Chahar shanbe-soori, March
No Ruz, March
Fajr International Film Festival, April
Eid al-Fitr, May/June
You’ll see few travellers in mid-winter. Much of western Iran will be under snow and mountain roads can be cut off. Desert nights are very cold, but days are pleasant and sunny.
Skiing the Alborz Mountains
February is often the coldest month, which is good for skiing but otherwise not the most pleasant time to travel the country. The month also has a couple of stand-out events.
International Fadjr Theatre Festival
The highlight of the Iranian theatre year centres around Teatre Shahr (City Theatre) and Iranshahr Theatre in Tehran.
Magnificent Victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran
February 1 to 11 is known as Dahe-ye Fajr ('the 10 Days of Dawn'), a celebration of the days in 1979 between Ayatollah Khomeini returning to Iran and the fall of the Shah’s government. Expect speeches and nationalist demonstrations across the country.
The whole country hits the road for No Ruz, the Iranian New Year, which is also the start of spring. For two weeks Iran virtually shuts down. Hotels are packed and travelling is tricky.
The Tuesday night before the last Wednesday of the Iranian year sees Iranians sing, dance and jump over fires to burn off bad luck as part of the controversial ‘pagan’ tradition of Chahar shanbe-soori.
The pre-Islamic celebration of No Ruz falls on the spring equinox on 21 March. It’s a huge family celebration on a par with Christmas in the West and many people take two weeks off. Tehran is empty at this time.
It’s spring, the temperatures rise, flowers bloom, Iranians return to work and weather-wise it’s the best time to visit. April and May is peak season for foreign travellers; book ahead for rooms and flights.
Islamic Republic Day
The 1 April is a public holiday for the anniversary of the referendum that officially established the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. It’s marked by rallies, speeches and military parades.
Sizdah be Dah
Sizdah be Dar (‘13th day of the year’; 2 April) is a public holiday when the entire population heads to the countryside for a picnic. It’s a pre-Islamic tradition that symbolises making a fresh start.
Fajr International Film Festival
Iran’s premier film festival features Iranian and international films and red-carpet events in more than 20 cinemas across Tehran. It has been held in February in previous years, so check the website for details.
With mild temperatures, May is a good month to travel in Iran but it's still high season. Wildflowers bloom from the west to the northeast, while anywhere close to the Persian Gulf coast temperatures are really starting to heat up.
During the month of Ramazan, Muslims are expected to perform a dawn-to-dusk fast that includes abstaining from all drinks (including water) and from smoking. Tempers can be shorter, but life goes on. In coming years it falls in May or April.
It’s late spring and getting warmer and more humid, but as it’s not crazy hot (except along the Persian Gulf littoral or the lowlands around Shush) and few are travelling, this is still a good time to visit.
Heart-Rending Departure of the Great Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
On 4 June the country commemorates the 1989 death of Ayatollah Khomeini. About 500,000 Iranians flock to Tehran, Qom and the village of Khomein. The next day is the Anniversary of the Arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1963. The two-day combo means a lot of Iranians are travelling.
Kashan Rose Festival
Kashan is lovely at any time, but the rose festival in and around town in June, celebrates the picking of rose petals as a precursor to rose-water production.
The Festival of the Breaking of the Fast marks the end of Ramazan and, after sunset, is celebrated with huge meals across the country. Depending on the year, it can also fall in May.
High summer is here and aside from the mountains it’s very hot everywhere. In Tehran pollution is severe and at the worst times a holiday is announced at short notice.
A reasonable time to visit the mountains of western Iran (still too hot to hike), but not the desert, where temperatures can hit 50ºC. On the coast and in the desert, shops close for five-hour siestas and evening is the most pleasant time.
As summer segues into fall/autumn, the sun loses the worst of its sting (only the worst – much of Iran still bakes) and it's a good month to go hiking in the mountains.
Ashura marks the martyrdom of Imam Hossein and is the most intense, passionate date on the Shia Muslim calendar. It is celebrated with religious theatre and sombre parades in which men self-flagellate. In coming years it falls in September and August.
With moderate temperatures and no snow to block roads, October is a pleasant time to travel, and many Iranians take a break. Fierce summer temperatures are a thing of the past.
With summer over, nomads are on the move, heading downhill to warmer climes. The hills and back roads of the Zagros Mountains around Shiraz are a good place to find them.
Winter is coming and with it the cold and snow. Travel in the mountains of western Iran can be tough, but the desert, coast and cities of central Iran can be quite pleasant.
Martyrdom of Imam Reza
The anniversary of Imam Reza’s death is a huge deal in Mashhad, with Shiite pilgrims flocking from around the region to pay their respects at the vast Haram-e Razavi. It’s in November or October in coming years.
A cold time to visit as the winter chill really kicks in (except on the Persian Gulf). Expect cold, clear skies, low golden light and snow-dusted hills – Western Iran in particular is at its most photogenic
Iran celebrates Yalda, the longest night of the year. It's a big deal as family and friends gather in homes to eat pomegranates, watermelon and recite Hafez and other poets.