EARTHLY DELIGHTS

Iran 2011 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | FOCUS: KISH ISLAND

Kish Island, a true beauty in miniature, lies in the Persian Gulf, some 19 kilometers off the Iranian coast. The island hosts over 1.2 million visitors annually, both from mainland Iran and overseas.

Selected as one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world by The New York Times, Kish covers an area of only 91 square kilometers. The island is home to sites of natural beauty and historical importance, as well as being a center of trade and commerce.

Along Kish Island's coast lie spectacular coral reefs. Scuba diving, parasailing and jet skiing are just some of the activities enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.

Kish Island's attractions are not limited to its natural beauty and historical importance. Having been a key port along the lucrative Persian Gulf trade route throughout history, Kish Island continues to be an important commercial hub and enjoys “free zone" status within Iran. It is a shopaholic's heaven, with numerous shopping centers looking to attract the avid consumer.

Kish Free Zone's total foreign trade stands at around $9.2 billion per year, and 15% of Iran's imports enter via its facilities. Banks and insurance companies have also set up shop on the island. Visas are not required for foreign nationals entering from legal ports, and travel permits are validated for 14 days.

Although Kish has an estimated population of 20,000, its natural beauty and economic prosperity make it one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Middle East. The government is keen to increase overseas awareness about Kish Island, and it will play host to the 2012 Non-Aligned Movement meeting. As Kish's global visibility rises, domestic tourists will increasingly find themselves sharing the island's delights with international visitors.