Shiraz

by Ucman Scher
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Gay Travel/ LGBT Travel to Iran

Solo Trip Guide to Shiraz in Iran

Shiraz is undoubtedly my favourite city in Iran; it is a treasure trove of beautiful places, amazing people, great food, history and culture. It is also special to me because it has the tomb of Saadi, a favourite childhood hero whose fables I am still fond of. The city of Shiraz was part of my Iran trip and undoubtedly my favourite spot in the whole country.

Read my country guide about Iran to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.

Shiraz makes you feel beautiful

Shiraz is called the Rose of Persia, a title given because of its beautiful gardens and ornate architecture as well as the glamorous spring here full of flowers especially roses. It truly is a gem! Shiraz also became the capital of Persia in mid-eighteenth century for just 2-3 decades.

Fun Fact: Shiraz was famous for a special type of wine called Syrah which would leave people speechless in a trance. It is also mentioned in Persian tales, folklore and literature.

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The Roses of Shiraz

Getting to Shiraz

I got to Shiraz by taking a bus from Isfahan; it took around 6 hours from Isfahan to Shiraz. The bus was very comfortable and the buses are quite punctual. Check out my Iran page for details on how to search for flights, trains and buses within Iran because international websites do not serve the country).

The bus station is located quite outside the city but there were plenty of taxis available when we arrived to take us to our accommodation.

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Qoran Gate, the entry point to Shiraz

Because it is one of the main cities in Iran, Shiraz is very well connected via buses, train and air travel. It has an international airport which has flights from surrounding countries mainly from the Middle East. You can check the details here but the website is only in Farsi unfortunately.

Getting Around in Shiraz

Shiraz has a single metro line which I didn’t get to use because it is more practical than made for tourism. The best way to get around is taxis. Most of them are not metered but taxi drivers were reasonable but there wasn’t a lot of room for haggling and negotiating.

A street in Shiraz

A lot of the time locals stop and offer you a ride for money acting as unofficial taxis (sort of carpooling). It is common practise and during one such ride, I met the guy who took me to Persepolis for a decent amount of money and helped me get the ticket on local rate as well.

In the older part of the town, things are located fairly close to each other and you can get exploring on foot. I quite enjoyed walking through the old streets wondering if Saadi or Hafiz walked through the same streets.

Food in Shiraz

There are quite a few restaurants in Shiraz, most of them are amazing, some focussed on international tourists and international cuisine was disappointing. I’d highly recommend checking out local places.

Some of the must-try food are:

Kalam Polao – It is a rice dish only made in Shiraz and exquisitely made with meatballs and vegetables.

Kalam Polao

Aash – Aaash is a thick soup with meat and vegetables, really delicious and filling. The best Aash I have had was outside the Tomb of Saadi in a small shop (sadly I don’t remember the name but there was only one).

Aash

Paloodeh Shirazi – This is a special ice cream from Shiraz but it is a bit of acquired taste especially if you’re used to sweet ice cream. Ali Ghapou Ice cream shop is the famous place to try some but it is widely available.

I usually don’t like mentioning names of restaurants but I really enjoyed eating at Mirmohanna Restaurant and also at Kateh Mas.

Both places were great for food especially Kateh Mas. In Kateh Mas, they even organise some live music as well in the evenings, which was quite fun. You must also try kebab there, which was beautifully made and served.

If you are missing alcohol, Iran offers some of the best sherbet in countless flavours from sandalwood to cardamom to almond but with lunch, you should try Doogh, which is salted yoghurt drink with dried mint; I swear it is the best tranquillizer in the world, for a siesta.

Where to Stay in Shiraz

I’d highly recommend staying at the edge of the old town. We got a hotel near Zandiye Subway station which was very central and convenient. Check out the Iran page on how to find accommodation in Iran since main travel websites do not serve Iran.

Check the guide to find the best accommodation in a new city.

Best Time to Visit Shiraz

Shiraz must be visited in spring. This city is at the height of its beauty in the spring season and it has been famous throughout history for its spring. In summer it can get quite hot. I visited Shiraz in Mid-April which was the perfect time.

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Some beautiful verses by Saadi

How Many Days for Shiraz

You can spend a lifetime here and not get bored or run out of places to explore but ideally you need at least 3 days to appreciate the basics of Shiraz and a separate day to spend at Persepolis.

