Iran is located in West Asia and borders the Caspian Sea is in the north and the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in the south. The country shares borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Turkey. This strategic position made Iran an important country throughout its history.
1.6 million Sq. Km.
making it the world’s 17th largest country, slightly smaller than Alaska, double the size of Turkey and three times the size of France.
Most of Iran is located on the Iranian Plateau some 1,200 m above sea level, and is covered by rugged mountain ranges, deserts and salt marshes. While Zagros and Elburz mountain ranges cover the western and northern parts of Iran, the deserts of Dasht-e Kavir (The Great Salt Desert) and Dasht-e Lut (The Emptiness Desert) are located in the country’s central and eastern parts. The volcanic Mount Damavand (5,671 metres), located in the centre of the Elburz, is Iran’s highest peak; on clear days, it can be seen from Tehran. By having dense rain forests in the north, warm sunny beaches in the south, snowy mountains in the west and amazingly hot deserts in the east, Iran is one of the few countries that gives the joy of experiencing four different seasons at the same time to travelers. Most people in Iran live along the edges of a high plateau that runs through the middle of the country.
Iran At Glance
Capital : Tehran
Iran was historically referred to as Persia until 1935 when Reza Shah Pahlavi formally asked the international community to call the country by its native name, Iran. But In 1959 due to controversial debates over the name, it was announced that both could be used.
The First inhabitants of Iran were a race of people living in western Asia. When the Aryans arrived, they gradually started mingling with the old native Asians. Aryans were a branch of the people today known as the Indo-Europeans, and are believed to be the ancestors of the people of present India, Iran, and most of Western Europe.
Recent discoveries indicate that, centuries before the rise of earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Iran was inhabited by human. But the written history of Iran dates back to 3200 BC. It begins with the early Achaemenids, The dynasty whose under the first Iranian world empire blossomed.
Cyrus the Great was the founder of the empire and he is the first to establish the charter of human rights. In this period Iran stretched from the Aegean coast of Asia Minor to Afghanistan, as well as south to Egypt.The Achaeamenid Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and was followed by The Seleucid Greek Dynasty.
After the Seleucids, we witness about dozen successive dynasties reigning over the country, Dynasties such as Parthian, Sassanid, Samanid, Ghaznavid, Safavid, Zand, Afsharid, Qajar and Pahlavi. In 641 Arabs conquered Iran and launched a new vicissitudinous era. Persians, who were the followers of Zoroaster, gradually turned to Islam and it was in Safavid period when Shiite Islam became the official religion of Iran.
Since Qajar dynasty on, due to the inefficiency of the rulers, Iran intensely begins to decline and gets smaller and smaller. The growing corruption of the Qajar monarchy led to a constitutional revolution in 1905-1906. The Constitutional Revolution marked the end of the medieval period in Iran, but the constitution remained a dead letter.
During World Wars I and II the occupation of Iran by Russian, British, and Ottoman troops was a blow from which the government never effectively recovered.
In 1979, the nation, under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, erupted into revolution and the current Islamic republic of Iran was founded.
Throughout Iran’s long history, in spite of different devastating invasions and occupations by Arabs, Turks, Mongols, British, Russians, and others, the country has always maintained its national identity and has developed as a distinct political and cultural entity.
Almost 81 Million.
The official language of Iran is Persian. Seven more languages are recognized regional languages, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Luri, Mazandarani, Gilaki, Balochi and Arabic. English is widely spoken among the urban youth. Officially licensed guides are available for all major European languages.
The majority, or around 90 percent, of Iranians practice Shi’a Islam, which is also the official state religion. The constitution recognizes Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians as protected religious minorities, and five seats in the parliament are reserved for these minority groups.
Iran has a variable climate with dry and warm to hot summers, while the winter months bring changeable weather which can vary from mild to snow and ice. In most of the country, summers bring virtually continuous sunshine, with high humidity on the southern coasts. A small area along the Caspian Sea has a very mild climate with rainfall throughout the year.
Iran can be visited any time of the year, but the best times to go are spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when there are ideal temperatures across most of the country. The summer months see less visitors as they are very hot, especially in the South where many of the important historical sites such as Shiraz and Yazd are located. The winter months are cold, especially in the northeast and west, and mountain roads can be snow-blocked.
Oct – Feb : GMT + 3.30 Hours.
Mar -Sep : GMT + 4.30 Hours.
