Iran is the historical land formerly known as Persia, the site of many tales of antiquity. It’s the 18th-largest country in the world. Besides its great historical significance, its location makes it important in modern politics and culture. Iran is at the heart of the Middle East and one of the richest oil-producing regions in the world. It borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Iran is home to one of the oldest continuing civilizations on earth, dating back a dozen millennia. The first Iranian dynasty dates back to 2800 B.C. It was unified into an empire in 625 B.C. It became a Muslim nation in 651 A.D.

The northern rim of Iran near the Caspian Sea is covered by dense rainforest or jungle, with a subtropical climate. Iran is also one of the most mountainous countries, with several major ranges dividing the country into various plateaus, basins and plains. The height of the mountains blocks water vapor and creates arid regions. Much of the country is covered by deserts. The landscape of Iran provides many opportunities for activities, such as hiking and skiing in the Alborz Mountains to beach holidays at the Persian Gulf and Caspian Seas.

Places to visit include the Arg-Quadeem E Barm, an ancient citadel; Azarbayjan, in the Northwest corner of Iran, the center of one of the earliest civilizations in Persia; the Caspian Sea coast, including the three provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan and Gorgan, with their lush forests, beaches, paddy fields and Citrus trees; Hamadan, one of the oldest continually inhabited towns in the world; Isfahan, the capital of Isfahan Province, the site of historical relics going back 2,500 years, with art and architecture from the Safavid era from 1505 to 1736; Kermanshah, the site of archeological remains dating from before recorded history through four dynasties to the Islamic era; Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf, the home of 4,000 year-old coral reefs and a place for cycling, horseback riding, swimming, diving, windsurfing and jet skiing; Mashhad, former capital of Iran and the holiest city in Iran, a place of pilgrimages of Shiite Muslims; and Shiraz, the capital of the Fars province in the Iranian heartland that is a site of many historical monuments to poets, philosophers and warriors.

The capital city Tehran, is a major modern urban center with historical root going back 6,000 years. With a population of 9 million, the 19th-largest city in the world, and the center of Iran’s manufacturing, including its automotive, electrical, military, weaponry, textiles, sugar, cement, and chemical industries. Since the revolution of 1979 and the establishment of a Muslim government, Iran is a nonwestern country, not part of the mainstream western economic system. Many familiar western hotel brands do not have properties there. Orbitz does not list flights to Iran. It is still a destination that is foreign enough to Americans to be preferably visited with professional tour direction through a specialist with a foot in the local tourism infrastructure who can comfortably function within the language, customs and geography. There are a few specialists who provide that service, such as Caravan Serai tours in San Francisco.