A three day guide of things to do in Shiraz

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“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own belonging” – Hafez 14th century. These verses were written by the famous Iranian poet Hafez, who happened to hail from Shiraz. The beauty of his writing is paralleled by the exquisite city of his birthplace. This guide for things to do in Shiraz contains everything to make you fall in love with the city.

Shiraz was the last stop in our two-week trip to Iran and this city in Southern Iran once again proved how rich the culture of the country is. A pink mosque steeped in colorful light, floral-patterned tiles throughout the city and the visible sign of Alexandre the Great’s wrath at its doorstep, its safe to say the city has a lot to offer.

While Isfahan was my favorite city to visit because of the close friends we made, Shiraz cast an undeniable spell on me. We spent a total of three days, which is sufficient to visit all the main sights in and around Shiraz.

We visited most locations either on foot or took a local taxi which never cost us more than $5. The distances in this guide are described in terms of the time it would take to walk from the Nasir Ol Mosque and all prices are indicated in IRR (unless otherwise stated).

All prices are in IRR (Iranian Rials) and based upon March 2020 prices.
Please note Iranians will often use Tomans to talk about price and not Rials this can lead to confusion. Just keep in mind that 1 Toman is equal to 10 Rials.


Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.


Nasir Ol Mosque Shiraz Iran
Typical floral pattern of tiles in Shiraz
Nasir Ol Mosque Shiraz Iran
Inside Nasir-Ol-Mosque

A guide of things to do in Shiraz

During the Zand dynasty in the 16th century, Shiraz became a capital city. Many new buildings were erected however architecturally, the Qajar era had the strongest influence over the city. This is abundantly clear by the many, many floral patterned tiles found on the main monuments of Shiraz.

Under Qajar’s rule, there was a significant increase in diplomatic missions between Iran and Europe, which had a strong influence on the art and architecture of Qajar Iran. As the dynasty progressed there was an increasing shift towards a mix of artistic styles.

The Nasir Ol Mosque is a great example of this mix of styles. The mosque has tiles depicting European landscapes, which were directly imported from 18th-century Europe. The Nasir Ol Mosque is one of the main Shiraz tourist attractions and a must-see when visiting the city.

Read more about Iran: A sample two-week Iran itinerary with all the practical details you need to know before traveling to Iran.

Eram Garden Tiles Shiraz Iran
Stucco at the Eram Garden
Hafez Monument Shiraz Iran
Hafez Tomb Shiraz

Free walking tour in Shiraz

There is no better way to get a feel of a city than by walking through it, the same goes for Shiraz. Why not try taking a free walking tour with a knowledgeable local to get a good feel for the main Shiraz tourist attractions

The tour takes around two hours and covers the Nasir Ol Mosque, Vakhil Mosque and the Bazaar to name but a few of the locations. Registration in advance is mandatory, this can be done online.

How long is the tour: 2 hours
Price: The price of the tour is based on tips. Please note entrance fees to the monuments are not included
Where does it start: This will depend on the number of people attending the tour. You will receive all the practical information straight to your mailbox.


The Nasir Ol Mosque

The Nasir Ol Mosque is the famous “pink” mosque and one of the main tourist attractions in Shiraz.

My personal highlight is the winter prayer hall, which is the building to your right as you come in from the ticketing booth. It contains 7 large windows inlaid with beautiful Persian Stained Glass. The early morning sun streams through the glass, bathing the hall in many different colors of light. The mosque is often referred to as the Kaleidoscope mosque for this very reason.

When we visited (Autumn), the light started creeping through the windows at around 08.00 and was at its most beautiful around 10.00 am.

Good to know: Persian Stained Glass does not depict religious iconography as is the case for many stained glass windows in churches. This has to do with the strict rules of Islamic art, which prohibit any depictions of images of icons. So the architects of the time played with geometrical shapes and light.

Things to do in Shiraz visit Nasir ol molk mosque I


Aside from the stunning winter prayer hall, this mosque also has two very intricately carved niches on opposite sides of a courtyard. The tile work here is decorated with a pink floral design, and here and there you will find blueish tiles which depict landscapes. These tiles were imported from Europe and reflect the fashion for tile work at the time.

The mosque itself is not very big but is one of the must-see attractions in Shiraz. This means it gets very packed and that will definitely take away from the magic of this place. I really do suggest kicking your butt out of bed early and being here for the opening at 07.00 am.

Best months to go: In the winter the light shining through the stained glass windows covers the entire floor of the mosque and ricochets off the opposite wall. According to the local guard, this was the most beautiful time to visit the mosque.

