WHY WE LOVE THIS?
+ Explore fabled capitals of ancient empires with our expert Trip Leader, well-spoken and experienced in sharing his native land with travelers.
+ Stroll in magnificent Persian gardens that trace their design principles to the days of Cyrus the Great.
+ Mingle with local residents and vendors in three colorful markets including the only bazaar in the world recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
+ Discover Pasargadae and Persepolis, cities of the Achaemenid Empire that rank among the world’s greatest sites of antiquity.
+ Get to know the warm Iranian people as you dine in fine local restaurants we’ve selected for their delicious Persian food and friendly ambience.
DAY 1: TEHRAN
After arriving in Tehran from Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) our professional tour guide will meet and greet you then you will be transferred to hotel for rest. In the afternoon, you’ll go to see National Museum of Iran which is an institution formed of two complexes, including the Museum of ancient Iran and Islamic Era. At night we go to Tehran Nature Bridge where ‘Tehrani’ young couples spend time together.
Tonight’s dinner in a vegetarian restaurant of the Iranian Artists Forum offers a chance to experience young artists’ life in the capital of Iran. We meet some of Iranian art students spend time with them.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tehran
DAY 2: TEHRAN – FLY TO TABRIZ
This morning we take you north of town into the mountain foothills to a lovely park-like setting to visit the Sa’ad Abad Palace. This was the coronation and marriage palace of the Pahlavi Dynasty – and the residence from which the last Shah of Iran fled after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Now a museum, its extensive collection includes period furnishings and décor, and even the personal effects of the last Shah. Our guests also enjoy an exclusive tour through an intimate gallery dedicated to the 20th-century art collection of Iran’s last Empress.
At the Treasury of National Jewels inside the Central Bank of Tehran, you’ll be dazzled by a breathtaking collection of crown jewels, many of them gathered from around world during the Safavid Dynasty that ruled from 1502 to 1736. Also part of this glittering collection is the Naderi Throne; made of wood, covered in gold, and encrusted with more than 26,000 precious gemstones, some believe that this throne was inspired by the legendary Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who built the Taj Mahal.
The day ends with another World Heritage Site, the lavish Golestan Palace. Built during the Qajar Dynasty that rose to power in the late 1700’s, this fabulous walled complex is centered on a landscaped garden with tranquil pools. Many of the elements you’ll admire today date to the 19th century when local Qajari architects and artisans were looking to integrate traditional Persian style with elements of Western and Russian origin. The palace buildings are among the oldest in modern Tehran and they are still regarded as a crowning achievement of the Qajar era.
Dining in the capital offers a chance to experience another slice of modern life. In our carefully selected city restaurants, you’ll sample traditional Iranian cuisine as it’s enjoyed today by the cosmopolitan citizens of the capital. You’re likely to meet smiling young Iranians who are delighted to engage with you.
This evening, you’ll fly to Tabriz where you’ll be escorted to the Hotel, set on a hill with commanding views of this ancient city – one of Persia’s former capitals and a classic stop on the fabled Silk Road.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tabriz
DAY 3: TABRIZ
It was completed in 1465, but skilled artisans spent another quarter-century painstakingly covering the entire Kabud Mosque (Blue Mosque) with intricately-painted, brilliantly blue tiles and calligraphy. Often referred to as the Blue Mosque, this magnificent landmark was extensively damaged by two 18th-century earthquakes. But as you stand before the north façade with much of its original tile work still intact, you’ll get a glimpse into the enduring artistic legacy of Iran’s ancient dynasties.
Next door at the Azerbaijan Museum, you’ll peruse a vast collection of archaeological artifacts spanning millennia of human history and culture in the region. Then you’ll see the Iron Age museum.
Through the construction of the Blue Mosque, in 1997 the remains of pre-historical cemetery have been discovered. The first season of archaeological survey has been done by Nosrat-Ollah Motamedi. Among the 38 graves of Iron Age, two couple skeleton with the objects buried with them, kept in Azerbaijan Museum have been discovered. Following the first season, four seasons of survey done by Dr. Ali Reza Hezhabr-e Nobari began in 2000. Simultaneously with the surveys, conserving and restoration of the skeletons, animal remains such as teeth and horns, the wares, metal objects started. To conserve and restore the discovered wares and objects, a restoration workshop has been established. Each of discovered objects bears its own certification.
