With an area of 1,648,000 square kilometres (636,000 sq mi), Iran ranks seventeenth in size among the countries of the world. Iran shares its northern borders with several post-Soviet states: Armenia, Azerbaijan,[a] and Turkmenistan. These borders extend for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi), including nearly 650 kilometres (400 mi) of water along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Iran’s western borders are with Turkey in the north and Iraq in the south, terminating at the Arvand Rud. The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman littorals form the entire 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi) southern border. To the east lie Afghanistan on the north and Pakistan on the far south. Iran’s diagonal distance from Azerbaijan in the northwest to Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the southeast is approximately 2,333 kilometres (1,450 mi).

Topography

The topography of Iran consists of rugged, mountainous rims surrounding high interior basins. The main mountain chain is the Zagros Mountains, a series of parallel ridges interspersed with plains that bisect the country from northwest to southeast. Many peaks in the Zagros exceed 3,000 metres (9,843 ft) above sea level, and in the south-central region of the country there are at least five peaks that are over 4,000 metres (13,123 ft). As the Zagros continue into southeastern Iran, the average elevation of the peaks declines dramatically to under 1,500 metres (4,921 ft). Rimming the Caspian Sea littoral is another chain of mountains, the narrow but high Alborz Mountains. Volcanic Mount Damavand, 5,610 metres (18,406 ft), located in the center of the Alborz, is not only the country’s highest peak but also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.

List of highest mountains in Iran(four-thousanders)

The center of Iran consists of several closed basins that collectively are referred to as the Central Plateau. The average elevation of this plateau is about 900 metres (2,953 ft), but several of the mountains that tower over the plateau exceed 3,000 metres (9,843 ft). The eastern part of the plateau is covered by two salt deserts, the Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert) and the Dasht-e Lut. Except for some scattered oases, these deserts are uninhabited.

Parts of northwestern Iran are part of the Armenian highlands, which adjoins it topographically with other parts of neighbouring Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

Iran has only two expanses of lowlands: the Khuzestan Plain in the southwest and the Caspian Sea coastal plain in the north. The former is a roughly triangular-shaped extension of the Mesopotamia plain and averages about 160 kilometres (99 mi) in width. It extends for about 120 kilometres (75 mi) inland, barely rising a few meters above sea level, then meets abruptly with the first foothills of the Zagros. Much of the Khuzestan plain is covered with marshes.

The Caspian plain is both longer and narrower. It extends for some 640 kilometres (400 mi) along the Caspian shore, but its widest point is less than 50 kilometres (31 mi), while at some places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) separate the shore from the Alborz foothills. The Persian Gulf coast south of Khuzestan and the Gulf of Oman coast have no real plains because the Zagros in these areas come right down to the shore.

There are no major rivers in the country. Of the small rivers and streams, the only one that is navigable is the 830 kilometres (520 mi)-long Karun, which shallow-draft boats can negotiate from Khorramshahr to Ahvaz, a distance of about 180 kilometres (110 mi). Other major rivers include the Karkheh, spanning 700 kilometres (430 mi) and joining the Tigris; and the Zayandeh River, which is 300 kilometres (190 mi) long. Several other permanent rivers and streams also drain into the Persian Gulf, while a number of small rivers that originate in the northwestern Zagros or Alborz drain into the Caspian Sea. On the Central Plateau, numerous rivers—most of which have dry beds for the greater part of the year—form from snow melting in the mountains during the spring and flow through permanent channels, draining eventually into salt lakes that also tend to dry up during the summer months. There is a permanent salt lake, Lake Urmia , in the northwest, whose brine content is too high to support fish or most other forms of aquatic life. There are also several connected salt lakes along the Iran-Afghanistan border in the province of Baluchestan va Sistan.

Mount Damavand is the highest volcano in Asia

Ali-Sadr Cave (the world‘s largest water cave) in north of Hamedan.

Iran has a variable climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38 °C (100.4 °F). On the Khuzestan Plain, summer heat is accompanied by high humidity. In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October through April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages 250 millimetres (9.8 in) or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 500 millimetres (19.7 in) annually. In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 1,000 millimetres (39.4 in) annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year. This contrasts with some basins of the Central Plateau that receive ten centimeters or less of precipitation.

Flora

7% of the country is forested. The most extensive growths are found on the mountain slopes rising from the Caspian Sea, with stands of oak, ash, elm, cypress, and other valuable trees. On the plateau proper, areas of scrub oak appear on the best-watered mountain slopes, and villagers cultivate orchards and grow the plane tree, poplar, willow, walnut, beech, maple, and mulberry. Wild plants and shrubs spring from the barren land in the spring and afford pasturage, but the summer sun burns them away. According to FAO reports, the major types of forests that exist in Iran and their respective areas are:

Caspian forests of the northern districts – 19,000 km2 (7,300 sq mi)

Limestone mountainous forests in the northeastern districts (Juniperus forests) – 13,000 km2 (5,000 sq mi)

Pistachio forests in the eastern, southern and southeastern districts – 26,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi)

Oak forests in the central and western districts – 35,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi)

Shrubs of the Kavir (desert) districts in the central and northeastern part of the country – 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi)

Sub-tropical forests of the southern coast, like the Hara forests – 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi)

The Cypress of Abarkuh. the oldest or second-oldest living thing in Asia.

Crown imperial plain in Sepidan, In the southern Zagros mountains

Wildlife

Wildlife of Iran is diverse and composed of several animal species including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian lynx, and foxes. Domestic animals include, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcon are also native to Iran. The Syrian wild ass has become extinct. Syrian brown bears in the mountains, wild sheep and goats, gazelles, Persian onagers, wild pigs, Persian leopards, and foxes abound. Domestic animals include sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, and falcon are native to Iran. The Persian leopard is said to be the largest of all the subspecies of leopards in the world.

Persian ground jay

An Asiatic cheetah in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge- North Khorasan

Ecosystem and biosphere

Iran’s bio-diversity ranks 13th in the world. There are 272 conservation areas around Iran for a total of 17 million hectares under the supervision of the Department of Environment, variously named national parks, protected areas, and natural wildlife refuges, all meant to protect the genetic resources of the country.

The national parks, protected areas, and wildlife refuges in Iran include:

Flamingos in Miankaleh peninsula

National Parks:

Protected Areas:

Wildlife Refuges:

Ramsar sites:

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Geography of Iran

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