Top Iran UNESCO World Heritage Sites
To be included on the World Heritage List, places should have outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten criteria explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which is the main instrument on World Heritage. What follows is a list of sites in Persia or Iran qualifying the measures required for being labeled as World Heritage Sites:
1_Meidan Emam, Esfahan (1979):Inscribed on the world heritage list, Naghsh-e Jahan Square is a public urban square in the center of Isfahan, a city located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing central Iran. It is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture.Built by the Safavid shah Abbas I in the early 17th century, the square is bordered by two-storey arcades and anchored on each side by four magnificent buildings: to the east, the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque; to the west, the pavilion of Ali Qapu; to the north, the portico of Qeyssariyeh; and to the south, the celebrated Royal Mosque. Naghsh-e Jahan Square was at the heart of the Safavid capital’s culture, economy, religion, social power, government, and politics. Its vast sandy esplanade was used for celebrations, promenades, playing polo and for assembling troops. In short, the royal square of Isfahan was the preeminent monument of Persian socio-cultural life during the Safavid dynasty. It is truly breathtaking and one of the most fascinating city squares in the world. An evening stroll is a memorable experience.
2_Persepolis or Takht-e Jamshid (1979) :The historic Persepolis or Takht-e-Jamshid (throne of Jamshid) represents the greatest successes of the ancient Achaemenes Empire as well as its final demise. The ruins you see today are a mere shadow of its former glory. The striking point about its architecture is not only about how grand or detailed it is but how delicately it was influenced by the construction art of nations from around the globe. Tiles were brought from Babylon, precious stones from India, Cedrus wood from Lebanon and Lydians and Greeks worked together with Persians to raise hundreds of columns to the sky.It was the sea of government of the Achaemenid Empire, although it was prepared for the receptions and festivals of the kings and their empire. The ensemble of its majestic approaches, monumental stairways, throne rooms, reception rooms, and annex buildings is categorized among the world’s greatest archeological sites, among those which have no equivalent and which bear witness of a unique quality and to a most ancient civilization. The most compelling part of the complex is the Apadana staircase. Rows of Persian nobles in formal clothing with headdresses that distinguishes them from the Medes in round caps are carved into the walls.
3_Tchogha Zanbil (1979):A ziggurat is a stepped pyramidal structure with a temple or shrine on top. Functioned symbolically as lofty bridges between earth and the heavens. The temples were known as “waiting rooms” where the priests and priestesses waited for the gods and goddesses to reveal themselves.This is an interesting facility which was sacral in nature and was discovered accidentally by oil seeking engineers who recognized that the hill is too squared, so you need to turn your imagination on to see it all. Definitely it is worth visiting this mud brick structure. This is a 3300 year old mud-brick ziggurat of massive dimensions. Staring at this colossal structure in the middle of the desert makes all the inconvenience worthwhile. This is one of the wonders of the ancient world.
4_Takht-e Soleyman(2003):Takht-e Soleyman is an outstanding ensemble of royal architectural residence, joining the principal architectural elements created by the Sassanians in a harmonious composition inspired by natural environment. The ensemble shows a striking example of a Zoroastrian sanctuary which is an exceptional testimony of the progression of a cult pertinent to fire and water over a course of around two and a half millenia.
5_Pasargadae (2004):The dynastic capital of Pasargadae was constructed by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC with contributions from different nations of the empire established by him. With its palaces, gardens, and the tomb of Cyrus the Great, it represented exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilization in ancient Persia. The “Four Garden” type of royal ensemble exemplifies the prototype of a Persian Garden. This grand architectural masterpiece consisted of several monuments constructed and used as ceremonial places for the King and his courtiers. It was also used as a place of pilgrimage during the following years as it became known as the Tomb of Mother of Solomon.The most glorious and beautiful masterpiece in Pasargadae complex ,is the tomb of Cyrus ,the great which is stand firm and stable during 25 centuries. The first European tourist who studied about pasargadae was Juzpe Barbaro from veniz who visited this place in 1474 A.D and his book proves that the tomb of Cyrus from that time was called Solomon Mother’s Grave. The structure itself is made up of two distinct parts:a seven-stepped rectangular platform covering an area of 156m,and a small 7.5m chamber with slanted roofs and walls of 1.5m in thickness.and it has 11m height The entrance door of the grave is situated to the northwest of the construction and is 75cm wide.
