Iran: Why We’re Going

This is the story of Iran, a country we once expected to visit last, as a final bow wrapped around a journey that tells the story of making human connections around the world. It’s also an explanation of why we’re going there this Friday.
Persian Architecture

Yes, you read that correctly: Iran. Conjures up mixed emotions. Of all the places perhaps least understood (or perhaps entirely misunderstood) to America, Iran.

In fact, I’d love to get a read on the first word or two that pops into your mind when you hear “Iran” and also when you hear “Americans traveling to Iran.”

But we know there’s an Iran that goes beyond what you see in the news. This is what we’re hoping to see and experience for ourselves over the next two to three weeks.

Why Iran? The Backstory

Our fascination with Iran began many years ago when we lived in Prague. We watched a presentation given by a couple fresh off a trip around Iran. What struck us were the stories they shared of the people and hospitality they encountered, and the fact that those stories stood in such stark contrast to the images we were used to seeing on the news. Not to mention that their photos of Persian architecture — colorful mosaicked domes and facades — were like nothing we’d ever seen before.

Iran Mosque

Then we made friends with Iranians living abroad. They shared with us a sneak preview of their country and culture — translating Persian poetry, inviting us for feasts. We wanted to learn more.

Fast forward to the end of 2006 when we began our current travels. Thinking it would take 12-18 months to complete (yes, we are a tad off those estimates), we planned to visit Iran last as a way to poetically conclude our around-the-world journey.

Why Iran and why last?

Iran: for all the culture and history, and to satiate our curiosity. And finally because we thought it a fitting destination to end a journey that aimed to tell a story of citizen diplomacy — two ordinary Americans making connections with ordinary people around the world.

Five years has gone by; our journey around the world is not yet over. An opportunity arose to visit Iran now, so we seized the moment.

But You’re American. Is it safe?

Before we get to the colorful stuff of Iran, the elephant in the room. Safety.

Aren’t you worried?” we’re often asked.

Not really.”

That about sums it up, with the tiniest of caveats. The same caveat that holds each of us and our next steps in the same random balance.

We understand that the history of America’s recent relationship with Iran — or at least the relationship between the two governments — is rocky (I state the obvious). With the recent release of American hikers and the even more recent dust up over the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., an already difficult relationship has been made even more so.

In a way, I suppose we couldn’t have timed our visit better. Or worse. Anyhow, we understand why some of you may have concerns for our safety. We want to alleviate some of those fears and let you know we’ll be in good hands.

We’ll be on the G Adventures Discover Persia tour with six other travelers (including another American). I don’t doubt that we’ll have many people minding our well-being.

Furthermore, our experience in other places perceived as unsafe – from Burma to Uzbekistan – tells us that the story on the ground is often very different than what appears in media. And no matter what happens between governments, politicians and “leaders”, at the end of each day, people are people — they are generally good and life goes on for them in many fundamental ways just like it does for you and me.

What to See and Do in Iran?

Now that we’ve dispatched with the elephant, let’s focus on the fun stuff.

Our first stop is Tehran, Iran’s capital city of 15 million people. We’re taking a private tour to get extra time in the city to see local markets, eat some street food, visit tea shops and do ordinary things like ride the metro (yes, we are public transportation dorks).

From there we’ll make a loop around the country with stops in Hamadan (mausoleums of Alisina and Baba Taher), Ahvaz and Susa (Palace of Darius), Shiraz and Persepolis, Yazd, Esfahan, Abyaneh and back to Tehran.

Iran Mosque

Besides being home to some amazing Persian and Islamic architecture, Iran is also a culture of bazaars (markets). Many of these have been operating in the same traditional market areas for hundreds of years. As market aficionados, we’re especially looking forward to visiting as many of these as we can.

Update (28 October, 2011): We’re excited to let you know we’ve finalized details to extend our journey in Iran by another week.

After the group tour with G Adventures ends, we will remain in Iran for another week on a private tour, spending much this time on public transport. From Tehran, we’ll head in the direction of the Caspian Sea and visit Rasht, Masouleh and Ardabil before spending a couple of days in Tabriz to visit nearby mountain villages and castles.

From Tabriz, we’ll hop a 2.5 day train over the Iran-Turkey border through eastern Turkey to Istanbul. Yes, it’s long, but it’s supposed to be beautiful and we are big fans of train journeys.

All aboard!

Follow Along With Us in Iran

Our access to internet may be sporadic during our trip to Iran, but we will do our best to post updates and photos on Twitter with the hashtag #dna2iran, Facebook and here on Uncornered Market.

We have some ideas of what we’ll see and experience, but we’re sure the trip will feature its share of surprises and unexpected discoveries. Stay tuned.

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Disclosure: Our trip to Iran is in cooperation with G Adventures as Wanderers in Residence. We paid our own transport to and from Iran, some expenses on the ground and for an additional one week private tour. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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We traveled to Iran with the G Adventures Discover Persia Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission that helps us to continue sharing stories like this. Thank you!

Middle East Tours with G Adventures

Photo credits to G Adventures and farrokhi.

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Comments

  1. Kay says

    I have to say, I’m jealous. I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to go there because of work, but all the photos you’ve included in this post are exactly WHY I would love to go – I’ve heard the architecture and mosaics are AMAZING. Looking forward to hearing about your travels!

  2. says

    Exciting stuff! I worked with Iranian refugees in the UK and they were all wonderful, warm and intelligent people. I’d love to visit and look forward to following along.

  3. says

    Dan and Audrey,

    A super post to begin what I’m sure will be a super journey. For me it’s some of your best writing; your excitement jumps off the page…

    All the best of luck – I’ll be looking out for your updates!

    Jon

  4. says

    You’re going to have an amazing time guys. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things from fellow travellers who’ve been through that way. I even had an Iranian visa and was meant to go overland Turkey-Iran-Syria when I was in the Middle East last summer but my travelling companion had her passport stolen and couldn’t get the visa reissued again (they’re not quick to get, as I’m sure you’re probably well aware!) so we had to skip it. It’s still a country that is most definitely on my list.

  5. says

    @Kay: We are looking forward to sharing. Let’s hope our experience can do those images justice. Thanks for the support!

    @Adam: Thanks for the well wishes!

    @Erin: Your experience sounds fascinating. It also resonates with everything else we’ve heard and seen regarding the Iranian people.

    @Megan: Wow, so you had an Iranian visa in hand. Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to go. Hopefully you’ll find another opportunity to return.

    As you allude to, the Iranian visa process has involved its share of steps. We actually met another traveler (form Canada) who has been sorting his visa in total from authorization to application for over three months. For us, it began almost two months ago.

  6. Sutapa Chattopadhyay says

    I am jealous too! But can’t wait for your next installment of blogs from Iran. Wow. Congratulations, and I know you will be safe!

  7. says

    @Sutapa: Thanks! We’ll do our best…to share and to be safe.

    @Lisa: Will do. We have a raft of food suggestions from our Iranian friends around the globe. I plan on doing some serious eating while there.

  8. says

    Wow! I can’t wait to follow along!

    I think this point that you made in your post is particularly important:

    “At the end of each day, people are people — they are generally good and life goes on for them in many fundamental ways just like it does for you and me.”

    I wish more people realized this.

  9. says

    Yes! I can’t wait to read all about it. I have wanted to go to Iran since our RTW trip even though other Americans think that it’s crazy. Enjoy!

  10. Gretch Steubbel says

    “At the end of each day, people are people — they are generally good and life goes on for them in many fundamental ways just like it does for you and me.”

    I so agree. Have experienced this through my own travels. Have always wanted to study or travel to Iran, particularly history and culture.

  11. firouzeh says

    hi to all
    my name is firouzeh and from iran
    i am very glad to hear about your journey i hope you enjoy in iran .iranian people are warm and hospitable and you know we have very delicious food ,old culture.many many places to visit.
    i know you will be safe.
    people are people on the world.have a great travel

  12. says

    Bravo my friend. Make sure to put “Kashan” on your route. It’s between Isfahan and Tehran. Absolutely stunning architecture.

    I’m an Iranian American myself and envy you.

