June Addison This was a wonderful opportunity to visit the relatively inaccessible coastline of Oman and its deserts Read More
Wonkie Hills Words cannot begin to describe just how magical my two weeks with Wild Frontiers were. Read More
Pam Creed It was a fascinating experience on so many levels-the history, the extremes of culture, geography, temperature, food, faces and views -this trip had the lot! Read More
Iconic image, Persepolis
Mosques of Isfahan
Flowers bloom, Mountains of Talesh
For for the culturally inquisitive, Iran offers a feast of ancient sights, a rich culture, interesting and varied landscapes, splendid cuisine and very hospitable people.
The Persian Kingdom was one of the great powers of the ancient world, and here its magnificence can still be seen in palaces and rock carvings dating back 2500 years.
Despite the uncertain political winds that batter this great country today, Iran is fascinating, with old cities packed with exquisite mosques and spectacular madrassas, some of the most wonderful examples of Islamic architecture in the world, ruins from ancient Persia, nomadic tribes, hill walking, skiing and surreal Caspian Sea beach resorts.
Learning, poetry and flowers are in abundance in the older towns such as Shirz, which is a complete contrast to the contemporary city of Theran. Politically, it may have very conservative leanings, but life on the street will surprise you. Foreigners are still a novelty in Iran and visitors are invariably overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the people.
Holidays in Iran
What to do in Iran
Please select the regions you are interested in.
Meet Qashqai Nomands
Enjoy a tour of the wonderful Bavanat Valley, Bavanat is a long and narrow valley with the width of 5-12 km and 60 km length. You will visit the Qashqai nomadic families in their summer hand-made tents and explore the surroundings of the lovely peaceful Bavanat Valley in the heart of the Zagrus Mountains. The main occupation of the people in its villages are agriculture, gardening and breeding walnut and almond trees. It is a wonderful day, interesting both culturally and for sightseeing.
Wander in Isfahan's Bazaar
Visit Isfahan's vast covered bazaar lying on the fourth side of the square which is known locally as the Royal Bazaar that stretches two kilometres, through vaulted alleyways. The main entrance to bazaar was mostly built during the early 16th century, though some of it dates back 1300 years. You can watch the local people trading in spices, pistachio nuts, dried fruits, Iranian sweets and marquetry work and lots more exoctic goods.
Explore the Assassins castles
From Qazvin it's a long drive up winding mountain roads (about 3 hours) to Alamut, headquarters of Hassan Sabah, leader of the 11th century cult of the Assassins. The Castles of the Assassins -immortalised in Freya Stark's "Valleys of the Assassins"- are historic fortresses in the central Elburz Mountains, south of the Caspian Sea. The ruins of 23 other fortresses remain in the vicinity and although the castles are mostly in ruins, your guide will help to bring the history of the place alive and it is pleasant to take a picnic and enjoy a walk amongst the beautiful mountain scenery.
Visit a Zoorkaneh
In Isfahan early in the evening a great expereince is to go to the Zoorkhaneh (traditional Iranian gymnasium) to watch this traditional Iranian sport, a combination of physical and spiritual aerobics, with participants chanting to the powerful drums of their master.
Holidays in Iran
Where to stay in Iran
Please select the regions you are interested in.
Located in central Tehran, opposite Laleh Park, the Lelah Hotel has spectacular views of the Alborz Mountains. Tehran's...
Moshir Ol Mamalek Garden Hotel
Set in a beautiful landscaped Persian garden with water features the traditional Moshir Al Mamalek Garden Hotel is...
Built during the reign of Shah Sultan Hussein in the 18th century, the five-star Abbasi Hotel was once a caravanserai...
Amir Kabir Hotel
A modest, the three star Amir Kabir Hotel currently affords the best accommodation in Kashan. Guest rooms feature...
Ayro Barzan Hotel
Located in the centre of Shiraz in a pleasant tree-lined street, the Ayro Barzan hotel is a modern hotel with 50...
Built in traditional style and renovated to four star standard, the Dad Hotel enjoys a convenient location in the old...
Homa Hotel Shiraz
The Shiraz Homa Hotel is located in Meshkinfam Street, opposite Azadi Park. This five star hotel offers the best...
Isfahan Traditional Hotel
Deep in the historic Bazar-e Bozorg, The Traditional Hotel is just 10 minutes from Imam Square and a few steps from the...
Kerman Pars Hotel
The five star local grading Pars Hotel in Kerman is one of the major hotels in Kerman and is located very near to the...
