Since ten thousand years ago (7500 BCE), Persians have had civilized cities like Tapeh-Ganj-Dareh Harsin in Kermanshah province during the first Persian Empire, Achaemenid empire (500 BCE). With the passage of time, several glorious cities were established then destroyed, and many dynasties were overthrown; each of them constructed magnificent palaces and glorious cities, the remaining of which are still stable now.
Hence, Iran has 23 UNESCO world heritage sites, twenty two of which are cultural and one is natural. However tourists can find their own favorite sites in Iran.
UNESCO world heritage sites in Iran:
- Lut Desert: Lut desert (in Persian called ‘Dasht-e Lut) is located in the Southeast of Iran. The hottest place in the world is located there (159F). Sandstorm between July and October (120 days storm) creates a spectacular Aeolian Yardang, ‘Lut’ containing both stony and dune deserts.
- Tchogha Zanbil: this structure in ancient Elamite was called ‘Ziggurat’, only few of them exist outside Mesopotamia. It was constructed in 1250 B.C. Back then it had more than fifty meters height, but today only twenty four meters of Ziggurat is standing.
- Persepolis: it is located in Fars province. This complex was founded by Darius I in the eastern side of Rahmat Mountain. It was the capital of Achaemenid Empire. It is known as Takht-e-Jamshid in Persian, and its construction dates back to 518 B.C.
- Pasargadae: Pasargadae includes several constructions like the tomb of Cyrus the great, the prison of Solomon, the private palace, the gateway palace, the citadel of Pasargadae, caravansary of Mozzafari, and audience hall. This city was built by the founder of Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus the great) in 530 B.C.
- Meidan Emam, isfahan: also known as Naghsh-E-Jahan square, is one of UNESCO’s world Heritage sites in Iran, built in Safavid era. It was constructed between 16th and 17th centuries, as the biggest square in the world, in an area of 89600 square meters. The square is surrounded by other brilliant historical buildings. There is Shah Mosque in the south, Ali Qapu palace in the west, and Sheikh-Lotf-Allah mosque in the eastern side of it. In the northern side, a gate opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. In addition, there are nice shops where you can buy Iranian admirable handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Takht-e Soleyman: it is located in Takab, west Azerbaijan province. Local people called it ‘Azar-Goshnasab’. It is located on a hill created by a mineral spring during thousands of years. In Sassanid period, this area was a Zoroastrian fire temple. It was rebuilt in Sassanid and in Ilkhanid periods.
- Bam and its cultural landscape: Arg-E-Bam, the biggest adobe-built castle in the world is two hours away from south Kerman. It was built on a huge rock at the south of ‘Pusht-rood’ river (Bam River). Its origin dates back to 4th century B.C. Some parts of this cultural construction was ruined because of an earthquake in 2003. But by the tireless efforts of the experts, the Arg is still standing.
- Soltaniyeh: this city was built by Oljaitu sultan as the capital of Ilkhanid dynasty in 14th century. Sotlaniyeh dome is the largest brick dome and the third largest dome in the world, and it is the oldest double-shell dome in Iran.
- Bisotun: This remarkable multilingual inscription, also known as the biggest one in the world, is carved into Bisotun Mt. It was written by the order of Darius the great, in 521 B.C. To represent his power, his kingdom and his victories. It is written in three different languages inscriptions. This inscription is one of the most important historical documents of the world, crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script.
- Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex: this historic complex, in some respects, is unique. For instance, it is the largest covered bazaar in the world, it has several ‘Timche’ and ‘Sara’. This bazaar has played a great role in Iran's history; it was one of the most important trade centers in the world between 12th and 18th centuries, and it has had a great influence on Iran’s commercial growth.
- The Persian Garden: 'Persian garden’ is the name for special kinds of gardens consisting of nine gardens in several regions of Iran. Three elements make them unique. First, they are surrounded by tall walls. Next they are located on a waterway and finally, there is a large pool and a pavilion inside them.
- Gonbad-e Qabus: It is the largest tomb-built tower in the world (reaches 53 meters), built in 1006 B.C. It is an evidence of the power of Ziyarids. It is an outstanding example of Islamic architecture; its original structural design represents high developments of mathematics in the Islamic world that time.
- Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan: Tourists can find different types of Iranian-Islamic architecture there as it was constructed, reconstructed, and renovated many times from 777 to late 20th century (because of political ambitions, architecture improvements ,etc. during times). What is unique about the mosque is that the walls and ceiling have not been whitewashed.
- Golestan Palace: This site was added to UNESCO sites in 2013. This complex is a collection of several pavilions and buildings, the construction of which dates back to Safavid era. This complex is known as the artistic masterpiece of Iranian art in Qajar dynasty.
- Susa: this city is one of the oldest civilized cities in the world. Some new-found documents show that its habitation dates back to more than four thousand years ago. This city had magnificent influences in Persian history. This ancient city is located in Khozestan province.
- The Persian Qanat: Qanat is an underground tunnel which is used to transport water from water well to surface for daily usage. It is an old system of water supply which is still used in arid and semi-arid climates. This technology was developed by ancient Persian people in the early first millennium B.C.
- Historic city of Yazd: This province is located in the southeast of Esfahan. It was located on the way of Silk Road. Its special kind of Persian architecture makes the city unique; it is designed to adapt to its desert surroundings like Persian Qanats, wind catchers, Zoroastrian fire temples, etc.
- Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region:It includes eight archaeological sites in three different regions of Fars province: Firuz-Abad, Bishapur, Sarvestan, etc.
Each of them has their own uniqueness in structure. Ardashir Papakan, the founder of Sassanid Empire, chose the first capital of his empire near Firuz-Abad. Oldest brick dome in Iran is also one of these eight sites.
- Sheikh safi-al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil: this place is the largest and most complete Khanegah and the most prominent Sufi shrine. It also hosts the tomb of the founder of Safavid dynasty. This place is a masterpiece of art as Architectures for four centuries worked to complete this outstanding Khanegah.
- Shustar Historical Hydraulic System:Located in Khozestan province, this complex system of water mills, dams and canals resembles a wonderful city with a sophisticated water supplying system. Like many other sites on this list, the history of Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System dates back to Sassanid era.
- Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran: These are three Armenian churches in the West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan provinces. They were built between 7th and 14th centuries C.E. It is very interesting that the architecture of these three churches is a mixture of several different styles (Byzantine style, Islamic style, Persian style, etc.)
- Cultural Landscape of Maymand: this is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful places on the list. In the semi-arid rural district of Maymand located in Kerman province, there is an eye catching landscape of Handmade houses carved into the rocks. This rocky house were built by the native people thousands of years ago. These houses can demonstration the relationship between humans and the nature in that time.
- Shahr-i Sokhta: literally meaning 'the burnt city', Shahr-i Sokhta is the remaining ruins of an ancient urban settlement where the Jiroft people (an ancient civilization in Bronze Age) used to live.