Start and end in Tehran! With the in-depth cultural tour Iran Adventure, you have a 14 day tour package taking you through Tehran, Iran and 6 other destinations in Iran. Iran Adventure is a small group tour that includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport.
- Day 1: Tehran
Welcome to Iran. You will be met on arrival at Tehran International airport and transferred to your hotel. There will be a Welcome Meeting at 12pm today. Please refer to your hotel noticeboard or talk to reception for more details. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this on hand. Iran's capital is exciting, noisy and chaotic. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is the country's beating heart and where its true national identity is found. Expect to see women wearing full-length chadors competing for space with young and hip girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. You will visit the superb Golestan Palace to view some of the excesses of the Qajar rulers, ramble through the enormous bazaar, and visit the Iman Khomeni Mosque. Later, you could try some fine Iranian cuisine like dizi (soup stew mashed into a paste) while enjoying traditional music at a local restaurant. As there's only a short time in Tehran on this trip, perhaps arrive a few days early and spend some time visiting the sites.
- Day 2: Shiraz
Catch a flight today from Tehran to Shiraz (approximately 2 hours). Shiraz is considered the Pearl of Persia and its very name evokes images of ancient times: tranquil gardens, lavish mansions, colourful woollen rugs, art, philosophy, poetry and of course, the famous Shiraz red wine (although, unfortunately, no longer found here). Shiraz is also a renowned centre of learning and boasts many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Known as Iran's cultural capital, this city was home to two of Persia's most famous poets in the 13th and 14th centuries, Hafez and Saadi, whose mausoleums are found here. Today you’ll take a walking tour around the city, stopping by Shahcheragh – a beautiful mausoleum for one of Imam Reza's brothers and the holiest site in Shiraz. You’ll also stop by Jame Atiq mosque, one of the oldest mosqes in the country. The tour ends with a visit to a traditional teahouse in the wonderful Bazar-e Vakil. In the bazaar you might also spot the members of nomadic groups who come to the city to stock up on provisions.
- Day 3: Shiraz
Your first stop today is Iran's premier attraction, Persepolis (approximately 1 hour). It was once the centre of the Persian Empire and one of the great cities of the ancient world, constructed in the reign of Darius I and taking 150 years to complete. The imposing gateways, exquisite relief carvings and towering columns will leave you in no doubt that this was once the centre of the known world. Later, consider visiting the lovely Eram Gardens, also known as the ‘Garden of Paradise’ (Bagh-e Eram), or the tombs of Hafez and Sa'di. Hafez was a Persian poet who is regarded as a literary giant and folk hero. Sa'di, another great poet and writer from Shiraz, was more of a scholar. Appreciate the intricate artwork of their tombs and understand their continued relevance and importance in Iranian society. In the centre of town is the Arg-e Karim Khan, a mud-brick citadel from the 18th century, a time when the whole of Persia was ruled by Karim Khan from Shiraz. Don't miss the room exhibiting historic photos from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the legendary tales depicted on the tiles at the entrance gate.There are many activities to fill your day, please speak to your trip leader who can help you with planning your day.
- Day 4: Nomad Stay
Enjoy a free day in the ‘City of Flowers and Nightingales’, which has managed to retain its provincial, relaxed atmosphere and is a lovely place to explore. We recommend a visit to the colourfully decorated Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, where sunlight streaming through stain glass windows fills the interior with kaleidoscopic colours. Later, travel on to meet your nomadic hosts. The Fars Province is famous for its nomadic people, and the barren landscape provides a stark contrast to the vibrancy and hospitality of its inhabitants. Iran has over 500 different nomadic tribes. The largest, the Qashqai, are Turkic speaking pastoral nomads who winter near the Persian Gulf and summer on the central Iranian Plateau. The area north of Shiraz has been the home of nomadic tribes for centuries. Migration is a way of life and herding cattle, sewing carpets and embroidery form the basis of these tribal economies. Join a group of local nomads and share a meal, then maybe enjoy a traditional song and dance. A ‘house of hair’, made from goat and sheep fleece, is your accommodation for the night. This is your chance to observe the lifestyle of nomads as they herd their animals, tend to the fields and enjoy simple meals. Please note that due to conditions outside of our control there may be times when we are unable to visit or stay with the nomads. In this situation we will stay with a local family in the Qashqai village. You will be treated to a delicious home cooked meal and spend the night exchanging stories with your homestay hosts.
