Start and end in Tehran! With the discovery tour Journey to Persia, you have a 15 day tour package taking you through Tehran, Iran and 10 other destinations in Iran. Journey to Persia includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
Introduction Iran is a country of dramatic contrasts. Its scenery ranges from snow-clad mountains to vast, inhospitable deserts punctuated by attractive oasis towns, and its cities and ancient sites reveal a deep and rich history. Some of the most exquisite examples of Middle Eastern design and architecture are to be found in Iran, including the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, the dazzling Islamic centres at Isfahan and Shiraz, and beautifully-crafted gardens set in desert wastes. The rich bazaars and the ancient tradition of hospitality never fail to impress in a country which sees few tourists.
Day 1: Start Tehran; city tour.
In and around Tehran
Those on the group flights arrive very early this morning (or late the previous night) and will be transferred to the hotel. Land only passengers should arrive at the hotel this morning (but can arrive a day before the start of the tour). Tehran is a sprawling metropolis buzzing with people. It is the economic heart of Iran and a modern city with museums, cafes and restaurants. We head out into Tehran and visit the Archaeological Museum with its collections of pottery, bronze and valuable pieces from various ages ranging from millenniums BCE to the Islamic era. We also visit the Abguineh Glass and Ceramics Museum, a valuable collection of pre-Islamic, Islamic and European glass and ceramics displayed within an elegant early-20th Century mansion. Finally we visit the Carpet Museum with its extensive collection of old and new Persian carpets and rugs from the country’s major carpet-weaving centres.
Day 2: Visit Kashan en route to the traditional village of Abyaneh.
In and around Abyaneh
As we leave the hustle and bustle of the Iranian capital behind we make our way, through the desert, to Kashan. This oasis town was a favourite of Shah Abbas who was buried here. Visit the historical garden of Fin which was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Sulaimanieh Spring. This beautiful garden was expanded by the Zand and Qajar monarchs, with many open pavilions added. In Kashan, there are also fine examples of grand 19th Century merchant residences and we will have the chance to visit one these. We continue on to Abyaneh, a small village hidden away in the Karkas Mountains and an Iranian Cultural Heritage Site. The village was originally settled by Zoroastrians fleeing the Arab invasion of Persia and is very traditional with winding alleys of red-mud brick houses adorned with lattice woodwork and balconies. The people of Abyaneh have preserved their ancient culture and traditions over the centuries and dress in colourful clothes. (total drive time about 6hrs plus visits)
Day 3: Drive to Yazd making stops in Na'in and Mohamadiye en route.
In and around Yazd, Na'in
After touring Abyaneh, drive to Yazd. En route stop in the town of Na’in to visit the early Islamic period Friday Mosque and the Pirnia House /Ethnographic Museum, a beautiful example of a late Safavid period private house with delicate monochrome painted plaster decoration. Continue to the nearby village of Mohammadiye to see the traditional pit workshops weaving the camel cloaks worn by the Muslem clergy in Iran before finally arriving in Yazd. (total drive time about 7hrs plus visits)
Day 4: Visit Ateshkade Fire Temple, mausoleum, mosque and bazaars of Yazd.
A full day sightseeing in historic Yazd, the centre for Iran’s small Zoroastrian community. Visit one of the two Zoroastrian abandoned Towers of Silence (Dakhma). Dating back to the 18th Century, until some 70-odd years ago the bodies of the dead were carried and left here to decompose and be devoured by birds. The next Zoroastrian site is the Fire Temple which houses a flame which is said to have been burning for over 1,500 years. Amongst Yazd’s Islamic sites are the Friday Mosque (1324AD) which boasts the highest portal and minarets in Iran and the Mirchachmagh Maidan and Mosque. Other notable monuments, found in the old Fahadan area of Yazd, are the Saljuk shrine, dedicated to the Twelve Shi’ite Imams; and Ziaieyeh Theological School, also known as Znedan-e-Eskander (Alexander’s Prison). Yazd also has many beautiful old houses such as Dowlat-Abad Garden, an 18th Century feudal hexagonal house.
Day 5: Stop in the troglodyte village of Meymanden route to Kerman.
In and around Kerman, Meymand
Leaving Yazd, our first stop is the troglodyte village of Maymand. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, villagers still live in cave dwellings today. We explore the village and visit some of the cave dwellings which have been transformed as show-houses. As the caves are strewn along a slope with rubble make sure to wear walking shoes or trainers with grip. We continue to desert trading city of Kerman with its blend of Persian and Baluchi people. (total drive time 7.5hrs plus visits)
Day 6: Day trip of Arg-e-Rayen citadel (a miniature version of Bam), Mahan and Kerman
In and around Mahan
Head towards the village of Rayan to visit the Arg (Citadel) of Rayan, a miniature version of the Bam Citadel which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2003. Arg-e-Rayan has all the typical architectural features of a desert citadel with ramparts, towers, covered lanes and spectacular views of the nearby Mt. Hezar, snowcapped most of the year. Retruning towards Kerman, stop in the small town of Mahan to visit the blue-tiled Mausoleum of Shah Nematollah-e-Vali, the great 14th century Sufli Leader; and the Shahzadeh Garden (a late 19th century Qajar period house and garden). Back in Kerman we visit the Friday Mosque, the Ganj-Ali Khan Complex and Hammam which has been converted into an Ethnographic Museum. We explore the Maidan (square) with its mosque, madrassa and water cistern all dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and the Vakil Tea House (another covered bathhouse). We will walk through bazaar. Being Friday some shops may be closed but there’s still a great atmosphere.
Day 7: Drive to Shiraz.
In and around Shiraz
Today is the longest travel day, this is mitigated, however, by the stunning scenery as we cross over the Zagros Mountains and into Iran’s fertile Fars region to the city of gardens and poets which is Shiraz. On the way we visit the remains of the Sassanian Palace at Sarvestan, a fifth century building thought to be a hunting lodge built by Bahram V.(9 hrs plus stops)
Day 8: Explore Shiraz, its mausoleums and monumental gardens.
Shiraz, the city of ‘roses and nightingales’ is the centre of Persian culture, known for its poets, gardens and, at one time, wine which was produced in the fertile valley the city is located in. We spend the day exploring Shiraz’s main sites. We visit the expansive Eram Garden; the tomb of Iran’s greatest lyric poet: Hafez, a popular spot for local lovers; the pink tiled 19th century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque with its coloured glass windows; the Arg-e-Karim Khan (an 18th century citadel; the Madrassa Khan where we can interact with students and teachers; the Qajar-period Narenjestan Garden and House; the Vakil Bazaar; and the Holy Shrine of Shah-e-Cheragh (though only from the outside as it is not open to non-Muslims).
Day 9: Visit the ancient ruins of Persepolis.
In and around Persepolis
Spend today exploring the heritage of the Achaemenid dynasty in Persepolis and the royal tombs of Naghsh-e-Rostam. Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings with remains of the palaces of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, is famous for its bas-reliefs depicting kings, courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire ranging from India to Ethiopia. We then visit nearby Naghsh-e-Rostam to see Ka’be-Zardosht (a fire temple) and the royal tombs dug into the rock itself. This site also has seven magnificent Sassanian rock-reliefs including Shapur the First’s famous victory over Roman Emperor Valerian.
Day 10: Drive to Iran's architectural gem, Isfahan visiting Pasargadae en route.
In and around Isfahan
We head to Iran’s greatest city, Isfahan. En route we visit Pasargadae, the site of the simple, but impressive tomb and remains of the palaces of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire. (total drive time 6-7hrs plus visits)
Day 11: Two days to see the stunning capital of Shah Abbas; explore the squares, blue and turquoise-tiled colleges and mosques, with free time for shopping in the bazaar.
Isfahan nesf-e jahan, 'Isfahan is half the world', the magnificent capital of Shah Abbas I, architecturally, is one of the most important cities of the world. At its centre is the Maidan-e Imam (Imam Square), one of the finest city squares in the world containing the immense tiled Imam Mosque, Ali Ghapu's Palace and the mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah. The Bazaar Qaisarieh, or Imperial Bazaar, is a labyrinth of domed alleyways, filled with carpets, textiles, sweets and spices, metal work, tile-makers, jewellers and bright clothes which stretches from Imam Square all the way to the 10th century Friday Mosque in the north. It was among bazaars such as these that the revolution of 1978 took root. We will also visit Vank Cathedral within the Armenian sector, Jolfa, and may possibly have time to experience the phenomenon of the 'shaking minarets' of the Minar-e Jonban in the west. Isfahan is a rarity among Iranian cities in that a river, the Zayandeh, passes through it. This contributes to the pleasant climate of the city whilst its bridges, particularly the Si o Se Pol (the Bridge of Thirty-three Arches), and the Khaju Bridge, provide the perfect setting to spend the evening soaking up the atmosphere. We finish with a visit to the Qeisarieh Bazaar with hundreds of shops displaying the arts and handicrafts for which Isfahan is world famous. We spend two days uncovering the cities many wonders.
Day 12: A day exploring Isfahan.
We spend another day exploring the stunning capital of Shah Abbas.
Day 13: Drive to Tehran.
Drive to Tehran, en-route stop at the charming desert town of Natanz to visit the beautiful Islamic Complex of Mosque, Monastery and Tomb of Sheikh Abdol-Samad Isfahani, and have a tea-break under the shade of a 500-year old plain tree. (total drive time 6hrs plus visits)
Day 14: Final day in Tehran to take in more sites and do last minute shopping.
Full day visits including the Golestan Palace Museum Complex, built by Fath-Ali Shah of the Qajar Dynasty and dating from the 18th to the early 20th century. Continue to the Shams-ol-Emareh (Sun) Palace and the Ethnographic Museum, with a walk around the garden to enjoy the beautiful tile-covered walls and buildings. In the afternoon visit the fabulous State’s Jewels Museum, housed in the vaults of the Central Bank of Iran displaying the most dazzling and priceless collection of jewels and gems in the world.
Day 15: End in Tehran.
Those on the group flights will be transferred to the airport in time for their flight. For land only passengers the trip ends after breakfast.