Iran

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.

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Iran Adventure

15 days from

Welcome to the hidden world of Iran. Travel to Tehran and witness the fusion of old and new, visit Esfahan, the Iranian...

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Iran trip reviews

Our Iran trips score an average of 4.78 out of 5 based on 9 reviews in the last year.

Iran Adventure, April 2014

Iran Adventure, May 2014

Articles on Iran

How to dress for respect

How to dress for respect

Posted on Wed, 11 Jun 2014 by Jane Crouch

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.

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Why has Iran got people talking?

Why has Iran got people talking?

Posted on Fri, 25 Apr 2014 by Sue Elliot

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

Transport

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:

Accommodation

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:

About Iran

At a glance

Trips Available: 1
Capital city: Tehran (population 7.2 million)
Population: 76.9 million
Language: Persian
Currency: IRR
Time zone: (GMT+03:30) Tehran
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Dialing code: +98

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.

Iran weather chart

Culture and customs

Ancient gymnastics
Being one of the oldest continuously inhabited civilisations in the world, modern-day Iranian culture is enriched by centuries of tradition. Years of trade, conquest and invasion have created a distinct culture with myriad influences from far and wide, resulting in an overriding national identity and culture rich in symbolism. Religion plays an important part in many aspects of Iranian society - the legal and educational systems, dress, marriage, architecture, the arts and the media are all affected. As Iran is an Islamic nation, visitors can expect to see the hallmarks of Islam throughout Iran; mosques, the call to prayer, strict dress codes and the observance of Ramadan are the most easily noticed, although there is a complex network of rules, customs and traditions at play every day.

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

Persian Ice Cream

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.

3. Khoresht

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

Working donkey
Sharing borders with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan, Iran is located in the south-west corner of Asia. The Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman provide shoreline in the north and south, and while Iran lacks a major river system, there are several small rivers and streams throughout the country. Much of Iran’s terrain is mountainous, with most of the population living in the basins, plateaus and plains. The deserts of Iran are mainly uninhabited with the exception of a few oases, while the major cities are quite modern with well-developed infrastructure and housing.

History and government

Ali Qapu, Grand Palace in Isfahan

Early History

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.

Recent History

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 Picks

Imam Mosque

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.

8. Persepolis

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.

10. Maqbaratoshoara

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.

Shopping

Bookshop

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

Nowruz

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

It's customary to tip service workers in Iran, so set aside small amounts for porters, local guides, waiters, drivers and cleaners.
You'll be able to access the internet in Iran's cities, with many major hotels and cafes having internet access. Expect little to no access in rural and remote areas.
Mobile phones from other parts of the world may not work in Iran, although it's possible to buy a low-cost prepaid SIM card in most of Iran's large cities.
Squat toilets are the most common variety in Iran, although flushable western-style toilets can be found in some tourist areas and hotels. Carry your own supply of toilet paper and soap, as these aren't always provided.
Street snack = 4,000 IRR
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
Tap water is considered safe to drink but due to the high mineral content, visitors should avoid drinking tap water which can cause stomach upsets. For environmental reasons, try to avoid drinking bottled water - ask your leader or hotel where access to filtered water can be found.
Iran is very much a cash economy. This means travellers can rarely use debit or credit cards or travellers cheques while in Iran. A handful of tourist-orientated shops accept credit cards; otherwise, cash is the main method of trade in Iran. US dollars and euros are the only hard currencies accepted at Iranian banks and money-changers. Having those notes changed into Iranian rials is a fairly simple exercise.
As with the question above, ATMs in Iran rarely accept foreign cards, so cash is the main form of currency. Bring US dollars and euros, which can be exchanged into local currency.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 11 Demise of Prophet Mohammad
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
IRAN: 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 of Iran website: www.mfa.gov.ir