A flower from the Tomb of Saadi

How to Explore Shiraz

Shiraz has a lot of options when it comes to exploring, like I said before Shiraz is a treasure trove for history, culture and architecture lovers or anyone who is inspired by beauty.

To check how to visit Persepolis and Necropolis, visit my post here. For the rest, let’s go on our journey.

Learn about all the ways you can use to explore a new city.

Things to do in Shiraz

Note: I have included Qoran Gate in the Persepolis Post because it is a bit out of the city

Shah Cheragh

Entry Fee – Free

Entrance of Shah Cheragh

The masterpiece of Shiraz in every sense of the word! Even if nothing else existed around, this would still be a valid reason to visit this city. Shah e Cheragh (The king of light) is the title of a reverent Imam (sort of saint) who is buried here. It is not a single complex but a complex which has a mosque as well as the mausoleums and student’s residences as well.

If you’re a foreigner, you will be sent inside with volunteer guides who will show you around for free and provide information on the complex. If you are Muslim you will be allowed to go in freely and pray.

The day we arrived was a special day and the arches were lit bright red to mark the blood of martyrs and the central mausoleum was jam-packed, so much so that there was barely space to go inside so we decided to have a look around and leave and come back next morning to explore the place.

It was almost empty during morning hours the next day and we got our fill of the place. The building was erected initially in 14th century by the mother of the King but ti went multiple restorations and refurbishments, latest of which was in the 20th century.

It is quite hard to describe what this building is. Door after door, room after room and dome after dome is covered with delicate, intricate mirror work. The doors are made of silver with precious gems and detailed metalwork. The chandeliers hung above and the multi-coloured window arches change colours every hour. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen without much competition.

If you’re not convinced just look at the video below:

Tomb of Saadi

Entry Fee – $3

In order to get there, I took the taxi as the tomb is located a little farther out of the city.

Tomb of Saadi

Saadi has the same stature in Farsi as Shakespeare has in English. It is very befitting that his tomb is just as simple and elegant as his poetry. The building is host to an octagonal edifice with his grave and an azure dome. The edifice is surrounded by seven verses from his works. The building has simple but beautiful gardens around with plenty of space to sit and read Saadi or simple enjoy the sunset. It was a memorable visit, I felt like I was visiting a childhood friend who spoke from his grave.

Fun Fact: On the entrance of the United Nations you will find a poem of Saadi.

Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain, other members unease will remain

It was getting dark and I was hungry by the time I left. There was a small shop selling Aash which was the best I have had in my entire visit, followed by that famous Paloodeh Shirazi (Ice cream). I loved the Aash, ice cream I wasn’t entirely sold on but it is worth a try.

Nearby: If you have more time, do visit the nearby Delgosha Garden.

Want to learn how to take perfect photos while travelling solo? Read this guide.

Nasir ul Mulk Mosque

Entry Fee – 150,000 IRR

Entrance of Nasir ul Mulk Mosque

The Pink Mosque of Shiraz is another must-visit in Shiraz. It is located right in the old city inside the beautiful streets of Shiraz. Now for this place you have to visit in the first or second half of the day so you can see the light filtering through the windows in a millions shades of red and pink.

Central Courtyard

The entrance is also quite beautiful with gorgeous façade in pink and blue tiles. The central courtyard is rather simple with a waterway and fountain in the middle. The domes are decorated in the signature Persian style with pink tiles. On the right-hand side is the interior of the mosque which has the famous red and pink stained glass windows. Every arch and archway, every pillar is adorned with detailed work. The light is simply mesmerising!

I spend a good hour or so in here and came back to get some more before leaving.

Nearby: If you get some time, do check out the Jameh Ategh mosque nearby.

Bagh-e-Eram (Eram Garden)

Entry Fee – $2

This beautiful garden complex is the perfect example of Persian Gardens with the central palace a glorious building from Qajar era. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Not sure why I look so grumpy

Fun Fact: Eram Gardens in the historical and religious sense are the gardens of heaven which only true Muslims will enjoy.

The garden also acts as the botanical research institute. It is located at the edge of the town and you can see the mountains from one side of the garden.

