At the height of its power, Persia was home to 44 per cent of the world’s population, the largest empire in ancient history. Thanks to its legacy as the former centre of civilisation, modern day Iran offers countless World Heritage-listed ruins and archaeological monuments, as well as a vast salt desert, rugged mountain ranges, striking architecture and an ethnically and religiously diverse population renowned for their hospitable nature.
While political unrest, war and sanctions have kept tourists away, the country has recently been drawing interest from intrepid travellers. Luxury tour providers have risen to the challenge, with a number of specially designed itineraries popping up over the past year. Although some travellers prefer to go it alone, Iran is one destination where taking a tour allows you to get the most out of your trip and safely navigate the unique challenges of this fascinating country.
The capital of Iran offers bustling bazaars, upscale dining venues and numerous museums where visitors can view crown jewels used by Qajar and Pahlavi royalty as well as ancient artefacts, with some pieces dating back to 7BC.
This desert city was once a hub for Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of Iran. A day in Yazd is best spent meandering through the maze of historic alleyways, visiting Zoroastrian temples and stopping off at a teahouse or two.
The city of Isfahan served as a hub for international trade and diplomacy during the reign of the Persian Empire. Key attractions include the city square, Naghsh-e Jahan, which houses two of the world’s most spectacular mosques, and the Qeisarieh Bazaar where visitors can purchase some of the city’s art and handicrafts.
This 4,000 year old city is the birthplace of many of Iran’s most famous poets, writers and winemakers, and is known as the cultural capital of Persia. Shiraz is also home to a number of impressive botanical gardens such as Eram Garden, which was constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries
Dating back to the sixth century, Persepolis was once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The World Heritage-listed site houses the ruins of the palaces of King Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes