The Los Angeles Times newspaper has selected Iran among the top 16 must-see destinations in 2016.
According to a report released on Sunday, the LA times website identified Iran as one of the World’s Top 16 Tourism Destinations for 2016.
The report points out that many Americans are eager to visit Iran, and several tour operators are helping them. (In terms of U.S. government red tape, it’s easier than going to Cuba.)
It said that Iran is full of historic towers, mosques and squares, especially in the ancient city of Esfahan (where the atmospheric Abbasi Hotel is a favorite of western visitors).
LA times also made reference to Persepolis in Fars province, saying that “Persepolis, not far from the city of Shiraz, holds some of the most striking pre-Christian ruins outside of Egypt and Peru.”
According to the report, both destinations (Esfahan and Shiraz) are well removed from the Iraq and Afghanistan border zones, which the U.S. State Department urges travelers to avoid.
The report also added that “Tehran, more modern, includes many museums. To get there, Americans often fly to Istanbul, then continue on to Tehran or Esfahan.”
At Distant Horizons in Long Beach, owner Janet Moore told LA times that she is sending 14 groups to Iran in 2016 — twice the number she sent in 2014.
Even before sanctions are lifted, the number of foreigners visiting Iran has grown 12 percent in each of the past two years. In 2014, Iran hosted over 5 million tourists, bringing in some $7.5 billion in revenue.
At present, Iran is home to 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some of them belong to pre-Islam Iran and some to post-Islam Iran.
Soltanifar, a member of Rouhani’s Cabinet, has said officials are trying to remove obstacles for tourists and issue visas on arrival at the airport in Tehran for nationals of 190 countries. They will be valid for 30 days, with the possibility of extending for another 15 days. Tourism authorities are also planning to issue electronic visas beginning next year, he said.
Americans and Brits traveling to Iran will need a visa ahead of time to enter mainland Iran, according to their respective governments. In 2014, there were 3,400 American visitors to Iran, up from 1,800 in 2013, Soltanifar said.
France, United Kingdom and Australia have relaxed travel advice for their citizens following the historic July nuclear deal. The U.K. reopened its embassy in Tehran in August after a four-year closure.
Iran aims to host 20 million tourists a year by 2025, with expectations of growing the tourist industry to $30 billion.
Image: Shapouri Palace, Shiraz