Tourism in Iran
Tourism in Iran is diverse, providing a range of activities from hiking and skiing in the Alborz and Zagros mountains, to beach holidays by the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The Iranian government has been making concerted efforts to attract tourists to the various destinations in the country and arrivals have increased during the past few years. Kish Island alone attracts around 1 million visitors per year, the majority of whom are Iranian but the area also attracts many non-Iranian Muslims who like to have beach holidays with Islamic style beaches where men and women use separate beaches .

When you travel to Iran, you may want to get in touch with your family, friends, etc. This is possible through various means of telecommunication and internet in Iran. You can use landlines, mobile phones, fax, internet, etc. There are generally particular advantages and disadvantages of using such devices everywhere in the world and some local issues in Iran that you’d better get prepared for them before you travel to Iran.

Using Land Lines in Iran

While you’re staying in hotels, you can dial a certain number (it varies in different hotels) and when you hear a particular beep, you can begin dialing country code, area code and phone number … Will it be wise to do so? Sometimes it could be although the price you pay is higher compared to other methods. You may go to certain telecommunication organizations or their branches at cities, towns, villages, etc and ask the operator to get you connected to the number you present them with. Then, you’ll be put through and you can use the landline. Using Phone Cards in Iran Also, there are some phone cards these days in Iran that you can buy for very low prices and use them from both landlines and mobile phones. You can read the instructions on the back of these cards and follow the steps so that you can make a phone call to any part of the world. There are various prices that you would pay depending on the destination you call. In general, you will pay very little amount compared to using direct numbers of those destinations. While using such cards, you will be charges for the landline (like you’re calling a number in the same city or country) and certain amount for each destination. Altogether, it will be lower than what you should have paid for a direct phone making using a landline or mobile phone. Using Mobile Phones in Iran

While you’re staying in hotels, you can dial a certain number (it varies in different hotels) and when you hear a particular beep, you can begin dialing country code, area code and phone number … Will it be wise to do so? Sometimes it could be although the price you pay is higher compared to other methods.
You may go to certain telecommunication organizations or their branches at cities, towns, villages, etc and ask the operator to get you connected to the number you present them with. Then, you’ll be put through and you can use the landline.
Using Phone Cards in Iran
Also, there are some phone cards these days in Iran that you can buy for very low prices and use them from both landlines and mobile phones. You can read the instructions on the back of these cards and follow the steps so that you can make a phone call to any part of the world. There are various prices that you would pay depending on the destination you call. In general, you will pay very little amount compared to using direct numbers of those destinations.
While using such cards, you will be charges for the landline (like you’re calling a number in the same city or country) and certain amount for each destination. Altogether, it will be lower than what you should have paid for a direct phone making using a landline or mobile phone.
Using Mobile Phones in Iran



In general, depending on the agreements between Iranian Telecommunication service provider and your mobile phone service provider, you may be or may not be able to use your phone from inside Iran. If such agreement is in place, you could use your phone in Iran and pay for it to your service provider. Of course, this is regardless of the roaming charges.

You can also buy some pre-paid SIM card in Iran and use it as an Iranian uses it for local phone calls and international ones. Also, you can use the phone cards explained above together with such SIM cards during your stay in Iran.

There are a few mobile phone operators working in Iran. The coverage you get in different parts of Iran using their SIM cards is varied. In general, it’s not a bad idea to use such service during your stay in Iran. This must also be taken into consideration that:

  • There are lots of high and low altitudes in Iran,
  • There are not satellite mobile phone service providers,
  • You may travel to far distances and remote areas in Iran without coverage,
  • etc

For purchasing your SIM card, you just need to make sure that you buy from particular authorized agents who install the SIM cards in your cell phones and make it operational for you. Ask for a test call to ensure it works the way the agent has explained it to you.

Using Fax Machines in Iran




Inside most of the hotels, you can ask for this service if you need to send a fax. There are some small and large shops in most of cities and towns in Iran that provide fax submission services too. All you need is to have a blank A4 sheet of paper to write your message on or print your file on and go to one of these places and ask for the service. You will be charged a small fee to receive the service.

Don’t expect to have such a machine in your hotel room anywhere in Iran.  You can simply go to the reception or business center of your hotel and ask for this service and you will be provided with it.

Using Internet Service in Iran


Iranians have used Internet for a long time. You may want to check your emails and stay in touch with your family and send some message to them via Internet. You will be able to do this without any worries.

Hotels have included the service in recent years as WIFI service. It doesn’t mean anywhere you go, you will have some great service inside your rooms. As of today, they are in the process of optimizing their services. This usually takes some time.

Most of 5-stars provide good service. Lower-grade hotels are still struggling these days. Some have fantastic service. Some haven’t hired capable professionals to make it operational for them. Therefore, you may face some issues. Therefore, you may have to:

  • Use the internet only in the lobby,
  • Use the Internet for some limited time,
  • Use the Internet only for limited amount of download,
  • Etc

In some hotels, the access points are not placed in all the floors or the right spots on the floors. As a result, some rooms in some floors may have good access while others are struggling. Depending on which factor in a hotel is of highest priority, you can ask for a better room.

Also, I must add that in some hotels, without your own device, you may not be able to get connected, because there are not any PC or laptops that you could use. As a matter of facts, several hotels have got some device to help you get connected to the Internet.

Outside hotels, there are Internet Cafes where you can hire a station or get WIFI login info to get access to Internet too. They are the shops you may find in various cities, towns, etc. In smaller towns, they are more popular.

Recently, some coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, etc offer free wireless internet access service to their guests, but it’s going to take some time to see everyone incorporates such policy for their businesses. So, don’t count on it everywhere you go.