6_Bam and its Cultural Landscape (2004):Inscribed on the world heritage list,The property of Bam and its Cultural Landscape is located on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau, in Kerman Province, in south-eastern Iran.The citadel, which contains the governor’s quarters and the fortified residential area, forms the central focus of a vast cultural landscape, which is marked by a series of forts and citadels, now in ruins.Arg-e Bam is the most representative example of a fortified medieval town built in vernacular technique using mud layers (Chineh), sun-dried mud bricks (khesht), and vaulted and domed structures.Bam is located in desert area, the existence of which has been based on the use of underground water canals, qanāts, and has preserved evidence of the technological development in the building and maintenance of the qanāts over more than two millennia.The ancient city of bam is an example of a walled city where life existed inside the walls and well-protected in the middle of deserts. People used to protect themselves against burglars and bandits this way.What makes Bam city unique is the fact that it had been inhabited for approximately 2000 years. It’s also known as the largest sun-dried brick made compound in the world. Make sure you certainly visit Bam so that it will remain in your memory for the rest of your life.
7_Soltaniyeh Dome(2005): Situated in the province of Zanjan, Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture.The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 m tall dome covered in turquoise-blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in Iran.This is the third largest dome in the world and it’s amazing, you should have a look at its foundation, the structure, design and architecture, and the story behind it which are all exciting. You can also ask the building’s guide to tell the story. You will find amazing patterns on the walls and ceilings of each floor.
8_Bisotun (2006): Inscribed on the World Heritage List, Bisotun is located along the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia and features remains from the prehistoric times to the Median, Achaemenid, Sassanian, and Ilkhanid periods.
The principal monument of this archaeological site is the bas-relief and Persian cuneiform inscription ordered for the first time by Darius I, when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire in 521 BC.The bas-relief portrays Darius holding a bow, as a sign of sovereignty, and treading on the chest of a figure who lies on his back before him. The figure represents the Median pretender to the throne whose assassination led to Darius’s rise to power. Darius overlooks nine representatives of conquered people, their necks tied. Above these thirteen people is a representation of the supreme god Ahuramazda. The inscription is written in three languages.The oldest is an Elamite text describing the king and the rebellions.This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the establishment of the Empire by Darius I.Wold-famous Darius I bas-relief carving it is about 60 meters above the road which represents Darius the first receiving chained supplicants, surrounded by inscriptions in three different lost languages. Bring binoculars to fully enjoy the beauty and splendor of the scene.
9_Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran (2008): The Armenian monasteries of Iran have borne continuous testimony, since the origins of Christianity and certainly since the 7th century, to Armenian culture in its relations and contact with the Persian and later the Iranian civilizations. They bear testimony to a very large and refined panorama of architectural and decorative content associated with Armenian culture, in interaction with other regional cultures: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The monasteries have survived some 2,000 years of destruction, both of human origin and as a result of natural disasters.Saint-Thaddeus, the presumed location of the tomb of the apostle of Jesus Christ, St. Thaddeus, has always been a place of high spiritual value for Christians and other inhabitants in the region. It is still today a living place of pilgrimage for the Armenian Church.
10_Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (2009):It’s inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2009 and testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian knowhow. It was designed and completed in the 3rd century CE for sustainable operation and is still in use today.It is a homogeneous hydraulic system rich in its diversity of its uses including urban water supply, mills, irrigation,river transport and defensive system.Shushtar is UNESCO World Heritage, due to its unique antique water regulation system. Water comes through canals, qanats or underground water canals, as it feeds a lot of watermills. This is the most spectacular part, but if you pass the surrounding fields you see the abundance of vegetables and fruits, though several miles away is dry and dusty. So then you will understand the ingenuity of those antique engineers. One of the few good things created by soldiers because during that time there existed Roman legionaries, soldiers of the unlucky Roman emperor Valerian who was defeated by the Sassanian King Shapur I then. Part of the whole systems are watermills and you can see one of them reconstructed. But you also have to see the bridges and canals in and close to Shushtar.And once you are there – do not miss the chance to see Choga Zanbil an impressive Elamite ziggurat about 30 km from Shushtar!
11_Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex (2010):Registered on the World Heritage List, Tabriz Grand Bazaar is one of the most important commercial hubs on the Silk Road.Tabriz and its Bazaar were already famous in the 13th century, when the town, in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, became the capital city of the Safavid dynasty.The Historical Bazaar Complex of Tabriz, situated along one of the busiest east-west commerce roads, comprises of a number of interrelated, covered brick structures, buildings, and capsulated spaces for a variety of functions – commerce- and trade-related activities, educational social gatherings and religious activities.
It has expanded over the centuries into an extraordinary economic, physical, sociopolitical, and religious building complex,where specialized architectural constructions, purposes, occupations, and people from different subcultures are incorporated in a unique living situation.This lovely old Bazaar is an ideal market to shop at, so you would need a whole day to go through this Bazaar which has everything you can imagine; for instance, the carpet market is amazing and hand made woolen rugs are really cheap you will find and buy some good handmade leather shoes. And finally if you want to buy nuts, then this is the ideal place to buy nuts and dried fruit fresh walnuts, pistachios and various types of health seeds.
12_Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil (2010): Registered on the World’s Heritage List, Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble was constructed as a small example city with bazaars, squares, religious buildings,public baths, houses, and offices.It was the biggest and most perfect khānegāh and the most outstanding Sufi shrine because it also bears the grave of the originator of the Safavid Dynasty.It has evolved into an exhibit of ineffable works of art and architecture from the 14th to the 18th century and a center of Sufi pious pilgrim’s journey.The Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil is of prominent Universal Value as an artistic and architectural masterpiece and an outstanding representation of the basic principles of Sufism.The design of the ensemble became a prototype for innovative architectural expressions and a reference for other khānegāhs. Ardabil is a stopping point on the glorious drive from Astara on the way from Caspian Sea to Tabriz. This ancient town was an important location in the development of Shi’ism as a state-religion and in the development of mystical Sufism.
13_The Persian Garden (2011): During the Achaemenid age, Persian monuments conveyed concepts of the garden and of man’s dependence upon nature. The Achaemenid tradition of garden design continued through two forms of landscape expression: hunting gardens and planted courtyards. In ancient Mesopotamia, agriculture relied on above-ground irrigation systems, which could be repaired, expanded, and enlarged.To maintain their gardens and encourage agriculture, the Persians needed to develop irrigation systems which would work in this hot and dry climate. Open canals were not efficient in this arid region, but cultivation became possible by constructing many underground irrigation canals called kariz or qanat These methods were gradually applied by farmers and spread out all over the plateau of Iran.In the spring it’s like paradise, you can find lot’s of colorful flowers everywhere.
14_Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan (2012): Masjed-e Jāme’ of Isfahan is the most ancient Friday (congregational) mosque in Iran, situated in the historical center of Isfahan.The site shows a series of architectural buildings and ornamental styles of different periods in Persian Islamic architecture.The mosque became the example of a characteristic Islamic style of architecture.The pleasing thing is that each of the iwans is moderately well kept during the time it was built – so one iwan is moved in through brick columns to an area of a beautiful brick dome; another iwan uncovers Safavid tile works. In contrast is the evident Timurid winter praying room. You can turn the lights off here to spotlight the gypsum skylights. The exterior parts of the iwans are covered with tile works.
15_Gonbad-e Qābus (2012):The tower’s hollow cylindrical shaft of unglazed fired brick is a complex geometrical plan in the shape of a ten needle-like star to a cone-like roof.Two Kufic inscriptions commemorate Qābus Ibn Voshmgir, Ziyarid ruler as its founder in 1006 AD.Its conical roofed form became a prototype for tomb towers and other towers in the region, representing an architectural cultural exchange between the Central Asian nomads and ancient Iranian civilization.Looking somewhat like a rocket ship about to take off from its artificial hill, this mysterious tower is reputed to be the world’s tallest structure built exclusively of unglazed, fired brick and Iran’s earliest building bearing its own date.
16_Golestan Palace (2013): This place UNESCO has been registered as World Heritage Site in Iran. One can observe its perfect architecture which is a combination of traditional palace and traditional museum architecture. In fact, while you visit Golestan Palace, you should visit Shamsolemare because this place is so beautiful and it has so many fabulous art works, mirror works and the like; to illustrate, after you visit this palace you can visit the Bazar. In my opinion, Golestan palace is one of the most beautiful palaces. Would you like to enter dream world? I have a good offer for you, you should visit jewelry museum.A national gem with a little bit of insight into the luxurious lifestyle experienced by the Shahs before the Islamic Revolution. There are many parts to visit here and the magnificent mirror mosaic work is a site to behold. You cannot help thinking of all those broken mirrors! There is a restaurant here which is expensive by Iranian standards but the quality of food is good. It is busy so do not eat here if your time is limited.Make sure you climb up and down all the stairs so you will not miss anything. In the cistern room, there is a great collection of photos from 150 years taken by one of the Shahs who had visited Europe and was interested in photography.
