IR1 Iran

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Tehran: Old City tour; Medieval Shiraz; Stunning Persepolis: site tour; "Good and noble city of Yazd" - Marco Polo; Beautiful Isfahan: City Tour; Legacies: Arabs, Buyids, Seljuqs, Turks, Mongols, and many more!

Full Itinerary


Day 1 Arrival in Tehran
Today we arrive in Tehran and transfer to our hotel. Please note that many flights tend to land in Tehran in the very early morning, ie just into today. If this is the case, we can book you an extra night's accommodation at an added cost so that you will have a room on arrival. This can be determined at the time of flight schedule finalization.

IRANIAN VISA APPLICATION PROCEDURES NECESSITATE THAT YOU WILL BE WITHOUT YOUR PASSPORT FOR APPROXIMATELY 6 WEEKS BEFORE DEPARTURE. YOU MUST ALSO BE IN POSSESSION OF THE PASSPORT YOU INTEND TO USE FOR THE TRIP AT LEAST 90 DAYS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE. IT IS LIKELY THAT YOUR PASSPORT AND IRAN VISA WILL BE RETURNED TO YOU JUST PRIOR TO THE TRIP. DO NOT PLAN ANY TRAVEL THAT REQUIRES A PASSPORT DURING THIS TIME. DO NOT PLAN TO ARRIVE IN TEHRAN EARLIER THAN THE TOUR START DATE.

Overnight in Tehran.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Tehran: City Tour
This morning we embark upon our full-day of sightseeing in Tehran, concentrating on its excellent museums. Compared to Iran's other capitals, Tehran, is not considered an old city. It remained relatively unimportant until the end of the 18th century when it was made the capital by Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Ghajar Dynasty who was crowned in Tehran in 1795. It was expanded by his successor Fath-Ali Shah who built the Golestan Palace. Today this city is a modern metropolis.

Our first stop will be at the Archaeological Museum with its fine collection including a stone capital of a winged lion from Susa and a 6th century BC audience hall relief of Darius the Great from the Treasury at Persepolis. The museum also houses a very famous and important trilingual Darius I inscription.

We also visit the Sadabad Cultural Complex located in what used to be the Shah's winter palace. The complex houses several museums and though not all of them are open at the same time; the ones that are provide a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. During our time in Tehran, we will also visit the Jewel Museum.

Overnight in Tehran.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Tehran - Kerman
This morning we fly to Kerman, a pleasant city located at an altitude of about 1750 m (5,740 feet). Situated on an important Asian trade route, today the economy of Kerman relies mainly on the production of carpets. Ruled by a succession of dynasties including the Arabs, the Buyids, the Seljuq's, the Turks and the Mongols, the remoteness of Kerman resulted in the town remaining without much wealth through the centuries.

On arrival we pay a visit to the Ganjalikhan complex of old Public Bath with its wax sculptures, and the old bazaar.

Overnight in Kerman.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Kerman - Rayen - Mahan - Kerman
Today we have a full day excursion to the city of Rayen to see the Rayen Citadel, dating back to the 5th century. With an area of 40000 sq m, the citadel has been functioning as a small city until 150 years ago. It is very similar to the once majestic Bam Citadel, destroyed by earthquake in late 2003.

Returning to Kerman, we stop in Mahan en route to visit Shahzadeh Garden, an oasis in the heart of desert. We also visit the shrine of Shah Nematollah Vali, one of the most prominent Persian Sufis.

Overnight in Kerman.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Kerman - Yazd
Located just outside of Kerman is Gombad-E Jabaliye, or "Mountain of Stone," one of the most impressive monuments of southern Iran, also one of the most puzzling. Neither its date nor its use can be determined. This small double-domed structure was constructed in an octagonal shape using stone rather than the more usual brick. Some historians have determined that it pre-dates the 2nd century AD and may have been a Zoroastrian building. Evidence supporting this theory is the several fire temples located further along the road.

Today we drive to Yazd, passing through many areas of pistachio orchards and the town of Rafsanjani, home of the ex-President of Iran, whose family owns a pistachio estate here. We stop in at a typical example of a caravanserai along the way before arriving in Yazd.

