Comprehensive introduction to ancient Persia & modern Iran
See Persepolis & other sites of the Archaemenid Empire
3 nights in each of magnificent Shiraz & Isfahan with their spectacular mosques, shrines & bazaars
See some of the best ‘Persian’ gardens
Atmospheric south-east Iranian towns of Kerman, Mahan & Rayan, ignored by many tours, included
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 Archaemenid 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 Tehran and the other 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, above all roses, found in huge 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. 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: Sunday 7 October
- We fly from Heathrow on BA. The flight time is approximately six hours and Iran is three and a half hours ahead of the UK. Dinner is served during the flight.
- Day 2: Monday 8 October
- Our flight arrives in the early morning and we transfer immediately into Tehran and check into our 4* hotel, the Laleh or similar, where our rooms will be ready for immediate occupation. After a morning to rest, we meet for an afternoon of visits to include the famed Archaeological Museum; the Abgineh (Ceramics & Glass) Museum and/or the Carpet Museum. The final choice of visits in Tehran on Days 2 and 14 will be decided nearer the departure date.
- Day 3: Tuesday 9 October
- This morning we leave Tehran and drive south to Kashan. This is a handsome town famed for its remarkable Merchant Houses and on the outskirts we also visit the lovely Bagh-e Fin Garden. We continue to Yazd, long associated with Zoroastrianism for a two-night stay at the 4* Dad Hotel (or similar).
- Day 4: Wednesday 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 we shall have time to explore the various speciality shops.
- Day 5: Thursday 11 October
- We drive south-east to Kerman, a remarkable town on the Persian Silk road, not always included in itineraries and well worth visiting. We visit the Robate-e Zayn al-Din caravanserai en route and on arrival mid afternoon we visit the Kerman Friday Mosque and walk through the atmospheric Safavid Ganj Ali Khan complex before checking into our hotel, the 4* Hotel Pars (or similar) for a two-night stay.
- Day 6: Friday 12 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: Saturday 13 October
- Our drive from Kerman to Shiraz takes us through spectacular mountain scenery. En route, we visit Neiriz to see its unusual Friday Mosque and further on, the Sarvestan Palace. Arriving early evening in Shiraz, our three-night stay will be in the 5* Hotel Zandiye (or similar).
- Day 8: Sunday 14 October
- We have a full day exploring Shiraz to 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.
- Day 9: Monday 15 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 10: Tuesday 16 October
- A late departure this morning as we leave for Isfahan. We plan to visit the Archaemenid site at Pasargadae en route. We have a three-night stay at the 4* Hotel Piroozi (or similar).
- Days 11 & 12: Wednesday 17 & Thursday 18 October
- Isfahan is the most magical city in Iran, full of excitement with wonderful buildings to discover. Over two 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, with some free time on one afternoon.
- Day 13: Friday 19 October
- A lovely drive north through mountain scenery with stops in Natanz to see the unusual Mosque and nearby Abyaneh, a traditional, picturesque, mountain village. We continue to Tehran and check into the 4* Hotel Laleh (or similar) for a two-night stay.
- Day 14: Saturday 20 October
- A full day’s sightseeing in Tehran will include the Golestan Palace, the amazing Islamic Arts Museum; the Reza Abbasi Museum plus other sites not included on our earlier day in the city.
- Day 15: Sunday 21 October
- We check in for our BA flight to Heathrow. Breakfast is served on the flight.
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: BA153 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 2110, arrive Imam Khomeini Intl 0625 following day
Return: BA152 Depart Imam Khomeini Intl 0835, arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1120
From £269 return in World Traveller Plus; From £1875 return in Club Class.
You can also mix classes, please enquire for details
All dinners and lunches with water & tea/coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, the services of Tom Duncan or John Osborne and our local Tour Manager
Travel to/from Heathrow, soft and/or non-alcoholic drinks. Visa £165 (7 Day Service) or £250 (Next Day Service) plus visa agent fee of £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 an 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.