Discover an Iran beyond the media portrayals of a repressive and dour regime – this is a country full of warm, lively and friendly people. Explore the rich history told in the ancient ruins that lie across the country. Modern Iran is a great fusion of civilisations – the Archaemedians, Alexander the Great, the Parthanians, Sassanians, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols, and Safavids – who all left their mark in innumerable ways. Cycle to Izad Khast for a walking tour of the castle ruins, then cap the day off with a delicious fresh kebab. Experience the wondrous remains of the ancient capital of Persepolis – the scale and grandeur will leave you in no doubt that this was once the centre of the known world
Embark on a cycling adventure across the hidden world of Iran. Brimming with mystery and intrigue, this is a country of refined Islamic cities, colourful bazaars, ancient Persian ruins, fascinating nomads and shimmering deserts. Visit the lively bazaars of Tehran, the immaculate gardens in Kashan, the deep red mudbrick town of Abyaneh, the incredible bridges and mosques of Esfahan, the great ruins of Izad Khast and Pasargad, the cliff-cut necropolis Naqsh-e Rustam, the jaw-dropping ancient city of Persepolis and the must-see old towns of Shiraz and Yazd.
Salaam! Welcome to Iran. Frequently misunderstood, Iran is a country of amazing diversity in both scenery and people, something you will discover cycling through this fascinating country over the next 16 days.
Your adventure begins in the bustling capital city Tehran. You will be met on arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport and transferred to your hotel. Take some time to relax before the Welcome Meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception staff where it will take place. We'll be checking your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this with you.
After the meeting, venture out into the chaotic streets of Tehran with your leader. Expect to see women wearing full-length chador competing for space with young and hip girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. Also expect to be stopped by friendly locals who love nothing more than to chat with you about anything and everything. Get to know your fellow cyclists over an included dinner at a traditional teahouse, where you will have the chance to feast on a delicious local meal of Dizi (a traditional broth based stew).
Cycling distance: None
Fill up on a traditional Iranian breakfast of boiled eggs, bread and vegetables before taking the subway to the Tajrish area of Tehran. After a short orientation walk guided by your leader there will be some free time to explore the bazaar, visit the Imamzadeh Saleh Mosque, or relax with a glass of doogh (a minty yogurt drink).
Depart for the traditional city of Qom after lunch. The only way from Tehran to Qom is by freeway, so we’ll travel this section by vehicle (approx. 2 hrs) and arrive late in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel, you’ll be fitted to your bike to make sure you're ready for tomorrow's ride. Later, head out for an included dinner and orientation walk of this fascinating city.
Qom is the second most religious and conservative city in the country. Hazrat-e Masumeh Shrine (the holy shrine of Fatima Masouma) is a must-see and, if you wish to enter, your leader can arrange a local guide to escort you. Your leader will also discuss appropriate dress while in Qom. Women will need to wear a chador, however it is possible to collect one at the gates.
Cycling distance: None
Get ready for your first day on the bike! Straight after breakfast, jump in the support vehicle and transfer out of Qom. Today’s ride will take you away from the highway and into the barren mountainous countryside of the Markazi Province. Along the way you will pass through a number of tiny villages, giving you a glimpse into local life.
While the overall ride is only 32km, it will be a challenging day in the saddle thanks to the rocky terrain. From Kermjgan, pedal uphill on a gravel road for 12kms as we cycle up to 2850 metres above sea level. Be rewarded with incredible views of this remote region on the 20km downhill stretch to the small town of Bijegan. From here we re-join the highway and drive on to Kashan, where the aim is to arrive before 5pm.
Kashan is a beautiful oasis city with a very long history – human settlement in the area dates back to the 4th millennium BC. It’s also a merchant town known for its high quality ceramics, silks, carpets, and some of the finest traditional houses in Iran. Enjoy a free evening in this city.
Cycling distance: Approx. 32km/20miles, with around 70% done on gravel roads. First 12km uphill (approx. 785m/2575ft elevation gain) followed by 20kms downhill (-885m/-2900ft).
This morning, take the support vehicle to the oasis that is Fin Gardens. It's perfectly symmetrical design, elaborate water features and intricate details make it one of the most beautiful gardens in the Middle East, and it has recently been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. On a guided tour you will uncover the fascinating history of this 16th century paradise.
In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to explore Kashan at your leisure. There are many optional activities on offer. Maybe wander through the historic houses area (Ehsan, Abbasian, Tabatabaei, Borujerdi), visit the Aqa Bozorg Mosque, check out Kashan Bazaar or stop in at the Hammam-e Sultan Mir Ahmad (ancient bath house). Meet your leader this evening for an included dinner.
Cycling distance: None
Drive out of Kashan and off the main highway to a small town where we will begin today’s ride. The 20km ride will be another climb, starting at approximately 1400m and finishing at around 2200m. Along the way we will pass through tiny villages where there may be the opportunity to interact with some of the local villagers.
