Tailor-made Tour 13 days from £4495 per person
Places Visited: Tehran, Shiraz, Persepolis, Yazd, Isfahan, Kashan
Fly from Heathrow on British Airways Flight BA 153 departure 21:35 .
Arrive at Tehran at 06:45 . Transfer from airport to hotel You will be met on arrival at the international airport by our representative and introduced to your driver who will then transfer you to your city hotel. Stay at Ferdowsi Grand Hotel (Standard Room) for 1 night Afternoon sightseeing in Tehran Having recovered from the overnight flight in your hotel room, we’ll head off for lunch at a traditional Iranian restaurant. After lunch, continue to the nearby UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace, seat of Persia’s Qajar Dynasty. Tour the palace museums and opulent reception chambers, which are lined with intricate ceramics, royal memorabilia and breathtakingly beautiful carpets. Tehran’s old bazaar is only a short walk away, and we’ll have time for a quick look at the carpet section before supper. Accommodation: Ferdowsi Grand Hotel (First class, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Morning visit to Museums After check out from the hotel, you'll spend the morning touring the capital’s principal museums, starting with the National Museum itself. It has an unrivalled collection of ancient Iran objects, including statues from the Achaemenid Empire and photographic documentary of archaeological excavations. The adjacent Islamic Museum is a bright and expertly curated showcase, with a fascinating three floors of exhibits, full with paintings, inscriptions, glassware and even original mihrabs from around Iran. By then we’ll be ready for lunch, ahead of our short transfer to the domestic airport and later flight to Shiraz. On arrival in southern Iran, our guide and driver will escort us to our hotel downtown. Stay at Zandiyeh Hotel (Standard Room) for 3 nights Evening in Shiraz We’ll spend the evening exploring the local neighbourhood and bazaars, which stay open late. This might be a good time to sample the local speciality: faloodah, a semi-frozen, slushy dessert of vermicelli steeped in rose water and lime juice – much nicer than it sounds, especially when combined with saffron ice cream! Accommodation: Zandiyeh Hotel (First class, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
A full day exploring Shiraz Begin the morning with a visit to the Nasir-al Molk Mosque, in the old quarter of Shiraz, which is famous for its sumptuous stained-glass windows and intricate ceramic tiles, dating from the Qajar era of the 19th century. From there, we head over to the Vakil Mosque, entered from a stone-paved square where we can crowd-watch over a coffee on a sunny terrace surrounded by carpet and antique shops. Nearby stands the entrance to Vakil Bazaar. The market’s 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, the tour will continue with a visit to Eram Garden, where the pretty Qavan Pavillion forms a photogenic centrepiece. The building is set in a lush botanical garden. Both are listed as UNESCO World Heritage monuments. Depending on time, energy and inclination, we could spend the remainder of the day visiting more gardens and museums, or explore the citadel in the heart of Shiraz, the Arg of Karim Khan, before winding up at the most iconic of the city’s monuments, the tomb of the great Sufi poet, Hafiz. Accommodation: Zandiyeh Hotel (First class, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Persepolis & Naqsh-e Rostam Today we visit one of the great highlights of Iran, Persepolis – ceremonial seat of the Archaemenid 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 our tour of the ruins, we’ll take advantage of the gentle morning light to see the monumental tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam. Lunch will be at a stylish, 1930s hotel opposite the entrance to Persepolis, which takes around 2–3 hours to see in full. We prefer to visit the site in the early evening, when the crowds have thinned and the light is better for photography. Accommodation: Zandiyeh Hotel (First class, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Most of today is given over to a long drive over the mountains to Fars Province, en route, we will visit Pasargade. Here, the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is the most striking among a scattering of monuments surviving from the Archaemenids’ first capital, scattered over a broad plain encircled by hills. Continue the drive to Yazd, where we'll arrive around mid-afternoon. Stay at Dad Hotel (Standard Room) for 2 nights Afternoon sightseeing in Yazd With its distinctive twin minarets, the Masjed-e Jameh mosque makes an ideal starting point for explorations of the mud-walled streets and bazaars of Yazd. Our guide will lead us through a tangle of medieval lanes, past metal, ceramic and carpet weaving workshops to the Art Café, whose rooftop affords the finest view of the city’s fabulously exotic skyline, framed by a backdrop of desert mountains. Accommodation: Dad Hotel (First class, Traditional). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Further sightseeing of Yazd On the seventh day of our tour, some of us may wish to spend time relaxing in the grounds of our gorgeous hotel before mopping up the remainder of the city’s sights, foremost among which are 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, when the alcoves in the three-storey façade of the Amri Chakhmaq are illuminated to spectacular effect. We’ll dine in a traditional Yazdi courtyard restaurant, calling at the century-old confectionary shop, Haj Khalifeh Ali Rahbar, on our way home for a taste of local treats, packaged in metal tins. Accommodation: Dad Hotel (First class, Traditional). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Yazd - Isfahan
