IR5 IRAN & THE CAUCASUS TOUR

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Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Tehran: Old City tour; Medieval Shiraz; Stunning Persepolis: site tour; Beautiful Isfahan: City tour; Cosmopolitan Yerevan: City tour; Major Armenian Christian sites; Tbilisi: City Tour & Mtskhetai, ancient capital; Legacies: Arabs, Buyids, Seljuqs, Mongols, early Christians and many more!

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (see note below, if applicable) - All pricing reflects twin-sharing, per-person pricing for the TOUR AND INTERNAL FLIGHTS ONLY; however, we can book flights from your home airport to join the tour for an added cost. Contact us for a no obligation quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Tue 24 Apr 2018Sun 20 May 2018 $7150 USD

The above prices are subject to an additional $230 for taxes/fees levied on flights that occur as part of the tour. The internal airfares ARE included, but we list the taxes separately on your invoice as they are beyond our control and can change at any time.


Optional Single Supplement: $1583 USD (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $792, if twin-sharing accommodation is unavailable.


Tour Overview


This is a fantastic regional combination of our ever-popular tours of Iran (IR1) and the Caucasus (AZ1), which we make possible only once a year in the spring.

Regions visited: Middle East and Central And Eastern Europe
Countries visited: Iran; Azerbaijan; Georgia and Armenia


Testimonials


Excellent trip. Love the history of the area. Our tour leader was always smiling, very pleasant, agrees to most everything.

Jonathan is one of the best tour leaders you can have. He is knowledgeable, experienced, patient - it is a pleasure traveling with him. Could not be better. Wish their were more like him.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

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:

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: Lunch

Day 3 Tehran - Shiraz
Today we fly 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:

Day 4 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: Lunch

Day 5 Shiraz: Persepolis & Naqsh-e Rostam
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 Naqsh-e Rostam and the four carved 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.

Return to Shiraz.

Overnight in Shiraz.

Meal plan:

Day 6 Shiraz - Pasargadae - Abarkouh - Yazd
Today we travel toward Zeinoddin; en route we stop at Pasargadae where, according to the Roman geographer Strabo of Amasia, the palace of Pasargadae was built on the site where king Cyrus defeated the leader of the Medes, Astyages, in 550 BCE. The dominant feature of the citadel is a huge stone platform, projecting from a low, conical hill. Two unfinished stone staircases and a towering facade of rusticated masonry were evidently intended to form part of an elevated palace enclosure. An abrupt event, however -- perhaps related to the death of Cyrus -- brought the work to a halt, and a formidable mud-brick structure was erected on the platform instead. It is possible that the building represents the famous treasury surrendered to Alexander the Great.

Our next stop is Abarkouh where we see Sarv-e Abar-Kuh ("cypress of Abar-Kuh"), a Cupressus sempervirens tree protected by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran as a national natural monument. It is estimated to be over four millennia old and is likely the second-oldest living thing in Asia.

We continue to 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 has been known for its silks and other fabrics since before Marco Polo passed through. It is also home to Iran's second-largest population of Zoroastrians.

Overnight in Yazd.

Meal plan:

Day 7 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.

Overnight in Yazd.

Meal plan:

Day 8 Yazd & Saryazd Citadel
Nearby we wil visit visit Saryazd Citadel, a mud fortress unique in its architecture and materials. This UNESCO site is enjoying a revitalization which is seeing this much neglected monument returned to its some of its former glory.

Balance of the day at leisure for independent exploration.

Overnight in Yazd.

Meal plan: Lunch

Day 9 Yazd - Nain - Isfahan
Today we travel to Isfahan with a stop in the picturesque town of Nain en route. Here one can see the characteristic clay buildings and one of the oldest mosques in Iran with remains from the 10th century.

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:

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:

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: Lunch

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.

Overnight in Tehran.

Meal plan: Lunch

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:

Day 14 Tehran, Iran - Baku, Azerbaijan
Today we fly to Baku, Azerbaijan.

Due to a lack of air connections between these two cities, today's journey could be rather convoluted (ie via istanbul or some other city in the region).

