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Updated 2/15/18

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THIS IS NOT THE FULL BROCHURE

We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

 

 

Air Inclusive Program
April 11 - 24, 2018
14 days • $6490 per person, double occupancy from New York, JFK via Turkish Airlines plus expedited Iranian visa fee of $201
Single Supplement $1140

Land-Only Rate
April 12 - 24, 2018
13 days • $5810 beginning in Mashad and ending in Tehran
Single Supplement $1140
International Airfare Additional

Day by Day Itinerary

April 11 DEPART U.S.A.
Wednesday

Meet your travel companions at our gateway city for the flight to Mashad.

Meal en route

April 12 CONNECT
Thursday ARRIVE MASHAD

Connect to your flight to Mashad.

Khosh amadid (welcome) to Iran! Proceed through entrance formalities, and claim luggage. We’ll be warmly greeted and transferred from the airport to our hotel. Flights from the U.S. arrive late this evening or just after midnight.

*****Homa 2 Hotel

April 13 MASHAD - TOOS - MASHAD
Friday

We first pay our respects to Iran’s greatest epic poet Ferdosi, author of the Shahnameh or Book of Kings, with a visit to his tomb in Toos (Tus). We will also visit the Harunieh Tomb Tower (estimated from the Seljuk Era).

Return to Mashad (Mashhad) for dinner and overnight. Mashad is Iran’s holiest city, and the center of the country’s largest province, Khorassan. Mashad owes its importance, as a great pilgrimage center, to the Shrine Complex of Imam Reza, the Eighth Shiite Leader who was martyred there in the 8th century. (B-L-D)

*****Homa 2 Hotel

April 14 MASHAD - NISHAPUR
Saturday MASHAD

Today we make an excursion to the west of Mashad to visit the ancient town of Nishapur, an important stop on the Silk Road. Nishapur was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th-century. Today it is famous for its ceramics and pottery. On the way visit the lovely Safavid shrine and gardens at Qadamgah, an important pilgrimage site, with beautiful decoration. We will learn about Omar Khayyám, mathematician, astronomer and poet whose 1000 quatrains came to be known as the Rubáiyát (“A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me singing in the wilderness”); Kamal-al-Molk, Iran’s greatest contemporary painter whose works include “The Fortune Teller of Baghdad”; and Farid al-Din Attar, the 12th century Sufi poet and mystic, also buried in Nishapur. Overnight in Mashad. (B-L-D)

*****Homa 2 Hotel

April 15 MASHAD - TEHRAN
Sunday

Spend the day on a city tour of Mashad and visit the outer courtyards of the Shrine of Imam Reza and the Gohar Shad Mosque (non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building of the shrine and mosque). We will take in the museums and explore the colorful Mashad Bazaar. Time-permitting, visit the Mausoleum of Khajeh Rabie (a disciple of the Prophet of Islam), which dates to the Safavid period. Transfer to the airport for an early evening flight to Tehran. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas/Laleh Hotel

April 16 TEHRAN
Monday

During our time in Tehran we’ll include some visits to places not included in previous trips, but also take in the Kakhe Golestan, Palace of Flowers. Have a look at Kamal-al-Molk’s enchanting collection. The Qajar family added its most characteristic features and made it their royal residence and seat of power. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas/Laleh Hotel

April 17 TEHRAN
Tuesday

Today explore one or two of Tehran’s fabulous museums and have the opportunity to take a glimpse at the Crown Jewels in the afternoon. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas/Laleh Hotel

April 18 TEHRAN - FUMAN
Wednesday MASULEH - ANZALI

Begin our drive to the northwest from Tehran via the scenic freeway through the Alborz Mountains. Enroute visit the lovely town of Fuman, with its rice paddies and neatly manicured tea plantations, where we will have lunch.

Cuttings to start the plants came from India and produce healthy tea, full of antioxidants. There are many nature reserves in this area where birds winter near poplar lined freshwater pools. Indulge in a taste of kuliches, a delicious local pastry filled with walnuts, cinnamon and cardamom.

Make a short excursion to the picturesque 1,000-year-old village of Masuleh, protected by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. Have a leisurely walk through the multi-layered paths of the village, with its quaint shops, and perhaps enjoy some tea.

Heading back towards the coast via Rasht arrive at a modest beach resort in Anzali, which fortunately is not crowded at this time of year. Enjoy a dinner of fish caught in the warm waters of the Caspian Sea, and perhaps some caviar; and then have a stroll under the stars by the sea. (B-L-D)

***Hotel Sepid Kenar

April 19 ANZALI - ARDABIL - TABRIZ
Thursday

Drive up the Alborz mountain heights through tunnels and along green terraced landscapes. We drive west away from the Caspian Sea in the direction of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Travel along the northern Iranian border near Azerbaijan, and stop for a taste of delicious local honey. It is perhaps one of the secrets of longevity for people in this area. With 14,000 ft. Mt. Savalan, a stunning snow capped extinct volcano to our right, we pass orchards, grazing lands and fishing lakes.

En route stop at the city of Ardabil to visit one of Iran’s great gems, the Mausoleum Complex of Sheikh Safii-eddinn Ardabil, the great Sufi Leader of the 14th century and the forefather of the Sufi inspired Safavid kings, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our visit includes the tomb of the Sheikh, the tomb of Shah Isma’ail, the Founder of the Safavid Dynasty, and the ‘Chini-Khaneh’ (China House), where the famous collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain, ordered by Shah Abbas for his ancestor’s tomb, is on display. Continue to Tabriz for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

*****Tabriz Pars Hotel

April 20 TABRIZ - JOLFA - TABRIZ
Friday

We make a full day excursion to the Church of Saint Stepanos (Stephanos), located in a deep canyon outside Jolfa. The Armenian Monastic Ensemble is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the 9th century, and rebuilt in the Safavid period, it is considered one of the architectural masterpieces of north-western Iran. It has an architectural style which blends Urartan, Parthian, Greek, and Roman elements. Tradition holds that a box found there contains the remains of John the Baptist. (B-L-D)

*****Tabriz Pars Hotel

April 21 TABRIZ - ZANJAN
Saturday

Tabriz is the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashad. According to Herodotus, even in ancient times, this area had a turbulent history. In the 13th century it was the Mongol capital. We’ll see the Blue Mosque built by Shah Jahan in 1465, the small exquisite Azerbaijan Museum, and the Citadel.

A highlight is the wonderfully constructed and bustling Tabriz Bazaar, second oldest in the world after the one in Aleppo, Syria and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Silk Road passed through Tabriz. Today silk, wool and cotton, and Tabriz carpets with figures on a pink background, are a well-known export to France and Germany. Before leaving Tabriz see the El Goli Safavid site and park with the beautifully renovated old building surrounded by a large pool. Leave for Zanjan (scenic 4-hour drive) for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

****Grand Hotel, Zanjan

April 22 ZANJAN
Sunday TAKHT-E-SOLEIMAN - ZANJAN

Full day excursion to visit Takht-e-Soleiman located in a broad and remote mountain valley near the small town of Takab. The elevation is above 10,000’, and those who have problems with this might elect to stay in Zanjan. From the time of the Zoroastrian Magis, who guarded the sacred fire of Azar Goshnasp beside the bottomless lake of deepest blue, until today, Takht-e-Soleiman (the Throne of Solomon) has remained for all who see it a sacred and enigmatic place. The massive stone walls and the remnants of the 38 watch towers, plus remains of the palaces, the fire temple and the Anahita Temple, built around the lake, mainly by the Sassanians in the 3rd century AD, are part of what is left of the complex. The crater of Zendan-e-Soleiman (the Prison of Solomon) can be glimpsed in the distance. Return to Zanjan for overnight stay. (B-L-D)

****Grand Hotel, Zanjan

April 23 ZANJAN – SOLTANIYEH
Monday TEHRAN

Before leaving Zanjan see the unique ‘Rakhtshur-Khaneh’ (old public laundry now turned into an ethnographic museum) and the old Public Bath House. Enroute back to Tehran (4-hour drive) visit the magnificent 14th century Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh, the tomb/tower of Ölijaytü, the last Mongol/Il-Khanid Ruler of Iran (1304-1330). The monument is remarkable in many different architectural aspects, including its huge dome, which is approximately 167 feet high and ranks among the largest domes in the world. Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh is one of 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran. Arrive Tehran for rooms and dinner at the Espinas Hotel before our late night departure to the airport. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

April 24 TEHRAN - CONNECT
Tuesday ARRIVE U.S.A.

Bid a fond farewell to our new friends and transfer to the airport for our flight home.

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Note: Flight schedules always subject to the change.

 

THIS IS NOT THE FULL BROCHURE

We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

 

Air inclusive rate
May 4 - 12, 2018
• 9 days
$4880 per person, double occupancy from New York, JFK
via Turkish Airlines plus expedited Iranian visa fee of $201
Single Supplement $720

Land Only rate
May 5 - 12, 2018
• 8 days
$3950 per person, double occupancy from beginning in Shiraz and
ending in Isfahan
plus expedited Iranian visa fee of $201
Single Supplement $720
International Airfare Additional

 

IMPORTANT

Although all of our Iran itineraries indicate air via Turkish Airlines, we understand that you may prefer a different routing for your air. In this case our tour can be taken as land only and an alternate airline used.

What's best for you is best for us!

Day by Day Itinerary

May 4 Depart NEW YORK
Friday

Meet your traveling companions tonight at 9:00 PM at New York’s JFK airport for our Turkish Airlines flight (TK012) departing at 11:55 PM. Alternate departures available from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, or Washington, DC.

Meals enroute

May 5 ISTANBUL
Saturday

Arrival time in Istanbul is 4:45 PM. We will have about 4 hours before the overnight flight from Istanbul direct to Shiraz. Turkish Airlines TK884 departs Istanbul at 8:40 PM.

