Travel Programme 5:
Iran integral, with special attention on Susa and the region of Yazd
Tehran – Ahvaz – Susa – Chogha Zanbil – Bishapour – Shiraz – Persepolis – Kerman – Mahan – Yazd – Meybod – Chak Chak – Kharanaq – Nain – Varzaneh – Ispahan – Abyaneh – Kashan.
17 days / 16 nights
day by day
Arrival at Tehran; transfer from IKA Airport and accommodation in a city-center hotel (Howeizeh or Enqelab hotel).
Today will be all about Tehran, the ever growing capital of Iran and the home of about 12 million residences (?), lying on the foothills of Damavand Mountain. We’ll visit the National Museum, developed in the 1930’s, which may be considered as a great introduction to the long history of the Iranian civilizations.
When the Qajar dynasty took the control of the country in the late 18th century, they decided to move the capital to Tehran and its throne to the palatial complex of the Golestan (UNESCO), not far from the bazaar. The Golestan palace is a unique example of western influenced Iranian architecture dating back to the 19th century AD.
In order to complete this first day with Iranian culture, the Carpet museum will be the occasion to see a precious collection of handmade carpets, mostly from the 16th century up to the present showing the still living and evolving art of carpet-making in Iran.
We will finish the day in the Museum of Royal Jewelries, located in the basement of the National Bank of Iran for security reasons. This fantastic collection includes precious stones and gems mostly collected since the 17th century, notably the famous diamond of the Sea of Light and the crowns of Qajar and Pahlavi kings. Note that considering the nature of this museum with limited opening hours of only four days a week, this visit might be replaced with the Museum of Ceramics and glassware.
Transfer to Mehrabad airport for the domestic flight to Ahvaz (1h20 duration).
We’ll arrive in Ahvaz where we’ll stay for 2 nights. Accommodation in Oxin or Parsian Hotel.
The day will be dedicated to the ancient sites of the Mesopotamian plain. This is where we will visit the archeological site of Susa (UNESCO), excavated by French archeologists in the late 19th century, explaining the richness of the Oriental Hall in Louvre museum. Susa is probably the most important archeological Iranian site containing a long history from the 4th millennium B.C up to the present time.
Not so far from Susa, we will find the impressive Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil (UNESCO), constructed by king Untash-Napirisha in 1300 B.C and dedicated to gods Inshushinak and Napirisha. This is also the most well-preserved Ziggurat in the world.
A few kilometres distant from the Ziggurat, are located the 3500 year old site of Haft Tappeh (Kabnak) and the ancient Shushtar hydraulic systems from Sassanid era .
After the visit we will go back to Ahvaz for dinner and spending the night.
The early departure toward the province of Fars will lead us back toward the Iranian plateau by passing through the territory of the Nomad tribe of Bakhtiari. Arriving at the border of Fars Province, in Kazerun county, we will visit two important Sassanid sites from the 3rd century A.D : first the city of Shapur I known as Bishapur, constructed by Roman prisoners and just nearby, six important rock reliefs displaying important political event held during the Sassanid period.
We will continue on the road toward Shiraz by passing through a beautiful natural mountainous road.
Three nights stay in Shiraz, Zandieh/ Setaregan Hotel.
Today will be focused on the prestigious sites of the Persian antiquity. The morning visit starts with Persepolis (UNESCO), the great symbolic capital of the Achaemenid empire, founded by Darius the Great but the construction continued with his successors for two centuries, until the arrival of Alexander and its tragic ending. The great palaces of Apadana and One Hundred columns, the rock reliefs of the delegations, and the royal tombs are the opening pages of the ancient dynasty who ruled Iran between ca. 550 BC and 330 BC.
Just nearby, we will visit four Sassanid rock reliefs in Naqsh-e Rajab and the great necropolis of Naqsh-e Rostam, carved into the mountainside, where the four Achaemenid royal tombs look out onto a jaw dropping view. Approaching the site, the Sassanid rock reliefs narrate the stories of the victory and pride of the last pre-Islamic dynasty of Persia.
The afternoon visit will continue across the plain as we go back in time to visit the first Achaemenid capital, Pasargadae (UNESCO), where we can find the famous tomb of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian empire.
We return to the hotel for dinner and passing the night.
We’ll stay today in Shiraz, visiting a notable and very original 19th century mosque, Nasir al-molk mosque, famous for its stained-glass windows, the beautiful Qavam Qajar house, known as Naranjestan-e Qavam and the only remaining vestige of a Safavid period building (17th century) in Shiraz, the theological school of the Khan. We’ll then walk through the Vakil Bazaar, full of the smells of spices and the colors of nomads’ traditional clothes, passing through the still- active urban caravanserais of Moshir and of the elephant, before arriving at the Vakil mosque built in 1760 by Karim Khan, the founder of the short-lived Zand dynasty. His tomb is located just nearby, in a highly decorated pavilion built in the middle of a garden, not far from his citadel (Arg-e Karim Khan Zand).
The visit will end with a religious visit to the holy shrine of the lord of the light, Shah Cheragh, which is the burial place of the brother of the 8th Shia Iman, who died in Shiraz in the 9th century AD. It will be the perfect place to talk about Shia Islam and its surprising cult of the saints.
We make our way to Kerman, a city on the silk road with a rich history. During the all day trip, we will stop by a Sassanid palace at Sarvestan, a 6th century monument and along the way we will also visit the city of Neyriz and its interesting mosque.
Arriving at Kerman, 2 nights stay in Jahangardi/Akhavan/Kerman hotel of Kerman.
The day starts with an excursion toward Mahan.
We start our journey to Mahan in order to see the shrine of Nur al Din Nimatullah as well as the beautiful garden of the Prince. After a lunch in the garden, we go back to Kerman.
