A Guide to Isfahan

Isfahan is located at the center of Iran. From the east it is surrounded by deserts and from the west by Zagros Mountain Range. Isfahan is known as the third biggest city in Iran. This city is the living collection of historical masterpieces of Bridges, Blue domed mosques, Persian Gardens, Palaces and more. Accordingly, this city is known as ‘’ Nesf-e Jahan’’ which means half of the world. For this reason, Isfahan is one of the top favorite destinations of Iran. Below, we will get more into the points that has made the city an exceptional destination for tourists. Also, we are going to give you a special travel guide to Isfahan by telling its story, points of interest, special Handicrafts, local food, how to get around and more.

Isfahan attraction

The Story of Isfahan

The prosperity of Isfahan has been continuous from the ancient times until this day. The splendor of Isfahan grew mostly in the mid-11 century during the rule of Seljuk Turk Dynasty. After the fall of this dynasty, Isfahan went through a kind of decline. Then, the city’s splendor and growth returned much stronger during the Safavid dynasty in 16th and 17th century. The Safavid Ruler, Shah Abbas the first, made Isfahan the capital of Iran. Most of the masterpieces of architecture adorned with extraordinary designs and patterns are reminiscent of this era. Below, we are going to introduce the cultural heritage left from the rich history of Isfahan that has made this city a popular tourist attraction.

What Makes Isfahan Exceptional?

Once you step into the city, the beauty of Isfahan will catch your eyes. The famous Zayandehrud River runs through the city which parts the city in two. These two districts are connected together by several historic bridges namely Sio-se Pol Bridge and Khaju Bridge. Aside from the beauties of the city, you will find a collection of world famous UNESCO sites from several Mosques to the third largest square in the world, Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Isfahan was also inscribed as the World Craft City in 2015. This is just a small overview of what this city has got to offer.

Need to Know

People & the cultural customs

Locals speak Persian with Isfahani Dialect. Like many other cities in Iran, Isfahan has been also modernized. Yet, some customs are still met by many people around Isfahan in Rural and also urban areas during holidays (Nowruz) and mourning ceremonies such as Muharram ceremony. Several minorities also reside in Isfahan. The Christian and Armenian residents of Isfahan have their own community. Judeo-Persian, Georgian, Qashqai Turks and Bakhtiari Lurs also have their own ceremonies and communities.

What is the best time to travel?

Located in the center of Iranian Plato, Isfahan has a semi-dry Climate. The best time to explore Isfahan is during spring time and from March to June. The summer days prevail until August. From August to December the autumn weather is quite fine for traveling around Isfahan. Through January and February the cold and dry wintery weather prevails.

What is the best way to get to Isfahan?

There are seasonal and weekly international flights to Isfahan’s Shahid Beheshti International Airport. On top of this, there are daily flights from main cities in Iran to Isfahan. You can also reach Isfahan by Train from Mashhad and Tehran. Some tourist prefer to have a private driver to drive them to Isfahan since it is about 4-6 hour car ride away from other popular destinations of Iran such as Tehran, Shiraz, and Yazd. There are also intercity bus services to Isfahan from many cities in Iran.  If you need a private guide, driver or simply if you need to book domestic flights, trains or intercity buses, you can get the best deals through Travelopersia.

How to get around Isfahan

Most touristic attractions of Isfahan are located within walking distance of each other. There are bus services available through different regions of the city. Yet, the best way to visit the attractions is by the Metro Service or Taxis and Online Taxi Apps. Here is the latest Isfahan’s Bus Map and Metro Map.

Naqshe Jahan
Ali qapoo

The City Map

Trip Ideas

If you have decided to visit this city on your Iran trip, you can not only enjoy a collection of world famous historical highlights, but also do several other activities. You can hike the Soffeh Mountain or Walk along the refreshing Zayandehrud River. Also, you can enjoy the beauty of one of the most beautiful streets in Iran named Chahar-Bagh Street. While enjoying the refreshing environment of this paved street in Isfahan, you can try some street food. Also, it should be mentioned that some of the historical and natural attractions of Isfahan are located within a few kilometers of Isfahan which are mentioned as below: (You can find more information on these attractions by checking out our Blog’s posts.)

