A chaotic and smog-filled metropolis of some 15 million people, Tehran appears an unlikely holiday destination. But travellers will quickly find that its long history and increasingly cosmopolitan mindset make it an undiscovered gem in the Middle East.
Tehran can be roughly divided into two parts. The northern districts are more modern and prosperous, with large shopping malls, international restaurants, and luxury hotels. Alternatively, the southern areas are more rundown but cheaper, and home to massive bazaars, historical buildings, and sidewalk falafel stands.
The city is home to some of the best museums in the Middle East, with as many as 50 to choose from. The most popular is undoubtedly the Golestan Palace, while the Crown Jewels of Iran is a must-see exhibit located in the Central Bank. Other worthwhile stops include the Carpet Museum of Iran, the Time Museum, and the Museum of the Islamic Period.
Tehran can be overwhelming, and short trips tend to be the most satisfying. When the bustle becomes too much, travellers can visit vastly different places, spending a few days in Ramsar, a holiday town on the Caspian Sea; Na'in, a small desert town; or Dizin, which is Iran's largest ski resort.
Opinions on the safety of travelling to Tehran are divided, with many residents and experienced travellers proclaiming it largely safe. However the US State Department advises against tourist travel to Tehran, as does the British Foreign Office. Nonetheless, anyone travelling to Tehran should stay up-to-date with the latest media coverage.