May 6 Arrive SHIRAZ
Sunday

Arrive Shiraz at 2:00 AM (after midnight). Welcome to Iran! We will be greeted and transferred directly to our hotel for immediate check-in.

Shiraz is the heartland of Iran, present-day capital of the Fars Province, which gave its name to the Persian language: Farsi. It was capital of the Zand Dynasty (1747-1779) and one of the most important cities of the medieval Islamic world. Shiraz is situated in a plain surrounded by two mountain ranges. The city is well known for its mild climate and friendly people.

After a late breakfast we have a city tour of Shiraz to visit some of the famous gardens of this city of “Roses, Poets, and Nightingales”. It is interesting to note that the word Paradise has its roots in the Old Persian language, which means walled garden. The pink-tiled 19th-century mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk, with its dazzling combination of tile work, carpets and stained glass, is sure to touch the soul. Another lovely edifice of the Qajar period, the Narenjestan Garden and House, which was occupied by the Governor’s Court, today is used by the faculty of Art and Architecture of Shiraz University and contains a collection of Arthur Upham Pope. It is a beautiful house in traditional style with a courtyard in the middle and the rooms around the courtyard. The rooms are richly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings or mirror tile work. Shirazi contributors to art, administration philosophy and architecture, include the architect of the Taj Mahal.

After lunch, we pay our respects at the Garden and Tomb of the beloved poet, Hafez. Have your fortune read and make a wish! Then we will step back in time as we wander through the Vakil Bazaar with its blue tiled dome roof. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful bazaar in the world. The bazaars take travelers completely away from the outside world and immerse them in an age-old rhythm of life. Here the atmosphere is full of the market cries of vendors, the hammering of the coppersmiths, the activities of carpet weavers, silversmiths and cloth printers, the grilling of kabobs and the preparation of spices. Time permitting, we can walk through the nearby residential citadel of Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty. Overnight in Shiraz. (B-L-D)

*****Homa Hotel/Pars Hotel/Zandinyeh Hotel

May 7 SHIRAZ - PERSEPOLIS
Monday NAGHSH-é-ROSTAM PASARGADAE

Get ready for a truly wonderful day! After breakfast, we’ll drive about 35 miles to Takht-e Jamshid or as the Greeks called it, Persepolis, a ruined capital of ancient Iran. It is one of the greatest artistic legacies of the ancient world and perhaps one of the most beautiful and spectacular archaeological sites surviving today. In the 6th century BC, the Achaemenian King Darius I, created Persepolis as a palatial precinct for an empire which eventually became larger and more efficiently ruled than any other in the ancient world. Persepolis was reserved only for ritual celebrations. In the spring of each new year, on Nowruz, the Zoroastrian observance marked the beginning of Spring. On March 21st, the dynamic ruler and his court gathered at Persepolis to receive the tribute of subject nations and to reestablish universal order for the coming year. Nowruz is still enthusiastically celebrated today. Step back in time as we enter through the Gate of All Nations. The arrival of the erstwhile delegations was announced by trumpeters who stood at the top of the staircase in front of the Gate of Nations. They were then led to the Hundred Column Palace to the presence of the king. Superb bas reliefs depict the flow of ritual processions that once passed through the palaces and audience halls of the Achaemenian Kings. We’ll explore the Gate of Xerxes, the Apadana Palace, the Treasury, the Harem and the private palaces of the different rulers. Persepolis was completed by Xerxes and Artaxerxes I who ruled Persia in the 5th century BC. The palaces were used by the Achaemenid Kings up until they were destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC as revenge for the sacking of Athens during the Persian Wars with the Greeks.

To top off the afternoon, visit Naghsh-é-Rostam, which contains the rock carved chambers of four Achaemenian tombs, believed to be those of Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II. The ornamental façades are rock reliefs from the Sassanian dynasty depicting various scenes of imperial conquests as well as a probable fire temple from Achaemenian times.
We also make a stop at Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great and site of his simple but imposing tomb. Later, return to Shiraz via the Koran Gate, for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

*****Homa Hotel/Pars Hotel/Zandinyeh Hotel

May 8 SHIRAZ - YASUJ
Tuesday SHAHREKORD

We say goodbye to Shiraz and embark on our scenic 3-hour drive northward to the Yasuj which could be translated “place where jasmine flowers grow in abundance” in the local dialect. The city has become known the Capital of Nature in Iran due to its lush vegetation, scenic waterfalls and fertile soil.

Continue 4 hours plus stops, through beautiful landscapes of the Zagros Mountains and its Dena Protected Area, to Shahrekord (Shahr-e Kord and Shahr Kord), the “Roof of Iran”. The city is located at an elevation of 6700 ft. The nomads of the Bakhtiari tribe are beginning their migration at this time of year, but we’ll have a chance to learn about them. They consider themselves descendants of the Shahnameh hero, Fereydan, and their music is said to have inspired the great Russian composer Borodin. In preparation for your visit, you might want to see the famous 1925 documentary, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life and the 1996 Iranian Film, Gabbeh. (B-L-D)

***Parsian Azadi Hotel, Shahrekord

May 9 SHAHREKORD
Wednesday ISFAHAN

After breakfast, we drive 56 miles to Isfahan, often considered the highlight of a visit to Iran, along with Persepolis. With history dating back 2500 years, Isfahan was the capital of Iran during three historical periods. But it was Shah Abbas I who gave Isfahan its character with his masterful experiments in city planning and building in the early 17th century.

