For those seeking an authentic immersion into the art, poetry, architecture, and history of Iran, Iran: Wonders of Persia is an ideal expedition. Guided by Middle East expert Gary Wintz, this Iran expedition offers an in-depth view of the turbulent and colorful history of Iran. Formerly Persia, the countryÂ’s magnificent ruins and ancient cities, architecturally astounding mosques and citadels, and savory cuisine is sure to leave a lasting impression. Also, the expedition includes a Tehran tour, visiting the SaÂ’ad Abad Palace-complex and the National Museum of Archaeology. Along the way, have the opportunity to be invited into peopleÂ’s homes and to family celebrations--itÂ’s Iran adventure travel at its very best.
Days 1-2: USA / Tehran, Iran
Depart from the USA for an independent overnight flight to Tehran. Arrive in Tehran after midnight, transfer to your hotel for an overnight.
Day 3: Tehran
After breakfast and an introductory briefing, explore Tehran, IranÂ’s bustling capital of twelve million people. Included in the tour is a visit to the National Museum of Archaeology, the National Jewels MuseumÂ—possibly the best in the worldÂ—and the National Carpet Museum. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 4: Tehran / Yazd
After breakfast, depart on the flight to Yazd. Regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest towns on Earth, it was officially recognized for its unique wind-tower architecture, a natural cooling option in this dry, hot climate. Yazd is the center for the Zoroastrian faith, a religion which may predate Judaism. In this faith, fire represents life. In your visit to the Zoroastrian fire temple, view a fire that has been burning continuously for over 1,500 years. In the afternoon, visit the Â“Towers of Silence,Â” where in past centuries Zoroastrians left their dead. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 5: Yazd
Spend the day exploring Yazd. Pass by the 15th-century Mirchakhmaq Square and visit the 14th-century Masjid-e-JamÃ© Mosque. Crowned by the highest minarets in Iran, the mosqueÂ’s faÃ§ade is decorated with dazzling blue tile work. Afterward set out for the old section of the city to what is known as the Â“Prison of Alexander,Â” actually a 15th-century domed school where legend has it that Alexander the Great imprisoned Iranian elite; also visit an 18th-century Lari-ha traditional house. Enjoy lunch in an 18th-century public bathhouse converted into a traditional restaurant and teahouse. In the afternoon, visit the Dowlat Abad Garden and its lofty ventilation tower.
Day 6: Yazd / Pasargada / Shiraz
After breakfast, depart Yazd and drive to Shiraz and visit the desert town of Abarqu on the way. Enjoy a picnic lunch under a 4,500-year-old cypress tree. Next, visit Pasargada, the resting place of Cyrus the Great and one of IranÂ’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also the site of Paradises, the ancient Persian royal city-gardens. In the evening, arrive in Shiraz for dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 7: Shiraz
Enjoy a full day here to explore this truly fascinating city, once famed for its vineyards of Shiraz (or Syrah) grapes, and known as the Â“City of Poets.Â” This amazing metropolis offers a bewildering selection of shrines, mosques, gardens, and monuments in addition to tea-houses, bazaars, and carpet sellers. Highlights of this visit include the Tomb and Garden of Hafez, a celebrated Persian poet; the Narenjestan (orangery) Garden; JameÂ’ Atiq Mosque, one of the oldest in Iran; Khan Theological School; the nomadic bazaar; and the charming Eram Garden where the delightful 19th-century Ghajar Palace lies alongside a beautiful pool. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 8: Shiraz / Persepolis
Rediscovered under desert sands in the early 1930s, Persepolis is one of PersiaÂ’s greatest treasures (and one of the great highlights of this expedition). Built over a period of about 150 years, beginning in 512 B.C., it was ransacked and burned by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. Included in this visit to this Achaemenian showpiece will be XerxesÂ’ Gateway, the immense Adadna Palace, and the Palace of 100 Columns, probably one of the largest buildings constructed during the Achaemenian period and once used as a reception hall for Darius I. Also visit Naghash-Ã© Rostam, housing four tombs believed to be those of Darius I, Artaxerxes, Xerxes I, and Darius II. Return to Shiraz for dinner and overnight.
Day 9: Shiraz / Esfahan
After an early breakfast, embark on a scenic drive north to the stunning city of Esfahan, one of the pearls of the Islamic world. TodayÂ’s impressive journey takes you through the lovely Zagross Mountains and includes the possibility of seeing nomadic tribes. Arrive in Esfahan late in the afternoon for dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 10: Esfahan
Esfahan has a wealth of treasures to explore and you have two days to discover its architectural wonders. Built by the Safavids between the 16th and 18th centuries, the cityÂ’s great courtyard, adjacent mosques, and towering blue minarets show a lavish delicacy and patience of both design and execution unrivaled by Asian and European craftsmen. Perhaps the most imposing edifice is the Masjed-Ã© ImÃ¡m (formerly known as the Shah Mosque). This magnificent mosque is one of the most breathtaking buildings in Iran, covered inside and out with pale blue tiles and surmounted by exquisitely proportioned minarets. The result is a stunningly sophisticated union of grandeur and harmony. Other sites you explore include the ImÃ¡m Square, the Chehel Sotun Museum and Park, and the Vank Cathedral. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 11: Esfahan
Continue the tour of Esfahan and spend another full day visiting the highlights of the city including: Hasht Behesht (Eight Paradises) Palace, Naqshe-Jahan (the Royal Square), Ali-Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah (Ladies) and ImÃ¡m Mosques, a traditional Sufi-style teahouse, and the bazaar. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 12: Esfahan / Abyaneh / Kashan / Tehran
From Esfahan, drive along a winding rural road through the Karkas (vulture) Mountains to visit Abyaneh, a remote village known for its reddish-hued architecture and people who have maintained their traditional dress and customs. On the way to Tehran, stop in Kashan and view Bagh-e Fin, a superb example of a Persian garden; the 19th-century tiled mausoleum of Emamzadeh Ebrahim; and a traditional 19th-century house. After lunch in Kashan, continue to Tehran for dinner and overnight at your hotel.
Day 13: Tehran
After breakfast, depart for a tour of the SaÂ’ad Abad Palace complex, once the residence and working office of Pahlavi kings (Shahs). Following the Islamic revolution, the palaces were made into ten museums where stunning Iranian and non-Iranian artwork is on display. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Tehran. Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner and relaxing evening as you prepare for early morning flights.
Day 14: Tehran / USA
Early morning transfer to the airport for independent flights homeward.