If you are asking yourself what the World Heritage Site is, the answer is, it’s a place such as a building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or mountain, which is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of special cultural or physical significance.
Since 1979, when three monuments of Iran inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site for the first time, 24 properties added as World Heritage Sites of Iran in it, included 22 cultural sites, and 2 natural ones.
In this article, we are going to introduce all Iran UNESCO world heritage sites in brief. However, you can find more information on each one in a separate article on our blog.
Cultural Sites (22)
Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
Qara Kelisa is one of the oldest and most notable surviving Christian monuments in Iran. Due to this reason, a special three-day pilgrimage event holds for the baptism of Armenian children annually.
The monument which is located about 20 kilometers from the town of Chaldiran was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.
Bam and its Cultural Landscape
The city of Bam is situated in a deserted area in the southern part of Iran, which is believed that the city was originated during the Achaemenid period. The city and its cultural landscape were listed as a UNESCO world heritage sites in 2004, one year after the 2003 earthquake.
The most interesting site of the city is the Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel) with a history of 2,000 years. Unfortunately, most of the citadel was destroyed by the earthquake of 2003.
The Bisotun monument is situated along the historical trade route of Silk Road, containing remains dating from pre-historic times through the history of ancient Persia. The complex was inscribed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2006.
The oldest monument in the complex is the Bisotun Inscription, which was made in 521 BC in the order of Darius I the Great when he conquered the Persian throne. The inscription is written in three different languages: Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian.
Cultural Landscape of Maymand
Maymand is an ancient village in which stone engravings nearly 10,000 years old are found, and deposits of pottery nearly 6,000 years old attest to the long history of settlement at the village site.
The village is believed to be a primary human residence in the Iranian Plateau, dating back to 12,000 years ago. The cultural landscape of Maymand was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
One of the most beautiful sites in Tehran is The Golestan Palace. The Palace is a masterpiece from the Qajar dynasty which successfully represents the integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences. It is one of the oldest complexes in Teheran, to home the family of Qajar which came into power in 1779 and named Teheran as their capital city. The walled palace inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.
Related Tour: Historical Tehran tour
The tower of Gonbad-e Qabus is one of those valuable monuments in the north part of Iran which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2012.
The tower has 53 meters’ height, which was built in 106 AD in the order of Qābus ibn Voshmgir, Ziyarid ruler and literati.
It is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Jordan in north-east of Iran. The architecture and design of the tower represent the culture of both Central Asian nomads and the ancient civilization of Iran.
Historic City of Yazd
It is believed that the name of the city is derived from Yazdegerd I, the Sassanids king of Persia. The word Yazd means God. The city is the most well-known for being the center of Zoroastrian.
There are so many monuments and historical sites in Yazd which is worth visiting. Masjed Jame Yazd, Amir chaqmaq Tekieh, Water Museum, Varahram Fire Temple, Alexander/Harun Prison, Dolat Abad Garden, Lari historical house, and Fahadan district are the places you should include in your plan for your travel to Yazd.
The historic city of Yazd was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2017.
Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan
Masjed-e Jame of Isfahan can be considered as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries. The mosque is the oldest preserved monument of its type in the country. It is also a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia.
With more than 20,000 m2 area it is also the first Islamic building with a four-courtyard layout in which the idea is taken from Sasanian palaces. It has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012.
Meidan Emam, Esfahan
Meidan Emam, or as previously known as Naghsh -e Jahan Square is located at the center of Isfahan city. The Square includes a Bazaar, a Palace and two Mosques listed as Iran UNESCO heritage sites in 1979.
In 1598, Shah Abbas decided to choose Isfahan as the capital city, and therefore, he ordered to build the square in the center of the city with all needed for living, so it would be displayed to everyone from all over the town. As a result of his decision, the construction started in 1598 and ended in 1629.
Pasargadae was the capital city of the Achaemenid Empire under the governance of Cyrus the Great. The main monument and all the other ones listed as the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO in 2004. It is believed that the Pasargadae has been cited as an early example of the Chahar Bagh (Chahar stands for four, and bagh for the garden) which is known as Persian Gardens currently.
The tomb of Cyrus the Great is the most important monument in Pasargadae area with six broad steps and a chamber on top. There is a variation on the monuments from Cyrus the Great, which says: “I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world”.
The magnificent ruin of the Persepolis is located at the foot of Kuh-e Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) in south-western Iran, about 60 km northeast of Shiraz. UNESCO has listed the Persepolis in World Heritage Sites in 1979.
The Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, it is believed that the Persepolis was occupied seasonally and the most function of the Persepolis was during Nowruz (Iranian New Year Festival).
The monument has different sections; military quarters, the treasury, the reception halls and occasional houses for the King. There are also the Great Stairways, the Gate of All Nations, the Apadana, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, the Tripylon Hall, the Tachara, the Hadish Palace, the Palace of Artaxerxes III, the Imperial Treasury, the Royal Stables, and the Chariot House.
Related Tour: Iran Classic tour
Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region
Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region is the official denomination given by UNESCO to eight pre-Islamic Sassanid-era archaeological sites situated in the southeast part of Fars Province in Iran. All of these 8 sites as a whole was registered on 30 June 2018 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These eight sites situated in three geographical parts; Firuzabad, Bishapur, and Sarvestan. These sites include Qal'eh Dokhtar, Ardashir Investiture Relief, Victory Relief of Ardashir, Ardashir Khurreh, Palace of Ardashir in Firuzabad, City of Bishapur, and Shapur cave in Bishapur, and Sarvestan Palace in Sarvestan region.
Shahr-e Sokhteh, which stands for ‘Burnt City’, is situated at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. According to the evidence, it is believed that the city was structured around 3200 BC, which was populated during four main periods till the end of 1800 BC.
The structures, burial grounds and a large number of significant artifacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC. The main monument and all the surroundings listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2014.
Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
The Shrine and Khanegah of Sheikh Safi al-Din in Ardabil are one of the magnificent monuments in Iran which was built from the beginning of the 16th century till the end of the 18th century. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. If you have a plan to travel to Iran, and visiting the northwestern part of the country is in your itinerary, be sure to consider visiting the Sheikh Safi al-Din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
The historical hydraulic system in Shushtar which dates back to the Achaemenid period in the 5th century was registered as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2009 and has been referring to as a “masterpiece of creative genius” by UNESCO.
The construction of the hydraulic system is an interconnected set of bridges, weirs, dams, mills, water cascades, canals, and tunnels. The main material used in the complex are granite, plaster of lime and mortar. The main reason for constructing this amazing system was the efficient use of water and sharing the volume of water into the different areas of Shushtar. Even after centuries, some part of the hydraulic system is still working.
Dome of Soltaniyeh or as it said in Farsi “Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh” is the oldest double-shell dome in Iran, and one of the third largest dome in the world after the dome of Florence Cathedral in Italy, and Hagia Sophia dome in Turkey. The double-shell is formed by separate layers of brick that run parallel to one another and that are joined through buttresses.
The monument listed as one of the World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2005. People who have traveled to Soltaniyeh and have an experience of traveling to India described the architecture of the building as “anticipating the Taj Mahal.”
The ancient city of Susa is one of the significant property in Iran and one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East which inscribed by UNESCO in 2015.
The property embraces a group of archaeological mounds rising on the eastern side of the Shaver River, while the Ardeshir’s palace is situated on the opposite side of the river.
The ancient city of Susa is located at the lower Zagros Mountains in the south-west of Iran.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
The Tabriz Bazaar Complex registered as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2010. It was the first Bazaar to be nominated as a valuable monument. The magnificent complex covers about 7 kilometer2 with 24 caravanserais (sets of rooms sets around the courtyard), and 22 impressive sub-bazaars which are known as Timcheh (domed halls).
Construction of the bazaar began over a millennium ago, however much of the fine brick vaulting dates to the 15th century.
The archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman, listed as Iran World Heritage site in 2003. The site with a volcano at one side and lake at the other side display two major symbolic and spiritual items for Zoroastrian; fire and water, and that is the reason why this monument was important to them.
The site includes the principal Zoroastrian fire temple which was built during the Sassanid period and rebuilt during the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period around the 13th and 14th centuries. This temple used to house one of the three “Great Fires” or “Royal Fires” that Sassanid kings humbled themselves before the throne.
Tchogha Zanbil is an ancient Elamite complex which is located in the southwest of Iran. Culture, beliefs, and ritual traditions of one of the oldest indigenous people of Iran was reviled from the studies on the complex.
The ziggurat of Tchogha Zanbil is the best-preserved one with this architecture. The complex listed as the first Iranian site in UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. The major material used in the construction of the building were mud and baked bricks.
The Persian Garden
The nine gardens in Iran as the symbols of Persian Gardens concept, listed as World Heritage Sites of UNESCO in 2011. These gardens dated back to different periods and located in as many provinces all over the country.
Studies show that these gardens usually have some similar elements in the concept. These nine Persian gardens include the Ancient Garden of Pasargadae in Shiraz, Eram Garden in Shiraz, Chehel Sotoon Garden in Isfahan, Fin Garden in Kashan, Abbas Abad Garden in Behshahr, Shahzadeh Mahan Garden in Kerman, Dowlat Abad Garden in Yazd, Pahlavan Pour Garden in Mehriz, and Akbarieh Garden in Birjand.
The Persian Qanat
The Persian’s Qanat system dated back to the 7th century, however during the Achaemenid Empire it had a major extension throughout the territory. It is believed that the oldest and longest Qanat is in the city of Zarch which is located at the center of Iran. Elven Qanats were registered in World Heritage Sites by UNESCO as The Persian Qanat in 2016.
Lut desert which covers an area of 175,000 square kilometers, has the one-tenth area of Iran with 900 kilometers length from north to south and about 300 kilometers from west to east. This huge salt desert inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016. It is the world 27th largest desert and also the hottest and most dry place of the world.
The main attraction areas of Lut desert, include Gandom Berian, Shahdad Kalut, and Rig Yelan. In addition, the desert is home to diverse animal life, including insects, reptiles, and desert foxes.
Read more: Iran deserts
The amazing Hyrcanian Forests inscribed as UNESCO world heritage site in July 2019. Hyrcanian Forests stretches 850 kilometers along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. These forests extend from east to west, cover parts of five provinces of Iran, including North Khorasan Province, Golestan Province, Mazandaran Province, Gilan Province, and Ardabil Province.
The total area of Hyrcanian Forests has decreased from 3.6 million hectares in early of the current century to 1.9 million hectares. 1.85 million hectares of that is located in Iran. The region is also known to be hosting a wide variety of animal species — including 296 bird and 98 mammal species — and some 150 plant species.