Wonders of Iran
Iran’s greatest attraction is not only the warmth and generosity of its’ people but also its' rich textile heritage. It is said that a cuisine as ancient, rich and distinctive as Iranian food is one that varies as overwhelmingly as the climate and terrain of the country.
Tehran - Arrival
Our group tour commences this evening in the bustling city of Tehran. After our welcome meeting there is the opportunity to sample Iran’s famous fare. A great start to a fantastic tour of Iran!
We start our day at the National Museum of Iran where we get a crash course in Iran’s rich history – this will lay the groundwork for the rest of our trip! We’ll also visit the newly refurbished Museum of the Islamic Period where we’ll see arts and antiquities from the Islamic period, including calligraphy and textiles. After lunch, get ready to witness one of Tehran’s biggest draw cards – the National Jewellery Museum. Located in the vault of the National Bank, this collection of crowns, tiaras and precious gems was amassed by the Iranian Royal family from the 16th century onwards and is, quite simply jaw dropping.
Our focus this morning is on the sprawling Golestan Palace compound located in the heart and historic centre of Tehran. This is one of the oldest compounds in Tehran and was originally built during the Safavid Dynasty. Not far from the palace is the Grand Bazaar of Tehran. Described as a city within a city the bazaar here is know to have been an area of trade for more than a thousand years (although the oldest walls and buildings still here are only around 400 years of age). All this walking means we’ll need to refuel, so we’ll follow the Tehranis to a popular local spot for some lunch. Iran is known for it’s carpets, so no visit to Tehran would be complete without a visit to the Carpet Museum to see some of the countries finest examples. This evening we’ll stroll the Tabiat Bridge and find dinner overlooking two of the cities finest parks.
Tehran - Hamedan
Leaving Tehran behind this morning, we make our way to the ancient city of Ecbatana (modern day Hamadan) where we’ll have lunch. After lunch we’ll visit the rock inscription of Ganjnameh. Carved by Darius the Great and his son Xerxes I, the inscriptions appear in three languages – Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian. From here we make our way to Kermanshah.
Hamadan - Kermanshah - Hamadan
We start our day with a visit to the UNESCO Heritage site of Taq-e Bostan. These bas-relief carvings are some of the best surviving from the Sassanid era and feature royal hunting scenes, backed by elephants. Later we’ll visit the site of Bisotun, featuring more bas-relief carvings, these ones dating from 521BC.
Hamadan - Kashan via Qom
As we leave Hamadan today and make our way to Kashan we’ll stop at the second most sacred city in Iran after Mashhad, Qom. This afternoon we’ll arrive in Kashan, an historic oasis city that was once a centre for tile and pottery production.
Wondering the atmospheric streets, we’ll visit the beautiful Tabatabei and Boroujerdi Houses as well as the hammam of Sultan Amir Ahmad, a 500 year old bathhouse with roof top views of the city over the tops of the bath house domes. This afternoon, we’ll relax in the stunning Bagh-e Fin, or Fin Gardens – the perfect way to while away an afternoon.
Kashan - Esfahan
Esfahan! This is, without a doubt, the most visually stunning city in Iran
There’s was a 16th century rhyme that went “Esfahan nesf-e jahan”, which means Esfahan is half the world. While perhaps not so geographically accurate, it is certainly true that the former capital of the Persian Empire is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We’ll begin our exploration with the Masjed-e Jahmeh, a perfect example of 800 years different Islamic architectural styles. Next we’ll visit the only surviving palace of the royal precinct, Chehel Sotun, before making our way to Naqshe-e Jahan Square, the second largest square in the world and one that has change little since its construction in 1602. After lunch we’ll take a peek inside the Bazaar-e Bozorg (Grand Bazaar), exploring it’s labyrinthine alleyways shopping for handicrafts. Later this evening, once the sun has set, we’ll make like the local Esfahanis and stroll across the bridge of 33 arches, Pol Si-e-She.
We’ll start our day with a visit to Jolfa, the Armenian Quarter of the city and its’ magnificent Vank Cathedral. Later we’ll make our way back to Imam Square where we can relax in a traditional teahouse, before visiting what can be considered the pinnacle of Persian Islamic architecture – the Masjed-e Sheike Lotfollah and the Masjed-e Shah. These two mosques cannot help but make a lasting impression.
Esfahan - Yazd via Meybod
This morning we’ll say good bye to one of our favourite cities as we head to the city of Wind Catchers, Yadz. On the way we’ll visit the village of Meybod, home to an ice house and a pigeon house.
Long considered an important stop on the trade routes, Yazd is a charmingly fascinating desert city. According to UNESCO, the old town of Yazd is one of the oldest in the world and today you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander the maze of historic lanes. Yazd is also the home to Ateshkadeh, a Zoroastrian Fire Temple where the flame has reportedly been burning since 470AD. After this introduction to Zoroastrianism, we’ll visit the Towers of Silence, a once-sacred site where the bodies of deceased Zoroastrians were offered to the earth. Here in the desert it can be difficult to believe that there is any water to be found, but this afternoon we’ll visit the Yazd Water Museum to find out how qanats (water channels) were dug to supply water for drinking and irrigation. This evening we’ll join the locals in a stroll around the evocative Amir Chakhmaq Complex.
Yazd - Shiraz
Today we make our way from Yazd to another one-time-capital of the Persian Empire, Shiraz. The capital during the Zand Dynasty (1747 – 79), Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and is still considered to be the centre of Persian culture. It’s said that Iranian homes have two books, the Quran and a collection of poems by the poet Hafez. A city of poets, Shiraz is known as a city of learning and poetry and of course it is perhaps most famous for the wine it is no longer able to produce.
