With a rich history stretching back thousands of years, Iran is the Middle East's best-kept secret. Packed with cultural splendours, incredible architecture, bejwelled mosques, ancient palaces, vibrant bazaars and beautiful landscapes, it's also one of the friendliest nations. Activities are diverse, ranging from hiking and skiing in the Alborz and Zagros mountains, to relaxing on beaches by the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea.
The northern city of Tabriz, one of the country's historical capitals, is known for its handicrafts such as hand-woven rugs and jewellery. It's home to a magnificent bazaar, a fascinating labyrinth of lanes weaving its way across 7 sq km. It's one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East, the largest covered bazaar in the world and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It's been around since the 13th century and was a hub of Silk Road commerce in its heyday.
The stunning snowcapped Alborz Mountains stretch for nearly 600 miles across northern Iran. The capital city of Tehran, nestled on the lower slopes, is a metropolis with an 'east meets west' buzz about it. Experience a journey through Iran's long history with its glittering palaces, grand bazaars, museums and gardens. Being nearly a mile above sea level, Tehran is cooler than many other Middle East cities.
Hike in the Alborz foothills where you may see ibex, fox, deer, wild boar, brown bear, leopard and wolf which roam wild in the mountains, while overhead look out for buzzards, griffon vultures and eagles. Most of the last few remaining Asiatic cheetah, also known as the Iranian Cheetah, live in Iran's Kavir desert region, some can be found in Pakistan. Critically endangered, it's estimated there are only 70 to 100 remaining. The Persian leopard, which is the world's largest leopard subspecies living primarily in northern Iran, is also listed as an endangered species.