Trans Eurasia travel

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Central Iran

The expression ‘history resonates’ is bandied about with gay abandon in guidebooks, but here in central Iran it really does apply. Ever since Cyrus the Great’s dramatic rise from provincial overlord to ruler of the largest empire on earth, this part of the country has been a showcase for the region’s greatest civilisations. The imperial majesty of Esfahan (Isfahan), the refined and understated elegance of Shiraz and the weathered desert ambience of Yazd stand in fascinating contrast, three points on a journey off ering history, culture and challenges in abundance.

This is a region where it pays to stay moving. Nomadic people and trading caravans were common sights in the past, and modern travellers often follow in their footsteps, crossing mountains and deserts en route to towns, cities and villages that are as rich in history as they are in hospitality. It’s one of the great cultural pilgrimages of our time.

The best times to visit are generally autumn and spring, although weather conditions do vary from province to province. Avoid travelling here in summer, particularly in the desert areas, as it can hit 50°C. At the other extreme, winter brings snow to the Zagros Mountains and freezing nights in the desert.

If you are keen to experience a local festival, Ashura (in July) is particularly fascinating (especially in Shiraz and Yazd), but we suggest staying away during No Ruz (Iranian New Year; 21 March to 3 April), when the entire region is swamped with Iranian holidaymakers.