September 24, 2023

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Iran becoming more accessible despite tension with West

TEHRAN – Despite numerous travel warnings and periodic condemnation by Western governments, Iran continues to attract adventurous international visitors, including those interested in the ancient Persian Empire, the Nikkei wrote on Thursday.

In travel blogs and on social media, foreign tourists typically praise the country’s cuisine and its hospitable people, as well as praising the country’s architectural landmarks and beautiful landscapes, the Tokyo-based paper said.

Nowadays, many opt to travel to renowned destinations such as Shiraz, famous for its poetic atmosphere, and Isfahan, one of the most important architectural centers in the Islamic world.

In the post-pandemic era, however, travel trends suggest that increasing numbers of travelers are venturing to more remote areas, which remain accessible in spite of renewed warnings against travel to Iran.

According to a May 2023 report by Statista, a German data provider, 4.1 million foreign tourists visited Iran in 2022, up from 990,000 in 2021. But Iran’s Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Heritage says that 8.83 million international visitors arrived in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, suggesting that significant further post-COVID-19 growth is likely.

Iran boasts 26 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Persepolis which is situated near Shiraz, Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, the Historic City of Yazd, and Golestan Palace in Tehran.

“But to explore the accessibility of more remote destinations for foreigners, I recently traveled to the Aras UNESCO Global Geopark on Iran’s northwestern border — a site that does not immediately pop up in searches for key destinations.” One of the main historical attractions is the Saint Stephanos Monastery, dating to the ninth century, which serves Christians in the Iranian diocese of Atirpatakan, the oldest in the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church.

“The faithful we serve are not immigrants or newcomers to this area but rather native residents whose ancestors were born here and have been living on these lands for many centuries,” Archbishop Krikor Chiftjian told Nikkei Asia.

For many international visitors, visiting Iran is fairly simple, despite Western discouragement. Citizens of 180 countries are eligible for 30-day visas on arrival.

It can be difficult to find a direct flight, however, especially for travelers from East Asia, Europe, and North America. Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Turkish Airways serve Iranian destinations, but flights can be expensive.

For many Westerners who judge the county based on what they have learned from their purposeful media outlets, Iran may be indelibly associated with protests and disputes with other countries.

Though, everyday life in the Islamic Republic is usually tranquil and rewarding for those who are curious enough to explore the country firsthand.

Spectacular landscapes, architectural gems, pristine forests, endangered animals, and internationally important geology are all waiting for those prepared to look behind the headlines.


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