A LOT OF PEOPLE laugh when I suggest they consider Iran as the destination for their next holiday. Many think I’m joking, or just plain crazy, but I tell them that I’m totally serious.
The few people who have made the journey to Iran don’t laugh – they rank it among their favorite countries in the world to visit.
After 10 trips to Iran during the past few years, there are clearly many things about this most misunderstood of countries that keep calling me back. If you are looking to get off the well-trodden trail, I say head for Iran.
1. The People
Iranians have a centuries old reputation for being a very hospitable people, especially when it comes to foreign guests. This dates back to a time when nomadic people roamed the Middle East and Central Asia.
The hospitality tradition has only intensified in recent years, and with so few Western travelers coming to Iran these days, many who do go are overwhelmed by the warm welcome.
For citizens of the United States who are wary of our government’s relationship with Iran, I can say that Iranians have a more favorable view of Americans than ANY of the other twenty nations I’ve visited since 9/11.
2. Amazing History
The Persian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations on earth and there are reminders of that great history scattered all over the country.
Whether it’s archaic and abandoned ruins dotting the sides of highways, or the ubiquitous call to prayer, visitors will experience a very ancient land with a vibrant and vital society.
UNESCO has granted World Heritage status to several locales in Iran, including the city of Esfhan, which many refer to as a “Middle Eastern Florence,” and the ruins of Persepolis, where Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 334 BC.
Iran is a very large country and is home to some of the most varied landscapes in the world. For adventure travelers, all that separates you from skiing and scuba diving on the same weekend is an hour-long flight.
Iran boasts vast desert and forest areas. Several endangered animals roam Iran, including the Asiatic cheetah, and the country is one of the biggest fruit growers in the region.
4. Getting Around is Easy
With an airport in every decent sized city in Iran, and government subsidized airfare, getting around Iran is easy. Extensive railroad and bus routes are also available, making all parts of Iran truly accessible to travelers.
5. Iran is affordable
Inflation in Iran is soaring, but your dollar will still get you much further there than in most other top destinations. For the trip of a lifetime, it’s a bargain.
There are so few tourists traveling to Iran that it could feel like a lonely place if not for the Iranians’ warmth and their inviting nature. This characteristic makes it possible to truly connect with the people of Iran and their history.
7. Breaking Stereotypes
By visiting Iran, you are making two statements: “I am my own person,” and “I will inform myself about the world.”
Iran has been demonized for decades, but nearly all people who travel there come home with their stereotypes shattered, replaced by fond memories of gracious hosts and unforgettable landscapes.
The gorgeous photos that accompany this piece were taken by Horizon, a Matador member from Abadan Iran.