Iran Country Facts

ایران – Iran
Capital city Tehran
Surface 1,648,195 km²
Population 83,183,000
Road network length 125,908 km
Length of highway network 2,853 km
First highway ?
Motorway name آزادراks
Traffic drives Right
License plate code IR

Iran (Farsi: ایران, Irān) is a large country in Asia on the Persian Gulf. The country is more than 40 times the size of the Netherlands and has 83 million inhabitants. The capital is Tehran.


Iran is located in Western Asia, located on both the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and Caspian Sea. The country borders Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The country measures a maximum of 1,400 by 1,400 kilometers, although the greatest distance is diagonally, about 2,300 kilometers from the northwest to the southeast. This makes Iran a large country, the 17th largest country in the world in terms of land area.

Large parts of Iran are mountainous or consist of desert areas. The Zagros Mountains are located in the west and south of Iran and have peaks between mostly 3,000 and 3,300 meters, but the 4,050 meter high Oshtorankuh in Lorestan is much higher. In the northwest of Iran are more isolated mountain ranges, separated by large valleys, including the great Lake Urmia. In this region is the 4,811 meter high Sabalan, the third highest mountain in Iran and the highest in the northwest. The highest mountain range in Iran is the Alborz in the central north, roughly between the capital Tehran and the Caspian Sea. The 5,609 meter high Damavand is located here, this is by far the highest mountain in Iran and the only peak above 5000 meters. Damavand is a volcano and is located 70 kilometers northeast of Tehran as the crow flies. In the border area with Turkmenistan is the Kopet Dag, which has peaks up to about 3,100 meters. The Hazaran Mountains are located in southeastern Iran, which has peaks up to 4,500 meters.

Large desert areas are mainly found in central and eastern Iran. Well-known are the Dasht-e Kavir southeast of Tehran and the extremely dry and hot Dasht-e Lut in the east. In the southeast are also desert areas in the Balochistan region. Iran has several islands in the Persian Gulf, the largest of which is Qeshm near Bandar Abbas. Smaller islands also lie in the Strait of Hormuz, which are controlled by Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates. The distance between Iran and Oman via the Strait of Hormuz is only 50 kilometers.

Although large parts of Iran consist of arid and desert-like areas, there are parts of Iran where the climate is more temperate, due to precipitation or the higher altitude. Northwestern Iran has extensive agriculture, especially around Lake Urmia. The most different from the rest of Iran is the coastal strip of the Caspian Sea, which has a subtropical climate with forests and agriculture. This region is much greener than the rest of Iran. The transition from subtropical forests to the barren mountain slopes of the Alborz is very abrupt.

Iran has many different climatic zones and is climatically one of the most diverse countries in the world. However, much of Iran is characterized by hot desert climates or arid mountain climates. Higher elevations have a cold desert climate. In large parts of the country there is little precipitation and little agriculture is possible. The northwest of Iran has a more Mediterranean climate, the extreme north around the Caspian Sea has a subtropical climate. Snow falls in the winter in the mountains, but also in the desert areas that are lower. The average maximum temperature in Tehran ranges from 6°C in January to 34°C in summer. More than 400 mm falls per year. In the subtropical north the falls can be as much as 1700 mm, but most other parts of Iran are much drier, especially in the south and east.


The population of Iran originally grew quite slowly from 10 million around 1920 to 20 million around 1955. After that, an explosive population growth set in, the country passed 50 million inhabitants in the 1980s and approximately 80 million in 2015.

By far the largest city in Iran is the capital Tehran, which has 8.7 million inhabitants and an agglomeration of approximately 15 million inhabitants. Mashhad in the northeast of the country has about 3 million inhabitants and Isfahan in the middle has 2 million inhabitants. In addition, Karaj, Shiraz, Tabriz, Qom and Ahwaz each have between 1 and 1.5 million inhabitants. The population of Iran is highly urbanized, there are 18 cities with more than half a million inhabitants. Almost 80% of the population lives in a larger city.

There are no official figures on ethnicities in Iran. The Persians comprise about 61% of the population and Azeris about 16%. Kurds make up about 10% of the population. Other groups are smaller, such as the Lurs, Balochis and Arabs. The large minority groups of Kurds and Azeris mainly live in the west of the country, the rest of Iran is more homogeneously Persian. The Belochi’s live in the southeast. Arabs mainly live in the southwest and central south.

Persian (Farsi) is the official language of Iran. This is an Indo-European language written in the Persian alphabet. The language is also spoken in other countries in the region, such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Azeri and Kurdish are widely spoken in western Iran. Arabic is only spoken in small regions in the south by the Arab minority.

Iran is an Islamic country and the largest Shia country in the world. About 90-95% of the population is Shia, with Sunnis mainly among Kurds and Arabs. There is a small group of Christians and even smaller groups of other religions. There are no statistics of atheism, but the Iranian diaspora is highly non-religious.


The economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues and Iran has one of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. The country lacks refining capacity, so a lot of fuel has to be imported, which is then heavily subsidized by the income from the oil and gas trade. This makes petrol prices one of the lowest in the world. Almost all of Iran runs on leaded petrol and vehicles without a catalytic converter, which means that emissions of harmful substances from transport in Iran are much higher than in other countries. The capital Tehran has very poor air quality. Iran spent $84 billion on energy subsidies in 2008.

Iran is relatively self-sufficient due to international sanctions and has developed indigenous industries in several areas. Iran has a relatively large car industry, mainly to meet domestic demand.

The country has tourist potential with natural beauty, old historical cities and archaeological excavations, but a bad image and an unstable political situation means that tourism, especially from western countries, is lagging behind. Most tourists in Iran come from other countries in the region.


Iran is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and developed from the 4th millennium BC. The country was first united under the Medes in the 7th century BC. Reaching its zenith in the 6th century BC under Cyrus II the Great, the Achaemenid Persian Empire stretched from the Mediterranean and Black Seas into Central Asia and the Indus Valley. In the 4th century BC this empire fell and became part of the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. This was succeeded by the Parthian Empire between 247 BC and 224 AD. This was succeeded by the empire of the Sassanids until the 6th century. Arabs conquered Iran in the 7th century and brought Islam and thereby expelled the older religions. In the Middle Ages, the area came under the rule of the Mongol Empire. They managed to drive out the Mongols, after which the country was united under the Safavids in the 15th century. From that moment on, Iran became a Shia country. It was a powerful country during the 18th century, but from the 19th century it came into conflict with the Russian Empire, to which it lost territory. In the early 20th century, Iran became a monarchy, which was pro-Western. A revolution followed in 1979 after which a strict Islamic republic was established, which was strongly anti-Western. This resulted in a political system in which the parliament and president are democratically elected, but the real power of the theocracy lies in the form of the supreme leader of Iran, Khomeini between 1979 and 1989 and Khamenei since 1989.


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