Ultimate Guide to Isfahan | Everything you need to know

Ultimate Guide to Isfahan

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque | Photo by: Mostafa Meraji

Isfahan half of the world

If you’ve decided to travel to Isfahan you must have heard of the Persian famous proverb “Esfahan nesf e jahan “ which means it’s half of the world. But why is that?

The first reason that comes to anyone’s mind is various monuments and architecture. But you can add these reasons to your list as well : diversity and being a symbol of freedom of belief in the past . The proof of these claims would be all the signs of Islamic, Christian and even Jewish culture you can see in the city.

Isfahan had faced many different rises and falls through history and had always played an important role in the politics of the country due to being located in the intersection of 2 principal ancient north_south and east_west routes that traverse Iran and right now it’s the most famous tourist destination in Iran.

Discoveries shown that human habitation here can be traced back to Paleolithic age and that urbanism grew in the exceptionally fertile soil on the banks of the Zayandeh Rud River in a region called Aspandana or Ispandana. The city has also had other names including spahan or Ispahan. So the famous current name Isfahan / Esfahan is actually the arabicized form of Ispahan.

The signs of diversity we talked about started from the reign of Cyrus the great who had unified Persian and Median lands and built the Achaemenid empire. At that era this region was a religiously and ethnically diverse city which indicated the king’s legendary religious tolerance and the freedom of belief that he had given to his people. He also declared Jews in Babylon could return to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and some of them settled in Ispahan instead.

Cultural Attractions

Some of the well-known bridges were built during Sassanid dynasty because their kings were fond of urban planning and also wanted to revive and reform Persian culture and Zoroastrian. At the moment the inhabitants of the city were a nation called sepahian and that’s why it was called sepahan . In the late 4th_early 5th century queen Shushandukht, Jewish consort of Yazdegerd I settled a colony of Jews in Yahudiya, in northwest of Zoroastrian city of Gabae located in the northern bank of Zayandeh Rud.

The city mainly grew prosperous under Persian Buyid (Buwayhid) dynasty and when Abbasid caliphs waned in 10th century. It was chosen as the capital at that time. Under the reign of turkish conqueror, Seljuk dynasty it grew in size and splendor and then lost its importance with the fall of Seljuk. But the so called “nesfe jahan” rose up again and regained its importance in Safavid dynasty (1501_1736) but mostly flourished under the reign of Shah Abbas I (1598) when he moved the capital from Qazvin and called it Ispahan (new Persian) so that it wouldn’t be threatened by Ottoman because of the more central location of the city and most of Isfahan’s fame is because of this era.

He also resettled people from near the unstable Safavid_Ottoman border, the wealthy town of Jugh (Julfa) in a new quarter of ispahan. This area was also called Julfa in the memorial of their old town and now you can see signs of Armenian_Christian culture in the area especially in Vank cathedral which is notable for the combination of Armenian_Christian and Iranian_islamic architecture. More migrants entered Isfahan from Southern parts of Iran In 20th century , mainly during Iran_Iraq war.

Capital of culture

Nowadays Isfahan, being chosen as the first cultural capital of Iran in 2005, is well-known for its fine carpets, textiles, steel, handicraft, traditional food and sweet and also for having the largest steel producing industry of middle east and northern Africa but keeping all these in mind it’s still mostly famous for all the architecture masterpieces including the amazing bridges and the night life around them, churches and of course Naqsh_e_Jahan square which has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Generally the only downside to this amazing trip may be becoming heartbroken by seeing the dried out Zayandeh Rud while the signs around it warn you not to swim or you may drown!

Naghshe Jahan square Isfahan

Naghshe Jahan square

Language

The official language of the Isfahan province is Persian, though different ethnic groups and tribes continue speaking by their own languages. in the main city, people have special dialect of Persian, which they call it Esfahaani or Isfahaani. but you can find some people in other parts who speak Judeo-Persian, Armenian, Georgian, Qashqai Turkic or Bakhtiari Lurish.

Climate

The coldest month in Isfahan province is January, with an average high-temperature of 8.8°C  and an average low-temperature of -2.4°C . Normally it rains about 25 days during the year (112.5mm). Usually in September there is no rain during the year and December experience the most rainy days. From Jan to Apr we may have snowfall in Isfahan, mostly in January. July is the hottest month, with an average high-temperature of 36.4°C and an average low-temperature of 21.5°C.