The garden

We arrived in the evening to enjoy the cooling day sitting within the waterways representing the rivers in heaven. The centuries-old cypress trees and secluded grassy grounds attract many types of visitors from tourists to local love birds and students who all find it an amazing spot to spend time in.

The building in the centre of Eram Garden

The building is equally exquisite with verses from Persian poets adorned on its façade and walls. The fountains and tile work outside create a different environment, one which is hard to resist. This is a place of beauty and poetry and perhaps one of the reasons Shiraz is called the Rose of Persia.

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Vakil Mosque

Entry Fee – Not Sure

Another beautiful mosque located in the old part of the city right next to the entrance of Vakil Bazaar. The Vakil trio (Bath house, Bazaar and Mosque were all built in the mid-eighteenth century during the era of Zand dynasty.

Entrance arch of Vakil Mosque

The mosque is much simpler in appearance compared to the Nasir ul Mulk Mosque or the Shah Cheragh Complex but it is elegant in its own way. I arrived in the morning to enjoy the place in relative peace and there was barely anyone there. The entrance is the same as most mosques in Iran adorned with the typical architecture.

Courtyard of Vakil Mosque

The interior consists of the central courtyard and a prayer hall. The courtyard is also quite simple but the best part is the endless rows of arches in the prayer hall. In contrast to the highly decorated arches and interior of other mosques, there is relative simplicity here with brickwork. It doesn’t mean it is any less beautiful just different.

The arches of Vakil Mosque

Nearby: Karim Khan Castle stands just outside the mosque and the beautiful castle with its gigantic round corners is worth a good luck even if you’re not going inside. It has been turned into a museum.

Vakil Bath

Entry Fee – Not Sure

The Bath House is adjacent to the Mosque. It is quite big interior wise but it is not in great shape. It was good for a cursory glance but I didn’t spend much time in here.

Vakil Bath House

Vakil Bazaar

Entry Fee – Free

This is the Shiraz version of Grand Bazaar of Tehran. There are multiple entry and exit points and most of the streets are narrow. In older Middle Eastern style, different streets represent different trades and they would be classed based on that. (Cloth street, dyer’s street, spice merchants street etc.), Vakil bazaar is no exception. It is a grand place with lots to see and explore. There is an explosion of colours and smells.

Vakil Bazaar

We walked around for hours going from one alley to another and in the process explored public baths, small courtyards, caravanserais, antique shops, jewellery stores, great souvenirs at amazing prices and most importantly great food. There are vendors with small shops who make amazing local food, absolutely divine. You could spend a day here and not get bored.

At the end, we loitered into Sarai Moshir which used to be an old Caravanserai and has been converted into an exhibition space, nothing special but worth a quick look.

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Sarai Moshir

We finished off with some tea in the House of Poems which is quite beautiful (Staff was a bit weird though).

House of Poems

Tomb of Hafez

Entry Fee – $2

Hafez is another giant of Persian literature. He is considered the poet of the future and every Nowruz families up and down in Iran read his poems to try to find hints about the future. His literary works gave him a special place in Persian literature and he is the other reason Shiraz is considered the literary engine of Iran.

Entrance of Hafez Tomb

The tomb of Hafez is located inside another beautiful garden. The tomb is quite different from the tomb of Saadi. It is a bit more open with more detailed décor. Comparatively, there are a lot more people who visit this place but I guess, it comes down to your association with the person buried there.

the tomb

It was another evening when we arrived at the tomb by taking a taxi. The gardens around are beautiful and full of locals enjoying a beautiful spring evening. I headed to the mausoleum and found a spot to pray. It was a weird experience; how do you pray for eternal happiness for a romance lover poet who believed in living the life to its fullest in whatever time we have in this life?

Fun Fact: Goethe was quite a fan of Hafez and his philosophy of enjoying the short life we have been granted.

If you get more time, I would also recommend Bagh-e-naranjestan (Garden of Oranges) and Bagh-e-afifabad (Afifabad Garden).

A square in Shiraz

I am sure by now you must have guessed how much I love this city, I can’t wait to visit it again and see how it has changed with time (for the better I hope) and I’d appeal to the Iranian government to take care of the beautiful monument which is a proud part of Persian culture.

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