A Persepolis Travel Guide: how to visit Persepolis Iran

This post is a Persepolis travel guide on how to visit Persepolis in Iran. Persepolis is an ancient city located in southern Iran and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, one of the most significant empires in ancient history. The city was built in 518 BC and was a center of political and cultural activities in the empire.

Persepolis is nearby Shiraz and makes a perfect day trip to learn more about Iran’s glorious past.

the entrance gate at Persepolis
Persepolis in Iran

The history of Persepolis

Persepolis is one of the best historical places in Iran. Without doubt they are home to the best preserved ruins of the ancient Aechemenid empire. Even though Hamadan is the oldest city in Iran, there is not much history left. The rock carvings from the Aechemenids in Kermanshah are beautiful, but not as impressive as the ruins of Persepolis.

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, but for the government, their glorious past is a difficult matter. The Persian empire was at its height when Iran was, not yet, islamic.

The dominant religion in the Persian empire was the Zoroastrian religion and it was in this time that Iran was at its most powerful and influential. Aechemenid kings like Cyrus the great and Darius were famous for their religious tolerance and achievements in human rights.

Darius introduced Zoroastrianism as state religion, but it was not imposed. He was also against slavery. Zoroastrianism still exists in Iran and there is still an active community, especially in and around Yazd.

Unfortunately, like all great historical empires, they all come to an end. For the Persian empire it was Alexander the Great that fought his way to Persepolis and burned it down.

reliefs of Persian men at Persepolis
Rock carvings at Persepolis

Persepolis: A long day trip from Shiraz

Already in Tehran I met Atif from Malaysia. We were more or less travelling the same route and both wanted to visit Persepolis. We decided to meet up in Shiraz and figure out a way to get there. 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.

relief at Persepolis
Persepolis rock carvings


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. The tomb is a simple structure made of white limestone, with an inscription in Old Persian praising the king’s achievements. In my opinion not really worth the trip.

the tomb of Cyrus the great at Pasargadae near Persepolis
Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae

Naqsh – e – Rustam

After Pasargadae we went to Naqsh-e Rustam, an ancient necropolis where several other kings were buried high up in the rocks. The most significant structures at Naqsh-e Rustam are the four tombs of the Achaemenid kings, including Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The tombs are hewn into the cliffs, and the facades are decorated with intricate carvings and reliefs.

Naqs – e – Rustam is 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.

tombs at Naqsh e Rustam near Persepolis
Naqsh-e Rustam

How to visit Persepolis Iran

Do I need a tour to visit Persepolis?

Persepolis is a must visit if you are in Shiraz. Unfortunately public transport to Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naqsh-e-Rustam is limited. The best way to visit Persepolis is with your own transport.

Every hotel can arrange a tour for you to see Persepolis. The tours are pretty good value, but if you can gather a group of 4 people, hiring your own taxi in Shiraz is cheaper and gives you more freedom.

If you want to book a tour beforehand I can recommend 1stQuest. They are one of the few companies where you can plan most of your trip to Iran beforehand. They can book hotels online, arrange airport pick ups, domestic flight tickets and bus tickets.

schoolgirls that visit Persepolis
School children visiting Persepolis

Should I visit Pasargadae and Naqsh-e- Rustam?

If you are planning your daytrip to see Persepolis you need to decide what you like to see. Just Persepolis or also Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasargadae.

Naqsh-e Rustam is very close to Persepolis and the necropolis has outstanding carvings. The tombs are a magnificent sight so make sure your tour or taxi daytrip includes a visit to Naqsh-e-Rustam.

Pasargadae is another hour away from Persepolis and makes it a very long day trip. In my opinion Pasargadae is not worth the visit unless you are a history freak. There is basically one single tomb in the desert with nothing else to see.

How much time do I need for a visit to Persepolis?

Rather than driving all the way to Pasargadae and back, 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.

The necropolis at Naqsh-e-Rustam is small and one hour should be more than enough.

relief at Persepolis
Aechemenis carvings

Persepolis Travel Tips

Where to stay in Persepolis

Booking hostels in Iran online is rather difficult. Because of the sanctions, most regular sites like Booking.com or Airbnb won’t work. To book your hotel beforehand you either need to contact them directly or use 1stQuest

They are one of the few companies where you can plan most of your trip to Iran beforehand. They can book hotels online, arrange airport pick ups, domestic flight tickets and bus tickets.

There is no accomodation near Persepolis. It is best to stay in Shiraz.

Niayesh Boutique hostel: Niayesh boutique hostel is a scenic hostel in Shiraz with rooms and dorms. Service is a bit mixed. Some people are very friendly, others not so, but it is good value and the breakfast buffet is wonderful. It was one of my favorite hostels in Iran.Other budget minded hostels in Shiraz are Mahmonir traditional house & Taha hostel

When to visit Persepolis

The best time to visit Persepolis is during the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. During these months, the temperature ranges between 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit), making it comfortable for exploring the ruins.

Summer in Persepolis can be hot and dry, with temperatures often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Winter in Persepolis can be cold and rainy.

Safety in Persepolis

Iran, including Persepolis, is generally a safe destination for travellers and millions of tourists visit Iran each year. The city has low crime levels. However, it is always important to exercise caution and take necessary precautions.

Update 2023: A wave of protests erupted throughout Iran in 2022 and 2023. Although this is not a reason to avoid Iran, it is good to know that these protests can become violent. Due to the political situation, it is even more important to be aware of your surroundings. Avoid political demonstrations, expressing strong political opinions and respect the local rules of law.

As a foreigner it is better to be safe than sorry. For solo female travellers I wrote a post with tips and advice about traveling as a woman in Iran.

Disclaimer: This post with a travel guide about Persepolis Iran contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support!

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