Persepolis was once the richest city on earth - the glittering capital of the Achaemenid Empire. At the heart of the city lay the royal palace - a wonder of gold and silver, ivory, and precious stones. From there, Xerxes planned his war against Greece - and the treasure of a vast empire piled up in the store-rooms.
In 330 BCE, Persepolis was captured by Alexander the Great. Before he left the city, he ordered the palace burned to the ground - whether through drunken malice or sober calculation, it is impossible to be sure. Today, the haunting, spectacular ruins of Persepolis reveal both the glory of the Achaemenid Empire, and the abruptness of its passing. The palace is still marked by Alexander’s fire: three feet of ash covered the floor in some places when it was first excavated - and many of the columns are still visibly scarred by those flames which burned over two thousand years ago.
Visit Iran withAtlas Obscura Trips
Ancient Persia, Modern Iran: Civilizations Old and New
On the overland route from Tehran to Shiraz, experience some of the oldest sites of civilization, tap into local secrets, and explore the myriad influences that have shaped Iran into one of the most fascinating places on the planet. (And yes, most Americans can currently get visas!)