At a time when international politics would tend to cast doubt on the advisability of Iran as a holiday destination, it might come as a surprise to see it listed on our web site. However we have been sending people there continuously for the last 18 years and Paul, our specialist, has travelled there extensively on a number of occasions. Our chairman was even there before the revolution - that dates him….
Why we like Iran
Over many years of organising travel to Iran, our experience is of a warm and friendly country whose people are only too delighted to welcome foreign visitors. Birthplace to one of the world's great empires, Iran has been subsequently dominated and influenced by a host of cultures whose architectural remains lie scattered across the country. It is quite simply one of the most fascinating countries you can visit.
There is a very strict dress code which is more applicable to women than to men, and required on boarding the Iran Air flight. Without going into detail here, it does involve women wearing a long skirt and ensuring that both ankles, hair and arms are properly covered. However it is not as restrictive as stereotypes would have you believe. Men too must keep their arms covered.
Dress aside, you will discover delicious, freshly cooked food and plentiful fruit but accommodation that is best described as being adequate and functional. Internal transportation will typically involve some longish journeys in 4x4 cars with an internal flight at some stage.
Finally do not expect the Iranians to be the stereotyped chanting mass so frequently portrayed by the media. Think instead of a friendly, hospitable and cultured nation who will extend a warm welcome to you. It's one of the many ironies of this complicated country that a nation with an international reputation for hostility should be inhabited by a people of such rare, and hospitable, charm.
In Iran, the government is more conservative and religious but the people are very open. The key to understanding Iran is to meet and talk to local people - and that is easier than in most Middle Eastern countries. In any bazaar, at any cafe, people will be keen to talk to you. Walking through the bazaar allows you to see everyday life as families go about their business. But bazaars reinforce a stereotype of the ancient of the exotic, an image conferred on the country by its exonym of Persia.
In today’s Iran, glossy shopping malls are de rigueur. The girls and boys who stroll contentedly along are world’s apart from my impressions of Iran. They are young, beautiful and fashionable – their hair coiffed and styled as if on a fashion shoot. This society is young and modern so different from the images that look down from billboards of men dressed in robes and turbans, their beards white, their eyes disinterested in what is going on around them. It is difficult to reconcile the two.
Some ideas for an Iran holiday
- Isfahan’s central square is an architectural wonder, follow it with a stroll through the nearby sprawling bazaar.
- Visit Shiraz, the city of poets, and birthplace of Hafez and Sa’di.
- Persepolis, built by Darius the Great and then sacked by Alexander the Great, is still an impressive site.
- The old city of Yazd is the centre for Zoroastrianism.
- To the north there is Hamadan, traditional centre of the carpet trade, and the Caspian Sea.
- Visit the remote Armenian churches near Tabriz, hidden away close to the Turkish border, or the holy cities of Qom and Mashad and the desert towns of Na'in, the geographical centre of Iran.
Is Iran safe to travel around?
With a turbulent past, Iran is only now re-emerging as a tourist destination with its fascinating history, warm people and beautiful scenery. When it comes to the safety of tourists, the Iranian people are extremely friendly and will do their best to make foreigners feel safe and welcome. However, we advise leaving valuables at home, keeping an eye on personal belongings in crowded areas and avoiding unknown areas without your guide.
Can I drink alcohol in Iran?
No. Alcohol is not prohibited in Iran and anyone found with alcohol will be liable to the penalty for possession.
What should I see when visiting the country?
Being such a vast country with such a rich history, it is no surprise that Iran has a wealth of things to do and see. Once part of the famous Silk Route, the cities of Yazd, Hamadan and Tehran still harbour undiscovered gems, and exploring the alleyways and bazaars will transport you back in time. The world heritage site Persepolis is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring ancient ruins, and is a must see that should be included on any itinerary.
Is there a dress code to follow?
Due to Islam being the main religion in Iran, there is a strict dress code that should be followed and respected by visitors. Women must wear a headscarf at all times, along with a long top over trousers, ensuring arms are covered. They should also avoid wearing bright red. For men it is a little easier, with western dress being favoured, however shorts are forbidden.
Can I use my credit card?
No, credit cards are not accepted so you must bring enough cash for the duration of your trip.