Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £3645 per person
Places Visited: Tehran, Kerman, Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan
This fortnight-long tour packs all the country’s benchmark sights into a varied itinerary starting in the capital, Tehran. From there you fly to Kerman, in the southeastern desert region, and work your way north overland via Shiraz, Yazd and Isfahan, pausing at the ruins of ancient Persepolis en route.
Given the distances involved, it’s not surprising the trip involves a few extended journeys. But rest assured, these are conducted in great comfort and are punctuated by regular breaks at sights that will linger in the memory as long as the great mosques and archaeological complexes for which Iran is internationally famous.
Fly from the UK to Tehran International airport.
On arrival you’ll be met by your TransIndus representative and driven to your hotel. Spend the morning recovering from your journey. In the afternoon, you could travel out to the hilly northern suburbs of Tehran to visit the home of the Iran’s last Shah – the opulent Sa’adabad Palace – followed by supper at a traditional restaurant in the Grand Bazaar.
A full day’s sightseeing in the Iranian capital begins with a visit to the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace, official residence of Persian royalty since the Qajar era of the 18th century, followed by a tour of the National Museum’s archaeological treasures and priceless collection of gemstones on display at the Treasury of National Jewels (whose prize exhibit is the world’s largest uncut diamond, the Darya-e Nur). In the evening, consider a visit to an old-style Tehrani gym to watch a Pahlevani ritual, in which participants perform synchronised exercise routines to classical Persian music – a must see!
In the morning you’ll transfer to Tehran’s domestic airport, Mehrabad, for the three-hour flight to Kerman , in the arid southeast of the country, where you’ll be spending two nights on the fringes of the great Kaltut Desert. Having checked in to your hotel and had a spot of lunch, you’ll be joined by your guide for a tour of the Ganj Ali Khan complex in the heart of Kerman’s mud-brick old town, where you’ll have a chance to shop for exotic handicrafts, and visit a medieval hamam, caravanserai and beautiful tiled mosque dating from the Safavid era. In the evening, relax over a glass of Iranian çay and traditional Baluchi meal at the delightful Vakil Tea House – one of our favourite old-style café-restaurants in the region thanks to its vaulted arches and wonderful music played live most evenings.
Today, you’ll drive half an hour south to Mahan to visit the shrine of the revered Sufi mystic poet Ne’mutallah Vali Kermani – one of Iran’s most beautiful religious sites – and serene Shahzadeh Mahan garden on the outskirts of town, whose water courses, central pavilion and shimmering plants and flowers form a striking counterpoint to the surrounding desert. After lunch, it’s time to get deeper into the desert with an hour-long drive across the mountains to the town of Shahdad. The sand and salt flats in this region are characterised by curious, eroded rock outcrops known as kaluts, which create a landscape of stark Martian beauty. The highest surface temperatures ever recorded on earth were registered hereabouts – though rest assured your visit will not coincide with the broiling heat of the Iranian summer.
Today is mostly taken up with a long drive west to Shiraz . You’ll start early in the morning, and arrive in time to visit the tombs of the poet Hafiz and Sa’di, two of Iran’s best-loved shrines, along with the beautiful Bagh-e Eram (Eram Garden), a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose centerpiece is an elegant Persian mansion swathed in date palms and flowering plants.
A full day’s sightseeing in this most elegant of cities begins with a visit to the Vakil complex, constructed by Karim Khan, founder of the Zand Dynasty, in the 18th century. The enclave comprises a grand mosque, noted for its exceptionally fine haft rangi tilework, a hamam bathhouse and atmospheric covered bazaar with vault-arched ceilings. After lunch, you’ll pay a visit to the much photographed Nasir al-Molk (better known as the ‘Pink Mosque’), whose stained-glass windows cast pools of vibrant colour on the finely carved pillars and polished marble floors. Time permitting, the rest of the afternoon will be taken up with a trip to Karim Khan’s castle, followed by a tour of the Shah Cheragh tomb, a revered Shia shrine noted for the glittering mirror work adorning its central dome.
Another long drive today takes you northeast from Shiraz to the ancient desert city of Yazd. En route you’ll pause to explore the monuments of Persepolis , Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasargadae , three of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites. Photographers may wish to build in an extra night to their tour in order to be able to visit the ruins at sunset, when the desert light works wonders on the Achaemenid marble.
