Isfahan (or Es·fa·han (ĕs'fə-hän', Persian: اصفهان) is a city in central Iran, south of Tehran and is the capital of Esfahan Province. The Persians call it "Nesf-e-Jahan", meaning "Half The World". Due to its beautiful hand-painted tiling and magnificent public square, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. An ancient town and capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722, it was long noted for its fine carpets and silver filigree. Today, textile and steel mills take their place. Its architecture, tree-lined boulevards and relaxed pace make it one of the highlights of Iran.
The city is 430km south of Tehran at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The city enjoys a temperate climate and regular seasons. Isfahan is located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing Iran. It is similar to Denver in the United States in terms of altitude and precipitation. It is the twin city of Freiburg and Freiburg street in Isfahan is famous.
- Isfahan International Airport or Isfahan Shahid Beheshti (IATA: IFN) (ICAO: OIFM) was a military air base before the revolution. There are daily flights to Tehran and Mashhad in Iran. There are also flights to Damascus, Dubai, Sharjah, Kuwait and Istanbul. From the Airport you can take cab for around 200,000 IRR (August 2015) to the city center. Note that since most people are going there anyway, you can always ask people to share taxi. Be sure to agree on the price beforehand or insist that the driver use the meter - be careful, as some drivers will turn on the meter and turn it off mid-ride.
Drivers will generally not give change to foreign travelers, so carry small bills.
There is a night-train to Tehran and a daily train to Mashhad. There are no trains to Shiraz.
The night train from Tehran to Isfahan costs IRR240,000 for sleeping in a comfortable 6-bed room.
The train station in Isfahan is located far from the old town. Take bus #37 from the train station to Sofeh bus terminal(ترمینال صفه;), where you can change for bus #91 to old town. The best place to get off is Chaharbaq street, where there are many hostels, hotels, cafes and sight seeings.
Isfahan is well-served by highways. There are automobile routes to capital Tehran,Qom, Na'in, Kashan, Varzaneh, Shiraz, Yazd and Ahvaz.
Isfahan is well connected to most parts of Iran by bus. There are multiple bus terminals in Isfahan and you should note which one is more suitable for you. Kaveh, Sofeh, Zayanderud and Jey are namely the major bus terminals of Isfahan city.
There are buses to/from Tehran every 15 minutes in Kaveh terminal. Also there are a few luxury buses with a so-called "European standard" (very comfortable seats, open mini-bar, etc.).
Royal Safar Iranian is one a few luxury bus operators. Seats are quite comfortable with lots of leg room. Water/juice is provided and movies are shown. The ticket to Tehran costs IRR220,000 with luxury ones.
Jey Terminal bus is dedicated to major destinations at east of Isfahan, including Varzaneh (famous for its desert and traditional lifestyle), Na'in and Yazd.
It is easy to get around Isfahan by bus. A single journey costs IRR5000; you can pay the driver directly, or buy multi-journey contactless cards at certain bus stop booths. Note that there are separate men (front) and women (rear) sections on each bus.
From Kaveh Bus Terminal, take Bus 91 which runs down Chahar Bagh-e Pa'in St towards the city centre, past Takhti Junction and Imam Hossein Sq.
Squares and streets
- Naqsh-e Jahan Square also known as shah square or imam square-1602. The square contains two mosques, a palace, and the bazaar. The square is the largest historical public square in the world after Tiananmen Square in Beijing and it is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. This a very popular place for locals to picnic on Friday and holiday evenings.
- Meydan Kohne (Kohne Square)
- Chaharbagh Boulevard - 1596, dating from the Saffavid era, the avenue is the most historically famous in all of Persia.
- Chaharbagh-e-khajou Boulevard
The stunning mosques of Isfahan are among the most beautiful and interesting in the world.
- Imam Mosque (fka Shah Mosque before Iran's Revolution), In Naghsh-i Jahan Square. Built during the Safavid period, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran, and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its splendor is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. edit
- Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque- one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, this mosque is considered to be the most beautiful in Iran. Built in 1602 by Shah Abbas I.= and designed by his chief architect, Sheikh Bahai. The mosque was designed to be a private mosque for the royal family and therefore it does not have any minarets. There is a tunnel from the mosque to the Royal Palace, across the square.
