- Visit the sacred shrines, tombs and lush rose gardens of Shiraz, city of ‘roses and nightingales’ and the nearby famous archaeological site of Persepolis
- See the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Towers of Silence in the city of Yazd, historically the centre for Iran’s Zoroastrian community
- Visit the breathtaking, exquisitely decorated Imam and Friday Mosques in Isfahan, one of the greatest cities of Islam, and spend time in its famous bazaar
Day 1: London / Shiraz
Late morning departure from London Heathrow on a Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul to Shiraz.
Day 2: Shiraz
On arrival in the early hours of the morning, transfer to the Homa Hotel, (or similar) where rooms are ready for immediate occupation and where two nights are spent. Morning at leisure.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon walking tour of the 3,000-year-old city of Shiraz, centre for poetry and philosophy in the 13th and 14th centuries and birthplace of the great poet Sa’adi. Start at the Vakil (Regent’s) Mosque, which has beautiful ceiling designs in the prayer hall.
Continue to the Vakil Bazaar, which retains much of its 18th century character. Also visit the pink tiled 19th-century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque and the Hafez and Sa’adi Mausoleums, tombs of the medieval mystic poets. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 3: Shiraz & Persepolis
Visit the beautiful Eram Garden and mansion before setting off on a full day’s excursion to Persepolis, capital of the mighty Persian Empire, which stands on the site of an Achaemenid palace built 2500 years ago by Darius the Great, with wonderfully preserved rock reliefs and columns on a spectacular terrace.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Also visit Naqsh-e-Rustam, where spectacular cliff-face reliefs embellish the tombs of the Achaemenid Kings, with Sassanid bas-reliefs and Zoroastrian monuments. Return to Shiraz and dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 4: Shiraz / Yazd
Drive to Shiraz with a visit en route to Pasargadae, a former Achaemenid capital and site of impressive excavations including the remarkably well-preserved tomb of Cyrus the Great (founder of the Persian Empire).
Lunch at a local restaurant. Stop at Abarkuh, a charming desert town to see the 4000-year old cypress tree. Arrive in Yazd and check in at the Moshir Garden Hotel (or similar) where two nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 5: Yazd
Full day tour of Yazd. Visit the Zoroastrian abandoned Towers of Silence (Dakhma), dating back to the 18th century, where until some 50-60 years ago the dead were carried and left to decompose and be devoured by birds. Continue to the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for about 1500 years, followed by the Friday Mosque (1324 A.D.) with the highest portal and minarets in Iran within its fortified walls. Walking tour of the old city past notable Islamic monuments such as the Seljuk shrine dedicated to the Twelve Shi’ite Imams and Ziaieyeh Theological School, known as Zendan-e-Eskander or Alexandar’s Prison.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the Mirchachmagh Maidan and Mosque followed by the Bazaar. Visit one of its many beautiful old houses, the Dowlat-Abad, with its 18th century feudal hexagonal house, wind tower and garden. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 6: Yazd / Isfahan
Depart Yazd for Isfahan with a visit en route to Meybod icehouse, citadel and caravanserai.
Lunch in Nain followed by a visit to the Jameh Mosque in Nain. Continue to Isfahan and check in at the legendary Abbasi Hotel, former caravanserai of Shah Abbas (or similar), where four nights are spent. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 7: Isfahan
Full day city tour of Isfahan, a former oasis, chosen by Shah Abbas as his capital in 1598 and developing under the Safavid Dynasty to reach a zenith of Persian art and architecture which ended with the Afghan invasions. Start at the Chehel Sotun Pavillion with its fine ceramics and 17th century frescoes and gardens. Continue with a visit to the unusual Christian Vank Cathedral with its Islamic décor and the Armenia Quarter.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the bazaar with its cotton block-printing workshops and many carpets followed by time at leisure. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 8: Isfahan
Full day tour of Isfahan concentrating on the Imam Khomeini Square said to be three times the size of St. Mark’s Square, Venice, around which are the most famous grand buildings of Isfahan. Here see the Imam Mosque – one of the most breathtaking Islamic monuments – with its ornate blue, turquoise and white stalactite work and honeycomb decoration on the porch. Also see the 17th century Ali Qapu Palace with its curious embellishments, originally a monumental gateway into the royal palaces, which once stood beyond. Take tea in a tea house.
Lunch at Sharhrzad Restaurant. Visit the small Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque with its intricately decorated cupola and exquisite tile work. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 9: Isfahan
Visit the Friday Mosque built in the 15th century Mongol / Timuriam period, which was the template for later Safavid buildings with some of the finest mosaic work in the Islamic world. Continue to the See-o-se pol Bridge with its many arches and the splendid Khajou Bridge with its two arcaded tiers and tiling. This is followed by the octagonal 17th century Hasht Behesht Palace with its painted tile façade and delightful garden.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon at leisure for shopping. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 10: Isfahan / Abyaneh / Kashan
Drive to Kashan via the village of Abyaneh, originally a Zoroastrian settlement, with its mud-brick houses, wooden balconies and decorated doors, in narrow alleyways.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Continue to the charming town of Natanz to visit a beautiful Islamic Complex (Friday Mosque / Monastery / Tomb of Sheikh Abdol Samad Isfahani). On arrival in Kashan check in at one of the city’s guest houses. (The group will be accommodated in two or three separate guest houses). Dinner at the guest house.
Day 11: Kashan
Tour of the old city of Kashan with its merchant houses and hammams, madrasa and bazaar.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the archaeological site of Tepe Sialk with ruins dating from between 3000 and 6000 BC including two cemeteries and two large structures known as ziggurats, connected with Zayandeh River Culture. Dinner at the guest house.
Day 12: Kashan / Tehran
Visit the Fin Garden, the archetypal Persian Garden with water channels, fountains, pleasure pavilion and bathhouse dating from the Safavid period. Visit a distillery which produces rose water from the roses for which the area is known.
Lunch at a local restaurant in Kashan. Drive to Tehran. On arrival transfer to the Espinas Hotel (or similar) where three nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 13: Tehran
Full day city tour of Tehran, starting at the Reza Abbasi Museum, which contains masterpieces of illuminated manuscripts from the 14th century and other archaeological treasures. Continue to the Golestan Palace (Rose Garden) originally built in the mid-18th century under the Zand Regime but altered by successive Shahs. Of particular interest is the Marble Throne of Fath Ali Shah, used for the coronation of Reza Shah in 1925.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the National Jewels Museum which houses exquisite jewellery and royal regalia including the Darya-e Nur, the largest pink diamond in the world. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 14: Tehran
Visit the Palace of the Nation at the Saadabad Museum Complex which was the summer residence of Reza Shah and his son Mohammed Reza Shah, of the Pahlavi Dynasty, before the revolution. Continue to the Carpet Museum, which has an extensive collection of some of the finest Persian carpets and rugs from the Safavid period to the present.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the National Archaeological Museum which contains world-class objects from important sites around the country, such as the famous Frieze of Darius and fragments of the Tachra staircase taken from Persepolis. Also visit the nearby Islamic Museum which houses arts and antiquities from throughout the Islamic period including calligraphy, carpets, ceramics, woodcarving, sculpture, miniatures, brickwork and textiles. Dinner at a traditional local restaurant.
Day 15: Tehran / London
Transfer to Tehran Airport for a Turkish Airlines morning flight via Istanbul to London Heathrow.