When I arrived into Esfahan, I found myself with a little bit less time that I would’ve liked. Work was piling up and I literally had around 500 unread emails, which is borderline insanity inducing for a person who thinks that 20 unread emails is getting out of control! I couldn’t put my work to the side any longer, which meant that I was only really left with one day to explore Esfahan.
However, it turns out that you can still see quite a lot of incredible stuff with only one day!
These are the four places I chose to explore, all of which I’d highly recommend to anyone visiting Esfahan in the future.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square (also written as Naqshe Jahan) is one of the most well known public squares in Iran. Constructed between 1598 and 1629, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even features on the 20,000 rials bank note!
This square is green, bright and surrounded by incredible examples of Iranian architecture (which we will get to a bit later) – making it the perfect place to escape from the hectic Esfahan streets, plonk your butt on a bench and enjoy watching the locals jaunt and cycle past you.
The next five photographs are my favourites from my wanderings through the square.
The Imam Mosque sits at the Southern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square and has done so since the year 1629. Also known as Shah Mosque (pre Iranian Revolution) this incredible mosque is considered to be one of the finest architectural masterpieces in all of Iran.
I arrived to the mosque mid-morning, and as I had started to run a little low on moolah, spent a little while hanging out in front of the entrance debating whether or not I was happy to hand over the 100,000 rials ($4 AUD) for the entrance ticket.
Whilst I was humming and hawing, a group of smiley young school kids walked past me up to the entrance, and it made for some pretty happy shots!
This man was also hanging out in front, and was more than happy to have his picture taken! He then encouraged me to go inside, and I ended up being so happy that I took his advice.
I walked in to be greeted with this view!
Already worth the $4 and I had barely even started exploring!
Before I visited Iran, I must admit, I didn’t really find many architectural details that exciting, I was more of a ‘landscapes’ kinda gal. But honestly, even I had to suppress a squeal when I took this next shot – how bloody perfect does a structure want to be?
After had gotten my fill of Imam Mosque (unfathomable, I know) I exited to find a group of young school kids posing nervously for a photo – so cute!
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
If you’ve ever flicked through a travel guide about Iran, then I would bet my left kidney that you have seen pictures of the interior dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.
Construction of this mosque commenced in 1603 and was completed 16 years later in 1619. It was built by Persian architect Shaykh Bahai and has been referred to as the single most impressive example of Persian architecture.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with this.
Now, I am not saying that it isn’t an impressive structure! But I saw so many incredible buildings whilst in Iran, I honestly think it would be impossible to name one of them ‘the best’.
However, when looking at the dome, you can see how it would captivate people!
Entrance to the mosque will set you back another 100,000 rials, which does seem a little steep considering that there isn’t much to see at this particular mosque other than the dome itself, but I am still incredibly glad I spent the money to see it.
Vank Cathedral was a bit of a surprise for me! I had come to Iran expecting mosques and shrines, but an Armenian Cathedral? I had not expected that!
Built in 1606, this cathedral was constructed for the hundreds of thousands of Armenian people that found themselves deported during the Ottoman War and who subsequently resettled in Iran.
The cathedral is very much an amalgamation of cultures. It features a dome – something one would expect from an Iranian mosque, but also features numerous architectural features that one would expect to see in a more western church.
Entrance to this cathedral is a rather steep 200,000 rials ($8 AUD) – but if you have seen enough mosques to last you a lifetime and are looking to shake things up a bit, then a trip to Vank Cathedral would be a worthwhile one.
Getting to Esfahan: Kashan is well connected to Esfahan and Tehran via bus, but is only connected to Yazd via train
Amir Kabir Hostel: A cheap hotel with a few mixed dorms, expect to pay around $15/night
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque: One of the most famous mosques in Iran, entrance will set you back $4 AUD
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Esfahan and Isfahan are the same city, I still haven’t worked out which is the correct spelling!