Iran, a mountainous, arid, and ethnically diverse country of southwestern Asia. Much of Iran consists of a central desert plateau, which is ringed on all sides by lofty mountain ranges that afford access to the interior through high passes. Most of the population lives on the edges of this forbidding, waterless waste. The capital is Tehrān, a sprawling, jumbled metropolis at the southern foot of the Elburz Mountains. Famed for its handsome architecture and verdant gardens, is the political and economic hub of Iran, though efforts were later mounted to preserve historic buildings and expand the city’s network of parks. As with Tehrān, cities such as Eṣfahān and Shīrāz combine modern buildings with important landmarks from the past and serve as major centres of education, culture, and commerce.

The heart of the storied Persian empire of antiquity, Iran has long played an important role in the region as an imperial power and later—because of its strategic position and abundant natural resources, especially petroleum—as a factor in colonial and superpower rivalries. The country’s roots as a distinctive culture and society date to the Achaemenian period, which began in 550 BCE. From that time the region that is now Iran—traditionally known as Persia—has been influenced by waves of indigenous and foreign conquerors and immigrants, including the Hellenistic Seleucids and native Parthians and SasanidsPersia’s conquest by the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE was to leave the most lasting influence, however, as Iranian culture was all but completely subsumed under that of its conquerors.

An Iranian cultural renaissance in the late 8th century led to a reawakening of Persian literary culture, though the Persian language was now highly Arabized and in Arabic script, and native Persian Islamic dynasties began to appear with the rise of the Ṭāhirids in the early 9th century. The region fell under the sway of successive waves of Persian, Turkish, and Mongol conquerors until the rise of the Safavids, who introduced Twelver Shiʿism as the official creed, in the early 16th century. Over the following centuries, with the state-fostered rise of a Persian-based Shiʿi clergy, a synthesis was formed between Persian culture and Shiʿi Islam that marked each indelibly with the tincture of the other.

Iran is historically known as Persia. The Persian Empire was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world with a series of imperial dynasties. The empire also was frequently invaded, first by Alexander the Great, then by the Parthians, later ruled by the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire.

Iran’s hereditary monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, fled the country in 1979 after decades of corrupt and authoritarian rule, and mounting religious and political unrest. Exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from Paris to lead an Islamic revolution and formed the world’s first Islamic republic the same year. An eight-year war with Iraq followed.

The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions calling for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities and comply with its IAEA obligations and responsibilities. In July 2015, Iran and the five permanent members, plus Germany (P5+1), signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. On 8 May 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite the withdrawal of the USA, the JCPOA remains in force; it is a multilateral agreement to which seven of the original eight parties still agree.


The Islamic Republic of Iran is situated between the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the south. It is the easternmost country in the Middle East.

Iran is bordered by AfghanistanArmeniaAzerbaijanIraqPakistanTurkey, and Turkmenistan.

The country also shares maritime borders with Kazakhstan and Russia (in the Caspian Sea), BahrainKuwaitOmanQatarSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Mount Damavand in the Elburz mountains is a potentially active stratovolcano and the highest mountain in Iran. Image: Arad Mojtahedi

With an area of 1,648,195 km², Iran is almost three times the size of France or slightly smaller than Alaska.

Most of the country is situated on the Iranian Plateau (a geological formation in Western and Central Asia), except for the coastal regions at the Caspian Sea and the Khuzestan Province in the southwest at the Persian Gulf. The Zagros Mountains in the west form the largest mountain range in Iran, Iraq, and southeastern Turkey. In Iran’s north towers the Elburz or Alborz mountain range that stretches from the border of Azerbaijan along the western and entire southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Mount Damavand, at 5,610 m (18,410 ft), is Iran’s highest mountain located in the Elburz mountain range.

Iran has a population of 83 million people (in 2020) [1]. The country’s largest city is Tehran, which is the capital and the political and economic center of the republic.
Other major cities are Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, Tabriz, Shiraz, Ahvaz, and Qom.
Spoken languages are Persian (Farsi, official), Kurdish, Azeri, Arabic, Baluchi. The official religion is Shia Islam.

The population of Iran is concentrated in the north, northwest, and west. The vast arid areas in the center and east of the country, around the Dasht-e Kavir, the Great Salt Desert, and the stony deserts and dune fields of Dasht-e Lut have a much lower population density.

