Iran has played an important role throughout history, and the Persian Empire was once one of the greatest in the world. The legacy of this is evident today in its vibrant cities, exquisite Islamic architecture and incomparable archaeological sites. This fascinating tour offers an opportunity to explore this remarkable country and enjoy the traditional warmth and hospitality of its people.
Beginning in the capital Tehran, we visit the former Shah’s Palaces and explore the fascinating museums, before flying to the delightful city of Kerman to see the Ganj-Ali Khan complex and the Shahzdeh Garden in the nearby town of Mahan.
We then move to Shiraz, city of gardens and poetry, and the remarkable archaeological site of Persepolis before seeing the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence and Friday Mosque in Yazd. We continue to Isfahan, one of the greatest cities of Islam, with its array of elegant palaces, majestic turquoise-domed mosques and fine Persian art, ending in Kashan, famed for its magnificent carpets, merchants’ houses and the beautiful Fin Garden.
London / Tehran
Evening departure from London Heathrow on a British Airways overnight flight to Tehran.
On arrival transfer to the Espinas Hotel (or similar) where one night is spent. City tour of Tehran, starting at the Golestan Palace and 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. See the beautiful collection at the Abguineh glass and ceramics museum.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Brief visit to 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.
Tehran / Kerman
Transfer to the airport for a domestic flight to the delightful 3rd-century town of Kerman. On arrival transfer to the Pars Hotel (or similar) where two nights are spent.
Lunch at the hotel. City tour of Kerman to include the Friday Mosque and Ganj Ali Khan complex which incorporates a school, a caravanserai, a public bath, a water reservoir, a mint house, a mosque and a colourful bazaar. Also visit Gonbad Jabaliyeh rock dome and Zarisf Garden and drive through the surrounding area to see the traditional houses. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Kerman, Rayen & Mahan
Excursion to the impressive medieval fortified citadel of Rayen. Continue to Mahan and visit the famous Shahzdeh Garden, a 19th-century summer residence of a Qajar prince which is built on a series of terraces on a hillside and is one of the few in Iran that retains its original plan.
Lunch at the Shahzdeh Garden. Visit the inspirational shrine of Shah Nematullah Vali, a famous 14th-century mystic, with its mixture of decorative and architectural styles. Short tour of Mahan to see its traditional vineyards. Return to Kerman. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Kerman / Shiraz
Full day’s drive from Kerman to Shiraz with a picnic en route at Neyriz.
In the afternoon visit the 5th century Sarvestan pleasure palace of the Sassanian Kings. On arrival in Shiraz transfer to the Zandiyeh Hotel, (or similar) where three nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Full day 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. The city is also famous for its gardens and the tour starts with a visit to the beautiful Eram Garden and Mansion. Visit the Arg or Citadel of Karim Khan Zand to see its 19th-century courtyard and bathhouse and the pink tiled 19th-century Nasir ul-Molk Mosque.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Continue to Narenjestan, a beautiful 19th-century house and garden followed by the Madrasah Khan and Vakil (Regent’s) Mosque, which has beautiful ceiling designs in the prayer hall. Finish with a stroll through the magnificent Vakil Bazaar, which retains much of its 18th-century character. Evening visit to the tomb of the medieval mystic poet Hafez, set in a garden. Dinner at the Haft Khan restaurant.
Shiraz & Persepolis
Set 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 and destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, with wonderfully preserved rock reliefs and columns on a spectacular terrace. En route visit Naqsh-e-Rajab, a nearby grotto with several Sassanid bas-reliefs.
Lunch at Laneh Tavous restaurant. Also visit Naqsh-e-Rustam, where spectacular cliff-face reliefs embellish the tombs of the Achaemenid Kings, with more Sassanid bas-reliefs and Zoroastrian monuments. Return to Shiraz and dinner at the hotel.
Shiraz / Yazd
Drive to Yazd with a visit en route to Pasargadae, a former Achaemenid capital and site of the remarkably well-preserved tomb of Cyrus the Great (founder of the Persian Empire).
Lunch at Sourmaq restaurant. Stop at Abarqu, a charming desert town, to see the restored Aghazadeh mansion and 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.
Full day tour of Yazd, famous for its desert architecture, with wind towers designed to bring cooling breezes down to the basement. Start at the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for about 1500 years. Visit the Friday Mosque (1324 AD) with the highest portal and minarets in Iran within its fortified walls, dazzling tile work and exquisite faience mosaics. Walk through the old Fahadan district.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit one of the city’s many beautiful old houses, the Dowlat-Abad, with its 18th-century feudal hexagonal house, 33-metre high wind tower and garden. Visit the Water Museum to learn about the ancient Persian system of irrigation. Visit Amir Chaqmaq Square with its mosque, noted for its symmetrical sunken arched alcoves, and a shirini pastry shop. Evening visit to 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. Dinner at the hotel.
Yazd / Isfahan
Depart Yazd for Isfahan with a visit en route to Meybod with its famous caravanserai museum and traditional icehouse. Continue to Nain.
Lunch at Jehangardi guest house in Nain. Here visit the Friday Mosque and Pirnia Mansion, a traditional desert home built in the Safavid period. Continue to Isfahan and check in at the Abbasi Hotel (or best available alternative), where three nights are spent. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Full day city tour of Isfahan, the 17th-century Safavid capital of Iran. The monuments of the old part of the city date from the 11th century, when it was the Seljuq capital, while the Safavid part was built by the great Shah Abbas. Walk around the huge Naghsh-e Jahan square, surrounded on two sides by the bazaar. Around the square are the Abbasi Mosque with its ornate blue, turquoise and white stalactite work, the small private Lotfollah Mosque with its intricately decorated cupola and exquisite tile work, and the Ali Qapu royal pavilion from which Shah Abbas watched the parades and shows in the square.
Lunch at Sonnati restaurant. Continue to the Chehel Sotoun Pavilion with its fine ceramics and 17th century frescoes and gardens followed by the Hasht Behesht pleasure garden. Finish with at walk over the See-o-se pol Bridge with its many arches. Dinner at a local restaurant.
A further full day’s tour of Isfahan starting at the unusual Armenian Vank Cathedral with its Islamic décor and the Armenian Quarter. Visit the Pigeon tower and Sareban minaret.
Lunch at Khan Gostar restaurant. Visit the 11th-century Friday Mosque which is arguably the most magnificent of mosques in Iran in its proportions, its ornamental brickwork and intricate stucco work. Free time in the bazaar with its cotton block-printing workshops and many carpets. Dinner at Arca Armenian restaurant.
Isfahan / Kashan
Drive to Kashan. En route visit the 12th-century Friday Mosque from the Seljuq period at Ardestan.