Iran’s southern city Shiraz was the last stop on our itinerary before returning to Tehran. And just like Isfahan, Kashan, and Yazd, this city should definitely be on your radar for your trip to Iran. Shiraz is the national city of poetry and is often associated with wine. It is indeed true that in the old days of the Persian empire red wine was produced in this city, but this is not the Shiraz wine as we know it now. This wine comes from the French Shiraz grape. So no, you will not find any wine here, but what you do find in this city is a super relaxed atmosphere. The center has plenty of charming squares and car-free zones. For me, it felt so nice to not hear honking cars every second. In this blog post, I am sharing 7 wonderful things to do in Shiraz.
7 wonderful things to do in Shiraz
1. Nasir al-Mulk mosque: for many the highlight of Shiraz
The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is the number one thing to do in Shiraz, especially for photographers and Instagram lovers. This mosque is known for its huge stained glass windows and in the morning the sunlight passes beautifully through it like a rainbow. You probably have seen photos of this mosque on Instagram or Pinterest. As I said, mornings are the best time to visit, but we are usually not in the mood to get up early when traveling. So we visited the mosque in the late afternoon. This meant less light passing through the windows, but I still thought that it was impressive. By the way, the nickname of this 19th-century mosque is the ‘Pink Mosque’ because of the pink tiles on the ceiling. A detail that you would almost miss because everyone’s eyes are on the windows.
Entrance fee: 200,000 IR. You need to leave your shoes at the steps, because shoes are not allowed in mosques. In the afternoon (12.30-15.30) and on Fridays the mosque is closed for visitors.
2. Shrine of Shah-e Cheragh: my highlight of Shiraz
For me, the Shrine of Shah-e Cheragh was the highlight of the city. Foreign visitors can only visit this sacred site with an official guide. We were guided by a friendly lady who took us around the shrine square and explained everything in perfect English. Good to know: men and women need to enter through separate entrances and women will receive a chador at the entrance (a big loose sheet). This made it very challenging for me to take any photos because I needed my hands to hold the chador in place. Luckily, my boyfriend had his hands free and took some photos. Speaking about pictures: inside the shrine, it’s not allowed to take any photos with a large camera (like SLRs). Luckily, taking photos with your phone is okay.
Entrance fee: completely free and you get a guide as well!
Got some time left? Pay a visit to the Ali Ibn Hamzeh Holy Shrine, located two kilometers outside the city center. I have not been there myself, because I didn’t have the time. However, I’ve seen some stunning photos from the green mosaic hall. And the entry is free as well!
3. Vakil bazaar: worth exploring
A visit to any Iranian city is not complete without seeing the bazaar. Almost every major city in Iran has one, and often they’ve been around for centuries. The same thing goes for the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz. It was built in the 11th century and it was supposed to be the start of Shiraz as a regional medieval trading hub. The Vakil Bazaar is not super big (not like the ones in Isfahan or Tehran), but the pathways are nice and wide. The best thing about Iranian bazaars is that they are not geared towards tourists. Shops are not filled with tacky souvenirs. These are still places where the locals shop.
4. Vakil mosque: good to combine with the bazaar
If you exit the Vakil bazaar on the west side, you will enter a charming square with the entrance to the Vakil mosque on the left. If you just visited the ‘Pink Mosque’, then this one might not be as impressive. It is basically an open courtyard with a couple of dome structures. You will not see any stained glass windows at the Vakil mosque, but I must say that the detailed pillars and the tiled domes are quite beautiful.
Entrance fee: 150,000 IR
5. Karim Khan citadel: the Pisa tower of Shiraz
Shiraz is not just a city of mosques and shrines, but there is also a fortress located in the city center. This 18th-century citadel was the home of king Karim Khan, founder of the Zand dynasty. This dynasty was very important for the development of Shiraz and resulted in monuments such as the Vakil Bazaar and this citadel. Today, the Karim Khan citadel is mainly known for its oddly leaning tower on one of its corners. Yes, you heard that right. Shiraz has its very own leaning tower of Pisa. I didn’t visit the citadel itself, because I read that most tourists find the exterior more impressive than the inside. So we decided to stick with taking a walk around the fortress.
Interesting detail: Iranian people love to picnic and they will pick any piece of grass available to do this. I have seen people picnicking on roundabouts. Around the citadel I also noticed quite a lot of people chilling, sleeping, and eating in the shade on a small strip of grass.
Entrance fee citadel: 200,000 IR.
6. Hafez tomb: meet the Shakespeare of Iran
As I said in my introduction, Shiraz is the city of poets. Poetry is important in Iran and many Iranians are able to recite complete poems by heart. I also read that Farsi (Iran’s national language) is quite a poetic language. Poetry is not something that most Dutch people are interested in. Speaking for myself, I don’t know any Dutch poets, nor can I recite any poem. One of the most celebrated poets in Iran is Hafez and in Shiraz (his birth town) tourists can visit his tomb. We went there with a befriended local that we met a day earlier at Persepolis. We still keep in touch, years later. That’s how fast you make new friends in Iran.
Entrance fee: 200,000 IR. The Hafez tomb is located a bit outside the city center, so I recommend booking a Snapp taxi through the app.
7. Persepolis: a perfect day trip from Shiraz
Don’t forget to clear one day (or half a day, that’s also enough time) in your itinerary to visit Persepolis, located 70 kilometers outside Shiraz. Here visitors can take a walk on the excavation site of the former grand capital of the Persian empire. Read about my experience and practical tips for visiting Persepolis in this blog post.
Entrance fee Persepolis: 200,000 IR. There are also a few other interesting excavation sites nearby Persepolis (Naqsh-e Rostam, Naqsh-e Rajab and Pasargadae).
Where to stay in Shiraz?
I stayed at the Taha Hostel and I can highly recommend it. It has a good location and nicely decorated rooms (privates and dorms). Moreover, the breakfast buffet is quite extensive and the owner is super friendly.
Click here for an overview of all hostels and hotels in Shiraz.
How to get to Shiraz?
The bus is the best way to travel around in Iran. This country has a good network of long-distance buses connecting the larger cities. Also, most bus companies offer rides with a VIP bus (free snacks, comfy chairs), so you cannot really complain. You can get to Shiraz by bus from almost every other major city. From Tehran it is a long ride of 10 – 11 hours, from Yazd it takes 5 – 6 hours and from Isfahan, it is a 7 – 8 hour drive. We traveled from Yazd to Shiraz (500,000 IR per person) and from Shiraz to Tehran (880,000 IR per person). Shiraz has a couple of bus stations, but the Karandish Bus Terminal is the one for long-distance buses. The best way to get here is by taxi because the nearest metro station is a 20-minute walk.
Traveling to Shiraz by train is also an option, but only from Tehran. For train travel in Iran, you need to buy a ticket a few days (sometimes weeks) in advance. This is why I preferred the buses, last-minute ticket purchases were never a problem. Good to know: there is also a Tehran-Shiraz night train that takes 12 – 15 hours.
And there you have it, a list of wonderful things to do in Shiraz. Do you want to visit this city?
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