People, Travel

Now is the Time to Visit Iran

Now is the Time to Visit IranNow is the Time to Visit Iran

Every year, travel gurus come up with ranking of the travel hotspots for the following year, with interesting and varying results.

After Lonely Planet and Afar magazine made their prognosis for 2015, it’s Rough Guides’ turn to weigh in on the top travel destinations that will be making waves next year, Euronews reported.

Rough Guides, the leading publisher of travel and reference information known for its ‘tell it like it is’ attitude, accurate, up-to-date content and informed contemporary writing, has judged Iran as the top country to visit in 2015, while it selected Johannesburg, South Africa as the top city of the year.

New clusters of forward-thinking museums, galleries and shops are set to open in Johannesburg, editors say, while bustling neighborhoods are emerging as “exciting cultural hubs.”

Meanwhile, Iran reported a 200% increase in visitors from Europe, editors point out. In addition to mountain scenery, Iran offers a fascinating lesson in ancient Persian history, bazaars, and towering minarets, they say.

American photographer and travel writer Anthon Jackson explains why now is the time to travel to Iran. What follows is a synopsis of Jackson’s article in Euronews:

The word is out: as far as off-the-beaten-path destinations go, Iran is an absolute gem. More than ever since 1979, travelers are making their way to the Islamic Republic, and there’s little wonder why.

Boasting gorgeous landscapes and rich tapestry of ancient cultures and religions, Iran is highly welcoming and easy on the wallet (though you can only use cash), offering plenty of bang for your buck. Stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea and from Turkey to Pakistan, it encompasses spectacular desertscapes even more desolate than the American Southwest, snowcapped peaks, fertile valleys and lush forests.


Its treasure chest of attractions include ancient Persian monuments, lavish Qajar mansions, Silk Road caravanserais, world-renowned museums and art galleries in the bustling capital of Tehran, and the splendid Safavid gardens in Isfahan that encircle some of the world’s most hauntingly beautiful mosques, adorned with mesmerizing turquoise tile-works.

Much like its 3000-year-old qanats, an ingenious network of irrigation tunnels, Persia’s sense of heritage runs deep, boasting a richness on a par with the greatest of civilizations. Wandering among the ruins of majestic Persepolis, one of history’s greatest capitals, it’s hard not be impressed with the wealth and glory of the monuments.

In Shiraz, City of Poets and heartland of Persian culture and sophistication, visitors from near and far pay their respects to the ornate tomb of Persian poet Hafez, while in Yazd, home to one of the Middle East’s best-preserved medieval bazaars, a flame, said to have burned for 1500 years, flickers on in the Zoroastrian fire temple.

Mingling with pilgrims in sacred Mashhad’s Haram complex, you’ll marvel at the dazzling, tiled tomb of Imam Reza (AS), resting place of the eighth Imam. And while soaking up the grandeur of Imam Square in Isfahan, and admiring its iconic, blue-domed Imam Mosque, you’ll begin to appreciate the old rhyme, “Isfahan is half the world”. In the evening, you can join local Isfahanis for a promenade past the magically lit bridges spanning the Zayandeh River.


Even considering Iran’s abundance of worthy sights, returning travelers, particularly from the US, are most impressed with the warmth of Persian hospitality. Doubtless among the most welcoming people on earth, Iranians are praised even by their most bitter enemies as superior hosts.

In chatting with curious locals, foreigners in Iran are guaranteed endless cups of tea, spontaneous gifts, home invitations and even impromptu guide services. And in stark contrast to more established regional travel hubs, jaded by decades of mass-tourism, you’ll find hardly any of the old tourist touts in Iran.

Until quite recently, however, Iran only drew a small trickle of foreign visitors, but as relations with the West continue to thaw, tourist numbers are on the rise, hotels are booming, visa requirements are easing up and airlines are rapidly expanding to connect Iran’s hubs with Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Some international companies have already set up shadow offices in the country as they anticipate a deal to finally rid themselves of the sanctions.

It would appear change is on its way. And when it comes, travelers can expect the floodgates of mass-tourism to open wide. The time to travel to Iran is now.