One of Shiraz’s most well known sites (an definitely its most photographed!), is the Masjed-e Nasir al-Molk, more commonly known as the Pink Mosque. We’ll visit in the morning as the sun streams through the stained glass windows, filling the space with a kaleidoscope of rainbow light. Later we’ll visit Bagh-e Naranjestan and its beautiful pavilion built for the powerful Mohamed Ali Khan and then we’ll venture into our favourite bazaar in Iran – the Vakil Bazaar – and it’s associated mosque and hammam (bathhouse).
Although it needs little introduction, we must say that Persepolis is one of the most jaw-dropping sites we’ve encountered on our travels. This city embodies the pinnacle of Darius the Great’s Achaemenid Empire, but it also represents its’ ultimate demise at the hands of Alexander the Great. The extensive ruins here are marvellously well preserved and you’re unlikely to encounter such extensive and well-preserved bas-relief carvings anywhere else in the region.
Today we’ll visit tombs of the poets Hafez and Sa’di and you’ll see the poetic sway they hold on Iranian’s hearts with the many people who make a pilgrimage to their graves. This evening we have a special treat – we’re having dinner with some good friends in Iran who will prepare for you the best home-cooked Iranian cuisine you’ll taste all trip! This is a wonderful opportunity to understand a little more about Persian culture from our hosts.
Shiraz - Tehran
A leisurely breakfast this morning before we say goodbye to the City of Poets and head to the airport for our flight back to Tehran. Soon free time this afternoon to do some last minute sightseeing or shopping before we meet for our final dinner in this amazing country.
Tehran - Departure Day
This morning we will bid farewell to new friends as our cultural tour of Iran concludes after breakfast.
17 nights twin share accommodation with private facilities in boutique or special class accomodation
In a private, air-conditioned minibus
17 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 8 Dinners
Arrival and departure transfers from Tehran International Airport
Services of an experienced Australian Tour Leader
Services of professional English-speaking local guide/s
To all sites listed in the itinerary
What's Not Included?
Visas and Departure taxes
Tips and gratuities for driver and guide
Meals other than those specified in the itinerary
Fees for optional activities
Drinks and Items of a personal nature
Embracing Persian Culture and Cuisine
A World of Endless Travel Possibilities
Ask any Iranian and they will tell you that food is at the center of Persian culture; it’s integral to everything.
For us food is a delightful vehicle to discover a country, its’ people and culture and for those who have never experienced Iranian food you will find it gentle and calming not fiery and spicy. Elaborate rice dishes layered with herbs, vegetables as fresh as can be, dried fruits, nuts, slow cooked stews all come together to create smells, colours and textures. Food in Iran is as diverse as its’ people. Tabriz, a place of a culinary connection for centuries where visiting the famous bazaar you will see spices from China and India sold alongside some of the most delicate silks and decorative carpets.
Some of our favourite places on our Wonders of Iran tour
No visit to Shiraz would be complete without a visit to the Nasir-al-Mulk Mosque (Pink Mosque) a classic example of Iranian architecture. The simplicity of the facade from outside gives no hint to the beauty that lays within. Visit the mosque early morning and watch the morning light through the stained glass windows cast a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours onto the tightly woven Persian carpet of this beautiful mosque. One hour from this beautiful city lies the well preserved ruins of Persepolis. These ruins still speak eloquently of the magnificence of the Persian Empire as it was nearly two and a half millennia ago.
One of our go to places when visiting Isfahan is the Imam Square, the world's second largest square. The intricacies of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque situated in the square is enough to leave you speechless. The stunning blue-green tiles and soaring roof will leave you in awe, again another perfect example of the exquisite craftmanship of the masons of the Safavid times. Visit the mosque at night and you will see how the lit-up facade majestically watches over Emam square.
The Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse in Kashan is simply stunning with its’ vaulted ceilings, exquisite paintings and mosaics and in our opinion one of the best preserved historical bathhouses Iran has to offer. Check out the roof top, it offers a 360 degree view of the city and all its’ surroundings. For some down time head to Fin Garden possibly the oldest and most authentic Persian garden in existence. Built during the Safavid period, it features long pools, shady ancient cypress trees and fine Safavid era tilework.
With a nickname of ‘The City of Wind-catchers’ due to its sheer volume of wind-catchers and adaptation to the desert surroundings it is no surprise that this is one of our favourite cities in Iran. Yazd is purported to be the ‘oldest living city on Earth’ given that it’s been continually inhabited for about 7000 years so one can understand there is a wealth of history in this city. Visit Masjid-e-Jame (Friday Mosque) it is one of the best examples of Persian architecture and beautiful mosaic work.
A visit to Meybod should be on every travellers list. It’s roughly 52km north of Yazd and is a mud-brick town approximately 1800 years old. Check out the massive mud brick 300 year old caravanserai you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget to check out the Meybod Ice House a gigantic conical shaped mud-brick structure with a deep bowl sunken into the ground, used to keep food cool throughout the year before the luxury of fridges. During the winter, ice and snow would be packed into the chamber where it was kept in a cool dark ice-house to prevent melting. Perishable food such as meat was stored in there until such a time as they were needed.
The first thing one notices is the unique architecture of this beautiful village as the buildings cascade down the hillside. Much similar to that of Masouleh the roofs of some of the houses are used to serve as the courtyard for the houses higher up the slope. It is interesting to watch the villagers go about their daily lives in much the same way as was practised over the centuries.
From carpets to qurans, ancient artefacts to modern day art Tehran is indisputably home to some of the best annually to ask for blessings and it is said that more miracles happen at this site than anywhere else.museums and galleries. Although it does not have the illustrious history of Isfahan, Shiraz or for that fact Kashan you will discover in Tehran more about Iran’s 20th century upheavals from the tarnished grandeur of the Pahlavi palaces to the many fading murals in praise of Khomeini and the Iraq war martyrs.