Entrance fee: IRR500.000
Best time to go: Get there by 7 am when it opens to have the place to yourself. The light however will not be shining very brightly through the glass windows yet. This happens a little later (between 08.00 AM and 10.00 AM depending on the time of the year)
Length of visit: Two hours
Opening hours: Daily 07.00 AM to 17.00 PM (closed on Monday)


Vakhil Mosque Shiraz Iran
Vakhil Mosque Shiraz Iran

The Vakhil Mosque

The second mosque in the guide of things to see in Shiraz is the 18th-century Vakhil Mosque. The entrance of the mosque is decorated with beautiful pink tiles. The rest of the mosque however has zero pink tiles! But do not worry, the Vakhil mosque might not be pink or have impressive glass artwork but it is still very much worth visiting. It was built during the Zand dynasty and extensively restored during the Qajar dynasty.

The Qajar dynasty proceeded to add its own special flair to the place and covered it in floral tiles. The tiles are less vibrant than those of the Nasir Ol Mosque but they are more intricate and detailed than their counterparts.

Aside from Pinterest-worthy tiles, the real beauty of this mosque is the night prayer hall (Shabestan) which lies opposite the entranceway. The hall is made up of 48 pillars, with beautiful spiral carvings. In true Persian style, it is perfectly geometrical and an absolute pleasure to photograph and walk around.

We visited bright and early in the morning (around 08.30) and were invited by a pair of local worshippers to enjoy a meal together.

Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
Best time to go: Right when it opens (08:30 AM ) to avoid the heat and the crowds.
Where is it located: 15-minute walk from the Nasir Ol Mosque
Length of visit: One to two hours
Opening hours: Every day from 08.30 AM to 20.00 (autumn and winter) and 20.30 (spring and summer).


Hafez Tomb things to see in Shiraz Iran

Tomb of Hafez

No list of things to do in Shiraz is complete without a visit to the Tomb of Hafez. Hafez was born in Shiraz in the 14th century and his work is seen to be the crème de la crème of Persian literature. To this day, he is one of the most well-known and respected poets in Persian history.

From an outsider’s (non-Iranian) perspective, it seemed like the majority of Iranians were at least partially versed in his poetry and made reference to certain of his verses in daily conversation. It almost felt like to better understand current-day Iranian culture, you need to read some of Hafez’s verses.

Various monuments across Iran bear inscriptions of poetry written by Hafez in the form of beautiful calligraphy etched in tiles or carved into the buildings/ Hafez’ works have been translated into many different languages. The first account of an English translation dates back as early as the 18th century and is known to have influenced many great writers of the Western world.

Entrance fee: IRR500.000
Where is it located: It is a 37 walk from the Nasir Ol Mosque
Best time to go: We went around sunset
Length of visit: One hour
Opening Hours: Daily 08.00 AM to 21.30 PM (Autumn, Winter) and 22.30 PM (Spring, Summer)


Eram Garden: A beautiful Persian garden

Next up in the guide of things to do in Shiraz are some Persian Gardens, starting with the Eram Garden. If you have read my previous posts on Isfahan, Yazd, or Kashan you will have undoubtedly picked up on the fact that Persian Gardens are anything but ‘regular ‘gardens. In fact, they are so special that they have been classified by UNESCO as a world heritage, and rightfully so.

Persian gardens play with symmetry and the perfect balance between land, water, plants, and the space around them. They are a true oasis of tranquillity, great for a stroll or to people-watch.

The Eram garden is one of the top shiraz tourist attractions, and it is not hard to see why. The garden was built somewhere between the 12th and 13th centuries and was built to depict the ‘beauty of heaven’. This could explain why there are over 45 species of plants in the garden, including plenty of fruit trees and cypress trees.

The garden is not that large, but it does have plenty of little pathways which are great if you want to sneak in a kiss with your lover. Apparently, I am not the only one with this idea, we went around dusk and there was plenty of sneaky PDA (public display of affection) going on, which is an Islamic country is not something you get to see very often.

The house built in the garden was added later, during the Qajar dynasty (18the century) which is clear when you see the floral tiles and the large stained glass windows. Sadly, it is closed for the public but you are welcome to wander around it and take in the outside.

Entrance Fee: IRR 500.000
Where is it located: One hour walk from Nasir-Ol-Mosque, we ended up grabbing a taxi
Best time to go: Sunset
Length of visit: Two hours
Opening hours: Every day from 09.00 AM to 20.30 PM


Narenjestan Gardens Shiraz Iran

Qavam house (Narenjestan e Ghavam)

In terms of things to do in Shiraz, this house is perched firmly in spot number three (right after the Nasir Ol Mosque and the Vakhil Mosque). It was built during the Qajar dynasty (19th century) and was privately owned by the family of a local politician (The Qavam family). And good news, you can actually go inside and visit the house.

