Cyrus II, known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of Achaemenid dynasty. His maternal grandfather was Astyages, the last king of the Medes, and his paternal grandfather was Achaemenes, the first founder of hereditary rule among the Persians.

Cyrus presented a new empire based on morality, justice, and decency to the world. Unlike the previous emperors, he treated the defeated with compassion, enemies with tolerance, and those with opposing beliefs and customs with liberality. His statement in Babylon, written on a clay cylinder, is the first draft of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The followings are three sites worth exploring to learn more about the rise and fall of Achaemenids. You can leave Shiraz for a one-day tour to visit these spectacular sites and then come back.

Pasargadae: This Is Where Achaemenids Rose to Power

pasargadae-achaemenids

Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, Iran

 

It was the dynastic capital of Achaemenid Empire, the first great multicultural empire in western Asia. Today, it’s located near Shiraz in Fars province, south western Iran. It’s where Cyrus the Great conquered Astyages, the last Median king, in his last battle, and then founded the first Persian Empire in the same region and beyond. He founded Pasargadae and constructed palaces in memory of his victory. It was the rise of Achaemenids and Cyrus the Great was the author of Achaemenid dynasty. His tomb is also here in this city.

According to UNESCO, “palaces, gardens, and tomb of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture, and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization”.

A brief description of the site

The tomb of Cyrus has long been a focal point for visitors to Pasargadae and the palace area lay almost a kilometer north of it. This area included a palace to receive audiences and a whole series of adjacent gardens. They emerged to be the first Persian gardens. Unfortunately, all that has remained from Achaemenid era in this region are stone foundations and some wall socles.

In this site, the columned hall is the most common form of design. A notable architectural point about this hall was making use of stone-working techniques. It’s notable because all the previous columned halls in Iranian plateau were built in mud-brick walls and wooden columns.

Such an innovation facilitated the production of stone platforms, staircase, floors, and stone columns. Each one of these structures was to become a hallmark of architecture in Achaemenid era from about 540 BCE onward.

The gardens at Pasargadae would appear to be the first known occurrence of chaharbagh or fourfold garden, a specific articulation of space. It went on to become a distinctive characteristic of later garden designs in Iran for centuries.

Pasargadae kept its importance to Achaemenid emperors, but during the reign of the next kings, the capital moved to other cities.

Persepolis: The Glorious Times of Achaemenids

 

persepolis-achaemenids

Gate of All Nations at Persepolis, Achaemenid Era

 

It’s the other dynastic center of Achaemenid kings located about 60 kilometers south of Pasargadae. After Cyrus the Great, Darius I, known as Darius the Great, succeeded in ruling the Persian Empire. He started the construction of Persepolis. It consists of ceremonial palaces, provisional residential palaces, a treasury, and a chain of fortification. It was built as a ceremonial palace complex mainly for celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year festival.

The gate to the site was from the south, through a staircase. To the right of this entrance, you can see a huge rectangular block bearing four cuneiform inscriptions in the name of Darius the Great: Two in Old Persian, one in Elamite, and the fourth in Babylonian. These scripts were clearly meant to inform visitors of the nature of Persepolis, the people who contributed to its construction as well as Darius’ beliefs and ideals.

The remarkable parts of the palace complex consist of:

  • The Gate of All Nations.

It was a four-columned square hall with three stone doorways. Two enormous winged bulls are carved at the inner side of eastern as well as western doorways, and the gates are decorated in the upper part with six cuneiform inscription sections.

  • The audience palace of Darius, The Apadana

The double-reversed stairways of this palace are the most splendid parts of Persepolis

  • The Palace of Darius known, the Tachara.

A charming structure which is the oldest palace of Persepolis. Here, you can find three different scripts carved in various historical periods: one in cuneiform from Achaemenid era, one in Pahlavi from Sassanid era, and one in modern Persian from Qajar era.

  • The Palace of Xerxes, the Hadish

It was the Xerxes’ temporary residence.

  • The Central Palace, the Tripylon

A small but lavishly ornamented structure located in the center of the complex. Three doorways and a couple of corridors and staircases were linked to the other palaces. It must be attributed to Xerxes and Artaxerxes I.

  • The second largest palace of Persepolis, The Hundred Column Hall

Its main feature was a square hall provided with ten rows of ten columns. It was an audience hall.