Overnight in Baku.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Baku: City Tour
Today we tour the 'City of the Winds' and start with a visit to the Martyr's Cemetery, located on the higher slopes of the city's west-end. This is the best place for viewing the city and the Bay of Baku. We proceed to the Old Town 'Iceri Sehir', which is also a fortress. We see the highlights of Iceri Sehir including the Palace of the Shirvans, the most striking example of the Medieval palace structures in Azerbaijan, dating to the middle of 15th century; and the Maiden's Tower, the ancient, eight storey fortress originally built as a fire beacon.

This afternoon we visit the Baku Fire Temple, known locally as the Atashgah. This is a castle-like Hindu temple and monastery complex in Surakhani near Baku. The complex is now a museum and is no longer used as a place of worship. Local legend associates the temple at Surakhany with the fire temples of Zoroastrianism, but this is presumably based on a misunderstanding of the term 'Atashgah,' which in Azerbaijani is literally any fire-place, but in Zoroastrianism is synonymous with Middle Persian Atashdan, the technical term for the altar-like repository for a sacred wood-fire.

Overnight in Baku.

Meal plan:

Day 16 Baku - Shemakha - Sheki
This morning we leave the capital and travel by road west to Shemakha, for a long time the capital and trade centre for western Azerbaijan and now a small town. We briefly visit the Juma (Friday) Mosque, a very large and attractive building from the late 19th century; and the Yedi Gumbez 'Seven Tombs', yet only three of these desecrated octagonal royal tombs remain reasonably complete. They are the 18th-19th century mausoleums of the Khans of Shemakha.

We continue to Sheki, one of the most ancient settlements and architectural centers of Azerbaijan founded more than 2700 years ago. The setting here is stunning -- lying in forested hills with views of the Caucasus. On arrival we visit the mosaic-fronted Khan's Palace, a beautiful piece of Islamic architecture, and the History Museum. We will also have a walk through the busy market of Sheki.

Overnight in Sheki.

Meal plan:

Day 17 Sheki, Azerbaijan - Telavi, Georgia
This morning we travel along the foothills of the Greater Caucasus range and arrive at the Azerbaijan border / Lagodekhi check-point. After completing customs and immigration formalities (which can be lengthy!) we continue to Telavi. Please know that this a very full day of travel and sightseeing.

Throughout this region, snowy peaks can just be made out through the haze, and the towering white poplar tree. The emptiness of the road today belies the fact that this is an ancient trade route, a tiny part of the old Silk Road that linked China with Western Europe before an alternative route was discovered by sea. In the Telavi area, we visit some of the highlights of Georgian architectural monuments: Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c) and Ikalto Academy (4th-13th).

Overnight in Telavi.

Meal plan:

Day 18 Telavi - Davit Gareja Monastery - Tbilisi
Today's journey takes us through Kakheti Province, Georgia's famous wine district, a landscape dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard.

We then drive to Davit Gareja Monastery,* situated deep in semi-desert about 75 km (47 mi) south-east of Tbilisi. Founded in the 6th century by the Christian Father St. David, the monasteries are remarkable for their original frescoes that date from the 8th to 13th centuries, and the site is considered to be one of the most important landmarks of Georgia. The main complex on which we concentrate our visit, is located just adjacent to the parking area and constitutes a highly satisfactory visit with respect to what the entire area has to offer, though we regret that our tour here will not be as comprehensive as is possible given time contraints and accessibility problems.

* The area and the footing can suffer from very changeable weather conditions. Your Tour Leader can provide further information en route, but kindly be advised that the nature, duration, and content of our visit is the prerogative of your Tour Leader.

Later in the day we arrive in Tbilisi.

Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan:

Day 19 Tbilisi: City Tour
Tbilisi, capital of Georgia from the 5th century AD, has a long and fascinating history. Founded in the 4th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali on the site of its warm mineral-water springs, it developed into the main city of the Caucasus. By the 12th century Tbilisi was one of the more important political, economic and cultural centres of the Middle East. It stood as a key stop on the famous Silk Road, right on the border between Europe and Asia. Tbilisi's Old Town, the most ancient part of the city, is renowned for its wonderful mix of cultures. The mosque, the synagogue, the Armenian and Roman Catholic churches mingle harmoniously with the splendid Georgian churches and architecture. The balmy sulfur baths have hosted poets, writers, musicians, and kings down through the centuries. The multi-ethnic markets with large variety of produce and languages, give the city an Eastern, cosmopolitan feel.

