UNESCO World Heritage
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural sites such as forests, mountains, lakes, deserts, monuments, buildings, complexes, or cities which are chosen by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) every year. According to the convention of the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritages, those sites which are on this list are belong to all people on the earth regardless of their race, religion and nationality and governments are are obliged to preserve these sites. Based on this convention, UNESCO member states can nominate the monumental, natural, and cultural heritages of their own countries to be registered as a World Heritage Site. After registration, the preservation of such sites will be the responsibility of all member states while they remain within the sovereignty of the related county. So far, 24 Iranian titles including more than 60 sites are registered on the UNESCO,s list of World Heritage. These heritages includes 22 cultural titles as well as two natural sites. In 1979, the Chogha Zanbil Zigurat, Takht-e-jamshid, and Naghsh-e Jahan Square were the first Iranian sites registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The 24 Iranian sites registered in the World Heritage List include:
1. The Persian Qanat
Iran is ranked as the first country with respect to the number of its qanats. Eleven of these are categorized as UNESCO listed sites, each bearing its unique characteristics. The Following qanats are listed as UNESCO sites: Qasabeh, Baladeh, Zarch, Hassan Abad-e Moshir, Ebrahiim Abād, Mozd Abad, Moon, Gowhar-riz, Qasem Abad and Akbar Abad, Qanat of Vazvan.
2. City of Yazd
The historical city of Yazd in central Iran has become the country’s 22nd world heritage site after the World Heritage Committee voted in favor of its inscription.Almost 200 hectares of the city’s 2,270-hectare historical texture now boast world heritage status.
Yazd is now the only UNESCO-listed Iranian city where people still live. It is also believed to be the world’s largest inhabited adobe city.
3. Bam and its Cultural Landscape
Bam is situated in a desert environment on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau. The origins of Bam can be traced back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th centuries BC). Its heyday was from the 7th to 11th centuries, being at the crossroads of important trade routes and known for the production of silk and cotton garments.
Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars, homeland of the Persians, in the 6th century BC. Its palaces, gardens and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization.
5. Golestan palace
Golestan Palace is one of the most exclusive historical collections in Iran. This royal complex located in Tehran. The foundation of this collection dates back to the time of Shah Abbas Safavid but, Today, the works created by him are not visible. The complex has more than 10 museums.This palace has a European Iranian face and has undergone significant changes during the Nassereddin Shah Qajar era.
6. Lut Desert
The Lut Desert, also known as Dashat-e Loot, is a large salt desert in Kerman and Sistan Province, Iran. It is the twenty-fifth largest, driest, and hottest desert in the world with temperatures up to 70 degrees Celsius. Gandom Beryan plateau covering an area of 190 square miles is the hottest part of the desert with dark lava on the sand. It was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in July 2016.
Susa was one of the important cities in the Ancient Near East empires located in the Lower Zagros Mountains, Khuzestan province, 160 miles east of Tigris River. It appears in the earliest Sumerian records, and the first inhabitants were traced in 7,000 BC. The monumental fist platform was built over 6000 years ago and has remained the center of attraction in the town.
Persepolis, also known as Takht-e-Jamshid, is located approximately 38 miles northeast of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. It was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire and architecture used is unique only to the Achaemenid style of the 550 to 330 BC. Its ruins were inscribed in the UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.
9. Persian garden
Iran has stunning gardens, Persian Garden is a title referring to a special type of design for gardens that is unique to Persian architecture. In 2011 nine Iranian gardens were added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites under the title of Persian Garden.
These gardens have a similar pattern but each of them is unique in its own right. As you walk along the pathways of each quarter, you will be amazed by the beautiful ponds, fountains and trees on each side.
Persian Garden features a remarkable pavilion on the main axis which is regarded as one of the prominent characteristics of Persian architecture. The gardens that fall under this category belong to different historical eras. The ancient garden of Pasargadae near Persepolis is known as the oldest one. Bagh-e-Fin in Kashan, Bagh-e-chehel-sotun in Esfahan, Bagh-e-Dolat-Abad in Yazd and Bagh-e-Eram in Shiraz are the most famous examples of the Persian Garden.
10. Takhte Soleyman
Takht-e-Soleyman is an archeological site that includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary that was partly rebuilt in the 13th century during the Ilkhanid era. Also, an important temple dedicated to Anahita (a goddess in Persian mythology) that dates back to Sasanian period (6th and 7th century) is located in this place.Importantly, the design of different architectural structures in Takht-e-Soleyman have had strong influences on the Islamic architecture of Iran.
11. Armenian Monastic Ensembles
Located in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran, this is the first entry into this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran. The entire property recognized by UNESCO covers a total land area of 129 hectares. The Armenian Monastic Ensembles is a group of three Armenian churches that were built during the 7th and 14th centuries AD. These three churches are namely St. Thaddeus Monastery, Chapel of Zordzor, and Saint Stepanos Monastery.Despite the fact that these churches have undergone renovations, they are in a good state of preservation. Moreover, they illustrate the major qualities of Armenian architecture and decorative traditions. In addition, it also reflects the diffusion of Armenian culture in this part of Iran.