You’ll also see the Arg-e Alishah, an imposing but unfinished 14th-century monument that later served as a military fortress during the Russo-Persian Wars of the 19th century. You’ll end the morning at the Grand Bazaar, the only bazaar on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The present-day structure, a vast maze-like complex of bricked arches and vaulted passageways, still evokes the spirit of its earliest days when Tabriz was one of the most important commercial centers along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a wonderful place to chat with engaging merchants and browse for jewelry, carpets and spices. But with 4 miles of shops, you’ll also mingle with friendly residents who are here to shop for spices and other daily staples.
End your day by visiting Shah Golu (El-Golu), a large park with an artificial lake in the middle. It is a really good place for afternoon strolls.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tabriz
DAY 4: TABRIZ AND KANDOVAN – FLY TO SHIRAZ
Today, you’ll journey to Kandovan in the volcanic highlands of Mt. Sahand. For more than 700 years, the people of this remote and rugged region have inhabited cave dwellings inside the mountains and unusual stone formations.
You’ll spend time engaging with community residents for a fascinating look into their life.
Some live in natural cave formations while others have excavated larger rooms, whitewashed and decorated with colorful carpets and textiles.
Although traditions go back for generations, many families have modernized their homes with electricity and running water.
Later, you’ll return to Tabriz for your included flight to Shiraz where you’ll be escorted to the Hotel, the best in the capital.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Shiraz
DAY 5: SHIRAZ
You’ll start your day tour of Shiraz. Shiraz is famous for its gardens and we’ll visit the Eram Garden with its aromatic myrtles, beautiful flowers, fruit trees, and towering cypress (one of which is said to be 3,000 years old).
Then we’ll visit the Narenjestan gardens, a peaceful haven loved by locals.
Our next stop is the Shah Cheragh shrine, an impressive and contrasting complex featuring a beautiful courtyard with fountains and Islamic architecture.
We will have a guided tour of the mosque and mausoleum, where we will see locals queuing to touch the tomb of Sayid Amir Ahmed, brother to the 8th Imam.
You’ll also visit the lovely garden tomb of Hafez and tomb of Sa’adi, two of our most outstanding poets to feel the taste of Persian Literature. Tonight’s dinner in an impressive local restaurant.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Shiraz
DAY 6: SHIRAZ
This morning, you will visit Karim Khan Citadel situated in the heart of the city, now housing art and photographic exhibitions.
Then you’ll have time to explore and shop in the bustling Vakil Bazaar, home to hundreds of stores, beautiful courtyards, and even an ancient caravanserai.
From here we move on to one of the highlights of the day and possibly the trip – Nasir-Al-Molk, also known as the pink mosque. Upon entering you are struck with a feeling of entering a surreal and tranquil space, beautiful colors filling the room as sunlight shines through pink and brightly colored glass.
We spend some time here, peacefully sitting in the corner and enjoying the ambience of such a wonderful setting.
Tonight is we try local Shirazi food and a must try in Shiraz is a shirazi salad, made of tomatoes and onions which is delicious in its simplicity.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Shiraz
DAY 7: SHIRAZ
Today we start our day by driving to the legendary city of Persepolis, former capital of Darius the Great and founded in 512 BC. There was no more impressive construction in the ancient world, except perhaps Karnak in Egypt.
Darius built the terrace, the Apadana (great audience hall), the Tachana (palace), the monumental staircases and his son, Xerxes, added the harem and the Hall of 100 Columns.
Alexander the Great entered Persepolis in January 330 BC and then committed an uncharacteristic act of wanton destruction that still mystifies historians today, burning the mighty city to the ground. Though a shadow of its former self, the soaring pillars, terraces and sculptures of Persepolis still remain, but probably most impressive are the bas reliefs which line the site, telling the story of ancient governors and kings that came to Persepolis to pay tribute to the Persian Emperors.