We will explore much of the old town by foot, starting at the Metekhi Church (12th C), Abanotubani, the area famous for the sulphur baths with Asian style buildings and 19th C Georgian houses. We visit the National Museum (which has a very interesting exhibit about the Soviet Occupation) and walk Rustaveli Avenue, the most beautiful street of Tbilisi.

Balance of the day for independent exploration.

Overnight in Tbilisi.

Meal plan:

Day 20 Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)
This morning we leave the capital and depart for Mtskheta, an ancient town of extraordinary importance to the Georgian nation, located about 20km out of Tbilisi. It was the capital of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia (not to be confused with the European peninsula) from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD. Mtskheta was the site of Georgia's adoption of Christianity in 334 and remains the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church. We visit the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th c.) and Jvari Monastery (6th c.); both are among the finest architectural monuments in Georgia.

We continue along the Georgian Military Highway, a historical road leading north from Tbilisi into Russia. It passes the spectacular Ananuri Fortress (we'll make a stop here), and then climbs the sides of the dramatic Aragvi River Valley, over the Jvari Pass (2395m / 7,857 ft) and down into Kazbegi (officially Stepantsminda; 1700m / 5577 ft). Surrounded by gigantic mountains, Kazbegi is a picturesque settlement overlooked by the biggest of them all -- Mount Kazbek (5047m / 16,558 ft) -- one of the six 5000+ metre peaks of the Caucasus.

Time permitting upon arrival, we'll begin our area sightseeing. The town and rugged surrounds provide some of the most picturesque scenes in Georgia.

Overnight in Kazbegi.

Meal plan:

Day 21 Kazbegi Area
Today will be spent exploring the Kazbegi. We can walk up (or drive) to Gergeti Trinity Church (snow level permitting) and enjoy the spectacular views of Mt. Kazbek (5047m / 16,558 ft). This is a popular area for walking and trekking, and our time here is somewhat freeform allowing for some easy walking in the beautiful surrounds and the tiny, charming village.

Overnight in Kazbegi.

Meal plan:

Day 22 Kazbegi - Uplistsikhe - Akhaltsikhe
Today we continue down the Georgian Military Highway and turn east to Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. We'll visit the Stalin Museum here before travelling the 8 km to Uplistsikhe, ('the Lord's Citadel'), a cave town hewn into rock. The citadel dates back to the 7th century BC, and had served as a strategic point on the ancient Silk Road from ancient times until the 15th century AD. As part of our visit, we'll see the large central hall for pagan rituals, living rooms, and a 9th century church.

We continue to Akhaltsikhe, a small city of about 50,000 and the capital of Samtskhe-Javakheti. The city has been around for at least 800 years, and was a regional administrative center for the Ottomans from the sixteenth century up to the Russo-Turkish War. Until the twentieth century Akhaltsikhe was majority Armenian, but today, unlike most of the province, it is majority Georgian.

Arrive in Akhaltsikhe.

Meal plan:

Day 23 Akhaltsikhe - Vardzia, Georgia - Gyumri, Armenia
Today we travel to Armenia, stopping at first at Vardzia in the Meskheti province of southern Georgia. Here we see a thirteen story cave town built between 1186-9 by Georgia's famous Queen Tamara. It stands as a unique example of the Georgian 'renaissance' construction in an area of many medieval sites.

We then drive south of Ninotsminda to the border with Armenia at Bavra. We break up our journey to Yerevan with an overnight stop in Gyumri, a city of stately Russian architecture, cobbled streets, and a bustling market. Depending on our timing today, we may do some Gyumri sightseeing today and / or possibly tomorrow before departing for Yerevan.

Overnight in Gyumri.

Meal plan:

Day 24 Gyumri - Yerevan: City Tour
Today we travel the short distance to Yerevan, the present-day capital of a nation that was the first in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion (AD 301). The Yerevan of today is a city of Christian cathedrals, theatres and museums, universities and academies, parks, squares and industrial sites and, finally, an art-loving and sophisticated people.

