From Shiraz to Yazd – Persepolis, Pasargadae and Abarqu

We awoke early for a 7am start to meet our driver who would take us from Shiraz to Yazd stopping along famous sites – Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rostom, Pasargadae and through the small town of Abarqu before reaching Yazd. In total, the journey would take us over 500km.  Soon into our trip we realised our driver, Morteza Mehrparvar, was quite a comical character, which made our long car trip much more enjoyable.  He had been in the tourism industry for the past seventeen years (which he reminded us a number of times during the trip), and had many stories to tell. He was even listed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 editions of the Lonely Planet – “page 271” he proudly said.


Similar to the sites in Shiraz, Persepolis was packed with local Iranian tourists.  We explored the sites in awe of the beautiful creations of the ancient Achaemanid Empire, during reign of Darius the Great.  It was clear that Persepolis was once a magnificent city. My favourite features were the staircases – each step consisting of a relief mimicking the ancient customs of bringing gifts to the palaces.

Persepolitan stairway, allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a regal appearance while ascendingGate of all NationsLamassus, bull with the heads of bearded men
Pair of Lamassus, bulls with the heads of bearded menPair of Lamassus, bulls with wings and a Persian headLamassus, bull with wings and a Persian head
Persian girl taking photo with SonyaThe Gate of All Nations, Eastern sideTwo headed eagle sculptures
Throne Hall (Hundred-Columns Palace)Looking west towards the Gate of All NationsLooking west over Persepolis
Throne Hall (Hundred-Columns Palace)Apadana Palace (The Great Palace of Xerxes)Two colossal stone bulls flanking north side of Throne Hall
Colossal stone bulls flanking north side of Throne HallApadana Palace (The Great Palace of Xerxes)Looking towards the Gate of All Nations
South restoration of PersepolisLooking over Throne Hall (Hundred-Columns Palace)Double horse column capital
Tomb of King of Kings, the Faravahar symbol of ZoroastrianismTomb of King of KingsFlower carvings on the Tomb of King of Kings
Persian soldiers carved on the Tomb of King of KingsView of PersepolisTomb of King of Kings
Zoroastrianism carvings on the Tomb of King of KingsTomb of King of KingsApadana Palace and Zagros Mountains
Gate to Apadana PalaceApadana Palace (The Great Palace of Xerxes)Relief of Lion fighting a Bull
Apadana Hall, Persian and Median soldiersFighting bull (personifying the moon),and lion (personifying the Sun)Persepolitan stairway
Apadana Palace (The Great Palace of Xerxes)Tomb of King of KingsGate to Apadana Palace (The Great Palace of Xerxes)
Sonya and Travis with Apadana Palace in the backgroundRepresentatives of twenty-three subject nations of the Achaemenid Empire bearing giftsLooking towards the Zagros Mountains
Persian soldiersThrone Hall (Hundred-Columns Palace)Gate of all Nations

Naqsh-e Rostom

Next we stopped off at Naqsh-e Rostom, a site consistent of impressive rock tombs off Darius I, Darius II, Artaxerxes I and Xerxes I located on a smooth mountain face.  A number of detailed reliefs/murals depicting war, victory across the ages are also carved on the rockface surrounding the tombs.  Nearby is Kaba Zarosht, a monument that was thought to be a Zoroastrian Fire Temple but is now regarded to be a treasury of some sort.

Naqsh-e Rostam (Picture of Rostam), one of the elevated tombs (Persian crosses)The investiture Sassanid relief of Ardashir I The triumph of Shapur I Sassanid relief
Equestrian Sassanid reliefThe Kaba-ye ZartoshtView of three of the four tombs (Persian crosses)


The first thing we saw upon reaching Pasargadae was the tomb of Cyrus the Great – a high rectangular tomb.  It seemed a little unimpressive for a ruler who was so highly regarded in Persian history.  Further along was the Pasargadae site, which was much less reconstructed in comparison to Persepolis but worth the visit.

The tomb of Cyrus the GreatTravis at the tomb of Cyrus the GreatThe tomb of Cyrus the Great
The citadel of PasargadaeLooking over ancient Pasargadae from the citadelThe citadel of Pasargadae

Sassanian ruins

Morteza also took us on a slight detour to visit an old run down site which was from the Sassanian period.  It was completely deserted (unlike all the other sites we’d visited), aside from a local family who had setup a few troughs to feed a group of baby goats inside the building… Apparently they were from the nearby mountains but weren’t getting enough food.  We enjoyed a cup of hot tea here whilst admiring the nearby snow capped mountains.

The arch entrance to the Saddanian buildingMany baby goats (kids)Many baby goats (kids)
Sonya with a baby goat (kid)Many baby goats (kids)Many baby goats (kids) with the Sassanian building in the background
Many baby goats (kids) with the Sassanian building in the backgroundMany baby goats (kids) with the Sassanian building in the backgroundMany baby goats (kids) eating


Our last stop before Yazd was in Abarqu – here we visited the icehouse – a massive circular pyramid structure which once stored ice from winter’s snow for the hot summers, a 4000+ year old Cyprus tree (although Morteza suspects it is only 1000 years old) and Gombad Ali Dome built in the 11th century.

Abarqu ice houseInside Abarqu ice houseSonya at the entrance of a mud brick wall
Sarv-e Abarqu (cypress of Abarqu)Sarv-e Abarqu (cypress of Abarqu)Gonbad Ali Dome