  13. says

    @JoAnna: Thank you. All the dramatic photos and adventure aside, I really hope we’re able to continually reinforce this human concept through our travels. This is a long road. The trick for all of us is to creatively express this through our actions and the way we relate our experiences.

    @Tracy: I understand the feeling. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from folks back home. Hopefully, we can share something that adds a little more to the perception, to the discussion.

    @Gretch: Am glad this resonates and that your experiences have offered proof. Thanks so much for your comment.

    @firouzeh: Thank you. We are looking forward to seeing, hearing, feeling, experiencing it all for ourselves. Your comment made me smile.

  14. Nicole says

    Have a wonderful time. I have been fascinated with Iran since taking some Iranian history courses from an amazing Iranian expat in college. He dispelled a lot of myths for me, chief among them that Iran hates America because of our freedom. :)

    But I digress. Stay safe and enjoy it all!

  15. says

    Hey guys, so excited for you! By the way I’m currently reading The Blood of Flowers by one of my MFA professors Anita Amirrezvani who is born in Iran but half Lithuanian (her mother is from Kaunas). Maybe pick it up, great read!

    And, you two are ANYTHING but “ordinary Americans.” No matter how hard you try. :)

  16. says

    I have always been fascinated with Iran, the culture and the history, but was afraid it was unsafe to travel there. This article has definitely convinced me to put it back on my list of places to see!

  17. says

    I admire what you are doing. And I believe in your mission to amplify the truth that we are all one people and generally well-intentioned, regardless of what government we might live under and regardless of what false perceptions are proliferated by certain media interests that care more about advertising dollars than accuracy and enabling good will around the world.

    Adam Dudley

  18. says

    @Jonathan: Thank you for the compliment and well-wishes. Really appreciate it.

    @Nima: Great to hear from you! Thank you. We’ll stop by Kashan.

    “I’m an Iranian American myself and envy you.” — As that sank in, it piqued my curiosity. Would look forward to chatting after our trip.

    @Nicole: Thanks! Your comment is no digression. The dispelled myth that you refer to is well-known to many — just not the same people who broadcast the myth.

    @Jenn: Blushing. Really. Thank you. And I insist that I’m ordinary. I can’t speak for Audrey. She’s pretty extraordinary at times. Thanks for the book recommendation. And good luck with the MFA!

    @Melissa: Hopefully our stories will only serve to reaffirm what we’ve touched on here.

    @Adam: Thanks, Adam. That’s the aim. Has been from day one. Call us idealists.

  19. John says

    @Melissa I spent most of September there and for the most part Iran is extremely safe, with the possible caveat of Balochistan providence (on the border with Pakistan). Iran gets very few tourists (as noted above, the visa process can take quite a while) and as a result most people are quite gracious to visitors. More so when they find out you’re American.

    @Tracy Unfortunately most Americans do think it is crazy to visit Iran, which is sad considering the wonderful people there. I think the better question to ask is why Americans (as a society in general) cling to perceptions from the late 70’s with Iran and yet we don’t with places like Vietnam. Why is that?

    @Nima +1 on Kashan.

    If either one of you are vegetarian (I am), I hope you like eggplant (as you’ll be eating lots of it :-)

  20. says

    @John: Your experience sums up just about everything we’ve heard about Iran. Your comment to Tracy brings up a valid point with an interesting comparative twist. As everyone considers your question, I’d also ask them to think about where public perceptions about faraway places come from. Popular media, perhaps? Then I’d ask them to think about what the prevailing narrative is.

    We aren’t vegetarian (it’s how we survived our travels through Central Asia). Regardless, we and eggplant are like “this” (picture two fingers wrapped).

  21. says

    A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I hosted some couch surfers who have been traveling for the past 8 months. They spent a couple weeks in Iran and even couch surfed with multiple families. They told us about the hospitality and the generosity of the families they stayed with and the people in general. I’m sure that you will have a great trip. My boyfriend and I are planning a rtw trip to start sometime next year and have eagerly been reading about your travels!

  22. says

    First two words that popped into my mind were “nervous” and “exciting”. I can’t wait to read about your trip. I’ve found that the culture of hospitality in Muslim countries is the best! It will be interesting to see how your interactions with locals goes in a country where the US has meddled/interfered/??(not sure what word works here) in the way it has.

