Isfahan known as “Half of the World“, is the glorious capital city of Iran in the Safavid era. Now, as the third biggest city in Iran, with a peaceful atmosphere, Isfahan welcomes tourists from the five continents who love to explore the beauty and wonder that it has to offer. It draws many tourists to Iran notably for visiting its splendid attractions and enjoying the extraordinary experiences like walking by Zayandeh-Rud River along the wonderful historic bridges.
Considered as the cultural capital of Iran, Isfahan has been recognized by the UNESCO for its outstanding universal value. Furthermore, as a hub for crafts and folk art, Isfahan displays the extraordinary beauty and glory of the best architectural pieces of the Islamic world in its iconic mosques and delicate palaces.
Here, Iranviva Group has provided a complete guide on what you can do or where you can go in Isfahan. So you can get enough information about the city of Isfahan before you book your Iran tour package with Iranviva Group, and before you travel to Iran.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
There is a square situated at the center of Isfahan, the most famous landmark of the city, a square with its unrivaled beauties and its architectural masterpieces, Naqsh-e Jahan Square. The name “Naqsh-e Jahan” literally means “the patterns of the world”. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest public squares in the world.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square was built under the orders of Shah Abbas the Great to signal the importance of the city of Isfahan, as the capital city of Iran in Safavid era. This huge rectangular square hosts some of finest monuments in Iran: the Shah Mosque, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu Palace and Qeysarieh Gate.
Tourists, who travel to Iran and visit Isfahan, can feel the city’s great atmosphere at the center of this square, where the Safavid rulers used to watch polo games, maneuvers and horse-racing.
Shah (Imam) Mosque
Located on the southern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Imam Mosque, formerly named as ‘Shah Mosque’, is famous for its everlasting masterpieces of architecture and the splendor of its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. Its construction began in 1611 and it was completed in 1627. Shah mosque is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful historical mosques in the world and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Iranviva tour guide will give you any information you need to know about the monuments you will visit on your Iran tours with Iranviva.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Standing on the eastern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the splendid architectural masterpieces in Iran. It was built during the Safavid era under the reign of Shah Abbas for the royal family’s private use.
This mosque does not have any minarets and is smaller with a single prayer hall. However, tile work used inside and outside its magnificent colorful dome has made it one of the most eye-catching structures in Iran. Visitors of the mosque are so mesmerized by the beauty of its intact spiritual ambience.
Historical Bridges in Isfahan
Zayandeh-Rud River, which literally means “life giver”, splits the city of Isfahan into two parts, and is the largest and one of the most important rivers of the Iranian Plateau in central Iran.
There are 11 historical bridges crossing the river which are very popular tourist attractions due to their architectural wonders. People from Isfahan like wandering and sitting along the river and over the bridges, especially in the evening.
The most famous historical bridge is probably “Si-o-Seh Pol”, built in the 17th century. Over 300 meters long, it consists of a harmonious succession of 33 symmetrical arches. Another famous landmark of Isfahan is the historical arched bridge of “Pol-e Khaju” that astonishes any visitor to the bridge. A bit further away is “Pol-e Shahrestan” which is a witness of the history, the oldest bridge in Isfahan, dating back to the 12th century.
Isfahan Grand Bazaar, also known as the Qeysarie Bazaar, links the Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the Jameh Mosque. Built in the 17th century, Isfahan Grand bazaar is probably one of the greatest and most beautiful bazaars in Iran.
It’s a covered bazaar with its seeming endless stunning bricked alleys, old shops, caravanserais, madrasahs, domes, etc. Visitors can spend a whole day strolling inside the maze of the bazaar, from the copper section to the colorful spice section, and enjoying the extraordinary beauty of the Persian handicrafts.
Ali Qapu and Chehel Sotoun Palace
The magnificent architecture of these two palaces represent the Persian art. Located in the western part of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Ali Qapu Palace is an important imperial palace with attractive wooden ceiling decorated with the finest paintings, tiles, and mirror work. It has six floors and the verandah has 18 wooden pillars in three rows. The music room on the top floor of the building is a stunning architectural masterpiece with deep circular niches found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic.
