The Historical Sites of Iran

With a litany of influences following the rise and fall of various empires and
countless invasions, Iran’s cultural heritage is a rich tapestry. This fusion of
cultures has resulted in Iran containing 21 (and counting!) UNESCO World
Heritage sites, each more beautiful and fascinating than the last. Here are just
five famous places in Iran, the tip of the iceberg in such a captivating country.

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One of the world’s most magnificent historical sites, the ancient city of
Persepolis, known locally as Takhte Jamshid, was the ceremonial capital of the
Achaemenid Empire. Visitors enter through the Gate of All Nations, walking in
the footsteps of the explorers from centuries ago, who have carved their names
into the walls. Stretching over 1.6 square kilometres, and featuring two royal
palaces and gardens, the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great, the remnants of
countless towering columns and intricate sculptures and artwork, this
archaeological site is breath-taking. Visiting this site grants one a profound
sense of the unique ancient civilisation that once stood here. It is a monument to
the construction technology, urban planning, and art of the past, as well as a
striking reminder of the opulence of past kings. It is a jewel of Iran’s cultural
heritage, and a must-see for anyone with an interest in history, archaeology, or

Golestan Palace

Located just minutes from Tehran’s Grand Bazaar is a marvel of Persian
architecture, Golestan Palace. One of Tehran’s oldest historic monuments, the
‘Palace of Flowers’ beautifully blends nature with art, as the perfectly
manicured gardens contain magnificent pools that reflect the intricate mosaic
facades of the royal buildings. Dating back to the eighteenth century, the palace
became the seat of government of the Qajar family, who declared Tehran the
capital of the country. It became a hub of Qajari arts and architecture and to this
day, the palace remains a great source of inspiration for Iranian artists and
architects. The buildings now house various museums and galleries, from the
painting gallery Negar Khaneh, to the regal Marble Throne Verandah, to the
incredible Mirror Hall. Every building, so different from the last, contains
spellbinding treasures. Take a relaxing stroll through the gardens whilst soaking

in the decadence of the structures surrounding you. A testament to Iranian
creativity, and a perfect example of the synthesis of Persian and Western
architecture, Golestan Palace is a site not to be missed.

Bam and its Cultural Landscape

The ancient city of Arg-e- Bam rises out of the desert like a mirage. This citadel
dates back to the Achaemenid period and is built from sun-dried mudbricks
known as ‘khesht.’ Located at a crossroads of important trade routes, including
the Silk Road, it was a bustling area famous for its silk and cotton products. A
technologically-advanced underground irrigation system, the qanāts, allowed
the area to prosper, and is the key to the succulent dates grown there today.
Surrounded by the ruins of other citadels and forts, it truly is a sight to behold.
The varying styles bears the imprints of 2000 years of history. A triumph of
architecture and technology, Bam and its Cultural Landscape is another
unmissable historical site of Iran.

The Historic City of Yazd

The ancient earthen city of Yazd has escaped modernisation and retained its
traditional districts, houses, bazars, hammams, mosques, synagogues and
Zoroastrian temples. Famous for its striking badgirs or windtowers, this desert
city now serves as the heart of Zoroastrian culture. Indeed, overlooking the city
are the dakhma, or the Towers of Silence, where, up until the 1960s, bodies
were laid out and exposed to the elements as part of a 3,000-year- old
Zoroastrian tradition known as sky burial. One of the oldest cities on earth, it is
composed of ancient dwellings, interconnected with labyrinthine kuches or
lanes. At the centre is the beautiful ninth-century Amir Chakhmaq Square, a
dazzling view, especially at night. Like Bam, water is supplied to the city of
Yazd by qanats, allowing the historic garden of Dolat-abad to flourish. Yazd is
an incredible city to explore; to journey into the past and get lost in, with
countless teahouses and craft shops to pique anyone’s interest. This historical
site is often overlooked but should but on every serious traveller’s bucket list.

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

A prime example of the cultural exchanges occurring throughout Iranian history
is the hydraulic system at Shushtar, referred to by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece
of creative genius.’ This ancient irrigation system can be traced back to Darius

the Great of the 5 th century B.C. This oasis is an incredible example of ancient
engineering, and how Elamite, Mesopotamian and Roman influences combined
to make a ‘Wonder of the World’ that transformed a semi-desert into fertile
farmland. Tunnels carved into natural rock, bridges, dams, weirs, watermills
and dramatic cascades are dotted along this beautiful and practical waterside
city, a testament to civil engineering and the benefits of multi-culturalism. The
handmade ancient stairway bears inscriptions denoting this symbiotic past,
encapsulating the fusion of cultures inherent in Iran’s history.