Iran also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in Western Asia. With 82 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2, making it the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the political and economic centre of Iran, and the largest and most populous city in Western Asia with more than 8.8 million residents in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area.
Tourism in Iran is diverse, providing a range of activities from hiking and skiing in the Alborz and Zagros mountains, to beach holidays by the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The Iranian government has made concerted efforts to attract tourists to the various destinations in the country and arrivals have increased in recent years.
Kish Island alone attracted around 1 million visitors in 2012-13, the majority of whom were Iranian, but the area also attracts many non-Iranian Muslims who like to have beach holidays with Islamic style beaches where men and women use separate beaches.
Before the Iranian revolution in 1979, tourism was characterized by significant numbers of visitors travelling to Iran for its diverse attractions, including cultural splendours and a diverse and beautiful landscape suitable for a range of activities.
Since the revolution, the majority of foreign visitors to Iran have been religious pilgrims and business people. In Iran there are many Shi'ite Shrines, the two main ones being Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad and Fatimah al-Ma'sumah Shrine in Qom. Each year millions of pilgrims from Iran and other Shi'ite countries visit these holy places. Official figures do not distinguish between those travelling to Iran for business and those coming for pleasure, and they also include many diaspora Iranians returning to visit their families in Iran or making pilgrimages to holy Shia sites near Mashhad, Qom and elsewhere.