Comprehensive introduction to ancient Persia and modern Iran
Begin in Shiraz from where we explore Persepolis and other sites of the Achaemenid Empire
5 nights in magnificent Isfahan with its spectacular mosques, shrines & bazaars
See some of the best ‘Persian’ gardens
Atmospheric south-east Iranian towns of Kerman, Mahan and Rayan, ignored by many tours, included
All meals included & we stay in comfortable 4 & 5* hotels
The transformation of ancient Persia into modern Iran is one of the most fascinating stories connected with the Middle East. As all locals will tell you, Iran is NOT an Arab country, and how right they are! Though the vast majority of Iranians are Shi’ite Muslim by faith, one of the few ‘Arabic’ features of this country is their use of Arabic script to express the languages and dialects used by its varied peoples. Indeed, despite what we are told, Iran is generally more tolerant, both of its own minorities and of outsiders, than many of its more purely Arabic (Sunni) neighbours.
Our two-week exploration of Iran will cover not only a lot of ground (remember it is twice the size of France!) but also a complex set of histories. From its early settlers to the rise of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, it was at the centre of the ancient world, confronting, for example, the Greeks and Romans over many centuries. These momentous chapters, encompassing other dynasties such as the Seleucids, the Parthians and the Sassanids, will be explored when we visit the remarkable sites at Persepolis and elsewhere.
Today’s visual record is dominated by Islam and its monuments. It is astonishing to recall that after the death of the Prophet Mohammad in 636, Islam conquered huge areas, including Persia which was absorbed by 651. We shall see some of the finest mosques and shrines associated with this third ‘religion of the book’, above all in Shiraz and Isfahan.
We are normally not aware that no less than eight separate dynasties ruled Persia between 1038 and the fall of the last Shah in 1979. Since then, the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini has placed Iran at the forefront of East/West relations, though in its present guise it is slowly opening the doors again. This is a complex heritage full of meaning and potential for today’s Iran and one we shall explore.
From the large cites to the small towns and villages we shall visit, one of the abiding memories you will garner will be the enormous range of trees, flowering shrubs and plants found in abundance. Similarly, the historic gardens included will present the basic formula of these ‘paradisiacal’ retreats: enclosing walls, formal planted beds and everywhere water – here still, there cascading – creating a cool oasis amidst the hurly-burly of the outside world.
We arrive in Shiraz, flying via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, where we spend three nights; we continue to Kerman for two and Yadz for three nights; we end with five nights in Isfahan from where we fly to London via Istanbul. All meals are included on this tour, with tea, coffee and water. Finally, again and again you will be surprised and refreshed, indeed overcome not only by the country’s beauty but above all by the genuine warmth of the welcome – so different from that which we are ‘fed’ by the media. Do come…
Day by day
- Day 1: Thursday 3 October
- We fly from Heathrow to Shiraz, via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, Iran is three and a half hours ahead of the UK. Dinner is served during the flight.
- Days 2 & 3: Friday 4 & Saturday 5 October
- Our flight arrives in the early morning and we transfer immediately into Shiraz and check into our 5* hotel, the Zandiye or similar, where our rooms will be ready for immediate occupation. After a morning to rest, over this afternoon and all of the following day, we explore this most enchanting of cities. We include the Bazaar, the Citadel and the Vakil Baths. The Nasir-al-Molk Mosque is remarkable and we shall also visit the Bagh-e Eram, the Tomb of Hafez, Persia’s most revered poet and the Tomb of Saadi. We also visit three of the lovely gardens for which Shiraz is famous.
- Day 4: Sunday 6 October
- A day to remember as we drive out to visit Persepolis, the spectacular centre of the Archaemenid Empire, a site of huge impact. We also visit the nearby Royal Tombs at Naqsh-e Rustam and Naqsh-e Rajab. We return to Shiraz mid afternoon and there will be some free time for independent exploration of the old city.
- Day 5: Monday 7 October
- A full day’s drive to Kerman, a remarkable town on the Persian Silk road, not always included in itineraries and well worth visiting. We stop at the Sassanian place at Sarvestan and the ancient Friday Mosque in Neiriz en route. In Kerman we stay at the 4* Hotel Pars or similar.
- Day 6: Tuesday 8 October
- This morning we drive through spectacular desert and mountain scenery to Rayen to visit a well preserved mud-built Citadel of great beauty. Returning towards Kerman, we also visit the beautiful Bagh-e Shahzade Garden and the nearby Sufi Mosque at Mahan before returning to Kerman.
