It’s pretty much impossible to go to Iran, and not visit Persepolis and Necropolis (Naqsh-e Rustam). Moreover if you go to Shiraz, you have absolutely no excuses. Persepolis is one of the major tourist sites in Iran, rightly. We’re talking about the former capital city of the Achaemenid Empire! The building of this city started 2500 years ago!
On the initiative of Darius the Great, the building of Persepolis started around 515 BC. Seeing how big this project was (materials imported from Lebanon, India, Babylon…), and the greatness of the empire at the time, the building spanned six generations. Darius the Great, then Xerxes I, Xerxes II, Artaxerxes I, Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III.
It was the time of the Greco-Persian wars, which brought Greek and Persian into conflict. Alexander the Great had something in the back of his mind for quite some time : destroy the symbol of the greatness of the Persian empire, that is to say Persepolis. He’ll succeed in destroying the city in 331 BC, looting and burning the city. The only remains of Persepolis are ruins today. This is why Iranians call Alexander the Great, Alexander the Destroyer. He destroyed Persepolis!
Therefore it’s now possible to visit the former capital of the Persian empire and the least we can say, it’s that it’s really impressive! Persepolis is on a platform high up. After climbing several stairs, you’ll be in front of the gate of all nations. Any visitor in Persepolis had to go through those gates, guarded by two lamassus. Lamassus are creatures with a human’s head, a body of a lion, and eagle’s wings.
Walking around in Persepolis, we can clearly assume that the empire had to be tremendous. Going from one point to another takes a lot of time, and don’t forget we’re just in the middle of ruins! Should have been huge at the time! We can see the hundred-column palace, the throne hall (called Apadana), the council room… We can also catch sight of what remains of the palace of Darius the Great, the Tachara complex.
A little bit uphill, we can see two tombs. Those are the tombs of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. Well… That’s what we think. Because no one knows for sure. Anyway, I hope your legs are ready, because the tombs are at the top of a steep hill (it’s a good way to stay active!). It’s also from those tombs that it’s possible to take photos of Persepolis from above.
There’s also a Persepolis museum in the museum. I won’t lie, I didn’t go there.
Necropolis (Naqsh-e Rustam)
After a 15 minutes drive from Persepolis, you’ll get to Naqsh-e Rustam, also called Necropolis. This is where you’ll see the tombs of Darius the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II. The four tombs are high up, and the entrance point for each tomb is at the center of each cross. But it seems that those tombs also had been looted, following the invasion of Alexander “the destroyer”.
Necropolis is a lot smaller than Persepolis, and is visited pretty fast. You’ll also find next to the tombs a tower made of stones, which is 2400 years old, Ka Ba Ye Zartosht.
Tips to visit Persepolis and Necropolis
- From Shiraz, there’s no public transport going to Persepolis and Necropolis. You’ll have to take a car, or rather take a taxi. In my case, I went to a travel agency office in Shiraz, Key2Persia (also called Pars Travel). I paid 1100000 rials (around 30$). For that price, I had to be in front of their office at 7:30am, a van picked me up, went to Persepolis and Necropolis, and went back to Shiraz around 1:30pm. I could get in both sites (it was, of course, included in the price) and we also had a guide (I joined a group). If you’re too lazy to go to the office, ask your hotel if they organize tours to Persepolis and Necropolis. They probably do.
- If you wanna go there by yourself, some taxis propose going to both sites for approximately 700000 rials (a little less than 20$), and then go back to Shiraz. This price doesn’t include the entrance fees to the sites, and you won’t have a guide…
- Entrance fee to get in Persepolis only : 200000 rials (a little more than 5$). Entrance fee to get in Necropolis only : 200000 rials as well.
- It took one hour in a van to go to Persepolis from Shiraz. Once you’re there, you need to know that backpacks are not allowed in the site. You have to leave your backpack at the ticket office lockers. The less you have, the better.
- Still, bring LOTS of water with you, because you’ll be exposed to the burning sun during your whole visit there. No shade at all.
- Talking about the sun, go there early in the morning. To avoid the sun exposure, and the crowd.
- Not a big fan of this in general, but do yourself a favor and get a guide. To know a bit more about the stones you’re watching 🙂
- Do not leave home without a travel insurance! You never know what could happen. Anyway, before going through customs, they’ll ask you to show a document proving you’re insured…
- Many websites are blocked in Iran. To use the internet freely, you need a VPN. I use ExpressVPN, fast and efficient. I really recommend it! It allowed me to surf the net freely.
- If needed, get an Iran travel guide.
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