From here we will drive a couple of miles to Naqsh-e-Rustam, the Necropolis where Darius and his successors are buried. Carved into the side of a cliff, the site is extraordinary in its magnitude and sheer ambition and does not disappoint even after the impressive Persepolis. We will head back to Shiraz from here where there will be some time to wander through the city and meet the locals. Shiraz is known as being a very friendly city and you will find people will come and talk to you and say hello and welcome you to Iran, though this happens all over Iran it is even more noticeable and enjoyable here.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Shiraz or Marvdasht
DAY 8: PASARGADAE – YAZD
We have a full day of driving today to reach our destination of Yazd; it is a good idea to stock up on locally bought and easily found dates and pistachio nuts for the journey.
On route we will stop at Pasargadae, UNESCO World Heritage Site, tomb of Cyrus the Great and former capital of the Achaemenid Empire. We will spend some time exploring the site and though not as striking as Persepolis, there is a great viewpoint where we can look over the site and the surrounding area.
From here we will continue to Yazd, driving through a desert lined with mountains, often snow-capped.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Yazd
DAY 9: YAZD
Today we start our day in Yazd. Yazd is one of Iran’s oldest continuously inhabited towns, its silhouette punctuated by minarets and the ingeniously-designed wind towers that capture desert breezes to cool homes during the hot summer months. Yazd is also the center of Iran’s Zoroastrian community, which is where you’ll begin the day’s sightseeing.
At the Tower of Silence, you’ll learn about one of the traditions of this ancient pre-Islamic religion: Until the mid-1900’s, the dead were transported to this tower where they were left to decompose and be devoured by birds.
Zoroastrian tradition considers a deceased body to be “unclean” and this process of excarnation prevents contact with either fire or earth – both of which are considered to be sacred.
At the still-active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, you’ll see a flame that is said to have been burning for the past 1,500 years. It’s an important pilgrimage site for the faithful and here our expert guide will offer additional insight into one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.
In Amir Chakhmaq Square, you’ll see a very impressive Hussainiya – a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies. With three tiers of recessed alcoves, all perfectly proportioned, its façade is one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. Then visit the Friday Mosque, built in 1324, where you can gaze upon the tallest minarets in the country.
At Zendan-e Eskandar, you’ll find an ancient domed structure with a deep, circular brick-lined pit that resembles a dungeon. According to legend, the complex was built by Alexander the Great to hold prisoners during his conquest of Persia. Others believe it was constructed by the Persians to hold Alexander himself.
Among the many other historic sites to be seen in Yazd are beautiful old homes and the Dowlat Abad Garden.
Standing by the garden’s long reflecting pool, you’ll be shaded by ancient cypress trees. Ahead of you is an 18th-century hexagonal pavilion with a beautiful stained glass window and a graceful wind tower – the tallest in Iran. All around are flowering fruit trees and other ornamental plants and trees.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Yazd
DAY 10: YAZD – ISFAHAN
Leaving Yazd behind, your first stop this morning will be in Meybod, where your first impression might be its striking monochromatic architecture of desert brick. But set along an ancient trade route, Meybod also offers a number of fascinating sites to visit including its caravanserai.
Built in typical Safavid style, this ancient desert inn features verandahs, shaded passageways, and nearly 100 rooms – some of which are now used as artisan workshops.
At the local icehouse, you’ll learn about the thick-clay construction and subterranean chamber that allowed local residents to have ice and food storage before refrigeration – even during the intense desert heat of summer!
Your overland journey continues to the small town of Na’in, an ancient community with origins dating back to the 8th century. At the local Ethnographic Museum, set in an erstwhile private residence of the Safavid era, you’ll learn more about the region’s cultural traditions.
Continue to Isfahan and check in to our hotel.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Isfahan
DAY 11: ISFAHAN
Isfahan has long been regarded as the focal point of any visit to Iran, ‘Isfahan is half the world’ was the phrase used to describe the city in the 16th century when Shah Abbas moved the capital here. It is still possible to see the Shah’s grand vision as we explore the city today. We will mainly be focusing on Imam square, one of the largest squares in the world which provides a breathtaking vista.