- Day 5: Eghlid
Say farewell to your nomad hosts and journey towards the town of Eghlid. In ancient times Eghlid acted as the main gateway from the north to Persepolis as other routes were too mountainous and difficult to pass. Check into your hotel in this sleepy town, then head out to visit Sassanid Empire ruins that date back 1,800 years, a Zoroastrian ‘Tower of Silence’, and the sacred shrine of Eghlid. Zoroastrianism, which dates back over 4,000 years, was the state religion of Iran before the arrival of Islam. Followers believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), and they worship communally in a Fire Temple or Agiary. The intriguing Towers of Silence are part of the Zoroastrian tradition. The towers are raised circular structures where the dead are laid out to be picked clean by scavenger birds.
- Day 6: Caravanserai Zein-o-din
Continue on your journey (approximately 1 hour) and arrive at the historical town of Abarqu, located in the desert valley beneath the Zagros Mountains. Check out the town’s main sights, which includes an ice house (a specially constructed house that acted like a fridge), the 11th century Gonbad Ali Dome, the Khan-e Aghazadeh Qajar-era mansion, the Jameh Mosque, and a 4,000-year-old cypress tree. Then travel across the stunning Zagros Mountains and reach the Zein-o-din Caravanserai. Set in the desolate Dasht-e Lut desert, Zein-o-din is a classic caravanserai built during the 16th century under the orders of Shah Abbas, who supposedly built 999 such hostels to promote business. The constantly mobile Silk Road travellers needed places to rest and shelter in the isolated areas between the widely spaced cities and towns, leading to the construction of many such caravanserais. Their main function was to receive travellers and store merchandise, so they were designed to be spacious enough to shelter guests, as well as goods. A night's stay in a caravanserai is a wonderful chance to step into the exotic shoes of a Silk Road merchant, and relive the age when this area hummed with travellers. Most of the rooms remain unchanged from days gone by, with carpets covering raised wooden floors, and heavy curtains rather than doors separating rooms from the hallway. Like Silk Road travellers before you, experience a rich red sunset while the night sky fills with stars.
- Day 7: Yazd
Get up early and enjoy an authentic breakfast of freshly baked bread. Then enjoy free time to bask in the sunshine on the rooftop of the glorious caravanserai, overlooking the barren landscape of the surrounding desert plains. Travel by private van to Yazd (approximately 1 hour). This ancient desert city was a major stop on the caravan routes to Central Asia and India during the Silk Road period – Marco Polo even visited the city on his way to China – and it still retains a rustic feel today. Yazd is also the heart of the Zoroastrian religion. On arrival, set out on a walking tour visiting the Jameh Mosque, notable for its fine mosaics and beautiful exterior. From here you are ideally placed to explore the older parts of the city, which are some of the oldest on Earth according to UNESCO. Walk the narrow kuches (lanes), past simple courtyards and the ornate doors of the mud brick buildings. One of the most distinctive features of Yazd are the wind towers (‘badgirs’) that capture even the softest of breezes and send them to the buildings below in a forerunner of modern air-con. The water museum shows how the quants (underground water channels) brought water to the city from the mountains for thousands of years. You will also visit the Fire Temple and Towers of Silence, both vestiges of the city’s Zoroastrian heritage. In the Zoroastrian religion, fire and water are agents of ritual purity, and the fire in the Atashkadeh Fire Temple is said to have been continuously burning since 470 AD.
- Day 8: Yazd
Today you have the choice of taking an optional excursion outside of Yazd, which includes the impressive Kharanak mud brick village, Chak Chak fire temple, and the Meybod citadel. The impressive town of Kharanak is believed to be 1,000 years old and you can explore the abandoned structures of this hillside settlement, peering into the houses of wealthy merchants and hammans (bathhouses). You will also explore the valley and nearby mountains and get great pictures of the aqueducts that formed part of the underground water system. The system is still used to irrigate the fields here – great shocks of green that sit against the brown desert. Chak Chak is one of the most important Zoroastrian pilgrimage sites in Iran, and you’ll climb up the mountainside to reach the fire temple – your efforts rewarded with wonderful views. Chak Chak means ‘drip, drip’, named for a trickle of holy water that drips inside the temple. After lunch, check out Narin Castle, thought to be the oldest mudbrick structure in Iran, and explore the still growing town of Meybod before returning to Yzad. If you're after a more relaxing day, then you can simply stay at the hotel – a traditional 19th-century traditional mansion – puff on a qalyan or try the local favourite, camel fesenjun, in the shady courtyard.
