Geography & Climate

Iran is a country in southwestern Asia, located on the eastern Persian Gulf, at the easternmost edge of the geographic and cultural region known as the Middle East. Iran neighbors include: Armenia and Āzerbāijān on the northwest, Turkmenistan on the northeast, Iraq and Turkey on the west, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the east. Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. Iran has over a total area of 1,648,000 sq. km, almost triangle-shaped with its longest side extending from the border with Turkey in the northwest to the border with Pakistan in the southeast up to 2,500 km. More than half of Iran’s international border of 4,430 km is coastline, with the Caspian Sea for 740 km on the north and 1,700 km along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea in the south. Bandar Abbas is the largest harbor in the south on the Strait of Hormoz which separates the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, where oil tankers pass for various destinations every day.

Iran is divided into 5 regions with 31 provinces (Ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (Ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (Šahrestān), districts (Baxš) and rural districts (Dehestān). Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030, the urban population will be 80%. Most internal migrants have settled around the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom.


Caspian Sea- Persian Gulf- Oman sea

Natural Regions in Iran

As one of the world’s most mountainous countries, Iran contains two major ranges of mountains, the Alborz as the highest peak in Asia, Damavand and the Zagros that extend across the country for more than 1,600 km from north west to the south east. The peaks exceeding 2,300 m in these two ranges capture a considerable amount of moisture from the Caspian Sea or the Mediterranean. There are a series of basins known as the central plateau such as Dasht-e-Kavir, a huge salt-encrusted desert in north central Iran and Kavir-e-Lut, a sand-and-pebble desert in the southeast. There are numerous rivers in Iran, which are not deep enough and suitable for sailing.

The country’s only navigable river, the Karun, passes through the city of Ahvaz in the southwest and enters the Persian Gulf. Most rivers originate from the mountains and drain into the interior basins. Although around 1/3 of Iran’s total territory is arable and only %10.4 is under cultivation. An additional %6 of the total land is used for pasture. Forest areas have declined slightly in recent decades and account for %4.5 of the total territory.

Natural Resources

Iran’s oil and gas reserves are located primarily in the southwestern province of Khuzestan and the Persian Gulf. Iran also has one of the world’s largest reserves of copper and the major lode lies in central Iran between the cities of Yazd and Kerman.

This region is a central mines of bauxite, lead, zinc, iron ore and coal. Other coalmines are exploited throughout the Alborz Mountains. Iron ore mines also exist in Zanjan, Mashhad and on Hormoz Island in the Strait of Hormoz. Iran also has valuable deposits of aluminum, chromite, manganese, gold, silver, tin and tungsten. There are also various gemstones like lapis lazuli, turquoise, amber and agate.

Plants & Animals

More than 10,000 plant species have been identified in Iran. The natural vegetation has been devastated and used for cultivating crops or feeding cattle. Natural forests in the Alborz mountains consist of various trees like beech, oak, deciduous and conifers. There are areas in higher elevations in Zagros Mountains consisting of oak. Wild fruits also grow in both Alborz and Zagros mountains including almond, pear, pomegranate, and walnut.

In the more arid central parts, wild pistachio and other resistant trees grow in areas that have not been breached by human activities. Tamarisk and other salt-tolerant bushes grow along the margins of the Dasht-e Kavir. A wide variety of native mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects live in Iran including wolves, foxes, bears, mountain goats, red mountain sheep, rabbits, and gerbils. Some species are migratory birds that spend part of the year in other countries.


Iran is very diverse by having 11 climates out of the world’s 13, ranging from arid and semi-arid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the north (the Caspian coastal plain), temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C. Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26.8 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western part. Gary Lewis, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Iran said that “Water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today”. Toward the Westside, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm rainfall, and occasional deserts. Average summer temperatures rarely exceed 38 °C. The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm.