Iran - Treasures of Ancient Persia
Iran - Treasures of Ancient Persia
Iran is a country that has occupied the western imagination for years, an enigmatic land with traditions and cultures very different from our own. Its position on the Silk Road meant that it was conquered, fought over and settled by many different civilisations, and the resulting cultural heritage finds few equals. This two week tour delves into the almost mystical heart of this spectacular country. We visit the stunning city of Shiraz with its beautiful shrines and gardens and visit Persepolis and other ancient sites dating back to before the time of Christ. We explore the desert city of Yazd with its unique architecture and stay in a carefully restored caravanserai, oozing with the history of the ancient trade routes. We also visit the lovely old town of Kerman and the Bagh-e Shahzade in Mahan, before taking in the truly breath-taking sights of Isfahan – surely one of the most stunning cities to be found anywhere. Iran is a truly awe-inspiring destination, and deserves the attention of every serious traveller.
Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○| Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ○○○○○
- The vastness of spellbinding Persepolis with its tangible sense of history.
- The elegance and beauty of the shrines and gardens of Shiraz
- The many splendours of the city of Isfahan
- The great warmth and welcome of the Iranian people
Accommodation: Comfortable hotel accommodation and one night in a Caravanserai.
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Tehran
End Point: Tehran
Transport: Private minibus or coach.
Tour Itinerary Notes
While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.
Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.
Day 1 – Tehran
Arrive in Tehran and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight at Hoveyzeh Hotel or similar.
Established as the capital of Persia just over 200 years ago, this huge, modern and heavily populated city, does not have the romance or the ancient sites which attract visitors to many other parts of Iran, but it is the place to find the country's best museums, restaurants and shopping. Tehran is vast and can be daunting, yet this giant capital was only a village until the end of the 18th century. Although it is not an ancient city like Shiraz or Isfahan, Tehran offers something else – forbidding murals of Ayatollah Khomeini gaze down at you from high rise buildings and it is of course home to the American Embassy, now known as the ‘den of espionage’ in which numerous diplomats and other US citizens were held during the infamous hostage crisis.
Day 2 – Tehran
Today we embark on a day of sightseeing in Tehran. In the morning we visit the splendours of Golestan Palace, and continue to the bazaar area with its bustle and activity, which gives a snapshot of daily life in the capital. In the afternoon we visit the National Jewels Museum with its collection of eye catching exhibits, including the Darya-e-Nur, the largest pink diamond in the world. Overnight at Hoveyzeh Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 3 – Qom – Kashan – Abyaneh
This morning we drive to the holy city of Qom, home to the 17th century shrine of Fatima, as well as other sacred monuments. We then head to Kashan where we visit the Bagh-e Fin Persian Gardens, and the Khaneh Borujerdiyah, a much photographed 19th century house that once belonged to a local merchant. From here we continue to the mountain village of Abyaneh, one of the oldest settlements in Iran; its historic importance has recently been recognised by UNESCO. Overnight at Hotel Abyaneh or similar. (BD)
Day 4 – Natanz - Nain – Yazd
Leaving Abyaneh behind we drive to Yazd, stopping on the way to visit the Jame Mosque and the shrine of Imamzadeh Abdolsamaad in Natanz; a significant example of traditional Persian architecture. We also visit Nain where we see the Jame Mosque and the ethnological museum. Overnight at Fahadan Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 5 – Yazd
We will explore the desert city of Yazd, long a stronghold for Zoroastrianism, and with some superb and very unique architecture. We visit the Zoroastrian fire temple, the eerie ‘Towers of Silence’, the wind towers and the Jame Mosque amongst other sites. Overnight at Fahadan Hotel or similar. (BL)
The ancient city of Yazd is unique for its intriguing architecture which has been perfectly adapted to the harsh weather conditions of its desert location. The famous wind towers, a feature of most buildings in the old city, are designed to trap even the smallest of draughts and direct them into the dwellings below for cooling. It is a fascinating place to wander around and there are 12 different bazaars dotted around the city which make for some wonderful exploring. Yazd is also Iran's centre of Zoroastrians - one of the world's oldest religions, and the state religion in Persia until the advent of Islam. It is possible to visit Artashkadeh, the fire temple of the Zoroastrian community and to see a flame that the Zoroastrians claim has been burning for more than 1,500 years. Outside the city are the fascinating Towers of Silence, an old Zoroastrian burial ground where the dead bodies of the believers were left to be devoured by vultures before burying the remaining bones. It is a poignant place to visit.
Day 6 – Zeinodin
After spending the morning in Yazd we drive to Zeinodin, where we stay in a beautifully restored caravanserai, one of the ancient inns of the Silk Road, dating back to the Safavid era. Overnight at Zeinodin Caravanserai. (BD)
Please note that the sleeping areas in the Caravanserai are separated by curtains only and you will be sleeping on a mattress not in a bed. The facilities are shared.
