Covering an area of 1,648,000 square kilometers, Islamic Republic of Iran is a wide country located in southwest of Asia neighboring the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Azarbaijan and Armenia in the north; Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east; and Turkey and Iraq in the west. All southern borders of the country end to the shores of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. Total terrestrial borders of the country are 5,170 km. and total water borders in the north and south are 2,510 km.
Iran is situated in the heart of the Middle East and, as a bridge, links the Caspian Sea, the most beautiful land-locked and the largest body of water in the world, to the Persian Gulf, and also, it is a crossroads on the way of East to West, i .e. the junction of cultural, intellectual and political manifestations of the worlds of East and West.
Limpid water springs, pomegranate orchards, pistachio gardens, rows of lombardy poplars, decampment of nomads in different seasons, stelliferous nights, rocks, mountains, endless high and low lands, snow-clad extinct volcanoes, luxuriant forests of Alborz mountain range, and coastlines of the Caspian Sea are
amongst the eye-catching and memorable landscapes of Iran's nature which leave unique memoirs in the minds of tourists.
The visage of Iran's plain and savanna is changeable in different times, sometimes full of stone and sand, sometimes full of floodwater, sometimes snow-clad or covered by luxuriant vegetation. Iranian artists have always portrayed nature as a symbol and sign of existence of beauty in their different and diverse artistic works. Iranians always valued Water as a sign of life and development. There flow uncountable permanent brooks in meadows, gardens, orchards, homes, mosques and sacred places that irrigate so many trees.
Nature and vastness of Iran are the most valuable parameters for development of tourism industry. Among millions of hectares of terrestrial land in Iran, l9 million hectares are covered by orchards, gardens and farmlands; 10 million hectares arc plain and pastures; l9 million hectares are forests; and the remaining include barren lands, desert, and mountains.
Among significant characteristics of vast land of Iran, which is very important from tourism point of view, is the existence of high mountains, flat plains, desert areas, different rivers and lakes which all together have caused a unique geographical condition in which, at any time of the year and at each part of it, one of the four seasons is visible. Thus, in winter swimming and water skiing are possible in warm waters of the Persian Gulf and, at the same time, winter sports like skiing are possible in the northern and western mountains of the country, simultaneously enjoying the pleasant spring weather in several cities at the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The high Alborz Mountains, sealing off the narrow Caspian strip, is covered with luxuriant forests and lush vegetation.
Some parts of the coastline of the Persian Gulf in the south arc rocky and mountainous and some parts are sandy and swampy, so are not as
monotonous as northern shores of the country. The southern provinces of Iran, especially Khuzestan, which encompass some parts of vast Mesopotamia (between two rivers) plain, are very flat and level with low altitude. If a tourist walks in the northern or western mountains of Iran, he/ she will be able to see so many eye-catching views and many towns, villages, orchards, gardens and meadows under his/ her feet with amazing landscape.
The high elevation of plateau of Iran from the sea level and situating of the most provinces on the altitudes more than 1,000 m., is another important geographic feature of this land. The magnificent and high Alborz mountain range at the north, Zagross mountain chain in the west and some other mountain chains, which extend from Khorasan to Baluchistan in the east, have surrounded the plateau of Iran. The most important summits of Iran are: Damavand with the altitude of 5,671 m. in east-north of Tehran; Sabalan with the altitude of 4,880 m. in the west of Ardebil; Sahand with the altitude of 3,707 in the south of Tabriz; Takht-e-solayman with the altitude of 4,820 m. in the center of Mazandaran; Zardkroh with the altitude of 4,550 m. in Bakhtiari; Dena with the altitude of 4,309 m. in the north of Yasouj; Taftan with the altitude of 3,941 m. in the south of Zahedan; and tens of other summits which are scattered all around Iran.
Complexity and diversion of geological and calcareous structure have caused formation of so many caves in different provinces especially in
Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, and Hamedan which are paid attention by numerous tourists who come to Iran in order to visit them. The inside landscapes of these caves are amongst important tourism attractions and are continuously visited by local and foreign tourists.
