A country that offers so much more than you could ever expect
As one of the largest of it's kind, the remnants of the ancient Persian Empire are fascinating, revealing a culture that's still prevalent across Iran. A country that offers so much more than you could ever expect, visiting Iran is a real adventure, and will lead you through desert cities and bustling bazaars on a voyage to see some of the world's lesser-known treasures.
Today begins with an overnight flight to Iran's capital, Tehran. Arriving on Day 2, we head straight to our hotel before an afternoon's city tour. Take in the sights and sounds clamouring for your attention on our way to the National Jewels Museum. This cavernous building houses the ostentatious Persian 'Crown Jewels' - including the pearl-encrusted Kiani diadem worn by the sixth King of the Qajar Dynasty.
We make a visit to the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace Complex today, also known as the Palace of Flowers. While its origins might date back to the 16th century, much of the building you see today is the result of 400 years of architectural evolution. Here you will see the spectacular Marble Throne, the Karim Khani Nook, and the incredible Mirror Hall, a sparkling room named for its mirrored walls and ceilings.
This afternoon we continue to the Carpet Museum, this evening we head to Ab-o-Atash Park, translated as the 'Water and Fire Park' which offers far-reaching views out over the Tehranian skyline and surrounding Alborz Mountains.
We board the local train to Kashan this morning, an oasis city on the edge of the Maranjab Desert, and once a holiday area for the kings of the Safavid dynasty. The city is now popular thanks to its large and ornate houses that were built around the 17 and 1800's, with spectacular carvings that are typical of Persian architecture.
On arrival, we make our way straight to Fin Garden, the oldest public garden in Iran at over 420 years old. This garden was originally built to represent paradise, and it's easy to see why. With beautiful azure pools, stunning Persian architecture, and ancient cedar trees, this area is an idyllic delight to discover and explore. The garden has also been a site of Persian political controversy when the ruling King had his chancellor assassinated here in 1852.
Our journey continues by rail to Yazd, the driest city in Iran with a history that goes back over 5 millennia. Here, we take a walking tour that includes the Amir Chakhmaq Complex. This beautiful and symmetrical building is a mosque with two soaring minarets.
At night, the building is illuminated from within, with warm orange light flickering from its alcoves. The building is sat on a square which shares its name, which has a lovely fountain sat in the middle.
Yazd is also known for its rooftop wind-catchers: standing tall on the rooftops of buildings and made of stone, these structures are the city's ancient air-conditioning system.
Today takes us to Atashkadeh, a fire temple serving the age-old belief system that still thrives in areas of Iran, Zoroastrianism.
The Zoroastrianism Cult of Fire came about in the 4th century, and the Atashkadeh in Yazd, also known as the Atash Behram, serves the 'Fire of Victory'. Here, worshippers gather 16 different types of fire, including fire from a cremation pyre, and a fire created by a lighting bolt and purify them. This ceremony requires 32 Zoroastrian priests to perform and can take up to a year to complete. Here, the sacred fire of the temple is kept in a glass enclosure in a sanctuary, where only priests of the religion can enter. Here we also see the Tower of Silence, which forms part of the Zoroastrian death ritual. This raised structure was used for sky burials which, unlike conventional burial or cremation, kept both the sacred earth and fire they worshipped pure.
Travelling by coach we head to Meybod, seeing the Narin Citadel, a two thousand year old mud brick fort that is now an atmospheric run, as well as Shah Abbasi Caravanserai, a modernised version of a traditional roadside inn offering travellers respite from their journey.
Later we pull into Isfahan, a city where old and new and sit side by side. Dating back to the Palaeolithic period, this ancient city has many beautiful and atmospheric Bazaars, parks, mosques and churches to explore, as well as art museums and a Natural History museum that is based in a 15th century building.
We enjoy a city tour on Day 8 that includes the UNESCO listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square, surrounded by spectacular buildings, including the Shah Mosque with its magnificent dome and stunning blue entrance.
We go on to visit Chehel Sotoun Palace, standing majestically at the end of a long pool. The name of the palace translates from Persian to mean 'forty columns', although there are only twenty columns on the entrance to the building itself, the pool reflects them perfectly to make its name true This afternoon you are at leisure. On Day 9 we head into the Armenian quater this morning, visiting the Church of Bethlehem and the Music Museum. This afternoon, you are free to explore for yourself.
Shiraz, an ancient city and considered by the inhabitants of Iran to be the 'City of Gardens' thanks to its numerous green spaces and fruit trees, is our final destination today, but along the way we enjoy a visit to Pasargadae, the first capital of the Achaemenids which contains the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia from 559 to 530 BC. Now, it is both an archeological and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today includes an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site Persepolis, a fascinating remnant of the Persian Empire. The city is purported to date back to 515BC, and was discovered by French archaeologist Andre Godard in the 1930's. We return via the tombs of Naqsh-e Rostam which have been carved into the cliffs to house the remains of Achaemenic kings.
This morning we go on a sightseeing tour of Shiraz. This afternoon is at leisure. Transferring to the airport on Day 13, we fly back to the UK.
Iran is an Islamic Republic where traditional Muslim dress is worn. Travellers to the country are therefore required to adhere to these cultural expectations, with women needing to cover their bodies, except their hands and face.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
A country that offers so much more than you could ever expect