11-Day Travel to Persia — Iran’s Cultural Treasures
Iran tours reveal a fabulous insight into daily modern life in Iran. Together, we will explore fabled capitals of ancient empires with our expert Trip lecturer, well-spoken and experienced in sharing his native land with travelers. Stroll in magnificent Persian gardens that trace their design principles to the days of Cyrus the Great. Mingle with local residents and vendors in three colorful markets including the only bazaar in the world recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Discover Pasargadae and Persepolis, cities of the Achaemenid Empire that rank among the world’s greatest sites of antiquity. Get to know the warm Iranian people as you dine in fine local restaurants we’ve selected for their delicious Persian food and friendly ambience.
DAY 1: TEHRAN
After arriving in Tehran from Imam Khomeini International Airport our professional tour guide to the the hotel where you can rest and have lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon, you’ll will go to see National Museum of Iran which is an institution formed of two complexes, including the Museum of ancient Iran and Islamic Era. Tonight’s dinner in a local restaurant offers a chance to experience daily Iranian life in Tehran.
DAY 2: TEHRAN
This morning we take you north of town into the mountain foothills to a lovely park-like setting to visit the Sa’ad Abad Palace. This was the coronation and marriage palace of the Pahlavi Dynasty — and the residence from which the last Shah of Iran fled after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Now a museum, its extensive collection includes period furnishings and décor, and even the personal effects of the last Shah. Our guests also enjoy an exclusive tour through an intimate gallery dedicated to the 20th-century art collection of Iran’s last Empress.
At the Treasury of National Jewels inside the Central Bank of Tehran, you’ll be dazzled by a breathtaking collection of crown jewels, many of them gathered from around world during the Safavid Dynasty that ruled from 1502 to 1736. Also part of this glittering collection is the Naderi Throne; made of wood, covered in gold, and encrusted with more than 26,000 precious gemstones, some believe that this throne was inspired by the legendary Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who built the Taj Mahal.
The day ends with another World Heritage Site, the lavish Golestan Palace c. Built during the Qajar Dynasty that rose to power in the late 1700’s, this fabulous walled complex is centered on a landscaped garden with tranquil pools. Many of the elements you’ll admire today date to the 19th century when local Qajari architects and artisans were looking to integrate traditional Persian style with elements of Western and Russian origin. The palace buildings are among the oldest in modern Tehran and they are still regarded as a crowning achievement of the Qajar era.
Dining in the capital offers a chance to experience another slice of modern life. In our carefully selected city restaurants, you’ll sample traditional Iranian cuisine as it’s enjoyed today by the cosmopolitan citizens of the capital. You’re likely to meet smiling young Iranians who are delighted to engage with you.
DAY 3: TEHRAN — KASHAN
Leaving Tehran behind, we’ll travel south to Kashan to visit Bagh-e Fin Garden. This very early Persian garden reflects ancient landscaping principles that trace their roots to the time of Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BCE. Today, it’s a delightful setting where you can meet young Iranian families who are out to enjoy their day.
You’ll also visit the historic Borujerdi House here in Kashan. With fine decorative motifs handcrafted of stucco, impressive domes, wall paintings and inlaid mirror mosaics, this former merchant’s home is regarded as a masterpiece of traditional Persian architecture. It also boasts 130-foot tall wind towers to catch lofty breezes that can cool the entire house. Tonight you’ll enjoy comfort and modern amenities in our classic Saraye Ameriha Boutique Hotel with its traditional courtyard and Persian-inspired style.
DAY 4: KASHAN — ABYANEH — ISFAHAN
After breakfast drive to Isfahan, on our way to Isfahan, you will visit Abyaneh village. Abyaneh is known as the Red Village because of its red soil and houses. The houses of Abyaneh bear an ancient architectural style, featured by the use of clay as the construction material and latticed windows and wooden doors. Your overland journey continues to the Isfahan.