- Day 7: Wednesday 9 October
- We visit the Kerman Friday Mosque and walk through the atmospheric Safavid Ganj Ali Khan complex before leaving for for Yazd, stopping en route at the restored Zeir-o-Din caravanserai where we have lunch. We continue to Yazd, long associated with Zoroastrianism for a three night stay at the 4* Dad Hotel (or similar).
- Day 8: Thursday 10 October
- We explore the old merchant quarter of the Historic City of Yazd, newly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We visit the Friday Mosque, the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and ‘Towers of Silence’, plus the Bagh-e Dolat Abad Garden. Evenings in Yazd are always jolly and there will be time to explore the various speciality shops.
- Day 9: Friday 11 October
- We drive a short distance out to the small town of Meybod, where we visit a Pottery Factory, the Old Citadel and a traditional Pigeon Tower.
- Day 10: Saturday 12 October
- We leave for Isfahan driving via Nain, where we visit the early Friday Mosque and the traditional Pirnia House en route. In Isfahan we stay at the 4* Safir Hotel or similar for a five-night stay.
- Days 11-13: Sunday 13 - Tuesday 15 October
- Isfahan is the most magical city in Iran, full of excitement with wonderful buildings to discover. Over three days we shall visit Shah Jahan’s magical parade ground, the Maydan-e Iman with its two fabulous Mosques, the Masjed-e Jame (Friday Mosque) and the Armenian Vank Cathedral & Museum, and many more, too numerous to mention here. There will be ample time for independent exploration during our stay.
- Day 14: Wednesday 16 October
- We have a lovely drive north through mountain scenery with stops in Natanz to see the unusual Mosque and nearby Abyaneh, a traditional, picturesque, mountain village, where we have a picnic lunch.
- Day 15: Thursday 17 October
- We fly in the early morning from Isfahan to London via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.
Visiting Iran - Frequently Asked Questions
Please download the Tour Itinerary, which includes a list of FAQs and Answers
- Price: £4,695 per person
- Deposit: £600
- Single Supplement: £695 (Double Room for Sole Use)
13 nights with breakfast in a mixture of 4 & 5* hotels as per the outline programme
Outward: TK1980 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1130, arrive Istanbul 1715
TK884 Depart Istanbul 2045, arrive Shiraz 0105 following day
Return: TK893 Depart Isfahan 0305, arrive Istanbul 0610
TK1979 Depart Istanbul 0745, arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 0950
Flight Upgrades It is possible to mix flight classes, please enquire for details
All dinners & lunches with water & tea/coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, the services of John Osborne & our local Tour Manager
Travel to/from Heathrow, soft &/or non-alcoholic drinks. Visa from £165 (7 Day Service) or from £250 (Next Day Service) plus visa agent fee from £65 (if used for assistance)
Full details will be sent upon confirmation of your booking but in principle the process works as follows for British Passport holders:
• On confirmation of your booking you will have to send either by post or email:
- Short resume/CV (This is a new requirement and needs to be a normal CV which outlines all the past jobs you have held)
- Photocopy of your passport – page with photo only
- Passport Photo
• We then use these documents to obtain a Visa Authorisation Number from the authorities in Iran and send you the code.
• To obtain the Visa in your passport you will need to:
- Complete a Visa application form
- Arrange to attend the Iranian Consulate in London with original passport to provide finger prints
- We can provide details of a firm who can assist you to avoid queuing!
• Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant Iranian embassy in the country in which you reside for individual requirements.
• It should also be noted that anyone with a passport showing evidence of having visited Israel within a year of travel to Iran (including having entered or left Jordan/Egypt from posts which are known to border Israel) are likely to be denied a visa for Iran.
• As of January 2016 US policy (subject to change) has stated that anyone wishing to travel to or via the USA is required to apply for a US visa (rather than an ESTA) if they have travelled to Iran since March 2011. The process is fairly straightforward – but this is just something you will need to be aware of if you have future plans to travel to or via the US.
Much of the time we travel at an altitude of between 1,000 – 1,750 m and the atmosphere is remarkably dry. The weather will be warm during the day (mid 20s to low 30s) but cool at night and rain is a possibility. Have loose/light clothing for days, plus a jumper or fleece for mornings and evenings.
Each tour will be limited to 21 participants
Rial. As almost all expenses are included in the visit costs you should not need much cash. US Dollars and Euro are preferred at exchange bureaux, though not all will accept Sterling. Your Debit or Credit Card cannot be used, either to withdraw cash or to make purchases, apart from in the odd Carpet and Jewellery Store when the payment will be routed via Dubai or a similar place.