Upon arrival we tour Yerevan, including the Genocide Memorial and Museum at Tsitsernakaberd ("Swallow Castle"). The memorial sits on the site of an Iron Age fortress, all above-ground traces of which seem to have disappeared. The museum's testimony to the 1915 destruction of the Armenian communities of Eastern Anatolia is moving, and the monument itself is austere but powerful. The spire symbolizes the Eastern and Western branches of the Armenian people. From here the view over the Ararat Valley is striking.

We will also visit the Matenadaran's Manuscript Collection, of prime importance for the study of the history and culture of Armenia, as well as Transcaucasia, Asia Minor and many Middle Eastern countries. Works by some philosophers of antiquity survived only in their Armenian translation. These include Eusebius of Gaesaria's "Chronicle", the ancient Greek philosopher Xenon's treatise "On Nature," and many others. The archives preserve over 100,000 documents of the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries: various deeds, decrees, treaties and letters, which contain vast material on the political and socio-economic history of Armenia and neighbouring countries.

We also visit the National History Museum on Republic Square. The square was built in the 1940s in a traditional Armenian architectural style. The arches of the buildings lining the square and the motifs of the bas-reliefs are unique in their conception and resemble the structural shapes of the Armenian architectural and spiritual monuments of the 10th-13th centuries. In Yerevan, most buildings comprise a pink shade of "tuff" stone quarried locally. This is the most prominent feature of Yerevan's otherwise utilitarian Soviet architecture and is unique to Armenia.

While in Yerevan we will also visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral (AD 301) located outside the city. This is the centre of the Armenian Church and their most important Orthodox cathedral.

Overnight in Yerevan.

Meal plan:

Day 25 Garni Temple & Geghard Monastery Complex
Not far from Yerevan we will find two places where the people expressed their beliefs: the Hellenistic Mithras Temple of Garni, dating back to the first century, and the Geghard Monastery in the gorge of the River Asat. Garni Temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 1679 and reconstructed in the 1970s. The temple is erected on a basalt base, on top of the gorge of the river Asat, surrounded by the ruins of the Garni Citadel, which also served as the summer residence of the Armenian kings in the third and fourth century.

The monastery at Geghard is a unique architectural construction, partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. While the main chapel was built in 1215, the complex was founded in the 4th century.

At some point during our time in Yerevan we will visit a brandy factory for a tour and tasting. Today we include a typical lunch at a private home.

Overnight in Yerevan.

Meal plan:

Day 26 Exploring South of Yerevan & Leisure Time in Yerevan
This morning we visit Khor Virap Monastery (AD 4-17 c). Khor Virap has a very long and rich history, both secular and religious. It is situated in the Ararat Valley against the Biblical Mt Ararat (where Noah's Ark cast anchor) on the left bank of the River Araks on one of the high hills. From ancient times Khor Virap was highly esteemed for its geographical and territorial advantages. Weather permitting we will have spectacular views of Mt Ararat from the Yerevan-Artashat motorway.

We return to Yerevan where you have some much-deserved leisure time before tonight's dinner at a typical Armenian restaurant, possibly with live Armenian music.

Overnight in Yerevan.

Meal plan:

Day 27 Departure
Departure from Yerevan.

BON VOYAGE!!

Meal plan:

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Ferdowsi Grand Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Tehran
Country: Iran

Ferdossi Grand Hotel is located near to the famous Bazaar in the center of Tehran. The Hotel has 185 rooms
... singles and doubles all equipped with refrigerators, carpets, radios, TV, air conditioning, direct long distance telephone.

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Moshir al Mamalek Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Yazd
Country: Iran

This exquisite hotel is sited an one of the marginal streets to be easily accessible for arriving passengers. Enjoy the
... landscape of the garden, fountains, flowing fountain and Iranian architecture. Private bath, direct dial phone, TV, minibar, and air-conditioning.

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Chamran Grand Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Shiraz
Country: Iran

Chamran Grand Hotel of Shiraz is a five star hotel located in Chamran Boulevard surrounded by the Ghasrodasht gardens in
... Iran. The structure has a height of 109 meters, and is the highest hotel tower in Iran.
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Aseman Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Isfahan
Country: Iran

Aseman hotel is a 4 Star hotel with a special position in the beautiful and historic city of Esfahan at
... edge of the river, 100 Rooms, This hotel has a beautiful revolving Restaurant over the hotel, the benefits to this is also the touristic sights and places that are around it such as, Sio-She Bridge, Hasht Behesht Palace, Niayasar Cave and many more.
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Park Inn Baku

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Baku
Country: Azerbaijan

Enviably located in the centre of the city, the Park Inn by Radisson Azerbaijan, Baku hotel looks out over the
... Sea harbour and historic Old City. This hotel in Baku sits nestled in the heart of the business and entertainment district and places guests within walking distance of the main shopping area, Park Boulevard and Fountain Square.


