Isfahan is Iran’s top tourist destination for good reason. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city, and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture. Walking through the historic bazaar, over the picturesque bridges and across the Unesco-listed central square are sure to be highlights of a holiday.
Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital in 18th century, when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. Now it’s synonymous with education, nightingales, poetry and wine. It’s also home to splendid gardens, exquisite mosques and whispered echoes of ancient sophistication that reward those who linger beyond the customary excursion to nearby Persepolis – the area’s major tourist destination.
Best known for its historical 18th century houses such as the Ameri House or Borujerdi House, Kashan has a wealth of other architectural and historical beauties which warrant it a stop on anyone’s trip to Iran. Especially photogenic are the Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse (make sure you also climb up to the roof), Agha Bozorg Mosque, best visited at non-prayer times, and Khan Amir al-Dowleh Timche caravanserai in the bazaar. As the perfect stop between Tehran and sfahan, you might want to plan your visit such that you stay the night in one of the historical homes, several of which have been converted into luxurious boutique hotels.
The beautiful Bavanat region, 230km northeast of Shiraz, encompasses a 20km-long walnut-growing valley between the Zagros Mountains in the south and the arid deserts to the north. The mountains are home to Khamseh nomads, a confederation of five groups of Arabic, Turkish and Farsi-speaking people.
Yazd is a historic Silk Road oasis town set to the east of the Zagros mountains between two deserts. The extremely hot temperatures in summer led to the development of architecture adapted to its desert surroundings. Consequently, it’s nicknamed Shahr-e Badgirha (the City of Windcatchers), after its many fine badgirs (wind towers). These rely on the wind and convection to cool houses and the water reservoirs in the town area. With its winding lanes, forest of badgirs, mud-brick houses and delightful places to stay, Yazd is a ‘don’t miss’ destination.