Persepolis, Iran. Photo by David Holt.
Persepolis – commenced on the command of Darius in 512 BC and finished by Xerxes – is a huge and well ruined place, but still packed with stupendous tombs, palaces, sculptures and fascinating, detailed frescoes – a pictorial inventory of the Persian Empire over 2, 000 years ago. All in an arid but picturesque location near Shiraz.
Isfahan, about 300km (200m) north of Shiraz, is a relaxed and friendly city, contains a marvellous collection of grand and colourful architecture from the last 1, 000 years, mostly mosques, but also gardens, a cathedral, a palace and more.
Now that Iran and the west have come to some sort of entente cordial travel in Iran is on the up and there are masses of well-preserved sights awaiting visitors.
Best weather: April-June, September, October. Avoid: winter (very cold), and maybe Ramadan (see above, Syria).