Imam (Shah) Mosque in Isfahan (Shutterstock)
List Words : Hazel Plush | 08 March

Trip of a lifetime: Iran

Incredible architecture, beguiling culture, Silk Road splendour – and quite possibly the warmest welcome you'll ever experience. Welcome to Iran...

Best for... A quick snapshot

If you're short on time but still want to get to the heart of Iran, World Expeditions' Best of Iran trip is for you. The 11-day itinerary starts in Shiraz, where you'll discover striking Islamic monuments and mosques, before heading to Persepolis for a morning tour of the ancient ruins. You'll have plenty of time to explore the site, seeking out ornate tombs and crumbling palaces.

Amir Chakhmaq Complex in Yazd (Shutterstock)
Amir Chakhmaq Complex in Yazd (Shutterstock)

Then it's time to head across the mountains and into the desert – to Yazd, an oasis where the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut deserts meet. This pocket of traditional Iran maintains many of its original buildings and customs, and is quietly famous for its handmade carpets, silk tapestries and ceramics.

Next stop is Isfahan, where you'll sip brews in the teahouses along Zayande River, then seek out the Masjed-e Imam – with its handmade ceramic tiles, it's considered the most beautiful building in Iran. With its extensive museums and gardens, Tehran is the grand finale of the trip – as well as nearby Darband, a charming rural area to the north of the city. See the full itinerary

Best for... A (very) big adventure

Travel in the footsteps of Silk Road traders on Oasis Overland's whopping 44-day trip. Travelling from Ashgabat to Istanbul in an overland truck, this itinerary is lengthy and action-packed: you'll cram in Turkmenistan and Turkey (from Istanbul to Lake Van) as well as adventures in Iran. The big benefit of overlanding? You're pretty self-sufficient and can camp wherever you like: memorable spots include the Dasht e Kavir desert and Zagros Mountain Range.

Dasht e Kavir (Shutterstock)
Dasht e Kavir (Shutterstock)

This trip includes all the highlights you'd expect from an Iran itinerary (including stops in Tehran and Esfahan, plus the ancient city of Persepolis), as well as plenty of delightful extras: the 35km bazaar of Tabriz, the poetic city of Mashad, and the mountains near the Turkish border, to name but a few. See the full itinerary


Best for... Meeting local people

Iran's sights are incredible, the food is delicious, and the culture is rich and intriguing. But the people? They really make the place. Their hospitality knows no bounds, and they're just as inquisitive about you as you are about them. That's why Wild Frontiers' Iran Unveiled trip attempts to introduce you to as many local people as possible, with a bilingual guide at your side.

Man making traditional Iranian vase in Isfahan market (Shutterstock)
Man making traditional Iranian vase in Isfahan market (Shutterstock)

You'll tick off all of Iran's top experiences (haggling for treasures in Tehran's bazaar, visiting mosques and fortresses, and exploring Isfahan's palaces) before venturing off-piste to get a real flavour of life in the country. In the Bavanat Valley, you'll stay the night with some nomadic families that call this beautiful region home, then in Sepidan village (near Shiraz) you'll take tea with some Qashqai nomads. See the full itinerary

Best for... Rail escapades

Spanning from Europe to the Middle East, G Adventures' Budapest to Tehran trip is a real rail odyssey. On this 28-day adventure you'll chug through captivating cities, rural towns, and awe-inspiring landscapes – covering Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran.

Colourful ceiling of Golestan Palace, Tehran (Shutterstock)
Colourful ceiling of Golestan Palace, Tehran (Shutterstock)

The itinerary is busy, but you'll have plenty of time to soak up your surroundings and chat to local people while you're on the move. Whether you're kipping on a sleeper train or sharing a popular commuter route, you'll encounter the real hospitality of everyday people. There are plenty of days spent off the rails too – for exploring, eating and haggling for treasures. See the full itinerary

Best for... Exploring the north

While northern Iran features on most overlanding or long-distance rail trips (see above), it's rarely included on shorter itineraries. That's what makes Regent Holidays' 15-day Journey from Tabriz to Shiraz so special – this small-group tour whisks you from north to south, without eating up too much of your annual leave.

Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz (Shutterstock)
Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz (Shutterstock)

You'll start in Tabriz, where you can get lost in the 35km bazaar and visit the opulent Blue Mosque. The Aras Valley is on your doorstep: you'll venture to this remote yet ravishing spot to see the river border between Iran and Azerbaijan, and explore the Church of St Stephanos (which dates back to 62AD). The rest of the itinerary includes all of the usual highlights – plus the troglodyte homes of Kandovan, the volcanic landscapes of Takht-e Soleiman, and a train ride from Tehran to Kashan. See the full itinerary

Best for... Unearthing ancient treasures

It's easy to be overwhelmed by Iran's far-reaching history. It has harboured ancient civilisations, served as a key Silk Road stopover, and nurtured some of the world's finest poets and scientists. Iran's past is as rich and colourful as its present – but it can be difficult to know where to start. Glories of Persia, Travel the Unknown's 16-day trip (which includes visa assistance), will put you on the right track – with the help of expert guides and a specially-crafted itinerary.

Gate of All Nations in Persepolis (Shutterstock)
Gate of All Nations in Persepolis (Shutterstock)

You'll uncover rock carvings at Tagh e Bostan, age-old ruins in Persepolis and Susa, and the Towers of Silence in mud-brick Yazd. You can also immerse yourself in the creative treasures of ancient Iran: the pioneering poetry and art of Shiraz are particularly dazzling. If you want deeper historical insight than regular sightseeing tours can offer, this one's for you. See the full itinerary


Main image: Imam (Shah) Mosque in Isfahan (Shutterstock)