Chehel Sotoun Palace, meaning ‘40 columns’ literally, was built in the Safavid era. This UNESCO-listed heritage site competes with the beauties of Ali Qapu palace. As with Ali Qapu, the palace contains many frescoes and paintings on ceramic. Chehel Sotoun Palace stands in the middle of a large beautiful and perfectly symmetrical garden, with a central pool. The reflection of the 20 columns in the water of the pool creates the illusion that there are 40 columns.
The Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, a grand, congregational mosque, was first built on the 8th century, but it was burnt down and was rebuilt again in the 11th century, resulting in a mix of Islamic and Persian architecture. This makes it so extraordinary and it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in a four-iwan architectural style, decorated with fine tile work and mosaics in contrast with the interior brick decoration of its prayer halls.
Located near the Grand Bazaar, the Jameh Mosque lies at the heart of the city and has preserved its social situation. Still functioning today, it resonates with the prayers of the Muslims every Fridays.
Vank Cathedral, located in south of the city in Jolfa neighborhood where Armenian community in Isfahan live, is with no doubt, the most beautiful church in Iran. In the 17th century, thousands of Christian Armenians came from the northwest of Iran to settle down in the Safavid capital city. They built this elegant, extraordinary church at the heart of their neighborhood.
Outside of the church, its brick walls with its small bell tower are perfect examples of Armenian architecture. Stepping inside, visitors get mesmerized by the incredible paintings on the walls and ceiling of the cupola. Its elaborate frescos, mainly in golden and blue color tones, depict the Biblical story of the world creation and man’s expulsion from Eden.
There is a small museum inside the church complex dedicated to commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide. After visiting the Vank Cathedral, visitors can also take an enjoyable stroll in the streets of Jolfa neighborhood, which are full of cozy cafes and trendy restaurants.
On your visit to Isfahan, don’t miss an excursion to Dasht-e Kavir. The small desert town of Varzaneh is located about 100 km from the city of Isfahan, immersing visitors in a totally different world. It’s the only place in Iran where women still wear a white chador in the streets.
Varzaneh is known for its stunning desert, with kilometers of pristine sand dunes and its spectacular and beautiful sky at night. Visitors to Varzaneh should not miss the experience of walking barefoot in the immensity of the desert and the unforgettable experience of spending a night in the desert sky-watching with no light pollution.
Iranviva Group has provided some short tour packages including desert tours. Just keep in touch with Iranviva Group on your trip to Iran and enjoy the wonderful offers from Iranviva.
Located on a hill about eight kilometers west of the city of Isfahan, the remains of a Sassanid-era archaeological complex is worth a visit. This tiny circular monument on top of the hill used to be a Zoroastrian Fire Temple. There are remains of a citadel and other structures on the southern part of the hill.
Although there is not much left from this historical monument, the site overlooks the city of Isfahan and it offers a panoramic view from the city and Zayandeh Rud River that makes it worth visiting. It’s a pleasant 20-minute walk in nature, along the river bank, ending up with an idyllic view of the city and the mountains.
Situated just south of the city of Isfahan, southeast of Mount Donbeh and south of the Zayanderud River are the natural splendors of the Sofeh Mountain. People from Isfahan go to Sofeh Mountain with their family to get some fresh air and use the recreational facilities every evenings or at the weekends.
For those who love climbing, it takes an hour or two to reach at the top of the mountain. Otherwise, visitors can ride the cable car to reach the top and appreciate the splendid landscapes of the city of Isfahan and its nature surrounding. Sofeh Park also offers great hiking trails and is considered as one of the best forest parks in Iran.
If you’d like to know more about Traveling to Isfahan, read Iranviva articles “Top 12 attractions you shouldn’t miss during your travel to Isfahan” and “Best 5 historical places in Isfahan you should visit”