The heartland of the Persian civilization, Shiraz is the capital of the Fars Province and one of the most popular travel destinations in Iran. Pleasant in every season thanks to a mild climate, spring is the best time to go to evoke all the clichés Iran is famous for: jasmine-scented streets, orange blossom tea, poets and nightingales.
Located in central Iran, whether you like history, art, poetry or nature, Shiraz has something to offer even to the most demanding tourists. Get lost in its gardens, join Iranians reading Hafez’s poems while sitting on his grave and get intoxicated by the scent of herbs and spices at the city’s old bazaar.
It won’t take you long to realize that the few days allocated to Shiraz by classic tours and itineraries are not enough to fully enjoy the city but barely sufficient to make you understand that one day you will be back.
The wonderfully photogenic Vakil Bazaar is Shiraz’s main market place and home to hundreds of shops and stalls. Satisfyingly labyrinthine, the bazaar is the place for buying rugs, spices, jewellery, and household goods. Stumbling across teahouses, courtyards, caravanserais, and the traditional bathhouse, you may need more than one afternoon to explore the entirety of the Vakil Bazaar. The vaulted arched ceilings are a fine example of 18th century Zand architecture, and make for a pleasantly cool atmosphere through which to meander.
Shiraz is famed for its cultivation of fine gardens, and Eram is arguably the model par excellence. Eram falls within Shiraz University’s botanical gardens, and is replete with cypress trees, trimmed hedges, and rosebushes. At its centre is a small pool and a splendid Qajar-era palace, though it is closed to the public. The garden is located just north of the Khoshk River, opposite the university.
Tomb of Hafez
Hafez is arguably the most loved and respected poet in the vast canon of Persian literature. Considered the master of the ghazal (a short, amorous, rhyming poem), Iranians from all walks of life can quote his verses on demand. His tomb resides in a well-kept garden in northeast Shiraz; more than a tourist attraction, it functions as a site of pilgrimage for his admirers the world over. Have your fortune told, visit the onsite teahouse, and contemplate the playful nuances of his lyrical ingenuity as you wander around the extensive grounds.
Tomb of Sa’di
The 13th century poet Sa’di was an important precursor to Hafez, and is one of the most cherished ancestors of modern day Shirazis. Many of his pithy maxims have attained a proverbial status, and he is widely praised for the enduring simplicity of his verse. His tomb is less busy than that of Hafez, but is located nearby and worth visiting on the same day. The underground teahouse offers a cool spot to refresh yourself after exploring the garden of roses and cypress trees.
Persepolis, or Takht-e Jamshid in Persian, was the magnificent ceremonial capital of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, over 2500 years ago. Ransacked by Alexander the Great, the site represents the pinnacle of ancient Iran’s political and architectural achievements. The UNESCO world heritage site is located about 70 kilometres northeast of Shiraz, and tours will take you from the city centre on a day trip. The impressive ruins require a good few hours to explore, although take plenty of water, for the midday sun can be pretty unforgiving.
Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab
A tour to Persepolis should include a visit to the nearby rock tombs and reliefs of Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab. The former consists of four massive tombs built into the face of a cliff, an appropriately ostentatious final resting place for four Achaemenid kings. Below you will see some stone reliefs depicting various Sassanian imperial triumphs, such as the Roman Emperor Valyerian kneeling before Shapur I .Four more Sassanian reliefs can be found at the less well-tended Naqsh-e Rajab, only five minutes away.
The final stop on your day-trip outside the city should be Pasargadae, an Achaemenid political centre that predates Persepolis. Another 50 kilometres north of its more famous successor, it’s not the most convenient of destinations, but the striking solemnity of Cyrus the Great’s ancient tomb, now surrounded by inhospitably harsh terrain, justifies the effort. The founder of the Achaemenid Empire, his isolated tomb is built upon a broad-stepped base, and was allegedly visited by Alexander the Great himself, after he conquered Persepolis.