Iran is home to plenty of the magnificent historical and archaeological sites, bazaars, museums, mosques and gardens while enjoying such diverse natural landscapes as lakes, wetlands, forests, mountains, valleys, islands, caves, springs and waterfalls. They range from hot mineral water showers in the northwest to hiking and skiing in the Alborz Mountains to magnificent architectural sight-seeing in the center and beach holidays in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. There are 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran, including the ancient city of Persepolis, Isfahan’s Imam Square (Naghsh-e Jahan Square) and Jameh Mosque of Isfahan.
The country is one of the world’s top potential tourist destinations as Daily Telegraph named it as one of the best destinations for tourism in 2014. Iran has mainly relied on oil exports for decades, but that attitude is changing in sync with the world view which is grooming tourism as the third biggest revenue generator after oil and car-making. Iranian officials are trying to facilitate the entry of foreign travelers to the country. The have declared that Iran is ready to cooperate with foreign investors in tourism and related industries.
For the time being, citizens of 190 countries can obtain visa on arrival (VOA) at the country’s airports with three-month validation. However, nationals of several countries – including the USA, Somali, the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – are not eligible to travel to Iran independently and they need to obtain visa from Iranian consular services in their countries. The country has currently 1,125 hotels and guest houses, of which only 130 are four- and five-star establishments. The goal is to increase the number of quality hotels to 400 within 10 years. In every major city you can find at least two hotels, which are well prepared for backpackers and independent travelers. Staying in these often traditional houses is mostly affordable. French group AccorHotels became the first foreign branded hotel to set up shop in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution when they opened two hotels–Ibis and Novotel– in 2015 near Imam Khomeini International Airport, 30 km south of Tehran.