There are 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran: 22 cultural sites and 2 natural.
Map of World Heritage Sites in Iran
Iran UNESCO Sites
Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran (2008)
Located in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran, this is the first entry into this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. The entire property recognized by UNESCO covers a total land area of 129 hectares. The Armenian Monastic Ensembles is a group of three Armenian churches that were built during the 7th and 14th centuries AD. These three churches are namely St. Thaddeus Monastery, Chapel of Dzordzor, and Saint Stepanos Monastery.
Despite the fact that these churches have undergone renovations, they are in a good state of preservation. Moreover, they illustrate the major qualities of Armenian architecture and decorative traditions. In addition, it also reflects the diffusion of Armenian culture in this part of Iran.
Bam Cultural Landscapes (2004)
Inscribed in 2004, this entry into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran features the world’s largest adobe building. This building serves as an enormous citadel near the ancient Silk Road route. According to historians, the history of this building can be traced back to the time of the Achaemenid Empire. During the 7th to 11th centuries, the citadel played an important role in the trade routes. The entire ensemble is composed of a large fortress, to which the citadel is a part of.
In 2003, an earthquake completely destroyed the citadel. However, the President of Iran commissioned for the citadel to be rebuilt following the earthquake.
Bisotun is another cultural site in Iran that has earned the nod from UNESCO as a world heritage property. It is located within the province of Kermanshah. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2006.
Bisotun is best known for the multilingual inscription and large rock relief that were carved out on the cliffs of Mount Behistun. The experts touted it as crucial to deciphering the cuneiform script. These inscriptions measured at 15 meters in height and 25 meters in width. They are also located up to 100 meters high up on the limestone cliffs.
Golestan Palace (2013)
The Golestan Palace is located in Tehran, Iran. It is another cultural site included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 2013. It is the former royal Qajar complex and is one of the city’s oldest historic monuments. It is composed of a group of buildings that are enclosed by walls (mud-thatched at that) to form a citadel. Within the walls are royal buildings and structures, various collection of Iranian and European crafts (some of them from the 18th and 19th centuries), and gardens.
Gonbad-e Q?bus (2012)
This cultural monument in Iran was added to the list of UNESCO sites in the country in 2012. This monument is a 72-meter high tower located in the central part of Gonbad-e Qabus. The tower is made of baked brick in an enormous decagon style. Meanwhile, the roof of the tower is conic in shape and was designed according to the golden ratio Phi. The interior of this tower is the best example of Muqarnas decorative styles. The building itself consists of 3 meter-thick walls consisting of 10 sides. The building of this tower is based on architectural and scientific design principles that enable you to hear an echo of your voice at the front of the tower. This tower was built in 1006 AD as commissioned by Ziyarid Amir Shams ol-Ma’ali Qabus ibn Wushmgir.
Lut Desert (2016)
Added into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 2016, the Lut Desert is the newest addition to the list and the only natural site too. The protected area of the desert spans up to 2.2 million hectares in land area. Also known as Loot Desert or Dasht-e Loot, this large salt desert is 25th in the world in terms of size. It is also one of the hottest and driest places in the world with the surface sand at an average of 70-degree Celsius in temperature.
Masjed-e J?mé of Isfahan (2012)
The Masjed-e J?mé of Isfahan, or Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, is a congregational mosque in Iran. The origin of the site dates back to the 771 and it has undergone many renovations, constructions, reconstructions, and additions throughout many centuries until the end of the 20th century. It was named into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 2012.
The mosque is considered of world heritage status since it is one of the longest standing and oldest mosques in Iran. It is also constructed based on the four-iwan architectural style prevalent in Iran.
Maymand Cultural Landscapes (2015)
This cultural village is another world heritage property in Iran, which is part of the Meymand Rural District. In 2006, it had a population count of less than 700 (or equivalent to 181 families). This is a very ancient village in Iran’s Kerman Province and is considered as the site of the earliest human settlement in the Iranian Plateau. In fact, historians suggest humans have lived in this village since 12,000 years ago. The village features hand-dug houses that were built among rocks. Also, there were stone carvings in the area that were dated to be about 10,000 years old.
Meidan Emam, Esfahan (1979)
The Meidan Emam was one of the first few properties that were included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 1979. It was built at the onset of the 17th century as commissioned for by Shah Abbas I The Great. The structure is surrounded by monumental buildings that are linked together through a two-story arcade. However, the most popular monuments at the property are the Mosque of Sheykh Lotfollah, Portico of Qaysariyyeh, and the Royal Mosque. These monuments are important examples of the social and cultural life of Iran, as well as Persia.
This archaeological site is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. It used to be the capital of the Achaemenid Empire and was commissioned for by Cyrus The Great. The capital was built around 546 BC but was unfinished when Cyrus The Great died in battle. Today, the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae is one of the most important monuments at the site. The tomb is made out of stone and clay.
Persepolis is the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia during the 550 BC to 330 BC. It is located northeast of the city of Shiraz. Today, visitors who come to this ancient city will see remains of the Achaemenid architecture that were built around the same time that the capital flourished. Hence, it was recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance as these ruins were important to the history of Iran.
