WHY WE LOVE THIS?
+ Experience Northern, Central & Southern Iran during this sweeping 14-day excursion to the country’s top spots.
+ Cozy accommodations in the rocky hotel in Kandovan and two amazing boutique hotel in the Isfahan and Kashan.
+ Experience each city’s must-see landmarks, feating your eyes on wonders like the Nasir-ol-Molk mosque, Persepolis, Isfahan Shah mosque and Fin Garden in the Kashan.
+ Explore fabled capitals of ancient empires with our expert Trip Leader, well-spoken and experienced in sharing his native land with travelers.
+ 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.
Iran Travel Itinerary
|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
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.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tehran
|DAY 3: FLY TO TABRIZ
This morning, you’ll fly to Tabriz where you’ll be escorted to the Tabriz El-Goli Pars 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.
Over the next two weeks, your travels will be punctuated by opportunities to engage with friendly locals. Many of the places we visit are unbelievably old in age, but Iran today is so modern in spirit… You’ll find a youthful, forward-looking, techno-savvy population. Cell phones are ubiquitous, many people speak English – and you may find yourself both surprised and delighted by the number of people who are eager to engage with you.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tabriz
|DAY 4: TABRIZ
It was completed in 1465, but skilled artisans spent another quarter-century painstakingly covering the entire Kabud 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. 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.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Tabriz
|DAY 5: TABRIZ AND KANDOVAN
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. Tonight you’ll stay in amazing Laleh Kandovan International Rocky Hotel.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Kandovan
|DAY 6: SHIRAZ
Today, you’ll return to Tabriz for your included flight to Shiraz where you’ll be escorted to the Hotel, the best in the capital. And then you’ll 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 7: SHIRAZ
Today we start the Arg 250 year old citadel situated in the heart of the city, now housing art and photographic exhibitions. 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.
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.
Shiraz is also famous for its gardens and we visit the Narenjestan gardens, a peaceful haven loved by locals. 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 8: 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 9: 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 Pasagarde, 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 10: YAZD
Today we start our travel in Iran by driving to 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 11: YAZD – ISFAHAN
We continue travel in Iran, 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.
Meals B+L+D – O/N Isfahan
|DAY 12: ISFAHAN, AFTERNOON FREE TO EXPLORE
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.
We then visit a pigeon tower, a strange building looking like a chess piece which stands high over the city. The towers were used to store pigeons for the collection of guano, used as fertilizer for the local melon fields.
This afternoon is free for us 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 13: ISFAHAN, AFTERNOON FREE TO EXPLORE
We leave the wonderful Isfahan behind, travel in Iran 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!
Meals B+L+D – O/N Kashan
|DAY 14: TEHRAN
You’ll be escorted to the airport this morning for your departure flight.
Due to the high numbers of visitors to Iran and the limited tourism infrastructure on occasion hotels may cancel our reservations at short notice. While we do all possible to avoid this, there is a chance you will be subject to some accommodation changes during your trip. Any changes made will be to an accommodation of equal or a higher standard. We are confident that and changes to your accommodation will not detract from your enjoyment of this incredible country.
Each and every one of our tour guides are carefully picked with a true passion for the great outdoors. Our guides are not only professionals in the field of tourism but have also acquired an expertise within other related areas of interest such as history, geography, mythology and of course the enchanting skill of storytelling.
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