  23. says

    @Melissa: I completely understand your words and underlying sentiments. I also appreciate the care in selecting them.

    Indeed, there’s something about Middle Eastern and Central Asian hospitality for sure. Regarding interactions with locals in Iran, I’m very optimistic. We also realize and value that many people around the world — regardless of their sophistication and lot in life — can find ways to separate our actions as individuals from the actions of our government. This I find refreshing.

    @Adam: We will (very humbly) take that, knowing that’s a lot to live up to. Thank you.

  24. says

    I’m so excited to have found your web site before you travel to Iran. I’ve always had a fascination with the country and would love to see it again. I visited Tehran in the 70’s whilst the Shah was in power and was taken by the fabulous scenery, people and the life. Unfortunately the museum has since been destroyed but I’m sure the architecture and the underground markets will be just as fascinating. Have fun

  25. says

    I’m very excited for you, and I can’t wait to read what you have to share about the experience. I, too, have been impressed with the warmness of Iranians, having encountered them in the ESL classes I teach. I don’t know about you guys, but I love to read literature from/about countries where I travel . If you do, I’d highly recommend The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi. It’s a beautifully written novel that tells the story of one man’s life (a Kurd) set against the history of Iran beginning in 1921. Enjoy your trip! (And the food, which is perhaps what is making me most jealous!)

  26. says

    @Theresa: I, too, like to read literature from the places I travel. However, my travels are fast outpacing my ability to speed read. Having said that, we’ve received a few recommendations from and on Iran and I appreciate some more. I maintain a growing list on Evernote that I hope to better chip away at in 2012. Your description of Age of Orphans might just make it my Tehran-Istanbul train reading. It’s a heavy read from what I hear, though.

    After reading your comment, I realized I said nothing in this post about Persian cuisine. Needless to say, we’re licking our chops. The book recommendations that have come in are only outnumbered by the food recommendations. I suspect we won’t be emerging hungry.

    @Jenny: Wow, Iran in the 70s. There’s my dream travel destination. That and Afghanistan, same period. Thanks for your comment. Very nice to see you here.

    @Jordan: Thanks!

  27. says

    It’ll be one for the books. Be prepared to answer a few questions when you get back to the US; that Iranian visa is going to get your customs agent’s attention, if your experience is like mine =). Looking forward to following along!

  28. Stevie Mills says

    Audrey and Dan,
    A wonderful country, beautiful people, rich cultural experience. Our family lived in Shemiran (northern Tehran) in the late 50s during the height of the Shah’s cultural revolution. Have a wonderful visit and safe travel.

  29. Gina says

    Fantastic news! As someone who is dreaming of going to Iran, I’m really excited to follow your travels. I’m really thankful that you both are doing what you’re doing: both allowing us readers to follow along and presenting a thoughtful, articulate and unpretentious perspective on some places suffering from PR issues here in the US. I hope it will measure up to your favorite experiences thus far – or exceed them!

  30. says

    All positive notes in the comments, which is good to say. I’m totally glad that you two are going there and I’m happy to know that both of you will be representing America; I can’t think if two better ambassadors for the USA.

    If you haven’t, yet (I’m sure you have), you should pick up Persepolis and read it before you go. Good read.

    I’m now going to spend the next hour reading on how Bessie and I can get to Iran…

  31. Agne says

    I just read my friend’s post about Iran during their trip, and I am sure you will love this country! I just hope that you will be safe and sound there :)

  32. says

    Well i have to say, the photos you posted look really beautiful. But i am wandering is an Iranian Tour worth it? I haven’t really heard anything fascinating about Iran when it comes to tourism nor saw any Tour commercials. So just wondering what are you up to in finding the surprises for us. We are tuned. Please update us with the best Iran has to offer!

  33. says

    @Vicky: Rescued your comment from our spam trap…sorry about that. Funny you mention couchsurfing. While in Berlin, we actually hosted an Iranian couple in our flat. Was fun. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them while we’re in Iran.

    As for your couchsurfing guests, it sounds like their experiences align with just about everyone else’s in Iran. They can’t be all wrong. In fact, I’m betting their right.