Persian Gardens of Iran (2011)
The Persian Gardens of Iran is a cultural site recognized into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 2011. This garden is most notable for its use of traditional garden design and style according to the Persian decorative traditions. This garden has taken its inspiration from other garden designs from India to Andalusia. In fact, the Persian Garden will have plenty of resemblance to the gardens in Alhambra for its use of Moorish palace scale.
Persian Qanats of Iran (2016)
This cultural site is another one of the latest additions to the UNESCO properties in Iran. This site is a gentle sloping underwater channel that is used to transport water from a well. The water that is generated through this system is used for drinking and/or irrigation. This is an old system of producing water supply in Iran that was innovated by the Persian people from the 1st millennium BC. To this day, this water supply system continues to provide water supply to the people in these regions.
Shahr-i Sokhta (2014)
This is another archaeological site in this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. The name literally translates to “The Burnt City”. The site represents a settlement from the Bronze Age era that is linked to the Jiroft Culture. The site, which was added to the UNESCO list in 2014, is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province. To this day, no one knows the reason behind the rise and fall of the Burnt City.
Sheikh Safi al-din Kh?neg?h and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil (2010)
This property is an ensemble of shrines and tombs that are related to the Islamic Sufi leader Sheikh Safi. He was born in Ardabil, which is the same location of the shrines and the entire complex. This cultural site was inscribed by UNESCO in 2010. The shrine ensemble consists of key structures and buildings most notably the tomb, mausoleum and the prayer hall that are within one complex. More parts were added to the main structure during the time of the Safavid Dynasty. In fact, many victims during the Battle of the Chaldiran were buried at the site.
Shushtar Historic Hydraulic System (2009)
Inscribed in 2009, the Shushtar Historic Hydraulic System is a complex irrigation system located in an island city in the province of Khuzestan. This was the 10th site added by UNESCO from Iran. This massive infrastructure consists of water mills, canals, dams and tunnels. The key structure of this irrigation system is the Band-e Kaisar or Caesar’s Dam. It measures at 500 meters, which was used to divert water from the river into the irrigation canals. It was built during the 3rd century AD by the Roman workforce.
Located in Zanjan province, Soltaniyeh is another cultural UNESCO site in Iran. It is located northwest of Tehran and was built during the 14th century as capital for the Mongol Ilkhanid rulers. The name is derived from an Islamic ruler title that literally means “The Regal”. There are several structures that were built in this ancient city that reminds of the Ilkhanid Dynasty’s rule in the city. The most notable of these structures is the mausoleum of Oljaytu. This mausoleum was constructed in the early 14th century.
This cultural site in the province of Khuzestan was recently inscribed by UNESCO (specifically in the year 2015). This is another ancient city that was considered as one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East. The modern name for this ancient city is Shush with a population of about 65,000.
The earliest settlement in the ancient city of Susa, according to archaeological evidence, is in 7000 BCE. This ancient city was made up of Neolithic villages that were involved in painted-pottery civilization. In addition to evidence of pottery, painted ceramic vessels were also unearthed at the site.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex (2010)
In 2010, the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. This is a historical market located right at the heart of Tabriz in Iran. It is one of the Middle East’s (not just of Iran) oldest and largest bazaars. Prior to the establishment of this historical market, Tabriz has been the center of cultural exchange in Iran due to its antiquity. It also served as an important commercial center for the Silk Road route.
Takht-e Soleyman (2003)
This cultural site is prized for its archaeological importance in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. This cultural site is located on a volcanic crater rim and is also a fortified site. The Citadel, which forms a huge majority of this property, wherein you can find Zoroastrian fire temple was established during the Sassanid period. It underwent a re-building process during the Ilkhanid period.
Tchogha Zanbil (1979)
This ancient Elamite complex rounds up this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. It is located in the Khuzestan province and is one of few ancient massive structures built outside of Mesopotamia. This cultural site was founded in the 1250 BC but was abandoned by 650 BC. It is made out of baked and mud bricks. Today, only the ruins of this massive complex are left and are preserved by UNESCO.
Historic City of Yazd (2017)
The Historic City of Yazd is the newest entry to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. This urban landscape earned recognition from the UNESCO committee for its traditional earthen city structure. Specifically, it is recognized for its ability to adapt to the desert location. This city was located along the Ancient Silk Road route and therefore attained prosperity through trade activity. This ancient city has had a long history that dates back to the era of the Achaemenid Empire.
Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region (2018)
The eight archaeological sites situated in three geographical areas in the southeast of Fars Province: Firuzabad, Bishapur and Sarvestan. The fortified structures, palaces and city plans date back to the earliest and latest times of the Sassanian Empire, which stretched across the region from 224 to 658 CE. Among these sites is the capital built by the founder of the dynasty, Ardashir Papakan, as well as a city and architectural structures of his successor, Shapur I. The archaeological landscape reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which had a significant impact on the architecture of the Islamic era.
Hyrcanian Forests (2019)
Hyrcanian forests form a unique forested massif that stretches 850 km along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The history of these broad-leaved forests dates back 25 to 50 million years when they covered most of this Northern Temperate region. These ancient forest areas retreated during the Quaternary glaciations and then expanded again as the climate became milder. Their floristic biodiversity is remarkable: 44% of the vascular plants known in Iran are found in the Hyrcanian region, which only covers 7% of the country. To date, 180 species of birds typical of broad-leaved temperate forests and 58 mammal species have been recorded, including the iconic Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana).