Most beautiful places in Iran to see
Day 3: Shiraz
A trip to Shiraz would not be complete without visiting the magnificent Vakil Mosque, a place that photographers and architecture fans would especially enjoy. Completed in 1773 during the Zand Dynasty, this mosque has a distinct feature of 48 spiral pillars that create a very unique aesthetic; you won’t find many mosques in Iran that look like this!
Vakil Mosque is also a lot quieter than other tourist attractions in Shiraz; there’s a really peaceful vibe inside. I highly recommend visiting in the early morning right when it opens as you’re likely to be the only one there – a truly magical experience.
Tomb of Hafez
Nestled inside Mosalla Garden in northern Shiraz is the tranquil Tomb of Hafez, a place filled with poetic vibes and of great importance to the locals.
Born in Shiraz, Hafez (1315-1390) is considered to be one of the most notable and beloved Persian poets of all time. He’s essentially the Shakespeare of Iran – a national hero. A collection of his work can be found inside the famous Divan, and it’s widely read by Iranians of all ages. In fact, pretty much every household in Iran has a copy of this book.
Today, the Tomb of Hafez lies inside an open pavilion underneath a gorgeous dome ornate with intricate mosaic tiles. The surrounding garden provides the perfect relaxing atmosphere to soak in the significance of this place and if you’re in the mood for it – to read some of Hafez’s poems. You’ll also see locals gathering around the tomb to pay respects to this great poet, especially on October 12 – the National Day of Hafez.
Don’t leave Shiraz without visiting the stunning Maharlu Lake, also known as the Pink Lake due to the amount of red tide in its salty water. This fascinating natural wonder is just a one-hour drive from Shiraz and totally worth the excursion if you want to witness the beautiful landscapes surrounding the city.
The best time to visit this salt lake is between July and September, when the water from the lake is more likely to evaporate, making the pink hues more intense. For the same reasons, the lake is likely to be less pink during the rainy season (April to June). Don’t forget your camera, as this is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Iran.
Day 4: Day trip to Persepolis
A visit to Iran would be incomplete without seeing the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC).
Located around 60km (37 miles) northeast of Shiraz is a place of incredible historic value: The UNESCO World Heritage Site, the glorious ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire, and a great source of pride for Iranians.
Taking a day trip to explore the ancient ruins of this city is one of the top things to do in Iran. Walking among the pillars, arches, and remains of what used to be majestic palaces, you’re likely to feel incredibly small and humbled by the vast history of ancient Persia.
Persepolis was believed to have been built by Darius I in around 518 BC and construction took around 120 years. Darius I was known to be a very kind king who regularly paid the construction workers and treated them very well, which was unusual for kings at the time.
To this day, the primary function of Persepolis remains a mystery, although it’s speculated to have been a large ceremonial complex that was only occupied seasonally.
Unfortunately, Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid Persia in 330 BC and destroyed Persepolis as a drunken act of revenge. After burning down the city, he used 5,000 camels and 20,000 mules to carry all the gold and silver he found there. Persepolis was eventually excavated in the 1930s by a French archeologist.
Only a 10-minute drive from Persepolis is Naqsh-e Rostam, the royal necropolis of the Achaemenid Empire. Being so close to Persepolis, your taxi driver or tour guide would usually include this place in your day trip itinerary, and it’s definitely worth stopping here to admire the four majestic rock-cut tombs of ancient Persian kings.
Historians are still debating about which kings were buried inside the tombs; they’re only sure that one of them is the king who built Persepolis – Darius I, but the other three are speculated to be Darius II, Artaxerxes I, and Xerxes I. Cut into the cliff faces above each tomb are carvings depicting the kings as god-like figures.
There are also other carvings that portray battles won by the Achaemenid Empire. Perhaps the most interesting one of them all, though, is a carving so ancient that it seems to suggest this site was used even before Achaemenid Persia existed.
To be continued