Capital : Tehran
Area : 1.648 million Sq Km
Population : 65,397,521
Languages : Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic
Currency : Iranian Rial
Climate : moderate
Clothing : Western clothes
Transfer to Laleh Hotel. Rest after lunch before visiting Golestan Palace and the Jewellery Museum.
To the northern suburbs along the Alborz Mountain Front. The palaces of the Qajar and Pahlavi rulers at Saadabad and Niavaran. Lunch at the downtown Firdowsi Hotel prior to seeing the Archaeological (pre-Islam) Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art and time permitting, the Glass and Ceramic Museum.
By coach from Tehran via Qom to Kashan. On arrival visit a silk weaving workshop. Lunch in Kashan followed by a tour of the Fin Garden complex and a restored merchant's house. As we drive from Kashan to Natanz and the unique mountain village of Abyaneh we may detour to see rose water distilleries. Check in to a newly opened hotel at Abyaneh.
We spend some time wandering the winding streets of Abyaneh amongst wooden balconies and ochre stucco houses. Continue on to Nain to see a camel hair weaving factory . Lunch in Nain.We stop for purchases of pottery at Meybod on the road to the desert city of Yazd. Transfer to the Mamalek Garden Hotel. An evening entertainment at the Zurkhaneh (house of strength).
This city is a Zoroastrian centre where we visit a fire temple, burial grounds and Dakhmeh (towers of silence). After seeing the tallest minarettes in Persia at the Jameh Mosque we lunch in a converted hamam (bath house) in the heart of the Yazd bazaar. Rest before a late afternoon excursion to the Zoroastrian village of Cham where we meet the locals in their homes. An evening experience at the Yazd Zurkhaneh (house of strength) where we see the pahlavans performing their exercise ritual embodying a mix of religion and sport.
By coach southwards through the central Persian ranges thence through desert and playa lake country with a pause at Abarqu. Further on at Parsagade we are amongst the limestone mountains of the Zagros. Pasargade, once the ceremonial capital of the Achemenians has the imposing tomb of Cyrus the Great bearing the inscription "I am Cyrus who founded the Persian Empire and was King of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument". We continue on to Persepolis built by Darius the Great and his son Xerxes. This ceremonial palace is a tour highlight. At sunset we will feel overawed by the brooding escarpment at Naqsh-e Rustam hosting four of the Achemenian Kings tombs. Arrive at Shiraz and transfer to Pars International Hotel.
City of Poets and Saints. We stroll through the expansive gardens of Bagh-e Eram and Narenjestan and later marvel at the tile work and artistry of the Nassir-al Molk shrine. After lunch and a rest we visit the garden shrines of the 12th and 13th Century poets Saadi and Hafez. We complete the day with free shopping time in the Bazaar-e Vakil and dinner at the Hamam -e Vakil restaurant.
A rest day in Shiraz with time to see more of the Bazaar, rest or wander in the streets and gardens of this romantic city.In the evening we are entertained to a dinner of specially prepared Persian dishes in the home of a local family.
From an elevation of 5000ft at Shiraz we travel SW to the southern limit of the Persian plateau and descend down spectacular mountain roads to 2000ft at the partly excavated Sassanian city of Bishapour and close by , view the huge bas reliefs depicting the Sassanian King's victory over the invading Romans. We then traverse northwards crossing Alexander the Great's route to plunder Persepolis and further ascend through huge folded mountains and high plains providing the summer pastures of the Boyer Ahmadi and Qashqai tribal nomads to reach Yasuj. In May we expect to encounter the nomads on their migration. Transfer to the Azadi Hotel.
Another day of mountain scenery as we traverse from Yasuj along the 7000ft fault scarp forming Kuh-e Dina (15,000ft) then north through Qashqai tribal areas to Semirum and Shahreza and on to Isfahan. Transfer to the Abbasi Hotel. This evening we shall lounge amongst a mountain of fine Persian carpets drinking tea in a warehouse where the intricacies of carpet weaving and design will be explained. Isfahan, Nain, Shiraz, Tabriz, Kerman, Mashad, Baluchi, Qashqai , Bakhtyari and a host of other production regions are represented.
Morning visits to the Chehel Setoon and Ali Qapu palaces and later the Maidan-e Imam a huge square dominated by the Imam Mosque at its southern margin. We visit the Imam mosque noting the Afghani musket holes in the massive silver covered doors . We relax in a traditional teahouse in the bazaar and indulge in a qalyan (water pipe) with the locals. After lunch at the Bastani restaurant we see the impressive and exquisite Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque displaying some of the finest tile work in Persia. Free time in the extensive bazaar until late afternoon when we join Isfahanis strolling at the bridges spanning the Zayandeh Rud river .
A morning visit to the very old Jameh Mosque where the brick and tile work was first documented by the USA Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope whose tomb we pass on the banks of the Zayandeh Rud . Across the river at Julfa we enter the Armenian quarter where we see the Armenian Cathedral and the adjacent museum. Lunch at an Armenian restaurant and free time in the afternoon.
An early start for the 470km drive via Khomein, Arak and Malayer to Hamadan.Transfer to the Azadi Hotel.
This ancient centre of the Medes was known as Ecbatana . At Hegmatana hill we visit an archaeological dig in progress. The museum at the site displays many significant discoveries. We visit the mausoleums of the early medical writer Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and of the poet Baba Taher. After lunch we see granite tablets with Achemenian inscriptions of Xerxes at Ganjnameh. In a quiet rose garden in the bazaar area we enter the tomb of Mordekay and Ester , the Jewish wife of Xerxes.
Our coach takes us first to the pottery town of Lalehjin where fine replicas of ancient pots are produced. We continue through fertile high valleys to Soltanieh a huge brick dome the size of St Paul's in London. This was the tomb of Uljaitu, last of the Mongul rulers of Persia.We lunch at the Caravansara Sangi restaurant before continuing on to Tabriz. Transfer to the Pars International Hotel.
This ancient city has a chequered history of foreign invasions and during the two great wars was occupied by Russian forces. We visit the Blue Mosque and the nearby Museum. Some free time to explore the extensive Tabriz bazaar and after lunch we make the 50km trip to the village of Kandovan set in a landscape sculptured from soft volcanic pumice deposits. Dinner at the Elgoli lake and gardens close to our hotel.
Free time in the morning and after lunch we take the Iranair flight to Tehran. Check in to the Laleh International Hotel. Farewell dinner at a traditional Persian restaurant.
The tour ends today. Transfers and assistance with check in and customs formalities at Imam Khomeini International airport for your departure flights.