Iran’s largest cities are:

Tehran, the capital of Iran, is located in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. It replaced Isfahan as the capital of Persia in 1788.

Mashhad, the nation’s second most populous city and the capital of Razavi Khorasan Province is located in the northeast of the country, near the borders with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Mashhad was an important oasis along the ancient Silk Road. Mashad is also a Holy city where the eight grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) ibne Imam Musa Kazim (a.s.) is burried. 

Isfahan is an industrial city in central Iran. It was the capital of Persia from 1598 until 1722.

Tabriz, the capital city of East Azerbaijan Province in northwestern Iran lies at the center of an active volcanic region. It is one of the historical capitals of Persia.

Shiraz, the capital of the Fars province, is a gateway to Persepolis, the ruined 6th-century-BC ceremonial capital of Persia under the Achaemenid dynasty.

Ahvaz, the capital city of Khuzestan province, is an industrial city at the Karun river with a population of about 1.2 million people.

Qom, the capital of Qom province, is a holy by city and home to the shrine of Hazrat Fatimah bint Musa (a.s.), the sister of Imam Ali al-Ridha (Imam Reza) (a.s.).

Province Capitals

Iran is subdivided into thirty-one provinces, below are the names of their capital cities:

Ahvaz, Arak, Ardabil, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, Bojnord, Bushehr, Gorgan, Hamadan, Ilam, Isfahan, Karaj, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorramabad, Mashhad, Qazvin, Qom, Rasht, Sanandaj, Sari, Semnan, Shahr-e Kord, Shiraz, Tabriz, Tehran, Urmia, Yasuj, Yazd, Zahedan, and Zanjan.


The most formidable hurdle facing Iran’s economy remains its continuing isolation from the international community. This isolation has hampered the short- and long-term growth of its markets, restricted the country’s access to high technology, and impeded foreign investment. Iran’s isolation due to unjustified sanctions imposed by the international community, particularly the United States.

Iran’s long-term objectives since the 1979 revolution have been economic independence, full employment, and a comfortable standard of living for its citizens. The rates of both literacy and life expectancy in Iran are high for the region. Inflation is regularly in the range of 20 percent annually. Iran remains highly dependent on its one major industry, the extraction of petroleum and natural gas for export.

The government is developing the country’s communication, transportation, manufacturing, and energy infrastructures (including its prospective nuclear power facilities) and has begun the process of integrating its communication and transportation systems with those of neighbouring states.


The Economy of Iran is based on oil, agriculture, construction, trade, and services. The country’s economy suffers greatly from illegitimate US sanctions, which were reintroduced in 2018 after the US unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).

Central Bank of Iran
Responsible for Iranian monetary policy.

Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE )
The site provides a market summary, last prices, indices, and listed companies.

Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines
With information on joint chambers and international affairs.

How To Invest In Iran
Information about Iran and its investment opportunities.

Major Iranian Companies

National Iranian Oil Company
The government-owned national oil and natural gas producer.

National Petrochemical Company
Government-owned NPC is responsible for the development and operation of the country’s petrochemical sector.

A state-owned mining company.

Iran Khodro
IKCO is an Iranian automaker headquartered in Tehran; it manufactures vehicles, including Samand, Peugeot, Suzuki, and Renault cars, as well as trucks, minibusses, and buses.

Iranian automaker headquartered in Tehran. Saipa manufactures and sells mainly French, Japanese, and South Korean vehicles under license.

Mobarakeh Steel
Mobarakeh Steel Company is the biggest steel producer in the Middle East and Northern Africa, according to their own statement.


The Airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iran Aseman Airline
Domestic airline.
Mahan Air
Mahan Air is a privately owned Iranian airline based in Tehran; it serves destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.


It’s been hard following news for the past few years without coming across something about Iran. Sometimes, there’s even a photo of beautiful blue mosques or a group of veiled women. And since as travellers we have an adventurous spirit, all those photos make us want to explore the proud Iranian soul ourselves, the soul that originates from the awe-inspiring past and the compelling present. A country, whose very name evokes curiosity in people and offers us a chance to talk about our travel for years to come, invites us to explore it. Tourism hasn’t fully developed in Iran yet, which means there won’t be any significant crowds anywhere but it also means that there is a lot of potential for investment in this field.