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:
Please immediately fill in the visa authorisation form sent to you by our sales team at the time of booking. If you are arriving early or staying on afterwards this needs to be written on your application form. 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 don’t receive this form at the time of booking please enquire with your agent. We recommend your flight to Iran should be as close to the starting date as possible. We also recommend your flight dates should be changeable in case of delays at the embassy issuing the visa. Return the visa authorisation form together with a scanned copy of the first page of your passport via email to iran@intrepidtravel.com and pretrip@intrepidtravel.com immediately.
Please ensure all details are correct before sending. Any errors may result in your visa being denied or delayed. It’s vital that you provide us with an email contact at the time of booking. On occasions our local operator may contact you directly regarding the information provided for the authorisation code processing. Our local operator in Iran will process visa authorisation applications with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visa authorisation generally take 3-5 weeks depending on your nationality (up to two months for US citizens).

When approved, your visa authorisation code will be faxed to the Iranian embassy processing your visa (nominated on the authorisation form). Our Iranian operator will also notify you of your authorisation code via email. Once the code is received please apply for your visa directly with the nominated Iranian embassy (see Step 2 for further instructions). The process is complete once your passport is returned with the Iran visa stamped inside.

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’s rejected.It’s 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. If you haven’t received your authorisation code within 10 days of trip departure contact us to make alternative travel plans

Step 2 - How to obtain your visa stamp:
Once you have received your emailed authorisation code and leter from our local operator, immediately apply for your visa with your nominated Iranian embassy. You’ll 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 consulate may have different requirements that you must check out beforehand. The cost of an Iran visa varies between US$60-80 depending on your nationality. Please check with your nominated embassy for visa costs. For women we recommend they 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 a week, 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. If you have any questions regarding this process, please feel free to email iran@intrepidtravel.com.Important Visa Notes:

Please check that the embassy issues you with a tourist visa and not a business visa (the stamp in your passport must state that the visa is a tourist one). If you’re issued with a business visa, hotels will charge you the business travellers rates which are often far higher than the tourist rates.

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 actually having an Israeli stamp in your passport, these exit or entry stamps prove that you have visited Israel and entry into Iran will be disallowed.

Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing an Islamic headscarf, long sleeves, covered shoes and a loose fitting skirt or pants may be refused entry into the country (to avoid this problem bring a thin full-length raincoat with you if you choose to buy a manteau after you arrive). A manteau is a loose-fitting trench coat that comes down to just above your knees and is required by law to be worn by all women in Iran. 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 and airport transfers with the same operator. Return airport transfers are mandatory and they will only be issued with a visa authorization code once all services are confirmed and only for the exact time they have booked the relevant services. 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. The visa process for Iran and countries in Central Asia can be quite complicated and time consuming. We highly recommend that you use the services of a qualified visa agent for the process. Your booking agent can advise of a reputable service. Where to obtain your visa:
It is recommended that you state that you are obtaining your visa beforehand. This could be at any Embassy or Consulate of Iran that is convenient for you. UK citizens must provide fingerprints when collecting your Iran visa. We recommend that you obtain your visa Istanbul.

USEFUL INFORMATION FOR COMPLETING THE VISA FORM
Purpose of visit – Tourism
Name of Host: Intrepid Iran, Shiraz, Iran, Tel +989177142602.
Email: iran@intrepidtravel.com, info@uppersia.com
Your address & telephone number in Iran: - Parastoo Hotel, No 15 Sahid Mohamad Baig Alley, Jomhoori Avenue, Tehran. Tel: +98 21 667 08571.
How will you support yourself: - Please tick cash and travellers cheques and enter amount as at least £300 or US$400
Do you intend to enter Iran with a tour operator: - Yes, Dragoman, Camp Green, Debenham, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6LA Tel: +44 1728 861133.

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 Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Iran AwakeningShirin Ebadi and Azadeh Moaveni
Rooftops of TehranMahbod Seraji
The Septembers of ShirazDalia Sofer
My Father's Notebook: A Novel of IranKader Abdolah
In the Walled GardensAnahita Firouz
Understanding IranWilliam R Polk