Civilisation has existed on the land that the Islamic Republic of Iran now claims as home for more than 5,000 years. It has seen all types of humanity come and go, from the ancient Elamite Kingdom to the Iranian Medes, Cyrus the Greeks' Achaemenid Empire, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Iranian Revolution, which led to the Islamic republic that exists today. Iran's vast oil wealth and position in the Middle East help it hold significant sway in the politics of the region and the wider world.
There are frequent flights to Iran from cities around the world and Tehran, the capital city of 8.3 million, is the best place to start. It’s a shopper’s haven; lose yourself in bazaars filled with huge piles of saffron and other spices for sale, along with resplendent rugs and traditional wares. You’ll find these markets lining the narrow streets along with other attractions including the Jewellery Museum, the Azadi Tower, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and Jameh Bazaar (which opens on Fridays). There are lots of luxury hotels to stay in during your trip, including the Tehran Grand Hotel and the Safir Hotel, both of which make a great base for sightseeing.
Further afield you’ll find plenty of other interesting places to visit. There’s Isfahan – with its many bazaars, gardens, mosques, and museums – Mashhad (where the tomb of the famous Imam Reza lies), and Shiraz, which bills itself as the city of poets, literature and flowers. Head out into nature, and you could come into contact with all manner of wildlife including gazelles, wolves and panthers.
Whenever you visit, and whether you stay indoors or venture out, keep in mind that the weather in Iran is generally hot and dry. You should also make sure to respect the customs of the local culture, which includes dressing modestly. Do so, and you’ll fit in with ease.