The ninth day of your tour is given over to sightseeing in Yazd beginning with a visit to the Zoroastrian ‘Towers of Silence’ on the outskirts, and continuing with the famous Fire temple, Friday Mosque and Amir Chakhmagh Square, which is lit to spectacular effect in the evenings. The real highlight of a visit to this ancient city, however, is aimless wandering around the mud-brick streets of the old town, or enjoying glasses of sweet çay in a rooftop café, admiring the transformative effects of the light on the exotic skyline, with its enigmatic ‘wind towers’ and domes – a spectacle like no other in the world.
The former capital of Isfahan – Iran’s great drawcard and quite simply one of the most beautiful cities in the world – is your destination today. En route, you’ll call at Naien, a crumbling, mud-walled town standing at the start of the Safavid pilgrimage route across the desert to Mashhad. As well as one of the country’s oldest mosques, dating from the 7th century, our favorite sight here is a beautiful Safavid-era mansion, built in 1560 and now run as a private museum where you can admire original plasterwork friezes recounting traditional tales from the Koran. After checking into your hotel in Isfahan you should have ample time for stroll along the iconic Sis-o-She Pol and Khajoi bridges, floodlit to spectacular effect after dark. Afterwards, call at the Azadegan Teahouse, on Chah Haj Mirza alley at the north side of the Imam Square, where the walls and ceilings are covered in old photos, coloured lamps and other antique curios. Their doogh (Persian lassi) is legendary.
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted by your guide to the Naqsh-e Jahan square, where some of the most marvelous buildings ever constructed in the Islamic world form a breathtaking spectacle. Begin with a tour of the Imam (or ‘Shah’) Mosque, the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Persian architecture, noted for its ‘stalactite’ tilework and exquisitely proportioned dome and minarets. Nearby, the Aliqapu Palace is where Shah Abbas used to welcome foreign dignitaries before proceeding through the gardens behind to the Chehel Sotoon Palace. Murals depicting the lavish banquets and recitals of music and dance held inside the great hall enliven the building’s interiors. On the opposite side of the square, the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque is widely regarded as the apogee of Safavid architecture, with its sublime mosaic tilework and calligraphy. As the shadows grow long in Chehel Sotoon gardens, you’ll walk over the covered bazaar of Ghdeisarieh. Centred on a mile-long arterial passage, the market holds ranks handicraft shops selling traditional, high-quality, hand-made Persian artefacts, from carpets to pieces of framed calligraphy and musical instruments.
Today you’ll visit the Friday mosque, next to the bazaar, and Vank Cathedral, in the New Julfa quarter on the south side of the Zayande River, which Shah Abbas built for the Armenian Christians the resettled in Isfahan in the early 17th century. Its ceilings are festooned with wonderfully vibrant frescoes and gilded wood carving. Spend the remainder of the day exploring the cities gardens and shopping for carpets and ceramics in the bazaars, which retain their original vaulted and domed alleyways.
Today features a long drive north back to Tehran. You’ll break the journey midway at Kashan to visit the city’s famous Persian khanehs (mansions) and Bagh-e Fin garden. Today is your final chance to do any last-minute souvenir shopping before you fly home the following day.
You will be transferred to the international early this morning for your return flight to UK.
Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £3645 per person
Places and Experiences in this tour
At the foot of the Alborz mountains, Tehran is Iran’s sprawling capital, and one of the most spectacularly situated cities in the world. Wherever you are, shining snow fields shim...
In the southeast of the country on the edge of the great Dasht-e Lut Desert, Kerman was historically an important crossroads dominating trade routes to Afghanistan and India. It r...
Famed over the centuries for its nightingales, poetry and wine, Shiraz has traditionally been regarded Iran’s cultural capital. Two of Persia’s greatest Sufi poets are both entomb...
Before the Arab conquest of Persia in the mid 7th century, most of the region’s inhabitants were Zoroastrians, and this city became the religion’s stronghold after the spread of I...
Former capital of the Safavid Dynasty, Isfahan became the seat of Shah Abbas the Great in 1598, and at its zenith blossomed into of the most magnificent and cosmopolitan cities in...
Iran is filled with awe-inspiring mosques, and by the time you get to Mahan chances are you will have seen quite a few of them. The shrine of the revered Sufi mystic-poet Ne’mutal...
Visits to Persepolis are nearly always combined with a detour to this extraordinary necropolis, where a collection of colossal reliefs dating from the Achaemenid, Sassanid and Ela...
Pasargadae was the Achaemenid capital before the foundation of Persepolis, and is famous today as the site of the marble tomb of Cyrus the Great (558–530BC), which sits on a high,...
This walled, mud-brick citadel outside Kerman is similar to the ancient citadel of Bam, which was destroyed by an earthquake in December 2003 (and is currently being rebuilt by th...
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