Answer by Olena Petrosyuk:
Iran. I would have never expected it but the country is beyond stunning. It took us months to plan the itinerary around Iran. Weeks to select the best spots we want to see. But only after a few days in the country we were forced to take a tough decision: extending our two-week trip to a full-scale one-month journey. The reason is simple: the country turned out to be too beautiful to skip on any experiences.
My idea to visit Iran was met with mixed responses. From dramatic “You won’t survive this trip” by my mom to the full of surprise “Are you stupid?” and the far more blunt “You are stupid”. Hugs that lasted way too long and the overly serious “Please be safe” from my friends and family. Few days later I could already say with full confidence that what seemed to be known as an “evil empire” turned out to be one of the world’s best kept travel secrets.
Iranian people are welcoming beyond any acceptable boundaries. Endless cavalcade of curious people randomly greeting you on streets. Students actively inviting you for house parties. Local merchants closing their shops to give you a ride home when you are lost. English professors saving you from rain to buy you breakfast, tea, sweets and even shisha – and refusing to accept any money.
As though hospitality alone was not enough, Iran tops it off with superb food and an overwhelming amount of gorgeous places and sights. Turbulent bazaars, picturesque villages, luxurious palaces, ancient mosques, foggy mountains and vast deserts.
With years of media propaganda and deep-rooted stereotypes it comes as no surprise that few people know about the magic of this country. But for sure – that is not a good enough reason not to visit. Iran was and might still be one of the most underrated travel destination.