A land of wild extremes and wilder history, Western Iran is the independent traveller's adventure playground. From the fecund Caspian coast to the stark, mountainous northern borders and the crumbling desert ruins of the southern plains, the region hosts everything from paddy fields to blizzards to the original Garden of Eden. Bordering Mesopotamia, Ottoman Turkey and Czarist Russia, its fortunes have oscillated with the rise and fall of many great empires. This deeply historic, starkly beautiful and incredibly hospitable place is also home to almost half of Iran's Unesco sites.
The region is a linguistic and cultural patchwork: Kurds predominate in Kordestan and Kermanshah; Lors in Ilam and Lorestan; Arabs inhabit southern Khuzestan; Talesh and Gilaki are the traditional languages of Gilan; and Azeris, whose language is more Turkish than Persian, predominate in the northwest. In remote regions, and in Kurdish towns, traditional dress is still worn.