Day by Day Itinerary
April 22 DEPART U.S.A.
Meet your traveling companions this morning at 9:25 AM at New York’s JFK airport for our Turkish Airlines flight (TK004) departing at 12:25 PM in the afternoon. Alternate departures available from Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco or Washington, DC.
Meals en route
April 23 CONNECT IN ISTANBUL
Monday ARRIVE TEHRAN
Arrival time in Istanbul is 5:15 AM. You will have about 4-1/2 hours before the flight from Istanbul to Tehran. Turkish Airlines TK870 departs Istanbul at 9:30 AM and arrives Tehran at 1:55 PM.
Khosh amadid (welcome) to Iran! After we are greeted at the airport, proceed through entrance formalities 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/Azadi Hotel
April 24 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. 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 you can find glass and ceramic artifacts dating back to the second and first millennia BC.
This afternoon have the opportunity to see the Treasury of National Jewels, which holds one of the most fabulous collections of treasures in the world! Travelers marveled at the splendor surrounding the shahs of ancient Persia, but few were permitted to examine it in any detail. Now the most spectacular objects have been placed on public display. See the world’s largest uncut diamond and the spectacular Peacock Throne. Housed in the Central Bank of Iran, the visiting hours are Saturday-Tuesday 2-4:30 PM only.
Return to the hotel for dinner. Time permitting, we visit a shopping center and have the opportunity to purchase a manteau or other appropriate attire. (B-L-D)
April 25 TEHRAN - SHIRAZ
Today we have a full day tour of Tehran. In the morning we’ll visit Golastan Palace Museums. In one you’ll see various costumes of the Anthropological tribes of Iran.
Enjoy lunch at a local 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 for making sweets. We’ll taste as many as we can!
Finally we tour the Carpet Museum. Some of the most beautiful Iranian handicrafts dating back to the 15th century are displayed here.
Early this evening transfer to the airport for our flight to Shiraz. On our way to the airport, stop for a photo op of the Azadi Monument.
Arrive in Shiraz, the present-day capital of the Fars Province, the heartland of Iran, which gave its name to the Persian language: Farsi. Shiraz is a city of historic monuments, poets and philosophers, warriors, kings and orchards. 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 overnight at the 5-star Homa Hotel in Shiraz. (B-L-D)
April 26 SHIRAZ
Full day city tour of Shiraz to visit some of the famous gardens of this “City of Roses and Nightingales”, including the residential citadel of Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty in the heart of the city; the pink-tiled 19th-century mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk, the Qajar period Narenjestan Garden/House, and the Vakil Complex (Bathhouse & Mosque).
After lunch, 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)
April 27 SHIRAZ - PERSEPOLIS
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, 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 for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)
April 28 SHIRAZ - PASARGADAE
Saturday ABARKOUH - YAZD
Today we will have a full day drive to Yazd via Pasargadae to see the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the remains of the first Persian Empire Capital, site of his simple but imposing tomb and the remains of three of his palaces. Then to the desert town of Abarkouh to see a 4000-year-old Cyprus tree, a 1000-year-old mosque and a 19th century ice reservoir. We arrive Yazd late in the afternoon with still time to visit some of the city sites. Our beautiful accommodations are at the 4-star Moshir Garden Hotel where we dine and overnight. (B-L-D)
****Moshir Garden/Da’ad/Safaieh Hotel
April 29 YAZD
Full day visit in Yazd, which is the second oldest city in the world according to UNESCO, from the architectural viewpoint. First visit the Zoroastrian Silent Towers (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. Our guide 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 BC in what is now a part of Afghanistan. The religion is monotheistic and dualistic, and it influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 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).
See the Friday Mosque and Dowlat-Abad Garden/Pavilion plus we have time to visit the craft shops. (B-L-D)
****Moshir Garden/Da’ad/Safaieh Hotel
April 30 YAZD - NA’IN - ISFAHAN
Before departing Yazd visit the Fire Temple and Amir Chakhmagh Square. 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.
Visit the Alexander Prison, Twelve Imam Shrine, and then tour some fabric, tile and metal workshops in the old section of the town.
We’ll visit a well known workshop in Yazd where they make a special hand made textile called termeh. A very expensive textile in Iran, it has been made traditionally in Yazd for hundreds of years. These are most often used for expensive bed or furniture covers (again, you may have the possibility of buying the textile from the producers directly). Another handicraft of Yazd is special gold chain.
After lunch we leave Yazd for Isfahan (Esfahan). While motoring en route to Isfahan, visit the early Islamic period Friday Mosque and the 17th century Pirnia House/Ethnographic Museum at Na’in (also Naeen) and Jameh Mosque, where we take lunch. Na’in, a desert city famous for its special carpet and textile called ABA (special costume worn by religious people). Here you will first visit the 1000-year-old Mosque, then to an old traditional workshop where ABA is made, and finally to a famous family who make magnificent carpets with the desert oriented colors always reminding us of the hot dunes. We continue our drive to the beautiful city of Isfahan, the 17th century capital of the Safavids, referred to as “Nesf-e-Jahan” (Half of the World) in Safavid sources.
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. (B-L-D)
May 1 ISFAHAN
After breakfast, take a full-day city tour of Isfahan beginning with a visit to the historical bridges of Sioseh and 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. 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.
In the famous bazaar Qaisarieh, you can visit the copper craftsmen as well as Khatam (inlaid wood maker) workshops. Discover the famous gold and silver maker shops at the Art Bazaar, which is a 400-year-old market where you can see the gold and silver made by the Isfahani Artists (you may again have the possibility to buy Isfahani 18 carat gold or 94 carat silver bracelets, necklaces, armlets, earrings etc. at very good rates).
We pause for our midday meal at a popular Armenian restaurant. Following lunch visit a famous carpet workshop, then continue our tour to view the Ali Gholi Khan 17th century public bath, and Hasht Behesh Harem. From there we proceed to a famous miniaturist’s home and studio. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B-L-D)
May 2 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. If construction in the area permits, we will visit the old Friday Mosque. As it stands now, it 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.
Following lunch make a visit to the Meidan-e Naghsh-e Jahan to see the Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah and Imam Mosques. Naghsh-e Jahan complex, central focus of Isfahan 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 Shah Mosque, dedicated to Shah Abbas the Great. To many it is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world!
Next we stop by more artists’ workshops to see the tablecloth maker and the works of the enamel masters. Afterwards, there is free time at the bazaar until dinner. Overnight in Isfahan. (B-L-D)
May 3 ISFAHAN - NATANZ
Thursday 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. We then continue to Kashan, for lunch and several visits. These include 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 will also visit 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. We continue our drive to Tehran and, time-permitting, stop by the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini for a photo opportunity (289 miles traveled). Dinner and overnight at the Espinas Hotel. (B-L-D)
May 4 TEHRAN
Today we have a full-day tour of Tehran where we’ll take in the Saad Abad Palace-Museum, the greatest cultural complex in modern Tehran, which was founded under the Qajar Kings in the 19th century. The three lovely black, green and white palaces are located in a tranquil setting. We’ll also see the Niaravan Palace which is a historical complex situated in another part of northern Tehran. It consists of several buildings and monuments built in the Qajar and Pahlavi eras.
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 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.
We have a farewell dinner at the Espinas Hotel before our late night departure to the airport. (B-L-D)
May 5 TEHRAN - ISTANBUL
Saturday Arrive U.S.A.
We leave for the airport around midnight. Turkish Airlines TK875 departs Tehran at 3:00 AM. Arrive Istanbul at 4:55 AM and connect immediately to Turkish Airlines TK003. We depart at 6:45 AM from Istanbul and arrive at 10:45 AM at JFK in New York. Welcome home! You should be able to clear customs and connect to other cities in the U.S. by 1:00 PM.
Note: Flight schedule always subject to change.
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner