Iran is getting popular tourist destination but limited number of airlines provide flights to the country. Most of the airlines are located in East-Central Europe and middle-east. I went to Iran via Kiev and visited capitol of Ukraine. I spent in Kiev two days, one on my trip to Tehran and one from Tehran. Kiev has many tourist attractions and it is safe city for travelling
Most of the people can get Visa on Arrival but there are some exceptions. UK and USA citizens must apply for visa in Iranian embassies. The Americans are only allowed to visit Iran on tour package holidays. Israel people are not allowed to enter Iran. Turks don’t need visa at all. Most of EU people can apply for visa on airport in Tehran or other big cities in Iran.
It takes about 3-4 hours to get VOA at Tehran's airport. The procedure is complicated. Follow instruction to make it faster:
VOA is granted for up to 1 month. You can apply to extend your stay in big cities. If you have Iranian visa in you passport you won't be allowed to enter Israel.
It is good idea to exchange money at the international airport. The rate are the best all over Iran. A exchange office is located at departure hall at the fist floor.
Taxi to Tehran cost 650 000 IRR – 700 000 IRR. The best fare is at outside departure hall. You pay c.a. 300 000 IRR to go by taxi from centre to the airport.
Tehran is big, noise and polluted city. You usually have to stay there two days, one day at the beginning of the travel and one before return. It is more less enough to visit the best attractions of Iran's capitol. We can spend more time in Tehran surroundings and trek/relax in Alborz mountains.
In the city it is better to avoid walking at very busy and noisy streets. Travel by underground and taxi.
Tehran's tourists attractions:
Qom is located about 100 km from Tehran. As far as religion and politics are concerned it is very important city for Iran. Iranians pilgrimage to a shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume, sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida (Persian Imam Reza, 789–816 AD). The city is the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage. Qom is also very important due to political power of Muslim clerics. Ruhollah Khomeini started his religious and political career in Qom.
I think Qom should be on short list. You can spend half a day in one of the most conservative cities in Iran. Visit shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume and enjoy the atmosphere of pilgrimage site.
How to get there? In Tehran, go to e-Jonoub bus Terminal and take a bus to Qom (130 000 IRR). You can take you luggage with you. There is no bus terminal in Qom. All buses stop at big intersection. Take a taxi to the shrine (50 000 – 70 000 IRR). Before you enter the shrine there is a security check. You can leave your luggage at security check room. You must visit the complex with free of charge guide. You will be told a story about Imam Reza and his sister. Feel free to ask a questions. I am afraid the guide will not allow you to enter any building at the complex. You can enjoy the site outside. When you complete the sightseeing go back to the intersection by taxi and you can take a bus to Kashan or Isfahan. You can spend night in Qom as well. You can enjoy the atmosphere of conservative city, visit mosques and modest Khomeini's house.
Kashan is famous of XIX century residences and moody bazaar. You can visit some mosques as well. I recommend spend in Kashan two days, one to visit the city and the other one for surroundings.
In Kashan you can visit three residences of rich merchants: Boroujerdi ha Residence, Tabatabaie Residence, Abbasian House. The entrance fee is 150 000 IRA. The big houses look like small palaces with gardens and fountains. There is no furnishings inside the buildings. I visited two residences. Abbasian House is very big and the decorations are modest. Tabatabaie Residence is smaller but full of beautiful decorations and architectonic details.
In the evening you can visit bazaar. It is one of the most moody bazaar in Iran. There are some shops with original, handmade products. Relax, have dinner, smoke shisha at Hammam-e-Khan tea shop. It is located at the bazaar and it used to be the hammam. People sit on soft carpets and pillows. I recommend dizzy for dinner.
Next day we bought a trip around Kashan. We hired a taxi with a guide for 7 hours and paid 20 Euro. It is the best way to visit attractions located outside the cities in Iran.
We visited following sites:
A bus costs 170 000 IRR from Kashan to Isfahan and it takes ca. 3 hours. We took a taxi from bus terminal to Abir Kamir Hostel and the bill was 100 000 IRR. You can go to the centre by underground. This is cheaper option.
Double room with breakfast and without bathroom costs 20 USD (700 000 IRR) in Abir Kamir Hostel.
I think you need 2-3 days for visiting Isfahan.
At the beginning go for a slow walk around Esfahan's Maydan-e Imam square. This is the most beautiful part of the city. You can walk drop in local bazaar. It is free of charge. All tourist attractions are paid. The price is usually fixed, 200 000 IRR.
This is a list of the best attraction in Isfahan:
Esfahan's Maydan-e Imamis a huge, 500 m. long, and beautiful square. There are three main attractions on the square. All of them paid: 200 000 IRR.
he next destination is Masjede-Jame. If you go to the mosque from Esfahan's Maydan-e square don't miss Ali Mosque on the way. There beautiful and unique paintings inside the mosque. The paintings shows people. It is not common in Shia mosques and it is completely forbidden in Sunni mosques. Raise your head up to see one of the tallest minaret (48 m.) in Iran.
Imam Ali Square is next to Masjede-Jame mosque. The square was established 800 years ago.
