Iran is the largest land of four seasons experienced at the same time, where the invisible hands of nature, culture, and history have wrought upon it great number of eye-catching attractions; now divided into 31 provinces, Iran is a civilization of millennia which bestows the country a cornucopia of attractions everywhere.
Endless array of attractions
Iran’s attractions, in sheer multiplicity, however, have not yet fully found a way to eyes of the world people, which otherwise would bring to the land multitudes of curious eyes and inquisitive minds. The days following the New Year’s Eve, along with the perfect time of the year, that is, vernal equinox, is an opportunity for domestic and international tourists to explore this cornucopia.
A land of world heritage
International community would solely know Iran with its monumental Persepolis; however, its beauties and attractions are not summarized in Persepolis alone. The monument, historically and internationally renowned as it is, is a great attraction heritage for Iran; only hundreds of meters away from this relic lie the tombs of Achaemenid kings in Pasargadae, surrounded by many ancient buildings and complexes. Fars province attractions mainly belong to pre-Islamic ancient times; however, hundreds miles to the north in Isfahan province in city of Isfahan, the provincial capital, Islamic-era buildings invite hordes of tourists filled with awe and beauty of the Naqsh-e-Jahan Sq., which is popularly called ‘half of the world’ as well. Around this square are famous monuments populating the UNESCO World Heritage List, Imam Khomeini (RA) Mosque notable among them. Few hundred miles to the south east lies the desert city of Yazd, which shines in the middle of the inhospitable wastes of the desert with its 1400-acre historical texture, where the historical monuments are rampant in the city even in its tightly built and narrow passageways, what gives the city the honour of being called the second largest cities built almost entirely out of adobe, and no one would visit all these monuments just in two days. Outstanding buildings such as Amir Chakhmagh Mansion, caravanserais, museums, and tombs would take considerable time to visit.
Iran’s attractions are not limited to historical relics; spread around the desert are natural attractions, some of them pristine and inviting desert lovers to sheer diversity and beauty of Lut Desert, Maranjab, and Semnan deserts. Safaris and desert tours and rock-climbing attract multitudes of interested people; however, many others still succumb to the temptation of the sea. Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman in south and Caspian Sea in the north act like two poles of a magnet. Kish Island, the pearl of Persian Gulf has one of the most spectacular scenery. Sea aquaria around the island and flying over the azure waters are yearnings for many foreign tourists who would use the beautiful nature coming to the island even without visa. Further southeast lies the Sea of Oman which sums up all beauties of an ocean in an island, Hormuz, which enjoys limpid waters and a soil of varied hues.
Moving to the north and past the capital Tehran which is a mega-polis, within the two hour’s drive, we find desert, ragged mountainous terrain, and the lush forests coinciding together. Hirkani forests in Guilan province and ragged mountains in Golestan province would be the best destination for those seeking such sceneries. Even in Qeshm Island, the glimpses of the tropical forest and its famous ‘Stars Valley,’ which enjoys the title of ‘Middle East’s sole Geopark,’ add to this sheer multiplicity of the lavish nature’s gifts.
Iranians customs and rituals even bestow colourful hues to these physical natural beauties; for example, local people in Qeshm believe that ‘Stars Valley’ is the product of a heavenly object, a star, falling into the island. Others demand the tourists to have basic knowledge of these ceremonies to fully understand the significance behind these rituals.
Popular rites and rituals
A long tradition in a village relates to the day when women of the village send men of the village outside and rule the village; that day men are banned from entering the village and women hold election; king, queen, bride, and groom are elected. May 2 of each year the village recognizes the undisputable female rule; they protect village; they cook local food and offer to the poor out of a sacred pledge for alms-giving. The female monarch visits the poor and the ill; men are supposed to go out in the mountains and dig holes in the snows to reserve water for the sheep in summers; the ritual is called ‘barfchal’ (A Hole in Snow). Likes of this ritual are very popular elsewhere in Iran. Mourning for Imam Hossein (as) in Muharram and Safar (first two months of the hegira calendar); the Nowruz customs; and related days notably April 2 when people go to the nature and celebrate the day as Iranians did in the ancient times as the day of nature.
Nowruz is celebrated differently in different cities; however, the connecting element is to celebrate the turn of the new year of solar calendar. Chaharshanbeh Souri (the Wednesday of the Red or Fire), visiting the dead in cemeteries, spreading the famous 7-Sin table linens, visiting the relatives, buying confectionary and cooking New Year’s night special dish, and giving souvenirs are Iranians’ common rituals. These attractions, along with religious rites and honoured days and sacred places, such as the holy shrines of Imams, notably of Imam Reza (as) in Mashhad and of his sister Fatima Masoumeh (sa) in Qom, and of Shahcheragh in Shiraz are popular destinations of hordes of pilgrims seeking religious consolation. To see these attractions, come to Iran and explore yourself.