Carpet Shops in Tabriz Bazaar

Carpet Shops in Tabriz Bazaar

The bazaar of Tabriz is one of the top tourist attractions of the city. No tours to Iran or trips to the North West of the country makes sense without including Tabriz bazaar in it. This roofed bazaar is one of the oldest in the Middle East, and according to some people, the largest of its type in the world. The fact is this place is awesome and highly recommended to visit.

History of Tabriz Bazaar

In fact, the history of this bazaar goes back to the time of Seljuks, 12th century. As Tabriz has been on the main trading route of the east-west and Silk Route, its bazaar had gained a very significant place as the economy heart of a large city in prosperous Persia. All throughout the history, travelers and historians have mentioned in their notes what has continually contributed to the popularity of Tabriz bazaar is the abundance of commodities like fruits, high-quality textile, precious stones and gems, etc in this city.

When Baghdad was destroyed by Mongols in 13th century, Tabriz gained even more importance. In 14th century, it prospered so much to the point that Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta described it as one of the richest trading centers in the world. In 16th century, under Safavid rulers, Tabriz was brought to the center of attention and its bazaar showcased the economy of the country. Manufacturing of items made of copper and leather was increased. Making of weapons, rugs and soap was boosted.

In 17th century, when Shah Abbas I moved the capital city from Tabriz, the bazaar lost part of its importance but kept it somewhat both in the city as well as North West of Iran till now. Despite several shopping centers and other trade areas in Tabriz, many people still prefer to go to this place for their shopping needs.

A devastating earthquake in late 18th century brought a lot of damages to the city as well as its economy and the bazaar. In 19th century, Tabriz bazaar was flooded and was subject to lots of damages.

As I’ve already mentioned about the bazaars of Iran, one shouldn’t look at bazaars as traditional shopping centers of the old times. They are a lot more than that. For instance, they have had a decisive role in the politics of the country. They have played major roles in solidarity with religious, revolutionary and economic movements in Iran. They are living communities in which plenty of life is continuing. That’s why the House of Constitution, where revolutionaries used to hang out in approximately one century ago,  is at the periphery of Tabriz bazaar.

It was in 20th century that the city economy thrived and its bazaar was largely repaired and reconstructed. Tabriz bazaar played a major part in supporting Islamic revolution in 1979.

Various Parts of Tabriz Bazaar

Tabriz Bazaar is a large compound that consists of several caravansaries, Tim, Timcheh, Sara, Saracheh, etc. The gradual formation and combination of these sections have interconnected them functionally to one another so that best services could be rendered to the customers and merchants while local traders could provide, sell and distribute the products most conveniently. Among all these sections, you may find Amir Bazaar (for gold and jewelry), Mozzafarieh (a carpet bazaar), a shoe bazaar, etc.

If you ever take a tour to Iran and visit Tabriz bazaar, make sure you remember spending some time in one of its traditional tea houses. The setting, decoration, style of serving tea and set of tall water pipes on top of all tables are spectacular. Water pipes at Tabriz traditional tea houses are not anything recently added for fun or popular among young generation. The customers seem to take smoking more seriously than how young guys do the same.

Explore Rasht Traditional Bazaar in Iran

Explore Rasht Traditional Bazaar in Iran

I want to explain the benefits of private tours to Iran versus group tours traveling inside Iran. By private tours, I mean the high-quality journeys you agree upon so that you achieve goals that are otherwise hard to achieve due to the group nature of the trip.

In private tours, you will decide who will travel with you, what the itinerary is, etc and you will make major decisions of your trip.

Here is, therefore, a general list of what could be gained in this style of traveling:

1) You Plan Your Private Tours inside Iran

Unlike group traveling prearrangement, you are in the process of selecting a tour itself from the beginning, asking for details, customizing the tour, adding your personal touch to it, reducing the less attractive parts, etc. As a result, the outcome will be what you’ve designed yourself to be the way you enjoy it most. Group traveling doesn’t offer you this opportunity.

2) You Spend Desirable Time Everywhere

In practical part of the journey, the final decision is yours. Although in a guided tour, you ask your guide about the possible time in each sight so that you can bring the day to an end in a suitable way, it will be you to decide if you want to be absorbed by the beauty and richness of a sight and skip others or leave a place sooner so that you spend more time somewhere else.

This could be a highly useful benefit as the variety of sightseeing in a well-planned private tour to Iran could offer so much that you would need to apply changes on the spot. Group tours in Iran or other destinations don’t provide such possibilities.

3) You Eat Whatever at Anywhere You Want

What’s your favorite dishes among the possible choices in Iran? Do you have any preference regarding how much and when you eat? Are there settings you prefer to eat in? These and other interests of yours could be under your complete control when traveling privately in Iran. Lots of Iranians love going on picnic and eat out that way. Many go to restaurants of different styles, particularly traditional ones. You can choose whichever you like.

Some nationalities are used to have one hot meal a day whereas others prefer two. For some, lunch is a major meal while others take a bigger meal at dinner. Time of eating, frequency of eating snacks, brunches, upper-class restaurants, less expensive popular places, etc are all waiting for your decision.

4) You Communicate with Locals

There are lots of aspects of Iranians’ lives that are unknown to the people of the world. You may want to get more detailed information about political structure and functionality, marriage and divorce, land and property ownership, education and employment, women and their professional lives, etc. While having a guided private tour to Iran, you can ask plenty of questions.

Iranian tour guides are very well-educated and aware of the societies they’re living in. They have gone through some higher education and speak foreign languages proficiently. You can learn a lot by asking your guide. Also, being exposed more to the local people in tea houses, sights, restaurants, etc, you will notice that Iranians like to see foreigners travel to their country and they will be happy to communicate with you. In the limited time during group tours, this won’t be easily possible.