    Glad to hear that you are planning your own RTW trip and we’re also glad (hopeful) that we can continue to provide some travel inspiration.

    @Erik: Thanks! Squares with what we’ve heard.

    @Justin: That’s what we’re expecting, on both accounts. I don’t doubt that U.S. customs and immigration will have a few questions for us. My father suggested the same and I told him that we’re prepared to hang out, answer questions and pass out business cards. Absolutely nothing to hide, here.

    @Stevie: Wow! Must be incredible to think back. I cannot even begin to imagine.

    I’m hoping our experiences help bring back some more good memories.

    Thanks for the well wishes!

    @Gina: Your comment made my day, particularly your gracious characterization of our perspective. We really do try because we feel that voices like ours — nuanced, perhaps — are often drowned out by the prevailing media sound-byte drumbeat.

    Thank you for such kind, thoughtful words. Comments like yours help provide fuel for the journey.

    @Kyle: Wow, that means a lot…especially coming from you guys, given the work you do and how you do it.

    Another vote for Persepolis…it’s in the race for being my Tehran-Istanbul train book.

    After we complete this journey, let us know if we can help. Hopefully we’ll have some experience to build on in terms of getting you to Iran.

    @gayE: Hopefully we can provide more fodder for moving up that Iran trip in your travel schedule.

    @Agne: We, too. We’re optimistic. Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes!

  34. says

    Well, first thought was safety… :) if you must know, but I am so excitedt to read about your trip. My other thoughts are that Iran has such a rich history. That the people are very independant minded and strong willed (like many of us!).
    Seeing that you are going to Suza…oooh – would like to go there. Like you noted, we only tend to get political pictures here in America of Iran and we have very little sense of the historical or current culture. Suza makes me think of the kings at the time of Israel’s capture…Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah. Much history I HAVE heard of. So very excited to see what you see and hear the stories of the people!

  35. says

    Like others have said, I’m incredibly jealous! To see all of the relics of old Persia is a fantastic opportunity the average person will never have. I can’t wait to see the pictures and read about your experience!

  36. Kajari says

    What a great adventure – looking forward to the stories and photos! You mention that Iran is the final bow in your world journey…does this mean you traveling nomads are retiring your passports? Say it ain’t so!!?! Best of luck and to state the obvious, stay safe.

  37. says

    Safe travels, guys. I cannot say I haven’t thought abou taking this trip myself, or that I am not gripped, fascinated, inspired by and scared of that country. Have you read “Reading Lolita in Tehran?” I think it’d be a great pre-trip read if you are not already familiar with it. I truly cannot wait for the updates!

  38. says

    I can’t wait to see what you think of Iran.
    We’ve wanted to go for quite a while. We hear that the snowboarding is excellent there. Dave and I wanted to go during the Mongol Rally, but with 2 Americans as our teammates, they were understandably apprehensive. We then learned that Americans cannot go into Iran unless they are on an organized tour. Lucky you have the Gap Adventures tour to go with. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about the country and I know that you two will share everything with us about your trip.
    What I love about your blog is how open and honest you are in your travels and I am excited to follow along to see what you think!

  39. Sutapa Chattopadhyay says

    Dan and Audrey,
    I’ve had my say before but I’d like to agree with the others that you two are anything but ordinary. But the US needs cultural ambassadors like you in a time of extreme polarization both within and without the US. We need to understand other countries better and to have other countries understand our ordinary citizens better. So you have a moral obligation – even when you are having fun in Iran! And please come back and educate the rest of us in the US (and other places as well).

    Sutapa

  40. says

    @Azeem: When it comes to travel, there are different strokes for different folks. People look for different things in a travel experience (e.g., historical sights, people, culture, landscape, food, etc.) and this will determine where they want to travel. For us, we are drawn to people and culture more than big tourist sites, though we do that as well. For some as you’ve read here, Iran is the ultimate, for others a passing interest, and for others still, no interest at all. It’s a personal decision based on travel preferences.

    Regarding why take a tour to Iran, if we had the option, we would likely travel Iran independently. However, because of visa regulations for American citizens, a guide is required at all times.

