Shah Abas the Great’s 16th century capital

Isfahan (Alt .1575 m) (445 km from Tehran), it is a turquoise, glitter amidst a green fertile oasis near the vastness of the central Iranian desert. Isfahan, flashing with brilliant aquamarine mosaic domes, lofty minarets, and some of the world’s finest architecture, is a visual treat and the indisputable centre of attraction for everyone. Most of the buildings built under the Seljuks (11 A.D.) and the Safavids (16A.D.) are still standing. On its fertile plain, blessed by a temperate climate and watered by the Zayande Rud river, the 16th-century Persian capital Isfahan is unquestionably one of the world’s great cities, and a UNESCO-designated Centre of Cultural Heritage. It lives up to its historic name, ‘Half the World’. Visitors never fail to be captivated by the beauty of its ceramic domes and lavishly decorated mosques, and it is said of Isfahan’s countless medieval monuments that “the more you behold them, the more they will surprise and fascinate you.”

Imam Mosque –
At the end of the Royal Square is One of the most breathtaking Islamic monuments in the world, the Imam Mosque. The rectangular entrance portal and the two turquoise minarets (27m high) which flank it, dominate the Square, Behind it is the main dome (52m high) of the prayer hall. The decoration inside the dome is remarkably elegant and repeats with subtle variation the blue, white and gold shads seen outsides. It was built over a period of 26 years and was eventually completed in 1638. In Shah Abbas’ impatience to see it finished, he attempted to hurry up the work by adopting a new method of glazed tile work, known as haft rangi (of seven colours). As a result, some sections are decorated with the new style and some with the old and these ornate tiles take on a different hue according to the light conditions. The Imam mosque is one of the Iran UNESCO Heritage site

Imam mosque in Isfahan Iran

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque –
A shimmering mosque with amazing ceramic work, built in 1617.This small mosque was built during Shah Abbas’ time and dedicated to his father in law, Sheikh Lotfollah. The pale tiles on the dome change colour from cream to pink, depending on the light conditions; and the mosque is unusual because it has no minaret or courtyard. The mosque was once called the Ladies’s Mosque, because there is apparently a tunnel between this mosque and the Ali Qapu Palace, allowing Ladies from court’s royal haram to attend prayers without being seen in public.

Aliqapou Palace –
The 16th-century palace of Shah Abbas Safavi, with its curious ornamentation.This palace was built as a functioning seat of government, and included a huge pavilion from where the Safavid rulers could watch the activities in the square below.The palace stands on the west side of the Royal Square has six floors, walls and ceiling still bear origins fresco beautifully resorted and glazed tile decoration. The talar on the first floor which overlooks the square served in summer as a throne room from where the ruler could watch the polo matches below or review the troops. The elevated trance offers a magnificent view over the surrounding mountains, town and the best view of the Square. The room on the sixth floor known as Music room,the wall and ceiling cut with the shapes of Persian musical instruments and other household shapes

Vank Cathedral 
A Christian cathedral with lavish interior similar to a Persian mosque.Also known as The Church of the holy saviour, located in Jolfa, the Armenian quarter of Isfahan. Shah Abbas in 1603 settled the Armenian community from the town of Jolfa on the Aras river (north west of Iran)in Azerbaijan to Jolfa in Isfahan.Vank Cathedral is a focal point and the main historical Armenian architecture in Iran. The cathedral is domed in the same manner as the mosques, the wall and ceiling is covered with magnificent Christian imagery, fine painting and tile works.

The ‘Shaking Minarets’ –
With two mysterious towers which oscillate together when a visitor sways inside them.These twin minarets belong to a 14th century Mongol mosque and have a unique feature, when one of the minarets shaken, the movement transmit to its twin minaret and it shakes as well. So far there is no convenience explanation for this unusual phenomenon.

Sassanian Fire Temple –
The ruins of a Zoroastrian, part-Mongol edifice.Located at top of the hill and the place of worship for Zoroastrians.

The Bridges of Isfahan –
The Zayandeh Rud (river) starts in the Zagros Mountains, flows from west to east through the heart of Isfahan, and dries up in the Kavir desert.
The bridges over the river include some of the nicest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the “Pol-e Shahrestan” which was probably built in the 12th century during the Seljuk period. Further upstream is the “Pol-e Khaju” A magnificent structure with two tiers of arches which was built by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is 123 metres long with 24 arches, and it also serves as a sluice gate. The next bridge is the “Pol-e Jubi”. It was originally built as an aqueduct to supply the palace gardens on the north bank of the river.

Si-o-se-pol –
the (Bridge of 33 Arches) or “Allah-verdi Khan Bridge” built in 1632 by Shah Abbas on the Zayandeh Rud, it linked Isfahan with the Armenian suburb of Jolfa. It is by far the longest bridge in Isfahan at 295m, an elaborate example of Safavid bridge design. It consists of two rows of 33 arches. There is a larger base plank at the start of the bridge where the Zayandeh river lows under it, supporting a tea house, Where one can admire the beauty of its impressive architecture.

Friday Mosque –
A building typifying nine centuries of Iranian sacred architecture, with vaulted arches, stucco carvings, and a marble pool.With no doubt Friday mosque is an architectural treasure and one of the most magnificent of all building in Isfahan, the architecture of the mosque is extremely complex and constructed in different periods, hence an exhibition of arts belong to different era. It was build on the remain of a Sassanid fire temple at 10th century, there are some columns which suggest its pre-Islamic origin. The mosque frequently built onto damaged and reconstructed, at different times. The main part belongs to 11th century of the era of the Seljuks. Later extensively redecorated and repaired by the Mongols.

Chehel Sotoun –
(‘The Forty Columns’) a Safavid palace with a delightful pavilion supported by twenty columns, which double to make the legendary forty when reflected in the water. Inside are important murals, mirror mosaics and an exquisitely decorated wooden roof.

Hasht Behesht Palaces (Eight Paradises) –
An attractive 17th century small palace with wooden columns set in a delightful garden of Nightingales. The building is octagonal with large central domed hall and a series of small chamber. The domed ceiling of the main reception room is painted in purple on a glittering gold base and decorated with small mirrors. The garden, is visible through the great arches, the most interesting part of this palace are the spandrel title decorations on the exterior showing pairs of often mythical hunting animals.

Isfahan Bazaar –
A typical eastern bazaar, one of the oldest and longest roofed bazaar in the world from the Saljuqid and Safavid era. The great bazaar can be entered from one of its several entrances, the main entrance is at end of Royal Square, higher up decorated with fine tile works and remarkable frescoes.The great bazaar has many passages. There are several traditional tea houses and restaurants. Wondering around in bazaar with its fragrant scents and spices is absolutely a real treat.

View Larger Map

Check Also


Located about 150 miles east of the Tigris River in Khuzestan province of Iran. As well as being an archaeological site...