When heading out in to the hinterland of Iran from the capital of Tehran, chances are you’ll be looking to dive straight into the cultural heritage of a nation that was once at the centre of one of the world’s greatest empires. To achieve this end, there is perhaps no better base of operations in the country better than Shiraz, home to many historically significant museums, monuments, and other cultural sites.
Of course, all this makes no mention of this cities’ close proximity to the ruins of Persepolis, the former capital of mighty Persian juggernaut that ruled over the Middle East, and a sizable swath of North Africa and Southern Europe back in its heyday.
And while you likely won’t get to enjoy it here due to the prohibited status of fermented drinks in the modern day, this region was also reputably home to one of the world’s best loved wine grapes (Syrah). While this is up for debate, one thing certainly isn’t: the fact that Shiraz is a place that should centre stage on any culture vulture’s tour of Iran!
Upon arrival and getting your things sorted, seek out a tour operator that will take you out of town the next day to see Persepolis, the massive ruins of the Persian capital that is located 70 kilometres outside of the city. With the oldest remnants dating back as far as 515 BCE, the pillars, intricate reliefs and statues will captivate even the most jaded traveler. If there’s one cultural site that the non-temple person must see in Iran, Persepolis should be the one they make the time to visit!
Back in Shiraz, one of the most prominent sights to see is the Hafez Tomb, which houses the body of the much beloved poet, Hafez. With the grounds intricately laid out with many beautiful trees and flowers (to say nothing of the domed crypt that contains the beloved artist’s body), the Hafez Tomb can make for an interesting couple of hours of reflective thinking and admiration regarding a man who was widely adored despite only being a common muse.
If you really want your senses to be dazzled though, then a trip to the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is a mandatory stop during your explorations of Shiraz. The Persian/Islamic design, and the pink sandstone used to create this hall of worship definitely makes it worth checking out, but the piece de resistance that makes this place unforgettable is the stained glass windows that use a wide array of colours to capture the morning light, creating a rainbow beam effect that will make you feel like that you have just walked into a kaleidoscope!
Often confused for a fortress, the citadel of Arg of Karim Khan is an imposing structure that dates back to medieval times. Over the 830+ years that it has been in existence, it has played host to kings and governors, who were surrounded by unusually stylish surroundings, as all the leading artists and architects of that day and age were invited to participate in its construction.
After the Qajar dynasty, the structure had a less glamorous use, as it served as a prison from that time until the recent past, when it was decommissioned for that use and renovated to its former glory.
Lovers of dreamlike surroundings simply cannot leave Shiraz without first visiting Eram Garden, which means “garden of heaven” in Persian. Making liberal use of pools, canals, and a multi-variate array of colourful tropical and temperate plants, the appearance of this place may tempt you into staying for much longer than you had originally planned at this attraction.
Finally, make a point to stroll through the Vakil Bazaar before departing Shiraz for other destinations in Iran, as it is a hive of activity for this city as a whole. Artisans peddle wares ranging from fine carpets, to intricately designed copper handicrafts.
If you are feeling a bit stiff after all the touring that you have done on your visit to this city, take the opportunity to unwind in one of the old bath houses here, where the old stone domes and arches with mosaics painted above you likely serve as one of the most unique places you have ever pampered yourself!