Business Insider – Jewish Australian writer Ben Winsor about visiting Iran

There's a lot to see in Tehran, but make sure you get out to see the Darband waterfalls and the nearby ski resorts, all popular with the locals.

There’s a lot to see in Tehran, but make sure you get out to see the Darband waterfalls and the nearby ski resorts, all popular with the locals.

While Iran is seen by some in the West as a country full of crazy fundamentalists hell-bent on America’s nuclear destruction, the reality you’ll see inside the country couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact is, the majority of the Iranian public love Westerners — Americans in particular — making Iran one of the safest countries on our list even for female travelers. Opinion polls show the majority of Iranians hold a favorable opinion of Americans, making Iran second only to Israel as the most supportive population in the Middle East.

The Azadi tower (freedom tower) is an impressive gateway to the city, built to symbolize 2,500 years of Persian culture.

The Azadi tower (freedom tower) is an impressive gateway to the city, built to symbolize 2,500 years of Persian culture.To travel as a Westerner is to be routinely stopped on the street and welcomed by curious and generous Iranians. When I was there last summer I was constantly offered with cold drinks, invited to parties, and given free tours by locals.

 

There is a ton to see there: cheap ski resorts in the Alborz mountains north of Tehran, ancient clay-baked mosques in Kashan, the stunning central square of Isfahan, the Tatooine-like ruins of Na’in, and the ancient ruins of Persepolis near Shiraz.

While Western sanctions mean you can’t use your Visa or MasterCard in the country, you won’t have to take much cash. All expenses — including transport, food, and accommodation — amounted to less than $200 for my 11-day trip last year. 

Inexpensive, air conditioned buses run frequently between most cities, and a full falafel sandwich will often only set you back 25 cents. There’s amazing rosewater ice cream almost everywhere in summer for about 10 cents a cone.

persepolisJohn Moore/GettyPersepolis, literally “city of the Persians,” was the capital of the first Persian empire 2,500 years ago.

Iran is safe for female travelers. Iranian women dress fashionably, and the level of respect on the streets could be considered high even by Western standards. However, it is mandatory to wear a headscarf in public at all times. Headscarves are skimpy, colorful, and barely attached in Tehran, but in regional areas more conservative coverings are the norm.

Nain Na'in IranThe old city of the tiny town of Na’in.

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