If you are planning on a trip to Iran, no single person can possibly know enough to guide you! There is just so much to see and lots of unique experiences you might be missing if you don’t have the right resources.
Although we provide payment services for our travelers, we are often asked about random things in Iran and we care to find the answers for you. We have decided to answer these questions one at a time and now we want to share with you a comprehensive guide to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Iran.[sitepoint_contact_form]
This guide is written by one of our valuable partners, TasteIran.net.
As a cradle of civilization, Iran greatly enriches the UNESCO World Heritage List with its exceptional cultural and natural sites. This list features places that are considered as a remarkable accomplishment of humanity.
Since 1979, 23 Iranian sites have been listed by UNESCO, from the historical splendor of Persepolis, Tchogha Zanbil, or Bam Citadel, to the natural wonders of the Lut Desert. Scattered on every corner of the country, they are 23 more reasons to visit Iran.
Are you ready to discover the Persia’s legacy to the world’s history? So make your choice and plan your itinerary, with us, to some of its most precious sites:
Iran’s 23 Historical and Natural Sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List
1- TchoghaZanbil – Sacred Temple of the Elamites
Tchogha Zanbil is one a few existing and the best preserved “Ziggurats” in the world. These massive structures are representative of Mesopotamia. Near the ancient city of Susa, this Ziggurat was a religious temple built by the Elamite and Persia’s very first building. Visitors walking around this five-story and pyramidal structure, made out of adobe bricks, can feel the weight of history. Tchogha Zanbil is also a fascinating masterpiece of architecture, each floor having its own independent foundations, and the oldest water treatment system. Visiting the ruins of this holy city is a journey through the origin of our civilization.
2- Persepolis- Magnificent of the Persian Empire
Persepolis embodies the greatness of the Persian Empire and is a symbol of Iran all over the world. The second capital of the Achaemenid Empire is considered by UNESCO among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Crossing the Gate of All Nations of Persepolis is breathtaking, and awakens the imagination. Gigantic sculpted phoenixes and winged bulls seem to be eternal guardians of this splendid palatial complex. Among the ruins, visitors can listen to the stories recalled by the beautiful friezes covering the walls. They share the secrets of this royal city, from ceremonies and parties to war, fear, terror and probably the king’s last supper.
3- The Persian Garden- Earthly manifestation of Paradise
When designing Pasargadae on the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great also desired to create an earthly version of the Paradise. This is what gave birth to the magnificent architecture of the Persian Gardens, which can nowadays be appreciated at famous places such as Eram and Shazadeh Gardens. Divided into four geometrical parts and integrating water with genius engineering, they have deeply influenced the art of garden design in different regions of the world. Among numerous gardens in Iran, there is a list of 9 Iranian gardens inscribed as the world heritage.
4- Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System- A masterpiece of creative genius
This interconnected set of waterfalls, dams, canals, and tunnels of Shushtar hydraulic system has exceptional value and testifies to human creative genius. This site is considered to be the biggest industrial complex before the industrial revolution, and its history can be traced back to the 5th century B.C. This masterpiece was engineered to divert the water of the river to provide it to the city of Shushtar. It’s still complete and functioning today. The large scale of the complex makes it exceptional and the blue waters running between the ochre rocks create a marvelous rendering.
5- Susa- Revived Civilization
Susa is one of the most historical cities throughout the world, a cradle of mankind. This ancient civilization center and thousand years old capital of the Elamite, has witnessed many dynasties and populations settling on its soil. Thus, the site is a true museum displaying the legacy of prehistoric, historic and Islamic eras. It recalls the forgotten story of this important artistic, industrial, trading and political center.
6- The Persian Qanat- Hallways of Underground Life Down Below
The ancient qanat system has allowed agriculture and life to be spread throughout the arid regions of the Iranian plateau, hence people assumed qanat as living, considered gender for it. This masterpiece of engineering dates back to the first millennium BC. Based on complex calculations and architectural techniques, this system transports water along kilometers into underground tunnels, only with the power of gravity. It’s still functional in today’s Iran. Eleven well-preserved qanats located in Khorasan, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan, and Markazi provinces have been registered by UNESCO, as an exceptional testimony of the desert’s civilizations.
7- Takht-e-Suleyman- Where Mystery, Legend, and Reality merge
Takht-e-Suleyman (“Throne of Solomon”) is a vast historical site surrounding a mysterious lake, in the volcanic mountain region of West Azerbaijan. This site, which melts harmoniously with the stunning natural background, has a strong spiritual significance related to the importance of fire and water for Zoroastrians. Many historical monuments and sanctuaries can be observed, among which the Sassanid fire temple dedicated to Anahita, the goddess of water. During the prehistoric era, this place also holds significance importance, as it was Iran’s biggest sanctuary, as well as an educational, religious, and social center.
8- Shahr-e-Sokhte (Burnt City)- The Ashes of Ancient Civilization
This belongs to what is perhaps the oldest developed city in the world, 5000 years of history lies in this site located in Sistan and Baluchestan province. Called Shahr-e Sokhte, the “Burnt City”, the ruins recall the story of this merchant city and manufactural center. Archeologists made unique discoveries here, such as the first animation, and the world’s earliest known artificial eyeball. The rise and sudden fall of this Bronze Age city remain tainted with mystery. Nowadays; ashes and fragments of pottery invite the visitor to rebuilt it in imagination.
9- Cultural Landscape of Meymand (Meymand stone Village) – Ancient Human Beehive
The village of Meymand and its surroundings are truly unique. This area is a rare example of rocky architecture, with houses carved in the foot of mountains. Humans started to inhabit here 12.000 years ago. Unlike the villages of Cappadocia in Turkey, these troglodytic houses are still inhabited, left as they were centuries before.
Some 3000 years ago, semi-nomadic tribes of the region with triple migration in the year, started to settle down in those cave dwellings with the unique lifestyle which has been kept alive till now.
10- Lut desert- Home to Colossus of Sand
In Persian, “Lut” means “bare”, which makes a lot of sense as this desert is literally among the hottest and most arid spots on the Earth, where almost no living creature is able to survive. It’s here, in the southeast of Iran, that has been recorded the highest temperature on the Earth: 70.7°C! As one of the biggest deserts in the world that offers no mercy to the lost wanderers. Well accompanied though, the visitor can appreciate the wonders created by nature: shaped by strong winds and the stream of the only salty river of the arena, massive sand mountains have emerged. Those colossal yardang formations present an exceptional geological process and an astonishing result in the eyes of the explorer because desert never leaves the one who once had been caught by its enchantment, just as Alfons Gabriel once said.
These are just 10 of all 23 UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Iran, read more on Tasteiran