The best time to visit is during autumn or spring. Going by the first travel tip, you’ll need a visa in order to visit Iran, and you can obtain one at embassies all over the world. During your visit, it’s necessary to respect the dress code: women need to wear a headscarf and long sleeves, and men should wear long trousers. The headscarf shouldn’t be removed, not even on a bus, as there are lots of checks when it comes to that. Besides, it can come quite useful in the harsh climate. You can buy beautiful dresses in Iran, so you won’t need to rummage through all your clothes at home to find a suitable outfit.

Before long, you’ll be with your feet on the ground in Tehran, the capital of Iran. You must be wondering what’s there to see. You’ll quickly notice the presence of the spirit of the late Iranian religious authority, Ayatollah Khomeini. You can explore his mausoleum where the memory of him still lingers. A tip for travelling around Iran is to choose the cheap and comfortable buses. But if you don’t have a lot of time to spend, you can fly south where Shiraz, the city of the Sufi, life-loving people, awaits you. Once there, you can visit the majestic tombs of Persian poets, Hafez and Saadi, and listen to their poems and give in to their spirits conjured up by the locals. After that, head to Iran’s desert world where numerous landmarks await. The most famous monument of Persian history is Persepolis, the capital of Darius I. There are hundreds of remnants of palaces and other treasures reminiscent of the once famous capital. The rock masses in Pasargadae shelter the resting place of the Persian kings. But there’s another important architectural monument of the Old World hidden among all the stones and rocks – Yazd. Explore the labyrinthine streets and take a look at a peculiarly shaped towers that function as old air-conditioning, and then descend all the way down to the underground water tunnels. The best tip for overnight stays is to use traditional accommodation or old merchant houses that have been transformed into hotels and are like old caravanserai, which once served as places where tired merchants could rest. But don’t expect too much from the morning coffee. Most often, it’s just a Nescafé bag. Outside the city, there are Towers of Silence, the burial place of hundreds of Zoroastrians; Yazd is the birthplace of their religion and a flame that must never go off still burns there. The desert is full of other secrets, though, from mountain temples where women mustn’t enter during their periods to Pigeon Towers from which pigeons still flock. Abandoned villages made out of mud are also quite famous. Travelling north, you slowly reach Isfahan, the name of which sounds like a song. The city is known for its bridges, numerous mosques, royal palaces, and minarets. After you’re done sightseeing, head to the bazaar where you can haggle and drink tea as much as you please. If you want to learn more about Iran, read one of the great travelogues. After Isfahan, we’re already on our way back to Tehran and come full circle.

Miniatures, Carpets, and Calligraphy

Iran (Persia) is one of the richest sources of fine arts in the world. Persian art includes many traditional disciplines such as architecture, painting, literature, music, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.

Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization
Iran government organization for cultural heritage, handcrafts and tourism (Persian only).

Carpet Museum of Iran
Fine Persian carpets. Carpet-weaving is an outstanding manifestations of Iranian art and culture.

Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran
Persian/Iranian glassware and ceramic from several centuries.

National Museum of Iran
The largest museum of history and archaeology in the country.

The Art of the Safavids before 1600
The Metropolitan Museum of Art article about art and culture of the the Safavid empire (1501–1722).

Culture of Iran
Site related to Iranian art and culture.

Islamic Arts and Architecture: Iran 
The Islamic Arts and Architecture website shows also examples of Persian art.

Persian art
Wikipedia articles related to the history and the development of Persian art or Iranian art.

Reza Abbasi Museum
Museum of Iranian cultural and art history with a collection of Persian art dating back to the second millennium BC.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran

There are 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran and 56 sites on the Tentative List (see the List)

Bam and its Cultural Landscape
Bam is a city situated in a desert environment on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau in Kerman Province of southeastern Iran. Arg-e Bam was an enormous citadel on the Silk Road; its origins can be traced back to the time of the Achaemenid Empire (6th to 4th centuries BC).

The fortress was the largest adobe building in the world; it was in large parts destroyed by an earthquake on the 26 December 2003. The site was partially reconstructed in the following years.

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire; it was founded by Darius the Great, the fourth Persian King of the empire. The ruins of Persepolis are located about 60 km northeast of modern-day Shiraz. The palace complex was built on an immense half-natural, half-artificial terrace. The ruins were excavated in the early 1930s.


