Travelling to Iran, a country of over 2,500 years of written history and organised civilisation, can be the experience of a lifetime.Travelling to Iran, a country of over 2,500 years of written history and organised civilisation, can be the experience of a lifetime.

The good news for those planning to travel to Iran is that Iranian cuisine is superb. A wide range of influences from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Middle East have created a diverse and relatively healthy range of dishes that focus on fresh produce and aromatic herbs.

An invitation to an Iranian home for dinner will be a definite highlight of your stay. Black tea (chai) is the national drink of alcohol-free Iran. It is served strong and with crystallised or cubed sugar (ghand) which is held artfully between the teeth while tea is sipped through. Doogh is also a sour drink made from yoghurt, salt, and water (sometimes gaseous) and sometimes flavoured with mint or other plants. It will rehydrate you quickly in the heat of Iran’s summer. Most young Iranians in major cities, and almost all those who work in international travel agents and high-end hotels will speak conversational English but basic Persian phrases will definitely come in handy in rural areas.

Iran is the country of four seasons with its diverse climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38° C (100° F).

While not as comfortable or fast as Europe or North America, Iranian transport is of relatively high quality, and is very affordable.

Some of the must-visit cities, besides the major tourist attraction cities like Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan & Kish Island, are as follows:

• Kashan – A desert oasis situated in an historic region that dates back to pre-historic times.

• Tabriz – The site of the Biblical “Garden of Eden”, suggested by some.

• Yazd – A remote desert city with special architectural themes where water streams run in underground rooms in houses and wind-towers to keep them cool.

• Qeshm Island – The Persian Gulf’s largest island; famous for its wide range of ecotourist attractions such as the Hara marine forests. About 1.5% of the world birds and 25% of Iran’s native birds annually migrate to Hara forests, the first national geo park.

• Susa, or Shush located 200 km North of Ahvaz, was Iran’s most ancient city. The Zigurat of Chughazanbil, Darius the Great’s palace, the Jewish prophet Daniel’s temple and Artaxerxer II’s palace are among the historical sites.

To make you feel even more secured and at home, Iran has state-of-the-art medical facilities in all its major cities. Apart from being up to date with your usual travel vaccinations no special preparation is needed for travelling to Iran.

Iran is definitely much safer than many from the West might believe. Iranians are genuinely friendly and interested to know about you and your country, so leave aside your preconceptions and travel to Iran with an open mind.