Iran is a country that conjures up so many negative stereotypes. Terrorism, religious extremism, people protesting in the streets chanting “Death to America” or “Death to Israel.” Michael went to visit Iran in 2017, and found that this is nowhere near the case. Iran is a country of contradictions: at once, a place that “officially” has poor relations with the west and a citizenry that embraces it, somewhat. It’s a country that is an Islamic Republic, but where you rarely hear people speak of religion – at least not in the cities. It is a country where westerners believe women are oppressed, but there is no clear indication of such oppression – at least in public. Because of all this, Iran tourism is not really “a thing.”

Should you visit Iran? Of course, that’s a decision you have to make for yourself based on your unique circumstances. But you should not leave it off your list out of fear or ignorance. Iran is a special place, and if you choose to visit, you will very likely be as surprised as I was when I visited. From the people who live there to the architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites like Persepolis, there is something in Iran to suit almost any traveler’s style and budget.

Persepolis: Iran tourism for Americans and Canadians
Persepolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Iran Tourism for Americans and Canadians is different than for others. If you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen looking to visit Iran, then look no further. From getting a visa to the unique circumstances you’ll encounter as a citizen of one of these countries, this is your guide. We will cover:

  • Visas
  • Tour arrangements
  • Safety in general
  • LGBT safety
  • Hotels in major cities
  • Food
  • Money
  • What to pack (and not to pack)
  • …and more

And even if you’re not American or Canadian, there is some great information here for you. Iran is so much more than what you think you already know. Iran is food, people, places, and fun. Check out some of the things Michael discovered when he visited by clicking on a section below.

For More on Iran: When we travel, we use Lonely Planet. By buying a book at one of the links below, we get a small referral fee at no additional cost to you.

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Before You Go

Traveling to Iran requires a bit more planning than your average trip, especially if you are a citizen of the U.S. or Canada. Because these countries have no real diplomatic relations with Iran, there are things you need to do before you go that other travelers don’t. Don’t make the mistakes I did (like booking a flight before you planned your tour).

From visas to some of the restrictions you may encounter – it’s all here.

Click here to learn more

Things to See

When you’re in Iran, chances are, you’ll be confined to the major cities as an American or Canadian. When I was there, I visited Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kashan, and Yazd with a side trip to Abyaneh, a small, red mountain village Between Isfahan and Kashan.

Generally-speaking (and depending on the length of your trip) you’ll visit the main cities. If you’re staying longer than a couple of weeks, you’ll probably get out into the countryside more than I did. Here, I’ll tell you about the things to see and do in the cities that you’ll almost certainly encounter on your trip.

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Places to Stay

I visited five cities in Iran. Normally I would stay in hostels or use Couchsurfing; but in Iran, that was not really an option for me. My tour company booked hotels for me in advance in the cities I visited. And I think they did a pretty good job, considering the price I paid the the tour.

The bad news: I didn’t get to meet many people like I normally do. The good news: they were all pretty good hotels that I think you’d find pretty decent as well if you decided to use them.

Click here to learn more