The ancient city of Susa, the Biblical city of Shushan, Elamites city of Susan or Susun and now the modern Iranian city of Shush, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015. About 117 Km from capital city of Ahvaz, the lower Zagros mountain range is home to a group of artificial archaeological mounds rising on the eastern side of the Shavur River. We can trace the city back as early as late 5th century BCE. Since then shush (Susa) has been continuously a perfect place for urban settlements until the 13th century CE. It used to be an important center; mostly with religious purpose together with an exceptional position on the trade route of silk and spice.

As long as the city’s historical role matters, Shush belonged to different empires such as Elamite, Persian and Parthian. It not only was a sacred place to worship goddess of love, fertility and warfare; but was the winter residence of Persian kings. Whatever we know about the site is owing to revelations based on the artifacts excavated. Findings include carved cylinder seals, jewelry, clay balls and clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions; recording business transactions, political history and mathematical calculations.

Prophet Danial Tomb in Susa

An unusual white conical dome, you can’t see something similar anywhere else in Iran, may draw your attention soon after entering the city. A tomb known as Shush Daniel has been a sacred place among Jews as well as Muslims for centuries.

Due to its strategic position along ancient trade route, Susa not only was religiously important but soon became a commercial, administrative and political hub. Shush connected two great ancient civilizations, the Mesopotamian and the Iranian plateau.

This long-lasting prosperity didn’t last finally and Alexander the great initiated the city’s decline. After a riot, they burnt the city to the ground.

Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran

Iran Armenian Monastic Ensembles

Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran

Locating in a green natural context of North West of Iran, UNESCO recognized Armenian Monastic Ensembles as world heritage site. Sharing border with Armenia, Iran houses three important churches that the remains of the oldest one, St Thaddeus, dates back to 7th century. Each one located in a remote, strikingly beautiful setting. Despite being isolated and virtually unknown, the journey would be so rewarding.


Barely known by tourists, Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran bear a rich testimony of an integrated architecture with other regional cultures such as: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The ensemble includes St Thaddeus, St Stepanos as well as the Chapel of Dzordzor. The construction survived some 2000 years of naturally or humanly destruction.

Short about Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran

Qareh Kelisa: Aka Black church is located in West Azerbaijan, Chaldoran County. The church is clearly visible from Maku. St Thaddeus church together with Safavid King Tomb, Chaldoran war and other historical monuments is great place to visit.

St Stephanos: Located in Jolfa, east Azerbaijan, in a deep canyon along Aras River.

Chapel of Dzordzor: The smallest yet the cutest one, located on a hill above a dam west of Maku.

Now, the majority of Armenian community is living in and around Tabriz, Jolfa in Isfahan and Tehran.

Another very important place where the Armenian are concentrated is in Isfahan. Pilgrims from in or out of Isfahan gather in Vank Cathedral every year. 

Where to stay?

Since they are situated away from each other, you need at least a day to visit the place and enjoy it in a relaxed pace. 





Persian Empire

Ruins of glory and majesty, Persepolis is a magnificent legacy of Persian Empire. Darius I (522-486 BCE) founded Persepolis as the ceremonial capital in 518 BCE. Persepolis means “city of Persians”. As a result, to appropriately introduce its splendor and to be real image of the Achaemenid monarchy itself, he built extremely intricate palatial constructions on a half-natural, half-artificial terrace. Although he didn’t live to see it finished but his descendants, his son Xerxes I (486-465 BCE), and his grandson Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE), persistently continued his huge job and made it a glorious human heritage. On the foothill of Kuh-e Ramat (Mountain of Mercy) one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world shows up.

Where is Persepolis located?

Renowned as the gem of Achaemenid (Persian) ensembles in the fields of architecture, urban planning, construction technology, and art, Persepolis is located in a fertile plain 50 Km from Shiraz.

13-ha of monumental stairways, throne rooms (Apadana) and reception rooms, is the number one tourist destination in the country. Inspired by the Mesopotamian models, the architecture was to be indicative of its supremacy.


Stepping up the stairs which are decorated by almost-intact bas reliefs of dignitaries with gifts in their hands, you can feel how powerful and respectful the Achaemenid Empire used to be. Following the long but short steps you are at the nation’s gate in Persepolis. A gate which opens door to an ancient wonder not only among Iranians but worldwide. Among all these fascinating buildings, grand staircases and remaining colonnades of Tachara Palace (the oldest palace) are the most sound and safe.

Apart from the majestic palaces, meticulously carved bas reliefs and lotus flowers are frequently appeared throughout the site.

How long does it take?

To discover the ruins completely and in relaxed pace, you need at least half a day time. Don’t rush. The sunset would be a miraculously beautiful scene when sun sprays its light on the stony remnants. It reminds you of rise and fall of empires; no matter how great they were.

