It’s no secret that Iran doesn’t have a very positive reputation in the West. Ask one of your friends what they think about Iran, and they might start talking about nuclear weapons and wars. Ask them what they think about traveling to Iran, and they’ll probably respond with another question: “Why would you ever want to go there?”
Then tell them you’re planning on visiting Iran alone and they’ll think that you’re joking. Once they realize you’re serious, they will frantically try to persuade you not to risk your life like that.
Okay, maybe those reactions seem a bit extreme, but that is how most people responded when I told them I was going to travel to Iran alone. Many of my American friends and family members tried to get me to change my plans, apparently convinced that I was heading straight for a death trap, while others simply responded with awe, telling me that I was “so brave.”
Let me be clear here: in all the seventy-odd countries I have visited in my life, nowhere have I found people more welcoming than in Iran.
The warmth and hospitality I experienced there was staggering and quickly turned what I had expected to be a difficult journey into one of the easiest and most pleasant travel experiences I’ve had. Everywhere I went people were eager to talk to me, show me around, and help me navigate their country with ease.
The amazing hospitality of Iranian people along with an impressive offering of historic sites, beautiful landscapes, and delicious food makes Iran one of tourism’s most undervalued gems. By all rights tourists should be flocking to Iran, and many people in the travel industry predict that they soon will be. As for now, Iran remains a well-kept secret in the travel world, with a comparatively small number of tourists getting the chance to discover all that Iran has to offer each year.
Indeed, with landscapes ranging from sweltering deserts to snowy mountaintops to dense forests, and destinations ranging from tiny villages to huge contemporary cities, Iran has something for every traveler’s taste.
Tehran Travel Tips
With its notorious past, rich culture, and high energy, Iran’s capital is an exciting city to visit. In fact, during my first few days in Tehran I often found myself staring open mouthed, not really at anything in particular, but simply in awe of the fact that I was actually there! In Tehran!
While some consider it congested and over-polluted, I found Tehran to be a beautiful city. The snowy peaks of the Alborz Mountains stood as an enchanting, peaceful backdrop to the fast-paced crowds bustling around the city.
And while I sometimes felt overwhelmed walking alone through Tehran’s streets, all I had to do was look up at the people rushing by me and I was sure to be greeted with a warm smile. Some people would even stop and ask me where I was from and if I needed help getting anywhere. With such hospitality, it would surely be impossible for any tourist to get lost in Tehran!
I spent my first couple of nights at Golestan Hotel, which is run by the nicest people and has beautiful traditional rooms. Highly recommended if you’re look for a good hotel in Iran! Click here to check current prices and more details about Golestan Hotel.
Isfahan Travel Tips
Isfahan is the dream destination of history, art, and culture fanatics alike. It was once one of the largest cities in the world, which won’t surprise you when you visit its enormous Naqsh-e Jahan Square and countless other historic sites.
And as you run through a list of all of the places you want to visit in the city, you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with locals who fondly call Isfahan, Nesfe Jahan, or “Half of the World.”
Marivan Travel Tips
While Marivan might not be on the first draft of your Iran itinerary, it definitely deserves a spot there if you have the time. A few kilometers from the Iraqi border, Marivan is the perfect place to experience the peaceful beauty and warmth of Kurdistan.
Visit the stunning Lake Zarivar or take a drive through the surrounding snow-covered mountains to discover the beauty of Kurdistan’s natural landscape.
Yazd Travel Tips
I did not actually have a chance to visit Yazd while I was in Iran, which is probably the biggest regret of my trip. Every Iranian I spoke with told me that they either love Yazd, or they haven’t yet been to Yazd but really want to go. Yazd is a remote desert city with a history dating back over three millennia. It was a center of Persian architecture, and Iranians say that there is no other place quite like it.
Shiraz and Persepolis
Ruins of the ancient capital of Persia lie just 50 kilometers outside of the modern city of Shiraz. With remains dating back to 519 BC, Persepolis is a must-see destination in Iran for anyone who is even a bit interested in history. Indeed, calling the monuments of ancient Persepolis “ruins” seems inaccurate, as the city’s remains are still magnificent and imposing.
Planning Your Trip to Iran
Be aware that citizens of a number of countries, including the United States, can only obtain tourist visas to Iran when traveling as part of a tour. Citizens of many other countries, however, can easily obtain a visa on arrival.
My top tour recommendation for Iran would be the Discover Persia 14-day G Adventures tour, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about (the itinerary looks amazing!). Check here for the latest Discover Persia tour prices and itinerary.
What to wear as a female traveler in Iran
If you’re wondering what to pack as a woman traveling to Iran, you do have to dress conservatively as a woman in Iran, but you can still wear colorful, pretty clothes! Just make sure that your tops and/or jackets that you wear outside hit around your mid-thigh and aren’t low cut.
And a normal scarf will work fine for covering your head – use a lightweight one in the summer and heavier scarf in the winter (and if, like me, you struggle with keeping it on your head, use bobby pins!).
Here are some of my favorite appropriate things to wear in Iran: