What does the word “Persian” remind you? For many people around the world, it stands for Persian cat, Persian rug, and the Persian Empire. Well! You can see or have the cat and the rug anywhere in the world. But, if you want to see and feel the remaining of the Persian Empire, you should visit Iran. Visiting the historical places of Iran is like going to a time travel. You start from a modern city and step by step immerge deeper inside the Iranian history till you get to the ancient Persia. So, be ready for a surrealistic trip about all the ups and downs of this continuous civilization.
What Is History and Archeology Moment?
We are going to present to you the Iranian history & archeology moment. Here, we outline what it is and it’s related sites and activities. Via this moment, you can spend more time visiting historical sites in Iran, get familiar with our archaic background and see a live museum of past days.
Now, what is a moment?
We would like you to have a deep understanding of Iran in various aspects during your trip. So, we specified six different moments on every Iran cultural tour package. Each site or activity in your itinerary is categorized in one of these moments. They are as follows: People and local life, Iranian hospitality, Iran religion, nature, art and architecture, history and archeology. We decided to provide an opportunity. You can choose which moment you like the most. Then, inform us so that we can plan an exclusive designed Iran private tour package for your ease.
What is Amazing about Iran History & Archeology?
Do you have any idea of how old Iran is?
Thousands of years ago, ancient Persia was a vast country. Archeologists have found several Persian civilizations in different regions of Iran that prove how old Iran is. So, let’s have a backward journey to those days to get the answer.
We start the trip in Tehran. A city with many elements of any other modern place in the world. The oldest buildings of this city date back to 500 years ago. Regarding the long history of Iran, that’s not too old. Next, we head for Kashan, a city with old magnificent mansions, neighborhoods, and Bazaar. It is somehow the same age as Tehran.
The next destination is Isfahan. We go back to 700 years. There are many famous buildings and architectural masterpieces from the flourishing days of the Islamic period in Iran history, the Safavid dynasty.
The next stop is the 1000-year old Yazd. The whole city per se is an Iranian historical site. Here we explore Fahadan neighborhood. It is the highlight of Iranian history in this city.
Finally, we reach the pinnacle of this time travel, the glorious city of Shiraz in Fars province. 2500 years before now, during the Achaemenid dynasty, it was the capital of ancient Persia. Iran was at its greatest extent in this era. It extended from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. That was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 (or 8) million square kilometers.
There are still many more Iranian historical sites and Persian civilizations to talk about. But, first, let’s have a more extended stop here in Persepolis and during the Achaemenid era.
The Kingdom of the Great king
It’s about 500 BC. Groups and tribes of many people are marching on the steps of Persepolis. They are from different parts of Achaemenid Persian proper. Now, it’s a gathering of all of them in this ceremonial capital of the Great Persia. They are going to pay a visit to the “King of kings” and offer their presents to him.
At this period, the Persian Empire is the greatest empire of the time till now. This greatness is due to two Persian kings, Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great. Achaemenids were an obscure Persian tribe. But, in less than thirty years, they became a world power. It was during the reign of Darius the Great (Darius I) that Persepolis was built (518–516 BC) and served as the capital for several generations of Achaemenid kings.
This complex is a remaining of the glorious days in Iranian history. It is among the list of Iran UNESCO world heritage site.
The oldest Persian civilizations
Let’s continue our time travel. The great kingdom of Achaemenids was built upon a long history of previous dynasties and Persian civilizations.
The nearest civilization to this dynasty was Elam civilization (3000 – 500 BC), in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran. It was the rise of urbanization into organized city-states and the invention of writing. The Elamite language was among Achaemenid official languages.
In this backward timeline, Teppe Sialk, in the south of Kashan is the next stop. Here you can see the ancient settlements which were around 7000 BC
Then, we head for Jiroft, in south-central Iran. Jiroft civilization, 3-4 millenniums BC, was once the most important economic center of the Iranian plateau.
Well! Our travel through the time tunnel of Iranian history reached the end. It can give you a paradoxical feeling to walk in an old city that people of 1000 years ago were walking at. Or, you may feel astonished by seeing all the craved buildings inside mountains or huge stone-made palaces from 300 years ago. And, it will be empathetic to see you are thoughtfully frozen, watching skeletons and mummies of 8000 years. That’s the very effect of history.
The ruling dynasties
Apparently, about 25 different ruling dynasties have emerged and toppled through Iran history timeline. Each of them had a specific influence on various aspects of Iranian identity. For example, the flourishing days of ancient Persia were during the Achaemenid Empire (650 – 330 BC). With their powerful administration, they had the most significant territory of Iran history. They didn’t massacre during their extending campaigns and recognized the religious and cultural features if each region.
By the Arabian raid in the 7th century, many things changed. It happened during the Sasanian dynasty. They couldn’t resist Arabs. So, Iran became part of the Arab rulers’ land. Gradually, The Iranian main religion changed from Zoroastrian to Islam. Also, they had to use Arabic officially. After many centuries, you can see the effects of this event on every aspect of the Iranian lifestyle. The beautiful mosques all over the country are the best demonstration of Islamic – Iranian art, architecture and culture. Besides, there were other countries or foreign groups like Mongols and Turkmens who attacked Iranian territory and ruled over it for decades. It took about eight centuries that Iranian take back the ruling position.
A prominent Iranian post-Islamic dynasty was Safavid (13th century). It was another golden era in the history of Iran. They reached stability throughout the country, expanded foreign affairs, and provided the opportunity for the scientists to thrive. There are many masterpieces in art and architecture in many Iranian cities left from those days.
Yet, many kings and dynasties continued getting the power and toppling until the late 20th century. Qajar dynasty ruled about two centuries. During this dynasty, Iran experienced two main events: deeper familiarity with western advances and changing the ruling method from a mere monarchy system to constitutional. And, the last dynasty was Pahlavi. Their downfall was the beginning of a republic system.
Iran History & Archeology Sites
As Iran is a historically rich country, there are hundreds of historical attractions in the country. We avoid mentioning all of them here since the list would be endless. But we categorized the attractions and briefly introduced some examples in each. If you are interested in any of them, you can ask to include more monuments like that in your private tour itinerary.
These are just some sites and activities near the main touristic route of Iran (or accessible in our essential tours of Iran). But, there are a lot more sites that can be replaced as you wish.
- Tepe Sialk near Kashan: This archaic site once was an ancient civilization. It was sophisticated beyond its time. There are advanced pottery and tools, which indicate signs of trade, the Elamite cuneiform script that shows people’s literacy, and the ability to make bronze. This site is still waiting for explorations to uncover its history.
- Meymand Rocky Village: You can trek around in this UNESCO WHS, find a family that shares dinner with you. Then, sleep in rocky cave houses like thousands of years ago.
- Kandovan Rocky Village: In the UNESCO WHS Kandovan, the cave-houses hollowed out in the rocks. The village dates back to 3000 years ago. You can stay both at a local house or a modern hotel that is built like the ancient houses of the village.
- National Museum of Iran in Tehran: Here, you can see the rich heritage of Iran history from about 8000 years ago to the 20th Century. The items are displayed in chronological order. Besides, the museum building itself is designed based on Taq Kasra historical palace that is now a ruin.
- Iron Age Museum in Tabriz: It was an ancient cemetery with 5000-year skeletons. Besides, the buried skeletons under glass boxes, you may also see their daily life wares from the bronze age.
- The fire temple of Isfahan: You should climb a hill to visit this Zoroastrian temple. The building is from 2 thousand years ago and it’s somehow ruined. But if you manage to climb up, there is another reward: an excellent panoramic view of the city and its great river in the middle.
- Chak Chak in Yazd: A sacred cave at heights with the constant sound of dripping water. It is believed that this is the mountain’s grieving tears for an Iranian princess. 1400 years back, she fled here from Arab invaders and disappeared here. Now it is a place of pilgrimage to Zoroastrians.
- Fire Temple of Yazd: The temple is where you can find the last highest grade fire from the ancient Persia. This fire dates back to 400 BC and is still worshipped as before by the Zoroastrian clerics. Welcome to Yazd, the city of God.
- Pasargadae near Shiraz (UNESCO World Heritage): This area was once the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty about 500 BC. But what makes it unique for Iranian is the tomb of Cyrus the Great.