17_Shahr-i Sokhta or or Burnt City (2014):The historic site of Shahr-e Sukhte is the most important prehistoric city in ancient Persia and an integral place for Iranian prehistoric studies, especially about the southeastern region, and a liking point between Near Eastern civilization and that of the Indus Valley.
18_Susa (2015): Situated in the south-west of Iran, this region bears a collection of archaeological mounds protruding on the eastern flank of the River, besides Palace of Ardeshir, on the other side of the river. It encompasses residential, palatial and administrative structures. There are also several superimposed urban settlements there. This region is exceptional testimony to the Elamite, Persian and Parthian cultural traditions.
19_Cultural Landscape of Maymand (2015): The village shows the way of continuous life of humans throughout the history; those who had employed the most sophisticated natural facilities and utilized them in harmony with the surrounding natural environmentIf you locking for humans life at prehistory, go to Maymand. There is 20 families still live there In Maymand Village, Also there is a fire temple there.I recommend to Stay for a night, stroll and visit houses at night! It’s completely safe and awesome. You can sleep in your tent in the parking or rent a room, also there is bathroom and a shop.
20_The Persian Qanat (2016):
Qanats: Main shafts that were excavated to the permanent subterranean water level, usually at the base of hills or mountains, with slightly sloping tunnels which were constructed by workers who dug to where the water was needed.At approximately 50-foot intervals, shafts were dug to help remove a material and maintain the qanat line. A qanat taps water that has seeped into the ground and channels it via straight tunnels to the land surface. The major benefit of the qanat is that its underground location prevents the evaporation of the water. The 11 qanats representing this system comprise of resting areas for workers, water reservoirs and windmills. Qanats give testimony to the cultural traditions and civilizations in desert districts with arid climate.Moving down through its small opening, several layers of water channels and chambers were observed. Obviously, the site lies at the crossroad of three different qanats, with the Zarch qanat specifically powering the mill. It is also interesting to know that the temperature on the ground compared to the temperature down where the waters flow can fluctuate from 17 to 20 degrees Celsius, making it a wonderful refuge from the heat outside.
21_Lut Desert (2016): Dasht-e Lut or Lut Desert is one of Iran’s two great deserts and is located between South Khorasan, Sistan and Baluchistan and Kerman Provinces. Here large amounts of sand are always moving forming unique sand hills which vary in shape every hour in the desert. So an attraction for you can be watching these beautiful paintings of nature. This desert is comprised of dried out kavirs.On July 17, 2016, eight new sites of global importance were inscribed to UNESCO’S World Heritage List including Lut desert. This desert is home to the the most arid and the hottest area of Iran and a part of it belongs to the hottest region in the universe (Shahdad Desert). It has a tremendously fluctuating temperature (freezing at nights but very blistering hot during the daytime). In other words, the ecological conditions of deserts in Iran are hardly tolerable during summer and winter seasons, but at the same time make this place worthy of being experienced. Its yardangs are described by UNESCO as ‘an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes’. You can also enjoy the fresh and clean air of this part of world on the planet Earth.You will enjoy to see many sand mountains and it will surely be a great experience to climb up to the top of mountain, wait and see sunset&moon rise at the same time.
22_The City of Yazd (2017): It is located at the heart of desert, 270 kilometers far from Isfahan near the Spice and Silk Roads. It testifies the use of limited resources for surviving in the desert. Qanat system I utilized to supply water to the city and draw it from underground resources. Its architecture is unique in the world as it is the only still living adobe city in the whole universe. The architecture of this city has been successful in evading the modernization trend in Iran which has destroyed many traditional towns. Yazd city has retained its Qanat Systems, traditional houses, bathhouses, Zoroastrian Fire Temples, synagogues, azure blue mosques, traditional districts, bazaars and historic gardens especially the famous Garden of Dowlat-Abad famous for the highest wind catcher in Iran.