For the adventurous traveller, one of the most interesting countries to visit today is Persia, or Iran.
There is much to see of historical and archaeological interest. For the prehistorians there is a splendid ziggurat, a Bronze Age temple-mound at Choga Zanbil. This was built in the 14th century BC, but destroyed – and thereby preserved – in the 6th century BC .
But the real excitement comes with the rise of the Medes and the Persians in the sixth century BC. These are the enemies of the Greeks, who eventually defeated them and threw off the threat of invasion. But for the Persians, their Greek adventure was a side show: in reality, they built up one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen, stretching nearly from Greece right through to India. And at Persepolis they left behind one of the most splendid palaces in the ancient world, with its superb Apadana and fascinating carvings. But Persepolis is not the only palace. There’s also Cyrus the Great’s Garden palace at Pasargadae, and also the summer palace in the north at Ecbatana.
The next high spot comes with the Sassanians, the enemies of the Romans, who even captured a Roman Emperor, and kept him prisoner. The scene is triumphantly recreated on bas-reliefs at Naqsh-e-Rostan and Chogan – and there is also a Sassanian palace/town at Bishapur.
A big surprise is the water engineering at Shushtar – not only a fine bridge, but also as series of 41 water mills,built with the help of the captured Roman soldiers.
And finally, there is Esfahan. Esfahan is one of the hidden secrets of world architecture — a magnificent palace and town built by the Abbas the Great in the years after AD 1610. Esfahan is little known in the West, but it has some of the world’s great architecture – not only mosques, but also its palaces, its gardens, and last but not least, its fine bridges.
Here is a treasure trove of some of the wonderful historical and archaeological sites that Iran has to offer.