8 Unforgettable Things to do in Shiraz: The Rainbow City of Iran
Nestled in the Fars province of southwest Iran lies the colorful city of Shiraz, a place known for its charming gardens, famous poets, and delicious wine. During the Zand dynasty (1747-1779), Shiraz was actually the capital of Iran, and for over 2,000 years, it was also deemed as the beating heart of Persian culture.
Today, Shiraz is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Iran. From its many stunning mosques to its lovely gardens, there are more than enough attractions and activities in this city to keep you busy for 2-3 days. There are also some incredible day trips you can take from this city to explore other gems nearby.
Before we dive into the 8 most unforgettable things to do in Shiraz, though, let’s address something you might be wondering about: is Iran actually safe to travel to? The short answer is absolutely — Iran is one of the safest and friendliest countries I’ve been to. In fact, it’s truly one of the most underrated dream travel destinations in the world with incredibly welcoming locals and delicious food. It’s definitely massively misrepresented by the news and media.
8 Top Things to do in Shiraz, Iran
1. Catch a Stunning Light Show at the Pink Mosque
Ever felt like stepping inside a kaleidoscope? Visiting Nasir Ol Molk Mosque (also known as the Pink Mosque) definitely feels like that.
This mosque is the highlight of any trip to Shiraz and is famous for its colorful stained-glass windows. Every morning, the sunlight reflects on these windows and creates a “rainbow” light show on the carpeted floor.
Watching this magical light show is truly a breathtaking experience. As you can imagine, this is why this mosque also attracts a lot of photographers.
To capture this unforgettable light show, be sure to bring the best camera gear with you. I recommend some of these lenses for Sony A6400, a very easy-to-use camera that performs really well in low-light situations. Go for a wide-angle lens if you also want to capture the majestic feel of this mosque.
You can also walk around the courtyard outside this mosque; there’s a nice pool in the middle of it and beautiful tiles all around you. The Pink Mosque is open from Tuesdays to Sundays only (closed on Mondays).
The opening hours are from 7 am to 5 pm, and I recommend you to get there as soon as the doors open because it can get crowded quite fast.
2. Take a Relaxing Stroll in Eram Garden
Eram Garden is one of the most remarkable Persian gardens in Iran, and a wonderful place to go for a peaceful and relaxing stroll in the city. There are over 200 species of roses in this garden as well as a variety of different plants and fruit trees. You’ll also see a famous cypress tree that has over 3,000 years of history!
Perhaps the most picturesque part of this garden is the long pool in front of a beautiful palace inside the premise. The atmosphere there is very calming and enchanting, with birds chirping in the distance and a scent of flowers all around you. It’s not hard to see why the name of this garden translates to “paradise” according to the Quran!
3. Admire the Sacred Shah Cheragh Shrine
Another incredible thing to do in Shiraz is visiting the sacred Shah Cheragh Shrine, which is only a 20-minute walk (or 5 minutes by car) from the Pink Mosque. This attraction was actually the most important pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims back in the days, and it’s still one of the holiest spots in Shiraz today.
While the exterior facade of this shrine is stunning, its interiors are even more breathtaking. You’ll be surrounded by some incredibly intricate and brilliant mirror-work that decorate the ceilings and walls of the shrine, and they glimmer all around you like diamonds. Perhaps it’s no surprise that in Persian, the name “Shah Cheragh” means “king of the light”.
If you’re a woman, you’ll be given a chador (a large piece of cloth that covers your whole body) upon entering the shrine. This must be worn at all times during your visit and is free of charge.
4. Taste the Local Cuisine at a Traditional Restaurant
Iran is not only known for its stunning mosques and shrines. The local cuisine is absolutely exquisite, and no visit to this country would be complete without tasting some traditional Persian dishes. I highly recommend stopping by Kateh Mas Restaurant, which is only a 15-minute walk from the Pink Mosque. This traditional restaurant is beautifully decorated and has a variety of delicious dishes.
Be sure to try Kofte Shirazi, meatballs made with eggs and carrots. The Shirazi Polo is also very exquisite and consists of eggplants, chicken, rice, and yogurt. Some other traditional dishes to try include the Shirin Polo (Persian rice with almond and pistachio), Ash-e-Sabzi (a vegetable soup), and Eshkeneh Shirazi (a soup made of eggs, yogurt, onion, and dried mint).
5. Experience the Poetic Vibes at Tomb of Hafez
Hafez (1315 – 1390) is one of the most famous and beloved people in Iran. He’s a famous poet who’s essentially deemed as the Shakespeare of the country, and every household in Iran has a copy of the Dīvān, a collection of his works.
Born in Shiraz, Hafez is celebrated by many locals today at his tomb, which is located inside the Musalla Gardens in the northern part of the city. There’s a very peaceful and serene atmosphere at the Tomb of Hafez, and it’s a great place to experience Shiraz’s poetic vibes. The Musalla Gardens is also an awesome spot to go for a stroll.
You’ll see many locals gathering at the Tomb of Hafez, especially on National Hafez Day, which takes place on October 12th.
6. Shop for Souvenirs at the Vakil Bazaar
If you’re visiting Iran, why not bring some awesome souvenirs home with you? Vakil Bazaar is the perfect place to shop for gifts in Shiraz. This bazaar consists of several caravansarais, courtyards, and bathhouses, and you can find just about anything in the shops there — from traditional handicrafts and spices to Persian rugs. It’s also a great place to taste some delicious local sweets and have a chat with the locals.
You’ll find that Iranian are super welcoming and friendly, and bazaars are actually some of the best places to strike up a conversation with them. There are also lots of lovely cafes and restaurants in the area. The Vakil Bazaar is open from 7:15 am to 10:15 pm everyday except for Friday, when it is closed.
7. Admire the Symmetry Inside Vakil Mosque
After shopping at Vakil Bazaar, don’t leave the area just yet, because another one of the most spectacular mosques in Shiraz is only a few steps away. Vakil Mosque was built in the 18th century and has 48 unique spiral pillars supporting its structure. If you’re a fan of symmetric architecture, you will love this place.
Aside from admiring the beautifully unique aesthetics of this mosque, you can also simply relax and take in the peaceful atmosphere around you. Unlike many other sacred places in Shiraz, this mosque is less visited by tourists and is therefore a lot quieter.
8. Take a Day Trip to Persepolis & Naqsh-e Rostam
No trip to Shiraz would be complete without visiting the nearby ancient city of Persepolis, which is often done as an easy day trip. You can simply hire a taxi, which will get you there in just an hour. Persepolis is the ultimate place to learn about the history of Iran. This UNESCO site used to be the capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550 – 330 BC), and today, you can see all that remains of it.
After you’re done exploring the ruins of Persepolis, be sure to ask your driver to take you to Naqsh-e Rostam as well, as it is just a 10-minute drive away. Naqsh-e Rostam is the royal necropolis of the Achaemenid Empire and it’s famous for its grandiose rock-carved tombs, which honor ancient Persian kings.
The best part about visiting Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam is that you will likely feel incredibly humbled by the vast history of Iran.
That was 8 unforgettable things to do in Shiraz, Iran. If you want to discover other stunning places in Iran, be sure to visit Isfahan, Yazd, Kashan, and Kerman as well. Getting around Iran is actually super easy and convenient. You can take buses (or VIP buses if you don’t mind paying a bit extra) between all the major cities for very low prices ($5 – $10 USD). The buses are really comfortable and journey lengths between the cities mentioned above range from 2 to 5 hours.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Shiraz and that these tips will be useful in helping you plan your trip to Iran!
Jiayi is the writer and photographer behind The Diary of a Nomad, a travel and photography blog with a special love for hidden gems and less-visited destinations. She hopes to shine a positive spotlight on places that are often misrepresented by the media and inspire others to visit them as well. You can follow more of her adventures on her blog and her Instagram.