Need New Travel Ideas? Try Iran
Contrary to what most Westerners think, he says, Iran is a modern and wealthy country. "This is not Afghanistan, this is not Iraq."
Attendees were taken to some of the most stunning places in the country--places that Hartshorne says make Iran a traveler's dream.
The country is home to towering mountain ranges, deserts, ancient ruins, shores of the Caspian Sea art and history going back to the dawn of civilization.
Iran is off the beaten travel path, making it attractive to crowd-weary travelers. You won't find throngs of tourists, he says, like in Rome or Venice. Once you get there, it's a cheap place to travel, too. US credit cards or traveler's checks are not allowed. Alcohol and dance clubs are banned.
Hartshorne said he was fingerprinted in the Tehran airport before officials let him go free. The diplomatic visas procured for the visitors on this trip were the first issued by Iran to Americans in more than 30 years.
But that is not the whole story, Hartshorne says. Iranians were eager to find out what he thought about their country, asking him "What do you think of Iran? What do you think of Iranians?
"Americans have to realize that they're safe and they're loved there," he said.
Hartshorne was invited by Thomas Steinmetz of eTurbonews, who extended invitations to travel writers like Hartshorne on behalf of the Iranian government in the hopes that he would write travel articles about Iran, which he published on his web site.
Hartshorne believes the tour signals an increase in travel to Iran by Westerners. "To me this is a symbolic crack of the door," he said.
This story appeared on January 7, 2009 in the print edition of the Recorder, Greenfield MA.
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