Masjede-Jame looks gorgeous outside but it not interesting inside. Don't spend 200 000 IRR.
There are many parks in Isfahan. You relax and chat with Iranian in the parks. There are many ancient pavilions inside the parks. We visited Hasht Behesht and Chehel Sotun and it cost 150 000 IRR each. Save your money and don't go inside the pavilions.
I recommend two bridges Se-o-se Pol and Khaju Bridge. You probably pass Abbasi hotel on the way to Se-o-se Pol bridge. Go inside and enjoy breathtaking view of the building and a garden. You can have a cup of tea and relax but don't ice-creams. They are not good.
Se-o-se Pol bridge was built in XVI century. The bridge is available for pedestrians only. It is perfect place to watch local people walking slowly on the bridge. There is park on the bank of the river. Iranian families and young dating people relax and picnic next to the river. The bridge is illuminated at night. You must see it.
The Armenian district is one of the best districts in Isfahan. When you walk around the district don't miss two magnificent churches, Saviour's (Vank) Cathedral i Bethlehem Church. The old churches are gorgeously decorated. The entrance fee is 200 000 IRR.
A bus cost 130 000 IRR from Isfahan to Yazd. A bus terminal is located on outskirts of the city. Take a bus (5 000 IRR) from the terminal to the city centre. There is special zone for women only in the back of the bus. We paid 30 USD for double room with breakfast and bathroom in Jungle Hotel.
Yazd is a beautiful city and stay there at least 2-3 days.
The old town architecture was built due to typical Arabic style. The old town is well preserved because Yazd is located in the middle of desert. It helped the city to avoid wars and nature was merciful too. You can wander through narrow streets many hours. Masjed-e Jame (80 000 IRR) must be on your short list. You can visit the mosque for free after evening prayer. Don't miss water museum. One of the exhibitions explains how Qanat (water systems ) works. The The Persian Qanat is on UNESCO World Heritage list.
Zoroastrian religion sites are the next points on a must list. Silence towers are situated outside the city. Take a taxi to get there. You can by public transport as well but it takes a lot of time. Two tower were built on the tops of hills. Climb up to the top and see one of the tower. There is also panoramic view on the ancient buildings located next to the hill.
Visit fire temple in Yazd too. The most important part of the temple is fire place. The fire has been live for 1 300 years.
Yazd is a good a destination for shopping. You can find a lot of beautiful handmade items at bazaar.
We bought a half a day excursion around Yazd. It cost 15 USD and it included following tourist attractions:
Yazd is situated in the middle of the desert. You can buy one or two day excursion to desert. It is unforgettable experience to spend a night on desert and look at the sky full of stars. It cost ca. 20 USD for one day.
We spent in Yazd 3 days and moved to Bandar Abbas by bus (210 000 IRR). Unlucky VIP buses were not available and we had to go by ordinary, not so comfortable bus. It cost 210 000 IRR. The bus was not comfortable but Iranians were very nice and friendly.
We took a taxi (110 000 IRR) to ferry terminal at bus terminal in Bandar Abbas. The ferry cost 150 000 IRR to Qeshm.
Asmari Hotel is our accommodation in Qeshm. Double room with bathroom and without breakfast cost 20 USD (700 000 IRR).
Qeshm is an island on Persian Gulf. It very hot at island at spring and summer. Try to avoid going out between 10.00-14.00. Find nice place under palm and relax. The best place for relaxing is park Zeyton located next to the gulf. The taxi cost 50 000 IRR from the centre to the park.
Only men can take off pants, t-shirts and swim in the warm water of the Persian Gulf. Women are not allowed to take sun bath or swim in bikini. Ladies must be fully dressed. It is not very comfortable because of the heat. A few Iranian women swim fully dressed. Most men don't take off trousers or shirts. Some of them take clothes off to swim and put on clothes again when they finished swimming. It is good idea to follow local customs.
Locals avoid walking on the streets of Qeshm at noon. It is too hot and streets are empty. It is even hard to find open bar or restaurant to have breakfast or lunch. The town is waking up in the evening. People do shopping, eating out and walking down the street. Most Iranian women are dressed black but Qeshm ladies wear colourful cloths and shoes. Enjoy it and ask lady for permission to take a picture or take it confidentially.
I paid 400 000 IRR for excursion around the island. All fees were included. This is a program of the trip:
Our next destination was Shiraz. We go to Shiraz from Bandar Abbas by VIP bus. It cost 350 000 IRR.
We spent 3 nights in Anavari hotel. Double room with bathroom cost 900 000 IRR. A breakfast is extra paid 70 000 IRR.
Masjed-e Nasir al Molk (Pink Mosque) must be visited. The mosque is famous of coloured stained glass and it is reflection on the carpets. To see it you must visit mosque at 7.30-8.00 in the morning. It is usually very crowded at this time but stay a little bit longer, at least to 9.30, to enjoy charming atmosphere of the Masjed-e Nasir al Molk. The entrance fee is 200 000 IRR .