Where to stay?

Since the site is only 50 Km away from Shiraz, you can either get back to Shiraz and spend the night there or book a room close to the magnificent ruins of Persepolis.

UNESCO listed Persepolis as a world heritage site in 1979.


Golestan Palace

Golestan palace

If you are enthusiastic to visit a bunch of Qajar historic constructions in historic heart of Tehran, you are in the right place. Qajar buildings surround you in Golestan palace, the only UNESCO world heritage site of Iran’s capital metropolis. The Palace dates back to Safavid era while main and recent additions and expansions went on in Qajar era. Golestan palace bears a rich testimony of the architecture and art during Qajar era. The architecture artistically inspired by European origins as the first example of combined Persian and European style. The influence was so high that became Iranian art and architecture characteristic in late 19th and 20th century.

Golestan palace was not only the Governing base of the Qajar kings, but also was residential palace of Qajar family.


If you head clockwise around the courtyard, these monuments show up respectively.

Takht-e Marmar (Marble Throne Verandah):

Skillfully carved marvel, designed by intricate engravings is the first thing you face as soon as entering the courtyard. Locating on a high open-fronted, mirror-walled Iwan; before a rectangular pond dotted by small fountains, Iranian artists built Takht-e Marmar in 1800. It functioned in ceremonial occasions.

Khalvate-e Karim Khani (Karim Khan Nook):

It served as the residence of Karim khan Zand in Tehran. Where a cruel story of what the Qajar founder did to Zand king’s body, reveals brutal story of power game among Kings even after their death. There you can see the Shah Abass head stone relocated from the grave itself to be preserved.

Main palace including 3 Halls, Talar-e Salam (Reception Hall), Talar-e Ayeneh (Mirror Hall) and Talar-e Berelian (Brilliant hall): 

As obvious as the name is these halls are the most important part of the complex. Reception hall was a greeting hall where the king has greeted foreign dignitaries came to Iran. Golestan palace also functioned as the coronation of Mohammad Reza Shah in 1967 (25 years after he came to power) and royal weddings.

Just a few steps away from Reception hall, Mirror hall hosts one of the most beautiful paintings of Iran popular painter Kamal ol molk. Decorated with Long windows opening to a large, lush and rambling garden with many trees, it is considered the most beautiful part of the palace. Brilliant hall is a masterpiece. Mirror and glass as well as stunning chandeliers cover walls from all sides.

Negar Khaneh (Iranian Painting Gallery): 

Home of mostly black and white photos of Qajar kings and common Iranians life in 19th century.

Howze Khaneh (Pool Room):

A small place with a small pool and a fountain in the center which houses a number of European royals to their Qajar counterparts.

Shams-Al Emareh (Edifice of the Sun): 

It used to be Tehran’s first multi-story building from top of which the king could have a panoramic view to Tehran.

Emarat-e Badgir (Wind tower): The name is derived from 3 soaring wind towers rising above the building. They work as air condition. It’s Cross plan and colorful glasses of the windows are unique among the buildings.

Aks Khaneh (Historic Photograph Gallery): A valuable collection of historic photos

Talar-e Almas (Diamond Hall) in Golestan palace

Abyaz Palace: It now is a museum, house the traditional ethnic costumes.

Royal Museum (also called the Special Museum)

Although some noticeably stunning buildings such as Harem (domestic spaces for King’s wives) and Tekyeh (a place to morn and watch Taziye in Holy ceremonies) were demolished to the ground.  We only can find them in black and white photos, the other remaining are still a masterpiece.

How long does it take?

Half day tour is enough to visit the whole Golestan palace.

naghsh-e jahan square

Naghsh-e Jahan Square

Naghsh-e Jahan Square

Safavid was probably the most influential dynasty in Islamic era in Iran. It not only has an enormous impact on Iran’s art, architecture and history but ideologically played a very important role in Iran. Shia became the dominant religion in Iran ever since. As a result the majority of practicing rituals are their legacy. To soak up the real art applied in Safavid era’s buildings, you have to spend at least 2 days in Isfahan. UESCO listed Naghsh-e Jahan square  as  world heritage site in 1975.


Monumental buildings border this masterpiece from all sides by ; each one is a magnificent example of art and architecture. Shah (Imam) mosque, Sheykh Lotfollah, Aliqapu palace and the magnificent Portico of Qaysariyyeh are impressive testimony to the flourished social life in the era. They can tell us how tightly different aspects of life were intertwined. Since then this majestic square, which once used to be a battle place for polo players boosting about their abilities before Shah Abbas I, is the best representative of Isfahan.


Shah Abbas I commanded the construction of the square in 17 century. Still standing strong during years, Naghsh-e Jahan is fortunately entirely safe and sound despite enemy’s invasion. The only modern additions to the Square are fountains, added in Pahlavi era.


Of particular interest is the arcades on all sides of the Naghsh-e Jahan square housed hundreds of shops. You can buy handicrafts while watching Isfahani Artisans patiently building them. You can’t hold but admire the people who  dedicated their lives to art in order to make the world more beautiful.

Mesmerizing azure tile workings in both mosques together with dazzling architecture of Aliqapu palace couldn’t be described in worlds. You have to take the beauty in only in person.

Where to stay?

Try to book hotels in advance because it’s quite difficult to find a room in high seasons.

Lut desert

Lut Desert

Lut Desert

Those who dare a visit to Lut desert can tell how immersion in absolute silence would be an unbelievable lifetime experience, that could barely happen twice in their traveling life. They may never again get the chance to take it in. This extreme landscape not in one way but in many, was declared as one of the hottest lands on earth. You have to feel the hot sand dunes under your foot to entirely discover this otherworldly piece of wonder land.

Lut desert specific natural wonders

Lut desert aka Dasht-e Lut is located southeast of Iran. An adventure to Lut desert can begin from south Khorasan province and end in Kerman province. Even though the land seems lifeless at the surface, its notable for a rich variety of spectacular desert landforms, flora and fauna. Erosion is a common phenomenon in this hyper arid desert. Gales from June to October which transform sediments in colossal scale, create the most spectacular Yardang landforms. Under the star-studded sky, you can also walk along the extensive stony ways (Hamada).

Lut desert is an impeccable example of ongoing geological process. Every year great massive (immense) changes form spectacular land forms. If you travel to the desert each year you barely can recognize the exact places you had visited.

Sun set

One more thing photographers can’t let go, is dreamy sun sets. When the sun touches the mighty Kalouts and sprays golden then ginger light to the unlimited vast, together with total silence of the desert, is an unforgettable experience.

How long do you need?

At least a three-day journey could cover the main phenomena of Lut desert. Sometimes between late October to early May is the best time to discover this almost untouched land.

Where to stay?

Being universally important, Lut desert now can host local and foreign tourists in its beautifully designed 5-star Camps. Almost adapted to the nature, the camp and local houses provide luxury to affordable services.

As explained at the beginning, adventurers take either of the two ways. First, they can fly to Birjand and stat the journey from south Khorasan or fly to Kerman and follow the road to Lut desert and end their discovery in Birjand. Train to Kerman and Bus to Birjand are also other options to be considered if you are traveling on budget.




An air view of Qanat, could rise a question mark in every one’s mind. What are these orderly holes? It appears as if some holes are pierced in the arid desert ground.

Thanks to early writers, we have now an excellent documentation of how this intelligent system works. As early as the first millennium BCE. Persians came up with an ingenious system to figure the water problem out in the dry mountain basins. It not only solved the problem in the time, but is an enduring solution after years.

How it works?

They started constructing painstaking tunnel systems, called qanats, for extracting underground water. This tunnels were hand-dug and tight enough to accommodate only a person while digging. Vertical shafts, every 20 to 30 Km cut this long tunnels in order to excavate materials, provide ventilation and maintenance purposes. The combined length of the tunnels is about the same as the distance between the earth and the moon. The main tunnel slopes gently down from a mountainous area or head of a former river or a cave lake to an outlet at a village. From there canals distribute water to fields for irrigation.

The result would be an oasis in the middle of the desert and domestic use. These inventive irrigation systems allowed arid desert bloom with agriculture.


Written records leave little doubt that ancient Iran (Persia) was the birthplace of the qanat, as early as the 7th century BC. However, the technology didn’t remain exclusive. It spread, through Silk Road trade and Muslim conquest, and now we can find qanats as far as Morocco and Spain.


Qanat water system has remarkable advantages including:

  • Majority of the channel is locating underground which prevents water loss from seepage and evaporation.
  • We don’t require piping since the gravity force runs the system.
Where to visit them?

Qanats are wildly spread in Iran’s main desert cities such as Khorasan-e Razavi, South Khorasan, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan and Markazi provinces. UNESCO has listed them, so you can get a chance to visit them if you travel to one these cities during your trip to Iran.


Meymand Cultural Landscape

Meymand Cultural Landscape

Meymand is a small and mainly self-sufficient village located in Kerman province, southeast of Iran. The special rustic architecture of the stone houses has made the village one of the amazing attractions among tourists in Kerman province.


The houses have been dogged amid the rocks. Some of the houses have been inhabited for about 3000 years. Ancient potteries and graving, discovered around the village, reveals the long lived history of Meymand village. Dry desert environment makes the villagers to move their settlements almost four times a year. The harsh weather of the region leads to very hot summers and too cold winters. Three of these settlements are temporary while fourth one is permanent which includes fortified cave dwellings for torturing winter months. The semi-nomadic life of the villagers taught them to be so compatible with the nature. Herdsmen raise their animals on the mountain pastures during spring and fall while living in the temporary settlements.