Bisotun is another cultural site in Iran that has earned the nod from UNESCO as a world heritage property. It is located within the province of Kermanshah. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2006.
Bisotun is best known for the multilingual inscription and large rock relief that were carved out on the cliffs of Mount Behistun.
13. Gonbade Kavous
This monument is a 72-meter high tower located in the central part of Gonbad-e Qabus. The tower is made of baked brick in an enormous decagon style. Meanwhile, the roof of the tower is conic in shape and was designed according to the golden ratio Phi. The interior of this tower is the best example of Muqarnas decorative styles.The building of this tower is based on architectural and scientific design principles that enable you to hear an echo of your voice at the front of the tower. This tower was built in 1006 AD as commissioned by Ziyarid Amir Qabus ibn Wushmgir.
14. Jame mosque of Isfahan
This mosque is a congregational mosque in Iran. The origin of the site dates back to the 771 and it has undergone many renovations, constructions, reconstructions, and additions throughout many centuries until the end of the 20th century. It was named into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran in 2012.
15. Burned city
Shahr-e Sukhte (literally translated as the Burned City) is a vast archaeological site made by mud bricks on the bank of the Helmand river, between Zahedan and Zabol cities, situated at South East Iran inside Sistan & Baluchestan Province. It dates back to the Bronze Age inhabited from 3200 to 1800 BC.There were four stages of civilizations living there. Before it was abandoned, the city had been burned down three times. Therefore, many had lost their lives. As a result, there’s a sizable graveyard attached to this settlement that has accommodated from 25,000 to 40,000 ancient graves.The historical site consists of several historical mounds in a row. Each of them was allocated to a different function, like workshops, residence, graveyard, etc.
Soltaniyeh is the capital city of Soltaniyeh District of Abhar County, Zanjan Province, northwestern Iran. Once it was the ancient capital of Ilkhani dynasty (branch of the Mongol dynasty). The mausoleum of Oljaytu is the first double-shell dome in the world and also the oldest of its kind (Between the inside shell and outside shell, there is 60cm empty space). During the Islamic art era, there was an outstanding universal value because of brickwork, glazed tiles, architecture, and marquetry which you can observe here. The turquoise-blue dome can be seen from the center of the city.
Maymand is a self-contained, semi-arid area at the end of a valley at the southern extremity of Iran’s central mountains. The villagers are semi-nomadic agro-pastoralists. They raise their animals on mountain pastures, living in temporary settlements in spring and autumn. During the winter months they live lower down the valley in cave dwellings carved out of the soft rock (kamar), an unusual form of housing in a dry, desert environment. This cultural landscape is an example of a system that appears to have been more widespread in the past and involves the movement of people rather than animals.
18. Naqshe-jahan square
Built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century, and bordered on all sides by monumental buildings linked by a series of two-storeyed arcades, the site is known for the Royal Mosque, the Mosque of Sheykh Lotfollah, the magnificent Portico of Qaysariyyeh and the 15th-century Timurid palace. They are an impressive testimony to the level of social and cultural life in Persia during the Safavid era.
19. Sheikh Safi shrine
Built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, this place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions. It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well-preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artefacts. It constitutes a rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecture.
20. Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System, inscribed as a masterpiece of creative genius, can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Kârun one of which, Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin.
Chogha Zanbil is one a few existing and the best-preserved “Ziggurats” in the world. These massive structures are representative of Mesopotamia. Near the ancient city of Susa, this Ziggurat was a religious temple built by the Elamite and Persia’s very first building. Visitors walking around this five-storey and pyramidal structure, made out of adobe bricks, can feel the weight of history. Tchogha Zanbil is also a fascinating masterpiece of architecture, each floor having its own independent foundations, and the oldest water treatment system. Visiting the ruins of this holy city is a journey through the origin of our civilization.
22. Tabriz Bazaar
Iran is famous for its bazaars, with their narrow alleys, colourful tiny shops selling beautiful silk carpets and delicate enamelled vases. Come to the Tabriz city to discover the gem of all bazaars: it’s the largest covered market in the world, and one of the oldest in the Middle East. Built on the famous Silk Road trading route, it brought prosperity to the region and has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity.
23. Sassanid archaeological Landscape
It’s the latest Iranian member of UNESCO cultural World Heritage Sites List. Those fortified structures, palaces, and hallways cover all the era of the Sassanian Empire and hold major historical importance. The splendid bas-reliefs of Shapur I are forever recalling to the visitor the greatness of the Persian kings, in a blend of art and history. These sites are not only a testimony of influential architecture but they also melt harmoniously in their natural landscape.
24. Hyrcanian forests
The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests ecoregion, in the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests biome, is an area of lush lowland and montane forests covering about 55,000 square kilometres (21,000 sq mi) near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea of Iran and Azerbaijan. The forest is named after the ancient region of Hyrcania. On 5 July 2019, the Hyrcanian Forests were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.