- Day 9: Esfahan
Depart Yazd and embark on a local bus ride to one of Iran's highlights, Esfahan (approximately 5 hours). Esfahan is quite simply one of the finest places in the Islamic world, and a visit here will leave you breathless. A 16th-century rhyme called it 'half the world' and, after spending a few days here, you might agree. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is famous for. There's also an enormous bazaar, which is perfect for shopping for exquisite Persian carpets. Or you can relax by the tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces. You’ll arrive in Esfahan during the late afternoon. This evening, you might like to stroll to the Zayandeh River and have a look at its historic bridges, which seem to have come straight from a fairytale. At several of the bridges local people gather to talk, drink tea and sing beautiful folk songs. This is a magical place to while away some time, and one of the most atmospheric places in all of Iran.
- Day 10: Esfahan
You’ll have plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere of Esfahan, beginning today with a half-day tour of the city. Your guide will give you an insight into life under Persia's greatest ruler, Shah Abbas, with the city reaching its peak and becoming the capital of Persia during his 16th century reign. Even though the capital was moved to Shiraz and then Tehran, the city still retains much of its past glory. You will start the tour at the immense Imam Square (formerly Naqsh-e Jahan Square), which covers an area of 82,500 square metres and makes it the second largest square in the world. The square is surrounded by many grand buildings, such as the Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Qeysarieh Portal and the majestic Imam Mosque. Located in the west of Imam Square, the Ali Qapu Palace covers six floors and was originally built as the main palace of Shah Abbas, who used it to receive guests and foreign ambassadors. You’ll visit the atmospheric bazaar with its wonderful scents and spices, musical merchants' cries and, of course, thousands of locals bargaining for their most desired items. Walk the covered lanes of this sprawling marketplace, where shafts of light filter through celling and lattice, and browse for fabrics, spices, jewellery and other treasures.
- Day 11: Esfahan
You have a free day to explore this lovely city, so take time to wander along the city's many tree-lined boulevards and spacious gardens. Visit the Jameh Mosque (Friday Mosque), the biggest in all Iran and full of lovely designed stuccos, or the fresco-filled Chehel Sotun Palace, a relaxed complex with a water pool surrounded by shady tree. You could also discover the bizarre Manar Jomban (shaking minarets). Perhaps head to the Armenian Quarter and the Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea, which has a striking interior of gilded ceilings, walls and paintings. The stunning, delicate artwork of the dome depicts the biblical story of Genesis, from Creation to Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Make sure to take a stroll by the Zayandeh River and stop for a well-deserved chai at one of the stunning bridges.
- Day 12: Kashan
Continue on by private van down the mountains, into the desert, and on to Kashan (approximately 3 hours). Kashan is a beautiful oasis city with a very long history – human settlement in the area dates back to the 4th millennium BC. It’s also a merchant town known for its high quality ceramics, silks, carpets, and some of the finest traditional houses in Iran. See these houses with visits to the Khan-e Borujerdi and Khan-e Tabatabei. These 19th-century khans were funded by wealthy merchants and feature lovely courtyards, lush gardens and fine intricate relief designs carved into stone. Khan-e Borujerdi was built in the 1840s for the affluent Tabatabaei family after the father set one condition of marriage: that his daughter be able to live in a home at least as lovely as his own. 18 years later, this exquisite Persian residential home was completed (though she did marry in the interim). Take some time for lunch, then head to the most impressive Islamic complex in Kashan – the Agha Bozorg Mosque and Madraseh, famous for its symmetrical design. Later, if you have the energy, take some free time to explore the town's other sights such as the Fin Gardens, a classical Persian vision of paradise and one of the most beautiful gardens in the Middle East. In the evening, there's an opportunity to experience some delicious Iranian cooking in the home of a local family.
- Day 13: Tehran
This morning, make your way from Kashan to Tehran (approximately 4 hours). Stop along the way to visit the still under construction holy shrine of Imam Khomeni, the leader of the Islamic Revolution. When completed, the Iranian’s believe the shrine will be one of the greatest buildings in the Islamic world. Revered as the father of the 1979 revolution, Imam Khomeni was buried here in 1989. His funeral was attended by an incredible 10 million people, making it the world's biggest. People from all around Iran come here to pay their respects. You’ll also visit the nearby Behesht-e Zahra, an enormous cemetery where many who lost their lives during the Iran-Iraq War are buried. With over 200,000 graves, it serves as a moving reminder of the futility of war. Arrive at your Tehran hotel this afternoon. Tonight you can relive your unforgettable adventure over an optional farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
- Day 14: Tehran
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart at anytime. Please note you must check out of the hotel by 12pm.