Day 7- Mahan-Kerman
Moving on from Zeinodin we head to the town of Mahan, stopping for lunch on arrival, and then visiting Bagh-e Shahzade. This arresting Persian garden is amongst the loveliest in Iran with its fountains and terraces. We will also visit the mausoleum of the Sufi poet-saint Shah Nematollah. We continue on to Kerman visiting the Sanati Museum, Ganajalikhan complex and Vakil Bazaar. Overnight at Tourist Inn or similar. (BLD)
Day 8-Sarvestan- Shiraz
A long day of driving (600kms) is broken with a stop to visit the impressive Sassanid Palace complex just outside Sarvestan. From there we continue to Shiraz, a beautiful city, known for the shrines of its famous poets and its pretty gardens. Overnight at Arg Hotel or similar. (B Picnic Lunch D)
This city encapsulates the image of ancient Persia - exotic gardens, lavish mansions, rich red wine, silky woollen rugs, philosophy and poetry. Shiraz has also always been a renowned centre of learning, boasting many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Known as Iran's "Poetic Capital", it was also home to two of Persia's most famous poets of the 13th and 14th centuries, Saadi and Hafez, whose mausoleums are here in Shiraz. Free time in Shiraz can be spent exploring at your own pace. Wander the maze of narrow streets and alleyways of the old city filled with traditional handicraft workshops and local markets. For avid sightseers the splendid mansion of Ghavam Orangery, the sumptuous Garden of Paradise, and the impressive intricately decorated Karim Khan Citadel are each worthy of a visit.
Day 9- Persepolis- Naqsh e Rostam- Naqsh e Rajab
Visit Persepolis, one of the greatest cities of the ancient world and a highlight of any visit to Iran. We spend time exploring this magnificent site before heading to Naqsh-e Rustam and Naqsh-e Rajab, sites dating back to the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods. Overnight at Arg Hotel. (BL)
Persepolis is one of Iran’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and rightly so. Building of this extraordinary site began under the Achaemenid king Darius the Great in 515 BC, and was continued under his successors before being destroyed when the armies of Alexander swept through the region two hundred years later. What remains though is spectacular – ruins of enormous buildings decorated with elaborate and well preserved relief carvings or warriors, horses and chariots. Several places contain numerous pillars and staircases, and the site is a joy to explore
Day 10 – Shiraz
A full day to explore the many sites of Shiraz. We visit the tombs of the famous Persian poets Hafiz and Sa’di, the Naranjestan – a traditional and well preserved Persian house- the mosque of Nasir al Mulk and the Khan Madrassa among other spectacular monuments. Overnight at Arg Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 11- Pasargadae - Isfahan
Today we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pasargadae, home to the tomb of Cyrus the Great and other impressive monuments. After visiting these ancient sites we drive to Isfahan. Overnight at Piroozi Hotel or similar. (BL)
This is without doubt Iran’s most enchanting city. The magnificent capital of Safavid King Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) on the banks of the Zayandeh Rud River, was often described by the words: "Esfahan nesf-e Jahan" (Esfahan is half the world) and has long attracted travellers from all over the world. It is here where one can really appreciate the true grace and beauty of Persian heritage.
Built in 1612 as a royal polo ground, and situated in the heart of the Safavid Capital, Imam Square is one of the largest and finest public spaces in the world. Historically a hive of activity - filled with entertainers, storytellers, preachers and silk route caravans- it has entranced travellers throughout the generations.
The atmospheric bazaar captures the ambience of ancient Persia. It's easy to spend many hours strolling here. The pungent scent of exotic spices, clang of coppersmiths at work, cries of merchants selling gold, carpets and handicrafts, all fill the series of long alleys radiating from Imam Square.
Forty Column Palace
There are only twenty elegant columns at the front of Shah Abbas' royal reception hall, but their reflection in the pool gives the inspiration for the name. Inside the visitor is treated to a superb display of frescoes and paintings, which cover the walls and depict scenes from the 16th and 17th centuries.
While Iran is for all intents and purposes, an Islamic nation, there are various other religious minorities free to practice their faith. Vank Cathedral in Esfahan's Armenian Quarter is a testament to the fact that Muslims and Christians have lived together peacefully here for centuries. While the exterior of the cathedral observes traditional Christian designs, the interior decorations are a curious combination of time honoured Christian images and ancient Persian art.
Imam Mosque and Sheik Lotfullah Mosque
Built between 1612 and 1638 these majestic structures, lavishly adorned with exquisite tile work in hues of blue, turquoise and green, represent the culmination of over 1,000 years of Islamic art and architecture. The former was built as Esfahan's central place of worship and Islamic learning. The latter, named in honour of the great Lebanese Sheikh Lotfullah, was the private place of prayer and meditation for Shah Abbas.
Ali Qapu Palace
Literally called "the sublime gate" in Farsi, this seven-storey palace, situated on the western side of Imam Square, was principally the centre of government during the Safavid Period. The interior is wonderfully decorated with fine carvings, murals and mosaics and the main balcony gave the Shah and his family a commanding view of the polo matches held in the square and the daily life of the city.
Days 12-13 - Isfahan
A World Heritage site, Esfahan is perhaps the most beautiful of all the cities in Iran with an abundance of traditional Islamic architecture, ancient mosques, shrines and palaces. We have two full days to explore this enigmatic city. Overnight at Piroozi Hotel or similar. (Day 12 – BD, Day 13 – B)
Day 14 – Tehran
Drive back to Tehran for our final night in Iran where we will enjoy a farewell dinner. Overnight at Hoveyzeh Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 15 – Tehran
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
Arrival and departure transfers
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes