Physical Geography Facts About Iran

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Iran, known officially as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country located in the Middle East.  With an area of an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), Iran is the 17th largest country in the world and the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia.

Map showing the location of Iran in the Middle East. Map from Equal Earth, public domain.
Map showing the location of Iran in the Middle East. Map from Equal Earth, public domain.

Iran shares a border with seven different countries:


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Afghanistan: 936 km (582 mi)
Armenia: 35 km (22 mi)
Azerbaijan (two separate borders): 432 km (268 mi)
Iraq: 1,458 km (906 mi)
Pakistan: 909 km (565 mi)
Turkey: 499 km (310 mi)
Turkmenistan: 992 km (616 mi)

It shares the longest border with Iraq with 1,458 kilometers.  It shares the shortest border with Armenia with just 22 kilometers. Iran also borders three bodies of water: the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, and the Caspian Sea.

Iran’s topography is very mountainous. The main mountain chain is the Zagros Mountains along its western side with peaks over 3,000 meters (9,843 feett) above sea level. Mount Damavand, part of the Elburz Mountains in northern Iran, is the country’s highest peak and Asia’s highest volcano with an elevation above sea level of 5,609.2 meters (18,403 feet).

At the center of Iran is the Central Plateau with two large salt deserts (Dasht-e Lut and Dasht-e Kavir) on its eastern section. At the deltas of the Rud-e-Gaz and Rud-e-Hara rivers sits an important wetland for wintering waterbirds (Ramsar Convention site #75).

Lake Urmia, an endorheic salt lake, is the largest body of water in Iran that once had a surface area of 5,200 square kilometers (2,000 square miles).  Drought and water demands on the lake have shrunk it by 80%.  Rains from the fall of 2018 and winter of 2019 have helped to increase the surface volume of the lake to 3,000 square square kilometers (1,200 square miles).

Satellite imagery from NASA's Terra MODIS show the increase in surface volume after floods in the region in 2018/2019.
Satellite imagery from NASA’s Terra MODIS show the increase in surface volume after rains in the region in spring 2019 raised the depth of the lake 62 centimeters (24 inches) compared to 2018.

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