This post is a Persepolis travel guide on how to visit Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naqsh -e- Rustam in Iran. These places that are nearby Shiraz make a perfect day trip from Shiraz to learn more about Iran’s glorious past.
The history of Persepolis
Persepolis is one of the most historical places in Iran. Even though Hamedan is the oldest city in Iran, there is not much history left there. The rock carvings from the Aechemenid empire 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 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 ancient Zoroastrian religion and it was in this time that Iran was at its most powerful and influential. However, Aechemenid kings like Cyrus the great and Darius were famous for their religious tolerance and achievements in human rights.
For example, though Darius introduced Zoroastrianism as state religion, 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
How to visit Persepolis Iran
Do I need a tour or can I visit Persepolis on my own?
Persepolis is a must visit if you are in Shiraz. Unfortunately public transport to Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naqsh-e-Rustam is limited and you require your own transport.
Most likely your hotel can arrange a tour for you. The tours are pretty good value, but if you can gather a group of 4 people hiring your own taxi is much cheaper and gives you more freedom.
If you want to book a tour beforehand I can recommend FirstQuest. 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.
Firstquest also has a 10 hour tour to Persepolis and Pasargadae from Shiraz.
Is it worth it to also 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.
What about the entrance fees to Persepolis?
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 charges do add up.
For Persepolis it is definitely more than 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.
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Ellis is a travelblogger from the Netherlands with over 20 years of experience as an independent budget traveller in more than 50 countries. She has a Master degree in Cultural Anthropology and Global Health with a specialization in South Asian cultures and the Caucasus.