Why it's Taboo: Helmed by controversial president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has a tense relationship with much of the Western world. With a legal system based on Islamic sharia law, this country is definitely a risk for tourists more used to a secular legal system. Just last year, American hikers who accidentally crossed into Iran were imprisoned for almost two years for allegedly committing espionage.
Why it's Still Worth Going: The archaeology and history of the Persian Empire that you'll find in Iran is unrivaled anywhere else in the world. Sights like Persepolis (the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire), ancient temples and tombs, and breathtaking mosques, all undiscovered by other tourists, make Iran worth the trip. Mary Dell Lucas, founding director of California-based Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips, says, "I can't say enough positive things about Iran. As the owner of an international tour company, I've traveled all over the world, and without question, Iran is one of the most fascinating countries in this world. There is a huge difference between the politicians and the people … just as in [the U.S.] So much of what is in the news doesn't apply at all with the reality of being in this country. It's one of the friendliest places that I've been. We've been taking groups there since 1999. I would urge people to visit this country."
How to Visit: Obtain a visa by applying through the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan. Or, plan on visiting Kish Island, the only area of Iran where U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter if they come through Dubai.