With its outstanding cultural and natural tourist attractions, Iran, as a cradle of civilization, greatly enriches the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This list includes sites of cultural importance and natural wonders.
Since 1979, 24 places in Iran have been recognized by UNESCO as the intangible cultural heritage sites, including the historical and cultural splendor of Persepolis, Chogha Zanbil, or Bam Citadel, to the natural wonders of Hyrcanian Forests and the Lut Desert. These 24 sites, which are scattered in every corner of the country, are considered as only some of the reasons why tourists should visit Iran.
Read the following article provided by Iranviva Group to discover the Persian legacy in the history of the world. With Iranviva Group you can either choose any of the various tour packages provided beforehand by Iranviva Group or plan your own private tour packages and your desired itinerary to some of the most precious sites in Iran.
1- Iran Heritage, Chogha Zanbil
Chogha Zanbil is the best-preserved and one of a few existing “Ziggurats” (pyramidal stepped temple tower) in the world. This ziggurat was built in 1250 BC with mud and brick by the Elamites. These gigantic structures are remained from Mesopotamia.
The Ziggurat, located near the ancient city of Susa was built by the Elamite as a sacred temple in Persia. History can be felt in this site by walking around this pyramidal five-storey structure, made of adobe bricks. It is also a captivating architectural masterpiece, with each floor having its own independent foundations and its oldest water treatment system.
Visiting the remains of this great holy city is an incredible journey through the earliest civilization in Persia.
2- Iran Heritage, Pasargadae
Pasargadae, the first capital city of Achaemenids, contains the first architectural example of the Persian Gardens. Visiting this ancient city is discovering the legacy of Cyrus the Great, who is resting here in his tomb, the most important monument in Pasargadae. Cyrus the Great is well-recognized for proclaiming the first declaration of Human Rights in history.
3- Iran Heritage, Persepolis
Persepolis is best-known as a symbol of Iran around the world and embodies the greatness of the first Persian Empire, Achaemenid Empire. It is considered as the second capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is recognized by UNESCO among the greatest archaeological sites in the world.
Crossing the Gate of All Nations of Persepolis is mind-blowing, and awakens the visitors’ imagination. Massive graven phoenixes and winged bulls seem to be everlasting guardians protecting this magnificent palatial complex.
The beautiful friezes and inscriptions on the walls among the ruins tell the stories of the time to the visitors. They share the mysterious stories in this royal city, from ceremonies and celebrations to wars, fear, terror and probably the king’s last supper.
4- Iran Heritage, The Persian Garden
Designing Pasargadae on the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great also had a desire to create an earthy version of the Paradise. This is what brought forth the splendid architecture of the Persian Gardens, which can nowadays be appreciated in renowned places like Eram and Shazdeh Gardens.
Persian Gardens, divided into four geometrical sections and integrating water with intellectual engineering, have deeply affected the art of garden designing in different regions around the world. Among the numerous gardens in Iran, 9 Persian gardens are listed as the world heritage sites by UNESCO.
5- Iran Heritage, Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Shushtar hydraulic system with its interlinked set of watermills, dams, canals, and tunnels is exceptionally invaluable, and evidences the Iranian creative genius. This site is considered as the greatest industrial complex made before the industrial revolution, and dates back to the 5th century B.C.
This architectural masterpiece has been designed to divert the river water and provide water to the city via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar. The great scale of the complex makes it unique and the blue water flowing into the ochre rocks creates a picturesque scene.
6- Iran Heritage, Bam and its Cultural Landscape
Since the Arg-e Bam, the largest adobe structure in the world, is located in the middle of the desert, it seems like a mirage. Bam, the ancient Achaemenid city, is still standing proudly, as an example of the earliest architectural engineering techniques in history.
Located in the middle of a splendid desert, the city of Bam used to be situated at the crossroads of important trade routes of the Silk Road, and later it became one of the main centers of silk and cotton garment production.
Bam drew its life from the “qanats”, the ancient underground canals, which made it a true oasis in the heart of the desert.
7- Iran Heritage, Ancient City of Susa
Susa is one of the most ancient and historical cities in the world, a cradle of mankind civilization. This ancient civilization center and thousand-year-old capital of the Elamite, has witnessed many dynasties and populations coming sand going.
Therefore, the city is a true museum displaying the legacy of prehistoric, historic and Islamic eras in Iran, which recalls the forgotten stories of this important political, industrial, artistic and trading center.
8- Iran Heritage, The Persian Qanat
The ancient underground water system has brought permanent settlement and agriculture throughout the arid areas of the Iranian plateau. This engineering masterpiece, dating back to the first millennium BC, transports water for kilometers through the underground tunnels, relying only on the power of gravity, based on complex calculations and architectural techniques. This system is still applicable in Iran. Eleven well-preserved qanats are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which are located in different provinces of Iran, including Khorasan, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan, and Markazi provinces.
