Witness the ancient stepped pyramid of Choqa Zanbil
Considered the best surviving example of Elamite architecture, Choqa Zanbil is an immense, stepped ziggurat that was constructed from red bricks around 1250BC. Explore the paved courtyards, underground tombs and sacrificial stones of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built to honour the great god Inshushinak in what was once a lush and fertile region.
Explore the cultural landscapes of Qeshm Island
The largest island in the Persian Gulf, Qeshm Island is home to traditional Bandari villages where women adorn their faces in tattoos and colourful masks. Stop in the traditional fishing village of Laft, explore the world’s longest known salt cave in the Qeshm Geopark and go diving on wrecks from the Iran-Iraq War.
Meet the locals at a chaykhaneh tea house
People watch and meet the locals while sipping tea in one of Iran’s chaykhaneh cafes. Much like bars in the west, they are a popular place for people from all walks of life to socialise in the evenings and smoke qalyan pipes, with many serving traditional Iranian snacks and dishes.
Photograph the mysterious “sand castles” in the desert of Kaluts
Eroded over thousands of years, the sand castle-like rock formations of the Kaluts appear like towers and forts within the vast Dasht-e Lut desert. Visit in the early morning or late afternoon when they are illuminated by the low-angled light, creating a magical photographic setting.
Spend a night in a caravanserai
Built to promote trade along ancient routes, caravanserais were designed to accommodate both merchants and their camels. Some have been beautifully restored to offer a romantic glimpse into the life of a Persian trader, with the 400-year old Zein-o-din Caravanserai one of the most atmospheric.
Go shopping at the Tabriz bazaar
Shop for Persian carpets, herbal remedies and traditional Azari hats in the immense covered bazaar of Tabriz. The labyrinthine lanes of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are divided into quarters that specialise in specific goods, with numerous caravanserais and magnificent domed halls to explore.
Meet Khamseh nomads in the Zagros Mountains
Overnight in a traditional nomad tent in the Bavanat Valley where the Khamseh people congregate from April to October. Learn about the traditional lifestyles of this confederation of Arab, Nafar, Baharlu, Inalu and Basseri tribes that have long earned a living through sheep herding by camel-back.
Ride camels in the oasis village of Garmeh
Surrounded by date palms, the mud village of Garmeh is a charismatic Iranian oasis and a great base for exploring the arid landscapes of Nakhlestan. Go camel trekking to the nearby hot springs or through the surrounding salt deserts, with the silence and serenity all part of the allure.
Explore the stepped village of Masuleh
Considered one of Iran’s most beautiful villages, Masuleh’s stepped, mud houses cling to a dramatic hillside in the far northwest of the country. Sip tea on one of the many terrace rooftops, shop for halva in the tiny bazaar and go hiking to explore the surrounding mountains.
Visit the Armenian monasteries in West Azerbaijan
Learn about Iran’s Armenian culture at the UNESCO-listed Armenian monasteries of West Azerbaijan. Witness the black and white stonework of the St. Thaddeus Monastery that has seen it nicknamed the “Black Church”, then admire the ancient, cross-designed architecture of the Chapel of Dzordzor.
Hike through the mountainous landscapes of the Alamut Valley
One of Iran’s most magnificent hiking destinations, the Alamut Valley is dotted with waterfalls, caves and raging rivers. It lies beneath the soaring peaks of the Alborz Mountains and is home to the Castles of the Assassins, a collection of medieval fortresses built by the Ismaili sect, one of the world’s most feared religious cultures.
Experience Iranian hospitality during an Islamic festival
Be invited into a family home or to a local mosque to experience the welcoming nature of Iranians and the unique etiquette of taarof. Whether it’s Friday prayers, breaking the Ramadan fast or celebrating Eid al-Adha, the warmth and politeness of Iranians is an art in itself.
Visit the mud citadels of Rayen and Bam
Famed for its date palms, the World Heritage-listed city of Bam is the largest adobe structure on earth, with its mud-brick buildings being meticulously rebuilt following an earthquake in 2003. Don’t miss a visit to the nearby citadel of Rayen to explore its mud-built ramparts that are believed to be more than 1,000 years old.