The mountains of Iran belong to the folding of Cenozoic Period and some of them, with volcanic origin, have brought about the means of appearance of thermal springs. The mountains of Iran have caused suitable conditions for winter and mountain sports. The famous deserts of Iran, including Dasht-e-Lout and Dasht-e-Kavir, covering an area of more than 360,000 square kilometers, are amongst the interesting yet unknown places. Having more than 500 known mineral water and thermal springs, which are used for different purposes, Iran has one of the most important sources for tourism income. Most of these springs are located in Alborz mountain range, Azarbaijan and Zagross Mountains and some are located close to Isfahan, Meshed and Bandar Abbas. The thermal springs of Sarain (Ardebil), Larijan at the slopes of Alborz, and also Mahallat attract many people for recreation and therapeutic purposes. In the southern coasts of the Caspian Sea, there are many wide and luxuriant regions with mountain slopes covered with dense forests. The coasts of the Caspian Sea, with pleasant sandy beaches, are amongst the most beautiful tourism centers in Iran. Moreover, the southern shores and islands of Iran have their own natural and tourism attractions especially in winters. The slopes of Alborz and Zagross as well as riverbeds are the sources of numerous springs, lakes, and wetlands each of them, with its own beautiful and eye-catching landscape attracts tourists.
Plateau of Iran enjoys a relatively dry climate. Iran is situated in the global arid belt and Alborz and Zagross mountain chains trap the humidity and air currents of the Caspian Sea and Mediterranean preventing thier penetration to the inner parts. Country of Iran, due to being located between 2-5 and 40 degree latitude and also existence of heights, enjoys considerable changeable climate. The average annual temperature increases from northwest to southeast of the country and varies from 10 degree Centigrade in Azarbaijan to 25-30 degree Centigrade in the south and southeast. The northern and southern shores of Iran, in different seasons, have diverse climate compared with central and mountainous regions. The average annual temperature of Bandar Abbas in the south of Iran in January is 18.5 degree Centigrade. Difference of average annual rainfall is also very high in different parts of the country. The amplitude of these changes varies from 2,000 mm. in Gilan to less than 100 mm. in central parts of Iran. Average annual precipitation in Iran is 275 mm.
Iran enjoys a considerable climatic diversity, which is subjected to various seasons in different parts of the country, in a way that in some areas, the coldness of winter and the warmth of summer can be seen simultaneously. Thus the weather in Iran must be judged regionally.
In January and February, there are three climatic zones in Iran. Shores of the Caspian Sea having mild and relatively cold weather, central parts with winter weather, and southern parts that enjoy moderate and pleasant weather. The whole Iran enjoys a pleasant weather in spring, especially in June. But the weather in southern parts grows very hot unexpectedly. The climatic condition of the country becomes complicated in summers. Due to high humidity, the weather of the coastal parts of the Caspian Sea changes in summers. During the days it is hot, but it is relatively cool at nights. In southern coastlines of Iran, the days are very hot and the nights are relatively warm with very high humidity, which is intolerable by non-natives.
The cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Meshed, Tehran and Tabriz, which are the main tourism centers of Iran, enjoy different climate. Shiraz with four months of warmth is in the first place and Tabriz with only one month of warmth is in the last place. Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Hamedan and Khorasan provinces are famous as cool places in the summer.
Briefly, entire north of the country, especially countryside of Alborz slopes like Noor valley, Kelardasht, and Katalem, as well as Azarbaijan, Khorasan and central regions of Zagross mountains-between Tooyserkan and Golpayegan are very suitable locations for spending of week-ends and holidays by domestic as well as foreign tourists in summers. Tourists may use the southern regions of Iran, regarding their different parts, 5-6 months of the year especially in winters.
Those foreign tourists, who go to the southern coasts of Iran in winters, face a very pleasant weather; while at the same time the cities of Isfahan and Fars provinces are rainy and snowy with a very cold weather. In summers, the weather in the most parts of the country is warm but not intolerable. Spring and autumn, especially Nowrooz holidays (Iranian New Year beginning from March 21st) are suitable time for touring all around the country.