According to Pro Zip Codes, Isfahan is located 340 km south of Tehran on the eastern slopes of the Zagros Range at an altitude of 1580 m.
According to legend, the city existed on this site as early as the 3rd millennium BC. e. and was part of the state of Elam. In the 11th century AD. Isfahan became the capital of the Seljuk Empire. The heyday of the city fell on the reign of Shah Abbas I (16-17 centuries), when Isfahan was chosen as the capital of the Safavid Empire. At that time it was one of the largest cities in the world, which the locals called Nasif-e-Jahan, which means “half of the world.” Under Abbas I, luxurious palaces, mosques, squares, bridges and parks were built in Isfahan. Today, Isfahan is one of the main attractions of Iran..
The city has preserved many monuments of Islamic architecture of the 11th-19th centuries. The center of the Old City of Isfahan is Imam Khomeini Square – one of the largest city squares in the world. It acquired its modern appearance under the rule of the Safavids at the end of the 16th century; architectural monuments of those times surrounding the square remind of this. Here is one of the most beautiful mosques in the country and the largest mosque in the city – the Imam Mosque. The total area of the mosque is 20,000 sq. m. The height of its minarets reaches 42 m, and the height of the main dome is 52 m. It was built under Shah Abbas I in 1612-1638. The inner walls of the mosque are decorated with drawings, the famous seven-color mosaics, ornaments and ligatures. Also under Abbas I, the Sheikh Lutfalla Mosque (1602-1619) was built on Imam Khomeini Square. Opposite it you can see the first “skyscraper” of Isfahan – the Ali-Kapu Palace or the “Imperial Palace”. The palace consists of 7 floors and reaches a height of 48 m. Shah Abbas I received his guests here. Inside the palace is decorated with murals made by the court painter of Abbas I – Reza Abbasi. From the northern part of the square begins the covered Royal Bazaar 17th century – one of the largest bazaars in the East (length – 2 km). The bazaar leads to one of the most ancient mosques in Iran – the Friday Mosque (8th century). In total, there are about 200 mosques in Isfahan, and almost every one of them has a religious school – a madrasah.
Be sure to visit the Isfahan palaces, the most popular of which is the Chehel-Sotun Palace. Its name translates as “the palace of forty columns”, although in fact there are only 18 of them. The palace was built in 1647 under Shah Abbas II. Today it houses the archaeological museum. The palace is surrounded by a vast park.
In the western part of Isfahan, the swaying minarets of Menar-e Junban are interesting. (14th century). They are part of the burial complex of the famous 14th century mystic Abu Abdullah. These minarets were called swinging ones because if you shake one minaret, the rest will also swing. Not far from here, on a hill 210 m high, there is the Atashga archaeological complex with the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple from the 3rd century AD.
One of the main water arteries of the central part of Iran, the Zayande River, flows through the city. In the era of the Safavids, 11 bridges were built across it. The most ancient is the Pol-e Shahrestan bridge of the 12th century. It is also worth looking at the longest bridge in the city – the 33-arch Sio-se-Pol bridge with a length of 295 m, and the 32-arch Khaju bridge 123 m long. Under every bridge in Isfahan, you can find traditional teahouses (“teahouses”).
In addition, the Vank Armenian Cathedral of the mid-17th century (the main cathedral of the Armenian Church in Iran), made in a mixed Christian-Islamic style, numerous tombs and mausoleums of the 14th-16th centuries and picturesque parks are of interest in Isfahan. 200 km north of Isfahan is the city of Kashan.
It is known for its carpets, silk products, ceramics, rosewater and numerous mansions built by wealthy merchants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The main attractions of the city are the luxurious mansions of Amarih, Tabatabai, Borujeri and Abbasian, the bazaar, which was built under the Safavids and which is one of the best markets in Iran for buying souvenirs, and the National Museum of Kashan, consisting of halls of archeology, anthropology and local crafts.
From Isfahan you can go south to one of the most ancient cities in the world still inhabited – Yazd. The first mention of it refers to the times of the Median kingdom. Yazd is located in the very center of the country at the western borders of the Iranian deserts on the slopes of the Kuhrud ridge. The city is known as the center of the religion of Zoroastrianism, which dominated Persia before the advent of Islam. In addition, Yazd was an important trading center on the ancient route from India to Central Asia. Despite its fame, Yazd, unlike other major cities of Iran, escaped attacks from numerous militant invaders and therefore retained its architecture and originality. At the end of the 20th century, UNESCO recognized Yazd as the city with the second oldest urban development in the world. The architecture of Yazd is truly unique. Due to the proximity of the desert and the rather hot climate, the local houses are built of clay. To cool them in Yazd, passive ventilation systems were used – badgirs (high wind towers with huge windows). You will not find such buildings anywhere else in the world. The dryness of the local climate also led to the creation of entire underground complexes for collecting water several tens of kilometers long, which have survived to this day.
The fact that Yazd is one of the world centers of Zoroastrianism is reminiscent of the buildings characteristic of this religion – the “tower of fire” Atashkade, on which since 470 AD. fire is burning, and the “towers of silence” located on a hill on the outskirts of Yazd. The “towers of fire” were used as a place of worship for the gods, and the “towers of silence” were used to perform the rite of burial of the dead. Similar towers can only be seen in India.
In addition, in Yazd, the remains of city defensive walls of the 12-14th centuries, the Amir-Chakhmak mosque (14th century), which is surrounded by public baths, a caravanserai, a mausoleum, three reservoirs and a bazaar, the funeral mosque of Mahbare-e Dawazda-Imam, which means “Mausoleum of the Twelve Imams”, the Friday Mosque of the 12th century, the historical complex of Bak-e Doulat with a vast park and a 33-meter wind tower, 12 oriental bazaars where you can buy products from silk, cashmere, brocade and taffeta, and the Museum of Water, where models of an ancient water supply system.