  • 1,000 year-old Jameh Mosque of Na’in( located within 146 km of Isfahan)
  • Varzaneh Desert, the famous central desert of Iran( located within 108 km of Isfahan)
  • The famous historical city of Kashan ( located within 200 km of Isfahan)

Naqsh-e Jahan Square, The pattern of the World

Now for the must-see attractions of Isfahan, on top of this list is the UNESCO recognized Naqsh-e Jahan Square. A trip to Isfahan will not be completed without visiting the third largest square in the world. On each side of this square there are other masterpieces of Safavid architecture. The UNESCO recognized Shah Mosque (Royal Mosque Isfahan), famous for its blue double domed structure is situated on one side of this square. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is located on the eastern side of the Square. The unique royal palace of Ali Qapu and the Qeysarie Gate (Grand Traditional Bazaar of Isfahan) are also located there.

The Royal Gardens and Palaces

One of the top tourist attractions in Isfahan is the UNESCO site of Chehel Sotun Palace. A beautiful pavilion is seated in the heart of one of the most unique Persian gardens in Iran. Inside of this palace several eye-catching and historic Frescos are painted on the walls. Hasht Behesht Palace is also another example of many palaces that used to exist in the city of Isfahan.

Other Impressive Mosques

Some of the most impressive mosques in the world are situated in Iran and especially in Isfahan. Make sure to put the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan on top of your must-see attraction while visiting Isfahan. This mosque is a collection of architecture and tile and clay decorations from several eras. You can also visit Hakim Mosque.

The Armenian Quarter

You can see the mixture of Armenian and Islamic architecture in the designs and patterns of the famous Vank Cathedral and Saint Bethlehem Church. On the walls of these churches there are magnificent frescos of Old Testament and New Testament. You can also visit the Armenian Anthropology Museum, located in Vank Cathedral to learn more about the history of Armenian community in Isfahan.

The city of Bridges

While walking along the Zayandehrud River, you will come across different bridge structures. Each of these bridges have something that is making them special in their own way. Shahrestan Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Isfahan belonging to the 11 century. Khaju Bridge is the only bridge in Isfahan and even one of the rare ones in Iran that has tile decorations. Sio-se Pol Bridge is the longest bridge in Isfahan that has much historical importance. Joui and Marnaan Bridges are of the other famous bridges in Isfahan.

Other Unique Attractions

If you have extra time visiting the city of Isfahan, there are many more attractions that you can visit which are introduced as below:

  • The shaking Minarets of Menar Jonban
  • Mardavij Pigeon Tower
  • Collection of Iranian Music Instruments in Music Museum Isfahan
  • Isfahan Aquarium
  • Atashkadeh Esfahan
  • Sarban Minaret
  • Hamam-e (Bathhouse) Ali Gholi Agha
  • Flower and birds Garden
  • Theological school of Shah

Local Food & Signature Dishes

You can try several Persian dishes in most restaurants in Isfahan. If you are looking for the signature Isfahan dishes, you can try the famous Beryani (Biryani) that is made with grounded lamb meat and special spices. For a unique desert or side dish, you can try Khoresht-e Mast which is a sweet yogurt stew. Here is a list of hand-picked Restaurants and Cafes in Isfahan. If you are looking to take some local sweet as a souvenir with you, you can buy some wrapped sweets called Gaz. These Nougats (somehow like candies) are made out of a desert plant called angebin.

Handicraft & Souvenirs

Isfahan was chosen as the World Craft city in 2015. Isfahan has long been known as the city of art lovers. For this reason, Isfahan is mostly famous for its handicrafts. The handicrafts range from the finest examples of Pottery, Copper Work, Wood Work, Brass Work, Silverware, and Cotton Fabrics printed with designs (Qalamkari). One of the other main arts practiced in Isfahan is the art of Tile Making in Moaraq and Haft-Rang (Seven-color) techniques that are reflected in the historical monuments.

On top of this Weaving Carpets is one of the most notable kinds of Handicrafts in Isfahan. The quality and unique designs of Isfahan Carpet is well known throughout the world and especially in European market. Most tourist choose Isfahan for purchasing a unique piece of Persian Handicraft. While exploring Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the traditional Bazaar of Qeysarieh you can find many workshops and stores selling different types and designs of Handicrafts and Carpets.