- Hakim Mosque - one of the oldest mosques in Isfahan. Built by Shah Abbas II between 1656 and 1662. Located on the site of a 10th century mosque. The portal was covered in mud until it was discovered in 1956.
- Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan. Started in AD842, this is the first Islamic building to adapt the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces edit
- Ālī Qāpū(The Royal Palace) - Early 17th Century. It is forty-eight metres high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic. It is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal and bird motifs.
- Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) - 1650.
- Hasht Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) - 1669: Reportedly built for residence purposes of the King's harem.
- Chehel Sotoun (The Palace of forty columns) - 1647: It is called Palace of forty columns, as there are many columns, and in Iranian, 40 means many. Incidentally, there are twenty columns, and these are reflected in the pool in front, which might also account for its name. The function of this palace was for holding religious-national ceremonies and royal festivals and for receiving royal ambassadors and guests.
- Madreseye Shah (Imam Jafar Sadegh after revolution). The compound was built during Soltan Hossein, a Safavid king, to serve as a theological and clerical school to train those who were interested in such sciences.The dome and the greater part of the walls are covered in bright yellow bricks which give a feeling of lightness. The entrance gate decorated with gold facade and silver, and the tile-works inside the building are masterpieces of fine art and industry. The central court, with its pool and garden, are surrounded by arcades on two levels, each giving access to a student's room.
Walk along the Zayanderud River beside the ancient bridges. You see many locals doing this everyday. However, as a result of a drought and badly planned dam, there is usually no water in the river.
- Pol-e Shahrestan (The Shahrestan Bridge) - 11th Century. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Iran, built in the 14th Century (C.E.).
- Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) - 1650. It is the finest bridge in the province of Esfahan.It was built by the Persian Safavid king, Shah Abbas II around 1650 C.E. This structure originally was ornated with artistic tile works and paintings serving as a teahouse
- Si-o-Seh Pol (The Bridge of 33 Arches) - 1602. It is highly ranked as being one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design.
- Pol-e-Joui or choobi(Joui bridge)It is one of Isfahan's oldest bridges and was built in 1665, during the Safavid era.
- Pol-e-Maarnaan (Maarnaan Bridge)
Churches and Cathedrals
- Vank Cathedral (The Church of the Saintly Sisters) - 17th century. The interior is covered with fine paintings and gilded carvings and includes a wainscot of rich tile work. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation of the world and man's expulsion from Eden.
- Kelisaye maryam (maryam church)
- Flowers Garden Though, the best time for Flowers Garden is spring, in other seasons, you can find many beautiful small waterfalls, covered sub-garden of cactus.
- Isfahan City Center which is recently completed and now serving the visitors with its variety of products and services, such as a museum, a Food court with traditional and international meals, an Art Gallery, the largest shopping mall in Iran with local and international brands, The largest indoor amusement park in Iran. You can spend a whole week exploring its facilities.
- Modern Restaurants such as Shab Neshin, Kentucky House, Hermes, ...
- Modern Amusement Parks such as Isfahan City Center amusement Park and Simorgh Amusement Park
- Atashgah - a Zoroastrian fire temple. This temple is dramatically set atop a rock on the outskirts of Isfahan and provides a commanding view of the smog-covered city. You can take one of the blue buses there (ask the drivers).
- Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th Century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th Century.
- Jolfa - The Armenian Quarter, it includes one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.
- Sheikh Bahai Bathhouse - falling apart due to neglect.
- Pigeon Towers - Built in the 17th century to attract pigeons, whose feces were then used as fertilizer.
- Hamam-e (Bathhouse) Ali Gholi Agha
- Take a taxi to the south of the city to Soffeh Mountain and catch a telecabin up for IRR60,000 or go bowling at the only bowling alley in the city underneath the telecabin station
- Walk along beautiful Zayanderood river and enjoy well maintained parks and historic bridges on the ways.
- Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in the historic Naqshe-Jahan square.
- Have a picnic in Nazhvan garden and enjoy the scenery
- Take a walk in Chahar-Bagh street while enjoying Persian saffron ice-cream
- Take a day trip to Kashan and Qamsar, especially during the months that local Rosewater production is underway in Qamsar.
