After decades of isolation, Iran now wishes to encourage more visitors to come and see its many cultural treasures.
Last week, the Guardian reported the thaw in international relations was extending to the tourist industry, with a move to ease stringent visa requirements for foreigners.
Mohammad-Ali Najafi, an Iranian vice-president and head of the country’s cultural heritage and tourism, told the newspaper there were plans to divide countries into three groups: those not requiring a visa, those not requiring a visa if visiting as part of a tour group, and countries that would be able to obtain a visa on arrival.
Most Western countries would be likely to be included in the second or third group, he said.
However, 10 countries were excluded from the plans to relax the visa requirements, including Afghanistan, the UK, Pakistan and United States.
Currently, Britons need to apply for a visa from Iran’s diplomatic and consular missions, and cannot obtain a visa on arrival. Visitors are advised to apply well in advance of travel.
Graham Hughes, the man who visited all of the world’s 201 countries without taking a flight, described Iran in Telegraph Travel as “one place that will always stick in my mind.”
“Instead of the stern, joyless place I expected, it turned out to be the warmest and most hospitable nation in the world.
Last month, plans for the first private European train to go to Iran were announced . The train, a joint venture between the Danube Express, and the tour operator Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, will go from Budapest to Tehran. A “pioneering spirit” was said to be an advantage, as well as deep pockets, as the two-week journey – running in October next year – costs £8,695 ($14,050).
Currently the Foreign Office advises against travel but essential travel to Iran, and advises against all travel altogether to areas near the country’s borders with Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some tour operators believe the warnings may be lifted soon, if Iran’s relations with the West continue to improve.