We visit one of the world’s grandest squares, Naghsh-e Jahan complex. You’ll delight at the sight of families and friends gathering for picnics spread on the ground, and you are certain to be invited for tea and sweets.

The square is 1674 feet by 540 feet and enclosed by double-storied arcades. It drew merchants and ambassadors to the Safavid court for centuries. It is unmatched in elegance and spaciousness anywhere in the world! The square is seven times the size of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and puts the grandeur of the surrounding palaces and mosques into appropriate proportions. Did you know polo originated in Isfahan, spread to India where it was picked up by the British Raj? Today polo is still played in Iran. On the north side of the Square is the entrance to the Royal Qaysariyyeh Bazaar. On the east side is the Lotfollah Mosque. On the west side is the Ali Qapu Palace. Two of the Islamic world’s greatest mosques are in this complex: the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Shah, both with magnificent architecture and tile work.

To the south is the Shah Mosque, dedicated to Shah Abbas the Great. To many, it is also considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world. We’ll stay for three nights at the exotic Abbasi Hotel (subject to availability), which was built in the 1960s on the site of a 17th century caravanserai. Overnight in Isfahan. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

May 10 ISFAHAN
Thursday

Today is a very full day of sightseeing in wonderful Isfahan. We’ll begin with a visit to the beautiful Chehel Sotuni (forty pillars) Palace, with its exquisite collection of frescoes and paintings on tile. The reflecting pool magnified the majesty of the ruler. Here Shah Abbas II welcomed dignitaries and ambassadors. Today you are the guests of honor!

Then we’ll see the antique Friday Mosque; as it stands now it is the result of over 1000 years of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the twentieth century. Archaeological excavation has determined an Abbasid hypostyle mosque in place by the 10th century. Buyid construction lined a façade around the courtyard and added two minarets that are the earliest example of the double minaret on record.

We’ll visit the Armenian Quarter to visit the richly decorated Vank Cathedral. Begun in 1606 at the time of arrival of Armenian immigrants to Isfahan at the invitation of Shah Abbas, it was completed between 1655 and1664 under the supervision of Arch-bishop David, with the encouragement of the Safavid rulers. It is the historic focal point of the Armenian Christian Church in Iran. The dome and walls have colorful paintings representing the story of Creation. Pause for lunch in the Armenian Quarter.

We return to the Naghsh-e Jahan complex today. Like the Safavid Kings, you can climb the steps of Ali Qapu Palace to step into the enchanting music rooms and peer over the balcony and imagine polo games played in the huge square below. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, constructed between 1603 and 1617, served as a private chapel for the Imperial family. You’ll see exquisite 17th century Persian tile work on the domed ceiling. Then wander through the Shah Mosque. Finish with free time in the Square to enjoy the Qaysariyyeh Bazaar with hundreds of shops displaying the arts and handicrafts for which Isfahan is world-famous.

Finish the day with a visit to the Hasht Bahesht (eight paradises) Pavilion and Park. It was built as an official court and a reception hall by Shah Abbas II (1647 AD). The ceilings are outstanding. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

May 11 ISFAHAN
Friday

This morning walk across the historical bridge of Khaju, constructed by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is essentially a bridge superimposed upon a dam, 436 feet long and supported by twenty-four stone arches. On the far side is the garden tomb of Arthur Upham Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman, Americans who were dedicated to the study of Persian art, history and culture.

During our time in Isfahan, you are invited to a private gallery to visit with a famous miniaturist artist.
Those who are interested may visit a carpet shop to sip tea and admire Iran’s most valuable craft and art form. The Persian knot allowed the tight composition to create intricate Arabesques, geometric and other floral designs. Much of what we call Arabesque, we should really call Persian-esque! See both City and Tribal carpets. Unlike Arabic Islamic design, Shia Muslims took literally God’s commandment to know Him through His creation. Thus you find figurative art in all forms including tile, metalwork and carpets. Persians also developed natural – and lasting- dyes. Cobalt found in Isfahan was exported to China where it was used in the blue on ceramics known later by the British as ‘China’. Bid farewell to your new friends over a farewell dinner. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

May 12 Depart ISFAHAN
Saturday ISTANBUL-NEW YORK

We leave for the airport very early this morning. Turkish Airlines TK893 departs Isfahan at 8:00 AM. Arrive Istanbul at 10:10 AM and connect to Turkish Airlines TK001. We depart at 1:35 PM from Istanbul and arrive at 5:30 PM at JFK in New York. Welcome home! For those with a connection longer than five hours, Turkish Airlines offers an optional whirlwind tour of Istanbul for those who wish to take it.