Marco Polo visited Yazd on his way to China and called it the "good and noble city of Yazd". Located in the heart of Iran between the Kavir and Lut deserts, Yazd was a major stop on the international caravan routes to Central Asia and India.

Overnight in Yazd.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Yazd: City Tour
Today we tour Yazd. The architecture here is perhaps the most traditionally Persian to be found, preserved by the dry climate and spared the devastations of the Mongols. The tiled portal of the Friday Mosque, crowned by twin minarets, is the tallest in the country. Like many early mosques it was constructed on the site of a Sassanid fire temple. Yazd's Friday Mosque was built over a forty year period form 1324 to 1365 and is probably the best preserved 14th century mosque in Iran. The portals facade is decorated from top to bottom with dazzling tile work, predominately blue in colour.

The view from the dome shows the sun-baked roofs and wind towers of the city. These wind towers are seen all over Iran but are most highly developed in Yazd. Our visit to one of these towers will show us how the slatted towers capture the slightest desert breeze, drawing it down to the lower level where it is cooled by passing over water and circulated through the house. Enormous domes starting at ground level would act as protective roofs for deep water-tanks built 6m (20 ft) below street level. People would access these tanks by steep staircases.

Yazd is also an ancient centre of Zoroastrianism, considered the world's first monotheistic religion. We visit a Zoroastrian fire temple and the 'towers of silence' before continuing to the he Old Town, a mesmerizing labyrinth, with winding streets that are extraordinarily well preserved; some say that this is one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world.

You will have some free time this afternoon to explore this charming city on your own.

Overnight in Yazd.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Yazd - Shiraz
Today we travel by road to to Shiraz, one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and the Iranian capital from 1753-1794. Through its many artists and scholars, Shiraz has been synonymous with learning, nightingales, poetry, roses and at one time, wine. En route we stop at the Tomb of Cyrus (Pasardgae) and at the tombs nearby Persepolis in advance of our main Persepolis later.

While in Shiraz we will see (from the exterior only) the famous tomb of Shah Cheragh, brother of Imam Reza. The tomb, beautifully lit at night, draws thousands of pilgrims annually and is the principal pilgrimage center in the province of Fars.

Overnight in Shiraz.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Shiraz: City Tour
During today's tour of Shiraz we will visit the Fars Museum, an octagonal pavilion originally built by Karim Khan and used for official receptions. It now houses a collection relating to the life of Karim Khan and other historic artifacts relating to the province. Perhaps even more interesting than the museum is the building itself with its charming tiled panels and painted roof.

Our sightseeing will also take us to the Mausoleum of Sa'di, one of Iran's best known poets, and the Tomb of Hafez, a literary giant of the 14th century. Here we see the alabaster tomb under a tiled cupola, covered with beautiful mosaic faience of wonderful design. We also visit the Eram and Narenjestan gardens, the Nassirolmolk mosque, and the old covered bazaar of Vakil.

Overnight in Shiraz.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Shiraz - Persepolis - Isfahan
Today we travel to Isfahan via Persepolis where we have a comprehensive tour of this vast site.

This was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenian Empire and perhaps one of the country's most beautiful and spectacular archaeological sites surviving today. The administrative center of the Achaemenians was actually at Susa, shifting during the summer to Hamadan while Persepolis was reserved only for ritual celebrations. Persepolis stands on a limestone terrace overlooking the Marvdasht plain at the foot of the Kuh-e Rahmat, the Mountain of Mercy.

The most important buildings at Persepolis were crowded onto a terrace of natural rock that rises over 9 m (30 feet) above the plain on three sides and is adjacent to a low mountain on the fourth side. There are about 15 major buildings, including the Apadana, the Hall of Hundred Columns, the Gate House of Xerxes, the Treasury, the Harem and the private palaces of the different rulers.

Later we continue on to Naghsh-e Rostam and the carved tombs of four Achaemenian tombs. The tombs are widely accepted to be those of Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II. There are also eight reliefs from later in the Sassanian Dynasty which are cut into the stone below the facades of the tombs. These fine reliefs depict various scenes of imperial conquests as well as a probable fire temple from Achaemenian times.

