If you are travelling around Iran, no doubt with Esfahan somewhere on your itinerary (at some point) then make use of Iran’s ultra modern line of intercity buses and travel the 6 hours to Shiraz. It's a pleasant city to visit which is said to be the origin of one of the best red wines of its own name. Shiraz is also an ancient settlement, one of the oldest cities of ancient Persia, home to Empires.
With its moderate climate and countless gardens (giving rise to the name 'the garden city') which may surprise you as even though many of Iran's cities are surrounded by desolate mountains, there appears to be no real lack of water on account of its winter rains and snows in the mountains.
It was time to learn a little more about those past Empires, firstly through a visit to the central city citadel which dates back a few hundred years to the Zand dynasty. The Karim Khan Castle is an architectural wonder which contains pleasant gardens inside the Royal Fort complete with fountains and fine examples of Persian architecture that is several hundred years ago. You’ll see former Persian Zand Emperor entertains guests in displays to show attire of the period. Oddly enough, seeing Iran operates on the Islamic calendar any trip to Iran currently takes you back to 1488. Being an Islamic Republic, the state is headed by an Ayatollah which is the highest level of Muslim Cleric.
Shiraz is the ‘base camp’ for excursions to Persepolis, the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site which is situated 60km to the northeast of Shiraz near the town of Marvdasht. It’s a good idea to take a shared taxi if you have others to go with as this will save you time, I would be joined by a Belgium couple for the day that I meet at the guesthouse we were staying at.
Persepolis is a royal city palace complex dating back to 515BC when the Achaemenid Empire ruled Persia, until Alexander the Great. In Alexander’s relentless drive east, his armies over ran the Persian forces, sacking the city and destroying it in the process. Having recently travelled from New Zealand (with such a short human history) its mind boggling to think all of this has been sitting in the Persian desert for 2,500 years. It may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but I find it strangely fascinating to stare at these reliefs and murals trying to understand how they still exist in such good condition after so long.
Any great Emperor needs an equally impressive cliff side tomb and mural reliefs, so you’ll find them here at Persepolis too. Visiting Persepolis is a must-do if you’re in Iran as it’s an extremely interesting day’s sightseeing and exploring. It may not have quite the allure of Syria’s Palmyra, Jordan’s Petra or Egypt’s Luxor but it’s fascinating to ponder that all these great civilizations existed at the same time, thousands of years ago.