Iran is an incredibly underrated country with an immense history, the friendliest people, and the most breathtaking architecture. Having spent two weeks there, I truly believe it should be on every traveler’s bucket list. However, the beauty of this country is rarely shown in the media.
This guide on the most beautiful places in Iran aims to show you the side of Iran that rarely – if ever – gets represented in the news: The beauty of its landscapes, the details of its stunning architecture, the hospitality of its locals, the unique villages that still hold on to their centuries-old traditions, and so much more, thediaryofanomad.com wrote.
You’ll also find a detailed two-week Iran itinerary with lots of information on what to see in Iran, what to do in Iran, and other helpful insider tips.
I hope what you read will inspire you to visit this remarkable Middle Eastern country as well. It truly deserves more positive spotlight.
There are so many reasons why Iran will steal your heart. First of all, the architecture in this country is absolutely mind-blowing. You’re looking at some of the finest Persian mosques and palaces in the world that have stood for centuries through multiple kingdoms and dynasties. You’ll learn about the incredible history behind these attractions and will get an insightful glimpse into life during the Persian Empire. History fans, this is your place!
Even if you’re not a big history buff, you can still spend hours admiring the intricate tilework on the buildings. It’s truly a marvelous sight. Iran is also filled with breathtaking nature, stylish traditional houses, and charming gardens. Even the restaurants and accommodations in the country are gloriously decorated with colorful stained-glass windows.
A trip to Iran is so much more than just a visually pleasing experience though; it’s just as culturally rich as well. The local cuisine is a must-try, the welcoming locals are more than eager to have a conversation with you, and you’ll most likely get invited to have a meal or two in their homes too.
Most beautiful places in Iran to see in two weeks
DAY 1: Tehran
You’ll most likely be flying into the bustling capital city of Tehran, and it’s worth spending at least a day here as it’s home to one of the most historical places in Iran.
One of the top things to do in Tehran is visiting the most magnificent historical monument – the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This majestic complex was the official residence of the Qajar Dynasty (1789-1925) and displays a remarkable mixture of ancient Persian and contemporary European architectural styles, which characterized much of Iranian art in the 19th and 20th centuries.
You can easily spend half a day admiring the 17 structures that make up Golestan Palace, including lots of spectacular halls, chambers, museums, and gardens. All of them were built during the rule of the Qajar kings.
Golestan Palace is absolutely huge, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where you should start your visit. A few of the key sites you won’t want to miss are the stunning Khalvat-e Karim Khani (Karim Khani Nook), which was the former residence of the founder of the Zand Dynasty (1751-1779) and the brilliant Mirror Hall, which was used for royal weddings and coronations.
Be sure to also not miss the Shams-ol-Emareh (Edifice of the Sun), a palace that offered a panoramic view of the city for the Shahs (kings), and Brilliant Hall, which is known for its incredible display of mirror work done by Iranian artisans.
It will likely take you two to three hours to explore the whole of Golestan Palace. You can relax by the gorgeous pond in the main garden after all the walking around. Next to the palace, you’ll also see the bustling Tehran Grand Bazaar, which is a great place to get a glimpse of local life.
The unique Azadi Tower is the most iconic landmark of Tehran and is definitely worth a visit during your time in the capital. Completed in 1971, it was designed by an architecture student as a tribute to the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
This tower has a very distinct style that merges traditional Persian architecture with modern influences – you can see this quite clearly by its big iwan (a vaulted space used as an entrance) arch that’s covered with 8,000 pieces of white marble. Azadi Square, where the tower sits, is very symbolic too: a lot of protests happened there during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it’s still a popular site for demonstrations today.
You can climb Azadi Tower using the elevator or stairs to get a nice view of the city from the top. At the base of the tower, you’ll also find some galleries and a cafe.
Day 2: Shiraz
Shiraz is often referred to as the city of poets and gardens. Spend two days discovering this artistic historical city.
Shiraz is filled with gorgeous mosques, but the one that takes the prize is hands down the spectacular Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque (also commonly known as the Pink Mosque). Completed in 1888 during the Qajar Dynasty, this mosque is famous for its multi-colored stained-glass windows which allow the morning Sun to play a glorious light show on the floor.
For this reason, the mosque is very popular among photographers and is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iran. You simply cannot visit Iran without seeing the rainbow colors and magical light reflections at this mosque! It’s something truly unique and really feels as though you’re stepping inside a kaleidoscope.
Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque is stunning from the outside too. It has a marvelous courtyard with a pond, and its vibrant tilework is a symbol of Western influences on Iranian architecture in the 19th century. In fact, a lot of the tiles used to build this mosque (and many other Qajar-era buildings) were imported from France, Germany, and the UK.
Depicted on these tiles are typical European art elements such as images of landscape, women, and European architecture. You can easily spend hours admiring the details of the tilework both on the interior and exterior of this mosque!
Visit this mosque early in the morning, as soon as the doors open, to grab the best spot to shoot the colorful reflections of the stained-glass windows. The rainbow reflections are only visible in the morning when the Sun is still low.
Shah Cheragh Shrine
Not too far from Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque is one of the holiest places in Shiraz – the sacred Shah Cheragh Shrine, whose name translates to “King of the Light”.
[The holy monument and also mosque is the tomb of Seyyed Mir Ahmad, one of the brothers of Imam Reza (PBUH), the eighth Shia Imam, who died in the 8th century.]
There’s an interesting story behind this name: In roughly 900 AD, a traveler followed a mysterious light he saw from a distance and ended up stumbling upon an illuminated grave. The body of an important Muslim figure was found inside, and a tomb was subsequently built to house that grave.
As time went on, the site expanded and went on to become an important pilgrimage destination for Shia Muslims.
Today, after many rounds of renovations, the Shah Cheragh Shrine is a structure admired by tourists from all over the world. The interior of the shrine is even more spectacular than the exterior facade; as you step inside, you’ll be overwhelmed by the incredibly intricate mirrorwork covering the walls and ceilings, sparkling and shimmering like diamonds. It’s truly a priceless sight.
Seyyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine
About a 10-minute walk from the famous Shah Cheragh Shrine is a much lesser-known shrine: the Seyyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine. Built during the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736), this site is truly a hidden gem; a place without the tourist crowds of Shah Cheragh Shrine, but equally splendid and impressive.
While it may look like just another mosque from the outside, the interior of the shrine is filled with millions of sparkling glass shards of all different colors, and you can admire the intricacy of the mirrorwork in peace and quiet – an authentic and less touristy experience than the previous shrine.
Shiraz isn’t just filled with stunning mosques and shrines, it’s also home to one of the most beautiful Persian gardens in Iran – the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Qur’an, ‘Eram’ refers to a paradise for the blessed, and strolling through this garden, that feeling becomes increasingly palpable.
In fact, you’ll be surrounded by over 45 species of plants, 200 species of roses, and countless fruit trees, including a famous 3,000-year-old cypress tree. With the sound of birds chirping and the smell of blossoms all around you, it’s hard to not feel at peace in this enchanting place.
No one knows when exactly Eram Garden was built, but it’s said to have been completed in the 13th century during the Seljuk Dynasty. It was then passed down and restored multiple times before being handed to the University of Shiraz, which owns the garden today. On the majestic palace in front of the pool, you can also spot tiles inscribed with poems by the famous Persian poet Hafez.