The Ultimate Isfahan Travel Guide

Isfaran Iran

Isfahan is a city in central Iran, south of the Capital city of Tehran, and is Esfahan Province’s capital. The Persians designate it “Nesf-e-Jahan”, which means “Half The World”.

Esfahan of Isfahan is Iran’s best tourist address for a good reason. Its abundance of Persian gardens, tree-lined boulevards, and important Islamic buildings gives it a dynamic appeal unmatched by any other Iranian town. The many artists working here underpin its status as a living museum of folkloric culture. Walking through the well-known bazaar, over the scenic bridges, and across the Unesco-listed center square are sure to be highlights of a weekend.

As the nation’s third-largest city, Isfahan is home to some heavy industry, including steel mills and a much-debated nuclear facility in the town’s outskirts. Unavoidably, then, traffic jams are a daily occurrence. Despite these contemporary realities, the inner core of the town remains an invaluable gem.

How to reach Isfahan?

Isfahan International Airport or Isfahan Shahid Beheshti was an army airbase before the 1970s revolution. There are regular flights to Mashhad and Tehran in Iran. There are also international flights to Dubai, Damascus, Kuwait, Sharjah, and Istanbul. You can take a cab to the city center from the Airport. Note that since most tourists are going there anyway, you can always ask others to share a taxi with you. This will help you save money.

If you don’t want to fly to Isfahan, you can always drive. Isfahan is properly-served by safe highways. There are automobile routes to the capital Tehran, Na’in, Qom, Varzaneh, Kashan, Yazd, Shiraz, and Ahvaz.

Top Attractions in Isfahan:

Masjed-e Shah

With its iconic blue-tiled mosaics and its classic proportions, this fancy mosque forms a visually astounding monument at the head of Esfahan’s central square. Unblemished since its construction 400 years ago, it stands as a monument to Shah Abbas I’s vision and the Safavid dynasty’s achievements. The mosque’s crowning dome was finished in 1629 CE, the last year of Shah Abbas’ reign. Visit here if you are religious and if you like medieval Asian architecture.

Kakh-e Chehel Sotun

Constructed as a reception hall and a pleasure pavilion using the columnar porch (Achaemenid-inspired talar) style, this beautiful palace is entered via a classic terrace that ideally bridges the transition between the Persian love of gardens and internal splendor. The palace’s 20 slender ribbed wooden columns rise to a magnificent wooden ceiling with exquisite and crossbeams inlay work. Chehel Sotun means ’40 pillars’ – the number displayed in the long pool in front of the palace.

Nazhvan Cultural & Recreational Resort

This massive park on the outskirts of Esfahan includes a large complex of attractions that makes a refreshing contrast to Esfahan’s powerful city experience. The park consists of the Birds Garden, the Esfahan Aquarium, a Sea Shell Museum, a Reptile House, and a Butterfly Collection. Each attraction is separately charged. 

The wooded park makes a relaxing day’s outing, especially in autumn when the leaves cutely change color. Other draws inside the park include:

  • Horse-drawn carriages.
  • A small chairlift over the river.
  • A beautiful miniature train.
  • A clean and safe water park for kids. 

Bazar-e Bozorg

One of Iran’s most fascinating and historic bazaars, this sprawling covered market joins the Masjed-e Jameh with Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Sq. At its most active in the mornings, the bazaar’s arched gates are topped by a group of small perforated roofs, each spilling waves of light onto the market below. While the oldest parts of the bazaar (those nearby the mosque) are hundreds of years old, most of what can be seen today were constructed during Shah Abbas’ formidable developments of the mid-1600s.

Things to do in Isfahan:

  1. Climb Sofeh Mountain, which is at an elevation of 2257m, located 8km south of the city center, or catch a Telecabin up to the hill. 
  2. You can just stroll around the park (with adorable pre-historic animal toys). 
  3. You can also go bowling at one of the bowling allies under the Telecabin station. From the park gate, it is 3km to the top. The elevation difference is roughly 400m. 
  4. Walk or cycle along the stunning Zayandeh river and enjoy historic bridges and well-maintained parks on the way. You can get a bicycle free of cost at the old city bus station. You have to leave your passport or an ID card.

Local delicacies to try in Isfahan:

  1. Kebab with rice (Chelo kebab) is a must; there are local variations in Isfahan.
  2. Ferenni and Shireh (Fereni= A concoction of rice flour, cereal, milk, and water) at Ferengi Hafez, which is along Hafez Street near the famous Imam Square. Usually, they mix it with date essence. 
  3. Bryan is a famous and delicious lunch dish in Isfahan. Many travelers wrongly call it “Biryani” which refers to the place that sells Bryan. This local dish is made of sheep lung and meat. Although it is commonly known as a fatty dish, you may order a dietary one if you would like to try it.
  4. Khoresht mast is a famous dessert dish native to Isfahan. It is a sweet yellow pudding, which means “Yogurt Stew.” Saffron, meat, and yogurt are among the primary ingredients.

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