Although decades of sanctions mean the hotels and infrastructure are not five star, a tentative political thaw with the West is drawing visitors to Iranian attractions steeped in myth and rumour.
Persepolis, a jewel of the first Persian empire whose palace and terraces took more than 100 years to build, starting under Darius the Great in 518 BC, is one of the highlights.
“Before coming to Iran I knew the vision of this country from the outside was very dark,” says Piotr Chwalba, from Poland, finally looking at Persepolis after thinking for years of visiting.
“A place like Iran has two sides — the one created by the media and the other version, the truth, where everyone helps you when you travel and everyone smiles at you. It’s great.”
While seeking to play host to international visitors it also helps that his speeches do not tend to excoriate the West in the same manner that his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s did.
“Mr Rouhani’s demeanour, his smile, his positive interaction with the world has created a new sense of ease,” says Ibrahim Pourfaraj, president of Iran’s tour operators association.
Thomas, an engineer from Stuttgart, says the nuclear issue is the only thing he hears about Iran in the news back home.
“What we see is totally different than what we hear from the outside,” the 29-year-old German says. “The Iranians are very hospitable and very curious.”
Iran, with 17 UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, wants 20 million visitors within a decade.
From Yahoo News