The visit to Kerman continues in the Grand Bazar, Friday mosque and Ganjali Khan Complex; later we continue the tour with a visit to the fire temple of the city (Ateshkadeh) and a short discussion with the local priest. The day will end in the Harandi Museum located in a beautiful garden at the city center.
Today we leave Kerman province behind and head to Yazd. These are the two main areas producing Pistachios in iran and, depending on the season, we may have time to spend a morning in a Pistachio garden and see the harvest. In Rafsanjan we will also have the chance to visit Haj Aqa Ali House, a recently restored ancient mansion. Since we are on the route of the ancient caravans, it is usual to see the ruins of a Caravanserai on our way, but on this trip we will have the opportunity later to visit a very well preserved and restored Caravanserai known as Zeinoddin in Yazd province in the middle of the desert where we will have our lunch.
In the afternoon we continue our journey toward Yazd, to visit Mehriz and its ancient citadel dating back to Sassanid era.
Finally arriving at Yazd, we will stay in a hotel in the historical neighbourhood for 3 nights (Hotel Safayeh/Dad/Laleh).
This day will be a good opportunity to get in touch with the Ancient Iranian religion, Zoroastrianism, and its current community, thanks to a visit to the small village of Cham and its isolated Tower of Silence. Back in Yazd, the main Zoroastrian center in Iran, we’ll visit its Fire Temple where, depending on the circumstances we may have a talk with a Zoroastrian Mobed / priest. Just before lunch, we’ll also have the opportunity to visit a lovely 18th century AD garden with the highest brick wind catcher in the world, the Dowlatabad Garden.
Yazd’s main attraction is its historical urban layout, one of the best preserved in Iran. We’ll get lost in the Old city, walking through narrow streets and its beautiful 14th / 15th century Friday Mosque decorated with gorgeous colorful glazed tiles.
We’ll end this very full day on the main square of Yazd and its Amir Chakhmaq complex.
This day we will explore the surrounding region of Yazd, mostly in the villages where the traditional community of Zoroastrians are concentrated, visiting the historical monuments and also being in contact with the locals. First we head toward the north, in order to visit the village of Mazraeh Kalantar, a small traditional Zoroastrian community on the edge of the desert with unique buildings and a fire temple. Later we will proceed toward Meybod, where we will visit a ice-house, a caravanserai and also an ancient and well-restored citadel which gives a beautiful view of the city.
In the afternoon we will take the road toward Kharanaq, and will enjoy the unique landscape of a partially deserted village, but where some monuments are still preserved. Finally, on our way back to Yazd, we will pass through Chak Chak, an important zoroastrian pilgrimage site.
We then return to Yazd for dinner and spending the night.
On the road to Isfahan, on the edge of the central desert, we will visit Now Gonbad, a well preserved Caravanserai before reaching Nain, a city with a rich monumental heritage including one of the oldest mosques of Iran and a number of religious complexes dedicated to the martyr of Hussein, the grandson of the Muslims’ prophet, to be discovered in a pleasant walk through the narrow allies of the old city.
To the southwest of Nain, the city of Varzaneh beside its historical monuments such as the 15th century mosque and an ancient citadel, gives the opportunity to explore the beauty of the desert and have a walk on the dunes whilst watching the sunset.
Accommodation in a traditional house (note that this traditional house has the quality of a hotel while preserving its traditional style as well, therefore it is not a luxury hotel).
Isfahan was chosen as the capital of Iran in 1598 by Shah Abbas I. After this decision he started a great urbanism project for the city planning many palaces, gardens, mosques and royal monuments. The European traders witnessed in the 17th century the prosperity of Isfahan and called it the HALF OF THE WORLD, a city which competed with Paris, Rome and London at that time.
We will start the visit with the Armenian neighborhood, No Jolfa, and get familiar with the story of their immigration to Isfahan as part of the Safavid king’s plan to promote the city. After the lunch, the visit will continue in Jay, the ancient Jewish quarter which is now embracing one of the most unique mosques of the Islamic world, the Isfahan Friday Mosque (UNESCO), a monument with more than a 1000 years of history and architectural evolution.
Right beside the mosque is the ancient centre of the city, surrounded by traders’ boutiques and a Safavid period holy shrine, the Harun Willayat mausoleum located just nearby Ali Mosque.
Today will be focused on Safavid Isfahan with the Naqsh-e Jahan square (UNESCO), the mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah, the Royal Mosque, the Ali Qapu and Chehel Sotun palaces. We’ll enjoy some free time to end the day which, if you wish, you can use for a pleasant stroll through the fascinating, historical Qeysariyeh bazaar, famous as an important handicraft center in Iran.
We continue on the road toward Ardistan where we can admire the great mosque of the city. We will continue toward Natanz, where is located the tomb of a soufi master attached to a 14th century mosque, and nearby, a 6th century, pre-Islamic, fire temple.
We will finish the day in a mountainous village, Abyaneh, with its typical architecture and its inhabitants who have still preserved their old customs.
One night in Hotel Abyaneh or Viyona.
We’ll start today with the visit of Abyaneh, walking through its alleys and meeting the locals of the village.
Then we will head to Kashan the city of rose water and traditional Iranian mansions. The visit will take the whole day and starts by the 16th century Persian Garden of Fin (UNESCO) to Tabatabai and Boroujerdi mansions and their love story.
We will continue the visit with one of the atypical mosques and theological schools of 19th century known as Madrase Aqa Bozorg and will take a walk to the beautiful Bazaar of Kashan.
In the afternoon we will make our next stop in the airport hotel where we will have dinner and rest in preparation to come back home next morning.
Taking the Return Flight.