Iran is one of the cradles of our civilizations: the Persian Empire shaped the early history of mankind. It is famous for its craftsmanship, its architecture, tile work, its unparalleled Persian carpets and literature to name a few areas. No wonder that nowadays the level of education is so high.
Like so often when we talk about our traveling the question “Isn’t it dangerous to travel there?” pops up. Iran was no exception, on the contrary! Iran has a reputation of supporting terrorism, the land of fanatic ayatollahs where women are forced under the chador, not to mention the endless media coverage about Iran’s nuclear program. We did not believe a minute that it would be dangerous, just the opposite. And it proved to be one of the safest countries we have traveled.
During our two weeks travel through Iran in April 2014 we discovered an amazing country, far away from the clichÉs. What we found were fabulous cultural treasures, probably the friendliest people we have ever met, a highly modern society, and… a country very easy and safe to travel, even though it is still really Off The Beaten Track.
- The people - Iranians simply redefine friendliness and hospitality!
- Esfahan - with its stunning Islamic architecture, many of those jewels frame the square Maydan-e-Imam; the string of so very green parks and Julfa, the Armenian Quarter that invites for strolls, day and night
- Qom, Iran’s (second) Vatican - Both Fatima’s Holy Shrine and Jamkaran Mosque are spectacular. And no, this city is not THAT conservative…
- Persepolis and the tombs of the Achaemenidean Kings Cyrius, Darius & Xerxes
- The diversity of highlights in and around Yazd, a place where you should plan enough time
- Visiting traditional houses in Kashan
- The Bazaar of Shiraz
- Amazing opportunities for photographers: Iranians are eager to pose for photos, even with complete strangers; astonishing architecture; illuminated buildings in the evening
What Will We Especially Remember?
- Getting our picture taken with groups of students (mostly girls) at every place we visited. We had never been so high in demand!
- Being approached by complete (very friendly) strangers on the street, on buses, trains who would greet us, ask about our home country and sometimes involve us in lengthy conversations providing a great insight into the every day life of Iranians
- In public Iranian women wear a chador or a “Manteau” (a short, light frock that can be very colorful). In northern Teheran and in Esfahan women sometimes looked stunning by the way they dressed!
- Cab drivers who turned into friendly guides, in Esfahan and in Qom. We also had those who overcharged us, big city boys in Teheran, but that was an absolute exception.
- If shoes are an important part of a woman’s outfit in the western world, it is the headscarf and the purse in Iran. Surprisingly though many elegantly dressed women wear sport shoes.
- Iran is no party destination (you cannot legally purchase alcohol and clubs do not exist) like Southeast Asia, where young people travel in throngs. In Iran they are the very exception, even among the few (who) tourists travel independently. The majority of the tour groups are made up of retirees.
All in all, this trip was fairly easy to organize, especially considering how few people travel to Iran individually. The vast majority of tourists travel with an organized tour. Organizing a Visa was straightforward. Iran is very easy and safe to travel. The main question that arose before departure was what kind of clothes Heidi should take. Actually, as it turned out we spent way too many thoughts on this subject. Funnily, all the female tourists we talked to had worried about that as well. Quite easy actually: baggy pants, a shirt that covers your hips and bum, sleeves should reach to the elbow, very little cleavage, very short scarf - otherwise most of it is wrapped around your neck and drives you crazy, especially in the heat. You are set, not matter where, in rural areas or in urban areas!
All in all, we strongly recommend overcoming prejudices against this beautiful country and going there soon, before tourism has picked up dramatically and things have changed in depth.