5) You Further Customize Your Trip

Sometimes during the trip, you may want to spend a couple of days more in Tehran at the end of the tour, relax a bit in a neighboring country, etc. During the journey, if there’s sufficient time to do so, you can ask the tour operator to apply these changes for you. Such services are catered to your requirements and can be done.

6) You Spend Better Time for Shopping

In a group tour, limited time will be allocated to the group for shopping. In a private tour to Iran, you can ask your guide or driver to take you to specific places so that you can spend more time on finding what you like to buy without the hassle of group’s deadline to go back to the bus, hotel, etc.

You can stop on the way, go to some local shops where buses won’t stop, to look for what you would want to purchase.

7) You Can Stop Anywhere to Relax

There are sometimes long distances between the cities and you may get tired of sitting in the car. You can ask your driver to stop somewhere to stretch your legs, buy some snack, get some fresh air, etc. This can be done as much as you want and anytime you want during a private trip to Iran.

Therefore, there are several benefits in taking private tours to Iran that could make your journey an enjoyable and unforgettable one.

Inside Shabestan of Vakil Mosque in Shiraz

Inside Shabestan of Vakil Mosque in Shiraz

Today, when you are traveling in Iran and visit Shiraz, Vakil Mosque is a must-see for both Iranians and non-Iranians visitors. Karim Khan, the founder of Zand dynasty in 18th century, built it as part of his grand development project in the heart of his capital city. The mosque is connected to Vakil Bazaar and almost attached to Vakil Bathhouse with a lane in between. Before you enter the mosque, you can see one of the corridors getting you to the middle of the main passageway of Vakil Bazaar on the left-hand side. Therefore, there has been easy access from different directions for everyone to find their ways to the mosque.

Specifications of Vakil Mosque

The entire structure is extravagantly built with spacious sections in mind. There’s a vast courtyard with a relatively long pool in the middle of it. Around the courtyard, there are two eyvans (iwans) at the Northern and Southern sides in a symmetric way. On Eastern and Western sides, there are not any eyvans hence finalizing the structure as a twi-eyvan courtyard plan.

Courtyard of the Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, Iran

Courtyard of the Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, Iran


The vast courtyard is covered by stone slabs, which has recently undergone some reconstruction and new slabs have been installed. Such flooring is extended from all corners to the central pool and vise versa. As there’s no garden in the courtyard, this flat space has added to the greatness of the courtyard and allows the beauty of the tile façade of all sides shine and project their livelihood.

The decoration on the Shirazi “haft rangi” (seven-color) tiles of the entrance portal and these two eyvans are eye-catching and similar. Tree-of-life patterns are clearly occupying major parts of these sections giving a peaceful wave to the square feel of the façade tiles.

At the Southern Eyvan, there’s an entrance leading to a roofed columned hall (shabestan) with 48 monolithic pillars joining one another on top through vaulted brickworks. The pillar shafts are carved in a spiral way and decorated in form of acanthus leaves at their capitals. Color of the stone pillars and those of brick-formed ceiling match.

All ceiling decoration has been made by plain bricks except the one line coming from the southern eyvan directly toward the mihrab of the mosque. This part is an amazingly splendid corridor-like pathway set by its ceiling tile decoration embellished by Shirazi “haftrangi” (seven-color) tiles.

Famous Minbar of Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, Iran

Famous Minbar of Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, Iran


The builders of the mosque have made a minbar (preacher’s seat) out of a piece of green marble with a flight of 14 steps leading to the seat on top. This minbar is an exemplary work at Zand-period mosques.

Visit Zand Monuments during Traveling in Iran

It won’t easily happen to see several Zand monuments when you are traveling in Iran unless you visit Shiraz and pay a visit to such sights. Therefore, I cannot recommend enough spending some quality time in these buildings and quench your thirst for the taste of Zand architects and their masterpieces. Also, Shirazi artists have their own lively touch no matter which period they have been living in. That’s why I think you won’t regret spending more time at this beautiful city.

Ceiling of Imam Khomeini Mosque in esfahan

Ceiling of Imam Khomeini Mosque in esfahan

Isfahan is certainly one of the most-liked destinations inside Iran among foreign travelers. A walking tour of Esfahan in half a day will surely make you familiar with the ambience of traditional Iran and some of the most awesome monuments of this beautiful city. This is going to be a visit in and around Imam Khomeini Square formerly known as Naqsh-e-Jahan (image of the world) with several tourist attractions.

If your purpose of traveling in Iran is to learn about the highlights of the Islamic architecture together with bazaar, Handicrafts, garden planning as well as people, this walking tour of Esfahan is for you. It will take half a day, but will impress you with the varieties and utmost examples of Islamic architecture in Iran.


Begin Walking Tour of Esfahan with Chehel Soltun Palace

Mural Painting Inside Chehel Sotun Palace

Mural Painting Inside Chehel Sotun Palace


This royal building is located outside the mentioned square, but in a short distance from it. Make sure you begin with it first in the morning. When you enter the garden in which this palace is located, you will see the front of the building opposite the entrance. Chehel Sotun means forty columns and it refers to the number of columns in the portico of this structure in addition to their corresponding reflections in the water of the large pool in front of it. Such reflection can only be seen in the morning as the building looks at the East. Besides, forty is the number of abundance in Iranian culture.

Chehel Sotun in situated within a Persian garden with tall trees, beautifully kept lawn and flowers and surrounded by fences, previously walls.

Around the middle of the 17th century, Shah Abba II ordered this administration structure to be constructed so that he could use it as his office to meet with people and address his audience indoors as well as outdoors whenever required.

Probably the most outstanding decoration you will see at this palace will be the six huge mural paintings inside showing how Safavid kings protected their power and received other kings and governors. At the lower parts of the walls, there can be watched a series of Iranian miniature paintings depicting mostly courtiers, kings and nobles having a drinking party inside Persian gardens.