- Persepolis Shiraz (UNESCO World Heritage): Your visit to Iran would be incomplete without seeing the 2500-year old Persepolis. Persepolis was a center for cultural gatherings of the nations under the Persian Empire. And, still, it is where different nations gather to praise its glory.
- Necropolis near Shiraz: Rock reliefs from Elamite civilization, graves of four Achaemenid kings and further the rock reliefs of Sasanian kings are all on a mountain wall. They date from 4thC BC to 3rdC AD in their entirety.
- Shahr-e Gour near Shiraz: This remote ancient city was the first circle city of Iran built during the Achaemenid era. Once, it was a lush fruitful city resided by affluent dwellers but finally abandoned during the Qajar era in the 18th
- Bishapur near Shiraz: This is where you can deeply feel that you are walking in the past. There are ruins of an entire city from the Sasanian era, 300 BC, that is still under excavation. The major sights are grouped around the Palace of Valerian and the Temple of Anahita the Goddess of water.
- Tange Chogan reliefs near Shiraz: These six reliefs are like big wall-sized comic strips, telling the stories from Sasanian kings, their coronation, chivalry, and victories. One of them demonstrates the capturing of the Roman emperor and his soldiers who later built Bishapur city.
- The underground city of Nushabad near Kashan: An underground city from the Sasanian era which was built in 3 levels with 4 to 18 meters deep down the ground. It was suitable for 3 weeks of living. A complicated ventilation system, water cistern and different spaces and rooms made it a good shelter against the enemy.
- Kharaanagh village in Yazd: Silence and old buildings with a beautiful view of far farming land and mountain in an abandoned 4000-year village in the desert. Stroll through the houses and alleys of this ghost town, and enjoy the stunning views from the rooftops of houses in this small mud-brick jewel.
- Jameh Mosque of Isfahan (UNESCO World Heritage): You can feel the history in this Mosque. It dates back to the 8th century. One moment you’re in a room that dates back to the Safavid era (16-17th century), and then when you step through the next door, you’re in a Seljuk era prayer hall from the 11th
- Fin Garden in Kashan (UNESCO World Heritage): You have visited the historical city of Kashan, and now you need somewhere to rest. Our suggestion is a lush Persian garden in the middle of this dry land. Baghe Fin, with its beautiful traditional architecture, is an engineering masterpiece from the 17th
- Khaju Bridge and Si-o-se-pol Traditional Bridge in Isfahan: The Safavid Era was the flourishing days of Isfahan. These two old bridges from 16 – 17th centuries are two great works of architecture over the Zayande River. Walk from one side to the other and they drive you into history. Today they are major hangouts for locals.
- Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan (UNESCO World Heritage) (Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Shah Mosque): The highlight of Isfahan’s Safavid masterpieces. A huge civic square with the horse-drawn carriages helps to imagine the square in the old days. The traditional bazaar is a good place to buy Isfahan crafts. The Ali Qapu Palace stands at right. And there are the two mentioned mosques at the left and the far end of the square with their distinctive architecture and azure tiles that resemble gardens of heaven.
- Chehel Sotoun Palace in Isfahan: An old Safavid palace in the middle of a Persian garden, the long pool leading to it, the lion sculptures, wooden columns and their reflection in the pool. When you go inside, you see all the paintings of lovers, wars and the royal banquets.
- Vank Cathedral in Isfahan: You may first think the building is a mosque with its dome at the top, but after entering it, you’ll see a large old church from the 17th century made by Armenian immigrants. The well-preserved Biblical murals are the astonishing scene when you get into the main hall.
- Menar Jonban in Isfahan: The first question after visiting these shaking minarets is how possible it has been working for centuries. Be careful to be there at the time of shaking. When the operator shakes one minaret, the other one shakes by itself. It’s an engineering dilemma from the 14th
- Lariha House in Yazd: An archetype of traditional houses of Yazd. For visiting the unique art and architecture in its yard, traditional wooden doors, stained glass windows, and genuine windcatcher, you must pass through a 1000-year old neighborhood.
- Fahadan neighborhood in Yazd: Walk through the maze-like alleys to get a feel of how it has been all these years. The well-preserved millennial town still has dwellers. The clay buildings and narrow alleys were designed in a way that is cool in the hot weather of the desert.
