More significant than physical differences, however, is the great contrast between old and new ways of life. The new Iran can be seen in shiny tarmac roads, great factories, modern hospitals and schools, luxury hotels and old fashioned restaurants; the old in rambling gardens, remote villages unexplored valleys and traditional tea houses.
Rapid, yet not total, modernization means that the tourist has the best of both worlds. If he wants plush hotels, fast transport, organized tours and chauffeur services, they are there. And if he wants to go off on his own to some peaceful valley where there are no roads – let alone cars – this, too, he can do.
Even the tourist who wants things well organized can tour in comfort without falling over waves of other sightseers. While tourists in their thousands swarm over the Acropolis and the Taj Mahal and rush to Spanish beaches and African game reserves, Iran has remained on the sidelines of the tourist boom.
What does Iran have to offer? In general terms it offers the indefinable excitement of an ancient, romantic land, which is rapidly being transformed into a modern industrial nation. In more specific terms, its attractions can be divided into four main categories; historical sites, scenic beauty, sporting facilities and shopping opportunities.