For more info click here.

Average temperature in Isfahan during the year

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Isfahan is during the spring and autumn, same as most other important cities in center and north of Iran (March until May – late September to early November). It is better to avoid visiting Isfahan in winter if you don’t like cold weather, but can be the best time if you are a photographer as there are not that much tourist in famous attractions. In summer, it is too hot, so bring a hat and water with you.

Public transportation

Cycling is the traditional way of transportation between the people until some years ago, and still you can do it. There are rental bike stations that are currently some of them are available for tourists. but the easiest way to travel around the city is to use public transportation such as buses, BRT (bus rapid transportation), metro, taxi, etc. To pay less in cash, you can buy Isfahan Card to use buses, without limitations, which can be topped up at all subway stations and certain bus stop booths.

Until now there is only one subway line which stretches from North to the South of Isfahan, passing under Isfahan’s most important street such as  Charbagh Street. You can reach the most attractions by metro.

you can use shared taxi which is limited to 4 people. they are economic and Departure point and destination are fixed. Private taxi is more comfortable but more expensive. If you have internet you can use Snapp application with your cellphone, but it is in Persian language. You can also get a taxi from anywhere in the city by calling 133 or 03137137 (in Persian language, so ask a local guy to help you). If you are a lady and prefer to have a lady driver, it is possible. just simply call 1880 (in Persian language).

photo by: Iman Soleimany Zadeh

Bus Terminals

DestinationDuration (hr)
Bandar Abbas12
Hamadan7
Kashan3
Kermanshah10
Khorramabad6
Mashhad16
Orumiyeh17
Sanandaj10
Shiraz6
Tabriz12
Tehran6
Tehran Airport (IKA)5
Yazd5

Train

Isfahan railway station located in the south of the city which takes about 30 minutes by a private taxi. There are high quality overnight trains (Ghazal train & Persian Gulf train) from Tehran to Isfahan which takes about 8 hours to get there.

It is better to book your tickets beforehand (most easily through a travel agent) specially on weekends or in holiday periods.

DestinationDuration (hr)
Bandar Abbas15
Kashan
Mashhad18
Tehran8

Airport

Isfahan International Airport is located in east part of city and about 40 minutes away from city center by taxi. he airport has two terminals, one for Domestic Flights and one for International Flights.

Attractions

  1. Naqsh-e Jahan Square
  2. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
  3. Imam Mosque (Shah Mosque)
  4. Chehel Sotoun
  5. Ali Qapu Palace
  6. Vank Cathedral
  7. Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
  8. Si O Se Pol Bridge
  9. Khaju Bridge
  10. Grand Bazaar
  11. Atashgah – Zoroastrian Fire Temple
  12. Isfahan Music Museum
  13. Hasht Behesht Palace
  14. Monare Jonban – Shaking Minarates
  15. Chahar Bagh Theological School
  16. Motamedi (Mollabashi) historical house
  17. Sofeh Mountain
  18. Isfahan Seashell Museum
  19. Fotowat Miniaturist
  20. Nazhvan Forest Park
  21. Chaharbagh School
  22. Flower Garden
  23. Museum of Islamic Heritage
  24. Bedkhem Church
  25. Hamam-e Ali Gholi Agha
  26. Isfahan City Center
  27. Qeysarie Gate
  28. Safavi House
  29. Amin’s House
  30. Shahrestan Bridge
  31. Joui Bridge (Choobi Bridge)
  32. Angurestan Historical House
  33. Ali Mosque Minaret
  34. Iran art gallery
  35. Atigh Square
  36. Hakim Mosque
  37. Isfahan Birds Garden
  38. Marnan Bridge
  39. Mardavij Pigeon Towers
  40. Honar Gold Bazaar
  41. Contemporary Arts Museum Isfahan
  42. Seyyed Mosque
  43. St. Mary Church
  44. Museum of Decorative Arts
  45. Seyyed Mosque
  46. Lonban Mosque
  47. Javaheri Historical House
  48. Malek Vineyard
  49. Rehnan Historical Bath
  50. Minar Chihil Dukhtaran
  51. Kohneh Square
  52. Kaj Mosque
  53. Dream Land
  54. Aabsar Water Park
  55. Khara Desert

* Written by Nafiseh Asadollahi & Mohammad Naderi.