IRAN – THE ANCIENT TOUR 8 DAYS
On this trip we visit the most important and impressive sights and cities of Iran. We explore the beautiful cities of Shiraz and Isfahan, uncover Persian history at the impressive Persepolis and stay in a traditional hotel in Kashan. Though the real highlight of any trip to Iran is meeting the locals, arguably the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth, always ready to welcome visitors with a smile.
DAY 1: TEHRAN
After arriving in Tehran from Imam Khomeini International Airport our professional tour guide to the hotel where you can rest and have lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, the National Museum of Iran. Then we take them to Treasury of National Jewels inside the Central Bank of Tehran.
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. 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.
DAY 2: TEHRAN – SHIRAZ
Today we fly from Tehran to Shiraz and 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 colours filling the room as sunlight shines through pink and brightly coloured 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 our first opportunity to try Persian food and a must try in Shiraz is a shirazi salad, made of tomatoes and onions which is delicious in its simplicity.
DAY 3: 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.
DAY 4: SHIRAZ – ISFAHAN
We have a full day of driving today to reach our destination of Isfahan; 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 Isfahan, driving through a desert lined with mountains, often snow-capped. Depending on the traffic our Explore leader may take us on a short walk to the Sio Se Pol Bridge, beautifully lit up at night and a fascinating place to see young Iranians socialising and hanging out.
DAY 5: 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 focussing 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 coloured 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.
DAY 6: 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. 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 fertiliser 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 neighbours, so the markets are a peaceful experience, though there is always the chance to haggle for a bargain!
DAY 7: KASHAN
We leave the wonderful Isfahan behind and drive for a few hours north to 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 speciality – 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!
DAY 8: TEHRAN
Today you’ll be escorted to the airport this early morning for departure flight.
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