Travel Programme 8:

North-western Iran, from Tabriz to Kermanshah

Tabriz – Ardabil – Kaleybar – Jolfa – Khoy – Salmas – Ourmieh – Maragheh – Takht-e Soleiman – Sanandaj – Kermanshah – Bisotoun – Tehran.

14 day / 13 nights


This program in the Azeri and Kurdish regions, not far from Armenian border, will take us into great historical and ancient sites such as Sheikh Safi od-Din in Ardabil, the important heritage of Tabriz, sacred Armenian monasteries, the royal fire temple of Takht-e Soleiman, significant rock-reliefs of Taq-e Bostan, or the famous inscription of Darius in Bisotoun before taking the final step to discover modern Iranian life in Tehran.


This program in the Azeri and Kurdish regions, not far from Armenian border, will take us into great historical and ancient sites such as Sheikh Safi od-Din in Ardabil, the important heritage of Tabriz, sacred Armenian monasteries, the royal fire temple of Takht-e Soleiman, significant rock-reliefs of Taq-e Bostan, or the famous inscription of Darius in Bisotoun before taking the final step to discover modern Iranian life in Tehran.

The trip,

day by day

Arrival in Tabriz (transit flight).

Night accommodation in the hotel.

Tabriz has been chosen as the capital of Islamic tourism for 2018. It is a city of cultural exchange and its historic Bazaar complex is one of the significant crossroads on the so-called Silk Road. We will take a full day to discover its many highlights and we start our visit with the Historical Bazar of Tabriz (UNESCO), which is a series of interconnected, covered, brick corridors, all of them are still fully functioning. Continuing the walk in the city, the visit will include include the Azerbaïjan Museum, the major archaeological and historical museum in Tabriz.

After lunch we will visit the Blue Mosque, constructed in the mid-15th century, when Tabriz was the capital of the country. The magnificent decorative tiles and calligraphies have made this mosque famous as the turquoise of Islamic world.

We finish the day in Bagh-e Melli of Tabriz, where the residents of the city gather almost every night for leisure, so we will enjoy a stroll and a chance to meet the locals.

Night at the hotel.

We leave Tabriz to head toward Ardebil, another major Azeri city of Iran. On our way we stop by Sarab, a small Azeri town, notably to visit the Nomads’ museum of Azerbaijan which was the first nomadic museum in Iran.

Upon arrival at Ardebil province, we will visit Kazaq Village, a historical village near Sabalan volcano with a unique landscape where we will have an organic, traditional lunch and enjoy the freshness of the mountain.

Arriving at Ardebil, we will visit the marvelous mausoleum of Sheikh Safi od Din Ardebili, the ancestor of one of the great Iranian dynasties, the Safavids. We finish the day by taking a walk in the city.

One-night accommodation in Ardabil.

After the departure from Ardebil, we soon arrive at Shahar Yeri, where we will visit its strange temple which has more than 300 stones with heights ranging from 35 to 250 cm and carved human forms holding swords or displaying human faces without mouths.

The next stop is Meshkin Shahr, still in Ardebil province.  We will visit the fortress of the city and the funerary tower of Cheikh Heydar. Continuing on the road through the province, we pass through amazing landscapes, before arriving at Ahar, a small city with a majestic history.  Here, we will visit the mausoleum of Sheikh Shahab ud-Din Ahari, and the Friday mosque.

Arriving at Kaleybar, night accommodation in the hotel.

Hotel Anza 3*

The fortress of Kalyebar (Babak) will be the first visit in the morning, following which we will take the road to a nomads’ resort in Oba to visit their camp and have lunch with them.

On our way toward Jolfa, we pass through other villages of the region, such as Oshtubin and Kordasht villages. We will also see Khodafarin (God-Made) bridge used by nomads for centuries.

Arriving at Jolfa and night accommodation in the hotel.

Hôtel Tourist Inn 2*

Jolfa is the home of the ancient Iranian – Armenian community. The ancient and isolated churches and monasteries with breath-taking landscapes around them, will make our day a visit of beauty, tradition and history. The visit starts with the Monastery of Saint Stepanos, a 9th century church and a very well-respected monastery not only by Armenians but also by all Iranians. The next visit will be to the Saint-Thaddeus church, in the local language known as the Black Church, with its sober and simple architecture so typical of Armenian churches.  Sited on the top of a hill, this church is one of the must- see sites of Iran.

We finish our day’s adventures in Khoy. night accommodation in the hotel Tourist Inn 2-3*.

Khoy occupies a strategic position on the Silk Road and was the scene of decades of conflict between the Ottoman and the Safavid empires. Darvazah Sangi and the Bazaar are two witnesses from this period while the Motaleb Khan Mosque and the memorial tower of Shams-i Tabrizi are the remains of more ancient history.

We take a trip around Lake Urmia on our way to Urmia, the 6th largest saltwater lake on the planet, and the center of the Mannaean kingdom from the 10th to the 7th century BC. Here, we see the enormous rock relief at Salmas which depicts two Sassanid rulers, most likely Ardashir I and his son, Shapur I.

Night accommodation in Urmieh.

Inn 3*

The day will start with visiting Urmia, in particular the Friday mosque founded in the seventh century, rebuilt under the Seljuks and further decorated with an excellent mihrâb from the il-khanid period. We will also visit the Seljuk Sultan Gonbad Mausoleum, the beautiful St. Mary’s Church and the Urmiah Bazaar built at the end of the 18th century.

We continue our way to Hasanlu, a large excavation site inhabited from the 6th millennium BC to the 3rd century AD. Hasanlu is particularly famous for its well-preserved ruins, which were unearthed over twenty years by archaeologists from Pennsylvania University. Somewhat ironically, the excellent state of the remains is largely due to the city’s fiery destruction by Iron Age invaders, which kept the settlement undisturbed.

Arrival in Maragheh, night and accommodation in the hotel Grand Hotel – Darya 4*.

We start the day with a visit of Maragheh where we can marvel at its famous observatory. This was an important city during the Seljuk period (11th-13th centuries), and the capital of the Il-khanides in the 13th century before being destroyed by Tamerlane. Several mausoleums have remained from these periods which were among the first to be adorned with blue faience. We will also visit the well-known funerary towers of Gonbad-e Sorkh, Gonbad-e Arqala, Gonbad-e Kabul and Gonbad-e Ghaffariyeh, as well as the Nasr ud-Din Tusi observatory, named after a great mathematician and astronomer, adviser of Hulagu Khan, founder of the Il-Khanide dynasty. Two hundred and fifty years later, Oulough Beg took inspiration from this observatory to build his own in Samarkand. Later, Copernicus used the astronomical tables of Tusi and Oulough Beg for his work.

We will take the road toward Takab, but on the way we will have a short visit to the Friday mosque of Bonab.

Night accommodation in Takab in a simple hotel

(Renji 3*)

From Takab we travel to the nearby site, Takht-e Soleiman. Legend has it that King Solomon would imprison monsters in a crater nearby – and that he created a pond that still flows here today. We explore the archaeological remains at this enchanting UNESCO World Heritage site, said to have influenced much of the subsequent development of Islamic architecture. Intriguing traces of former civilizations include the walls of a former fortified settlement from the 5th century BC, as well as a Zoroastrian fire temple housing one of the “Royal Fires” where Sassanid rulers would humble themselves in advance of their ascents to the throne.

This afternoon we make our way to the charming city of Sanandaj, a hub of Kurdish history and culture. On our way we pass by Bijar and take a visit to its well-known historical Bazaar and the fortress of Qamechaqaï.

Night and accommodation in Sanandaj (Inn 3*)

Today we will enjoy an illuminating morning in Sanandaj, where we will visit the Friday mosque of the city from the Qajar period with precious and eye-catching decorations, the new mosque is built right beside the old one, and has a unique modern architecture that is also well worth a visit. Later we visit the local museum, which houses all manner of relics from the Kurdestan province, as well as finds from further afield in Iran. The building itself is resplendent with gorgeous multi-colored windows – well worth a special visit in themselves. Afterwards we take a stroll around the old bazaar, a domed architectural structure which has been in use since the Safavid period.

In the afternoon we travel through the mountains to Kermanshah to explore the city. Established by Sassanian kings in the 4th century AD, Kermanshah is bursting with sights, and acts as a significant stopping-off point for pilgrims on their way to the holy cities of Iraq. At the end of the day we will have a pleasant visit to Taq-e Bostan, where we can see a well-known series of Sassanid rock reliefs in the heart of the Zagros Mountains. Among these fine representations is the Investiture of Ardashir II, as well as multiple images depicting the overall vastness and power of the Sassanid kings.

Accommodation in Kermanshah in Hotel Parsian.

We could not come to this area without driving out to Mount Bisotoon, where the famous rock relief of Darius the Great is located. Carved around 520 BC, the accompanying multilingual inscription is equivalent to the Egyptian Rosetta Stone and ultimately led to the deciphering of the cuneiform script.

After we go back to Kermanshah airport for taking the flight to Tehran.

Transfer from Mehrabad airport to a hotel in the city center.

Hotel Howeyzeh / Enqelab

Bearing in mind the fact that it might be your second visit in Tehran, we tried to include more original sites for your last day of visit. Therefore, we start with Reza Abbassi Museum, a marvelous collection of objects from prehistory to more recent times, with a whole part dedicated to calligraphy and miniature.

Another prestigious museum would be the museum of contemporary art of Tehran, inaugurated by Farah Pahlavi in 1977, just two years before the 1979 Revolution.

This museum is considered to have the most valuable collections of modern Western masterpieces outside Europe and North America, including more than 3000 items of 19th and 20th century’s world-class European and American paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures and also one of the greatest collections of Iranian modern and contemporary art.

Note: regarding to flight schedule we might have a visit in the historical Bazar of Tajrish in the afternoon.

Transfer to Airport hotel for dinner and taking rest before the flight.

Taking the return flight.

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