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Iran is an expansive country in the Middle East, lying between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south and the Caspian Sea to the north, and was known as Persia until 1935 in the western world.
Inhabited since the Stone Age, modern Iran became an Islamic Republic in 1979 and is now a fascinating multicultural nation; over thousands of years the people have been influenced by Greek, Turkic, Arab and Mongol invaders. Iran also is famed for its hospitable locals and, as a tourist, it is common to be invited to sit down for tea, an activity fundamental to the national culture.
Iranian landscapes are spectacularly varied, spanning from imposing and rugged mountains, including the tallest volcano in the world: Mt Damavand at 5,610m, and sweeping coastal plains to enormous deserts covering the majority of central Iran. Man-made wonders are also part of Iran’s beauty; some of the most attractive structures on the planet can be found here. The unmissable sights include the Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan with its 17th Century Imam Mosque dome covered in turquoise mosaics and intricate calligraphy, Tehran’s Golestan Palace and the numerous picturesque bridges and eloquent gardens, the best being in Kashan. Delving further back in the history books, Iran has some equally impressive archaeological sites, most notably the ruins of Persepolis; once the wealthiest city on earth, it was captured and burned down by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE.
The capital, Tehran is a vibrant and modern city, home to around 14 million people at the foot of the Alborz Mountains. Alongside the 435 metre high Milad Tower, the best attractions include the National and Jewellery Museums. Hamedan is one of the world’s oldest cities, while the former capital, Isfahan is the most popular tourist destination thanks to its great bazaar, stunning buildings and tree-lined boulevards.
Short, international crossings are available to a couple of Iranian ports from Khasab in northern Oman. Traversing the Persian Gulf to Qeshm and Bandar Abbas in just 90 and 120 minutes respectively, these routes offer a quick and easy link between the two countries.