B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner

Note: Flight schedule always subject to change.

Order of sightseeing may be revised.

THIS IS NOT THE FULL BROCHURE

We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

 

 



Tour Only Rate
October 31 - November 14, 2018
15 days • beginning and ending in Tehran
International airfare additional

Caspian Pre-trip Extension
October 26 - 31, 2018
4 additional days as an extension beginning and ending in Tehran
Click here



Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary

October 31 ARRIVE TEHRAN
Wednesday

We suggest using Turkish Airlines TK870 which departs Istanbul, IST at 10:15 AM and arrives Tehran, IKA at 1:50 PM. See page 8 of the brochure for more flight suggestions.

Khosh amadid (Welcome) to Iran! We’ll proceed through entrance formalities at the airport, claim our luggage, be warmly greeted and transfer from IKA (Imam Khomeini Airport) to the new deluxe Espinas Hotel (approximately 1 hour). A welcome dinner is included before a good night’s rest to recover from jet lag. (D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

November 1 TEHRAN
Thursday

This sprawling city became Iran’s capital in the 18th century under Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar Dynasty. Tehran (meaning warm slope) is located south of the impressive snow-capped Alborz Mountains and the city is known for its large museums, art centers and palaces.

We begin with the National Archaeological Museum, the country’s foremost museum established in 1937. A good introduction to Iran, the museum is divided into two parts: Prehistoric and Pre-Islamic periods. See a stone capital of a winged lion from Susa and the sixth century BC audience hall relief of Darius the Great from the Treasury at Persepolis. We are then guided through the Glass and Ceramics Museum, which was once an extraordinarily beautiful private residence during the Qajar period, and later was used as the Egyptian Embassy. Here we can find glass and ceramic artifacts dating back to the second and first millennia BC. See the Carpet Museum with its beautiful modern architecture and a façade resembling a carpet-weaving loom. Founded in 1978 the museum provides a historical background for the evolution of this art form. http://www.carpetmuseum.ir/ We return to the hotel for dinner. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

November 2 TEHRAN – KERMAN
Friday

This morning we will check out of the Espinas Hotel and transfer to the airport for our flight to Kerman. Arrive and transfer to the Pars Hotel. This afternoon, we explore the 17th century Safavid period Ganj-Ali-Khan Complex. Walk through the Friday Mosque followed by the Caravanserai and Bazaar. Although the Bazaar is mostly closed today, see the sites, some shops and people offering goods outside shops. Enjoy an interesting stop at the Bathhouse, now transformed into an Ethnological Museum. See what life was like for erstwhile bathers of differing occupations; and then stop for tea, sweets, music and perhaps a hubble bubble (hookah or water pipe) at a teahouse. Overnight in Kerman. (B-L-D)

***** Pars Hotel

November 3 KERMAN - RAYEN
Saturday MAHAN - KERMAN

Today after breakfast we have a full day excursion. Drive up into the mountains to the town of Rayen and visit one of the oldest citadels in Iran (over 2000 years old). We continue to Shahzadeh (Prince) Garden and stroll through the beautiful garden with its waterfall cascades (late 19th century Qajar period garden/mansion). Lunch today will be in the garden. In the afternoon, we visit Mahan to see the blue-tiled Mausoleum of Shah Nematollah-e-Vali, the great 14th century Sufi leader. Overnight in Kerman. (B-L-D)

***** Pars Hotel

November 4 KERMAN – SARVESTAN
Sunday SHIRAZ

Drive to Shiraz, the city of nightingales, historic monuments, poets and philosophers, warriors, kings and orchards. En-route visit the Sassanian Palace at Sarvestan, the 5th century A.D. structure thought by many to be a hunting lodge or small palace built by Bahram V (420-440 AD). Continue to Shiraz passing through the majestic mountainous routes and seeing two large salt lakes on the way. Welcome to Shiraz, the present-day capital of the Fars Province, the heartland of Iran, which gave its name to the Persian language: Farsi. It was capital of the Zand Dynasty (1747-1779) and one of the most important cities of the medieval Islamic world. Shiraz is situated in a plain surrounded by two mountain ranges. The city is well known for its mild climate and friendly people. Overnight in Shiraz at the Homa Hotel. (B-L-D)

***** Homa Hotel/Pars/Zandiyeh Hotel

November 5 SHIRAZ – PERSEPOLIS
Monday NAGHSH-é-ROSTAM

Get ready for a truly wonderful day! After breakfast, we’ll drive about 35 miles to Takht-e Jamshid or as the Greeks called it, Persepolis, a ruined capital of ancient Iran. It is one of the greatest artistic legacies of the ancient world and perhaps one of the most beautiful and spectacular archaeological sites surviving today. In the 6th century BC, the Achaemenian King Darius I created Persepolis as a palatial precinct for an empire which eventually became larger and more efficiently ruled than any other in the ancient world. Persepolis was reserved only for ritual celebrations. Each new year, on Nowruz, the Zoroastrian observance of the beginning of Spring, March 21st, the dynamic ruler and his court gathered at Persepolis to receive the tribute of subject nations and to reestablish universal order for the coming year. Nowruz is still celebrated today. Step back in time as we enter through the Gate of All Nations. The arrival of the erstwhile delegations was announced by trumpeters who stood at the top of the staircase in front of the Gate of Nations. They were then led to the Hundred Column Palace to the presence of the King. Superb bas reliefs depict the flow of ritual processions that once passed through the palaces and audience halls of the Achaemenian Kings. We’ll explore the Gate of Xerxes, the Apadana Palace, the Treasury, the Harem and the private palaces of the different rulers. Persepolis was completed by Xerxes and Artaxerxes I who ruled Persia in the 5th century BC. The palaces were used by the Achaemenid Kings up until they were destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC as revenge for the sacking of Athens during the Persian Wars with the Greeks. To top off the afternoon, visit Naghsh-é-Rostam, which contains the rock carved chambers of four Achaemenian tombs, believed to be those of Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II. The ornamental façades are rock reliefs from the Sassanian dynasty depicting various scenes of imperial conquests as well as a probable fire temple from Achaemenian times. Later, return to Shiraz via the Koran Gate, for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

***** Homa Hotel/Pars/Zandiyeh Hotel

November 6 SHIRAZ
Tuesday

Enjoy a full day city tour of Shiraz to visit some of the famous gardens of this city of “Roses, Poets, Nightingales and Flowers”. It is interesting to note that the word Paradise has its roots in the Old Persian language which means walled garden. The pink-tiled 19th-century mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk, with its dazzling combination of tile work, carpets and stained glass, is sure to touch the soul. Another lovely edifice of the Qajar period, the Narenjestan Garden and House, was occupied by the Governor’s Court; today it is used by the faculty of Art and Architecture of Shiraz University and contains a collection of Arthur Upham Pope. It is a beautiful house in traditional style with a court yard in the middle and the rooms around the court yard. The rooms are richly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings or mirror tile work. Shirazi contributors to art, administration philosophy and architecture, include the architect of the Taj Mahal.

After lunch we pay our respects at the Garden and Tomb of the beloved poet Hafez. Have your fortune read and make a wish! Then we will step back in time as we wander through the Vakil Bazaar with its blue tiled dome roof. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful bazaar in the world. The bazaars take travelers completely away from the outside world and immerse them in an age-old rhythm of life. Here the atmosphere is full of the market cries of vendors, the hammering of the coppersmiths, the activities of carpet weavers, silversmiths and cloth printers, the grilling of kabobs and the preparation of spices. Time permitting, we can walk through the nearby residential citadel of Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty.
Overnight in Shiraz. (B-L-D)

***** Homa Hotel/Pars/Zandiyeh Hotel

November 7 SHIRAZ – PASARGADAE
Wednesday YAZD

Today we say goodbye to Shiraz and embark on our journey to Yazd, stopping en route at Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great and site of his simple but imposing tomb. On to Yazd with stops en-route to see a 19th century ice reservoir and a 4000-year-old Cypress tree and through a beautiful desert mountain range. Upon arrival, we’ll have an evening stroll through Fahadan Historical Neighborhood and Amir Chakhmagh Square. Overnight in Yazd at our beautiful 4-star garden hotel. (B-L-D)

****Moshir Garden/Safaieh/Da’ad Hotel

November 8 YAZD
Thursday

After a stroll through the gardens and a bountiful breakfast, enjoy a full day in the historic city of Yazd. Walk through the Friday Mosque and see more of the crafts of the area. Visit Alexander Prison and learn about the famous “Badgirs” or wind-catchers water towers (pictured on the cover) that efficiently cool a home in a desert setting. We’ll have a look at the area’s famed handicrafts – carpets, ceramics and textiles. You’ll find silk Ikats and Termeh - a traditional hand-made cloth woven with precious threads and metals. Over the years, textile designs spread from Persia to Moghul, India. Next at the Yazd Water Museum we learn about the construction of qanats (canals or canats), which are underground tunnels or subterranean aquaducts carrying life-giving water from the mountains to the homes, Persian gardens, fields, orchards and pomegranate groves. You’ll admire their courageous builders using techniques developed from the fourth century B.C., and explore a house with its own qanat system in place. There are enough qanats in Iran the distance of which to go the moon and back four times! Later we visit the Towers of Silence and the Fire Temple and adjoining museum, to learn about the Zoroastrian faith, their holy book - the Avesta, four divine elements - air, water, earth and fire, and motto - good thoughts, good words, good deeds! (B-L-D)

****Moshir Garden/Safaieh/Da’ad Hotel

November 9 YAZD – NA’IN – ISFAHAN
Friday

Today is the religious mourning holiday Arbaeen. This morning, we continue by coach to Isfahan. We’ll make stops along our journey to see the early Islamic period Friday Mosque in the city of Na’in. We may also encounter processions, which prohibit access, due to the holiday. Continue our drive to the beautiful city of Isfahan (Esfahan), the 17th century capital of the Safavids, referred to as “Nesf-e-Jahan” (Half of the World) in Safavid sources. We’ll stay for three nights at the exotic Abbasi Hotel which was built in the 1960s on the site of a 17th century caravanserai. Overnight in Isfahan. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

