This is Iran’s number-one tourist destination for good reason. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city, and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture. Walking through the historic bazaar, over the picturesque bridges and across the Unesco-listed central square are sure to be highlights of your holiday.
Such is Esfahan’s grandeur that it is easy to agree with the famous 16th-century half-rhyme ‘Esfahan nesf-e jahan’ (Esfahan is half the world). Robert Byron, author of the 1937 travelogue The Road to Oxiana, was slightly more geographically specific when he ranked ‘Isfahan among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity’.
There are, however, some less-than-refreshing elements to Esfahan. This is the country’s third-largest city, and the outskirts are home to plenty of heavy industry, including steel factories and a much-discussed nuclear facility. Traffic jams are also a regular occurrence.