- Alexander’s Prison in Yazd: Don’t let the name deceive you! The place was not a prison but a school. The 900-year building is preserved, but the domed part of the building has lost all its tiles which gives you a creepy feeling. Nowadays, it’s a center for Yazd traditional handicrafts, so make sure you see them.
- Jameh Mosque of Yazd: The first eye-catching scene is the awe-inspiring entrance that bears the tallest minarets with about 50 meters height. Then you see the artistic colorful tiling with a prevailing blue. Now enter a huge yard and explore every corner of this 800-year old mosque.
- Amir Chakhmaq in Yazd: Having visited many historical sites in Yazd, it’s a good time to chill out here. A central square where is old as the rest of the city. It’s a three-story complex, but you can visit only on the first floor. In the courtyard, there is a large palm wood structure, Nakhl, which is for the Ashura celebration.
- Water Museum, The Persian Qanat (UNESCO World Heritage): When these people have resided in the heart of the desert for centuries, it’s no wonder that water is their most precious proper. So, they invented a genuine design for the water supply system, Qanat, that provided fresh water from the underground.
- Tower of Silence in Yazd: This ruined structure from the 19th century was the last home for Zoroastrians dead bodies. They put the bodies at the top of the towers. This way, the vultures would eat their body. So that their corpse wouldn’t make the soil dirty. It was Zoroastrian’s special death rituals.
- Pink Mosque in Shiraz: A different mosque from the 19th It differs because the main color of its tiles is pink! In the morning, you can see the sun shines through the colorful glasses on the Persian carpets. This is when you see a celebration of light and colors.
- Arg of Karim Khan in Shiraz: Karim Khan the beloved king of Iran in the 17th century made this fort for his residence. Thus, it seems like a fort from outside. But, actually, there is a palace and a Persian garden inside. It’s been restored well.
- Vakil complex in Shiraz (including Bazaar, Bathhouse, Mosque): This complex was built during Karim Khan’s ruling and for the people’s wellbeing. The most attractive of them is Bazaar. If you are a fan of old traditional Bazaars, you don’t want to miss this one! You can find a lot of exciting things, like spices, textiles, handicrafts, and carpets.
- Qeshm Portuguese castle: Near the old part of Qeshm, you’ll find the Portuguese castle. It is the remains of the Portuguese ruling the area in the 16th It’s a tiny castle and only the walls and the water deposit of the original castle have remained.
- Portuguese castle in Hormuz: Here everything is red. The bricks, the walls, and the mud. So, while visiting this castle, be careful you won’t get reddish! Another castle from Portuguese that if you listen deeply, you may find here the fuss of brave Iranian soldiers who fought the occupying Portuguese and sent them away from this land.
- Blue Mosque in Tabriz: This 15th-century mosque was entirely covered with blue tiles. Unfortunately there were many earthquakes from the 16th to 18th centuries that severely damaged this building. Today the mosque has been restored and the missing tiles have been replaced by paintings to remark the restored parts from the original parts.
- Arg of Tabriz (The Great Wall): Ark Alishah from the 14th century was one of the main fortresses to protect Tabriz. It was part of a complex including a mosque, libraries, and a garden. But during the destroying Tabriz earthquake, they all vanished. Now, only a small fraction of the majestic structure remains.
- Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil (UNESCO World Heritage): For visiting the tall cupola where is the tomb for ancestors of Safavid kings, you must pass a beautiful garden. Inside the tomb hall, there is a museum and in the yard behind the building, the martyrs of the Iran-Ottoman war were buried.
- Masuleh village: The old northern village was built in the 10th century on such a steep hillside. The houses are honey-colored, so that people can distinguish them in the foggy days of the mountain. The main feature is that the roof of one house acts as the courtyard for the house above.
- Saadabad Palace in Tehran: A place to go, a palace to see, a history to learn. The complex is so vast with different palaces from Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties (19th to 20th C). So it may take you 4-5 hours if you want to visit all the palaces and collections of the previous kings.
- Golestan Palace in Tehran (UNESCO World Heritage): It is the borderline between traditional architecture and the beginning of the modern one. You can see a Persian garden as well as one of the tallest buildings at that time. Here, you can get away from the hectic bazaar area and enjoy the amount of color and details in its mirror and tile work.