The land of four seasons
Unfairly maligned in the modern era, Iran is the site of one of the oldest civilizations in the world and a land of boundless wonder, breathtaking cultural monuments, and stunning natural scenery. As the historical seat of the mighty Achaemenid Empire, Iran is home to some of the most stunning archaeological sites in the world, and its famously hospitable people will always open their doors to weary travellers. Add to the mix delicious Iranian cuisine and stupendously beautiful destinations like Shiraz, Isfahan, and Kish Island, and you’ll be asking yourself why you’d neglected to book a group or individual trip to the Land of Four Seasons for so long!
Iran, what an amazing surprise. People told me before about the local hospitality and the cuisine. And they were right! I truly enjoyed every minute from our trip through Iran. And what made it most special? The people!judith (The netherlands)
Whilst Isfahan is not the official capital of Iran, it is undoubtedly its cultural one – and was indeed the capital of Persia more than once. Home to countless minarets, mosques, covered bridges, and majestic boulevards, Isfahan is renowned not just across Iran but the world over for its storied history and striking Perso-Islamic architecture. Isfahan also sports one of the largest city squares in the world (Naqsh-e Jahan Square) and no small number of caravanserais, bazaars, hammams, and even Zoroastrian temples. It’s not hard to see why the Iranians say that “Isfahan is half the world”.
Iranians pride themselves on their deeply ingrained sense of hospitality, and it’s essential in Iran to treat strangers as honored guests. It is, indeed, something of a status symbol to treat one’s guests in as warm and friendly a manner as possible, and you’ll find that many historical residences in Iran have large and ornate guest rooms set aside, specifically designed to make guests feel as comfortable and welcome as possible.
This means that, in Iran, you’ll often be invited to the homes of average Iranians, and whilst there you can expect to be pampered and treated like royalty!
The city of gardens and poets, Shiraz may not be one of the larger Iranian cities but it certainly ranks among the most ancient and beautiful settlements to be found in the country. Shiraz has been a center for the arts since the 13th century, and under the encouragement of its rulers, many scholars and artists called Shiraz home which led to a proliferation of poetry and art.
Shiraz is also visually stunning due to the ubiquity of fruit trees and gardens throughout the city, and no trip to Shiraz is complete without visiting the spectacular Eram Garden.
Capital of the province of the same name, Yazd is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sports stunningly unique architecture due to its inhospitable desert surroundings. Nicknamed the “City of Windcatchers”, Yazd is renowned for its delicious Persian cotton candy, legendary silk weavers, and abundance of Zoroastrian fire temples.
For many, the northwest region of Iran is a big unknown area. However, this is the area that is filled with history, the Caspian Sea coast, ski resorts, and dreamy mountain villages like Kandovan. The main city is Tabriz, a vibrant city with close links with the nearby countries of Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In the summer people come here to cool down from the summer heat, in the winter time they come here to ski. Travel here yourself and let the northwest surprise you.
Home to one of the world’s oldest civilisations, Iran has existed in some shape or form since the 4th millennium BCE, when the Elamite Kingdoms were formed. It was unified into a single, recognisably Persian sovereign state by the Medes in the seventh century BCE, and culminated in one of the greatest empires the earth has ever seen in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Greater established the Achaemenid Empire – the largest empire the world had ever seen at that time, which at its zenith reached from the Balkans in Europe to the Indus Valley in the east.
The region later fell to Alexander the Great’s army and was divided into several Hellenistic states, eventually rebelling against Western rule and reorganising into the Parthian (later the Sassanid) Empire. This empire would be a major power in the Near East for several centuries more.
In the 7th Century CE Iran was Islamised, and became a major cultural centre for the nascent religion. Iranian art, culture and philosophy was spread far and wide during the Golden Age of Islam, and Iran would eventually rise to the status of a major world power by the 18th Century. In the 20th Century, Iran would be subject to US meddling that they emphatically rejected with the overthrow of the US-backed Shah and the installation of the Islamic Republic.