On the exterior sides of the palace and close to the back of it, you will see clear influence of European arts of 17 and 18 centuries practiced by Iranian Artists of that era.

Proceed to Isfahan’s Imam Komeini Square

There’s only a small park distance between the palace and Imam Khomeini Square. You cross this green area in less than 10 minutes and find yourself in an overwhelming large square that has accommodated hundreds of stores among three major monuments from 17th century. Shah Abbas I, who moved Safavids’ capital city from Qazvin to Esfahan, started this royal project at a virgin ground where no other structures were in place. This 160 by 500 meters open space was the showcase of the king’s flourishing economy and dedication to Shiite Islam.

The three main monuments around the square are Jame Abbasy Mosque (today known as Imam Khomeini Mosque), Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and Aliqapoo Palace. It took various time periods for them to be completed, but all of them started to be constructed more or less around the beginning of 17th century. Today, UNESCO recognizes this square as World Heritage Site and the absolute majority of international travelers love to visit it time and again. It’s beautiful in the morning, but many also love it in the evening with illumination around the monument as well as shops’ window lights.


Make a Visit to Imam Mosque First

A View of Imam Khomeini Mosque in Isfahan

A View of Imam Khomeini Mosque in Isfahan

As both mosques are used as monuments and active worshiping places, you are recommended to visit them first and go to the palace later. Imam Khomeini Mosque is located at the Southern part of the square. Although Esfahan had its Friday mosque prior to the construction of Jame Abbasy, Shah Abbas decided to build his royal temple here. The beauty of this mosque is breathtaking and you will see the ultimate expertise of Iranian architects at the time of creating this mosque.

Plenty of lapis lazuli and turquoise tiles as well as exquisite inscriptions done by Reza Abbasy, the well-known artist of Safavid era are some of the unique characteristics of this monument. The spacious courtyard with four eyvans leading to roofed areas of the mosque are marvelously decorated inviting visitors to enter and enjoy the serenity of the temple.

This mosque has got four minarets and two symmetrically SE and SW of the courtyard used as madrassa. Another section at NE was used for treating the corpse of Muslims before transferring to graveyard.


Next Is Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

A View of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan

A View of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan


This mosque is named after the father-in-law of Shah Abbas I. The fact that it doesn’t have any minarets and doesn’t provide a large space for worshipers approves the reality that it was built to be used by the royal family members. They could spend their time on contemplation and worshiping God in a quiet place without any disruption.

The buff color of its dome as well as beautiful inscriptions worked out by mosaic work and exclusive motifs and decoration style of the interior have all contributed to the uniqueness of this mosque.

You should remember to complete the visit to this building before the noon prayer as it will be closed to visitors and only worshipers can get in at that time.

The Last Monument to Visit Is Aliqapoo Palace


Ceiling of Aliqapou Palace in Imam Square

Ceiling of Aliqapou Palace in Imam Square


Shah Abbas I had included his residence and office to this square at the Western side. The tallest building of the square with a portico overlooking the square is Aliqapoo palace. This massive building has been standing for approximately 400 years without a steel structure. Of course, in recent decades efforts have been made to reinforce it to make sure it will stand the passage of time and weight of its upper floors.

On the sixth floor of this palace, there are some connected private rooms for the royal family who could enjoy the music played live for them. Therefore, the decoration is very unique making sure no echo could create distortion for the audience listening to musicians.

At the portico of this palace, you will have best view of the entire Imam Square and the other monuments as well as the Mount Soffeh at the South of Esfahan.

Lunch Time Is Now

By this time, you have covered the magnificent Chehel Sotun palace and the main sites of the square. It’s time to dine and you can choose either one of the restaurants inside the square or take other choices outside the square.

Most of the shops will close down in the middle of the day and it will not be very useful to spend your time there during siesta time. Thus, you may prefer to take some rest or get involved in other activities. Later in the day, you can come back to the square and explore its workshops, handicraft stores and so on.

Such half-day walking tour of Imam Square in Isfahan is unbelievably rich experience that will impress you for the rest of your life.


Recently I’ve noticed that large groups of international travelers visit Iran being accompanied by some guide coming from their countries who is specialized in some field somewhat related to what’s available in Iran. They could be specialized in Islamic studies, ancient history, Islamic architecture, etc. Of course, it could add a lot to the quality of the tours coming to visit our country. I appreciate those companies that send such proficient guides along with their groups although it would be much better if they also inform them what they know is part of what travelers want to know, not all of it.



I prefer to talk directly to those who travel to Iran in such groups and ask them not to miss the opportunity to learn from Iranian tour guides. They can do a lot for you. Here are three reasons why I say so:

1. You Travel to Iran to Hear the Voice of This Country

You have certainly waited for years for the right time to make this trip to Iran. Now, it’s your time to spend on such a tour to explore an unknown country and find out the realities first hand for yourselves. For years, you’ve been exposed to the available media at your countries and have read and learned several things from their perspectives. If you think you’ve learned sufficiently, there’s no reason to visit Iran anymore.

Therefore, there must be good reasons why you want to see the country for yourself. You certainly want to see what’s out there in the streets, countryside, etc. You want to hear from them what their worries are and how they plan for their lives. You want some real information from those who live there about their wishes, visions, needs, and so forth. Don’t you want to know how they handle different situations? Don’t you want to know how they get married, divorced, involved in business, travel, provide for their families, and many other things?

An Iranian silent guide isn’t the person to answer these questions even if you have a guide from your country who has traveled to Iran several times, studied several fields of arts, religions, anthropology, etc. The most accessible knowledgeable person who can answer all these questions and more is the one who travels with you all the time, the Iranian tour guide. Ask him and you will learn what Iranians’ perspectives are. I’m sure you will be amazed by the world of difference between what you’d heard and read before and what you discover for yourselves. In a word, let your guide speak out!

2. You Take a Tour to Iran to Learn about Iranian Version of Things

Again, I speak from experience, you may have read several specialized books about archaeological findings in Iran, cultural formation of an area, etc. Please go back to those books and see how old those books are, who has written them, etc. I assure you that you will hear new ideas and news in various issues. Even in architecture, a lot of books have been written after 1979 revolution that have not been translated to other languages. They suggest new theories, introduce new sites and findings, etc which could principally change the entire landscape of what had been written four decades ago. These are some of the sources of information available to the guides in Iran.

Iran is a developing country in various aspects. Things change quite rapidly. Books and reports aren’t published and distributed across the world about such developments. When you travel to Iran and let your Iranian tour guide explain those things to you, you will hear things you’d not read or heard of before. This is the privilege of traveling to Iran and finding out realities of today’s Iran for yourselves.

A silent tour guide in Iran cannot give you the latest information you need to know. You may have a local guide accompanying you all the time. You also have your own guide with you. Does he let him talk to you directly and express himself or he takes hold of microphone all the time and tries to impress you with his knowledge? Let your Iranian guide not remain a quiet one. Ask him and he will tell you a lot.

3. An Iranian Silent Guide Could Do Great for Your Nature Tour

I would say this isn’t right either. A safari tour, a mountain climbing tour, a bird watching tour, etc, could be the one you’ve taken to enjoy the nature. Your local guide is the one who knows how things work in his/her country. If a situation doesn’t turn in your favor, you need someone to do something for you. If you’ve already established a powerful rapport with your guide, she/he would go an extra mile to get you out of the troubled situation, negotiate with locals of his/her country to make a way for you, connect with more and more people he knows to provide better for you, etc.

I wouldn’t imagine a silent member of the group who has been pressed to the corner to keep quiet, would voluntarily jump into every situation to impress you and help your journey to turn into a great one. Human interaction and closely-built connection can bring about miraculous results. How would you expect an Iranian silent tour guide to go forward persistently for something you desire to happen? Don’t you think you can count on a someone who has been considered a pivotal member of the group both in words and action?

Final Word About Iranian Tour Guides

When I speak about iranian tour guides, I’m telling you about a particular class of people who are in an international business experiencing a lot of various situations. They’ve seen so many people like you before. They’ve found themselves in tons of similar situations before at the same country. They have friends and connections all over the world. Many of them could have left their country to live somewhere else, but they have chosen to stay in Iran and present their countries as best as possible.

Iranian Tour guides go through tough tour guiding training and learn about several topics. Not every soul graduated from such training courses become a national/local guide. It takes potential, dedication and love. They don’t like to stay quiet and usually they won’t as they feel they are there to say something.

What Do You Prefer?

Do you prefer your Iranian Tour guide to be a silent one or a talking type?

Very Large Group

Very Large Group

Tourism is undergoing a new phase in Iran facing much larger number of travelers visiting the country compared to the previous years and even decades! Therefore, all the professionals involved in this industry have to tackle several issues from visa and booking to guiding and transporting clients. From practical point of view, as a tour guide who is back from two extra large groups, I want to mention the problems you may face if you travel as such.

Group Size for Tours in Iran

There are various numbers of people traveling either alone or in groups in Iran. I’m categorizing the groups in an approximate manner based on my experience here.

Some prefer to hire a guide and a driver, or a driver-guide to explore the country. The means of transportation is usually a sedan or an SUV depending on the nature of the tour. These individuals pay a lot more for their journey and obviously experience more of what they want to see.

Small groups are the ones in which there are from 3 to 12. The tour groups traveling in such numbers in Iran are accompanied by a guide and a driver. Their vehicles are vans or minibuses.

Large groups are the ones in which 13 to 25 people are traveling together in buses. Although these buses are designed to accommodate up to 44 passengers, they are the only and ideal means of transporting such number of travelers.

And what I call the extra large group tours in Iran are the ones in which more than 25 people are traveling together in one bus with one guide! Yes, you’ve read it correctly. This is happening in Iran these days. I had two large groups to guide in spring of 2015, one was 34 pax and the other one 37 pax. From what I have experienced, here’s the conclusion:

Problem #1 of Extra Large Groups:

You Will Not Move on Rapidly Enough!

There are often some people who aren’t physically as fit as you are. Some are careless about the cause of the group and tend to enjoy their sluggish movement. Some ignorant ones walk with walkers, walking sticks or even sit in wheelchairs and still join a group! Don’t count on the tour operators whom you don’t know enough as they may invite everyone to sell as many packages as possible. Such operators only care about the larger financial benefit at the end of the tour. Extra large groups, even without such bonuses, tend to be much slower than smaller tour groups.

It takes time for the entire group to come together,

  • In the morning
  • Getting on and off the bus
  • Getting in and out of the museums & sites
  • Finishing their meals,
  • Etc.

Do you want me to tell a catastrophic story for you? In some groups, individuals pay individually for their meals before leaving the restaurants. For your information, this is a phenomenon Iranian restaurants aren’t prepared for. So, it would take ages!

In addition, such a tour will make you extremely exhausted. You have to start the day earlier and finish it later. There will be less flexibility and more strictness by the tour leader. He has to manage the tour like that to make sure all tour promises of the extra large group are put in action and covered.

Problem #2 of Extra Large Groups:

You will Not Be Sufficiently Informed!

