Iran is a southwest Asian country of mountains and deserts. Eastern Iran is dominated by a high plateau, with large salt flats and vast sand deserts. The plateau is surrounded by even higher mountains, including the Zagros to the west and the Elburz to the north. Farming and settlement are largely concentrated in the narrow plains or valleys in the west or north, where there is more rainfall. Iran’s huge oil reserves lie in the southwest, along the Persian Gulf.
The landscape of Iran is diverse, providing a range of activities from hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains, to beach holidays by the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Over the next five years a number of tourism-friendly infrastructure projects will be undertaken on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, which at present attracts around 1m visitors per year, the majority of whom are Iranian.
Before the Iranian revolution, tourism was characterized by significant numbers of visitors traveling to Iran for its diverse attractions, boastingcultural splendours and a diverse and beautiful landscape suitable for a range of activities. Tourism declined dramatically during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s.
Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the majority of foreign visitors to Iran have been religious pilgrims and businesspeople.Official figures do not distinguish between those travelling to Iran for business and those coming for pleasure, and they also include a large number of diaspora Iranians returning to visit their families in Iran or making pilgrimages to holy Shia sites near Mashhad and elsewhere. Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. Despite the international tensions, the government continues to project strong rises in visitor numbers and tourism revenue for the foreseeable future, and to talk of projects to build an additional 100 hotels, for example, to expand its currently limited stock. In 2013, the number of foreign tourists in Iran reached 4.76 million, contributing more than $2 billion to the national economy. The strong devaluation of the Iranian Rial since early 2012 is also a positive element for tourism in Iran. Over five million tourists visited Iran in the fiscal year of 2014-2015, ending March 21, four percent more year-on-year