By this point, I think I have pretty well established that Shiraz is an undeniably beautiful city. However, two of the cities biggest attractions actually lie quite a few kilometres outside the city limits.
Naqsh-e Rustam (more commonly referred to as simply ‘Necropolis’) is an ancient necropolis located approximately 55km north-east of Shiraz.
At this site you’ll find four ancient tombs cut into the side of a rocky cliff-face. One of these tombs is clearly marked and was the resting place of Darius I. The other three tombs are less clearly marked, but are believed to have belonged to Xerxes I, Ataxerxes I and Darius II.
All four tombs were carved very high above the ground, and the entrance point for each tomb is at the centre of each cross.
Unfortunately, these tombs have long since been left empty. Initially, the sarcophagus holding each of these fallen Persian kings would have been located just inside each entrance, however, it is believed that these tombs have been empty since as early as the 4th century BC following the invasion of Alexander the Great.
The site of Necropolis is on the smaller side, but despite this, it ended up being one of the most memorable things I saw whilst in Iran. I could have spent hours and hours gazing up at the facades and the reliefs carved into the rock – it is a pretty awe-inspiring sight.
The opening hours of the site are 8am-6pm and entrance will set you back 100,000 rials – approximately $4 AUD. I recommend getting there as early as possible in the morning. I got there just after 8am and our minibus was the only one there, so our small group of travellers pretty much had the run of the place.
In addition to having the place to yourself, getting there early also means that you get the see the place in the early morning light – and if you are the kinda person who loves to take photos, believe me when I say that this lighting is worth its weight in gold.
After visiting Necropolis, driving a further 12km south will bring you to one of Iran’s most famous attractions – Persepolis.
Persepolis dates back as early as 515BC and was built to be the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Construction of this capital is believed to have been started by King Darius I.
Now in ruins, this UNESCO World Heritage is one that you really need to see to understand and get a feel of. The area of the site is vast and seems to just keep going and going. It is pretty amazing to walk around and imagine how it would have looked in the 4th century.
Persepolis stood in glory for a few hundred years, before it was destroyed in 330BC. Historians believe that after invading Persia in this year, Alexander the Great set his armies in force against Persepolis, who after a long and drawn out battle (potentially going on for as long as month) eventually came out victorious against the Persian army.
Alexander the Great is said to have allowed his armies to loot the palace of Persepolis, and around that time, a fire broke out – damaging much of the palace.
In modern day times, more of Persepolis is destroyed than not, but with a little imagination, it isn’t hard to picture how glorious the palace would have looked once upon a time.
Persepolis is open to the public from 8am to 8pm and entrance will set you back 150,000 rials – approx $6 AUD.
If you do plan to visit Persepolis and Necropolis, there are two ways you can do so.
The absolute cheapest way to visit these two sites is to find three other people to share a cab with, negotiate with a taxi driver ($20 USD for a half day trip is reasonable) and pay all your entrance fees independently. If you are absolutely on a budget, this is a way to see these two sites for around $15 USD.
However, despite this being a cheaper option, it isn’t the option I would recommend. I organised to go on a small minibus tour through my hotel – the Niyayesh Boutique Hotel. Costing $20 USD, this fee included all transport, all entrance fees and also a very informative tour guide. Usually I am not the biggest fan of tour guides, but if I had been without one, I would honestly have had no idea what I was looking at and the history behind it – so it is something that I would wholeheartedly recommend.
There is so much to see and explore at Persepolis that you really could spend all day there, but make sure that you find the time to climb the little hill overlooking the ruins – it will give you some pretty amazing views!
Also, tucked a little further up the hill is yet another stone tomb. Looking much like those at the Necropolis but with far more detailed carvings, you won’t want to miss it.
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
Necropolis and Persepolis: A half day tour to both sites costs $20 USD
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Even if you visit in winter, be prepared for some serious sun exposure and pack sunscreen