November 10 ISFAHAN
Saturday

After breakfast, we start on our tour of Isfahan. Begin with a visit to the beautiful Chehel Sotuni (forty pillars) Palace, with its exquisite collection of frescoes and paintings on tile. The reflecting pool magnified the majesty of the ruler. Here Shah Abbas II welcomed dignitaries and ambassadors. Today you are the guests of honor! Next, we’ll begin with a walk across the historical bridge of Khaju, constructed by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is essentially a bridge superimposed upon a dam, 436 feet long and supported by twenty-four stone arches. On the far side is the garden tomb of Arthur Upham Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman, Americans who were dedicated to the study of Persian art, history and culture.

Continue to the Armenian Quarter to visit the richly decorated Vank Cathedral. Begun in 1606 at the time of arrival of Armenian immigrants to Isfahan, it was completed between 1655 and 1664 under the supervision of Arch-bishop David, with the encouragement of the Savid rulers. It is the historic focal point of the Armenian Christian Church in Iran. The dome and walls have colorful paintings representing the story of Creation. Pause for lunch in the Armenian Quarter.

During our time in Isfahan, you are invited to a private gallery to visit with a famous miniature artist.

Those who are interested may visit a carpet shop to sip tea and admire Iran’s most valuable craft and art form. The Persian knot allowed the tight composition to create intricate Arabesques, geometric and other floral designs. See both City and Tribal carpets. Unlike Arabic Islamic design, Shia Muslims took literally God’s commandment to know Him through His creation. Thus you find figurative art in all forms including tile, metalwork and carpets. Persians also developed natural – and lasting- dyes. Cobalt found in Isfahan was exported to China where it was used in the blue on ceramics known later by the British as ‘China’.

End the afternoon with a visit to the Hasht Bahesht (eight paradises) Pavilion and Park. It was built as an official court and a reception hall by Shah Abbas II (1647 AD). The ceilings are outstanding.

Overnight at Abbasi Hotel. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

November 11 ISFAHAN
Sunday

Today is another full day of sightseeing in wonderful Isfahan. Wander through the antique Friday Mosque; as it stands now is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the twentieth century. Archaeological excavation has determined an Abbasid hypostyle mosque in place by the 10th century. Buyid construction lined a façade around the courtyard and added two minarets that are the earliest example of the double minaret on record.

Continue to the Naghsh-e Jahan complex, the central focus of Isfahan. It is a Royal Square, 1674 feet by 540 feet and enclosed by double-storied arcades. The square drew merchants and ambassadors to the Safavid court for centuries. It’s unmatched in elegance and spaciousness anywhere in the world! It is seven times the size of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and puts the grandeur of the surrounding palaces and mosques into appropriate proportions. On the north side is the entrance to the Royal Qaysariyyeh Bazaar. On the east side is the Lotfollah Mosque. Constructed between 1603 and 1617, it served as a private chapel for the Imperial family. You’ll see exquisite 17th century Persian tile work on the domed ceiling. On the west side is the Ali Qapu Palace. To the south is the Friday Mosque and Shah Mosque, dedicated to Shah Abbas the Great. To many it is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world.

Enjoy lunch in Naghsh-é-Jahan complex with some free time for shopping in Isfahan’s bustling bazaar or simply people watching in the Maidan - the Royal Square. Overnight at the Abbasi Hotel. (B-L-D)

*****Abbasi Hotel/Kowsar Hotel

November 12 ISFAHAN – NATANZ
Monday KASHAN – TEHRAN

Today we enjoy a leisurely coach ride to Tehran with an en route stop at the charming town of Natanz to visit a beautiful Islamic Complex of Friday Mosque, Monastery and Tomb of Sheikh Abdol Samad Isfahani. We will also enjoy a tea break under the shade of a beautiful and old plane tree just outside the complex and visit a nearby traditional pottery workshop recognized by UNESCO. Continue to Kashan for lunch and a visit to the historical garden of Fin. It was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Suleymaniye Spring/Qanat. This beautiful walled Persian Garden was expanded by the Zand and Qajar monarchs, with many open pavilions added. A museum on the site displays artifacts from nearby Teppe Sialk, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran, dating back to 4000-5000 B.C. We continue our drive to Tehran and stop for a photo opportunity at the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini. (289 miles traveled) Overnight in Tehran. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

November 13 TEHRAN
Tuesday

Today we have a full-day tour of Tehran. Our first stop will be the Saadabad Palace Complex, which was founded under the Qajar Kings in the 19th century. In the afternoon, see the State Crown/Jewels Museum, which holds one of the most fabulous collections of treasures in the world. Finally we see Golestan Palace - a masterpiece of the Qajar era and a UNESCO site. You’ll marvel at the mirrored entry-way and stairway leading up to the dining rooms and ballrooms featuring Persian crafts integrated with western influences. Time for last minute shopping. We have a farewell dinner at the Espinas Hotel before our late night departure to the airport. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

November 14 DEPART TEHRAN
Wednesday

A transfer to the airport is included. Note that many flights leave just after midnight, so we can arrange the transfer accordingly.

