Tourism in Iran, The Land Where Poetry Thrives (Ala Talebian, ITP 2017)

Written by Ala Talebian, Student, University of Tehran (ITP 2017, Iran)

Iran with its ancient ruins, magnificent architecture, undiscovered sites and cultural highlights, attracts around 5 million tourists every year.

Iran mainly draws two groups of tourists: cultural tourists who are more predominant; and religious tourists, particularly followers of Islam from countries including Iraq, Bahrain and Kuwait who come to visit holy sites.


Arg e Bam, Kerman

Cultural tourism is one the largest tourism markets in the country, with the majority of visitors coming from European countries such as Germany and Italy. Visiting the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world can be a little overwhelming, not knowing where to start and how to manage the days. Tourists visiting the country for the first time usually follow a single route, having a glimpse of four or five of the cities most well-known for their beauty, such as Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd and Kerman.  Those cities hold masterpieces like Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan. Within a relatively short driving distance from Shiraz are the ruins of Persepolis, Bishapur, Pasargadae, and Firouzabad. The historic city of Yazd is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list, and the largest adobe building in the world is located in Bam, a city in Kerman Province. These are only a few of the attractions!



Iran is a wondrous country with plenty of culturally rich experiences. It has 23 properties inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and has surprising variety of nature and climates, from the northern Alborz Mountains where you can hike and even ski to hot salt deserts, jungles in the northern provinces and inspiring islands in the Persian Gulf.

So why do agencies and tours often advise tourists on one single route?

Giving it a little thought, the tourism industry involves many organisations and only a city with a good tourism infrastructure draws tourists. That is the case as well with Iran, being an unfamiliar culture for many. Stepping your feet there for the first time, you might prefer to play it safe and stay in a city that offers you a convenient place to sleep, transportation and communication facilities, as well as historic and natural sites.

In relation to this, each city should try to enhance its capacities and try better to manage tourism. Mentioned in the UNESCO WH+ST Programme, sustainable tourism is an important vehicle for managing cultural and natural heritage and contributes  to economic development and social progress, and environmental protection and enhancement, while minimising its negative impacts.


Me in front of a Karavan-sara near Firoozabad in Fars Province. It is estimated to date back to the end of the Sasanid era or beginning of Islam

Iran has places that can transport you from the demands of the immediate present and with its rich heritage, it deserves to be explored.