14 days from £ 4495 per person
Places Visited: Tehran, Shiraz, Persepolis, Yazd, Meybod, Naein, Isfahan, Abyaneh, Kashan, Qom
Experience the very best Iran has to offer - from the glories of Safavid Isfahan to Achemaenid Persepolis – on this carefully honed tour across the central plateau.
Taking advantage of BA’s direct flight to Tehran from London Heathrow, you’ll begin your trip in the capital, where the standout sight is the Golestan Palace of the Qajar Shahs, famed for its sumptuous decor (and delightful traditional tea shop!). Day two features the only domestic flight of the itinerary, taking you to Shiraz in the south, which we’ll use as a base for exploring Persepolis and satellite monuments. A winding journey over the outliers of the barren Zagros Mountains takes you on to Yazd, home of Iran’s most exotic skyline and, at the end of the first week, to Isfahan, whose splendid mosques and palaces are unrivalled in the Islamic world.
Fly overnight to Tehran from London.
On arrival in the Iranian capital, you’ll be met by your driver and guide and transferred to your hotel. Spend the morning recovering from the journey. Later, head off to the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace for lunch at a traditional Iranian teahouse and tour of the palace and its museums.
After an early check-out, spend the morning touring the capital’s museums, starting with the glittering collection at the Treasury of National Jewels, followed by the National Museum itself and adjacent Islamic Museum. By then you’ll be ready for lunch, ahead of your transfer to the domestic airport and an afternoon flight to Shiraz.
A full day’s sightseeing in Shiraz begins with a visit to the Nasir-al Molk Mosque, famous for its sumptuous stained-glass windows and intricate ceramic tiles. From there, head over to the Vakil Mosque and nearby bazaar, whose vaulted-arched, domed roofs and traditional shops date from the 12th century. This is a particularly good place to pick up old-style Persian carpets and kilims, arrayed in spectacular displays by the vendors. After lunch at a typical Shirazi restaurant, your tour will continue with a visit to Eram Garden, where the pretty Qavan Pavillion forms a photogenic centrepiece. Spend the remainder of the day visiting more gardens and museums, winding up at the tomb of the great Sufi poet, Hafiz.
Today you’ll visit one of the great highlights of Iran, Persepolis – ceremonial seat of the Achaemenid Dynasty, who ruled Persia in the 6th century BC. The site lies just under an hour’s drive north up the main highway from Shiraz. Before beginning your tour of the ruins, we suggest you take advantage of the gentle morning light to see the nearby tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam, and then continue north to Pasargadae, where the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is the most striking among a scattering of monuments surviving from the Achaemenids’ first capital, scattered over a broad plain encircled by hills.
Most of today is given over to a long drive over the mountains to Fars Province and the desert city of Yazd, where you’ll arrive around mid-afternoon, in time for a look around the markets. With its distinctive twin minarets, the Masjed-e Jameh mosque makes an ideal starting point for explorations of the mud-walled streets and bazaars behind. Your guide will lead you through a tangle of medieval lanes, to the Art Café, whose rooftop affords the finest view of the city’s fabulously exotic skyline.
On the seventh day of your tour, visit the UNESCO-listed Dowlat Abad gardens and Amri Chakhmaq complex of 15th and 16th century shrines and baths. The nearby bazaars are particularly atmospheric in the evening just after sunset.
Yazd, Meybod, Naien, Isfahan
Today’s drive to Isfahan is broken with stops at two particularly interesting towns. The first, Meybod, has roots dating back to the pre-Islamic period, as demonstrated by the ancient Narenj Castle at its heart, whose beautifully restored adobe ramparts survey a sweep of flat rooftops and wind catcher towers. Next stop of the day is Naien, where your guide will show you around one of the country’s oldest mosques, and the remains of a 1700-year-old fort. You’ll arrive in Isfahan around late afternoon, in time for a sunset stroll along the banks of the Zayande River to admire the floodlit Safavid bridges.
A full day’s sightseeing begins with a tour of the majestic Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on Imam (Naqsh-e Jahan) Square, a shrine reserved for the exclusive use of the Safavid royal family. Its piece de resistance is a magnificent domed ceiling, featuring a famous peacock motif at its apex. The nearby Shah Mosque is even more impressive, built on a vast scale that contrasts to spectacular effect with the brilliance and intricacy of its decoration. In the afternoon, your tour continues with visits to the two other great Safavid monuments in this district, the Ali Qapu Palace, whose upper terrace yields the definitive views over Imam Square, and nearby Chehel Sotoun, an imposing royal pavilion set in splendid gardens, whose murals depicting lavish royal functions are UNESCO-listed treasures.
Begin the tenth day of your tour with a look around the richly decorated Vank Cathedral, over in the Armenian quarter of New Jolfa. The afternoon will be set aside for shopping in the Grand Bazaar, entered via an impressive arched gateway on the north side of Iman Square. Alternatively, visit the Jameh Masjed first, one of the oldest and largest mosques in Iran, and walk from there south through the bazaar– an unforgettable 2.5-mile stroll through an atmospheric, 17th century covered market retaining its original mud-brick, domed ceilings.
Today’s journey will be broken with a detour into the mountains to visit a village called Abyaneh, which is renowned for its striking red-earth architecture. Instead of the regular Iranian hejab, the women all wear floral white headscarves. Older ladies make a bit of spare cash from tourists selling tea and bags of delicious dried apples. Just over an hour’s drive further north, Kashan in your final halt and a great place to wind up your tour of Iran. The town’s antique core holds a bumper crop of fine old mansions.
Spend the penultimate day of your trip exploring Kashan’s mansions, bath houses, rose water factories and 400-year-old bazaars. In the afternoon, you’ll have the chance to travel out of town to see the famous, UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Fin gardens, among the finest in the country.
You’ll have time in the morning for a spot of souvenir shopping, or to take in a carpet-weaving workshop or pottery, before continuing north towards Tehran. The route skirts the city of Qom, home to one of the country’s most important shrines, the Tomb of Fatima al Masuma, which makes a compelling detour. Immerse yourself in the devotional atmosphere of this spectacular Shia site, before returning to the more familiar, 21st century atmosphere of the Ibis Hotel at Tehran’s international airport.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
14 days from £ 4495 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
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...
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...
Persepolis, also known as ‘Parseh’, was the seat of the Achaemenid empire, whose power peaked under Darius I and his son, Xerxes I, but was ultimately brought to a violent halt wh...
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...
A major desert city with a population of over 75,000, Meybod offers a compelling stopover on the journey to or from Yazd. Its standout monument is the enigmatic Narenj Castle – a ...
At the start of the old Safavid pilgrimage route across the desert to Mashhad, this crumbling mud-walled town ranks among the most picturesque in Iran. Its most distinctive buildi...
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...
Set against its backdrop of rugged desert mountains, with a foreground of poplar trees and fruit orchards, the red-brick village of Abyaneh forms one of the signature sights of ce...
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