The land of Persia is a lesser-visited gem of the Middle East, bursting with cultural heritage, amazing landscapes, heavenly food and great hospitality. Here are some ideas for your a perfect trip to Tehran and beyond.
Exploring Tehran Bazaar (Panzdah-e-Khordad St.) is the perfect place to adjust yourself to the flow of the city. For a true taste of local food, wait in line to grab a spot at Moslem Restaurant, where they dish out delicious kebabs and tachin (crispy rice cake with chicken). Friday morning, head to Jomeh Bazaar (Jomhuri-ye-Eslami Ave.), where a flea market of antiques and second-hand finds awaits in a three-story parking lot. Each floor is dedicated to different products such as silverware, carpet or film cameras. The entrance is a bit tricky to find as you need to walk in through the car exit, but you should see plenty of people flocking in and out. Note that you can’t take photos inside. Come the evening, don’t miss the heritage teahouse Baghe Saba (Shariati St.), or Darband (Darband St.), a hilly spot full of cafes and restaurants. The menu of barbecue dishes is equally as wonderful as the ambience and cool breeze.
Graffiti at Den of Espionage (Former Us Embassy)
The first spot to check off in central Tehran is Azadi Tower (Azadi St.), the capital’s grandest landmark. Completed in 1971, the city’s West Entrance is the work of architect Hossein Amanat, who won a design competition to build the monument celebrating the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Blending Persian and Islamic architectural styles, it’s part of the Azadi Cultural Complex in Azadi Square. The base of the tower even has an underground museum showcasing precious stones, while at the top you’ll find an observation deck. Other spots not to miss include The National Jewels Treasury (Ferdowsi Ave.), which houses the exotic jewel collections of kings and queens, the grandiose Golestan Palace (Naser Khosrow St.), and the National Museum of Iran (30th Tir St.). The former U.S. Embassy, where 52 US diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, has also emerged as a popular tourist destination. Now known as the US Den of Espionage (Taleqani St.), the building is covered in eye-catching anti-American graffiti. Though visitors can’t always get a glimpse inside, it is open for a brief period from Feb 1-10 annually.
Tehran might be a capital city, but nature is within easy reach. Bame Tehran, widely known as the Roof of Tehran (Velenjak Ave., then go up Jaddeh-Ye-Telecabin), is simply stunning and not to be missed. Head there in the early morning to enjoy full panoramic views of the city before the smog sets in. Plenty of young Iranians hang out here, too, just killing time in the cool breeze. More breathtaking views can be found at Tochal Stations (www.tochal.org/en) in the Alborz Mountains. Take a tele-cabin to the top for incredible vistas of the mountain range, which sits in the North of Iran, next to Azerbaijan and Caspian Sea. In winter, it’s also a popular ski resort covered in snow. Tickets to reach the highest stations cost from IRR100,000-500,000 (B115-576). Note that once you go past a station you can’t stop at it again on the way back down, so plan which places you want to see in advance. On the way down, don’t miss Tajrish Bazaar (Shahrdari St.), where you can shop for fruits and chicken skewers amid an amazing ambience. Following a cool morning up on the mountains, the hot chicken fresh from the stove tastes incredible. If you still have some time left, walk to Imamzadeh Saleh Mosques Tajrish for a spot of people-watching as the locals gather for chit-chat and prayers.
OUTSIDE THE CAPITAL
If you have time, head south for these trending destinations.
Streets of Kahsan
This charming little oasis city is located 240km south of Tehran. Its compact size make it easy to walk around the architectural attractions. Head to Bazaar Kashan (Baba Afzal St.) first, which features a stunning blue dome with a large vent allowing sunlight to shine through. The long, narrow lanes are full of shops and tearooms, too. After the bazaar, head to Agha Bozorg Mosque, one of the most important mosques in the city, built in the 18th century. For a glimpse of the grandiose residential architecture of Iranian, stroll around the historical houses near Alavi Steet such as Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Abbasian House, Tabatabaei House and Borujerdi House. Kashan is also home to a UNESCO world heritage site, the 15th A.D. Bagh-e Fin Garden (Amir Kabir Rd.)—the oldest ancient garden in Iran. From Kashan, you can also easily access the Maranjab Desert, where you will get to see wild camel, sand dunes, salt lakes and even a caravansary that was built in the 16th century.
Bazaar of Kahsan
A local making Persian carpet in Bazaar of Kahsan
A caravansary in Kashan
The third biggest city in Iran is the South’s most popular tourist destination. Make Imam Square your first port of call. This UNESCO world heritage site is where you’ll find four incredible architectural relics: Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu Palace, Shah Mosque and Jame Mosque of Isfahan. The square is also home to many teahouses. We recommend the famous Azadegan for its amazing decoration of dangling tea pots and antiques in every corner. Make your way from there to the grand Bazaar of Isfahan, one of the oldest and largest bazaars in the Middle East, which dates back to the 17th century. Spend your evening at Zayandeh River for a local market experiences as well as to wander over the ancient bridges of Kajou, Shahrestan, Joui, Siosepol and Marnan while munching on Gaz (Persian nougat) or a cone of rose saffron ice cream. If you still have some time left, head to Sofeh Mountain for the best panoramic view of Isfahan.
Students at Imam Square
) offers direct flights from Bangkok to Tehran three times a week. Not every route features a direct leg back to Bangkok, however, with most flights returning via Kuala Lumpur. Tickets starts from B17,405. For full-service, Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com
) costs B35,500 for a round trip with a stop at Doha while Etihad Airways (www.etihad.com
) costs B32,915 with a stop at Abu Dhabi.
Visas for Thais are issued on arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. Contact the Iran Embassy (02-390-0871, 02-390-0837) for information or visit at goo.gl/UwaeIq to get a visa before your arrival (cost: B1,400).
B1 = IRR901