It’s a likeable theory that buses have loudspeakers and microphones so that everyone could hear the guide’s explanation inside the bus. In practice, some buses have very good audio systems by which everyone can hear the guide from any seats. In some of the buses, some speakers aren’t working as perfectly as others. Sometimes, apart from technical inefficiencies, human factors could worsen the listening experience of receiving information like having extra low-pitch or high-pitch voices.

Not all the guides have got tour guide audio systems to gently talk, instead of shouting, and be heard by every tour member in Iran.  Actually, this is a new thing among Iranian tour companies. Although they will make your listening experience much richer and more convenient, imagine if some begin to ask questions and time flies away! By the way, how much time do you think you will get to contact your guide and ask your question?

Problem #3 of Extra Large Groups:

You will Not Make Enough Acquaintance with the Locals!

No matter how considerately your tour designer has worked to provide a rich experience for your trip, when the extra large tour group size is going on, things cannot be done the way you wish them to be done. A smart tour guide may arrange for some free time if the itinerary allows, but it would be just a small opportunity of what the tour should be like.

Have you ever experienced such golden moments when the tour stops and you’re on your own to explore the country’s culture? If you have such a time to feel the local culture, you will be amazed by how much people like to connect to you and get in touch with you. They love to talk to you, welcome you, ask you questions and invite you to a drink, meal, etc. How much of that type of experience do you think you will have in an extra large group?

How Could Extra Large Groups Be Avoided?

This is a question for you, because you are the ones who go to the tour companies in your countries and ask for a tour to Iran. Most of you, who plan to visit Iran, have traveled extensively before. Therefore, you are familiar with how to approach a tour operator, travel agent, etc and ask for a tour to visit Iran.

I would like to hear from you and see how you prevent such an experience. Please go ahead and leave your comments below here.



AS several people contact us and ask about tips on taking photos in Iran, this post addresses those questions. Most of you traveling to Iran face these essential questions and similar ones:

•    Can I bring my camera to Iran to take photos I like?
•    Can I take photos in Iran wherever I want to?
•    Is it possible to bring this or that photography equipment to Iran?
•    Will your country allow me to bring my professional camera to Iran?
•    And so on.

Those are the answers many of you would like to know so that you could plan your trip to Iran. In order to develop an understanding of how photography in Iran is possible, I’m going to offer you 7 practical tips you need to know about photography as a tourist in Iran.

Tip No.1: Use Professional Cameras with Big Lenses outside historic monuments & Museums



As the majority of the world travelers use small cameras or even mobile phones for the pictures they’d like to take in Iran, it grabs a lot of attention to carry big lenses with you when you visit a monument or museum. The people in charge of such places don’t allow such equipments unless you have special permit for them. Therefore, it’s not completely impossible to use such photography devices as professional cameras and/or big lenses in such places of interest.

However, when it comes to professional cameras with big lenses, you can always carry them with you outside monuments and museums without a problem. This is OK as long as you consider the photography dos and don’ts in Iran. You will enjoy the beautiful scenery out there in nature in Iran. So, as it’s alright to register those spots and moments, why not using your devices to take the best shot you can?

Tip No.2: Don’t Carry Tripods inside Museums & Sites

As a general rule of thumb, just like the prohibition about carrying big lenses inside historic monuments and museums, tripods are considered more serious equipments to use for photography. Amateurish photography isn’t supposed to need them. So, they are considered professional equipments. I know you may argue they are ordinary devices every photographer needs here and there, but I must say this is how tripods are looked upon in Iranian museums and sites. Therefore, you have to abide by the rules here.

Tip No.3: Apply for Special Photography Permit for Certain Places

If you would like to use particular equipments like those mentioned at the tips above inside certain sites, you have to ask specific organizations for special permits beforehand. This can be done by yourself, but it’s going to be time consuming for you as you spend limited time in Iran and you lose lots of time applying for photography permits in Iran.

A better way of obtaining such permits is through the tour operator arranging for your tour to Iran before you travel to Iran. If it’s possible to obtain such permits they know better how to apply and obtain them for you and provide you with them before you arrive in Iran.

Tip No.4: Take photos of People ONLY after They Allow You



This is a very easy process as most of Iranians are so happy to take a photo with you or of you that you can easily get such permission. All it takes is a polite question with a friendly gesture. Don’t forget your smile! Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m introducing a general rule. There are many who wouldn’t like to be photographed. That’s why I have noted ONLY after they allow you to do so.

Some are conservative, shy, etc and don’t want to be in your photos. You must respect this and walk away. It’s no use to insist and argue. In some places like villages, remote parts of Iran, religious communities, etc, you have to be even more cautious as women don’t like to see anyone to take their photos. So, it’s better not to take the initiative to even ask. You can ask your tour guide for photography tips in such areas. Of course, sometimes, people themselves may take the first step and want to take a photo with you.

This is highly important to know that Iranians are very curious about the foreign travelers in their country. They may ask where you are from, what you do for a living, etc. Part of that is for practicing their foreign language. Art of that could be for learning about you.  Eventually, they welcome you to their country. Most of the time, they come forward to ask about your nationality, where you’ve traveled inside Iran, if you like Iran, which city, etc. This could break the ice between you and them. Everyone smiles and who knows, they may invite you to take photos with them before you apart.

Tip No.5: Don’t Take Photos of Prohibited Things

Traveling with or without a guide, it’s always safer to look around you, ask, etc to make sure it’s OK to take photos of certain places, things, facilities, etc. If it’s not, there must be no-photography signs nearby. Sometimes, there are such signs although you may not see them immediately. Therefore, my advice to you is not to rush, take your time and ask before you get yourselves into trouble.

In general, you’re not allowed to take photos of military sites, police stations, people in military/police uniforms, etc. Sometimes, you may see such no-photography signs at industrial facilities. The common sense says follow the rules and walk away instead of insisting or trying to take pictures secretly.