As the 17th-century capital of the Safavid Empire, Isfahan was one of the world’s greatest cities — architecturally striking, wealthy beyond imagine, and politically powerful with Europeans, Ottomans, Indians and Chinese coming to its court — the heart of a vast Persian Empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in present-day Iraq to the Oxus River in Afghanistan. Indeed, its grandeur inspired the rhyming proverb, Isfahan nesf-jahan (Isfahan is Half the World). Today you’ll join our expert guide to begin your exploration of the city, starting with some of the centuries-old, still elegant bridges that span the Zayandeh River. The 14th-century Shahrestan Bridge, for example, evokes the greatest aqueducts of ancient Rome and is the oldest bridge in Iran. In the city’s Armenian quarter, you’ll delve more deeply into the region’s complex history as you visit several churches including the 17th-century Vank Cathedral with its lavishly decorated interior and unique blend of Islamic and European architectural elements.
This afternoon, your exploration continues in Meidan Emam Square. Evoking the Piazza San Marco in Venice and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, this 17th-century site is one of the largest public spaces in the world. Standing in its vast expanse, you can admire several of Iran’s most venerated landmarks — all connected by a series of perfectly-proportioned 2-story arcades. Here in the square, you’ll visit the 17th-century Shah Mosque, revered as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and easily recognized by its magnificent tile-work and soaring cupola and minarets. In the Ali Qapu Palace, you’ll marvel at its beautiful music rooms and the balconies where Safavid kings would sit to enjoy the polo matches unfolding in the square below. You’ll end your day exploring the Qeisarieh Bazaar that surrounds Meidan Emam Square. With hundreds of local vendors that specialize in traditional arts and crafts, it’s a wonderful place to shop for pottery, enamel, jewelry and delicately inlaid board games. In the Isfahan you’ll stay at the Abbasi Hotel, set on the grounds of an ancient caravanserai with landscaped garden grounds and a traditional Persian reflecting pool.
DAY 5: ISFAHAN
Continue your exploration in Isfahan at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Simple at first glance but wondrous in its rich detail and bold design, the Masjed-e Jāmé is another masterpiece of Iranian architecture, covering nearly 5 acres in the heart of this historic city. Its double-shelled ribbed dome was an architectural innovation that inspired architects throughout the Persian world, and its decorative elements reveal stylistic innovations spanning more than 1,000 years of Islamic art. This is one of the oldest congregational mosques in the country, and its construction and embellishment over the past twelve centuries illustrate a number of important periods in Islamic architecture. Your foray into Isfahan’s architectural treasures continues at the Harun-e Velayat Shrine. Built in 1512, the shrine’s dome offers a particularly fine example of Iranian tile work. Gazing up at the graceful 11th-century Ali Minaret, the oldest in Isfahan, offers further insight into the skill of Iranian architects and builders.
Next up is Chehel Sotun Set in a landscaped and forested park in front of a tranquil reflecting pool, this graceful pavilion was built by Shah Abbas II for entertainment and court receptions. Entering through a portico with twenty slender wooden columns, you’ll discover soaring halls embellished with frescoes, paintings and mosaics; the Hall of Mirrors is especially breathtaking! In the afternoon, you’ll return to the center of town to continue exploring the shops and landmarks that surround Meidan Emam Square.
DAY 6: ISFAHAN — YAZD
Leaving Isfahan behind, your first stop this morning will be in Na’in, an ancient community with origins dating back to the 8th century. At the local Ethnographic Museum, set in an erstwhile private residence of the Safavid era, you’ll learn more about the region’s cultural traditions.
Your overland journey continues to the small town of Meybod, where your first impression might be its striking monochromatic architecture of desert brick. But set along an ancient trade route, Meybod also offers a number of fascinating sites to visit including its caravanserai. Built in typical Safavid style, this ancient desert inn features verandahs, shaded passageways, and nearly 100 rooms — some of which are now used as artisan workshops. At the local icehouse, you’ll learn about the thick-clay construction and subterranean chamber that allowed local residents to have ice and food storage before refrigeration — even during the intense desert heat of summer! Continue to Yazd and check in to our hotel.
Tonight’s dinner in a local restaurant offers a chance to experience daily Iranian life in a town that’s smaller than Tehran or Isfahan. The ambience is a bit more laid back and the residents may seem a bit more reserved. But, you’ll find them warm, friendly and eager to meet tourists. In Yazd you’ll stay in a luxurious Dad Boutique Hotel with its traditional Persian-inspired style.