Persian architecture is rich with colorful stained glass, mirror mosaics, and (typical for the Qajar dynasty) paintings depicting European culture. This little gem is no different, the Qavam family went all out to display their wealth in their house, from low hanging ceilings with paintings from Victorian England to the use of rich wooden carvings, plenty of stuccoes, and of course tiles!

The house is such an eclectic mixture of patterns and textures that it can only be described as quintessential (rich) Persian architecture.

Qavam-House-Narenjestan-Shiran-Iran
Inside the house is decorated with a mixture of patterns and stained glass

Make sure to put aside some time to explore the gardens too. They are locally known as Narenjestan, or the orange gardens because of their abundance of sour orange trees. If you go during the springtime you will be able to smell the orange blossoms.

We were there during autumn so no fragrant trees for us BUT we did get to see the oranges on the trees which were pretty cool too. As is the case with the Eram gardens, Narenjestan is a perfect example of a traditional Persian garden so expect many water elements and plenty of different types of plants and trees.

Entrance Fee: IRR 200.000
Where is it located: 5-minute walk from Nasir Ol Mosque
Best time to go: 
This property is beautiful at any hour of the day.
Length of visit: Two hours at a leisurely pace
Opening hours: 
Everyday 08:00 AM to 21:00 PM


Sayyed Alaeddin Hossein Mosque and Mausoleum Shiraz Iran

Tomb of Seyed Alaeddin Husayn (shrine)

Perhaps a little bit more off the beaten path but well worth a spot on this guide of things to do in Shiraz is the Alaeddin Husayn Shrine. The tomb is that of one of the sons of the 7the Shia Imam Musa al-Kadhim and decedents of the Islamic prophet Muhammad

The shrine dates back to the 15th century but has undergone many renovations due to damage done by earthquakes most notably the dome which was entirely replaced in the 1950s.

For me it was a first, visiting a shrine of someone who had been dead over 1000 years and where people still actively worshipped. The site was absolutely bustling with people, many of them actively praying and in mourning. We were welcomed in to explore but made clear to understand that this was a religious site and thus needed to excerpt the utmost respect.

This was the reason why we did not take our professional photography gear with us. You are allowed to take pictures as such (no flash), but perhaps you can stick to your phone this time and let your eyes take in the beauty instead.

Entrance Fee: Free
Where is it located: 7-minute walk from Nasir Ol Mosque
Dresscode: You will be required to wear a Chador (which is offered to you at the entrance) and you will be asked to take off your shoes to walk around the complex.
Photography: Professional photography gear is not allowed. Discreet phone pictures are ok.


Shah Cheragh Shrine

Around the corner from the Seyed Alaeddin Husayn lies another impressive shrine: Shah Cheragh Shrine. This shrine holds the final resting place of the other two sons of the 7th Shia Imam Musa Al-Kadhim and decedents of the Islamic prophet Muhammad – Ahmad and Muhammad.

This shrine is also on the list of things to do in Shiraz because it is a little different from the previous shrine. This complex is significantly larger and has a cultural liaison officer to guide you around. Yep, we got a tour of the complex in English and absolutely free. Let’s start at the beginning

Start off by dropping your bags at the bag drop-off area. On the square, right in front of the entrance, there is a small white building with an open window. This is where you need to check your bag. You will be given a token, hang on to it because you need that token to get your bag back.

Next, make your way to the entrance: Women go to the far left, and men opposite the building where you dropped off your bags. Women will have to wear a Chador, the ladies at the entrance helped us put them on (there is a trick to it).

Ten minutes later, we were met by a lovely woman who turned out to be a cultural liaison. She spoke English and guided us through the most important parts of the shrine. This service was absolutely free of charge and geared towards helping us understand the importance of the site.

Important to note that a shrine, although a religious site, is in no way morbid as the word makes it out to feel. In fact, the actual shrine itself is decorated with beautiful mirrored walls, stained glass, and intricately decorated chandeliers. This is one of the main reasons why for me it is a must-see in terms of Shiraz Tourist Attractions. It is so very different from any other religious building in the West and even in Iran.

The shrine dates back to the 12th century but as with its counterpart the Seyed Alaeddin Husayn it was reconstructed and restored many times due to damage that was caused by the various earthquakes across the centuries.

Entrance Fee: Free
Where is it located: 18-minute walk from Nasir Ol Mosque
Dresscode: You will be required to wear a chador (which is offered to you at the entrance) and you will be asked to take off your shoes to walk around the complex.
Photography: Professional photography gear is not allowed. Discreet phone pictures are ok.


Things to see outside of Shiraz: Daytrips

Maharloo Lake Shiraz Iran
Maharloo lake end of summer
Maharloo lake in winter

Pink Lake (Maharloo Lake)

“Wait, what”? One of the Shiraz tourist attractions is a pink lake? Yep, Shiraz has its very own pink lake. Mind you it is not there for most of the year. The lake is part of a seasonal river that partially dries up in the summer months and leaves behind a white salt bed which turns pink due to algae found in the lake. As it is a natural phenomenon it is hard to predict when you can see this Shiraz attraction but aiming for the end of summer is your best bet.

Where is it located: 27 km from Shiraz
How to get there: Rent a car with a guide for the day and hit up Naqsh-e-Rostam at the Pink Lake at the same time.
Price for transfer and guide: IRR9.070.000
Time spent: One hour


Persepolis

No list of things to in Shiraz would be complete without a day trip to Persepolis. The ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire (6th-3e century BC). It was burnt down by Alexander the Great (4th century BC) after a 30-day siege. And so began the age-old hatred for Alexander the Great, which is still felt to this day.

Although the site consists mainly of ruins, there are enough elements left for you to imagine life back in the day. We got ourselves some 3D goggles at the entrance. You pop them on your face and they show a visual and colorful reconstruction of the ruins (cost IRR300.000)

There are two main elements of the site you cannot skip: The Gate of All Nations (pictured below) & The Great Double Staircase. If you are short on time make sure to look out for these two. Both parts were constructed by king Xeres I (5th century BC), who was the successor to the founder of Persepolis (Darius I).

Gate of all Nations

The Gate of all nations reportedly held two doors made out of wood and covered with ornament metal. The doors led into a great hall that was 25 meters long. The doors are no longer there, but it is not hard to imagine them when you walk through the gate. I honestly felt like royalty parading through the door it was so well preserved!

Great Double Staircase

This staircase was very much fit for a king, and one with pretty good taste too. It is covered with beautifully intricate carvings, that are still here for as to ogle 2000 years later. The carvings depict dignitaries coming to pay tribute to King Darius I. Spot camels, horses, donkeys, and some very cool hairstyles.

The staircase is split into three parts, each part depicts different types of ancient society:
– The northern wall: The Persian Nobels, their horseman, and chariots.
– The center: The soldiers
– The southern wall: All nations that were part of the Persian Empire ( Egyptians, Indians, Greeks)

Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
When to go: Right around sunset, before it closes
Where is it located: 60 km north of Shiraz

How to get there: Rent a car with a guide for the day and hit up Naqsh-e-Rostam at the Pink Lake at the same time.
Price for transfer and guide: 
IRR9.070.000
Time spent there: 
2 – 3 hours


Necropolis Shiraz Iran

Naqsh-e Rostam

Not technically a Shiraz tourist attraction but for sure worth a day trip out of the city is the Naqsh-e Rostam site. An ancient Necropolis of the Achaemenid Empire (6th-3e century BC), located about 12 km NW from Persepolis. It contains four tombs cut into the cliffs. The entrance to the tombs was in the center of the cross, here you could find the sarcophagus of the king.

The oldest relief goes back to 1000 BC, yep that is more than 3000 years ago. It depicts a man with a strange hat, who incidentally is the reason for the name of this place The relief is located below the depiction of mystical hero Rostam.

One of the tombs has been identified as that of King Darius I (the man who constructed Persepolis). For the other three tombs, there are unconfirmed speculations. Dear Alexander the Great looted the tombs around the same time he decided to ransack Persepolis.

Aside from its historical importance, stop and contemplate how in the world people built these tombs. They are literally carved inside the cliff many meters above the ground. It must have been a construction of heroic proportions for which many people gave their lives.

Food for thought: Well-documented sources have found out that workers who constructed Persepolis were actually paid, so one could deduct that the workers who carved out these tombs must also have been paid. Somehow this sounds a lot more humane than the slave culture that built most of the Roman and Greek empires, but that is just my two cents worth.

Entrance Fee: IRR500.000
When to go: We went in the middle of the day

Where is it located: 63 kilometers from Shiraz
How to get there: Rent a car with a guide for the day and hit up Persepolis and the Pink lake at the same time.
Price for transfer and guide: IRR9.070.000Time spent here: Account for at least one hour

Hope you found this guide of things to do in Shiraz useful and it will make your stay in lovely Shiraz even better!


MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING IRAN

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Travel in Isfahan like a local
What to do in Yazd, Iran
Guide to two days in Bukhara
Everything you need to know to visit Khiva
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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

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