Iran is a very rugged country of plateaus and mountains, dominated by the Elburz Mountains in the north, and the Zagros Mountains along its western borders. The central and eastern portion is covered by the Plateau of Iran. The Dasht-e Kavir is a sandstone and salty desert plateau, that in the heat of summer is one of the hottest places on the planet.

The territory of Iran comprises 1.648 million square kilometers – double the size of neighboring Turkey and three times the size of France – of which 1.636 million square kilometers is land and 12,000 square kilometer’s water. Iran is a mountainous country. The Zagros Mountains bisect the country from north-west to south-east. Many peaks in the Zagros exceed 3,000 meters above sea level. Rimming the Caspian Sea are the Alborz Mountains, which are narrow but high. The volcanic Mount Damavand (5,671 meters), located in the center of the Alborz, is Iran’s highest peak; on clear days, it can be seen from Tehran. The central portion of Iran is referred to as the Central Plateau. The eastern part of the plateau is covered by two salt deserts, the Dasht-e Kavir (Great Desert) and the Dasht-e Lut (Barren Desert). The most significant river is the Karun, in the southwestern corner of the country. Lake Urmia (in the far-northwest) is the country’s largest body of water. Iran’s highest point, Mt. Damavand reaches 18,934 ft (5,771m).

Iran borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan on the east, Iraq on the west, and Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan exclave on the north. To its south Iran borders the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and to its north the Caspian Sea (the largest lake on earth, with an estimated surface area of 371,000 square kilometers).