Homa 2 Hotel Mashad
The Homa 2 Hotel Mashad was the first luxury hotel in Mashad built after the Islamic revolution. It is located in a...
Holidays in Iran
Holidays in Iran
Iran Travel Guide
Please select the regions you are interested in.
The name Ardebil comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artavil" (mentioned in Avesta) which means a holy place. A market centre for a fertile agricultural region, the town is famed for its silk and carpet trade tradition, and the ancient Ardabil Carpets are considered some of the best of the classical Persian Rug creations. The city also offers its visitors warm mineral springs, which has made it a popular resort for the rulers of Persia.
Yazd is one of the oldest cities in the world and the centre of the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrianism was the main religion across the Iranian plateau until the Arabs brought Islam to the people in the 7th century AD. Yazd is a city of wind towers, high turrets with openings to catch the winds providing natural air-conditioning during the hot summer months and qanats - underground canals used for irrigation. A dry, desert city, Yazd until recently used to draw its water supply from the Shir Kuh mountains by means of an elaborate system of qanats, some as much as 45km long.
"Isfahan nesf-e-jahan" Isfahan is half the world. So goes the old Persian saying and without a doubt Isfahan's charms continue to beguile and fascinate visitors. Its magnificent mosques, palaces and bridges are some of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture in the world. Isfahan's golden age was under Shah Abbas I, who came to power in 1587 and made Isfahan his capital city.
Esfahan is one of Iran’s oldest cities and served as Persia's capital from 1598 to 1722. When Shah Abbas I came to power in 1587, he pushed out the Ottoman Turks, who had occupied a large area of Persia, and then set out to make Esfahan a great city. However, this period of glory lasted little more than a century when an invasion from Afghanistan came, and the decline began. As a result, the capital was moved to Shiraz, and then later to Tehran.
Esfahan is one of the finest cities in the Islamic world and was a crossroad of international trade and diplomacy and it became a kaleidoscope of languages, religions, and customs. The city is renowned for the abundance of great historical monuments and exquisite blue mosaic tiles of its mosques and madrassas and we shall be visiting Nasqh Jahan Square, Imam Mosque, one of the world’s most beautiful mosques, and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque as well as Ali Qapu Palace - a magnificent six-storey palace built in the 16th century to serve as a gateway to the royal palaces – and the 12th century Shahrestan Bridge amongst other things.
Things to see in the city include the Friday Mosque, the bazaar and the 17th century Ganj-Ali bathhouse – which is now a museum depicting the Hamm am (bathhouse) culture which is still prevalent in the country.
These include Bisotoon with its bas-reliefs from the Achmaenian period (5th century BC) showing Darius I victory over his enemies; Taghe-Bostan built by the Sassanians in the 3rd century AD with impressive rock carvings and the Temple of Anahita , the goddess of beauty and fecundity dating from Parthian times (200 BC). Kermanshah is a picturesque and lively market town with a largely Kurdish population who speak their own language and have their own traditions. In the countryside the Kurdish peasants still wear their typical and colourful clothes.
Based in western Iran, Hamadan is in the foothills of the 3574m Alvand Mountain. Legend says that the original Hamadan was built by the mythical King Jamshid; whatever the truth, it is certainly the oldest city in Iran and one of the oldest in the world. At the height of its glory, Hamedan was described as one of the most opulent cities. It had splendid palaces, buildings plated with precious metals, and seven layers of town walls, of which the inner two were coated in gold and silver. The glorious riches naturally attracted hoards of invading armies and after Alexander's conquest 331BC, Ecbatana lost much of its former importance, although it remained a staging post between the plateau and Mesopotamia. The successive sackings have spared few of Hamedan's ancient monuments; however, some valuable finds from the ancient town have come to light, and much remains unexplored.
The capital of Khorasan province in northeast Iran and the second largest city in the country, Mashhad is best known for its beautiful pilgrimage shrine of Imam Reza. Mashad means 'the place of martyrdom' and is an extremely holy city for Shi'ite Moslems worldwide. It is where the eighth grandson of the prophet Mohammad, Emam Reza, was murdered in 817 and has been a place of pilgrimage ever since. Dress in Mashad should be particularly conservative.
Bandare Anzali and the Caspian
Located 1,300 m above sea level and established by the Russians in 1800, Bandar Anzali is the most important seaport in the north of Iran. The majority of the population are Azeris and speak the Azeri language. The Caspian Sea is the largest salt-water lake in the world, rich in fish and caviar and famous for its natural resources of oil and gas. The coastal area consists of the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran and with its lush, subtropical vegetation is in marked contrast to the rest of Iran. The Caspian coast, generally referred to as 'Shomal' (the North) attracts a great number of Iranian tourists, not so much for its beaches as for its greenery and cooling rains. The area has seen some unrestrained development since the 1970's and the seaside resorts hold little of interest for the Western visitor, however the scenery, with its thickly wooded mountains and typical Caspian houses is still wild with a great variety of flora and fauna including jackals, bears and wolves. It is an excellent area for trekking or day hikes.
Shiraz is a city of sophistication and has always been celebrated as the heartland of Persian culture. It is the capital of Fars province and is one of the most beautiful, historical cities in the world. Farsi (Persian or Parsi) the language of Ancient Fars has become the official language of Iran.Shiraz came into existence after the Arab conquest of Iran and by the 13th century Shiraz had grown into one the largest and most popular Islamic cities of the era; by the mid 18th century, when most of it’s building were either created on restored, it had become the capital spreading out like an immense garden on a green plain at the foot of the Tang Allah-o-Akbar Mountains.Shiraz has been synonymous with poetry and learning, as well nightingales and roses, and, at one time, wine. Today Shiraz is a relaxed, cultivated city, with wide tree-lined avenues and enough monuments, gardens and mosques to keep most visitors happy for several days. We will visit the Arg-e Karim Khani an imposing fortress, with 14m high circular towers which dominates the city centre and was used as a prison in Pahlavi times. We’ll also take a look at the Citadel, the Eram and Narenjestan Gardens and the Tombs of Sa`adi and Hafez.
Dating back to distant antiquity Tabriz is the largest city in north-west Iran and was once the Persian capital. Its proximity to the Azerbaijani border has affected its history and it was occupied several times by the Russians in the first half of the 20th century, including during both World Wars.
Jolfa is located right on the border with Azerbaijan and was at one time a major Armenian settlement until Shah Abbas I moved them to Isfahan at the beginning of the 17th century. They were known for their trade and wine-making skills and 'New Jolfa' is still what Isfahan's Armenian quarter is known as. It has long been an important customs post with much of Iran's imports and exports pass through here.
Tehran is a modern, bustling, overcrowded metropolis with a population of 12 million people . It became the capital of Iran in the 18th century under the Qhajar rulers and despite the traffic and the pollution is well worth a visit. Dominated by the towering Alborz Mountains, it has a wealth of royal palaces and some of the best museums in the Middle East.
Kashan has several ancient monuments. Most famous are the mausoleum of Shah Abbas I, the 12th century Friday Mosque and the Safavid royal buildings south-west of the city centre. Also interesting are the Agha Bozorg Mosque which has a theological school and the beautiful Fin Gardens.
The Caspian coast
The Caspian coast, generally referred to as 'Shomal' attracts a great number of Iranian tourists, not so much for its beaches as for its greenery and cooling rains. The scenery, with its thickly wooded mountains and typical Caspian houses is still wild with a great variety of flora and fauna including jackals, bears and wolves. It is an excellent area for trekking or day hikes. The inland village of Masouleh is the most attractive and typical of the Caspian villages which can be reached by car or on foot from Rasht, the capital of Gilan. Other attractive towns include Bandar-e-Anzali, the main Caspian port established by the Russians in 1800 famous for its caviar fishery, Ramsar, Sari and Bandare-Torkaman.
Holidays in Iran
Iran Travel Information
UK Passport holders require a visa to enter Iran.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the end of your trip, and have at least one blank page for each visa required. Please ensure the passport details we hold for you are correct.
It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa documentation when starting your trip. Country entry regulations can alter daily and it is best to check with the relevant embassies for any changes.
BE AWARE you will not be issued a visa if your passport shows any signs of entry or exit to Israel. This includes solo exit/entry stamps from neighbouring land borders into Egypt or Jordan " that signify entering/exiting Israel although with no official Israeli stamp. Should this apply to your passport then you will require a new passport before making your application.
Anyone applying for an Iranian visa in the UK will need to make an appointment to go in person to the Iranian Embassy in London to be fingerprinted and submit your form. WF will apply for an authorisation code two months before your scheduled departure and although this can take some time to arrive once it does the process takes around 5 days. Upon booking you will need to send us the below info:
• A copy/scan of your passport (the photo page)
• Occupation (to not include words that could be politically sensitive i.e. communications manager. If retired previous employment is required)
• Your father’s name
• Whether you have visited Iran before
• Which Iranian consulate you will be applying to for your visa.
If you are travelling on a non-UK passport, please contact your nearest embassy for up to date visa information.
Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours.
You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a Wild Frontiers trip and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy.
