These three large central-Iranian cities form somewhat of a golden triangle for visitors to the country. Full of tick-the-box must-see sights, they may not have the charm of other activity-based (rather than attraction-based) destinations around Iran but they should be on every visitor’s itinerary.
Truly a global city that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Paris, London and Brunswick East. The beating heart of Esfahan is Imam Square which is the second-largest in the world after Tianenman, apparently.
At the northern end of the square is the enormous Imam Mosque, inside of which thousands of worshippers gather for Friday prayers.
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Esfahan is dissected by a river, across which are many beautiful bridges with features such as chaykhaneh (teahouses) built into the foundations. At the base of one of the bridges, locals like to take their shoes off and wade across the lazy flow of water.
Oh, and Esfahan has fibreglass dinosaurs. I love kitschy dinosaurs.
Smack bang in the middle of the desert, Yazd is hot as hell but has a lovely, relaxed feel about it. When I was there the town was preparing for the celebration of Imam Mahdi’s birthday and the labyrinthine laneways between mud brick buildings were being decked out in streamers and flags.
The laneways are particularly beautiful at sunset when you can wander around with the locals.
On the outskirts of the city are two Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, disused for several decades now.
In pits at the top of these giant constructions, Zoroastrians used to place dead bodies to be consumed by the elements (and vultures). Zoroastrians believe that bodies should not pollute the earth after death so modern burial involves concrete coffins.
Once famous for its vineyards, Shiraz is now famous for its proximity to the 2,500 year-old ruins at Persepolis, where you can wander around and ponder the genesis of the Persian Empire.
The site was decimated by Alexander the Great so little remains intact, but it’s not hard to imagine the scale of this ancient city.
A few kilometres away from Persepolis lies the Necropolis, where kings such as Xerxes were mummified and buried inside massive tombs cut out of the mountainside.
Back in Shiraz it’s lovely to spend sunset at the tomb of the famous Persian poet, Hafez.
Iranian pilgrims flock to this site and show their respects by kneeling by the tomb and resting their forehead upon it. Some stand over the tomb and read to themselves passages of Hafez’s work.