A simple photography tip inside Iran is that even it could be prohibited to take photos inside museums too. Usually palace museums are like that. In such cases, you can usually find some DVDs or photo albums of the same site, museum, etc for sale.

Tip No.6: Taking Photos of Private Places

Privacy is of ultimate importance to Iranians and they don’t like you to take photos of their private places. If you’re walking in a neighborhood and some house’s door is accidentally left open and you can see indoors, don’t even think about taking a photo of the scene even if nothing seems to be specially important in there. You will intrude into their privacy by doing so. This isn’t tolerated or accepted at all. You must know this when you have a camera on you visiting Iran and you look for interesting sites to photograph.

This is true of taking photos of the people inside their cars. Although the windows may not function like walls, people feel it’s their private place. You’re supposed to respect this and avoid getting into their privacy.

Tip No.7: Watch out When you Take Photos of Yourselves



You may have come from a different culture in which normally people hug or kiss one another in front of camera and in public places. This isn’t common in Iran and creates unpleasant feelings among most of Iranians. You may see some Iranians pose for a photo while placing arms on each other’s shoulders or around each other’s waists, but it’s different from hugging.

This isn’t a rule applying only to the people of the opposite sex. It applies to the people of the same sex too and it’s disgusted by Iranians to see such scenes.

You Will Take Lots of Photos despite Such Facts




Don’t worry! You will soon find yourselves taking lots and lots of photos in Iran that it would amaze you. There are so many attractive things and places, people and moments that you will be blown away by the opportunities.

This isn’t a photography tip, but equally essential: Remember to bring some external hard disk, flash drive, etc to save loads of photos you take with you during your trip to Iran. You will regret if you forget to do so although you can always buy such things in Iran. Yet, there are moments that you realize your camera memory chips run out of space and you have to transfer those beautiful photos, which you’ve taken before, to somewhere safe. You can upload the photos to the cloud, some online storage service, etc, but the slow internet speed in some places in Iran may make you change your minds.

This was an effort to help you with your desire to know how you could be taking photos in Iran. If you have other questions not answered here, please eave a comment below this post.





As Iranian hotels don’t necessarily follow all the international standards, when you plan your trip to Iran, it would be very helpful to consider certain factors before you book a hotel in Iran.  These factors relate to your possibilities, wishes and interests. Therefore, you can mention them as your criteria while asking for the best accommodation matching your ideals.

Affordable Hotel Rates

Some of you are looking for budget hotels as affordability is your main concern. There’s nothing wrong about this criteria. It can be sought after in various levels. Some compromise on hotel standard levels so that they can spend their money somewhere else. At the same time, you certainly have some minimums in mind that form your definition of acceptable accommodation. Make sure you mention them to your agent too.

I must mention that I’ve not seen any 3-star hotels in Iran without private bathroom, refrigerator, TV set, air-condition, etc. I’ve even seen a top 2-star hotel in which all these could be found too. Yet, I just wanted to mention that if these are the basic facilities you require, rest assured that 3-star hotels have them all.

Least-Hassle Stay

If you’re looking for the least hassle possible during your stay in Iran, high-end hotels can be your choice accommodation to stay in. The level of responsiveness and preparation of the room facilities for your comfort at such hotels are the best in the country. Obviously, 5-star hotels and in some cities lower available hotels, 4-star ones, are the ones you have to pick up.

Generally, one thing is the main criteria in these hotels: Things work the way they are expected to work. However, in several 5-star hotels of Iran, I’ve seen that when you need something to be done at your room, it is usually taken care of as fast as they can.

Nevertheless, compared to the other hotels in Iran, if you want the least headache with the room amenities, high-end hotels, generally 5-stars, should be your choice hotels.

Less Payment & More Functionality

Sometimes, you don’t want to spend a lot of money just on your accommodation. Instead, you prefer to spend that budget on something else. Therefore, you choose 4-star hotels. Personally, I recommend a combination of 3 and 4 star hotels as some top 3 stars and ordinary 4 stars are very close to one another in terms of facilities, service and even rates.

On the other hands, there are some very good 4 stars in Iran that in 5-stare 5 stars and in terms of rates are very close to them. It could be the least number of hotel room availability in a city or lack of enough 3-star hotel rooms that causes a tour operator to shift to such hotel.

In general, it’s always good to know there are some 4-star hotels with acceptable quality in a city when you need them as an alternative to 5-stars, of course, at lower rates.

Hotels Close to Certain Spots



You may prefer to stay somewhere close to the museums, bazaar, shops, etc. If this is of high importance, you may have to compromise on the quality of hotel amenities, services, etc so that you could easily have access to those places in the vicinity of your place of stay.

In some cities, most of good hotels are scattered around the outskirt of the city, meaning quite far from the city center where usually most of the things are happening. Of course, such hotels have got their own benefits, quietness.

Accommodation with Character

Many have heard of certain hotels with character in Iran. They are usually old buildings converted to hotels like caravansaries, private houses of merchants, etc. Depending on how the restoration and redecoration has been handled, some could be really attractive and fun to stay in. Some are quite elegant too. There’s one thing in common in all these hotels: They remind the guests of the lifestyle in such buildings in the old times. The feeling of living in the past for a couple of days you could be so nice that you could close your eyes on certain things like small size of the rooms, etc. They are, in fact, part of the charm of the hotels.




There are some dark tourism sites in Iran that could attracts their fans to Iran. Such places create the same type of feeling and enthusiasm in their fans they’re looking for. As a reader of Iran tourism news and attractions, I’d never talked about it at Destination Iran. This is the first time I write about them.

What Is Dark Tourism?