Two main state universities of Esfahan are:
- University of Esfahan
- Esfahan University of Technology
Other universities are:
- Mohajer Technical College
- Khorasgaan(Esfahan) Azad University
- Art University Of Esfahan
- Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani University, Foreign Student Coordinator Ghaem Blv., Sepahan Shahr, Esfahan, Iran, Po Box: 81798-49999, ☎ 98-311-6502820-28. Foreign students may learn Persian here as part of tailor-made courses to suit their needs. edit
There is a technology university known as IUT and there are a lot of technology towns like Sheikh bahaee, Jay, Amir Kabir , Oshtorjaan and many others which all are active in industry. Qualified people would like work in these towns or Foolad mobarakeh or Melt Iron companies, both active in the steel industry.
Note that shops in the main square must pay an additional 8% tax on sales, which is passed on to the customer. Unless the item that you are purchasing is unique or inexpensive, you may be better off shopping outside of the main square.
- For a real treasure trove, visit the famous bazaar.
- Esfahan carpets are world-famous, being the very finest of the Persian carpets. They are also often extremely expensive. Carpets from the nearby town of Na'in are similar in style, also well-known, and are expensive too. For those who are interested, it is possible to buy the highly decorative and brightly coloured traditional dress of Esfahan, but such clothing can be expensive, so it's better to haggle for a reasonable price.
- Miniatures These exquisite miniature paintings are painted on camel bone. Most of them are sold framed, and prices start from about IRR15,000. It can be more costly if the artwork is done by a miniature master. Shop and look at various shops before making your decision.
- Khatam kari Made out of thousands of tiny tips of colored wood sticks, these patterned handcrafts are popular among locals for framing pictures, gift boxes, backgammon and chess boards.
In some parks, you can simply obtain a carpet and tea from the park warden, and have a picnic on the grass! You will find families gather in these parks, and bring barbecues and cook freshly made kebabs, which smell (and taste) delicious.
- Chelo kebab (kebab with rice) is a must; there are regional variations in Isfahan.
- Beryan is a popular and tasty lunch dish in Isfahan. Many visitors wrongly call it "Beryani" which refers to the place that sells Beryan. This local dish is made of sheep meat and lung. Although it is generally known as a fatty dish but if you would like to try it you may order a dietary one.
- Fereni (a concoction of cereal, rice flour, water and milk) at Fereni Hafez, which is along Hafez Street near Imam Square. Usually they mix it with date essence.It costs IRR5000 for a small bowl or IRR10000 for a bigger one.
- Khoresht mast is a popular dessert dish, only made in Isfahan. It is a sweet yellow pudding, which literally means "Yogurt Stew". Saffron, meat, and yogurt are among the main ingredients.
- Doogh-o-Gooshfil a strange combination of Doogh (yogurt drink - usually salty/sour) and gooshfil (kind of sweet)
Visit one of the tea-houses in the bazaar or under one of the bridges.
There are many coffee shops in Isfahan. Most of the are located around Vank church.
- Feel Cafe, Mir Fendereski St., . One of the most popular Cafes in Isfahan edit
- Nik Hotsel, Khajoo district, ☎ +98 913 305 5008 (firstname.lastname@example.org). It is an old but clean guest house in the downtown. The owner can speak English and a little bit Dutch. Send him an email before arriving in Isfahan. Bed in dorm (+ breakfast) is 10€, private room with 2 beds (+ breakfast) is 20€.. edit
- Amir Kabir Hotel, Charbagh st (There is a bus stop right outside the entrance.), ☎ +98 311 2227273 (email@example.com, fax: +98 311 2210255). Popular among backpackers due to the cheap prices, but the rooms are dirty. Sleep on the floor: IRR200,000; Dorm bed: IRR250,000; Single: IRR400,000 Double: US$20; Triple: IRR900,000. edit
- Bekhradi Historial Residence, No. 56 Sonbolestan Alley, Ebn-e-Sina, Shohada Sq., ☎ +98 31 34482072-3 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +98 31 34882073), . Quiet, traditional khane-sonnati (Iranian traditional house). The Bekhradi’s Historical House is the first Safavid (17th century) historical house that has been restored and used in Iran for a traditional Bed & Breakfast since 1999. Five beautifully resorted Safavid-style rooms and suites, all with private bathrooms set around a garden courtyard. There is also on-demand home made foods and internet in this quiet area north of Imam Square. Rooms between US$60-US$90 per night (with breakfast and all taxes & services included). edit
