakhmaq Complex golden against the deep blue of twilight. Marvel at the ingenious badgirs (Persian windcatchers that combat desert heat). Take in the exquisite tilework of the Masjed-e Jameh mosque and the Zoroastrian Temple of Fire – its eternal flame supposedly burning since 470AD.
Biblical scholars believe this to be the site of the Garden of Eden. Even with such ancient ties it’s the Tabrizians that make it so special. You’ll be met with shouts of “welcome to Iran” the moment you set foot in this sprawling city. Meet curious people as you wander in a cacophony of sounds and smells at the UNESCO World Heritage listed bazaar. Sip tea, sample food and soak up a daily life that hasn’t changed for thousands of years.
Capital city: Tehran
Population: 76.9 million
Currency: Iranian Rial (IRR)
Time zones: GMT+03:30
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Dialing code: +98
All foreign visitors require a visa to enter Iran except citizens of the following countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Egypt and Turkey. Citizens of these countries can stay for up to 3 months without a visa. For all other nationalities Iran visas can take from 6-8 weeks to be processed. Please allow sufficient time for this.
Iranian visas are valid for a maximum of 30 days. However, your visa entry dates are subject to your travel plans and itinerary.
You will need to provide Sundowners Overland with the details of which embassy/consulate you intend to lodge your Iranian visa application. We will provide the necessary documentation including Cover Letter and your visa authorization/ reference number that is required to support your visa application.
All European passport holders, including United Kingdom citizens, must supply, in addition to the standard documents, either a Police Check/Certificate or a Fingerprint Check (also can be obtained at your local police station.
Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information on the cost and method of payment. Cash is generally not accepted and often payment will need to be arranged before you apply with the embassy/consulate. The actual application process will vary depending on your nationality and the consulate/embassy at which you will be applying. Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information.
Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.
If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor to show authorities if necessary.
Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.
No matter when you decide to travel Iran is incredible year-round. Whether you choose to travel during the hot and dry summer months that are packed with festivals and usually with fewer tourists, or the cooler months when the mountains transform into a winter sports playground, Iran is captivating any time of the year.
Spring and autumn are considered peak travel times in Iran. The biggest event on the Iranian calendar is Nowruz Festival that celebrates the Persian New Year and the coming of spring. Festivities usually commence towards the end of March and last for two weeks.
The local currency is the Iranian Rial. (IRR) When making purchases most Iranians will refer to ‘Tom An’ not Rials. Tom An is a shorter version of the official currency used in everyday transactions. It is easily calculated by dropping one zero from the prices written in Rials – 25000 Rials is equal to 2500 Tom An.
Iran is very much a cash-based economy and due to economic sanctions credit and debit cards are rarely accepted. When entering Iran make sure you have enough cash to see you through your stay. US dollars and euros are the only currencies accepted at Currency Exchange outlets and banks. Make sure your US notes are clean, crisp and issued after 1996, as older or damaged notes are not accepted.
- Meal in a local restaurant USD$4.00-$8.00
- A cup of coffee USD$3.00
- A Coke USD$0.50
- Litre bottle of water USD$0.30
- 30 minutes of internet access USD $1.00
- A cup of coffee USD$1.80
*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.
When entering Iran border procedures are fairly straightforward with the usual formalities, passport inspections and more often than not, crowds of people. However you will always receive a warm welcome and big smile when entering Iran.
You should be in appropriate dress when entering Iran - women wearing headscarves, loose fitting clothes, and men in long trousers and long sleeves.
- Iran has a strict dress code. Ladies pack a headscarf in your hand luggage. You MUST be wearing this when you enter Iran. You must wear a headscarf throughout your stay in Iran (except when you are in your hotel room), and loose clothing that covers your body. We are not suggesting a burka – Iranian women are very fashion conscious and proud of their appearance – it is considered a way to stand out and show individuality.
- For men the dress code is more simple – no shorts or super short sleeves and no extremely tight clothing.
- Don't use the ‘thumbs up’ hand gesture; it doesn’t have the same connotation in Iran as it does in the western world.
- Embrace the Iranian hospitality. It is common to be befriended by someone in the street who offers you a guided tour, invited to someone’s house for a meal or invited to join a family picnic in the park - expecting nothing in return.
- Public displays of affection and de-facto relationships are not accepted in Iran.
- Wear socks when visiting mosques. Whilst it is customary to remove your shoes before entering, it is disrespectful to enter in bare feet.
- Drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited in Iran. Be considerate and respectful.
- When meeting someone a handshake is the most common greeting.
- If you are invited into someone’s home for dinner take a small gift for the host - flowers, pastries and sweets are a good idea. Try to arrive early or on time, as punctuality is important in Iranian society. Always wait to be told where to sit. Remember to eat with your right hand and try a bit of everything that is served.
Mobile/cell phones from other countries may not work in Iran. We recommend you purchase a local SIM card to put in your phone (You will need to show your passport to do this). Ensure your phone is unlocked and able to accept local SIM cards.
Be prepared for a digital detox in Iran. Internet connection can be slow at times and a number of social media sites (including Facebook & Whatsapp) are blocked.