"I have never, anywhere, encountered such friendly, sincere, helpful and warm people."
"The apprehension and uncertainty I felt before departure were quickly dispelled upon arrival. I felt completely safe throughout the trip. "
"It was one of the real highlights of a life full of travel experiences."
Can you guess where in the world these comments from our past travelers are referring? China? Turkey? Perhaps Myanmar? Would you believe that they are comments from ElderTrekkers who recently visited Iran? Yes that same Islamic Republic of Iran; the one country that is always making news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Why would you go there when there are so many other safer places to visit you may ask yourself? “They treat women so poorly, they are all terrorists”. Have you ever asked those who tell you it is dangerous if they have ever been there? Chances are they have not and they have gleaned their information from various media outlets. They could not be more wrong. Iran is a safe and friendly country with so much to offer for those who are willing to go. It is precisely because no one goes there (or at least only small numbers of travelers versus other destinations) that add to its overall appeal.
If you truly believe what Mark Twain once said, namely that "travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness" then read on.....
Iran is a country with a long and rich history dating back over 2500 years with evidence of this past on display everywhere. And best of all you can get right up close and personal. Rock carvings from 1000BC stand alongside the tomb of Darius the Great in Naqsh-e-Rustam while the greatest glory of Iranian past – Persepolis is mere kilometers away and where you can walk right up to exquisite carvings in marble and tile dating from the 5th century BC that depict animals, flowers and the king’s ancient armies. Travel to Isfahan and marvel at Naghsh-e Jahan Square, reportedly one of the largest in the world with its outstanding collection of Iranian and Islamic architecture. The desert city of Yazd sits like a turquoise gem in the middle of the harsh desert offering a glimpse into its Zoroastrian past.
The Iranian people are proud of their country and its rich history and welcome visitors with open arms. Having led many tours to Iran I enjoy watching the transformation take place with those in my groups. They arrive unsure and weary and within a matter of days are wandering through the markets sharing stories or perhaps a cup of tea with the local people and wondering how they ever questioned coming to such an amazing country. Wearing a scarf on your head becomes less onerous than one would expect, especially when each day brings a marvel of sights to savour and experience.
Our world is changing rapidly. One of the benefits to travelers who are willing to visit countries considered “off limits” means not only having the place to yourself (I rarely if ever encounter any other tourists) but sharing in the amazing experiences that travelling offers us as we interact with those in other parts of the world. It is an affirmation that we are not that different from one another and probably have more in common that we realize. Iran is an amazing country and one of my favourite destinations to visit.
After you visit Iran you will still encounter those at home who will think you were crazy to have gone but at least this time you will be able to tell them firsthand how wrong they are in their opinion.