Transfer the remaining distance in the support vehicle and arrive into Abyaneh. The historic town is well known for its rich red, mud brick walls giving the town an incredible warmth. Retire to your hotel this evening after an included dinner.
Cycling distance: Approx. 20km/12 miles, mostly uphill with 770m/2530ft of elevation gain.
Leaving evocative Abyaneh behind you cycle downhill from Abyaneh all the way to Natanz (approx. 28km/17 miles). Depending on time, there may be the option to ride further.
Continue the journey to Esfahan by vehicle. The plan today is to arrive by 5 pm, after which you can explore this beautiful city at your leisure.
Cycling distance: Approx. 28km/17 miles, mostly downhill, with 647m/2120ft of elevation gain.
Enjoy a free day to explore the beautiful city of Esfahan today. Perhaps join your leader for a short orientation walk to the main square and then take a wander at your own pace. Be sure to visit the Shah Mosque, regarded as one of the great masterpieces of Iranian architecture, and walk around Naqsh-e Jahan (Image of the World) Square, a great spot to people-watch. Between palaces, mosques, museums and the bazaar you’re spoilt for ways to fill your day in Esfahan, so just ask your leader if you need any recommendations.
Meet the group back at the hotel in the evening before heading out for dinner. Along the way there will be the chance to check out the Khaju Bridge which, with over 23 arches and length of 130 metres, is one of the finest such structures in Iran, dating back to Persian times. Further up the river is the stunning Si-o-seh pol (Farsi for the number 33) bridge, a 300m long bridge with 33 arches that has stood since 1599. Evening is the best time to view these architectural works of art as they are beautifully illuminated.
Cycling distance: None
Transit out of Esfahan to Shahreza (approx. 1hr) and fuel up for your ride with a morning coffee. From here, jump on your bike and cycle approximately 58km/36 miles to the small town of Izad Khast. The ride is along the highway, however there is a nice big shoulder to cycle on and the traffic is light.
Izad Khast is a beautiful town and, thanks to its remote location, visitors are rare. Explore the ancient ruins of Izad Khast castle before dinner, where you’ll enjoy a fresh kebab at a traditional local house.
Cycling distance: Approx. 58km/36 miles, with 420m/1400ft of elevation gain.
Bid farewell to Izad Khast and take the support vehicle for the highway portion of today’s journey to Pasargad. Stretch your legs by cycling the final 44km along quiet back roads before reaching Pasargadae, a UNESCO World Heritage site and once the capital of the sprawling Achaemenid Empire. Take some time to walk around these fascinating ruins and check out the well-preserved tomb of Cyrus the Great. This evening we will stay in a modest local home in Pasargad.
Cycling distance: approx. 44km/27 miles, with 330m/1085ft of elevation gain.
From Pasargad, we’ll cycle the entire way from our local home to the hotel in Persepolis, via Naqsh-e Rajab, an ancient archaeological site. It’s a reasonable cycle day today by the foot of the mountains so we’ll take the evening to enjoy a well earned rest, saving the big Iranian attractions for the following day.
Cycling distance: Approx. 80km/50 miles, with 350m/1150ft of elevation gain.
Cycle the short distance from the hotel to the ancient ruins of Persepolis, the former centre of the Persian Empire and Iran’s premier attraction. Persepolis was constructed in the reign of Darius I and took an astonishing 150 years to complete. Meet your local guide and take a tour of this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site, learning about the rich history of the city.
After a few hours here, continue your journey by cycling to Shiraz. It’s not an easy ride, but there is a nice 18-kilometre downhill section at the end to look forward to. It is also the last day of cycling on this trip, so don’t hold back! Along the way stop off at Naqsh-e Rustam, an ancient necropolis cut into a cliff face which dates back to 500 BC.
In the evening, take a guided tour of Shahcheragh – a beautiful mausoleum for one of Imam Reza's brothers. Enjoy dinner with the group then stop by Karim Khan Citadel on the way back to the hotel. The complex is closed in the evening, however the glow of the lights make for a spectacular photograph.
Cycling distance: 29km/18 miles, mostly flat with approx. 90m/290ft of elevation gain.
Shiraz is considered the Pearl of Persia and its very name evokes images of ancient times: tranquil gardens, lavish mansions, colourful woollen rugs, art, philosophy, poetry and of course, the famous Shiraz red wine (although it's no longer found here). Shiraz is also a renowned centre of learning and boasts many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country.
Today is a free day, but you might like to join your leader on a walk to the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque (also known as the 'Pink Mosque' thanks to its beautifully stained glass windows and light) to get your bearings. Spend the rest of the day at leisure. You might like to visit Hafez Tomb, Shiraz Bazaar or head back to the Shahcheragh Holy Shrine to take a peak inside.
Cycling distance: None