9- Iran Heritage, Bisotun
Carved in the rock of mountains in Kermanshah, Bisotun is a remarkable heritage of the Persian Empire. This archaeological site is situated on one of the main trading routes of the Achaemenid Empire, which holds a magnificent bas-relief and cuneiform inscription ordered by Darius I. It portrays the power of the king and his battles for any visitor to admire. An inscription which is one of the world’s oldest historical documents and is written in three different cuneiform script languages: Ancient Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (a variety of Akkadian).
10- Iran Heritage, Takht-e-Suleyman
Takht-e-Suleyman (Throne of Solomon) is a large archaeological site around a precious, turquoise lake, in the volcanic region of West Azerbaijan. Due to the importance of fire and water for Zoroastrians, this amazing historical site has a strong spiritual significance.
Many ancient monuments and sanctuaries can be visited in this archaeological site, including the Sassanid fire temple dedicated to Anahita, the goddess of water. This place was of great significance during the prehistoric era, given that it was the Iranian biggest sanctuary, as well as an educational, religious, and social center.
11- Iran Heritage, Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
Three monastic ensembles are located in the northwest of Iran, near the border with Armenia, which have witnessed the invaluable cultural exchange between different cultures: Persian, Byzantine, Assyrian, Muslim, and Orthodox.
These precious holy sites, including monasteries of St. Thaddeus and St. Stepanos, and the Chapel of Dzordzor, are displaying the best of Armenian architectural tradition. All lying in incredible natural landscapes, these well-preserved edifices, call for contemplation and peace.
They have endured for over 2000 years and are still places of pilgrimage, considered as a living witness of Armenian traditions in Iran.
12- Iran Heritage, Shahr-e-Sokhte (Burnt City)
This site perhaps belongs to the oldest developed city in the world, with 5000 years of history, which is located in Sistan and Baluchestan Province. The ruins, called Shahr-e Sokhte, meaning the “Burnt City”, commemorate the story of this merchant city and manufactural center.
Some extraordinary discoveries are made here, such as the first animation, and the world’s earliest known artificial eyeball. This Bronze Age city has remained tainted by the mystery of its rising and sudden falling.
Today, remained ashes and pieces of pottery entice the visitors to reconstruct it in imagination.
13- Iran Heritage, Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
Iran is famous for its traditional bazaars, with the arched maze of bustling alleys and colorful tiny shops. Tabriz Historic Bazaar is considered as the gem of all bazaars; it’s the world’s largest covered market, and one of the oldest in the Middle East.
Located on the famous Silk Road, it has brought prosperity to the region and has witnessed the cultural exchanges since ancient times. Many famous world globetrotters and travelers including Marco Polo, Jean Chardin, and Ibn Battuta have exalted the grandeur and prominence of this bazaar.
14- Iran Heritage, Cultural Landscape of Maymand
The stone village of Meymand and the environment around it are truly unique. This village, with houses carved in the foot of mountains, is a unique example of rocky architecture. 12000 years ago, people settled down in this village. Unlike the villages of Cappadocia in Turkey, these houses are still inhabited. Meymand is a semi-arid, self-contained area at the end of a valley central mountains of Iran. The villagers are semi-nomadic living on agriculture and livestock herding.
15- Iran Heritage, Gonbad-e Kavus
Gonbad-e Kavus, with the modern name meaning “the tower of Kavus”, is a 53-meter-high tomb standing on a hill which can be seen from afar as if it is the tallest brick monument of the city. This cylindrical tower is an outstanding example of early Islamic design and innovative architecture. It’s illustrates the development of science and mathematics in the Islamic era during the first millennium.
Gonbad-e Kavus county is a county in Golestan Province, which marks the grave of Ziyarid ruler Qabus, a prince of the Ziyarid dynasty. As the former capital of the Ziyarid Dynasty, it was a major center of cultural exchange in the region.
16- Iran Heritage, Dome of Soltaniyeh
The historical monument of the Mausoleum of Oljaytu at the city of Soltaniyeh in Zanjan Province, is a Persian architectural masterpiece and is crucial in the development of Islamic architecture. The beautiful turquoise dome, surrounded by eight pencil-thin minarets, is the third biggest dome in the world that was built during the Ilkhanid dynasty, founded by the Mongols. The interior decoration is also extraordinary, known as the inspiration for dome of Florence’s cathedral and described as “anticipating the Taj Mahal”.
