Marvel at the unusual dome-roofed bazaar in Tabriz, which is also the longest bazaar in the world!. Meet Sufis in the tomb of Sufi master Sheikh Safi in Ardabil. Discover the village of Masuleh – where rooftops double as streets and cars are not allowed entry. Enjoy the scenic mix of forests, mountains and water on a cruise alongside the Caspian Sea
The landscapes of Iran are as varied and intriguing as its people – an alluring mix of rugged volcanic plains, vibrant forests and snowy peaks populated by historical peoples connected by history, tradition and prayer. Whether it’s strolling the unusual rooftop thoroughfares of Masuleh, cruising alongside the vast Caspian Sea, climbing mountains to reach ancient castles, or simply stopping to sip street side tea with local Azaris, Gilakis and Taleshis, discover a captivating side of Iran that is far and away from the typical image of the Middle East.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Welcome to Tabriz, one of Iran’s most captivating historical cities. Not to be confused with the neighbouring Republic, Azerbaijan province in Iran is home to one of the most cultured and bravest races in Iran, the Azaris. Your time here in Tabriz will be a wonderful opportunity to rub shoulders with the Azaris and learn more about the origins of the Constitution Revolution.
There will be a Welcome Meeting at 12 noon today; please refer to your hotel noticeboard or talk to reception for more details. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this on hand.
Today visit the impressive tomb of Shahriar, a prominent Persian and Azari poet whose work is considered the pinnacle of Azerbaijani literature. Afterwards take a walk through the bazaars and uncover an interesting array of crafts before stopping by the exquisite Jameh and Kabood Mosques, the second of which is popularly known as the ‘Blue Mosque’ due to its intricate blue mosaic facade. Later on, explore the interesting collections at the Azerbaijan and Constitution Revolution Museums.
Prepare for a road trip today as the group heads out to visit Kandovan Volcanic Village, an approximately 152 kilometre round trip. Pass the city of Oskoo and beautiful mountainous scenery en route to this marvellous village, which has attracted special attention thanks to its unusual architecture. Inhabitants here live in rock houses carved from the mountain and have done so since their ancestors settled here long ago. Archeologists estimate the village is nearly 3000 years old. The people of Kandovan largely make their living from ranching, husbandry and gardening. Return to Tabriz in the afternoon.
Journey to the historical border city of Jolfa, which is located near the Aras River and the Arasbaran Forest. Jolfa is the stronghold of the Armenian Christians, who possess a rich and unique culture of their own. Visit the Church of Saint Stephanos, which is among a handful of magnificent churches that were built between the 10th and 12th centuries AD. The church's architecture is a mixture of Urartan, Parthian, Greek, and Roman styles, the combination of which eventually came to be known as Armenian architecture.
Today venture to Ardabil, which sits on a rocky plateau looking out towards the Caspian Sea and, when the smog lifts, Mt Sabalan and it’s snowy peaks. On the way, stop off in the city of Sarein, which is well-known for its spas. Here you can enjoy the remedial benefits of a relaxing soak before continuing on this journey.
On arrival in Ardabil, get acquainted with the historic and picturesque tomb of the Sufi master Sheikh Safi Ardabil. The World Heritage listed site’s colourful mosaic artwork stands in sharp contrast to the dusty coloured buildings surrounding it. Stay overnight in Ardabil.
Enjoy a scenic drive along the Caspian Sea to the small town of Masuleh, which at its last count in 2006 had a population of 554. The UNESCO registered architecture here is certainly unique – the buildings have been carved straight into the mountain and are interconnected. The flat roofs and open courtyards also serve as connected pedestrian areas similar to streets. As a result, Masuleh does not allow any motor vehicles to enter and it is the only village in Iran with such a prohibition. The ban is also a matter of practicality too, the small streets and many stairways simply wouldn't make it possible for vehicles to enter. As you can imagine, the town is perfectly suited for exploration on foot and there are many opportunities to meet and interact with the locals. Spend the night here and perhaps experience the warm hospitality that Iran is renowned for with a meal with a local family.
Travel past rice fields and Persian tea plantations to Roodkhan Castle in Foman, about a 30 kilometre trip from Masuleh. Climb 2,000 steps through the dense forests of Roodkhan Mountain, stopping to reenergise with snacks from the street side vendors, then arrive at Roodkhan Castle. The fortress was constructed during the Sassanian era of 224-651 AD and was later rebuilt during the Seljuk era to take advantage of the natural mountainous terrain surrounding it. After some time to explore the ruins, drive back to Masuleh.
Travel to Iran’s exciting, noisy and chaotic capital city – Tehran. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is the country's beating heart and where its true national identity is found. If time allows perhaps pay a visit to the Treasury of National Jewels or the Golestan Palace and take a stroll through its carefully manicured gardens. In the evening there is the option to join your group for a farewell dinner.
This exploration comes to an end today and you are free to depart at any time. Extra nights accomodation in Tehran can be booked on reservation. Perhaps make the most of your time in this city by joining one of our Tehran Urban Adventures.