These structures were built by Darius the Great and his successors, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I, and maintained until 330 BCE, when they were looted and burnt by Alexander of Macedonia. Although today you can see only the remains of this complex, its magnificence can still impress you.

Darius the Great was a powerful and sage emperor in the ancient world. His territory was so extended that there were no such imperial expansion until then and long after.

Naqsh-e-Rostam, Mighty Emperors Have Rested Here

Naqsh-e-Rostam

Naqsh-e Rostam, Achaemenids’ Necropolis near Shiraz, Iran

 

It’s one of the most spectacular ancient sites of Achaemenid era dating back to the times when the fall of Achaemenids was about to happen. It’s located almost 5 kilometers northwest of Persepolis, and consists of the colossal rock tombs of Persian kings dating back to the first millennium BC. Here you can see the best ancient rock reliefs in Iran from both the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods.

The rock-cut tombs of Achaemenid rulers and their families dating back to the 5th, 4th, and 3rd centuries BC have been engraved on the façade of a mountain. The tombs belong to Darius the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. In addition to being a royal necropolis, Naqsh-e-Rostam was a major ceremonial center for the Sasanians until the 7th century AD.

I highly suggest you to put these three spectacular Achaemenid sites in your checklist for travelling to Iran. It takes just one day to visit them all and learn about the rise and fall of Achaemenids. I promise there will be so many amazing things that can cause your admiration.

 

cycling-in-Iran

Don’t believe what people tell you about Iran

Iran was undoubtedly the most surprising country for positive experiences. After months of being told that I would be killed there, and the media reporting that it’s a country full of terrorists, I was humbled to enter a country of incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and kind people. I shared many nights in the houses of strangers and wouldn’t be allowed to leave in the morning without having my bags filled with food and gifts. They have many problems of their own in Iran, and are also aware of how the Western media portrays then, yet they still took it upon themselves to help me as best they could.

The beauty of travel by bike is how slow it is, and how it offers intimate view of the lives of strangers. I cycled between 60 and 80 miles a day, occasionally much more, sometimes much less due to weather, altitude or people I would meet on the way. It’s been hard, but the experiences it has given me sure beats working in an office. My freedom and lack of deadlines or destinations led to aimless wandering, mainly guided by the avoidance of bad weather systems and fitting around the seasons. All I really knew was that I wanted to circumnavigate the world and that I was doing that in an easterly direction.

Whenever I struggled to motivate myself to continue, it was the strangers I met on the road that helped me carry on. I’ve lost count of the favors I’ve been granted and the times I’ve been offered assistance. Wherever I went, human goodness shone through.

ateshooni-guesthouse

 Ateshooni

In the heart of desert there is a village called Garmeh, near the border of Isfahan & Yazd provinces.
The founder of this house is Maziar who is one of the first people to convert his house to an eco-lodge.
During your stay there, you’ll enjoy the unique sound of didgeridoo & percussion that Maziar plays.

Aghamir Cottage

Aghamir Cottage

Agha Mir is a 100-year-old house in Sadat-shahr , Fars province. Agha Mir is the founder of Astro tourism in Iran & supports the environment, planting trees & specially the Pasargadae Brown Bear.
The food is organic & traditional; and they try to keep the culture & customs alive.
Beside the Astrology & eco tours, there is Nomad tour too…

Flooring-fel

GileBoom

GileBoom is an old traditional house located in the east of Gilan province, in the heart of jungle & it’s near the Caspian Sea.

In this house local people show you their crafts, serve their food, invite you to their ceremonies & take you to the deepest in their culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Turkmen Eco lodge

Turkmen Eco lodge

The Eco lodge is a place for nature lovers, responsible tourists and a base for scientific researchers.it provides tourists with opportunities to be in close contact with nature.
It was started in 2009 with an aim of supporting The Golestan National Park programs and helping local communities around this National Park which is a biosphere reserve too.
Turkmen Eco lodge has a first-of- its-kind cooperative agreement with a National Park authority in Iran.
We offer educational and participatory experience through
• Wildlife tour             • Trekking                  • Eco-safari
• Hiking                        • Rural museum       • Kids Eco camp

 

Yazd

With a history of 5,000 years, and possessing a shining heritage of an ancient culture and civilization during different ages, Yazd is a glorious ancient city in the heart of Persian history located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Esfahan. According to some historians, the original foundation of Yazd belongs to Alexander the Great who ordered the constructing of a prison, after his conquest in 331 B.C. On the other hand, some historians believe that the name was derived from “Yazdangerd” belonging to Yazdgerd I (339-421 A.D) in the Sassanid era. Literally, “Yazd” means “holy, auspicious and worship-worthy.” Greek historians have called it “Isatis” which had been founded after ruining the ancient city of “Katteh”. After the appearance of Islam, the name of the city changed to “Darol’ebadeh” which means “place of praying”.

