Dream vacations: 12 most unique travel destinations in Iran

June 12, 2021 - 20:48

TEHRAN – Embracing 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran is an amazingly underrated country with an immense history, sociable people, and magnificent architecture.

However, the grandeur of this country is rarely shown in the mass media; it is sadly always buried underneath footages that only reflect the world of politics. What is not reflected through is the beauty of its landscapes, the details of its striking architecture, the hospitality of the locals, and so much more.

Here is a selection of the most unique travel destinations in Iran:

Borj-e Azadi

Borj-e Azadi (Azadi Tower) is the most iconic landmark of Tehran and is undeniably worth a visit during your time in the Iranian capital. Completed in 1971, the structure has a very distinct style that merges traditional Persian architecture with modern influences ⁠— one can see this quite clearly by its big iwan arch that is covered with 8,000 pieces of white marble.

Azadi Square, where the tower sits, is very symbolic too: a lot of protests happened there during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it’s still a popular site for demonstrations today. Visitors can climb Azadi Tower using the elevator or stairs to get a nice view of the city from the top.

Imamzadeh Saleh

The beautiful Imamzadeh Saleh, also known as Tajrish Mosque, is where Saleh, the son of Musa al-Kadhim (AS) (the seventh Shia Imam) is laid to rest. The mosque boasts some truly stunning tile work on the minarets and dome, and the interior is decorated with brilliant mirror work, something that’s quite common in Iranian shrines.

Visitors can also stop by the lively Tajrish Bazaar nearby for some souvenirs and more glimpses of local life.

Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh Shrine, whose name translates to “King of the Light”, is one of the holiest places in Shiraz. It is truly a priceless sight. The interior of the shrine is even more spectacular than the exterior facade; as you step inside, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredibly intricate mirrorwork covering the walls and ceilings, sparkling and shimmering like diamonds.

There is an interesting story behind this name: in roughly 900 CE, a traveler followed a mysterious light he saw from a distance and ended up stumbling upon an illuminated grave. The body of an important Muslim figure was found inside, and a tomb was subsequently built to house that grave. As time went on, the site expanded and went on to become an important pilgrimage destination for Shia Muslims. Today, after many rounds of renovations, it’s a structure admired by tourists from all over the world.

Eram Garden

Shiraz is not just filled with stunning mosques and shrines, it is also home to one of the most beautiful Persian gardens in Iran ⁠— the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Eram Garden.

Visitors are surrounded by over 45 species of plants, 200 species of roses, and countless fruit trees, including a famous 3,000 -year-old cypress tree, and sound of birds chirping and the fresh smell of blossoms all around.

No one knows when exactly Eram Garden was built, but it is said to have been completed in the 13th century during the Seljuk era. It was then passed down and restored multiple times before being handed to the University of Shiraz, which owns the garden today.

Maharloo Lake

Maharloo Lake, also known as the Pink Lake due to the amount of red tide in its salty water, is just a one-hour drive from Shiraz and worth the excursion if you want to witness fascinating natural wonder surrounding the city.

The best time to visit this salt lake is between July and September, when the water from the lake is more likely to evaporate, making the pink hues more intense. For the same reasons, the lake is likely to be less pink during the rainy season (April to June). Do not forget your camera, as this is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the country.

Naqsh-e Rostam

Only a 10-minute drive from the UNESCO-registered Persepolis is Naqsh-e Rostam, the royal necropolis of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550 – 330 BC). The site is home to four majestic rock-cut tombs and several majestic bas-relief carvings.

Naqsh-e Rostam, meaning “Picture of Rostam” is named after a mythical Iranian hero which is most celebrated in Shahnameh and Persian mythology. Back in time, natives of the region had erroneously supposed that the carvings below the tombs represent depictions of the mythical hero.

One of the wonders of the ancient world, Naqsh-e Rostam embraces four tombs are where Persian Achaemenid kings are laid to rest, believed to be those of Darius II, Artaxerxes I, Darius I, and Xerxes I (from left to right facing the cliff), although some historians are still debating this.

Beneath the funerary chambers are dotted with seven Sassanian era (224–651) bas-reliefs cut into the cliff depict vivid scenes of imperial conquests and royal ceremonies; signboards below each relief give a detailed description in English.


You can start your journey in Kerman by visiting this massive adobe fortress; the magnificent Arg-e-Rayen. Constructed in the Sassanid era (224 – 651 CE), this majestic structure rising gloriously out of the desert will leave visitors in absolute awe! It is a must-see during your time in Iran!

The fortress is also really well-preserved despite the natural disasters it had to endure. It’s said that around 5,000 people lived in this citadel up until roughly 150 years ago, and the current structure you see has been built over the ruins of an older fortress.

The fortress was divided into three parts: a section for the kings, a section for the lords and the wealthy, and a section for the ordinary people. Walls and towers separated each of these areas. It was well-situated on a major trade route and was, therefore, a popular hub for caravans and merchants. There were also a lot of workshops here with people making guns, knives, and swords. Today, you can still see some of them by the entrance.

Kaluts of Lut Desert

The gem of the southeastern Kerman province is undoubtedly the magnificent Lut Desert, a UNESCO site, which is home to some truly ethereal clay-rock formations known as Kaluts. Many visitors highly recommend camping overnight there to fully soak in the magic of this desert.

The unique and incredible shapes of the Kaluts were formed by erosion due to strong wind and water. Some of these rock structures are easily climbable, and one can get a fantastic view of the desert from the top.

Lut is one of the hottest places on Earth ⁠— its highest registered temperature is 70° C (158° F)! For that reason, it is best to visit during the spring or autumn. If you go during the summer, try to be there in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.

Amir Chakhmaq complex

The stunning Amir Chakhmaq complex is one of the biggest gems in the UNESCO-designated city of Yazd. The complex houses a majestic mosque, a bathhouse, a mausoleum, and several cafes and restaurants.

There is also a bazaar behind the square where visitors can try some local liver kebabs. Having a relaxed atmosphere, it is a great place to sit down on a bench, people-watch, and admire the captivating Amir Chakhmaq mosque.

Amir Chakhmaq mosque is the star of the square and a symbol of Yazd. From the outside, this three-storied structure looks very different from other mosques in Iran; its facade consists of several symmetrical sunken alcoves — a truly unique sight.

Towers of Silence

About ten km away from the mosques and adobe houses of Yazd lies another site filled with history and tradition. The Towers of Silence (also known as dakhmas) were where Zoroastrians performed their sky burial rituals up until 40 years ago.

Zoroastrians believed that when people die, their bodies could be contaminated by demons and made impure. So in their tradition, they attempted to purify the corpses by laying them in three concentric circles on top of the Towers of Silence.

The bodies will then slowly decompose while being picked apart by desert vultures. The bones were moved into ossuaries inside the towers. This tradition dates back to the early 9th century CE, but in the 1970s, the use of these towers was banned in the country, so Zoroastrians started using other burial methods.

Khaju Bridge

One of the most relaxing things to do in Isfahan is to visit the stunning Khaju Bridge in the evening. This centuries-old bridge lights up splendidly in the dark, exuding an incredibly magical and peaceful vibe. It is also the perfect place for photography and a glimpse into local life in Iran, as it is a popular gathering spot for families and teenagers.

The bridge is also decorated with gorgeous tile work and paintings, and there is a pavilion in the middle where Shah Abbas II (the 7th Safavid king) used to hang out and admire the beauty of the Zayanderud River beneath.

Mohammed Helal shrine

Some a 20-minute drive from the heart of the oasis city of Kashan lies the shrine of Mohammed Helal, a breathtaking hidden gem that most visitors do not know about. This shrine displays some true gems of Islamic architecture, including intricate mosaic tiles, a large blue-tiled dome, and glittering minarets.

An amazing thing about this place is that you are likely to be the only tourist around in one of the most beautiful places in Iran, which is quite rare given that most attractions in this country are quite crowded. The people working at this shrine are also very friendly and will offer to help guide you around.


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