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Sheki Saray Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Sheki
Country: Azerbaijan

The Sheki Saray Hotel enjoys uninterrupted views of the Caucasus Mountains. The cultural references of its architecture evoke the rich
... of Sheki and combine elements from Mediterranean, Middle East and Europe. A blend of local stone, fabric and wood, warm, muted colors and decorative features such as arches, lamps and columns reflect the aims of the designers to create a sense of place and tradition.


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Rcheuli Marani Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Telavi
Country: Georgia

Telavi is the main city and administrative center of Georgia's eastern province of Kakheti.

There are 25 comfortable rooms,
... all exclusive appointments of a high standards hotel with satellite TV and unlimited internet access at the Hotel "Rcheuli Marani". Guests can enjoy 24-hour concierge service, restaurant, conference hall, 18-hour room service. All rooms have individual climate control, mini-bar and balconies.

You can experience Georgian unique table traditions in the hotel restaurant "Old Marani" which has its wonderful 18th century Georgian wine Cellar. It offers you to introduce with rich traditional dishes as well as dishes of European cuisine and Georgian wine testing

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Berlin Art Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Gyumri
Country: Armenia

Berlin Art Hotel is a social pilot enterprise of the German Red Cross in Berlin. As a non-profit organization, its
... purpose is to contribute to the support and further development of medical care in the outpatient clinic "Berlin Centre for Mother and Child". The hotel opened its doors to guests in 1996. Since that time it is a favourite of international travellers. What sets this hotel apart from other local hotels is the art Gallery25. All rooms feature the art works of local and international artists.



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Hotel Ani Plaza

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Yerevan
Country: Armenia

It was fully reconstructed and refurbished and operates as a 4 Star Hotel under the name Ani Plaza from 1999.
... only a few minutes walk to the National Gallery, Opera House, Matenadaran - the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts, and other cultural and historical places. Many rooms are overlooking the city with a great panorama view of Yerevan and Mount Ararat.


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Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (at local restaurants and hotels) are included daily.* All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

In Iran, our meal plan relies more heavily on buffets on our typical tours, due to long days and considerations of timing whereby we try to maximize time by avoiding long lunches or evening meals after a long day of travel. For the same reasons we may also substitute dinner with lunches are the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas and locally paid departure taxes.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour occurs in spring when the temperature should not fall below 5 C (40 F) at night and climb rise to between 20 and 30 C (69 - 86 F) during the day. We should have sunny weather most of the time, but showers are possible. Spring is also favourable for green landscapes and wildflowers.

Transport and Travel Conditions

PLEASE NOTE: You will likely have to be without your passport for up to 4 weeks prior to departure due to Iran visa application procedures. You will likely receive your passports back just prior to departure. All travellers must arrive on the tour start date (no early arrivals). Travellers should also be aware that they will need to provide information pertaining to their use of social media and work history. Those with military backgrounds will likely be refused.

Ground transport will be via bus, 24-30 seater, with air conditioning, though this should not be terribly necessary at the times we run this tour. Air connections provided by scheduled local carries. The tour is not strenuous though it is busy; you must be steady on your feet and be able to endure some long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage at airports.

Accommodation

Hotels are comfortable, well-located, air-conditioned, 3-4 star properties with en suite bath / toilet. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. In more remote locations hotels are of a simpler standard. Porters are generally available (see 'Inclusions').

In general, Iran is currently experiencing the results of several years of lean times in tourism; as such, hotels, buses, the availability of experienced guides etc, have some catching up to do in terms of reinvestment, updates, maintenance, and training of staff, including guides. Please do not expect all facilities to work flawlessly or service of an international standard. In the Caucasus we can expect standards to be more European in nature.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, national guide (Iran), local driver/s.

Group Size

10-18 (plus Tour Leader & guide)