Crossing a border can be a long and stressful event…
Persepolis was once the ceremonial capital of the great Persian empire of the Achaemenid kings. It was built-in the 6th century BC by the kings Darius, Xerxes and Antexerxes. In that time the Persian empire was the largest empire of ancient history spanning from the Balkans in Eastern Europe to the Indus valley in modern-day India. Many Iranians are very proud on their history. For the government their glorious past is a difficult matter as this past happened when Iran was not islamic yet. The dominant religion in the Persian empire was the ancient Zoroastrian religion and it was in this time that Iran was at its most powerful and influential. It was Alexander the Great who finally burned down Persepolis, but the remains are still there and still impressive.
Already in Tehran I met Atif from Malaysia. We were more or less travelling the same route so decided to meet up in Shiraz. The tour in my hotel was quite expensive so we found two more tourists and decided to hire a taxi for the whole day. The first stop was Persepolis itself. The English word Persepolis is derived from the Greek word for city of Persians. We easily spent all morning here as the site was huge and full of the most beautiful carvings and designs.
When we came back from Persepolis our taxi driver had put a chocolate on each of our seats and after some needed drinks we drove another hour to Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus the Great. The first of the Achaemenid kings and founder of the Persian empire. Even tough the site has a huge historical importance it is nowhere as impressive as Persepolis. There is basically a huge stone tomb in the desert with nothing else to see. In my opinion not really worth the trip.
After Pasargadae we went to Naqs-e Rostam where several other kings were buried high up in the rocks. A magnificent sight and again the carvings are extremely beautiful. It was a long day that we ended with a well deserved dinner in Saray-e Mehr restaurant in Shiraz.
Logistics, Tips and Tricks on how to visit Persepolis
Persepolis is a must visit if you are in Shiraz and most likely your hotel will offer you a tour.The tours are pretty good value, but if you can gather a group of 4 people hiring your own taxi is much cheaper and this gives you more freedom.
First of all you need to decide what you like to see. Just Persepolis or also Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasargadae. Naqsh-e Rostam is very close to Persepolis, but Pasargadae is another hour away from Persepolis and makes it a long day trip. In my opinion Pasargadae is not worth the visit unless you are a history freak and you can better use your time focusing on Persepolis. Persepolis is huge and you can easily spent a full day here. I have seen half day tours to Persepolis that in my opinion would be too short. Naqs-e Rostam is definitely worth a visit as well, so do try to include this one too.
Another note about entrance fees. As of the first of January 2016 foreigners have to pay 200,000 rials entrance fee for every site. I don’t want to get into a discussion on whether this is justified or not. I do know that as a backpacker these do add up. For Persepolis it is definitely worth it and I would even recommend hiring a guide as he can explain what all these beautiful carvings mean. Both Pasargadae and Naqs-e Rostam can be seen from the road as well and you don’t miss out a lot by not paying the entrance fees.