Iran is located in western Asia, between the Middle and Far East. To the north lie Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan. Eastward are Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman lie to the south. To the west are Iraq and Turkey. Although Iran is smaller than the province of Quebec, it has an incredible range of weather and landscapes. Most of the country consists of mountains surrounding a central plateau.

The narrow coastal areas of northern Iran near the Caspian Sea is the country's fertile heartland, home to the majority of the population. The sea supports marine life such as sturgeon, white fish and herring, while inland are the last large tracts of forest to be found in the Middle East. Oak, willow, fig, orange, lemon, date and pomegranate trees thrive here. The forests also support wildlife such as tigers, panthers, wolves, foxes, bears, deer and jackals. South of the coastal region rise the Elburz mountains, whose heights peak at Mount Damavand (5,670 metres). Several rivers flow down from the mountains and irrigate the plain before joining the sea.

The capital city of Tehran lies on the edge of central Iran, a vast, dry plateau that comprises one-quarter of the country's total area. The plateau is home to two deserts: the northern Dasht-e-Kavir desert supports some scrub vegetation and cacti, but the southern Dasht-e-Lut is a salt desert too hostile for life. Southwestern Iran contains the Kuzestan Plain, which lies near the Persian Gulf and is home to the country's petroleum deposits. Both the plateau and the south support abundant bird life, including pelicans, partridges, flamingos and pheasants.

Western Iran is dominated by the rugged Zagros Mountains. Streams gush down into fertile valleys that sustain the peoples who populate this area, while goats and wild sheep inhabit the mountains. The Kurdistan regions grows walnut trees prized by furniture makers.

Every region of Iran has its own climate. On the great plateau, summer is dry and brutally hot; winter is almost as dry but cold, with sub-zero temperatures. In Tehran, winter temperatures drop to -16°C (and central heating is rare), though winter lasts only a few months. The high mountains experience months of snow, while southern ports, such as Bushire and Bandar Abbas, swelter in heat all year.

  Did you know?
The Caspian Sea (Darya-ye-Khazar) is actually the world's largest lake, covering an area of 370,000 square kilometres-five times the size of Lake Superior, the world's second largest lake.