I have visited Esfahan thrice and each time, have been bedazzled by this spectacular city of Iran. It is called “Half of the World” and throughout centuries, travelers have claimed Esfahan to be one of the loveliest places they have ever seen. Even the well-seasoned Ibn Battuta left glowing reviews of Esfahan’s beauty and it is indeed a city of some of the most splendid mosques in the world.

The blue gold beauty of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The highlight of Esfahan in Iran is the Naqsh-e-Jahan square and it is the equal parts a magnificent site and a complete tourist trap. A Unesco World Heritage Site, Naqsh-e-Jahan is famous for impressive mosques, palaces, and bazaars and it’s sheer size and grandeur never fails to mesmerize. Though the Imam Mosque dominates the square, my favourite is the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Exquisite and intimate, it used to be the private mosque of the Safavid dynasty rulers. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one place which makes you feel happily blue and Esfahan’s tile work decorating it is famously aqua toned. More lovingly embellished than the towering Imam Mosque, I love watching light filtering through its blue tiles and trellises. The central golden peacock dome is simply breathtaking and it is easy to lose hours counting time on its splendid sundial. Lotfollah’s beauty had been easy, unassuming and mortal in temperament. Unlike the massive Shah mosque, it’s relaxed fluidity is like poetry and the beauty is warm and homey.

Under the Peacock Dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan

Under the Peacock Dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Imam Mosque seems to dwarf even the Zagros Mountains

The massive congregational Imam mosque, however, is a completely different story and its grandeur was designed to stun viewers. But, in spite of its intimidating beauty, Imam Mosque is one of the most magnificent monuments I have ever seen and it had derived its power from its sheer size and powerful acoustic effect. Apart from being connoisseurs of beauty, ancient Persians were also clever architects and sound engineers, and the interiors of the Imam Mosque has the most resounding acoustic qualities. It adds depths to the cavernous interiors and everything, including the Zagros Mountains, seem small in comparison.

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The massive Imam Mosque of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square in Esfahan

The massive Imam Mosque of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square

This is the world’s loveliest congregational mosque

One of my most memorable sights of Esfahan is that of the Imam Mosque at sunrise, with the Zagros Mountains misting in the background. The blue and gold decorated monument truly resembles the glittering dawn sky at that hour and the sight leaves one speechless. Imam Mosque, however, is spectacular throughout the day and I always feel drowned inside its infinite blue interiors. Richly covered with exquisite signature Esfahani “blue” tiles, the monument is a hypnotic mix of flowers, calligraphy, quotes from the Koran and tall shadows. The highlight of the stunning Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, the massive congregational Mosque is an architectural gem and in olden times, the booming surround sound effect of the main dome helped the imam call the far-flung masses for their spiritual obeisance. There’s a very popular quote which goes like this, “It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”. This is especially true when it comes to Esfahan “Half of the World”.

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Esfahan Naqsh-e-Jahan Square Travel Tips

Built at the beginning of the 17th century by emperor Shah Abbas I the Great, Naqsh-e-Jahan Square of Esfahan is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is bordered on all sides by astonishingly beautiful monuments which are linked by two-storeyed arcades. The square is famous for some of the most beautiful mosques in the world namely the Imam Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. It has also the magnificent Portico of Qaysariyyeh and the 15th-century Timurid palace. These are all fantastic examples of the art and culture in Persia under the Safavid rule.

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Location:

Naqsh-e Jahan Square is located in the center of Esfahan. The Imperial Bazaar is at the northern end of the square through the north end of the square through the Qaysariyyeh Gates. The majestic Imam Mosque is located in the south and the Shah Historical Bath, Chehel Sotoon Palace, and Hasht Behesht Palace are all within walking distance.

How to Reach:

By Metro – The closest metro station is Takhti and it is a 20-minutes walk from the mosque.

By Bus: Hop on a bus which passes either one of these stops – Central Library and Khorshid Hospital.

Best Time to Visit:

Though the square is open 24/7, the best time to visit is just before sunset. Plan your visit to the Ali Qapu Palace between 9.00 and 18.30. Opening hours of the mosques are based on praying schedule and differ from season to season.

Attractions of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square: 

The most important monuments in this beautiful square are:
Imam Mosque
Palace of Aliqapu
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Qaysariyyeh Portal
This square used to be a place for playing polo.

Things to Do at Naqsh-e Jahan Square:

The Naqsh-e-Jahan Square of Esfahan is a must-visit attraction. This is one of the biggest squares in the world. Filled with fountains and green lawns, souvenirs shops and ice-cream places, it is a very pretty and pedestrian-only place. You can take a horse-ride around the square or enjoy a walk there at sunset. Alternatively, look around or shop for Persian carpets, copper, enamel, calico, and miniatures at the handicraft shops of the square. Try traditional Iranian cuisine in Azadegan café, which has a gorgeous interior.THE imam mosque of esfahan

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