Five Must-see Places in Iran

Five Must-see Places in Iran
Five Must-see Places in Iran

Iran has a well-worn tourist circuit, encompassing attractions in the ancient cities of Shiraz and Isfahan, CNN reported. But for those wanting to get off the beaten path, the country has a wealth of lesser-known destinations that rival the stunning beauty and historical significance of their more famous counterparts. Here are five of the best:

  Rudkhan Fort

Hidden in the humid green forests of northern Gilan Province is Rudkhan Fort, a medieval military fortress whose origins predate the advent of Islam in Iran.

Construction of the fort started in the Sassanid era, between 224 and 651 AD. Followers of the Ismaili sect, who had a thing for strong, strategic forts, are believed to have renovated and completed the fortress in the late 11th to 12th centuries.

The hike up to the castle, which is situated along two peaks of a verdant mountain, takes more than an hour, prompting many locals to call Rudkhan the “Fortress of a Thousand Steps.”

The fort is to the south of Fooman city, which by a highway is linked to Rasht, capital of Gilan Province. Travelers should not leave Gilan without trying its dishes. To name one, Kabab-Torsh is worth a try; tenderloin marinated in pomegranate paste, walnut and garlic.

  Bekhradi Historical House

This 400-year-old inn, built in the Safavid era in Isfahan, features four tastefully decorated multiroomed guest suites.

It took local interior designer and restoration specialist Morteza Bekhradi five years to engineer and complete the renovated building. Peppered with stained-glass windows and original artwork from the Safavid and subsequent Qajar eras, the house sits between two gardens replete with fruits and wildflowers.

Bekhradi also designed the furniture, and used wood from the sycamores that line the streets and historic gardens of Isfahan.

The designer says he sought to stay true to setup of the original house, which he says is believed to have belonged to a Safavid-era aristocrat.

Even the traditional heavy wooden doors lining the entryways of the upstairs suites belonged to the original house and were restored using sycamore wood.

To date, most guests have discovered the inn only by word of mouth, and even local Isfahanis are only beginning to learn about this hidden gem.

  Soltaniyeh Dome

A UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern province of Zanjan, the mausoleum of Oljaytu at Soltaniyeh is topped by the world’s largest brick dome.

Built between 1302 and 1312 in Soltaniyeh, the capital city of the Mongols’ Ilkhanid Dynasty, the monument is a mausoleum for Oljaytu, the 8th Ilkhanid dynasty ruler. He had intended for the Soltaniyeh Dome to house religious artifacts, but after clerics banned him from doing so, he decided to make the monument his own tomb.

Though much of the structure’s exterior coloring and tiles have faded through the centuries, the intricate brickwork, tilework and vibrant designs inside the mausoleum have remained largely unscathed.

The unique double-shelled structure of the Soltaniyeh Dome is also believed to have influenced the design of India’s Taj Mahal mausoleum.

Visits to the dome are worth sidetracking to Zanjan and having a lunch of classic Iranian dizi.

  Laleh Kandovan Stone Hotel

Some 50 km outside the northwestern city of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, lies the troglodyte village of Kandovan. People here live in cone-shaped caves cut out of volcanic rock at the foot of Mount Sahand, a dormant volcano.

Within the 800-year-old village, the Laleh Kandovan Stone Hotel has been literally hand-carved into the rocky landscape.

The luxury hotel has 16 modernized rooms with windows looking at the mountainous scenery.

According to local lore, mineral waters of Mount Sahand, valued for their medicinal properties, come down from the biblical Garden of Eden.

Guests of the hotel can take a relaxing soak in this precious liquid. If there’s a spa tub in the room, the mineral water gets pumped in directly.

  Toghrol Tower

Toghrol Tower is a Seljuk-era monument situated in the city of Rey, on the southern outskirts of Tehran.

Often overlooked by visitors who tend to stick to the higher-income northern and central areas of the Iranian capital, Rey is the oldest county in Tehran Province and is speckled with historical monuments, including a 500-year-old Safavid-era bazaar.

The tower is said to serve as the mausoleum for Seljuk king Toghrol Beg, who established Rey as a major administrative center of the Seljuk Dynasty until its destruction by Mongol armies in the early 13th century.