Shiraz, called the "City of Poets, Wine and Roses," was the Persian capital and rival of Isfahan during the 18th century. It's now a regional capital and university town with beautiful gardens filled with roses and orange trees (it's particularly nice in April when the orange trees are in blossom—you can smell the fragrance everywhere in the city). Shiraz is a serene, pleasant, relaxing city that's easy to get around on foot—you won't need a car.

While there, visit the 10th-century Friday Mosque (Masjid-e Jumeh Attiq), the 12th-century New Mosque, Bag-e Aram Palace, the Pars Museum (ancient manuscripts), the Mausoleum of Shah-e Cheragh and the Vakil Mosque (beautiful tile work). Shop for gold and silver, rugs and inlay work at the beautiful 18th-century Vakil bazaar, which also has a popular teahouse located in a restored bathhouse. We particularly enjoyed the tombs of poets Saadi and Hafiz. There's a delightful teahouse in the garden of Hafiz's tomb, under the bergamot trees. We found the residents of Shiraz to be quite friendly: Many of the university students speak English and are eager to practice with native speakers. If you're in Shiraz during the first two weeks of September, attend the Shiraz International Festival of art and music.

Day trips can be made to nearby Persepolis. We recommend flying in and out of Shiraz—it's a long way from Tehran, and the scenery along the route isn't extraordinary. 570 mi/920 km south of Tehran.

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