By definition, it’s the tourism that involves traveling to places associated with death, grief, suffering and tragedy. Some call it “black tourism” or “grief tourism” as well. Such places create bitter and sad feelings in us. When people take tours to such places, they may visit the areas stricken by quake, flood, war, etc. The visitors learn about the human catastrophes, unpleasant situations, etc and how to cope with it. The inhabitants of such areas gain benefit from the money spent by such tourists.

Dark Tourism Sites in Iran

There’s huge potential for dark tourism in Iran. There are museums and sites for this type of tours. Some of them are:

  • Ebrat Museum: it showcases the torture of political prisoners in Iran before the 1979 Revolution by Shah’s intelligence service,
  • Shohada Museum: it shows the fallen soldiers and martyrs victimized by Iraqi imposed war against Iranians.
  • War-stricken areas: They witness the destruction resulted by Saddam’s invasion to Iran during 80’s,
  • etc.

The list can continue and include the areas suffering from post earthquake, war, flood, etc incidents. However, I’d rather take you directly to the top 6 dark tourism sites in Iran:

#1: Stone Garden of Darvish Khan



It’s also known as the saddest garden of Iran. Darvish Khan suffered from the land reforms in early 1960’s, which caused him to lose his garden. As a sign of opposition and resistance, he later decided to move his dried tree trunks to another location, 40 km South East of Sirjan, Kerman Province and hang small and large stones from their branches. Others thought he’d lost his mind. As he was mute and couldn’t communicate with others and explain his pain, people spread this rumor more widely. He died at the age of 90 in 2007. His body was buried at the same garden. Some go there these days to visit his garden and take photos of his stone garden.

#2: Earthquake-Stricken City of Bam



Earthquake is one of the deadliest nightmares human beings could face. Now, if it happens in a city where the world’s largest structure made of sun-dried bricks existed for almost 2000 years, the tragedy will be more sorrowful. In Bam, earthquake devastated approximately 90% of the city buildings in 2003. Soon after this disaster, UNESCO registered it at its World Heritage Sites’ list among other Iranian UNESCO sites. As a result, a budget was allocated to it for restoration. There are 12 countries working together on behalf of this organization to restore this huge site.

Lots of people lost their homes and their beloved ones. The city structures, mainly made of heavy bearing walls and mud bricks, soon turned into ruins. Humanitarian aids came from all around the world, but nothing could be done to reduce the human pain. This is the sad story of Bam inhabitants, which lingers on till now. The city and its ancient walled town had not returned to its previous state yet. Iranians cannot forget this calamity easily. The enthusiasts of dark tourism sites in Iran can visit Bam and learn more about the consequences of this disastrous incident.

#3: Khalu Hossein Carved Cave



In Paveh area, Kermanshah Province, there’s a man called Hossein Kuhkan, know as Khalu Hossein or Farhad the Second (referring to an ancient mythological figure in Persian literature). He is a disabled man, who has lost a leg, but he’s very determined and hardworking. He has dug a cave with 7 rooms in 19 years. He’s even dug a grave for himself inside this cave.

Early in his life, during Iran-Iraq war, he lost his sons and sons-in law. His whole life turned to be nothing but loss. After the war, he came to a village called Banavareh or “Maygoreh” with a daughter of his. Khalu Hossein started digging the rocks with a spike and shovel to make a place for himself to pray, but later he continued this and despite others’ mockery, finished the job of fighting the mountain in 19 years. Today, several Iranians and non-Iranian travelers, go to this area to meet with him.

#4: Qasr Prison of Tehran



Before 1979 revolution in Iran, Shah’s regime imprisoned more than 10 thousands political prisoners in Qasr Prison. After the revolution, other prisoners were jailed there until 2004 when it was closed. The city authorities began to destroy it, but some opposed the idea and got it registered as National Heritage in Iran. Since 2012, it was turned into a a garden museum and there is a plan to convert it into Iran’s first prison hotel.

#5: Rig Jenn

Dark tourism sites in Iran aren’t limited to the historical buildings. There are some natural attractions that are also equally interesting to visit.

Somewhere in Dasht-e Kavir (Northern desert of Iran), there’s an area with lots of sand dunes at the South of Semnan, North of Chupanan and West of Jandaq called Rig Jenn. In the old times, as this vast area (3800 square km) has been very far from any source of water, even caravans didn’t go through it. It’s totally abandoned.

Due to some dominant strong wind in certain direction, it’s very difficult or sometimes impossible to go from the East to West of this area. Local people believe it’s a cursed area and nobody has returned from it. This is because of the existence of the moving sand dunes and salt marshlands dragging things down in it. In other words, the location of this area is moving and unknown.

Only in recent years, some researchers and adventure tourists have gone to Rig Jenn and liked it. Among the young Iranian safari fans with macho style, there’s a high level of interest to go to this area although everyone warns them about the consequences of not being prepared to face challenges. Wireless and electronic devices don’t work there. Maybe these mysterious features make it more interesting for the people to go there and explore one of the dark tourism sites in Iran for themselves.

#6: Khalaj Mount

It’s located in a village called Moghan at the south of Mashhad, NE of Iran. Because of its nature, soon after the sunset one may hear some sounds that are like the sound of crying or whistling. Therefore, many villagers and the local people have left that village.

Again, the sound heard at this mount has given it a mysterious reputation and local people have made stories about the invisible beings living there. That’s why it has become an interesting place to visit for the curious travelers.


If you are looking for some dark tourism sites in Iran, it’s possible to find some more too. The list isn’t limited to what I’ve introduced here. Actually, an ancient country like Iran has got plenty of such places with mysterious stories.

Note: This post is mainly adapted from an article by Ms. Afsaneh Jafary published in Persian by Miras-e Aria News Agency. I tried to choose and translate more interesting parts for you.