Note: Flight schedule always subject to change.

Order of sightseeing may be revised.


Caspian Pre-Trip Extension

 

October 26 ARRIVE TEHRAN
Friday

We suggest using Turkish Airlines TK870 which departs Istanbul, IST at 10:15 AM and arrives Tehran at 1:50 PM. See page 8 for our suggested schedule.

Khosh amadid (Welcome) to Iran! We’ll proceed through entrance formalities at the airport, claim our luggage, be warmly greeted and transfer from IKA (Imam Khomeini Airport) to the new deluxe Espinas Hotel (approximately 1 hour). A welcome dinner is included before a good night’s rest to recover from jet lag. (D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

October 27 TEHRAN - FUMAN – RASHT
Saturday MASULEH - ANZALI

Today we drive from Tehran via the Rasht scenic freeway to Rasht. Enroute visit the lovely town of Fuman, with its rice paddies and neatly manicured tea plantations, where we will have lunch.

Cuttings to start the plants came from India and produce healthy tea, full of antioxidants. There are many nature reserves in this area where birds winter near poplar lined freshwater pools. Indulge in a taste of kuliches, a delicious local pastry filled with walnuts, cinnamon and cardamom.

Make a short excursion to the picturesque 1,000-year-old village of Masuleh, protected by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. Have a leisurely walk through the multi-layered paths of the village, with its quaint shops, and perhaps enjoy some tea. Heading back towards the coast via Rasht arrive at a modest beach resort in Anzali, which fortunately is not crowded at this time of year. Enjoy a dinner of fish caught in the warm waters of the Caspian Sea, and perhaps some caviar; and then have a stroll under the stars by the sea. (B-L-D)

***Hotel Sepid Kenar

October 28 ANZALI - ARDABIL
Sunday TABRIZ

Today after breakfast along the northern Iranian border with Azerbaijan, stop for a taste of delicious local honey. It is perhaps one of the secrets of longevity for people of this area. With 14,000 ft Mt. Savalan, a stunning snow capped extinct volcano to our right, we pass orchards, grazing lands and fishing lakes.

Drive up the Alborz mountain heights through tunnels and along green terraced landscapes. We drive west away from the Caspian Sea in the direction of Armenia and Azerbaijan, en route stopping at the city of Ardabil to visit one of Iran’s great gems, the Mausoleum Complex of Sheikh Safii-eddinn Ardabil, the great Sufi Leader of the 14th century and the forefather of the Sufi inspired Safavid kings, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our visit includes the tomb of the Sheikh, the tomb of Shah Isma’ail, the Founder of the Safavid Dynasty, and the ‘Chini-Khaneh’ (China House), where the famous collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain, ordered by Shah Abbas for his ancestor’s tomb, is on display. Continue to Tabriz for dinner and overnight. Time-permitting see the Tabriz Bazaar. (B-L-D)

*****Tabriz Pars Hotel

October 29 TABRIZ - ZANJAN
Monday

Tabriz is the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashad. According to Herodotus, even in ancient times, this area had a turbulent history. In the 13th century it was the Mongol capital. We’ll see the Blue Mosque built by Shah Jahan in 1465, the small exquisite Azerbaijan Museum, and the Citadel.

Our guide will lead us through the wonderfully constructed Tabriz Bazaar, second oldest in the world after the one in Aleppo, Syria another UNESCO World Heritages Site. The Silk Road passed through Tabriz; today silk, wool and cotton, and Tabriz carpets with figures on a pink background, are a well known export to France and Germany. Before leaving Tabriz see the El Goli Safavid site and park with beautifully renovated old building surrounded by a large pool. Leave for Zanjan (4-hour drive) for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)

****Grand Zanjan Hotel

October 30 ZANJAN - SOLTANIYEH
Tuesday TEHRAN

After breakfast see the unique ‘Rakhtshur-Khaneh’ (old public laundry now turned into an ethnographic museum) and the old Public Bath House. Enroute back to Tehran (4-hour drive) visit the magnificent 14th century Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh, the tomb/tower of Olijaytu, the last Mongol/Il-Khanid Ruler of Iran (1304-1330). The monument is remarkable in many different architectural aspects, including its huge dome, which is about 167 feet high and ranks amongst the largest domes in the world. Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh is one of 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran. Arrive Tehran for dinner. (B-L-D)

*****Espinas Hotel/Laleh Hotel

October 31 TEHRAN
Wednesday

Breakfast and lunch are included before we continue with the main tour. (B-L)

Note: Flight schedules alway subject to change.

 

 

 

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wen@SeriousTraveler.com • Web site www.SeriousTraveler.com