    Finally, just because Iran doesn’t run any decent tourism commercials or light up the tourism radar screen does not mean that it’s not a worthwhile destination. I think that if you do a little research you’d find that Iran is home to some interesting Silk Road cities, ancient ruins and medieval Islamic architecture. And I’m sure that’s the beginning.

    We’re not here to necessarily to promote Iran. We are here, as we’ve always been, to travel to places that interest us (from human, historical, cultural, culinary, visual and experiential standpoints). Looking back we’ve had a history of choosing locations that some consider odd, not often visited (e.g., Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Bolivia, Paraguay to name a few). And for us, they’ve been home to some of our most worthwhile and memorable experiences.

    @Phyllis: It’s a fair first thought. Let’s hope we can contribute, by way of our experiences, something a little different to the Iran discourse other than what you see in the news. That’s our aim almost always, at least.

    In any event, thank you for the comment and for sharing your excitement with us!

    @Sunee: We’re looking forward to sharing. Who knows, maybe our experiences will inform a few visits to Iran that otherwise might not happen…so more people may have that opportunity.

    @Kajari: Nope, we’re not hanging up our passports. I tried (but apparently unsuccessfully) to suggest that in the beginning of the article that Iran was to be a final bow, but midway through, tucked into the piece, I said “Five years has gone by; our journey around the world is not yet over. An opportunity arose to visit Iran now, so we seized the moment.”

    I guess I need to take that Remedial Writing for Clarity course after all.

    Thanks for commenting and for the well wishes. Was really nice hearing from you!

    @Roxanne: Another pre-trip reading suggestion. Iran as a topic features a raft of reading material.

    Thanks for sharing your excitement. “Gripped…fascinated…inspired..” — I like it.

    @Deb: Thanks for your comment. I can appreciate their apprehension. It’s understandable. We’re hoping to get a firsthand experience (positive, obviously) that we can share with others to motivate them to follow.

    I’m glad that our openness and honesty is a plus. We can tell a good story sometimes, but we’re not the best fibbers. So I don’t suppose we could do it any other way.

    It’s also funny you mention snowboarding in Iran. While waiting for our passports to be returned to us at the Iranian Embassy in Istanbul, Audrey and I were thumbing through a photo book (Tehran, 1890 – present). In there was an old sepia frame of a ski resort apparently on the edge of town taken 40+ years ago. Unless you knew what Iran’s mountains looked like, it was just about impossible to tell the photo was from Iran. This is certainly a fascinating world we live in.

    @Sutapa: A moral obligation — I love the way you put that. If we could find a way to slot ourselves into that cultural ambassador role, we’d love to do it. Outside of that, we’ll continue to find more ways and venues to share our experiences and lessons learned, especially with anyone and everyone willing to listen back home in the United States.

  41. John says

    @Azeem + @Dan: Another reason why people take tours here is due to the fact that some folks aren’t comfortable taking so much cash with them for an extended time. Since Iran isn’t connected to the international banking system, credit and bank cards won’t work here (like Cuba). Some folks are OK with budgeting their expenses for a few weeks and others would prefer to just pay for things up front and not have to deal with it.

    @Dan: Check out the wedding dress shops there, you’ll be even more surprised.

  42. says

    @John: Good point. I never considered the connection between tours and people’s reluctance to carry stacks of cash on holiday, though I’m aware of the disconnect with the international banking system. I was wondering, but haven’t yet researched: does Western Union or similar operate there?

    Re: wedding dress shops. We’re intrigued. We’ll be on the lookout.

  43. John says

    @Dan: Not that I know of; however I’m sure that you could get a cash advance on a card from a carpet shop in a pinch (most have offices in Dubai).

  44. says

    How exciting! I know loads of Iranians in Australia and they are super friendly, generous people. I would love to go to learn about the history and architecture in the country. I am so envious! Enjoy!

  45. says

    I’m sure you’ll travel light and safe. And I’m really excited to read YOUR stories about this adventure. I love that it’s YOU going, there are certain places where you think, “Oh, I’d like to read THAT person on THAT place,” and thinking “Dan and Audrey + Iran” just seems like a bunch of future awesome.

    Can’t wait to hear about it.

  46. Yahya says

    I was in Iran last May…a beautiful country with amazingly warm and hospitable people. Only managed to go to some towns in Mazandaran, villages in Kurdistan, Persepolis, Tehran, Shiraz and Esfahan. I love every aspects of Iran and looking forward to hear your stories and of course those great pictures you’ll be taking. But be careful when taking pictures of buildings or airports. My camera was thoroughly checked in Shiraz! Have a safe and enjoyable journey Dan and Audrey.

  47. says

    Audrey and Daniel! I can’t say this enough, but I really do love your blog and reading about your reasons for travelling! Iran would not be on many Americans lists due to the safety issue, so I think it’s great you guys are going! In 2009 I had booked a ticket to Tehran only to realise it fell on the day of their election (which if you remember didn’t go down too well)! I ended up cancelling the ticket as a precaution and never went… A year later I read this great book about Iran called ´Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah’s Beard´ which made me want to go to Iran again! Enjoy the place and read the book as it’s a good read!

  48. says

    @pam: Light and safe — currently, yes. Thank you for the vote of confidence. Looking forward to delivering on your rather high expectations.

    @Yahya: Great to hear from you! Seems like you covered the big sights and got in a few others as well. That’s good — Iran is a very big country.

    Audrey and I are looking forward to sharing photos and stories. We will be careful taking pictures of sensitive (i.e. government) buildings, too. We’ve already been shooed away on a couple of occasions. No major trouble, just a sign from guards to move along.

    @LI: Whether or not they are the “right” reasons to visit Iran, I’m not sure. But they are certainly our reasons. Am glad, however, that they resonate with you.

  49. says

    @Tony: Thanks for your comment, perspective and story. I’m sorry to hear that timing and circumstances conspired against your trip to Iran and you didn’t make it. Hopefully you’ll create another chance.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Another one to add to the list, but the title alone could move it to the top of the list.

  50. says

    @Yahya: Good advice for Iran (and also in general). When I’m not driving, I tend not to look. As for crossing streets, I’m sometimes thankful for heavy traffic — at least that slows them down.

  51. Lemmy says

    Great stuff. Good to read about people (Yanks) going to places outside the box. Iran is wonderful and if you get the chance check Takht-e Suleiman and Kazim Dashi near Urmia. These are on the way to Turkey. Meet locals and don\t drink buds in Band. peace

  52. Bahare says

    I`m really happy that you came here in Iran and I saw you!infact I caught you in Masooleh ;-):D
    Sorry for talking a lot there ;-) you both are so nice :-)
    And Dan you promised to put my picture here;-) I`m still waiting :D

  53. Lauren says

    Did you use G Adventures to book the personal guide? $600pp for 7 days is much less expensive than I have been able to find through any of the Iranian agencies I have spoken with! Thanks for the inspiration. I want to go to very badly and your post is very helpful!

  54. says

    @Lemmy: Thanks for the suggestions. While did get around parts of northwest Iran and West Azarbayjan, we’ll have to return to catch your suggestions, including those around Urmia (Oroumieh).

    As for your general advice, re: out-of-the-box and meeting locals, it’s the very best way to understand Iran and Iranian people.

    @Samuel: Our experience underscored that repeatedly. We could probably devote an entire blog to the Iranian people we met and their friendliness towards visitors.

    @John: Thanks for the link. Audrey and I are hoping to squeeze in a visit to the new Met exhibit. If what we saw on the ground in Iran is any indication, it’s bound to be impressive.

    @Bahare: And we are happy to have met you! Inspiring…we’ll be waiting to meet you in the U.S. one of these days.

    Your picture is coming. It will be worth the wait!

    @Lauren: We booked the personal guide through the same tour partner in Iran. In fact, from what we were told, it was required that we use their services (perhaps because they were responsible for our visa travel authorization numbers). Quite honestly, we had to work very hard to bring the cost to something even remotely resembling what we could afford. Glad we could help inspire and help. We will publish all the practical travel details about traveling to Iran and our trip in an upcoming article on this site!

  55. John says

    @Dan: I believe that is the case since ordinarily one is supposed to submit an itinerary with the visa application (for certain nationalities). Since Americans are required to be on a tour the itinerary is supplied by the company (who initiates the visa process in the first place).

    @Lauren: Besides the normal tour variability (what you see, if you take public/private transport, hotel type, etc) the cost really depends on if you’re working directly with an Iranian based company or an external one (who then has to subcontract to an Iranian one, minus handling fees of course :-) ). It also depends on how you pay for your tour, since if you don’t pay in hard cash (Euros or Dollars) you’ll have to pay to transfer your money (due to embargo).

  56. John says

    @Dan: Oh and if you do come into town, leave time for food in Queens (not much Persian food there, but pretty much the rest of the globe is represented on every block).

  57. says

    @John: Thanks for helping to further clarify and explain the Iran travel and visa acquisition process. It was not terribly straightforward, particularly if, like us, one happens to be interested in testing the boundaries of what’s doable.

    And thanks for the tip on the food in Queens. Let’s hope we can make it.

  58. Lauren says

    Daniel, I’m looking forward to the article! I’m in the middle of the visa/tour booking process myself and am very nervous about booking a flight and not receiving my visa in time. Anyway, I’ll be checking back regularly!

  59. says

    I was in Iran in October, absolutely wonderful, I can’t wait to go back. Sad that many people don’t travel to such a rich country due to fear and prejudice.

  60. Sina says

    As an Iranian I want to send this message to all of you here; We love you and Iran is a rich civilized country occupied by Islamic extremists which is unfortunate and we are terribly ashamed and sorry for all this regime has done in the past 32 years in the world and all the trouble you have to go through to get a visa.. we are doing our best to fight the regime and throw them out. Persian Empire was established 2500 years ago as the first empire and Cyrus the Great declared the human rights rules which all of you excluding us ourselves!! are living free under :)
    The first religion on earth which believed in one god Zoroastrianism came from Iran and later other religions such as Islam, Christianity,.. copied it with some modifications.. even December 25th which church had people to believe it’s Jesus birthday (after 400 years that he was killed/dead) was the day that it was celebrated in Persia for years as the longest day (in terms of hours and minutes) of the year.
    The sun will shine again soon…you’ll see soon…

  61. says

    I was so glad to read this… we’ve considered visiting Iran, either on this trip or the next, and it’s so nice to hear that other Americans aren’t afraid of making the same journey… now on to read all your subsequent blogs!! =)

  62. hamid razavi says

    thanks for posting this. I took my brazilian wife and son to iran and visited shiraz, this is the first time of heard of this place. thanks for posting this. I learned something from american tourists in iran, amazing!

  63. says

    @Sebastiaan: Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

    @Max: Not sure if it’s possible to eat more kebab :) Glad to hear you had such a good visit three years ago.

    @Hamid: So glad that this helped you with your recent visit to Iran and Shiraz with your family. We loved that city – people were so friendly and warm.

  64. says

    Thank you for this insight on Iran, the beautiful pictures and the amazing reports. We will most probably do the same loop over Easter: Teheran – Isfahan – Yazd – Shiraz.
    One question: you write that US citizens must be in a group. Is it especially US citizens? We have already asked, and European Citizens can travel on their own… Or did I miss something

    Cheers
    Gilles

  65. says

    @Gilles: Sounds like a great trip you have planned! Yes, the restriction on group travel is only for US citizens. As far as I know, European citizens can travel independently around the country. Enjoy!

  66. amin says

    hi…
    how about visiting Tabriz city! I had started to read non Iranian people Experience’s about visiting Iran
    & I found that most of them are just for cities like tehren ‘shiraz & esfahan! but you should know that tabriz city is as impotent as that 3!
    why?
    because:
    1. It’s one of the oldest cities (more than 3500 years!!! like shiraz)
    2.Choice for most beautiful city in Iran by UNESCO (!)
    check this
    https://www.google.ae/search?q=%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%B2&bav=on.2,or.&bvm=bv.60983673,d.cGU,pv.xjs.s.en_US.3ldMs4GyBFs.O&biw=1366&bih=664&dpr=1&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=ar&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=TIv1UuqmH4iHogTv0oLwCA
    …………
    tabriz in Persian is ( تبریز); you can use this word to search it better

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