The Middle East is a region of the world that fascinates me. Today's post is focused on the country of Iran, a most definitely off-the-beaten-path destination for most Americans. I think it is important to learn about cultures and places unique from our home countries, and these 11 beauties of Iran have reminded me of just that.
Today's post is written by special guest contributors, Sara and Nacho from I Do What I Want To!
Sara and Nacho are an expat couple with a passion for travel. Together they’ve lived in 6 countries and travelled to 39. They travel light and on a budget, but they indulge in some pleasures (food & activities!). They have different likes and desires, so every trip has the perfect combination for food or nature lovers, adrenaline junkies or historical fans. Check out their travel video of Iran here.
Nasqh-e Jehan Square
Entering through the doors of Nasqh-e Jehan Square in Esfahan is like going back to childhood dreams of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. The construction of this square began in the XVII century by the Shah Abbas. It shows Masjed-e Shah, Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah, Kakh-e Ali Qapu, and the city’s bazaar. The art and great gardens make this place worth a visit.
In the southern part of the country, you'll find the beautiful and hectic city of Shiraz. This city is famous for many things, but we recommend you spend time inside of the mosque here, as we did. The sunlight entering its stained glass windows is perfect for taking beautiful photos. Try to go at sunrise or sunset, as the sun is lower, and transfer those beautiful patterns onto the rug. At the entrance, they collect postcards that people have sent, so keep your eye out for a card from your home country or city!
Jolfa is an Armenian neighborhood in Esfahan. The minute you cross Si-o Seh Bridge, you will begin to see changes in the houses and shops. As you get closer to Vank Cathedral, it is even more evident that something is different. This cathedral is an important must-see because of the beautiful mosaics, the reminder of the early faces of Christianity, and (sadly) the genocide that many Armenians suffered. Nonetheless, Armenians and Iranians now live in harmony.
A Night in the Desert of Bafq
On our way to Persepolis, we had to stop in the desert. Spending a night in a desert campsite (even if you don’t have a tent) is something to remember. The sunset and sunrise were both spectacular - the lack of light pollution makes it a perfect spot to look up to the sky (plus we had a telescope!)
Yazd is a UNESCO World Heritage city and is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world. It was also once part of the Silk Road. If you go to Yazd, there are a few attractions to visit, but we actually recommend to just get lost in the narrow streets... If there is an open door, peek inside, and you might find someone cooking! The sun-dried mud brick houses that make up the old city are a reminder of change, tradition, and the diversity of beauty.
Kashan's Traditional Houses
Not far from Tehran there is a small town called Kashan. The best part of the city is the traditional houses you can visit. Each one is different, but with the same structure: lovely rooms surrounding a rectangular courtyard with a garden and fountain (or pool). The patio is the place where family and friends gathered. We recommend staying in a traditional house hostel/hotel.
Of course, Persepolis must be included on this list! The city represents the old and powerful Persian Empire from around 520 BC. If you have any interest in history, architecture, or ancient civilizations, then this is the place to go. One very important suggestion is to avoid weekends or Iranian holidays, such as No-Ruz (we made a huge mistake here!)
Si-O Seh Bridge
This bridge is what separates Jolfa from other neighbourhoods of Esfahan. It is a simple bridge that turns into a magical place at night, and is also a place of gathering for friends and family during the holiday season. Note that in summer, the dam is closed, draining the water, so we recommend going at another time during the year.
They call it the Iranian Petra for a reason. From the parking lot, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you get closer all of the details are noticeable, and that is what you must look forward to.
Vakil Neighborhood and Bazaar
Each bazaar in Shiraz is different, as they are divided into products. Vakil is a great neighborhood. Here, you can easily get lost finding new things, like delicious restaurants.
US Den of Espionage
Just as how you can't say you've been to Paris without going to the Eiffel Tower, or London without seeing Big Ben, you can't go to Tehran and miss this piece of history. Although the former Embassy is only open one day per year, some of the history is on the outside walls, which you can see any day.
This is a must-see for a walk around the famous murals.
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I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.