A chaotic, smog-filled metropolis crowded with nearly 15 million people, Tehran is at first glance an unlikely place for a holiday. However, travellers who take the time to get to know this fascinating city will quickly find that its long history and increasingly cosmopolitan mindset make it an undiscovered gem in the Middle East.
Azadi Tower © Christiaan Triebert
Tehran can be roughly divided into two parts: the northern districts are more modern and prosperous, with large shopping malls, international restaurants, and luxury hotels; while the southern areas are more run-down but cheaper, and are home to massive bazaars, historical buildings, and sidewalk falafel stands.
Tehran is home to some of the best museums in the Middle East, with as many as 50 to choose from. The most popular is undoubtedly the Golestan Palace, while the Crown Jewels of Iran (located in the Central Bank) is a must-see exhibit. Other worthwhile stops include the Carpet Museum of Iran, the Time Museum, and the Museum of the Islamic Period.
Tehran can be overwhelming, and short trips tend to be the most satisfying. When the bustle becomes too much, travellers can visit vastly different places, spending a few days in Ramsar, a holiday town on the Caspian Sea; Na'in, a small desert town; or Dizin, which is Iran's largest ski resort.
Opinions on the safety of travelling to Tehran are divided: many residents and experienced travellers proclaim that it is largely safe, however the US State Department advises against tourist travel to Tehran, while the British Foreign Office lifted its advisory against tourist travel to Iran in 2015. Nonethless, anyone travelling to Tehran should stay up-to-date with the latest media coverage.