Persepolis: Jewel of Persia - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Persepolis: Jewel of Persia

Persian empire reliefs at Persepolis, Iran

Getting out of our mundane world is one of the best perks of traveling! Don’t you agree? And while we forget the day to day humdrum, albeit for a short while, we learn to appreciate the sheer beauty of the world around us, our rich human past and amazing stories of our evolution. I experienced one such story from our evolution at Persepolis, the capital of the mighty Persian Empire, during my backpacking holiday to Iran.

Persepolis landscape with the tomb of Darius the great in the background

This story takes you to the time of the Archaemenid empire, the first Persian empire. The time period was around the 6th century BC, which means that I am taking you back by almost 8000 years. Founded by Cyrus the Great, this massive empire ranged all the way from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the west to the Indus valley of the Indian subcontinent in the East. It was one of the largest kingdoms to have existed on planet earth and it was a time of absolute power and amazing riches. And it was around this time that the religion of Zoroastrianism was born.

Stunning Bas-reliefs from the Persian empire of Persepolis

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of this Persian empire. It was founded by Cyrus the Great and many additions were made to the city during the reign of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Antaxerxes, the future rulers. It was neither the largest city in the empire nor was it the seat of power. Rather, it was occupied seasonally most probably to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, held at the spring equinox.

Gate of Nations, Persepolis, Iran

For almost 200 years, Persepolis became a place to celebrate the glory of the Persian empire. It was home to mighty gates, colossal buildings, ornate palaces, majestic throne hall, exquisite living quarters and beautiful tombs. Persepolis was as majestic a capital as there could be till Alexander the Great took over the city in 330 BC and plundered it. Around the same time, a fire is believed to have started and destroyed most of the city. And thus began the fall of this mighty capital city.

winged human faced lion guardian at persepolis, Iran

Today, tucked amidst the Zagros mountains of Southern Iran, Persepolis exists as a maze of stone columns, colossal structures and beautiful designs and bas reliefs that tell us a story of the once powerful Persian empire. Most of the city is in ruins today, but thanks to the efforts of the various archaeological communities, a lot of the ruins have been re-structured to give us an inkling of an idea about the grandeur of this historic Persian city.

Persepolis Frieze depicting Persian immortals

A lot of movies, books, documentaries and travel stories have tried portraying the beautiful past of Persepolis, but nothing comes close to experiencing it in real. Right from the time you set your eyes on the Gate of Nations and stare in awe at the griffins and the horses, a visit to Persepolis is bound to astound you at multiple levels. The Apadana palace is the true highlight of Persepolis. This palace is a stunning mix of gargantuan size and ornate beauty. Its tall columns, oak and cedar wood beams, massive stairways and walls are full of foundation tablets of gold and silver, animal sculptures, carvings and bas reliefs.

Symbol of Zoroastrianism and the Persian Empire at Persepolis, Iran

Then there is the throne hall, the imperial treasury, the Hadish palace of Xerxes I, the council hall and various other palaces, stables and quarters. Each one of these building remnants tell you a story about the glorious past. And then overlooking all of this gorgeous city are the tombs of the Persian kings themselves where they have been resting for the past thousands of years next to their prized jewel of a city.

Persepolis bas-relief - bull fighting lion

If you love ancient stories, are a culture or history buff or simply like to experience new places, this UNESCO World Heritage Site called Persepolis is sure to keep you riveted with deep interest. After all, it is jewel of Persia for a reason!

A Persepolis classic moment as you see it

How to get here:

The nearest international airport would be at Shiraz. Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia and Mahan Air connect Shiraz with the UAE and India, thus making it easy for us Indians to experience this heritage site. You can also fly into Tehran and do the road trip to Shiraz.

Darius the Great, his followers and his soldiers

Where to stay:

The nearest city is Shiraz, which is located about 60 kms away. One can choose from a variety of stay options in Shiraz that caters to a wide array of budgets.

Archaemenid Griffin at Persepolis, Iran

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The Pink Mosque is a must experience. The colors will blow your mind away

2) The various gardens of Shiraz

3) Yazd and Isfahan, if you have more time at hand

And when you are in Iran, do not miss the opportunity to experience these 5 off-beat travel experiences of Iran.

Welcome to BE ON THE ROAD Travel Blog! I am Sankara, its founder, a 40 something male from Bangalore who is living his dream of exploring the world and simultaneously trying to inspire others to live their dream.
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