Most Iranians work a five-and-a-half day week with Thursday afternoons and Fridays off, but business and shopping hours are flexible. Friday is the official day off. Christian shopkeepers close on Sunday instead and shops in the souks remain open on Fridays.
|Tehran||Sat- Wed||Thu||Fri & Official Holidays|
|Other Cities||Sat- Wed||Thu||Fri & Official Holidays|
Religious and Public Holidays
Among the Islamic holidays celebrated in Iran are the small feast at the end of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, and the big feast, Eid Al-Adha. During the eid holidays many shops and offices close for three-four days. Due to the Islamic calendar, which uses lunar months, the dates of these feasts vary each year.
11.Feb Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution
13.Mar Martyrdom of Hazrat Fatimeh
20.Mar Oil Nationalization Day
21-23.Mar Nowruz (Persian New Year)
01.Apr Islamic Republic Day
02.Apr Sizdehbedar (Nature Day)
21.Apr Imam Ali’s Birthday
05.May Prophet’s Ascension
23.May Imam Mahdi’s Birthday
03.Jun Anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s Death
27.Jun Martyrdom of Imam Ali
07-08.Jul Eid Al-Fitr
31.Jul Martyrdom of Imam Sadegh
13.Sep Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
21.Sep Eid Al-Ghadir
30.Nov Martyrdom of Imam Reza
17.Dec Birthday of Prophet Mohammed
220 V – 50 Hz. Electrical outlets have two holes for rounded prongs.
From Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan
Tehran: Imam Khomeini International Airport, Mehrabad International
Airport Mashhad: Mashhad International Airport
Shiraz :Shiraz International Airport
Kish: Kish International Airport
Ahwaz: Ahwaz International Airport
Isfahan: Isfahan International Airport
Tabriz: Tabriz International Airport
Bandar Abbas: Bandar Abbas International Airport
Kerman: Kerman Airport
Asaluyeh: Persian Gulf Airport
Kermanshah: Kermanshah Airport
Zahedan: Zahedan International Airport
Yazd: Shahid Sadooghi Airport
Bushehr: Bushehr Airport
Iran borders the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman to the south of Iran.
Port of Bandar Anzali
Port of Bandar Noshahr
Gulf of Oman:
Port of Chabahar Persian
Port of Bandar Abbas
Port of Bandar Khomeini
Port of Bandar Taheri
Port of Bandar Mahshahr
Port of Cyrus Terminal
Port of Bushire
Port of Khorramshahr
Port of Ras Bahrgan
Port of Kish Island
The Iranian currency is the “Rial” (RI or Ris), which is divided into 100 Dinars. Another unit called “Toman” is most often used among people and one Toman is equivalent to 10 Rials. Prices may be indicated in either Rial or Toman – in case of doubt, check it with the seller.
Bank notes are available in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 Rials. Coins are available in denominations of 10, 50, 100 and 250 Rials.
Banks and authorized money changers (“SARRAFI”) can be found in most of the places throughout the country. There are also street exchangers in tourist areas; however, these are not officially authorized and therefore not recommended. USD and EURO can be exchanged everywhere, but other currencies can be exchanged only in certain bank branches. Tourists can rarely use debit or credit cards or travellers cheques while in Iran and it is therefore recommended to bring cash money in form of USD, EUR or GBP. There are no limitations with regards to the import of foreign currencies. Generally, you need to take the same precautionary measures that you take in other countries and bringing a money belt is recommended.
Iranian festivals tend to center around Muslim holidays or events or originate from the Pre-Islamic Zoroastrian era. Festivals vary greatly by region due to Iran’s multi-ethnic make-up. Visitors should note that when watching or participating in any religious event, conservative dress is a must. Ask your tour guide or hotel what customs need to be followed so as not to offend anyone.
Nowruz, the celebration of Iranian New Year, is considered the most important holiday in Iran. Festivities take place over 12 days and usually involve the cleaning of homes, the giving alms and the visiting of relatives. There are regional variations, with the Kurds celebrating using fire.
Taking place in February every year, the Ashoura Festival celebrates the martyrdom of Hussein Bin Ali, grandson of Mohammad. This is a time for Shi’a Muslims to show their devotion. The event includes self-mutilation and flagellation.
An important day for Muslims in February or March is remembered for when the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is one of the most significant days on the Islamic calendar and celebrated with night prayers and illuminated buildings.
Shab e Cheleh (or Shab-e Yalda)
The turning point. End of the longest night (darkness) of the year, and beginning of growing of the days (Lights). A celebration of Good over Evil.
Festival of Fire (Chahar Shanbeh Soori)
Taking place annually on the last Wednesday of December, the Festival of Fire sees bonfires sprouting up in various public areas and parks. It marks the importance of the light over the darkness, arrival of spring and revival of nature.