The village landscape

Sar-e Aghol settlements are, situated on the southern fields, used during spring. Houses are in two different types. Some are circular, semi-underground to protect them from the wind with low walls and a wooden roof to cover it as ceiling. The other halves are located above ground and constructed by dry stone walls and a conical roof of branches.

You can spot Sar-e Bagh, on the other hand, near seasonal rivers and used during summer and early fall. In hot weather houses are light and consists of dry stone walls and a simple roof made by grass thatch.

Meymand isn’t so hospitable in winters due to the harsh cold weather. If you made up your mind to visit this spectacular village, set your trip during summer time.

Where to stay?

This UNESCO world heritage site has hotels to accommodate you during your stay. Otherwise you can drive almost 3 hours to Kerman and there you can settle in more modern hotels.

You can visit the whole village in a day long tour considering the back and forth route to kerman province.


Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

Even though all the legacies left from different nations around the world are undoubtedly valuable, some of them stand out predominantly such as Shushtar historical hydraulic system. They are universally valuable. The philosophy and engineering behind them are incredible. They are a real class to convey some very important lessons; never give up to the barrios, there are always ways to success.


Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System bears witness to ancient Iranian efforts and is testimony to a remarkably accomplished and early overall vision of the possibilities. Neither tough living conditions nor lack of advanced equipment couldn’t stop them. Jane Dieulafoy, well-known French archaeologist has written about Shushtar historical hydraulic system as the biggest industrial complex before even industrial revolution. The ensemble is designed and completed in 3rd century CE, however based on some other basis it dates back to 5th century BCE.

How does it work?

Something of more surprise is that the system is still working. This exceptionally masterpiece consists of interconnected bridges, dams, waterfalls, canals, water mills and majestic tunnels, which has been working in harmony together for centuries. The whole system Involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the Karun river, one of which, Gargar is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. In the end it forms a breathtaking cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin. It then enters the plain situated south of the city. Owing to this flawless complex, planting of orchards and farming over an area of 40,000 ha. In this plain known as Mianab (paradise) become possible.

In 2009, UNESCO listed this masterpiece, Shushtar hydraulic system, as world heritage site.

where to stay?

Locating 85 Km from Ahvaz, Khuzestan province. You can easily get there by car or bus. High quality local houses could be among the best choices if you are going to spend a night.

sassanid archaeological landscape- fars region

Sassanid Archaeological Landscape

Sassanid Archaeological Landscape

This recently-added site to the UNESCO world heritage sites, known as Sassanid Archaeological landscape, includes eight archaeological sites situated in three geographical areas in the southeast of Fars Province including Firuzabad, Bishapur and Sarvestan. All of them historically, trace back to the Sassanid era’s earliest and latest palaces, city plans and fortified structures.


Among these sites is the capital built by the founder of the dynasty, Ardashir Papakan in Firuzabad, about 111 Km from Shiraz. The city retained its glory and distinctive position during Sassanid period. Ardashir palace, Ghaleh Dokhtar, Milo Minaret, Ardashir’s victory Bas-relief as well as a caravanserai are the components of monumental remnants in Firuzabad.


A city and architectural structures of Ardeshir successor, Shapur I, is the second on this route of Sassanid archaeological landscape. It is located 23 Km from Shiraz. The latest Sassanid city before Islamic era. Its origin traces back to 1800 years ago. The city was built under command of Shapur I, inspired by Roman-Greek architecture, after Sassanid victorious battle against Ancient Rome. We can recognize roman style design and architecture in the city. In short, 4 gates were the entrance to the city and 2 main north-south and east-west streets divided the city into 4. About 50 to 80 thousand people used to live inside the city surrounded by 10-meter walls. Royal arg (castle) and common people residential area were two parts of the city.

Sarvestan Palace

The last but not the least on this long road of Sassanid history, Sassanid archaeological landscape, is an isolated and remote palace, standing awake during all these years to be up once again. Away from hustle and bustle of modern life, Sarvestan palace has been witnessing the rise and fall of empires silently. 85 Km from Shiraz a majestic Sarvestan palace shows up. They built the palace ik,,n times of Bahram V, also known as Bahram Gor reign. It used to be one of the most glorious Sassanid palaces, smaller than the Ardeshir palace in Bishapur but more complicated and prototype of its kind. The palace as well as its belongings, occupied an area of about 30 acres in their heyday.

Where to stay?

All 3 attractions are accessible from Shiraz. In a three-day trip to Shiraz you can visit them all in a relaxed pace. Don’t rush since the stories take time to sink.