When I think about this stunning city, it is honestly a miracle that my face doesn’t break from smiling so hard. Shiraz was the first city I visited in Iran, and jeez, what a way to start!
Shiraz is the 6th most populated city in Iran and the capital of the province of Fars. Located in the South-West of the country, it isn’t the typical jumping off point for backpackers (Tehran takes this crown) but I think it is the perfect place to start an Iranian adventure.
After arriving in the middle of the night and only managing to get about three hours of sleep (which is usually a disaster for someone who considers a 14 hour sleep the gold standard) I expected to spend my first day in Iran feeling exhausted and a little under the weather, but as it turned out, I was so excited to start exploring that not even a little sleep deprivation was gonna hold me back!
After waking up in a rather strange (in an endearing way) dorm room, I became fast friends with a Dutch traveller named Nicole who was set to depart Iran that evening. We spent the day slowly exploring a few Iranian gems and it was exactly what I needed to kick start what would turn out to be an unbelievable trip.
Our first stop was the Arg of Karim Khan – or what is more commonly referred to as ‘the citadel’. This citadel was commissioned by Karim Khan and dates back to the 1760s. Karim Khan ruled most regions in Iran from 1751 to 1779 and was the founder of the Zand dynasty. He commissioned this citadel to be used as his quarters, but over the years it has been used for many different things – at one stage it was even used as prison!
Entrance to the citadel costs 200,000 rial (approx $8) which is a pretty standard entry fee for sites of interest in Iran.
I really enjoyed visiting the citadel and found the architecture fascinating. It isn’t the sort of place where you’ll spend ages and ages though, so if you are backpacking on a super tight budget and only want to spend money on tickets for places where you will spend a lot of time, then the citadel may be something you want to skip. For me, $8 was a very reasonable price, but I did meet a lot of backpackers on a strict $20 per day budget who may not have been able to swing it.
After we had finished exploring the citadel, we tried to visit Vakil Mosque and Vakil Bazaar, but as we visited on a Friday they were both closed! This is not an uncommon thing in Iran, so make sure that if you have your heart set on visiting a place, it pays to try and do so on a day that isn’t Friday.
Even though we couldn’t go inside the Mosque, we could still look at it from the outside, and boy was it pretty!
Also located nearby is the Vakil Bathhouse. We snuck a quick peek inside and then decided that we would give it a miss. It would have been another 200,000 rials to enter and it looked incredibly kitschy. It was once a traditional bathhouse and is now full of creepy looking mannequins spread around the building to try and demonstrate how the bathhouse would have once looked. I like the idea in theory, but in practice it just didn’t really float my boat.
Once again though, the outside was seriously good looking.
Once we were done enjoying the free architecture, we decided to take a quick cab ride to the Eram Garden.
Eram Gardens and Qavam House (which lies inside the gardens) date back to at least the 13th century, with some evidence suggesting that a much less ornamental version of the gardens existed in this spot as early as the 11th century!
In the modern day, these vast and beautiful gardens are one of the 9 Persian Gardens that are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are a lovely and relaxed place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Please note that though the gardens are a public site, entrance will still cost you 200,000 rial.
After Nicole and I were done relaxing in Eram Gardens, we had enough energy to see one more historic site before we desperately needed to refuel and eat!
As it turned out, the Tomb of Hafez wasn’t too far away, so this is where we headed.
This site is famous for being the final resting place of the famed Persian poet Hafez. This was hands down the busiest tourist attraction I visited in Shiraz, but it seemed to be full of more locals than foreigners. Once again, entrance will set you back a rather steep 200,000 rials.
The tomb and its memorial hall are undoubtedly pretty, but if you aren’t a history buff and are looking to save a few bucks, this is one place that you could possibly afford to give a miss.
After I was done at the tomb, it was time to devour some truly delicious Iranian cuisine and rest up in preparation for another big day of exploring.
Getting to Shiraz: Turkish Airlines fly between Shiraz and Istanbul regularly
Niyayesh Boutique Hotel: A cheap hotel with a few mixed dorms, expect to pay around $12/night
Arg of Karim Khan: Open most days, entrance is 200,000 rials
Eram Gardens: If you only visit one Persian garden in Shiraz, make it this one!
Hafez Tomb: For more information about the Tomb of Hafez, click here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Many mosques and religious sites are closed on Fridays – plan your time accordingly
33 thoughts on “Shiraz | The Perfect Introduction To Iran”
That architecture is absolutely beautiful. With all of the unrest in the world right now, did you feel unsafe at any point while you were there? There are so many places in the Middle East I’d love to visit, I just know that some areas are not great for travel right now.
Not even for a second. I felt safer in Iran than I have in most other countries, at no point did I ever feel like my safety was compromised. I would recommend Iran to anyone and everyone at the present time!
This was so enjoyable to read! I absolutely had to share it, I hope you don’t mind! I’ve been to Morocco in Africa but Asia is calling my heart <3 looks like an awesome experience!
I absolutely don’t mind – please share away! I hope you make it to Asia one day soon 🙂
I am really loving this series. I have always been fascinated with the Middle East. Shiraz looks like a stunning place. Safe travels!
That is awesome to hear because there are many more installments to come in the Iran Series! I look forward to sharing much more of Iran with you.
Good info Sister 🙂
This is neat. I didn’t think Iran allowed outsiders in, especially for traveling/vacation.
They are actually very open to foreigners! At the moment restrictions only apply for those from Israel (total ban), the United States (temporary ban as a reciprocal measure), Canada and the UK (allowed in only on a guided tour) – it is open to explore for everybody else.
I hope you share some enticing photos of the food variety! I love, make that LOVE, Persian food but rarely have it these days. Tadiq, the bottom of the (rice) pot, has to be my all time favourite. Time to visit some Persian friends.
I must admit, I don’t think I have a tonne of food pictures! I will do some digging and try to find some 🙂
Wow! Stunning buildings! They remind me a little of the Alhambra in Granada, which I guess is no surprise given the Moorish roots. One thing I feel sometimes, living in NZ, and I guess perhaps you get this in Oz too, is that the identikit modern buildings everywhere are just a tad dull and lacking in any artistic value whatsoever. Who knew Iran to be so beautiful! 🙂
Oh totally! Architecture in Oz (with a few notable exceptions) is totally uninspired!
I loved Iran. Amazing place and the people are so welcoming.
When did you visit?
I was there last year and had a fantastic time. Must go back!
Looks pretty amazing and interesting. I’d love to visit.
I hope you get there one day soon 🙂
I do have a question though, I thought it is a requirement to go with a tour group and to be with your tour guide at all times. How does backpacking like you work then?
That is only a requirement for those from the UK, Canada and the US (once the travel bans have been lifted). You can read more about the visa policy here:
I am so glad to be seeing this beloved but, to me, off limits, land through your eyes.
I am very glad to be sharing it with you 🙂
Some absolutely stunning pictures
Great article! Iran, here I come. 🙂
YES! When are you going??
Great start. Eram Gardens looks nice. Maybe I should have made the effort to get there as well.
You’ll just have to go back one day. If you do so in 2020 we may cross paths again!
This place looks incredible! Well done for taking a chance even though people thought you must be crazy to want to go, you’ve obviously reaped great rewards 🙂
I really have – Iran is so much safer and more special than western media would have people believe.
Well you’ve definitely managed to convince me, it is now firmly on my bucket list for the next year!
I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thanks , I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your website?
I am currently on a x2 per week posting schedule 🙂