One such policy is the "Wild Frontiers" policy underwritten by Ace European Group Limited (ACE " firm reference 202803), which is available to EU residents (which excludes Norway & Switzerland) through our website or via the insurance company direct on 0845 345 3456. Under this policy there are two different levels of cover available.
Standard policy: a comprehensive travel insurance policy that provides cover for all Wild Frontiers activities, including trekking up to 6,000m. This policy does not provide cover for travel to areas where the FCO is advising against all or all but essential travel.
Elite policy: provides the same comprehensive level of cover as the standard policy. In addition the Elite policy also provides cover for travel to areas where the FCO is advising against all or all but essential travel. The policy will not provide cover for any claims arising from or relating to the reasons why the FCO is advising against travel.
If purchasing the Elite policy you also have the option to extend the cover provided by the policy to include cover for claims arising from a terrorist act in an area where the FCO is advising against travel. You can add this cover to your policy when purchasing online or over the telephone.
These policies are only available to those travelling on a Wild Frontiers holiday.
For more information and to purchase your policy online please
Health and Vaccinations:
There are no mandatory immunisations for Iran though you should be up-to-date with Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A. We recommend you seek advice from your local GP or travel centre as to the correct immunisations and preventative treatments.
We also recommend:
• A dental check-up prior to travelling.
• You inform us of any pre-existing medical conditions or medication.
To be on the safe side you can also check on www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Holidays in Iran
Check out what makes us different from the restRead More…
More useful information when travelling to:
Flight InformationFlight time to Teheran from London is 6:30hrs, with Iran Airlines.
Useful Tips• If you like shopping, Iran has plenty to offer. Be sure to take cash, as credit cards may not be accepted.
• Take football memorabilia - the Iranian young love the English Premier League!
• Be careful when buying carpets; if you're not you could end up with a cheap Pakistani copy!
• Wear socks when visiting mosques; whilst it is customary to remove your shoes on entry, it is disrespectful to enter in bare feet.
• Be sure to wear sturdy shoes when visiting the Assassin castles of Northern Iran - there's a fair amount of climbing involved.
Good books and maps of Iran are available at Stanfords in Covent Garden, London or online at www.stanfords.co.uk
Books on the history of Iran include: A History of Modern Iran Since 1921: The Pahlavis and After, by Ali Ansari
A Concise History of Iran, by Saeed Shirazi
Searching for Hussan: A Journey to the Heart of Iran, by Terence Ward which takes the reader across the landscape of Iran. He explores its history and deep conflicts with its Arab neighbours, and illuminates the new "Great Game" now being played out in central Asia. Described as insightful, informative, and moving.
Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, by Nikki. R Keddie - reviews recent developments in Iran since 2003.
Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope, by Shirin Ibadi. This book is a ‘powerful condemnation of the dictatorship of the Ayatollahs, recounting the suffering of those whom Ebadi represented’.
When To GoThe weather conditions can be extremely varied, however, May and September tend to be the best time to visit when the days are mainly warm and sunny.
Packing ListBelow is a list of general items you might take with you on a Wild Frontiers trip to Iran. With your booking confirmation you will receive a packing list specific to your tour, so please treat this as a general guideline only.
It is best to use a soft bag - rucksack/hold-all/duffel bag - so it can be transported and stored more easily.
On all our trips a small daypack is practical for keeping general items (e.g. camera, books, wallets etc.) at hand when your main pack is out of reach. It is also handy for day trips and excursions.
In general you should bring clothes you feel comfortable with. However, It may sound obvious but Iran is an Islamic country, in places very traditional and conservative, and its ways should be respected; especially since Sept 11. So no tight shorts or skimpy tops here…for either of the sexes! Both men and women should dress modestly at all times.
Therefore as a guide we suggest a packing list like this:
• 3 x Light cotton shirts or T-shirts, short sleeved and long
• 2 x Lightweight jumpers or sweatshirts
• Good quality fleece or warm jumper
• 2/3 Pairs of cotton trousers. If preferred, women can wear long dresses.
