A Day in Persepolis and Necropolis
First things first; the Iranian names for these sites are important to remember; Persepolis is Takht e Jamshid and Necropolis is Naksh e Rustum.
Check out my post about Shiraz to get information about how to get to Shiraz and where to stay as well as things to do in the Rose of Persia.
A visit to Shiraz and Iran will be incomplete without a visit to Persepolis, the ancient ruins of once beautiful ceremonial capital of Achaemenid Empire from 550-330 B.C.
Read my country guide about Iran to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
It is undeniably impressive and grand and despite time taking its toll along with multiple invaders (Alexander the Great burnt the place down after conquering it, you can still see the signs of the fire in the temple of 100 columns).
In order to visit Persepolis and Necropolis, you will need a full day to enjoy the grandeur of this place.
Persepolis was the ceremonial capital built by Darius I, the place was developed further by many kings. It was a symbol of Persian might. It included multiple palaces which were adorned with items from around the world. Greeks erected the pillars, the gemstones came from India and the cedar wood was imported by Lebanon. It was the centre of the empire and rightfully so.
Fun Fact: The name Persepolis come from Greek which is a combination of Parsa and Polis or The Persian City.
How to book a Tour for Persepolis?
If you are travelling with a tour group you will be going with them but if you are travelling on your own, you will need some assistance. I would suggest speaking to a taxi driver for the full day to take you to Persepolis and Necropolis which will work out cheaper than most tours. I bumped into a local while hailing a cab who offered to take me to both sites for a reasonable price. He was great company and spoke English which made things easier for me.
Practical Tips for Persepolis Visit
- Bring some screen, sunglasses and a hat, you will need it even in winter.
- The food around is very overpriced and bad and with so much walking around you are bound to get hungry, pack some snacks and water with you.
- There are no maps or brochures available at the ticket counter or shop, download the map on your phone beforehand and read about it to really enjoy your visit. You will be shown a brief documentary about the sights which was also quite helpful.
- Wear comfortable shoes, the surfaces are uneven and you will get tired soon.
On the Way
I woke up early and got ready to head straight o beat the crowd. It was a beautiful spring day and the sun was shining bright. We left the city behind us and headed first to the Necropolis site which is around 60 km outside the city of Shiraz. The road was good and it took 45 minutes to arrive there. The road passed through the rural Shiraz and with some Persian music we arrived at Necropolis or Naqsh e Rustum.
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Naqsh E Rustum – Necropolis
We arrived to find a decorated camel near the entrance gate. The poor soul was waiting with its master for some tourists to take around. We purchased the tickets and headed inside.
Entry Fee – $6
A bit of walk later we arrived at the first tomb. It was nothing like I was expecting. The rocks have been carved to create the amazing and gigantic facades of the tombs. Only one of the four tombs is marked to be of Darius I, the other 3 are believed to be of his son Xerxes I, his son Artaxerxes I, and his grandson Darius II. The tombs have been empty for quite some time with sarcophagi moved as early as 2nd century B.C. probably robbed by the armies of Alexander the Great.
The site is small and you can easily explore, I walked around to appreciate the beauty of these mammoth mausoleums. It was mind-bending that these were built such a long time ago but I guess they built Pyramids before these. I was clearly underestimating their intelligence and prowess in engineering.
A couple of hours late, I decided to make a move towards Persepolis and headed out. Persepolis is located some 12 km away from the site of Necropolis and we arrived in 15 minutes.
Persepolis or Takht e Jamshid
Entry Fee – $6
We arrived and purchased the tickets. There were only a few people arriving but it seemed to be a quiet day.
Note: You cannot bring big bag packs here, only small bags are allowed, you’ll need to bring any big bags in your transport.
We were shown into a room with some chairs and a projector. We were shown a documentary which provided some great insight on the site and animated images of what the site looked like back then. It was time to explore the beautiful Persepolis.
Fun Fact: The Farsi name; Takht e Jamshid means The Throne of Jamshid who was a king in Persian mythology.
The first grand point is the Gate of All Nations. We walked through the massive double-sided grand staircase (Stairs of All Nations) up to head to the get there.
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Gate of All Nations
I arrived at the Gate of All Nations which is the first Achaemenid structure inside Persepolis proper. The gate is imposing and grand and the mythical winged bulls on both sides are guarding the entrance. It was built by Xerxes I. The carving on top reads:
“By the grace of Ahura Mazda, this ‘Gate of All Nations’ I made; much else (that is) beautiful (was) done throughout Parsa which I did and which my father did; whatever work seems beautiful, all that we did by the grace of Ahura Mazda.”
People from nations:
Passing through the Gate of All Nations I arrived at the Throne or Audience Hall called Apadana. It is one of the first grand buildings built by Darius I. The tall columns represent the might of empire and its reach to Ahura Mazda.
The walls of Apadana are lined with pictures of dignitaries coming to present various gifts to the king. There are 23 different groups from all provinces or areas of the empire each lead by a Persian or a Median soldier or usher. The empire stretched all the way to present-day Pakistan in the East and Greece in the west.
Tachara (Palace of Darius the Great)
Darius I was the first king of Persepolis and Tachara was his palace. It was the first palace that was built and despite centuries passing, it is incredibly well preserved. It was an interesting experience because this structure makes it easiest to imagine the grandeur of its past glory.
Panorama of Persepolis
A further walk up and I reached the best spot in the entire complex. This small hill shows the entirety of this beautiful city. The raised columns of Apadana and the ruins of Apadana lie right in front of you.
The last Shah of Iran erected a massive complex of tents to entertain his foreign guests with views of this beautiful place and apparently ruined some of the sites in the process; what an utter dick!
It was time to head to the last spot which is a bit of an outlier. The kings were traditionally buried in the Necropolis but Artaxerxes III was buried at the sight higher up than the city and I was going to see his tomb.
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Tomb of Artaxerxes III
The tomb was a bit of a reminder and while not as grand as the facades of Necropolis, it was a great chance to get up and close to the facade.
Throughout the visit, I kept wondering how much dedication, manipulation and control must have gone in to build all of this at this scale in the times when technology wasn’t advanced and some people spent their entire lives knowing nothing but this manual work and the facade of the tomb provided a good idea; A LOT!
There is no way to know whether it was forced or sheer love on the part of subjects but the result is incredible.
It was getting close to the closing time and both of us were quite hungry, it was time to head back to Shiraz but it wasn’t all for the day.
Qoran Gate is the oldest entry point to Shiraz. It was recently renovated and earned many awards for its innovative design and architecture. the area around has been converted into a social space with many restaurants, cafes. We grabbed some food to satisfy our hunger which was great. I, unfortunately, do not remember the name of the place where we ate.
The last task of the day was to find some amazing Khaaksheer sherbet (Flixweed) which was my favourite for evenings throughout my stay in Iran. It becomes even yummier when you add chia seeds to it.
I am still amazed at the might of this incredible historical site and thankful at the opportunity to have visited it. My day visiting Persepolis and Necropolis will remember one of the most memorable days of my life.
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