Iran meets Egypt, that’s the thought that popped into my head when I visited Persepolis. It almost didn’t feel like I was still in Iran. The impressive blue mosques are definitely not the only sight that this country has to offer. You can also visit impressive archeological findings. Iran has a long history that goes all the way back to the 6th century BC. These were the glory days of the Persian empire with Persepolis as one of its most important cities. Today, the archeological finds of Persepolis and the nearby necropolis are popular tourist attractions. During my trip to Iran, I visited both places and in this blog post I will share a few things you need to know before visiting.
Why was Persepolis so important?
The mighty Persian empire was one of the largest dynasties in history. It stretched from the Balkan all the way to India. Especially under the rule of the Achaemenids, the empire increased its power quickly. They needed a dynasty capital to fit their status. This became Persepolis, founded in the 6th century BC by king Cyrus the Great. Literally, the name means ‘City of the Persians’, but in reality, it was the city of kings. Persepolis was a glittering showpiece for the outside world and was mostly used during ceremonies and holidays. Eventually, the city was destroyed during a fire, supposedly started by Alexander the Great as revenge for the burning of Acropolis during the Persian invasion of Greece. However, there are also other theories about this. Some say that the fire was an accident following Alexander’s celebration party of the invasion of Persepolis that got out of control.
practical things you should know before your visit to Persepolis
Persepolis and necropolis (Naqsh-e-Rustam) are often lumped together, but these are two separate places that you can visit. Persepolis is the excavation site of the old city and Naqsh-e-Rustam is the mountain burial site of the four most important Achaemenid kings. Often the two are combined in one half-day trip from Shiraz. We also took this trip, and visited Persepolis first and then went to Naqsh-e-Rustam (entrance: 200.000 IR each). This is what you should know about these places.
1. Persepolis is the most impressive one
If you would ask me to compare Persepolis and the necropolis, then Persepolis is obviously the winner. First of all, it’s pretty big, so you can easily spend hours exploring it. At the necropolis, you’re done within 15 minutes or so. Secondly, in Persepolis everything is at eye level. You can look at the findings up close. The necropolis consists of rock-cut graves in the mountains, so it’s all high up. In addition to these two places, tourists can also visit Pasargadae (a stone tomb). However, I read it’s not super impressive. Also, it’s quite far from the other places and slightly more expensive (entrance fee: 500.000 IR), so we decided to skip it. Another place to visit is Naqsh-e-Rajab, on the way from Persepolis to the necropolis (entrance fee: 80.000 IR). It’s quite small (just four big stone carvings), so we skipped it.
2. Public transport is possible (but a tour is the best option)
In general, I have to say that bus and train transportation is well arranged in Iran. I absolutely loved the VIP buses with comfortable chairs and free snacks. However, when it comes to public transport to and from Persepolis, information is scarce. I actually thought it was impossible (so we took an organized day trip), but it is doable. Here’s what you need to know: take the bus from Shiraz to Marvdasht (45 min, 15.000 IR) and change to a minibus to Mahdieh (20 min, 7.500 IR). You need to walk the last 2 kilometers to the entrance of the site. Again, it is not ideal, but if you’re up for an adventure, it could be fun. Visiting the necropolis by public transport is not possible, for this you need a taxi.
Tours & prices
As said, we chose the easy option and booked an organized day trip through our hostel in Shiraz (tour price: 750,000 IR, no guide). Another option would be to arrange a taxi on your own (Shiraz-Persepolis = 70 km). You could work out a price for both ways (20 – 25 USD). Or you arrange one to get there and a new one at the exit of the site for the way back. There are plenty of taxis waiting at Persepolis.
3. Take a tour with a guide (or hire the 3D glasses)
Persepolis is big. There’s a lot to see, but at the same time, it really is a ruined city. It’s all bits and pieces and there’s not much information available. There were a few signs, but I still felt that it was difficult to form a clear picture of what the place used to look like. All you see is rocks. Most probably it would have left a bigger impression on me if there were some drawings of the buildings. We also didn’t hire a guide, because it didn’t fit our backpacker budget. In hindsight, it would have been better to have a guide, because then you have the stories. If I remember correctly, it’s possible to hire a guide at the ticket office. Another option is to get the 3D glasses near the gate of all nations (300.000 IR).
- Tip: we booked our tour to Persepolis and the necropolis through the Taha Boutique hotel in Shiraz. I loved this place. Good breakfast, comfortable room, and the owner and staff were super friendly (as is the case with all hostels in Iran). You can also book a Persepolis tour via 1stQuest.
Here’s an overview of all hostels and hotels in Shiraz.
4. Bring a hat, water and sun protection (or better: avoid visiting in summer)
I mentioned it before in my Iran blog posts, but visiting this country in summer means dealing with immense heat. Unfortunately, this was the only option for us during the planning of our grand overland trip. Persepolis is also located in a desert area, so there’s no escaping the sun. Put enough sun protection on and take a hat with you to protect your face. And don’t forget water. We traveled with two LifeStraw filter bottles. Super handy, because we could refill these bottles anywhere. This way we never had to buy plastic bottles during our trip. Of course, you can easily avoid the heat by visiting Persepolis in winter or spring. It’s a lot cooler (13 – 18 degrees Celsius).
Last thing to know: it is not allowed to bring big bags to the site of Persepolis. You need to store it in a locker.
And there you have it: practical information for your visit to Persepolis. Would you want to visit this place?
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