It may be part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ and a scapegoat for many Middle-Eastern tensions, but underneath the layers of bad stereotypes lays a country with a rich and fascinating culture.

Roughly as big as one-fifth of the continental US, Iran is one of the world’s most mountainous regions – with high rugged chains like the Caucasus or the Zagros separating desert basins such as Dasht-e Kavir or Dasht-e Lut and the dense Shomal rainforests in the North.

Home to one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, Iran is also a country of warm and surprisingly friendly people within a sophisticated culture. Get lost in the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan or eat some plain yogurt with the locals in the back streets of Tehran and you’ll be continuously wondering where all the evil Iranians often mentioned in the news are.

Continue reading below to learn more about a country with a serious image problem.