Tehran, the capital of Iran, is full of life – it's home to more than eight million people. This modern metropolis lures travellers with its numerous cultural treasures, from opulent palaces and bustling bazaars to traditional tea houses and rich Persian cuisine. Snow-topped peaks can be glimpsed from all over town; in fact, there's a lively ski scene in the adjacent mountain resort of Tochal, which can be easily reached from the city via a gondola lift.
The multicultural hostels in Tehran make it easy to meet and mingle with fellow travellers. Many have cosy event spaces, quaint balconies or giant courtyards. You can stay in a traditional Iranian house complete with ornately decorated dorms, or an urban oasis filled with plants and flowers. Some hostels are even set in grand heritage-listed buildings. You can also find a Tehran hostel with an in-house café perfect for a relaxing drink or meal.
District 12 in the heart of town is where you’ll find the historic Masoudieh Palace (which dates back to the Qajar dynasty) and the verdant Park-e Shahr. The Iranshahr area in the lively District 6 is a magnet for backpackers, thanks to its numerous art galleries and coffee shops. In the north of Tehran lies the upmarket neighbourhood of Tajrish. It's home to the Imamzadeh Saleh mosque, as well as a bustling bazaar selling basketfuls of spices and other local souvenirs.
There are lots of fascinating sights in Tehran. The former US embassy, with its colourful murals, is now a museum and a monument to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace also stands out with its marble carvings, lattice windows and intricate tiling. For curios and antiques, the Grand Bazaar has it all within its maze of alleys. Alcohol is banned in Iran, but nightlife thrives in the cafés and street food stalls around Si-e Tir Street. In the northern district of Darband, restaurants lit up by twinkling lights hug the foot of Mount Tochal.
Imam Khomeini International Airport is about 30km south-west of Tehran. From here, the fastest way to reach the city is on the efficient metro system, which has lines running all across town. Hop on Line 8 before changing to Line 1, which will take you to the centre. Taxis are rather pricey in Tehran and traffic tends to be busy, but buses are a good way to get around as they have their own dedicated lanes.