Education in Iran is centralized and divided into K-12 education plus higher education. Elementary and secondary education is supervised by the Ministry of Education and higher education is under supervision of Ministry of Science, research and Technology and Ministry of Health and Medical Education (medical fields). As of 2016, 86% of the Iranian adult population are literate. This rate increases to 97% among young adults (aged between 15 and 24) without any gender discrepancy. By 2007, Iran had a student to workforce population ratio of 10.2%, standing among the countries with highest ratio in the world.

Primary school (Dabestân دبستان) starts at the age of 6 for a duration of 6 years. Junior high school (Dabirestân دوره اول دبیرستان), also known as middle school First includes 3 years of Dabirestân from the seventh to the ninth grade. Senior High school (Dabirestân دوره دوم دبیرستان), including the last three years, is not mandatory. The student at this level can choose to study is theoretical, vocational/technical or manual fields, each program with its own specialties and in the end of it, students are given High school diploma. The requirement to enter into higher education is to have a High school diploma, and passing the national university entrance examination, Iranian University Entrance Exam (Konkur کنکور), which is similar to the French baccalauréat exam (for most of universities and fields of study).

Universitiesinstitutes of technologymedical schools and community colleges, provide the higher education. Higher education is sanctioned by different levels of diplomas: Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni after 2 years of higher education, Kārshenāsi (also known under the name “licence”) is delivered after 4 years of higher education (Bachelor’s degree). Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad is delivered after 2 more years of study (Master’s degree). After which, another exam allows the candidate to pursue a doctoral program (PhD).

Shiraz University.
Image: Ahura21



Iran’s tourist visa is issued for up to 30 days and can have up to two additional 30-day extensions, for a total of 90 days. To get a visa prior to arrival, a Visa Authorization Code must be applied for through the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affair’s e-visa website or an Iranian travel agency. The amount of the visa fee is dependent upon one’s nationality. The visa fee must be paid prior to pick-up or when applying for a VOA. Local Iranian travel agencies offer better support, trackability and convenience for an additional fee.

Upon receiving a Visa Authorization Code, the visa may be collected at one of Iran’s worldwide embassies and consulates prior to arrival or upon arrival at one of Iran’s international airports. Most nationalities, except American, British and Canadian passport holders, can also obtain their tourist visa upon their arrival in the form of a Visa-On-Arrival (VOA) at the airport without a prior application. Although this method is convenient for last-minute travelers, it does have a higher risk of rejection and tends to be more time-consuming.

Visa on arrival

Holders of normal passports travelling as tourists can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 30 days (extendable), at the following airports, as of January 2018:

Note: to obtain a visa on arrival, passengers must already have made an application, at least two days before arrival, at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affair’s E-Visa website and present the submission notification at the airport’s visa desk on arrival.

Iran plans to increase the length of stay from one month to three months. Visas on arrival will be available at Shahid Sadooghi Airport in the near future.

Visa on arrival is not applicable to nationals of the following countries who must obtain a visa in advance:


Passport holders of these countries are required to apply for an Iranian visa at an Iranian embassy or consulate prior to their arrival in Iran.

Shahid Rajaee Port

Marine travelers entering Iran via Shahid Rajaee Port in the southern Hormozgan Province can also receive a visa on arrival.[25]

Electronic visa

E-visas have been available since 22 November 2018.[citation needed]

Mandatory guides

Canadian, British, and US citizens are required to be escorted by a government-approved guide at all times. Independent travel for these citizens has been banned due to the closure of Iranian foreign missions in these countries.


News Agencies

Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
The official news agency of Iran.

Mehr News
Iranian news agency headquartered in Tehran.

Tasnim News Agency
Tasnim News Agency is a private news agency in Iran, launched in 2012.

Iran News (in English)
Iran Daily
Published by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Iran Front Page
IFP News is an English language news website with the latest news and views from Iran.
Tehran Times
Tehran based pro-government English daily newspaper.

Iran News in Persian
Aftab-e Yazd
Tehran based daily reformist newspaper.
Ettelaat International
Iran’s oldest daily newspaper.
Jaam-e Jam
Daily news from IRIB, Irans domestic radio and television services.
Kayhan News
Iran’s ‘most conservative Iranian newspaper.’
Daily news.
Most popular reformist newspaper in Iran