Food and Drinks
Iran has an amazing and rich variety of food. In the Iranian kitchen you will find a lot of fresh herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cardamom, and saffron. The Iranian cuisine consists of a delicious array of stews and different rice among many other dishes. A typical Iranian meal is often a heaping plate of rice topped with vegetables, fish, or meat (mostly chicken or lamb). Nan (bread), a round, flat bread that comes in a variety of tastes and textures, is the other staple food of Iranian cuisine.
Most restaurants offer little variety and serve mostly different types of kebab. To taste true Iranian food, it is necessary to eat at an Iranian’s house. Vegetarians can order raw or cooked vegetables in restaurants, but it is recommended to let your tour guide know beforehand as in some restaurants vegetarian food may have to be pre-ordered.
Fruits such as quinces, pears, grapes, dates, apricots, and Iranian melons flavored with rosewater are typically eaten for dessert. Halva, a sesame treat and baklava, a crisp pastry layered with nuts and honey, are common in Iran. Iranians also love ice cream and puddings. Sugared tea is Iran’s most common beverage and the most common method is to hold a sugar cube between the teeth so that it dissolves as the tea is drunk. Coffee is also a popular beverage, usually served hot, black and strong. Palouden, a rose- and lemon-flavored drink, Doogh (a salty yogurt drink) and fresh fruit juices can be bought in cafes and at street stalls. Mineral water is readily available throughout Iran. Pork, like alcohol, is forbidden. Alcohol-free beer is available in Iran.
Vaccinations and Health
For vaccinations, please check with health authorities in your home country before traveling. While travelers may experience mild stomach discomfort or diarrhea, no serious health threats exist in Iran.
In summer, never go out without sunscreen and a hat (women can wear a hat over their headscarf). Protect your eyes with good quality sunglasses. There is a real risk of sunstroke or heat exhaustion during midday hours, especially in the southern parts of the country. Avoid strenuous activities in hot temperatures, especially in the middle of the day, and drink plenty of water.
Shopping in Iran’s bustling bazaars is a unique experience you should not miss. Things that make great gifts for friends and family include:
Dried fruits and nuts such as mint almonds, pistachios and dates.
Saffron – a precious gift welcome in anyone’s kitchen.
Carpets – hand knotted woolen carpets and rugs with rich colors and workmanship.
Iranian sweets such as “Gez” and “Sohaan”. From plain to enriched with almonds and
pistachios, they are available in numerous shapes, sizes and gift packs.
Traditional woven fabrics, available in rich colors and interspersed with golden thread, that make great upholstery, bed spreads and bags.
Gold and silver jewelry. In Mashad look out for intricate silver jewelry studded with rubies, emeralds, agate and turquoise.
Small and inexpensive handicrafts such as miniature paintings, handcrafted wooden boxes, little bottles filled with colorful sand and glassware are just some of your options.
Nawafir makes it easy to rent a car, jeep, or four-wheel-drive vehicle, with or without a driver. An international driver’s license is usually required, and in high season advance notice is almost always required as demand for cars exceeds their availability.
Useful Information for Travellers
Internet in Iran: Major hotels provide their guests with Internet facilities. Also, many Internet cafes are available and most coffee shops and restaurants provide WI-FI. Mobile operators offer GPRS and 3G/4G services.
Social Conventions: Dress Code in Iran: Respecting the Islamic dress-code is a necessity in Iran. However such rules are not observed strictly, especially for tourists and foreigners. Men can wear short- or long-sleeved shirts and long trousers (including jeans). Wearing ties or bows is fine. For women, a headscarf is compulsory. It can be colorful (use light colours in summer). Body and arms should be covered by loose clothes called a Manteau which is similar to a light overcoat and usually comes below the knee. Legs should be covered down to ankles. Tight jeans are acceptable and you can wear sandals with bare feet. It is best to enter Iran with a coat and a scarf and then select your own style by watching the Iranian women in the streets. Iranian women are typically stylish and take great care in their appearance. It is not uncommon to see hair exposed under very small loose fitting scarves. It is also common to see makeup and varnished nails. In some holy shrines you need to have a Chador to enter and it will be given to you in the entrance.
Photography: As a general rule if you want to photograph people or places it is always better to ask first. Do not take pictures of any government installations, embassy buildings, or anything else that might be considered off-limits to visitors.
Safety: Iran is a safe and friendly place to travel. Iranians are incredibly helpful and it is generally safe to walk around at any time of the day or night. It is, of course, sensible to take obvious precautions: look after your belongings and keep valuables in the hotel safe. Lost property should be reported to the police without delay. If you lose your passport, you should contact your embassy.