This area has been counted among the important passages periods throughout history. Fortunately, because of its climatic features, it remained safe from violations and wars during Iran’s critical period particularly during the Mongols invasion. Moreover, arduous road and shortage of water sources have been major hindrances of conquering it by any inside and outside invaders. Yet, Yazd could be considered a rich city of all times hosting signs of Mithraism, Zoroastrianism and Islam in every corner.

This is maybe the only standard eco-camp in Iran. the standards in this complex are green. The power is provided by solar panels, so as the warm water. The wastes from the camp will be divided and sent to Matin Abad village.

There are organic farms which are the supplies for the food.

They offer safari tours, camel riding, trekking in desert etc…

Accommodation

Matinabad Eco-Camp
You will be greeting at the entering door of the main building which is designed like a  Carnanseraei. The Main building of the Complex is equipped with seven big rooms including  bathroom with Hot showers and flush western toilets,  Wooden beds with soft mattress, air conditioner, refrigerator and a TV set. There are two beds in each room and it is possible to add one extra bed.
Top of the roof, there is an elegant suite located with a similar interior design and facilities of the rooms but with a capacity of minimum four with a panoramic view of the Desert, farms and yards. It is called Shah Neshin (King’s Room). Adorning lush Persian fabrics in elegantly designed rooms with picturesque desert views at Matinabad  Eco-camp complete your Iran trip experience. The interior design of rooms is based on the traditional Iranian desert houses where a combination of thatch, break and plaster is used in decoration.
Matinabad Eco-Camp

Tents

Matinabad Eco-Camp
You will stay in an elegant traditional Iranian desert nomad tent equipped with mosquito nets for warm weather and with Korsi (Iranian style heating) or heater for the colder months.Tents are set up on a bench to produce minimal environmental impact while providing an efficient thermal and wind resistant unit, with great exposure to nature in our magnificent area.
The tents are set up with enough space between them to provide adequate privacy. The location is close to the main building, bath and wash rooms. Electricity is available in the tents. Rug, Mattress, Pillow, blanket, and sheets are available according to the number of people reserved for that tent.

Koome ( Hut Room)

Matinabad Eco-Camp
Koomeh in Persian refers to small rooms in a desert that in the past farmers built them to protect their land or hunters to hunt their prey. Matinabad eco-camp has 13 Koomehs now. Mtinabad Koomeh’s are built with brick and muds and the roof has a dome shape for the best natural air circulation in the room. These rooms are equipped with air-conditioners and heaters. Koomehs are supplied by 2-beds that have the possibility of adding one more if needed.

 

English(Persian) Fārsī
فارسى
Welcome(khosh amadid) خوش آمدید
Hello
(General greeting)
(dorood) درود (salâm) سلام
How are you?(hale shoma chetor ast?) حال شما چطور است؟
(haletun chetore?) حالتون چطوره؟
(halet chetore?) حالت چطوره؟

