20 Must-Visit Attractions in Iran

Rudkhan Castle | © Ninara / Flickr
Rudkhan Castle | © Ninara / Flickr
Photo of Pontia Fallahi
8 May 2017

Steeped in history, culture, and nature, Iran is home to a wealth of attractions and things to do and see. It might be difficult to figure out which places should be your priority, but here’s a list of Culture Trip’s 20 favorite attractions that you can’t miss on your trip to this exciting country.

Babak Castle

Ruins
Map View
Steep gorges lie below Babak Castle | © Niyaz Bakılı / Flickr
Steep gorges lie below Babak Castle | © Niyaz Bakılı / Flickr
A bit of athleticism and no fear are required to reach Babak Castle. Once the stronghold of a Khurramite leader who fought the Abbasid Caliphate, this citadel, surrounded by deep gorges, sits at the height of 2,300–2,600 meters (7,546–8,530 feet). Those with a strong case of acrophobia might choose to admire it from afar.

Nasir ol-Molk Mosque

Mosque
Map View
Light streams through the stained glass of Nasir ol-Molk mosque
Light streams through the stained glass of Nasir ol-Molk mosque | © Julia Maudlin / Flickr
Walking inside Nasir ol-Molk is like walking inside a kaleidoscope. Nicknamed “the Pink Mosque” for its rosy-hued tiles, you’ll love discovering the hidden nooks of arguably Iran’s most beautiful mosque.

Anzali Lagoon

Located in the northern port city of Bandar Anzali, a boat ride on Anzali Lagoon is a must to witness the houses built on stilts, various bird species, and, of course, the water lotuses emerging to blossom through the dark waters.

Anzali Lagoon, Gilan Province, Iran

The lotus flowers in Anzali Lagoon | © Pontia Fallahi

The lotus flowers in Anzali Lagoon | © Pontia Fallahi

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

A feat of engineering, the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, an ancient irrigation system dating back to the 5th century BCE, is sure to leave you awe-struck. Climb the hill behind it to marvel at the view from above before exploring the details of the mechanism and the many bird species living here.

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, Taleghani St, Shushtar, Khuzestan Province, Iran, +98 916 891 2177

The ancient irrigation system in Shushtar is a masterpiece | © Pontia Fallahi

The ancient irrigation system in Shushtar is a masterpiece | © Pontia Fallahi

Pigeon Towers

While people usually see pigeons as mere nuisances, especially for city dwellers, they were quite valuable in Iran about five centuries ago, namely for their droppings. These towers were built as pigeon homes, each holding as many as 14,000, where the droppings could be collected and used as fertilizer.

Various locations in Iran

Only a few pigeon towers like this one in Meybod remain | © akhodadadi / Wikimedia Commons

Chak Chak

Literally “drip-drip,” Chak Chak is a Zoroastrian temple located just outside of Yazd. The most important Zoroastrian pilgrimage site in Iran, many Zoroastrians visit the temple every year. Once you’ve seen the similar sites in Yazd, a visit here gives further insight into this religion. Find directions here.

Chak Chak is a Zoroastrian pilgrimage site | © reibai / Flickr

Hormoz Island

For such a small island, Hormoz is brimming with dreamy nature and tranquility. Shades of red, yellow, and orange color the land area, which contrasts beautifully with the Persian Gulf’s blue water. A dream for geology and nature enthusiasts, this island is also home to deer and other fauna.

Hormoz Island, Iran

Bisotun and Taq-e Bostan

Bisotun and Taq-e Bostan are two historical sites located near each other in the Kermanshah Province. Rock reliefs and the statue of Hercules are fascinating remnants of Bisotun, as is the prehistoric “hunter’s cave” said to have been inhabited 40,000 years ago. Rock reliefs are also under the archway of Taq-e Bostan, the most notable image of which depicts the last king of the Sassanid Empire with Ahura Mazda (the creator in Zoroastrianism) and Anahita (a Zoroastrian diety).

Taq-e Bostan depicts the last Sassanid King with Zoroastrian deities | © Ninara / Flickr