Holidays to Iran will become much more accessible now that the Foreign Office has lifted advisory against travel, and flights will become more readily available in the coming months.
Cited as one of the best places to travel to in 2015, it's a bucket list destination for many. But what's all the fuss about? If you're yet to experience the magic of this captivating country, here are 10 reasons why you should visit Iran right now.
1. Visit the 19 World Heritage Sites
Iran is home to 19 World Heritage Sites! So if you take an interest in history, architecture, archaeology or culture, a trip to Iran could be the perfect holiday. Some of the must-see sites include Golestan Palace, the Bisotun Rock, Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, Persepolis, the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, the Tchogha Zanbil Ruins, and Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh Tomb.
"Detail, Tiling on the Golestan Palace" by Alan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
2. Surprising Tehran
The capital is one of those cities that you just have to experience for yourself. Whilst some have branded it a busy, chaotic centre, others can see past the concrete to discover the burgeoning art scene, the chic café culture and the stylish restaurants with their global cuisine offerings. A real up and coming city for the curious.
"IMG_7875 Tehran" by Ninara is licensed under CC BY 2.0
3. See the Badab-e Surt Hot Springs
What a sight to behold! The Badab-e Surt terraced hot springs are a must-see when travelling in Iran; these formations have formed over thousands of years with the flowing water from two mineral hot springs, cooling and depositing minerals on the mountain's edge. Bring your camera!
"IMG_3824 Iran Badab Soort" by Ninara is licensed under CC BY 2.0
4. Visit the Home of Shiraz Wine
Although wine production no longer happens in the city of Shiraz, this Persian centre is a stunning destination filled with rich history and art. Named the "City of Love" as well as the "House of Learning", it appeals to both hopeless romantics and history buffs.
"Naranjastan Garden" by David Stanley is licensed under CC BY 2.0
5. The Ideal Autumn Destination
Although Iran is a popular summer destination, the best time to visit is spring or autumn when the temperatures are mild and balmy. So if you're looking for the ideal family holiday outside of term time and peak season, Iran makes a fantastically affordable place to travel to.
"Gray Dome at Dusk" by Always Shooting is licensed under CC BY 2.0
6. Explore Isfahan
Visit incredible Isfahan, the "living museum of Iranian culture", a place where you will feel like you've stepped back in time. Be sure to visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the Shah Mosque, the Vank Cathedral and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque - wonderful for culture vultures.
"32281-Isfahan-Chehel-Sotoon-Museum" by Xiquinho Silva is licensed under CC BY 2.0
7. Discover the Ruins of Persepolis
One of the most iconic ruins in Iran, the Persepolis (meaning "The Persian City") dates all the way back to 550-330 BC and was once the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. This is one of the 19 UNESCO sites in Iran and is a fine example of Achaemenid style architecture.
"Persepolis" by Blondinrikard Fröberg is licensed under CC BY 2.0
8. Hit the Beach on Kish Island
Discover this Persian Gulf paradise on Kish Island and relax at the many family friendly resorts lining the beaches. The two main beaches include Maryam Beach and Ladies' Beach.
"Sand Beach on Kish Island, Iran" by Ivan Mlinaric is licensed under CC BY 2.0
9. Go Skiing at Shemshak
This is Iran's best kept secret. From November to April, ski season opens at Shemshak (located in the North East of Tehran in the Alborz mountain range) and the resort offers 2 hotels and a number of restaurants.
"IMG_2147" by Ninara is licensed under CC BY 2.0
10. See the World's Largest Mosque
Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad is the world's largest mosque and it's a vast complex which houses the mausoleum, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites, a museum and library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Science and various other buildings. It's a must-see for anyone visiting Iran.
"حرم امام رضا - مشهد - Imam Reza Shrine - Mashhad" by abdallahh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
There's no doubting Iran is an enchanting destination, and now is the time to visit before tourism truly takes over and it becomes more westernised as so many locations around the world have. At this stage independent travel isn't recommended, especially for Americans, but it's very easy to find excellent guided tours which can take you around the country and its jaw dropping sights.
So what are you waiting for?! Prepare to be inspired and discover a country that will be like nothing you've ever seen before, and a far cry from the war-torn place pictured by many.Suggest a correction