- Dibai House Heritage Guesthouse, 1 Masjed Ali Alley, Harounie, Isfahan (From Hatef Street turn into Yakhchal Street, follow and then turn second on your right into Moshir Street. Follow, then again turn second on your right into a narrow cul-de-sac called Shahid Farhangi. Follow straight, and at its end there is a pedestrian alleyway. A couple of meters into it, to your left, you will find Dibai House's front door.), ☎ +98 31 32209787 (email@example.com, fax: +98 311 2209786), . Perhaps Isfahan's most atmospheric accommodation, Dibai House comprises a scrupulously restored 17th-century Safavid historic mansion that nevertheless boasts modern facilities. Ideally located in the Old Quarter. No smoking indoors. WiFi. Use of kitchen. Price includes breakfast, and owner Sufi is extremely helpful with travel information. € 40/60/80 per room/night for single/double/triple rooms. (32.6646515,51.6829776) edit
- Hasht Behesht Apartment Hotel, Ostandari st, ☎ +98 31 322 00 967 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Amazing value apartments, clean, modern and central.Free Wi-Fi internet in the rooms and apartments.Tripadvisor.com's travelers choice 2013 mid. edit
- Safir Hotel, Amadegah Street (Across the street from the Abassi Hotel), ☎ +98 31 32222640 (email@example.com), . Glass elevator. Some rooms don't have windows. Includes a pool with massage services at $50/hour. edit
- Abbasi Hotel, . Built during the reign of King Sultan Hossein of Safavids about 300 years ago. King Soltan Hossein attributed this magnificent complex of building to his mother. That is why it is called "the school and caravansaray of Madar-shah" (which means king's mother). The hotel also has a nice restaurant and tea house in the courtyard. edit
- Kowsar International Hotel, . Overlooks the river. edit
- Hotel Ali Ghapou, Chahar Bagh Ave, ☎ +98 311 2227922 (fax: +98 311 2216049). 97 rooms and 4 suites. edit
- Hotel Aseman, . Overlooks the river. edit
There are various Internet cafés in Esfahan. The cheapest in the city is the Central Library of Esfahan but speed is not reasonable. It is accessible from Naghshe-Jahan Square by two minutes walk.
Visas & Permits
- Russian Consulate, Chahar Bagh Payin street, Masjed-e-Sofretchi, 11 (behind the bazaar), ☎ +98 (31) 3222-2060, 3223-99-51 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +98 (31) 3222-0804). edit
- Na’in is the first Desert city toward east. it's a small and quiet town at the edge of desert. A perfect pattern of a desert town. Everything you like to see in a desert town you can find there. to get there, buses depart Jay terminal US$2 every half an hour from 06:00 to 20:00. private taxi is also available. 140km 1/5 hrs.
- Varzaneh has the most beautiful desert in Isfahan district. Almost everything you expect from a desert, you can find in desert of Varzaneh, which is 12 km southeast of town. The town itself has many ancient structures, including Pigeon house, Jameh Mosque, Kohneh (old) bridge, caravansary, camel-mill and a lot more. In the town, almost neither of locals goes to bakery, since women are still baking organic bread inside the houses. In addition, most of housewives are weaving carpets. Salt lake, Gavkhooni wetland and 1000-yeaer-old Ghoortan citadel are also in Varzaneh district. Varzaneh is famous as town of white pigeons, as women are wearing white chadors since many centuries ago, keeping the traditional of pre-islamic religion Zoroastrianism, though all the people are currently Muslim. Varzaneh is reachable by regular buses (once an hour) from Jey Terminal in Isfahan. You would pay US$1 and it takes 1:30 min to reach there. Taxis are also available in front of Jey Terminal.
- Toudeshk-Cho is 100km from Esfahan, on the way to Yazd. It is a very, quaint traditional desert village and it is easy to get to from the Jey Minibus terminal. It is well known among backpackers as the location of the Tak-Taku Homestay (details on the Toudeshk-Cho page or call Mohammed on +98 913 365 4420).
- Qom is a holy city a few hundred kilometres away.
- Shiraz is located south from Esfahan.
- Kashan is famous for its beautiful mansions from the 1800s and its gardens.
- Dasht-e-Kavir (central desert of Iran) is easily reached by a 6 hours bus journey from Esfahan. You'll find oasis, salt lakes...