Exploration of ancient citadels 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. At the foot of the citadel is a venerable old caravanserai where you can eat freshly grilled kebabs flavoured with pomegranate and walnut paste in a cool, vaulted hall. Shops in the courtyard sell hand-woven local textiles; a row of traditional potteries on the outskirts are also worth a visit. Next stop of the day is Naien, an ancient, mud-brick town on the edge of the desert where the octagonal tower of one of Iran’s oldest mosques rises above a skyline little altered in centuries. Your guide will also show you the remains of a 1700-year-old fort, and a Safavid-era courtyard house that holds a small ethnographic museum and workshop where kilims are hand woven from camel wool. Transfer to Isfahan Continue the drive to Isfahan. where we'll arrive around late afternoon, in time for a sunset stroll around Imam (Naqsh-e Jahan) Square or along the banks of the Zayande River to admire the floodlit Safavid bridges. Stay at Setareh Hotel (Standard Room) for 3 nights Accommodation: Setareh Hotel (Superior, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Full day at Imam (Naqsh-e Jahan) Square We suggest an early start to ensure we see the first sight of the day, the majestic Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Imam (Naqsh-e Jahan) Square, before most of the tour groups descend. The pièce de résistance of this shrine, which was reserved for the exclusive use of the Safavid royal family, is its magnificent domed ceiling, featuring a famous peacock motif at its apex. The critic and travel writer, Robert Byron, whose descriptions of Isfahan’s monuments in 1933 have never been bettered, said in his journals that he had ‘never encountered splendour of this kind before’. Byron was still more enthusiastic about the nearby Shah Mosque, the undisputed masterpiece of Persian architecture. The impact this building’s vast scale, which contrasts to spectacular effect with the brilliance and intricacy of its decoration, can be overwhelming and you may need more than one visit to take it all in! Our lunch stop is close to the Shah Mosque, tucked away in the nearby handicrafts bazaar. The restaurant is popular with locals and visitors alike, as much for its rich, Arabian Nights décor as fine Persian cooking. In the afternoon, our tour continues with the Ali Qapu Palace, whose upper terrace yields the definitive views over Imam Square. Afternoon visit to Chehel Sotoun After leaving the main square, our tour continues to a great Safavid monument, Chehel Sotoun, an imposing royal pavilion set in splendid gardens, where the Safavid rulers used to entertain visiting dignitaries. Depicting lavish parties with music, dancers and dozens of sumptuously attired guests, the murals here are UNESCO-listed treasures. Accommodation: Setareh Hotel (Superior, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Further sightseeing in Isfahan We begin the tenth day of our tour with a look around the richly decorated Vank Cathedral, over in the Armenian quarter of New Jolfa, where there’s also an interesting little museum dedicated to Iran’s classical musical heritage. Regular performances by top musicians are staged throughout the day and we hope to catch one of these. The afternoon will be set aside for shopping in the Grand Bazaar, normally entered via an impressive arched gateway on the north side of Iman Square. Alternatively, the more energetic among us could 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. Look out for the traditional Persian perfume shops and stalls selling prayer beads and local blue pottery. And be sure to treat yourself to pistachio and cardamom ice cream from one of the popular parlours off Imam Square when you get there! Accommodation: Setareh Hotel (Superior, Modern). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Isfahan - Kashan
Drive to Kashan via Abyaneh Today we’ll leave the majestic capital of Shah Abbas on the last leg of our tour. The journey will be broken with a detour into the mountains to visit a fascinating village called Abyaneh, which is renowned for its striking red-earth architecture and the fact its inhabitants speak an ancient form of Persian, close to the one spoken in Sassanian times. Instead of the regular Iranian hijab, the women here all wear floral white head scarves. Older ladies make a bit of spare cash selling tea and bags of delicious dried apple slices. Just over an hour’s drive further north, Kashan is our final halt and a great place to wind up the tour. The town’s antique core holds a bumper crop of fine old mansions, among them the one we’ll be staying in, which has been stylishly converted into a courtyard boutique hotel – a perfect haven. Stay at Manouchehri House (Standard Room) for 2 nights Accommodation: Manouchehri House (Superior, Heritage). Meal Plan: Full Board.
Sightseeing in Kashan Spend the penultimate day of our trip exploring Kashan’s elegant mansions, bath houses, rose water factories and 400-year-old bazaars. In the afternoon, we’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, with a graceful arched pavilion and mature pines providing welcome shade. Note too that Kashan boasts an especially good choice of traditional Persian restaurants, where we’ll be able to enjoy fine local cuisine in suitably atmospheric surroundings.
Kashan - Tehran
The road to Tehran with Qom There will be time in the morning for a spot of souvenir shopping, or to take in a carpet weaving or pottery workshop, before checking out of our hotel and 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. We’ll immerse ourselves in the devotional atmosphere of this spectacular Shia site, watching the worshippers and turbanned Imams filing through its grand gates, before returning to the more familiar, 21st-century atmosphere of our final hotel. Stay at Ibis Imam Khomeini Airport Hotel (Standard Room) for 1 night Accommodation: Ibis Imam Khomeini Airport Hotel (First class, Modern). Meal Plan: Room Only.
The transfer by bus to the international departure terminal takes just five minutes. Fly from Tehran on British Airways Flight BA 152 departure 09:20 . Arrive at Heathrow (Terminal 5) at 12:15 . Economy Class
Tailor-made Tour 13 days from £4495 per person
Places and Experiences in this tour
The second most sacred place in Iran after Mashhad, Qom lies a few hours’ drive southwest of Tehran and is revered by Shia Muslims as the site of Fatima’s shrine, the Hazrat-e Ma’...
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...
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...
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