Located at the foot of the Zagros Mountains, we started our Iran trip from the city of Shiraz. The city is known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers, in addition to being the formal capital and of the oldest cities in Persia, there are plenty of things to do in Shiraz. This includes the pink mosque- Nasir al-Mulk, one of the most popular places for influencers to snap photos under the morning rays, penetrating the stained glass windows.
Here’s a list of Top 10 Things to do in Shiraz
1. Do take the metro
- The Shiraz metro was built in 2014 with 6 planned lines. However, during our visit in 2019, only Line 1 is open. The metro is super cheap and incredibly clean!
- Shahid Dastgheyb Metro Station is only 1 KM from the airport, so you if want to join the locals (plenty of people will try talking to you), then definitely take a ride!
- You are able to pay cash for the metro tickets, no cards required.
2. Do hire a VR at Persepolis
- Only 60 KM from Shiraz is the UNESCO site of Persepolis, a highlight of our trip in Iran.
- Built-in 515 BC, this place was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.
- The name Persepolis means “the city of the Persians”.
- The city was burnt to the ground by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. That’s why it’s important to hire a VR just before you enter the Gates of all Nations and see the city’s original form through your very own eyes!
- The entrance fee for Persepolis in 2019 was 500,00 rial per person and the VR was 600,000 rial for 2-hour hire. However, the virtual reality device can be shared between multiple people. Personally I found it more entertaining than listening to the guide. Obviously it’s best to have both in order to fully experience the place.
- One of my favourite spot in Persepolis would be the Tomb of Artaxerxes III just above the hill. It has a great overview of the site and I love anything that carves into the rock.
3. Do add Naqsh-e Rostam to the day trip!
- 12 KM from Persepolis is the site of Naqsh-e Rostam, an ancient necropolis dated back to 1000BC!
- It has four large tombs carved into the cliff face with detailed architectural decorations. As I am yet to visit Petra in Jordan, this visit was quite special to me.
- The site is a lot smaller than Persepolis and the entrance fee was 500,000 rial per person in 2019.
- The private cab hire to and from Shiraz to Persepolis & Naqsh-e Rostam was €15 for the day. If you include the third site- Pasargadae then it would be more expensive.
4. Do visit the Pink Mosque early
- The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is also known as the “Pink Mosque”. It is one of the top things to do in Shiraz if you are into photography.
- Built between 1876 – 1888, this mosque got its nickname due to the considerable number of pink tiles used in its interior.
- Different from the normal Islamic tiles with geometric shapes, the tiles in this period are usually imported from the factories in Europe. It is characterized by having European architectures, landscapes, flowers and plants on them.
- The mosque either opens at 7 AM or 8 AM in the morning depending on the season and does not open on Fridays.
- As this is a very popular spot, it is best to come first thing in the morning. We arrived just before 7 AM and there were people waiting outside the door already!
- A chador is given but at the time of our visit, wearing it was not inforced. However, there’s a lady inside the prayer room making sure everyone’s hijab is on.
- When we were there in December, the sun didn’t rise until after 8 AM. That’s when you will get the light passing through the stained glass windows.
- Also, don’t visit there on a cloudy day. I visited on a cloudy day once and the guy told me to come back another day if I was serious about taking good photos.
- The entrance fee is 500,000 rial (2019). Might be a bit steep for those who are not into photography as it can get quite crowded.
5. Do take the free tour when visiting Shah Cheragh
- Shah-e-Charagh in Persian means “King of the Light”, houses the tombs of the sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim ( seventh Shia Imam ) and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā ( the eighth Shia Imam).
- The tomb goes its name because the site was discovered when someone saw the light from a distance and decided to investigate the grave. When excavated, a body wearing armour was discovered. It had a ring saying “al-‘Izzatu Lillāh, Ahmad bin Mūsā”, meaning “The Pride belongs to God, Ahmad son of Musa”. That’s how people knew it was the sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim.
- The site is free to enter. However, for first-time visitors, they will usually organize a volunteer who will guide you through the site.
- There were extensive mirror-works under the domes of Shah-e-Charagh. The place is also called “Green Mosque” due to the green light used inside the shrine.
- Girls will be given a chador upon entering the complex.
- Cameras & tripods are not allowed, but cellphones are permitted for photography.
- Apparently the place is more spectacular at night, but the never experienced it ourselves.
6. Embrace the tranquillity inside the Mirror Mosque
- Ali Ibn Hamza Mausoleum is another gracefully decorated mosque filled with mirrors, thus it’s also called the “mirror mosque”.
- This place is the shrine of the grandson of the 4th Imam, built between 18th to 19th centuries.
- Same as Shah-e-Charagh, the shrine is divided into the male & female side. The female can visit the male side with a male companion but not in reverse.
- Before entering the shrine, girls were given chador. We also got a brief history lesson on the mausoleum by the friendly staffs. He also offered us tea & cookies which was nice.
- The place is not too crowded and it’s a great place to be in Shiraz if you want some peace & quiet.
7. There are no wines here but do try the local delicacies
- Despite the fact, Iran became an Islamic republic since 1979 and no wines are allowed to be consumed, the famous red wine- shiraz, was originated here in Shiraz. It made its way into Europe thousands of years later and became the wine we know today!
- Other than kebab with rice, some of the must-try local delicacies include the Shirazi salad, ash Shirazi– a vegetable and meat soup that you can find in the early mornings, Shirazi paloddeh– a noodle looking ice cream made of rice starch and nodkhod cookie made of chickpeas.
- My favourite restaurant in Shiraz would be Joulep Café & Restaurant as it’s just located outside of the Vakil Bazaar. It has a great atmosphere, always packed with locals and the food is delicious! They also have a daily special so you can swap around! We dined there three times during our stay in Shiraz!
8. Do wander through one of the world’s oldest bazaar
- Vakil Bazaar is one of the oldest in the world. Most likely started in the 11th century.
- It contains beautiful courtyards, caravansarais, bathhouses and old shops where there are hundreds of vendors selling Persian rugs, spices, handicrafts and antiques.
- Vakil Mosque next to Vakil Bazaar was built between 1751 & 1773. However, the floral decorative tiles were added on during a restoration in the 18th century.
9. Do book your accommodation when you get to Shiraz!
- While at least a night’s of accommodation needed to be booked depending on your passport when arriving in Iran, it is best to book your hotels locally if you travelling in the low season!
- This is because Booking.com does not have any Iranian properties, the only way to book in advance is through Hostelworld.com.
- Having said that, with the amount of tastefully decorated accommodations in Iran, why not shop around locally! Not only the prices are cheaper due to the lack of commissions taken from international booking sites, but you also get to see a variety. We found some of the most beautiful places just by asking around for rooms with our friends!
- We stayed at Taha Traditional Hostel which we enjoyed very much, but the Niayesh Hotel that our friends ended up landing was very nice as well.
10. Do explore as much as you can in Shiraz!
- There were a few places we missed out in Shiraz due to time constraint or lack of interests, but this doesn’t mean that they won’t be interesting for you!
- Hafez Tomb is a must-see for anyone who loves Iranian literature. He’s a Persian poet where he’s works are the second most sought after literature in Iran after the Quran!
- Eram Garden is a historic Persian garden and is one of the top things to do in Shiraz. The garden is now listed under UNESCO together with other Persian gardens in the country.
- Do visit the Maharloo Lake if you’ve never seen a pink salt lake in your life. It’s only 27 KM from Shiraz and it looked pretty magical. The only reason we skipped it was because there’s a pink lake not too far from the place where we live in Australia!