We continue to Isfahan, perhaps the most beautiful of all Iranian cities. After consolidating his control, Shah Abbas I initiated one of the world's grandest experiments in city planning, moving the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan in 1598 where it remained until 1722. Mosques, palaces, bazaars and public parks were built under the monarch's personal supervision over the next thirty years.

Overnight in Isfahan.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Isfahan: City Tour
We start the day by visiting the Armenian Vank Cathedral and the Armenian Museum complex. The exterior of the church may appear drab, but the interior is richly decorated and shows a mixture of styles -- Islamic, Persian and Christian European.

In the early afternoon we visit the Friday Mosque. In its vaulted ceilings and lofty domes, the complex displays more than 800 years of Persian religious architecture, from the 11th to the 18th centuries, and it is truly one of the world's greatest mosques. It is built using a traditional plan with four ivans or vaulted halls placed on the axes of a central courtyard. The northwestern ivan was originally constructed during the Seljuk period in about 1121 although its vibrant surface decoration dates from the reign of Shah Soltan Hosayn. Also in the mosque you can see the Mongol influence on Persian architecture, (Chinghis Khan's son, Olgedi, lived here as a Shah) and also the Timurid style. From here we drive to the Palace of Forty Columns, a charming pavilion used to receive dignitaries and ambassadors. Here the walls and paintings are covered with frescos and paintings and the superb wooden roof of the porch is painted with a series of geometrical decorations interspersed with flowers. The roof was waterproofed by covering the roof with a fresh layer of beaten eggs every year, the weight of which has caused many to collapse.

Overnight in Isfahan.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Isfahan: Maydan-e Shah
Today we visit the central focus of this fascinating city: the immense Maydan-e Shah, or Royal Square. The square is actually a huge rectangle measuring 502 m (1,674 ft) by 162 m (540 feet) and it is enclosed by double-storied arcades. Four jewels of 17th century architecture adorn each side of the square, symbolizing the political, economic and religious spheres of Safavid Persia. On the north side is the entrance to the Royal Qaysariyyeh Bazaar, on the east is the Lotfallah Mosque. This mosque was constructed between 1603 and 1617 and served as a private chapel for the Imperial family. The domed ceiling has the finest faience tilework of 17th century Persia. The inscriptions were executed by Ali Reda Abbasi, the greatest calligrapher of the Safavid period. On the west is the Ali Qapu Palace and on the southern side, the towering portal of the Shah Mosque, a monument to the grand vision of Shah Abbas the Great who died shortly before its completion.

During our stay in Isfahan we will also pay a sunset visit to the Safavid Bridges on the Zayandeh Rud River followed by tea in a traditional tearoom.

Overnight in Isfahan.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Isfahan - Abyaneh - Tehran
Today we drive to Tehran. En route we stop at Abyaneh, an ancient village that is a living architectural and anthropological museum. It affords an impressive exponent of the adaptation of human kind to the environment. Set on the slope of the lofty mountain of Karkas, this village has a cold climate and enjoys numerous springs creating favourable conditions for agriculture. Considering the evidence found in Abyaneh, it dates back to antiquity but its golden age was during the Safavid period. The word Abyaneh has been derived from the word "viona" meaning willow grove. Although the village itself is situated on high ground, there are three castles that protected the people when the enemy attacked.

We continue to Tehran and visit the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini before arrival at our hotel.

Overnight in Tehran.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Tehran: Glass and Ceramic Museum & Reza Abbasi Museum
Our culminating tour of Tehran begins with the impressive Glass and Ceramic Museum and continues to the world-renowned Carpet Museum, which houses a spectacular collection of Iranian hand woven carpets. Our next museum is the Reza Abbasi Museum that displays artifacts that belong to a period from the 2nd millennium BC to the early 20th century, the end of Qajar period.* The day ends with a special Iranian farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

* NOTE: The day of the week upon which this day falls can vary. In the event that this day falls on a Monday when some museums are closed, we may substitute the Jewel Museum and the Gorestan Palace which, at the time of writing this itinerary, remain open on Mondays.

Overnight in Tehran.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Departure
Departure from Tehran.

BON VOYAGE!
Meal plan: breakfast