Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary
February 28 ARRIVE TEHRAN
We suggest using Turkish Airlines TK870 which departs Istanbul, IST at 10:15 AM and arrives Tehran, IKA at 1:50 PM. See page 9 of the brochure for more flight suggestions.
Khosh amadid (welcome) to Iran! After we proceed through entrance formalities. We’ll be greeted at the airport and transferred 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/Azadi Hotel
March 1 TEHRAN
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.
Enjoy lunch at the Ferdowsi Grand Hotel restaurant. During our trip we’ll sample many Iranian dishes, including Ash-e Anar (Pomegranate soup), Chelo Kaba (Marinated Lamb with fragrant spices) and Dolmeh Barg (stuffed grape leaves). All provinces of Iran have their own dishes and specialties including scrumptious sweets. We’ll taste as many as we can!
After lunch we’ll head back to central Iran and top off our look at the treasures of Iran to see Golestan Palace - a masterpiece of the Qajar era and the first UNESCO site of Iran. 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.
Return to the hotel for dinner. (B-L-D)
March 2 TEHRAN - KASHAN
Saturday NATANZ - ISFAHAN
Today we enjoy a leisurely coach ride from Tehran to Isfahan. En route we stop in Kashan to see the historical garden of Fin, which was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Suleymaniye Spring/Qanat. The Zand and Qajar monarchs expanded this beautiful walled Persian Garden, 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 can also see some of the many restored merchant houses in Kashan such as the Borujerdi and Taba-Tabai House, with very fine examples of the “Badgirs” or wind-catchers. Kashan city, whose name in Persian is equivalent to ceramic, has given its name to ceramic in the Persian language. Kashan is the epitome of everything grand from old Persia: mosques, caravansaries, gardens and homes.
Further along the way we 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. We continue our drive Isfahan.
Isfahan is perhaps the most beautiful of all Iranian cities. It is located 250 miles south of Tehran at an elevation of nearly a mile. With historical buildings, bridges and eye-catching sites, Isfahan is one of the most significant tourist attractions in Iran. It dates back 2500 years and was the capital of Iran during three historical periods. The golden age of Isfahan was in the Safavid era from 1505 to 1736 and much of the art and architecture you will be seeing will be from this period. Shah Abbas I mastered one of the world’s grandest experiments in city planning in 1598. Mosques, palaces, bazaars and public parks were built over the next thirty years.
We’ll stay for three nights at the exotic Abbasi Hotel which was built in the 1960’s on the site of a 17th century caravanserai. It is the most sought-after hotel in Iran. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (289 miles traveled) (B-L-D)
March 3 ISFAHAN
Today’s full-day tour begins with a visit to Chehel Sotoon Palace (of forty pillars) with its beautiful reflecting pool. Shah Abbas II (1647 AD) built it as an official court and a reception hall. Today you are guests of honor!
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.
This afternoon visit a Carpet workshop to see Iran’s world-famous carpets as we sip tea and have the opportunity to purchase if interested! Return to our hotel for a short rest. Before dinner we walk to a famous miniaturist’s art gallery to see how this world-renowned art work is done.
Dinner is at Shahrzad Restaurant this evening. Overnight in Isfahan. (B-L-D)
March 4 ISFAHAN
Enjoy a full-day tour of Isfahan. Begin by visiting the first of its two UNESCO sties - Meidan Emam to see the Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah and Royal Mosques.Meidan Emam or Naghsh-e Jahan (literally image of the world) complex is the central focus of Isfahan. Its royal square measures 1674 feet by 540 feet and is 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 Shah or Royal Mosque, dedicated to Shah Abbas the Great. To many it is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world! Lunch at the Bastani Restaurant.
If construction in the area permits, we will visit the antique Friday Mosque, or Masjed-e Jame, Isfahan’s second UNESCO Site.As it stands now, it is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 841 AD 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. Overnight in Isfahan.
March 5 ISFAHAN
Tuesday MEYBOD - YAZD
Depart early this morning for Yazd. While motoring en route from Isfahan, stop in Meybod to see the Ancient Narin Qaleh or castle, a 17th century Safavid caravanserai. This town is a jewel! See Zilo weaving, learn about the courier service dating back 2,500 years, see the pigeon house, and explore the oldest and largest ice house dating from the Safavid era.
Depending on our arrival time, have a city tour upon arrival of Yazd before transferring to the hotel. (B-L-D)
****Moshir Garden/Da’ad/Safaiyeh Hotel
March 6 YAZD
We have a full-day tour of Yazd. It is the second oldest city in the world according to UNESCO, from the architectural viewpoint. First we visit the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence (where the bodies of the deceased were placed, according to their religious beliefs). While a majority of the population is Muslim, there is a large minority of both Jews and Zoroastrians. Bahman will explain the Zoroastrian religion, which at one time was the state creed but faded away after the Arab conquest. Zoroastrians are followers of the prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster in Greek), who was born in the 7th century B.C. in what is now a part of Afghanistan. The religion is monotheistic and dualistic, and it influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Magi, or three wise men, who are said to have visited Jesus at his birth, are considered to be Zoroastrians. Zoroastrians revere fire as a symbol of God and keep eternal flames burning at their temples. Today there are 400,000 Zoroastrians left in the world of which about 60,000 live in and around Yazd. Others have established a prosperous life in the Bombay (Mumbai) area of India, where they are known as Parsees (Persians). Zoroastrians morality is summed up as, “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”
See the Water Museum and learn about Qanats, an advanced technology system first developed about 1000 BC to bring mountain water through underground conduits to the plains. It rivals the Roman system of Aqueducts. Today there are about 22,000 qanats that provide 75% of Iran’s fresh water.
Masters of power technology, in the 7th century BC, Persian engineers also developed an advanced wind-power machine, the windmill, invented by the Babylonians.
Round out our Zoroastrian lesson at Fire Temple and Amir Chakhmagh Square. See the Bazaar in Yazd.
After lunch visit the Friday Mosque, Alexander Prison, Twelve Imam Shrine, and then the old section of the town which is recognized by UNESCO. (B-L-D)
****Moshir Garden/Da’ad/Safaiyeh Hotel
March 7 YAZD – KERMAN
Today after breakfast we drive to Kerman. Our scenic 5-hour drive is through some beautiful pistachio orchards. 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. Kerman is famous for its needle work embroidery. See the sites, 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
March 8 KERMAN - RAYEN
Friday 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 andstroll 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
March 9 KERMAN – SARVESTAN
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. We stay three nights at the 5-star Homa Hotel in Shiraz. (B-L-D)
***** Homa Hotel/Pars/Zandiyeh Hotel
March 10 SHIRAZ
Full day city tour of 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.
We pay our respects at the Garden and Tomb of the beloved poet Hafez. Have your fortune read and make a wish! Visit some of the famous gardens of this “City of Roses and Nightingales”, including Nasir-ol-Molk the pink-tiled 19th-century mosque and Qajar period Narenjestan Garden/House.
Lunch at the famous Haft Khan Restaurant before we continue to a shop to see both nomadic and city carpets.
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. Return to the hotel. Overnight in Shiraz. (B-L-D)
March 11 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. He erected the monument on a mountain slope called Rahmat above a plain he considered holy. Persepolis was reserved only for ritual celebrations. In the spring of each new year, 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. 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. Xerxes and Artaxerxes I who ruled Persia in the 5th century BC completed Persepolis. The Achaemenid Kings used the palaces up until Alexander the Great destroyed them in 330 BC as revenge for the sacking of Athens during the Persian Wars with the Greeks.
To top off the afternoon with a visit to Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great and site of his simple but imposing tomb. Finally we 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 facades 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 Quran Gate and Jahan Nama Seljuk Garden followed by dinner and overnight.
March 12 SHIRAZ - FIRUZABAD
After breakfast have a full day excursion to Firuzabad. Picnic lunch. Continue to Shiraz for dinner at the Homa Hotel as well as some last-minute shopping. (B-L-D)
March 13 SHIRAZ
A transfer to the Shiraz, SYZ airport is included. We suggest departing by Turkish Air flight TK885 which departs for Istanbul at 3:00 AM. Turkish Airlines has connections from Istanbul to many U.S. gateways nonstop.
Note: Flight schedule always subject to change.
Order of sightseeing may be revised.
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner