Ancient towns that date back to the Silk Road era, elaborate mosques that beam out the evocative call to prayer and modern cities where fashion-conscious youth rub shoulders with conservative elders – it’s time to demystify the misconceptions about Iran! Exquisite palaces, domed mosques, brilliant bazaars and gracious people all make Iran a true travel gem. But don’t believe us… come and experience the splendour of Iran yourself.
Iran Tours & Travel
All our Iran trips
Iran trip reviews
Our Iran trips score an average of 4.75 out of 5 based on 85 reviews in the last year.
Iran Adventure , May 2016
We do not generally travel on organised tours however the small group and our excellent guide made this a trip we will remember for a very long time. Visiting Iran was a remarkable experience - the people were so friendly and welcoming, the scenery varied, and mosques exquisite and the ice-cream the best in the world (saffron and pistachio at the top of the list).
Review submitted 22 Jun 2016
Iran Adventure , April 2016
A great way to see a great country, made even better by our exceptional tour leader, Nadia.
Review submitted 17 Jun 2016
Articles on Iran
How to dress for respect
Posted on Wed, 11 Jun 2014
Follow these tips on how to respect the local culture in the way you dress and you are more likely to feel comfortable and be welcomed into communities.Read more
Why has Iran got people talking?
Posted on Fri, 25 Apr 2014
Who better to ask about travelling to Iran than a local? Reza Poorhoseini has lead Intrepid trips for 8 years and shares his local knowledge and travel tips.Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport, which usually have less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Iran, you may find yourself travelling by:
Step into the exotic shoes of a Silk Road merchant while staying in a caravanserai in the desert. Over the centuries, little has changed about this experience.
Carrying more than a million passengers a day, the trains of Tehran are fast, efficient and affordable. Have fun getting around the city like a local.
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Iran you may find yourself staying in a:
Spend an unforgettable night sleeping in a communal tent, just as local nomads have done for centuries.
Travelling to Iran Podcast
Travelling to Iran with Intrepid is a 30-minute interview with Intrepid travellers who share their experiences after recently travelling to Iran. This podcast will provide tips and insights about travel in Iran including dress code for men and women, considerations when organising your visa, issues with money exchange and accessing cash, as well as our highlights.
At a glance
|Capital city:||Tehran (population 7.2 million)|
|Time zone:||(GMT+03:30) Tehran|
|Electricity:||Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)|
Best time to visit Iran
The climate of Iran is mostly arid or semi-arid with a subtropical climate along the Caspian Coast. Generally, the hottest month is July, the coldest months are December and January, and the wettest month is January. Tourists visit Iran during the summer months (June - September) for the sunshine and regional festivals, and during the winter months (November - March) for skiing. So no matter what time you choose to go, Iran is a great place to travel all year round.
Culture and customs
Although Iran's population is largely youthful and urban-centric, rich Persian artistic traditions are alive in contemporary Iran, with much of the elaborate architecture, cuisine, handicrafts and popular poetry of Iran having their origins in ancient Persia. Iranian hospitality is world-famous; guests are often touched by the sincerity, politeness and generosity of spirit of their Iranian hosts. Accepting tea and food is considered polite if offered, as is acting graciously and modestly while visiting someone's home.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
With access to some of the world's best produce, prepared following age-old ancient culinary traditions, foodies will love travelling through Iran.
Things to try in Iran
1. Dried Fruit & Nuts
Dried apricots, prunes, dates, raisins and figs can be bought from shops, street stalls and bazaars and make wonderful, healthy snacks. Also, you'll be able to find a wide variety of nuts sold by the bag - pistachios, almonds and walnuts are usually the best picks.
2. Persian Ice Cream
Flavoured with orange blossom, rose water, honey, nuts or saffron, Persian ice cream is different to western-style desserts. Often made with chunks of cream and wedged between two waffles, don’t miss the chance to try this type of sweet treat.
This hearty Persian stew can be found everywhere in Iran and has many variations. Meat eaters will love the split-pea and lamb combination while the eggplant, mushroom and spinach options will delight vegetarians.
Geography and environment
History and government
The country now known as Iran was known as Persia for hundreds of years and has been occupied by people for many centuries. Archaeological evidence suggests that people populated the land here as long as 7,000 years ago, with civilisations and societies developing as the surrounding nations and areas evolved. Persia's fate was very much tied up with the destinies of neighbouring countries, so as empires rose and fell (and leaders came and went), Persia was affected by invasions and confrontations with the Greeks, Mongols, Romans, Arabs, Turks and others.
Under the reign of Darius the Great and Cyrus the Great (during the Achaemenid Empire), the Persian Empire expanded to be the largest empire of the time. During this period, coins were first introduced as a form of currency, building works on Persepolis began and a system of far-reaching highways and canals were built. Islam was brought to Persia around 637 AD; the population slowly adopted the religion and by the 11th century, the majority of the population was practising Islam. Despite adopting the religion of the conquerors, Persian culture, style and art was largely preserved, which led to the 'Islamic Golden Age' - a time where Persian literature, philosophy, science and art blossomed (750-1258).
This time of creativity and prosperity was brought to an end by the Mongols, who invaded in 1219. This invasion proved devastating, with a monumental loss of culture occurring due to the widespread demolition of infrastructure, libraries and mosques. Famine and violence accounted for a steep decline in population, which was worsened by the arrival of the Plague during the 14th century. Persia was in better shape by the 16th century, with the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736) establishing the modern nation-state of Iran.
The Great Persian Famine of 1870 and 1871 accounted for up to 2 million deaths in the region, but Iran's fortunes changed with the discovery of oil in 1908. This discovery also increased interest from other nations wishing to capitalise on this precious commodity. Iran endured many changes in leadership due to invasions and coups during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, leading to the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic Revolution) took place between 1978 and 1979 and resulted in the birth of the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Khomeini served as leader until his death in 1989, after enduring the Iran-Iraq war, which was waged between 1980 and 1988. The Iraqi use of chemical warfare during this time caused international fury and lead to the deaths of many of Iran's people. More recently, Iran has been lead by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since 2005.
Top 10 Beautiful Buildings of Iran
1. Qavam House
This elegant, traditional house located in Shiraz was built by the Qavam family in the mid 19th century but is now open to the public as a museum. The fine paintings and mirrored porch are the highlights, but the peaceful gardens, pools and courtyards are also worthy of attention.
2. Abbasian House
This large historic house located in Kashan was built in the late 18th century. Featuring several serene courtyards, highly detailed wall carvings, peaceful pools and arched doorways, this fine example of Kashani residential architecture is now preserved as a museum.
3. Tomb of Hafez
While not the largest or most elaborate of places, Shiraz’s Tomb of Hafez possesses a simple, organic beauty. The pavilion, memorial hall and surrounding gardens are well-preserved examples of Iranian architecture - a fitting memorial to one of Persia’s most loved mystical poets.
4. Jameh Mosque of Yazd
This exceptional example of Azari-style Persian architecture has stood in Yazd for centuries. People come to admire the blue-green tiles, deep-blue interior and grand arches, but it's mainly known for its grand minarets, which are among the tallest in Iran.
5. Golestan Palace
Visiting this divine palace complex is a must-do for visitors to Tehran. Colourful mosaics, decorated doors, dazzling mirrors, intricate marble carvings, lattice windows, elaborate chandeliers, bespoke furniture and grand paintings combine in a sea of regal brilliance. Don’t miss it!
6. Khaneh Tabatabaei-ha
Also known as 'The Tabatabaeis’ House', this gorgeous building is another fine example of traditional Persian architecture. Detailed wall murals, ornate stained-glass windows, reflective pools and well-manicured gardens create an atmosphere of opulence and grandeur.
7. The Zoroastrian Complex of Amir Chakmak
This unique three-tiered wonder of Yazd possesses beautiful order and symmetry. When lit up at night, its many arched alcoves provide a stunning spectacle to view and capture on camera.
This is the ancient crown jewel of Iran. The buildings of Persepolis may no longer be in as good a condition as they were thousands of years ago, but they are still full of beauty and mystery.
9. Imam Mosque
Previously known as the Shah Mosque, this UNESCO World Heritage site is considered a masterpiece. Featuring a glittering, tiled dome, walls of skilful calligraphy, stunning minarets and spectacular mosaic work throughout, this is one of the world's most beautiful buildings.
This stunning mausoleum is the final resting place of many of Iran's celebrated poets, scientists and mystics. Built in the 1970s, it's a great example of contemporary architecture that manages to remain true to its cultural roots.
With ancient bazaars, handicraft centres and modern boutiques, there are a huge variety of ways to shop in Iran - from bargaining with a bazaar vendor to buying fixed-price items from a museum gift shop.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Iran
Festivals and Events in Iran
Also known as Persian New Year, this is one of the most important traditional holidays on the Iranian calendar. Heralding the advent of spring, this celebration with Zoroastrianism roots is a time of feasting with family, celebrating in nature, springcleaning the home and purchasing flowers and new clothes for the New Year. Many different types of rituals are performed during this time and can vary from family to family, area to area.
Ramadan and Eid
The ninth and holiest of months in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is observed by most in Iran and is thought to be a time of spiritual rejuvenation. For this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid marks the end of fasting with three days of feasting and celebration.
FAQs on Iran
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 issued in a two-step process:
1. An authorisation code for your visa must be issued by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
2. A visa for your passport must then be obtained at an Iranian Embassy once the authorisation code has been issued.
For your nearest Iranian Embassy please check the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: www.mfa.gov.ir. Please note your nearest embassy might be outside your home country.
Authorisation code/Visa Approval number and Iran Invite Number all have the same meaning but can be displayed as different names on different forms.
Please note the Iranian Embassy also now require a letter of authorisation to be submitted with your visa application form. Please speak to your agent to arrange this.
Step 1- How to apply for your authorisation code:
A visa authorisation application form will be sent to you immediately upon booking. Please promptly complete and return this to our sales team.
If you are arriving early or staying on afterwards this needs to be written on your application form. Please note due to government regulations citizens from Britain, Canada, USA, Colombia, India, Somalia, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan can only stay one day before and/or one day after the trip start date.
As you are technically the responsibility of our Intrepid operator for your entire stay, only Intrepid-booked activities/accommodation are able to be nominated as part of this visa application.
If you do not receive this form at the time of booking please enquire with your agent.
For U.S, Canadian and British passport holders only, all Iran authorisation code applications must be accompanied with a detailed resume.
This must be a document that lists the passenger’s education and employment history – similar to what you would prepare for a job application. Due to heightened security measures, the name of the passengers' father and his employment history is also required.
Return the visa authorisation form together with a scanned copy of the first page of your passport and your confirmed flight details via email to your booking agent immediately. Please ensure all details are correct before sending. Any errors may result in your visa being denied or delayed. It is vital that you provide us with an email contact at the time of booking.
Our local operator in Iran will submit all visa authorisation code applications to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2 months prior to the travel date. Visa authorisation codes generally take up to 3 weeks depending on your nationality (this process can be much longer for Canadian, British and US citizens). Important note: our local operator can only apply for the authorisation code from 2 months prior to departure to ensure that the visa will be valid.
When approved, your visa authorisation code will be faxed to the Iranian embassy processing your visa (nominated on the authorisation form). Your booking agent will notify you of your authorisation code. Once the code is received please apply for your visa directly with the nominated Iranian embassy (see Step 2 for further instructions).
Step 2 - How to obtain your visa stamp:
Once you have received your emailed authorisation code and letter, immediately apply for your visa with your nominated Iranian embassy. You will need to provide a visa application form (usually you can download it from the embassy website), your passport, the visa fee, photos and insurance policy. Some consulates may have different requirements. You must check this before submitting your application. The cost of an Iran visa is approximately US$110 depending on your nationality. Please check with your nominated embassy for visa costs. We recommend all women provide a photo with their hair covered by a headscarf (not a hat). If you wish to personally collect your visa at the designated embassy you must also arrive wearing a headscarf. In order to collect your visa from the consulate, you must carry your travel insurance policy that covers you whilst in Iran. In our experience the turnaround time for your visa to be stamped in your passport and returned to your home address is normally within 3-4 weeks, but can take longer.
Please check with your nominated Iranian embassy for their opening times and processing times for visas (some embassies will say that it takes up to a month). Please note that Iran embassies and consulates worldwide may only open for 3 or 4 days a week and have very limited opening hours. If possible, visiting the embassy personally can speed up the process (even to one day). Visas are valid for three months from the time of issue. We will do our best to secure your authorisation code, however the final decision rests with the government of Iran, therefore we cannot guarantee when and if a visa will be granted.
Please check that the embassy issues you with a tourist visa and not a business visa (the stamp in your passport must state that it is a tourist visa). If you are issued with a business visa, hotels will charge you business traveller rates, which are often far higher than the tourist rates.
While not common, there are occasions where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejects a visa application for a variety of reasons (usually unknown to us). Unfortunately we have no control over the success of your application and have little recourse if it is rejected. It is not uncommon for Iran authorisation codes to be submitted very close to the actual time of travel. Obviously this can be an anxious period but again unfortunately we have little authority to speed up the process.
A visa will be flatly refused if your passport contains evidence of travel to Israel. Note: this is not confined to just an Israeli stamp in your passport. You will be refused an Iranian visa if there’s an Egyptian entry or exit stamp from the Egyptian/Israeli border (at Taba or Rafah) or a Jordanian entry or exit stamp from the Jordanian/Israeli border (at Wadi Araba near Aqaba, Sheikh Hussein bridge or King Hussein bridge, otherwise known as the Allenby bridge) in your passport. Even without having an Israeli stamp in your passport, these exit or entry stamps prove that you have visited Israel and entry into Iran will not be allowed.
Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing an Islamic headscarf, long sleeves, covered shoes and a loose fitting skirt or loose long top and pants may be refused entry into the country. Men must also be conservatively dressed, wearing long trousers upon arrival, or they too may be refused entry.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry usually closes over the Iranian New Year period (approx 12 March to 2 April) and will not receive visa applications over this time. Please have your visa application in well before this date.
Please note that US, British and Canadian passport holders will need to book this trip at least 2 months before departure as this is the length of time it takes to get the visa processed for these nationalities.
In addition, the following travel restriction applies: Passengers of the above nationalities must visit Iran on a guided tour and must pre-book all extra accommodation (up to one night pre accommodation and one night post accommodation only) and airport transfers with the same operator. Additional sightseeing can only be booked through Urban Adventures on either the day before or after the trip start/finish date. Return airport transfers are mandatory and they will only be issued with a visa authorisation code once all services are confirmed and only for the exact time they have booked the relevant services. Passengers of this nationality must also remain the in the trip leaders company at all times whilst in Iran.
Please note that any cancellations after the authorisation code paperwork has been lodged, will incur a $100USD cancellation fee . This is to cover the application lodgement fees.
Additionally, if for whatever reason, passengers need to apply for a second authorisation code, the above fee may also be applicable.
Pot of tea in a tea house = 4,000-6,000 IRR
Short taxi ride = 5,000 IRR
Meal in a budget restaurant = 20,000 IRR
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 12 Martyrdom of Imam Reza
Jan 24 Birthday of Prophet Mohammad
Feb 10 Victory of Islamic Revolution
Mar 19 Nationalism of Oil Industry Day
Mar 21-23 Nowruz (Persian New year)
May 23 Birthday Imam Ali
Jun 6 Shab-e-Miraj (Night of Ascension)
June 24 Birthday Imam Mahdi
Jul 29 Martyrdom Imam Ali
Aug 8 Eid-e Fitr (Ramadan ends)
Sep 1 Martyrdom imam Jafar sadegh
Oct 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
Oct 23 Eid al-Ghadeer
Nov 4 Islamic New Year
Nov 12 Tassoua
Nov 13 Ashura
Dec 24 Arbaeen
Many Islamic holidays and festivals are timed according to lunar phases, so these dates are an estimate only. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Iran/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
|Iran Awakening||Shirin Ebadi and Azadeh Moaveni|
|Rooftops of Tehran||Mahbod Seraji|
|The Septembers of Shiraz||Dalia Sofer|
|My Father's Notebook: A Novel of Iran||Kader Abdolah|
|In the Walled Gardens||Anahita Firouz|
|Understanding Iran||William R Polk|