The best view is found from the Ali Qapu Palace, where we admire the fountains and beautiful mosques that make up the square. We will enter the two mosques, first of all Sheikh Lotfollah, also known as the Ladies Mosque as it was built for the Shah’s harem, renowned for brightly colored domed ceiling, where the light creates the image of a peacock. We will then head to the Shah Mosque on the corner of the square, probably the best known mosque in Iran as it is thought to be the masterpiece of Persian architecture.
Tonight there is the option to experience zurkhaneh, a traditional strength and wrestling event. Though visitors are allowed to enter for a fee, this is a part of Iranian culture where locals work out and wrestle whilst a leader bangs the drums, sings and reads poetry. Next up is Chehel Sotun. Set in a landscaped and forested park in front of a tranquil reflecting pool, this graceful pavilion was built by Shah Abbas II for entertainment and court receptions. Entering through a portico with twenty slender wooden columns, you’ll discover soaring halls embellished with frescoes, paintings and mosaics; the Hall of Mirrors is especially breathtaking!
This afternoon you have time to wander the rest of Isfahan, there is the main bazaar which is approximately 4km long, a great place for shopaholics and those enjoying bartering. The Iranians are much more relaxed than their Middle Eastern neighbors, so the markets are a peaceful experience, though there is always the chance to haggle for a bargain!
Meals B+L+D – O/N Isfahan
DAY 12: ISFAHAN
This morning we will visit the UNESCO site of Masjed-e Jame – Friday Mosque. This 10th century mosque does not have the beauty of the buildings we visited yesterday but is fascinating due to its different areas, built over the last thousand years. Due to its age there is also an enormous amount of history that our guide will explain which really brings the mosque and the stories to life.
Your foray into Isfahan’s architectural treasures continues at the Harun-e Velayat Shrine. Built in 1512, the shrine’s dome offers a particularly fine example of Iranian tile work.
Gazing up at the graceful 11th-century Ali Minaret, the oldest in Isfahan, offers further insight into the skill of Iranian architects and builders.
In the city’s Armenian quarter, you’ll delve more deeply into the region’s complex history as you visit several churches including the 17th-century Vank Cathedral with its lavishly decorated interior and unique blend of Islamic and European architectural elements. You will continue your exploration of the city in some of the centuries-old, still elegant bridges that span the Zayandeh River. The 14th-century Shahrestan Bridge, for example, evokes the greatest aqueducts of ancient Rome and is the oldest bridge in Iran.
Another famous bridges on the Zayandeh River are Sio-ce-pol and Khaju. There are sluice gates below the bridge to let the water runoff from Zayandeh River in the spring, and there are beautiful stony archways above each gate.
These archways provide a great acoustic place for every man who wants to sing. You can always find a man or a group of men singing under the bridge. The songs are usually about betrayal or unrequited love. You have the chance to chat with these men and listen to their songs.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Isfahan
DAY 13: ISFAHAN – KASHAN – TEHRAN
We leave the wonderful Isfahan behind and drive for a few hours to the Kashan, a town originally famous for its textiles and ceramic production, but now better known for the Fin gardens and extensive bazaar and hamams.
The Fin gardens are our first stop, a relaxing and visually impressive Persian garden with water channels all passing through a central pavilion, there is also the chance to buy some rose water, a local specialty – outside of the site.
From here we will visit the bazaar area, a widespread complex filled with hamams and mosques; one hamam has been converted to a traditional tea house where we will stop for those who need a break from shopping.
Walking through the bazaar we get to the Mosque of Mir Emad, which we will visit along with the Masjed-e Jame. Tonight we stay in a traditional house that has been converted to a hotel with a restaurant serving traditional Iranian food – many like to try the aubergine stew, if you have already eaten too many chicken kebabs!
Later, leaving Kashan behind, we’ll come back to the capital.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tehran
DAY 14 TEHRAN
Our tour guide will transfer you to Imam Khomeini International Airport according to your’ flight time.
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