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Iran is a remarkable travel destination in myriad ways, and chief among these is the fact that preconceptions of a stern, inhospitable destination are invariably shattered. No one’s pretending that the country’s current leadership can’t be shockingly hard-fisted in matters of civic law, but the most likely result of a Western visitor making an Iran trip remains an endless stream of tea invites.

Rich Persian heritage is evident throughout the country, both in terms of the historical sights – the ancient ruins of Persepolis and the still-glorious former capital of Esfahan being the two most prominent examples – and the country’s distinct cultural identity, which sets it as almost a nation apart in the Islamic world. It’s somewhere with issues, sure, and flashpoint travel advisories should be heeded, but street-level Iran is largely a separate entity to news-headline Iran, and it makes for a truly soul-stirring place to visit.


Key Facts
1,648,195 sq km (636,371 sq miles).

79.9 million (2013).

Population density:
48.4 per sq km.


Islamic Republic since 1979.

Head of state:
Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khameni since 1989.

Head of government:
President Hassan Rouhani since 2013.

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