Shrine of Shah Cheraght is the next bullet point on a must list. This is a mausoleum of tomb of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, brothers of Imam Reza. The shrine is huge. The walls was made of pieces of the glasses that reflex lights of big chandeliers. The effect is striking. The entrance fee is 200 000 IRR. If you are lucky you can visit the complex on your own but probably free of charge guide will assist you. It not bad to visit the shrine with the guide. You will be told a lot of interesting facts and stories about shrine and Imam Reza and his brothers. The disadvantages are limited time for visiting the shrine and you are not allowed to visit all buildings of the complex.
Tomb of Hafez. Hafez is one of the most famous Persian poet. A lot of Iranian people visit his tomb. They pay respect him by praying and reading his poems. It is extraordinary experience to watch young and old people gather around the tomb and reading loudly poems. The entrance fee is 200 000 IRR.
Karim Khan Castle looks outside majestically. You have to pay 150 000 IRR to go inside. You can do it when you have plenty of time.
Bagh-e Eram (200 000 IRR) is a beautiful garden. I think you should visit at least one of gardens of Shiraz. In my opinion Bagh-e Eram is the best but you can also go to House & Garden (150 000 IRR). However my favourite garden is located at Anvari street. It is free of charge but you must tell a guard that you go to tea shop or restaurant. You can relax there and enjoy a cup of tea.
Quarn Gate – you will see it on the way to Persopolis. Don't go there by purpose.
Don't miss local bazaar where you can admire handmade items an carpets. You can also visit Masjed-e Vakil, located next to the bazaar.
Try delicious pasta ice-creams. It is very Iranian desert.
Persepolis must be the number one on your short list. The ancient city visit with tour operator. It takes half a day and cost 30 USD. Transport, guide and water are included in the price. If you are not an expert of ancient Persia the guide will be necessary. He tells you the fascinating history of Persopolis and tries to rebuild in the magnificent palaces in your imagination. You will be given enough time to take pictures or visit local museum as well.
Naqsh-e Rustam is ancient necropolis with 4 tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings e.g. Darius the Great. Ancient rock relief’s commemorate the kings and were made next to the tomb. The guide tell you stories of the most important Persian kings.
Hamadan is good starting point to visit Alisadr cave and Bisotun. But first we had a long and challenging journey from Shiraz to Hamadan. We took a domestic flight from Shiraz to Tehran. The plane ticket cost 1 900 000 IRR and this is standard price. The flight was very short, 1,15 h and we were given drinks and food. European airlines provide only water at short distances. We went to Terminal-e Jonoub from domestic airport by underground. The bus cost 230 000 IRR to Hamadan. All journey took c.a. 9 hours. You can take direct bus from Shiraz to Hamadan but it takes c.a. 18 hours. Taxi should cost c.a. 40 000 IRR from bus terminal to Ordibehesht hotel. Our accommodation is not acceptable, double room without bathroom and breakfast cost 800 000 IRR.
We spent in Hamadan two evenings. There are some attractions in the city but they are not striking but generally people are very friendly and city is very nice. Go down the street and enjoy local bazaar, morals, parks and local restaurants. Please eat local desert, ice-creams with fresh carrot juice.
We rented a taxi to get to Alisadr cave for half a day. It cost 700 000 IRR. Theoretically there is public transport, mini van, from Hamadan to Alisadr but it goes when the van is full. It takes hours to collect passengers. It is much better to take a taxi of taxi khatteh (share taxi).
The cave is very expensive. The entrance fee is 700 000 IRR or 25 USD. Pay in local currency. Alisadr is the biggest water cave in the world. In my opinion it is event worth 50 USD to visit it. There are 3 stages of visiting. First we go very slowly by small boats. Don't worry you don't need to row. The boats are connected by string. The first one is pedalo. The guide and a volunteer make the boats moving by power of their legs. The boats are moving very slowly and tourists may enjoy breathtaking view of the cave. The second stage is a 2 km walk on wood platform. Nobody makes you hurry. Enjoy beautiful views as long as you want. The last stage is a boat again. It takes about 2-3 hours to visit one of the best attraction in Iran. By the way a guide book of Bradt mentions about it in 2 sentences.
Bistotun Inscription is UNESCO Heritage site. The inscription was founded in 500 years B.C. and commemorate great victory of Darius the Great. We went to Bisotun form Hamadan and it was mistake. The best starting point is Kermanshah, situated c.a. 30 km from Bisotun. You can visit Kermanshah as well.
We took a taxi to local bus terminal (30 000 IRR) and we had to wait about 1 hour to collect passengers. The trip was not very comfortable but friendly and talkative Iranians made it very nice.
Ancient site is huge and entrance fee is 200 000 IRR. There are a few attraction you can't miss.
Hercules statue – the great hero is completely naked. Vandals cut the head off the statue to sell it abroad. Luckily they were captured and the head was fixed to the corp. Other stupid people destroyed Hercules' genitals.
Hunter's cave is the oldest site of the complex. The cave was inhabited 40 000 years ago.
Inscriptions and relief of Mithradates II i Gotarzes II were founded in 100 B.C.
More information about ancient sites you can find here:
If you want to come to Hamadan you must go to bus stop next to petrol station. Buses stops only on demand. You will wait c.a. 30-45 minutes. The VIP bus ticket cost 150 000 IRR to Hamadan.
This is a list of hotels/hostels you may sleep.