DAY 7: YAZD
At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet with the rugged granite peak of Shir-Kuh in the distance, Yazd is one of Iran’s oldest continuously inhabited towns, its silhouette punctuated by minarets and the ingeniously-designed wind towers that capture desert breezes to cool homes during the hot summer months. Yazd is also the center of Iran’s Zoroastrian community, which is where you’ll begin the day’s sightseeing.
At the Tower of Silence, you’ll learn about one of the traditions of this ancient pre-Islamic religion: Until the mid-1900’s, the dead were transported to this tower where they were left to decompose and be devoured by birds.
Zoroastrian tradition considers a deceased body to be “unclean” and this process of excarnation prevents contact with either fire or earth — both of which are considered to be sacred. At the still-active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, you’ll see a flame that is said to have been burning for the past 1,500 years. It’s an important pilgrimage site for the faithful and here our expert guide will offer additional insight into one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.
In Amir Chakhmaq Square, you’ll see a very impressive Hussainiya — a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies. With three tiers of recessed alcoves, all perfectly proportioned, its façade is one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. Then visit the Friday Mosque, built in 1324, where you can gaze upon the tallest minarets in the country.
At Zendan-e Eskandar, you’ll find an ancient domed structure with a deep, circular brick-lined pit that resembles a dungeon. According to legend, the complex was built by Alexander the Great to hold prisoners during his conquest of Persia. Others believe it was constructed by the Persians to hold Alexander himself. Among the many other historic sites to be seen in Yazd are beautiful old homes and the Dowlat Abad Garden. Standing by the garden’s long reflecting pool, you’ll be shaded by ancient cypress trees. Ahead of you is an 18th-century hexagonal pavilion with a beautiful stained glass window and a graceful wind tower — the tallest in Iran. All around are flowering fruit trees and other ornamental plants and trees.
DAY 8: YAZD — SHIRAZ
In the morning after breakfast drive to Shiraz. En-Route, visit Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naghsh-e Rostam (Necropolis). The archaeological excavations of Persepolis rank with Ephesus and Pompeii as among the world’s most impressive sites of antiquity.
Among scholars of the ancient Persian world, it’s regarded as a masterpiece of Achaemenid architecture, urban planning, construction and art.
Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars, homeland of the Persians, in the 6th century BC. It was the capital of the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River, it is considered to be the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples.
This was reflected in Achaemenid architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures. Naqsh-e Rustam is one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring ancient sites of the Achaemenid Empire, consisting of the colossal tombs of Persian kings dating back to the first millennium BC. It stands as a lasting memory of a once powerful empire that ruled over a significant portion of the ancient world.
After arriving in Shiraz, you’ll visit the lovely garden tomb of Hafez and tomb of Sa’adi, two of our most outstanding poets to feel the taste of Persian Literature. In Shiraz you’ll stay in Zandiyeh Hotel in the heart of the city of Roses and Nightingales!
DAY 9: SHIRAZ
After breakfast, will start your full day tour of Shiraz. At first, you will visit Eram Garden with its aromatic myrtles, beautiful flowers, fruit trees, and towering cypress (one of which is said to be 3,000 years old). You will also visit Karim Khan Citadel. Built during the Zand Dynasty.
Then you’ll have time to explore and shop in the bustling Vakil Bazaar, home to hundreds of stores, beautiful courtyards, and even an ancient caravanserai. After that, you will visit Nasir-al-Mulk Mosque (Pink Mosque).
It built by the order from one of the lords of the Qajar Dynasty, Mirza Hasan ‘Ali Nasir-al-Mulk, it took 12 years to complete in 1888. Its interior reveals a magnificent masterpiece of design with stunning colors.
This is a space where light and worship intertwine. The mosque comes to life with the sunrise and colors dance throughout the day like whirling dervishes. It reflects on the ground, walls, the arches and the towering spires.
It even reflects on the visitors as if a colorful ball is hit by the first sun ray and explodes to thousands of butterflies all around. End your final day in Iran on a tranquil note in the beautiful orange-scented Narenjestan Garden, laid out in the 19th century during the Qajar Dynasty.
DAY 10: SHIRAZ
You’ll be escorted to the Shiraz International Airport this morning for your departure flight to Tehran. After arriving in Mehrabad International Airport our tour guide transfer you to the hotel. In the afternoon, you’ll spend time in Tehran Bazaar.
DAY 11: TEHRAN
You’ll be escorted to the airport this morning for your departure flight.