(chetorin?) چطورین؟

Reply to ‘How are you?’من خوبم ممنون، شما چطوريد؟
(man khubam mamnun, shoma chetorid?)
Long time no seeخيلي وقته که ازت خبري نيست
(kheili vaghte ke azat khabari nist)
مدت زمان زيادي است که شما را نديده ام
(moddate ziadi ast ke shoma ra nadideh am)
What’s your name?(esm e shoma chist?) اسم شما چیست؟
(esmetun chie?) اسمتون چيه؟
vfrm – (naam e shoma chist?) نام شما چيست؟
inf – (esm e shoma chie?) اسم شما چيه؟
My name is …(esm e man … ast) اسم من … است.
vfrm – (naam e man … ast) نام من … است
inf – (esm e man … eh) اسم من … ه
Where are you from?(shoma ahleh koja hastid?) شما اهل کجا هستيد؟
(ahle kojayee?) اهل کجايي؟
I’m from …(man az … hastam) من از … هستم
Pleased to meet you!از ملاقات شما خوش وقتم
(az molaghat-e shomâ khosh vaghtam)
Good morning
(Morning greeting)
(sobh bekheir) صبح بخير
Good night(shab bekheir) شب بخير
Goodbye
(Parting phrases)
(bedrood) بدرود (khoda hafez) خداحافظ
Good luck(mo’afagh bashed) موفق باشيد
Cheers!
(Toasts used when drinking)
(salâmati!)سلامتي! (be salâmati!) به سلامتي!
Have a nice day(ruze xubi dâšte bâšid!) روز خوبي داشته باشيد!
Bon appetit /
Have a nice meal
(befarma’id) بفرماييد (nooshe jan) نوش جان
Bon voyage /
Have a good journey
(safar khosh) سفر خوش (safar be kheir) سفر به خير
(be salamat) به سلامت
I don’t understand(nemifahmam) نمي فهمم
(motevajjeh nemisham) متوجه نميشم
I don’t know(Nemidanam) من نمی دانم
Please speak more slowlyميشه آهسته تر صحبت کنيد؟
(mishe ahesteh tar sohbat konid)
خواهش مي کنم آهسته تر صحبت کنيد
(khahesh mikonam ahesteh tar sohbat konid)
Please say that againمي شه دوباره بگيد؟
(miše dobâre begid?)
خواهش مي کنم دوباره تکرار کنيد
(khahesh mikonam dobare tekrar konid)
Please write it down(lotfan yaddasht konid) لطفا یادداشت کنید
Do you speak Persian?frm – (shomâ fârsi sohbat mekunid?) شما فارسي صحبت مي کنيد؟
inf – (to fârsi harf mizani?) تو فارسي حرف مي زني؟
Yes, a little
(reply to ‘Do you speak …?’)
(bale, man fârsi harf mizanam) بله ، من فارسي حرف مي زنم
(bale, ye kam) بله، يه کم
How do you say … in Persian?(shoma … ro be Fārsi chi migin) شما … رو به فارسي چي ميگين؟
Excuse me(bebakhshid) ببخشيد! (mazerat mikham) معذرت ميخوام
How much is this?(gheymatesh chande?) قيمتش چنده؟
(gheymate in chand ast?) قيمت اين چند است؟
Sorry(moteassefam) متاسفم!
Thank youfrm – (mamnūnam) ممنونم vinf – (mersi) مرسي
vfrm – (moteshakkeram) متشكرم
Reply to thank you(khahesh mikonam) خواهش مي كنم
Where’s the toilet?(dashtshuee kojast?) دستشويي کجاست؟
This gentleman/lady will pay for everything(un barâye hameci pul mide) اون براي همه چي پول مي ده
Would you like to dance with me?(dust dârid bâ man beraqsid?) دوست داريد با من برقصيد؟
(bâ man miraqsid?) با من مي رقصيد؟
I miss you(delam barat tang shodeh) دلم برات تنگ شده
I love you(asheghetam) عاشقتم
used in poetry and songs – (dūset dāram) دوست دارم
Get well soon(zud xub šo) زود خوب شو
Leave me alone!(man ra tanha bohzarid!) من را تنها بگذاريد!
(mano tanha bezar!) منو تنها بذار!
Help!
Fire!
Stop!
(komak!) کمک!
Fire!(âtiš!) آتیش
Stop!(vâysâ!) وایسا
Call the police!(poliso xabar konid) پليسو خبر کنيد
Christmas and New Year greetings(kerismas mobārak) كریسمس مبارک
(sale no mobārak) سال نو مبارک
Easter greetings(eide pak mobārak) عيد پاک مبارک
Birthday greetings(tavallodet mobārak) تولدت مبارک
One language is never enough(yek zabân kâfi nist) يک زبان کافي نيست
My hovercraft is full of eels
Why this phrase?
هاورکرافت من پر مارماهى است
(havercrafte man pore mārmāhi ast)

 

In the dining room of a remote hotel in Iran’s Alborz Mountains was a locked glass case displaying a solitary English-language book.The Valleys of the Assassins, Freya Stark,” said the hotelier as he unlocked the case, removed the book and turned to the page of a hand-drawn map. He pointed to our location. “You know Freya Stark? She came here in 1930. English lady, like you.” I nodded. She was one of the reasons for my journey.

