On the hill behind the Susa Museum, ancient Persia is unearthed at this fascinating Unesco-listed archaeological site occupying the whole southern flank of modern Shush. Originally similar in scale to Persepolis, the city saw countless invasions and sackings (the Mongols were particularly thorough), and little upright evidence remains of Darius the Great's once grand capital. The site is over 6000 years old. Take plenty of sunscreen.

Exit the Susa Museum gardens via the left gate and ascend the ramp. Dominating the landscape on the right is the fortress-like Chateau de Morgan (Shush Castle), built on the bones of an Elamite acropolis by the French in the early 20th century to protect their loot from marauding tribesmen. It's not open to the public, but there are fine views from the path around the base, including a view of the Tomb of Daniel from the southern side.

To the left of the entrance ramp, follow the self-guided signage past date palms into the excavation site of the 521 BC Palace of Darius. Old Darius loved his apadanas (open columned halls), and the one here had six by six 22m-high columns in the inner section, ringed by three 12-columned verandas. All the columns were topped with animal figures, such as flying bulls. Now only the bases and the odd earthbound animal remain.

To the east lies the Royal City, an area of deep excavations through 15 strata; south of the castle is an eroded earthen watchtower overlooking teenagers riding dirt bikes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Iran attractions

1. Susa Museum

0.06 MILES

This gem of a small museum displays ancient stone and pottery from archaeological sites in the region. Highlights include a giant double-headed bull…

2. Tomb of Daniel

0.14 MILES

While several cities lay claim to the biblical Daniel's last resting place, within Iran both Jews and Muslims agree that this ornate Khuzestani ourchin…

4. Choqa Zanbil Ziggurat

20.46 MILES

Choqa Zanbil’s magnificent, Unesco-listed brick ziggurat is the world's best surviving example of Elamite architecture. Even if you’re not a fan of…