After the nuclear deal: travel in Iran

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The deal lifts a wide range of sanctions on the country. If the economy starts developing as fast as expected, cash is bound to be poured into improving the tourism bedrocks: hotels, restaurants, transport, sports and adventure facilities. At long last, Iran’s airline industry will be able to replace its ancient planes, making the country’s huge span easier and safer to cover by air. Hopes are high that warmer diplomatic relations will translate to easier visa processes (not a minute too soon) and in future, even hitting the famous bazaars with an international bank card won’t be out of the question.

In other words, there’s about to be a brand new tourism heavyweight on the block. Iran has a huge amount to offer travellers, with highlights including ancient ruins, fabulously tiled palaces and dizzying mountain scenery, not to mention the famous hospitality – chatting over tea with people who are delighted at the prospect of welcoming a surge of visitors will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of a trip. Plan your journey around these top destinations.


Esfahan’s tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and iconic Islamic buildings deliver the city’s reputation as a living museum of traditional culture. Many of the top sights are in the sprawling Naqsh-e Jahan, one of the world’s largest public squares. It holds the Masjed-e Shah, a mosque covered in vibrant, blue-tiled mosaics and an absolute masterpiece of Safavid-era architecture. The Kakh-e Ali Qapu is also here, a six-storey palace with plenty to explore including an elevated terrace, throne room featuring original decoration, and a top-floor music room with stucco walls. Get a sense of the glories of the former capital of Persia by slowly crossing the historic bridges of the Zayandeh River at sunset – there’s a wonderful social scene along the riverbanks, especially on Fridays, when families boat, stroll and picnic in this scenic setting.

A relief of a lion attacking a deer on the walls of the Apadana Palace. Image by Getty/science Source/ Farrell GrehanA relief of a lion attacking a deer on the walls of the Apadana Palace. Image by Getty/Science Source/ Farrell Grehan


Magnificent Persepolis embodies ancient grandeur, with its monumental staircases, exquisite reliefs and imposing gateways. Dating back to around 520BC, it was developed by generations of rulers and became the ceremonial capital at the heart of an enormous empire, a showcase designed to awe visitors with its scale and beauty. The Apadana Palace is the grandest sight of all, with evocative bas-reliefs along the northern wall showing scenes of past splendour.

Shopping for spices in Tabriz. Image by Getty/Photolibrary/Paul NevinShopping for spices in Tabriz. Image by Getty/Photolibrary/Paul Nevin


Shoppers have been hitting the magnificent bazaar of Tabriz for over a millennium. It stretches over a staggering 7 sq km with numerous caravanserais and impressive timchehs (halls) and is the perfect place to haggle for honey, carpets, jewellery and countless other souvenirs. Once a significant Silk Road trading station, the bazaar is worth a visit even if you don’t plan on buying anything – the intensity of the smells, colours, noise and bustle are more than enough of an experience.

A village in the Alborz Mountains. Image by Getty/Moment/ Thomas JanischA village in the Alborz Mountains. Image by Getty/Moment/ Thomas Janisch

Alborz Mountains

For hiking, skiing, or admiring, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting than Alborz Mountains. The fabled Alamut Valley landscapes are among the most exciting to explore, spiced up with a dramatic medieval history: the ruined fortresses dotting the hills were once home to the feared medieval religious cult of the Assassins. Both shorter, independent hikes and longer guided journeys, accompanied by a mule are possible. As for skiing, Tochal, Shemshek and Dizin resorts are all within a few hour’s drive from central Tehran.

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