“I think you are Freya Stark – but on motorcycle!” he declared as he carefully returned the book and locked the cabinet door. It seemed like a lot of reverence for a 10-quid paperback, but the book has immortalised this valley and his village.

I was motorcycling through the Alborz as part of a longer ride around Iran. My journey would take me more than 3,000 miles from the Turkish border to the southern deserts. I had long been an admirer of the British explorer and author and her forays into 1930s Persia, which she approached with a gung-ho attitude not normally associated with the serious geographical expeditions of the era. Most of all, I liked that she was entirely unpretentious about her motivation. “For my own part I travel single-mindedly, for fun,” she said.

‘A paradise of dirt tracks and waterfalls’: the Alborz mountains with Lake Taleghan in the foreground.



‘A paradise of dirt tracks and waterfalls’: the Alborz mountains with Lake Taleghan in the foreground. Photograph: Ali Majdfar/Getty Images

Stark had walked this same route I was riding more than 80 years earlier, tackling dangerous terrain and doubting locals in order to map what was then uncharted territory. She was on a mission to discover the ruins of Alamut Fortress, headquarters of the ancient Ismaili sect, better known as the Hashashin, who had terrorised this region in the 11th century.

Even today, the steep-sided mountain roads of the Alborz have a lonely, forbidding feel, but here, and throughout Iran, I would find myself approached at the roadside by complete strangers who would invite me to stay at their homes. The feeding would begin as soon as I walked through the door – plates of fresh melon, sweets and nuts served with tea – always tea. Meals of flatbread and yogurt dips followed by stews, on piles of Persian tahdig rice – crisped on the bottom of the pan and drenched in butter. I asked one man about Iranian hospitality. “People must look after each other,” he told me, with a serious expression. “No matter what religion we are.”

Famous footsteps: Freya Stark in Jebel Druze in the 1930s.



Famous footsteps: Freya Stark in Jebel Druze in the 1930s. Photograph: Alamy

Although I set off on this journey carrying my camping gear, my tent remained unpitched. With each host, I was passed on to their friends and relatives throughout the country, all seemingly happy to host a strange British woman on a motorcycle. Occasionally I would crave the anonymity of a hotel room. In larger towns there was always a small guesthouse where I could relax.

Although the southern slopes of the Alborz are close enough to Tehran to offer ski-resorts and hiking trails, in the more isolated valleys the weather can change quickly and navigation becomes challenging. But for a motorcyclist on a trail bike, the Alborz are a paradise of dirt tracks and waterfalls, where eagles circle high above jagged black rock and snow-capped peaks.

Stark encountered her share of obstacles when she set out to explore this region, but it was a different set of challenges to those a British woman faces today, travelling alone in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the 1930s Persia was ruled by the secular Reza Shah, who was actively modernising the country, including emancipating the female population – to the extent of banning the hijab. The British presence also remained powerful, running Iran’s oil industry, railways and telecommunications.

‘Strangers would invite me to stay and the feeding would begin as soon as I walked through the door…’: Persian saffron rice.



‘Strangers would invite me to stay and the feeding would begin as soon as I walked through the door…’: Persian saffron rice. Photograph: Alamy

Eight decades, one MI6-backed coup and an Islamic revolution later, it remains a challenge for a solo British woman to enter Iran, especially on a motorcycle – a form of transport outlawed for Iranian women. But after some interrogation, fingerprinting and a little skulduggery on my part, I made it across the border. Like so many Brits before me, my fascination soon turned into full-blown Persophilia. The sheer otherness of Iran is enchanting – wandering through the 15th-century bazaar in Tabriz, piled high with saffron, gold and carpets, or exploring the ruins of Persepolis, the seat of Persia’s ancient kings.

A guidebook will point you to the glittering mosques, palaces and ancient gardens, but Iran’s standout attraction is its people. Travelling by motorcycle made for easy icebreaking, but on my few excursions by public transport I experienced the same eager hospitality and appetite for spirited conversation, laughter and human connection.

I made my journey in 2013 and the following year Iran forbade British citizens from travelling independently, so the only way to go was with an authorised tour or guide. Last year the British embassy in Tehran reopened and travel restrictions were lifted, making Iran more accessible than it has been for years. I have returned to Iran each year since my first trip and its allure never dulls. The deeper I dig, the more intrigued and enamoured I become. If you have a chance to see Iran, take it. I am so glad I did.