The capital of Iran is an excellent introduction to the country. Relaxed and progressive, Tehran is a cosmopolitan city where most of the government’s status quo is defied everyday by the attitude and behaviour of, mostly, the young generation.
Iran is an Islamic country where religion is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Most people are mistaken about Iranians because they tend to think of them as Arabs, but they’re in fact Persians with different costumes, different language different food etc.
There are many people that skip entirely Tehran on their Iran trip, however, I think this is a big mistake. You don’t have to go to all the museums or visit any monuments in Tehran, just walking around the streets and sitting down relaxing in one of the many city parks is enough to get a grasp of how people live defying the Hijab law. Western clothes (like leggings and denim jeans) can be seen anywhere, but most are mostly popularized by the young generation.
About the VISA: it is possible for many nationalities to get a VOA (Visa On Arrival) in many airports in the country, however, due to the possibility of this VOA being denied I decided to go to the Embassy of Iran in Lisbon to take care of it before arriving in the country. The process is very easy and you just need to complete the Online EVISA, print a copy of your insurance that covers specifically Iran and your passport. If you have any proof of visiting Israel (stamp or any Egypt/Jordan land border’s stamp) you should renew your passport because your VISA will be denied.
It is really easy to get from the IKA airport to the city center by metro, however if you want to do it between 23:00/06:00 it’s impossible. The metro is located within walking distance from the arrivals hall, you just have to go to the upper floor and cross a little bridge to a new building. Inside you can buy the ticket (something like 0.4€) and board the red line metro until you’re obligated to change. The alternative is to get a taxi for 15/20€.
Actually, the metro is a blessing in Tehran. It is so convenient, cheap and fast, taking you anywhere in the city. It can get crowded during rush hours (although nothing like New Delhi) and you can find many sellers inside trying to do business with everything from USB Cables to belts. Women have also a specific carriage only for them, usually in the back, something that also happens in local buses.
Tehran has a gigantic range of sights for everybody to enjoy, depending on your style and liking in general. Personally, I don’t really enjoy spending hours in a museum (exception made for the one in Cairo), so I can’t recommend any of them. Most of my time in Tehran was spent strolling the streets and absorbing the vibe of the city life in the capital.
The Azadi tower (Freedom Tower) is the symbol of Tehran. It is really easily accessible by metro’s Meydan-e Azadi station. If you plan to go to the north of Tehran or if you’re arriving from there by public transportation, it’s impossible to miss the tower located right next to the terminal.
The Grand Bazaar is obviously something that no one should miss. It is indeed gigantic (only second to the one in Tabriz, I heard) and you can find literally everything in there. You just have to remember to not go there on Fridays because everything is closed.
There is a nice and enjoyable walk that I totally recommend where you can stop for lunch/dinner. If you head north from the Bazaar you’ll come across 2 beautiful parks where you can sit down and soak the relaxed atmosphere. The artists park is my absolute favorite. After this park just continue straight north until you reach Bamahas Sandwich, an extremely good place to eat with vegan options!
The next destination was a city in the far south of Iran, a place that used to be the capital during the Zand (1747-1779) dynasty, but it is truly renowned for its famous wine called Syrah, which is a bit ironic because alcohol is not allowed in any city of Iran. The main bus station is easily accessible by metro (Sahid Mofateh/Shohada-ye Haftom-e Tir stations).
This was where I had the first taste of Iran’s hospitality. A kind man started talking to me and when he discovered I needed to get to the bus station he got out of the metro with me and showed me the way to the bus station. Once there, you’ll surely be approached by someone asking you where you’re going and willing to show you the way to the right ticket counter.
How to get there and away
- I flew from Porto to Tehran.
- Overnight bus to Shiraz (~11 hours).
What to do/see
- Grand Bazaar.
- Azadi Tower.
- Golestan Palace.
- Former USA Embassy.
Where to sleep
- Seven Hostel, 45€ for a double bed with private bathroom.
- Iran Cozy Guesthouse, 45€ for a double bed with shared bathroom.