Top things to do

Top Choice Bazaar in Tabriz

Tabriz Bazaar

The magnificent, labyrinthine, Unesco-listed Tabriz bazaar covers some 7 sq km, with 24 caravanserais (sets of rooms arrranged around a courtyard) and 22 impressive timches (domed halls). Construction began over a m…
Top Choice Church in Maku

Qareh Kalisa

Sitting photogenically aloof on a barren knoll, 8km off the lonely Shot–Chaldoran road in the middle of nowhere, behind the low-rise village of the same name, Qareh Kalisa is the best maintained of all Iran’s mediev…
Top Choice Castle in Kaleybar

Qal’eh Babak

Straight from Lord of the Rings, the ruined ramparts of the Babak fortress loom above a desperately sheer chasm as you edge through a narrow cleft to the final traverse. A trip to the lair of 9th-century Azeri hero …
Top Choice Mausoleum in Ardabil

Sheikh Safi-od-Din Mausoleum

Western Iran’s most dazzling Safavid monument, and a World Heritage Site, the Sheikh Safi-od-Din Mausoleum is relatively compact. The patriarch is buried with lesser notables in an iconic 1334 Allah-Allah tower, so …
Top Choice Teahouse in Tabriz

Shahriar Restaurant

There are several interesting rooms in this converted subterranean 19th-century bathhouse, though the qalyan-wafting chaykhaneh (teahouse) is the most exotic. The other, larger room, popular with groups, is a restau…
Top Choice Iranian in Zanjan

Restaurant Doorchin

Nice and airy, the Doorchin has a delicious modern take on Iranian favourites. The soup is elegantly spiced, the yogurt fresh and piquant, and the service friendly. Try the khoresht gheymeh (lamb stew with yellow sp…
Historic Site in Takab

Takht-e Soleiman Ruins

Sitting in a lonely bowl of mountains, ringed by 1500-year-old walls, these Unesco-listed ruins are one of the most memorable sights of western Iran. In the 3rd century the state religion of Sassanian Persia was Zor…
Church in Jolfa

Church of St Stephanos

Jolfa’s tourist pearl is this stunning, Unesco-listed Armenian church, whose origins date back to St Bartholomew. On a wooded hill above the Aras River, 17km west of Jolfa, the church is a five-minute uphill stroll …
Cave in Zanjan

Katale Khor Caves

The extensive Katale Khor cave system, rated by locals as the best in western Iran, is 150km south of Zanjan, off the Soltaniyeh–Hamadan road near Garmab. Less touristed than the more famous Ali Sadr caves, which it…
Mountain in Zanjan

Colourful Mountains

Similar to the 'painted deserts' of outback Australia and badlands America, but on a much larger scale, these incredibly coloured hills are visible to anyone travelling between Tabriz and Zanjan in daylight. Banded …