17- Iran Heritage, Isfahan’s Naqsh-e-Jahan Square
Isfahan is one of the jewels of Iran, a representation of the Persian Empire’s glory, which is described as “half of the world”. The main square in Isfahan, named Nasqsh-e Jahan, is one of the world’s greatest plazas, holding some of the most astonishing historical monuments in the country, including the captivating Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the splendid blue-domed Shah Mosque, the sophisticated wooden Ali Qapu Palace, and the magnificent Qeysaerie Gate of Bazaar. These mesmerizing historical buildings are connected via the two-storey arcade walkways of the traditional bazaar.
Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, with its name meaning ‘The Pattern of the World’, was built by the Safavid dynasty in the 17th century.
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”
18- Iran Heritage, Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
The fabulous Islamic architecture of 12 centuries is aggregated in this historical Mosque which is located in the historic part of Isfahan. It is the oldest preserved religious edifice in Iran and is an excellent example of this type serving as a prototype for later mosques in the country and even all over the continent. It’s a true treasure which takes any visitor back to the grandeur of the Islamic Persian monarchy.
19- Iran Heritage, The Mystical Art of Sufis
Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble is one of the most sacred places of Sufism in the world, the mausoleum of the prominent leader of Islamic Sufism, Sheikh Safi al-din. This historical monument is located in the city of Ardabil. It’s an artistic and architectural masterpiece, with its interiors decorated by impressive golden muqarnas. Visitors pass through eight gates one after the other, across seven sections to know more about the spirituality and principles of Sufism.
20- Iran Heritage, Golestan Palace
There is no better example illustrating the glory of the Qajar era than Golestan Palace, lying in the heart of Tehran, the capital city of Iran. Some of the most ancient and historical monuments of Tehran are located in this complex. Golestan Palace was built by the Safavid kings and became the center of political power in Iran under the Qajar Dynasty.
Today, Golestan Palace, with its walls decorated with colorful painted-tiles and its ceilings covered with tiny shining mirrors, displays the splendor and elegance of the Persian arts. Its beautiful garden is mentioned in Pietro Della Valle’s travelogue. Nowadays, it still inspires many Iranian artists and astonishes the enthusiast visitors.
21- Iran Heritage, The Historic City of Yazd
Walking through the maze of its narrow adobe streets and rooftops offering a breathtaking view, with 5000 years of history, is one of those rare experiences one can have in a lifetime. No buses and almost no cars are allowed to disturb the tranquility of this timeless part of city, which is best explored by wandering through its alleys.
According to the UNESCO, Yazd is one of the most ancient settlements on Earth and it, thus, has witnessed the inhabitants’ way of life in a harsh desertic area. The extraordinary underground water canals (qanat), bringing water in this city located in the middle of the desert, along with the amazing wind-catchers (the oldest non-mechanical cooling system), represent the ingenuity of these people.
For more information about the city of Yazd and its must-visit tourists attractions, read the article “Top Places to Visit in Yazd”, provided by Iranviva Group.
22- Iran Heritage, Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region
This is the latest Iranian member of UNESCO cultural World Heritage Sites List. Eight archaeological sites located in the southeast Fars Province are the remains from the Sassanid Empire, including fortified structures, palaces, and hallways.
The magnificent bas-reliefs of Shapur I, commemorate the grandeur of the Persian kings, in a blend of art and history.
23- Iran Heritage, Lut Desert
“Lut” means “bare” in Persian, which makes a lot of sense since this desert is among the most arid and hottest locations on the Earth, where almost no living creature is able to survive.
As one of the biggest deserts in the world, it’s located in the southeast of Iran and has been recorded to have the highest temperature on the Earth: 70.7°C! If well accompanied, the visitor can enjoy the wonders of desert: massive sand dunes are formed by strong winds and the only salty river of the area. These massive yardang formations display an extraordinary geological process and a stunning result catching the eyes of the explorer.
24- Iran Heritage, The Hyrcanian Forests
Even though mostly known as an arid area, Iran also has a vast forest area particularly in the northern part. Spreading in three provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan in Iran, and also a small part in Azerbaijan country, the Hyrcanian Forests are home to the endangered Persian Leopards and 58 other mammal species.
These temperate deciduous forests are among the world’s only survivals remained from Cenozoic geology and Ice Age, due to the northern temperate weather in the region. These forests are a unique forested massif along the southern coast of Caspian Sea, related to Triassic period which was inscribed as the 2nd Iran’s natural heritage on UNESCO World Heritage List.
Iranviva Group has provided a variety of Iran tour packages you can choose, and will help you with your desired private tours. Just don’t hesitate to contact Iranviva Group on your trip to Iran to enjoy a wonderful journey to Iran.