• Change of clothing for the evenings
• Set of waterproofs
• Warm jacket
• Sun hat and warm hat
• Pair of hiking boots / shoes
• Pair of comfortable shoes
• Rucksack, duffel bag or soft suitcase
• Flip flops/sandals for bathrooms
The following is useful extra equipment for your trip:
• Water bottle
• Travel electrical plug
• Travel towel, travel soap and toiletries
• Sleeping bag liner (cotton or silk)
• Torch (LED head-torch keeps your hands free)
• A bandanna or large handkerchief is useful for dusty tracks
• Pair of good quality sunglasses
• Water bottle
• Plug adapter (see ‘Electricity’ section)
Personal First Aid Kit:
While we do carry a large medical kit on our group tours we would advise that you take some of the basics with you. This should include:
• Any prescription medication required (please inform the tour leader at your pre-departure meeting about these)
• Antibacterial dry hand wash
• Painkillers: paracetamol & ibuprofen
• Rehydration salts (Gastrolyte)
• Malaria Tablets (if necessary)
• Travel motion-sickness tablets if required (e.g. natural ginger tablets)
• Diarrhoea remedies
• Cold/flu decongestants
• Mosquito Repellent
• Insect bite cream
• Plasters/Bandage/Steri-Strips/Blister pads
• Sunscreen (30+ factor)
• Moisturiser/after sun cream/lip balm
• Contact lenses and solution if required
(A kit with most of this in is available at www.nomadtravel.co.uk)
• Ear plugs (if sharing a room / camping)
• Alarm clock
• 3-4 plastic carrier bags are very useful for dirty washing, dirty shoes and rubbish
• Small packs of tissues
• Money belt or secure pouch for money and passport etc.
• Eye patches if light affects your sleep
• Sewing kit/scissors
• Writing materials
• Spare batteries/camera memory cards
• Swiss Army knife
• Universal bath plug
• Calculator (for currency conversion)
• Trekking poles
• Lyons coffee bags if you cannot survive without ‘proper’ coffee.
NB: If you wear glasses, it is advisable to bring a spare pair since opticians are rare. If you wear contact lenses you may find that climatic changes and dust can create visual irritation, therefore, it is advisable to bring a pair of glasses.
You might be tempted to buy a few souvenirs here and there, so leave a little room for those extra purchases!!
Although it is very rare that luggage goes missing on flights, it has been known to happen and so it’s a good idea to carry a spare top, toothbrush, wash kit, underwear and any other essentials in your hand luggage so that you can at least freshen up while waiting for your bags to catch you up.
Iran is 3.5 hours ahead of GMT.
A useful website to check the time zone differences is www.worldtimezone.com
Food and Alcohol:
As an Islamic republic almost all alcohol is banned in Iran. The import, sale, manufacture and consumption of alcohol in Iran is strictly forbidden, with the only exceptions for certain recognised Iranian religious minorities (NB not foreigners). Penalties can be severe.
Iranian cuisine is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to their regions. It ranges from chelo kabab (rice served with roasted meat), khoresht (stew that is served with white Basmati or Iranian rices), aash (a thick soup: for example Ash-e anar), kookoo (vegetable Souffle), pollo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.
Fresh green herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Typical Persian main dishes are combination of rice with meat, lamb, chicken, or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavourings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.
Those bringing video & cameras that require battery chargers should also bring a two-pin, continental style adapter. In most hotels you can charge from the mains using a travel adaptor plug.
In Iran the unit of currency is the Iranian Rial.
To check out the latest exchange rate for the places that you are visiting you can go to www.oanda.com
A few points to help you plan:
• Payments are mainly made in cash.
• If using ATM machines, be sure to notify your bank before you travel.
• It is strongly recommended you travel with US dollars. Sterling is difficult to change.
Language & Religion:
The official national language is Persian, of which its oldest records date back to the Persian Empire of the 6th Century BC.
The large majority of the population are Islamic and belong to the Shi’a branch of Islam which is the official state religion.
At Wild Frontiers we are very aware of the ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures. We realise that taking a group of tourists through such a region can have a negative impact on the lives of those who live there and on all our tours we therefore go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive…after all, there are also many good things that the tourist can bring.
To help this process we ask that our clients do not hand out pens or sweets to children. As one sign in Egypt emphatically put it, ‘Please don't make beggars out of our children!' No matter how well intentioned, in our opinion the dolling out of free gifts fosters a ‘beggar mentality' that is ultimately extremely destructive to a society. In addition we do not condone giving out money to beggars or ‘students'.
However, we also realise that we are exceptionally privileged to be travelling in areas where most of the people have far less than us and that the desire to ‘help' can be very powerful. As a result we ask that you refer to your trip dossier for information on the Wild Frontiers Foundation which supports specific projects in the areas where we travel.
Please remember, we are guests in the countries through which we travel and we may sometimes inadvertently cause offence by taking photographs without first asking permission.
Also many countries have strict rules about taking photos of army, police or official personnel; especially at borders, bridges and government buildings. Please exercise care as the penalty may be to have your film and camera confiscated.