British Airways relaunches flights to Tehran today, four years after the last direct service from the UK took off, and around a year after the UK embassy reopened its doors in the Iranian capital.
Both moves are beating a more accessible path to this controversial country for curious travellers, following a thawing of frosty relations between Iran and other world powers thanks to a landmark nuclear deal.
Administration of the Achaemenian Empire was overseen from Susa, from Babylon or from Ecbatana during the cold seasons and it was most likely for this reason that the Greeks never knew of Parsa until it was sacked and looted by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE (the historian Plutarch claiming that Alexander carried away the treasures of Parsa on the backs of 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels).
Though building began under Darius, the glory of Parsa which Alexander found when he invaded was due mainly to the latter works of Xerxes I and Artaxerxes III, both of whose names have been found (besides that of Darius) inscribed on tablets, over doorways and in hallways throughout the ruins of the city.
In conjunction with the plan, experts are currently studying Naqsh-e Rajab, Naqsh-e Rustam, Mount Rahmat, the Sassanid city of Istakhr, and several other ancient sites near Persepolis.
According to the latest studies carried out by Iranian archaeologists, Persepolis is much larger than previous surveys have indicated.
History lovers are spoiled for choice when it comes to incredibly preserved archaeological sites (including the ancient city of Persepolis), while the photogenic beauty of classic Persian architecture – usually covered with those famous blue tiles – will please anyone with an eye for design.Plus, outdoor enthusiasts have a surfeit of mountains to climb and ski, desert landscapes to explore and scenic valleys to trek.All this, combined with ultra-welcoming locals, a refined and delicious cuisine (succulent grilled kebabs, flavourful stews) and an ancient culture steeped in poetry, music and art, mean that Iran is a destination as rewarding as it is revelatory. The process can be notoriously long and frustrating, so you should apply well in advance of your planned travel dates.Darius made Parsa the new capital of the Persian Empire, instead of Pasargadae, the old capital and burial place of King Cyrus the Great.Because of its remote location in the mountains, however, travel to Parsa was almost impossible during the rainy season of the Persian winter when paths turned to mud and so the city was used mainly in the spring and summer warmer seasons.