Road to Esfahan

Published 12:43 PM ET, Tue March 10, 2015
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CNN's Fred Pleitgen made the journey south from Tehran to Esfahan, one of the cultural jewels of Iran. FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty/FILE
The trip began in the Iranian capital, a sprawling metropolis with around 12 million inhabitants. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
Tehran is a fairly new city by Iranian standards -- full of great cafes (not to mention 24-hour traffic) but mostly devoid of the ancient sites that tell the story of Persian civilization. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
South of the capital lies Mahtab, where sohan -- a brittle toffee topped with pistachios and almonds -- is a big hit. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
Mahtab is almost like an American-style rest area, complete with a food court with a fried chicken place. But its specialty is hand-made traditional Iranian sweets. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
The next stop -- the holy city of Qom -- is one of the most important places for Shia pilgrimage in Iran and also the country's center for theological studies. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
Qom is home to the Masumeh holy shrine, one of the most important tombs in Iran. AFP/Getty Images/FILE
Kashan, down the road from Qom, is home to Fin Garden, where Persian kings used to come to relax. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
The garden in its current form was built during the reign of Abbas I of Persia between 1571 and 1629. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
Borujerdi House, built in the 19th century for the wife of a rich merchant, is a symbol of Kashan's past wealth. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
In addition to its magnificent interiors, Borujerdi House is also equipped with a system of roof vents -- the closest thing to air conditioning several hundred years ago. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
Kashan is also home to some of the most important carpet-weaving in Iran. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
The final stop is Esfahan, a 2,500-year-old city that was the capital of the Persian Empire three times. John Moore/Getty Images/FILE
The mosques and buildings in Esfahan's Imam Square comprise one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Frederik Pleitgen/CNN
UNESCO says that the blue-tiled buildings of Imam Square are testimony to the level of cultural life in Persia during the Safavid era, which began in the early 16th century. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
Khaju Bridge is one of many famous bridges that run over the Zayonde River in Esfahan. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN
There are also sitting areas inside the arches of Khaju Bridge, which has its origins in the 17th century. FREDERIK PLEITGEN/CNN