Be invited into an Esfahan home for dinner and savour traditional, long-simmering and lovingly prepared Iranian dishes along with incredible hospitality.. Explore the ancient ruins of Persepolis on a guided tour that will take you back in time, to an era when the city was the centre of the ancient world.. Travelling with a local leader means more opportunities to visit real local hangouts, like a boardgame cafe popular with young folk in Shiraz where you spend a night mingling.. Learn some of the secrets of Iranian cuisine during a hand-on cooking lesson in Shiraz, crafting dishes using local ingredients.
Embark on a compact nine-day journey through Iran. Not only is this fascinating country a world apart from what’s often represented in the international media – it’s a delight to visit in the winter. Discover refined cities, colourful bazaars, ancient Persian ruins, and shimmering deserts. Whether you’re relaxing in a teahouse in Tehran, enjoying guided tours of ancient cultural sites, or hanging out a local board game cafe in Shiraz, the warmth and hospitality of the Iranian people and the profound beauty of their land is mesmerising.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Salaam! Welcome to Iran. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is exciting, noisy and chaotic, and where the country's true national identity is found. Expect to see women wearing full-length chador competing for space with young girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. The locals love nothing more than to chat, so prepare to be stopped to discuss anything and everything.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at midday (12.00pm) on day 1. Afterwards, head out with your group to the Tabiat Nature Bridge for some afternoon exploration. Built on three large pillars, the 270-metre curved structure has broad entrances, multiple pathways and three floors of restaurants and cafes and sitting areas. Spend some time relaxing over a light meal at one of the many restaurants by Ports Park, situated on one side of the bridge. On the other, the rolling trees of Taleghani Park offer a great opportunity for a wistful stroll.
Start the morning with an exploration of the city. Visit the World Heritage-listed Golestan Palace, an opulent masterpiece of the Qajar era that is decorated with beautifully painted tiles and set around an elegant garden and the National Museum, whilst it may not look inspiring from the outside inside is a treasure chest of Iran's rich history, keep your eye out for the Salt Man from Zanjan, preserved in salt for centuries. Check out the labyrinthian Tehran Grand Bazaar before heading to the train station in the afternoon. Remember to grab some snacks before you go so you’ve got something to munch on for dinner on board your train journey this evening.
Transfer to the train station later this afternoon for the 5-hour journey to Yazd. Arrive and transfer to your hotel.
This ancient desert city was a major stop on the caravan routes to Central Asia and India during the Silk Road period and it still retains a rustic feel. Yazd is also the heart of Zoroastrian religion, which you'll learn more about during visits to the Fire Temple and Towers of Silence. The fires within the Fire Temple are said to have continuously burned since AD 470. Enjoy a hearty local breakfast then set out on a walking tour to visit the Jamesh Mosque and the older parts of the city. Walk the narrow kuches (lanes) past simple courtyards and ornate doors on mud-brick buildings. One of the most distinctive features of Yazd is the presence of wind towers, that capture the softest of breezes and send them to the buildings below in a forerunner of modern air-con. The water museum shows how the underground channels brought water to the city from the mountains for thousands of years.
Say farewell to Yazd and travel by private bus to Shiraz, the city of poets. The trip will take approximately 5.5 hours and you'll pass through some incredible desert scenery on the way. After arriving in Shiraz, head out for dinner. This, however, is dinner with a difference in a local home, enjoy some Iranian Hospitality.
Rise and shine for a day of exploring this artistic city, visit the colourfully decorated Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, where sunlight streaming through stain glass windows fills the interior with kaleidoscopic colours, stroll the alleys and lanes of one of Iran's most loved Bazaars Vakil, a great spot to sit and chat and enjoy a glass of orange blossom tea. The highlight of the tour today may be your guided visit of Shahcheragh. This glittering mosque and funerary monument is a popular pilgrimage site, as is the Tomb of Hafez; see this intricately carved tomb, where Iranians come to pay their respects and place flowers.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of Persepolis, an ancient city that was sacked by Alexander the Great. It was once the centre of the Persian Empire, one of the truly great cities of the world, which took 150 years to build under the reign of Darius I. The imposing gateways, exquisite carvings and towering columns will leave you in doubt that this was once the centre of the ancient world.
This morning travel 5.5 hours to one of the finest cities in the Middle East. A 16th-century rhyme called it 'half the world' and, after spending a few days here, you may well agree. There are many fine Islamic buildings covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is famous for, as well as an enormous bazaar, superb palaces, tranquil gardens and picturesque bridges crossing the Zayandehrud. Arrive in the later afternoon and visit the picturesque Safavid Chehelsotoon Palace and then, in the evening, enjoy a home-cooked meal with a local family. Being invited into an Iranian's home for dinner is a highlight for most travellers, and the traditional food is carefully prepared for hours, sometimes even days. Prepare yourself for plenty of food and some truly incredible hospitality.
Spend today discovering the wonders of Esfahan. You'll have plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere during a tour, starting at the immense Imam Square, which covers an area of 82,500 square metres and is the second-largest square in the world. Many grand buildings surround the square explore some of them with your leader and visit the atmospheric bazaar, complete with exotic scents and spices, musical merchants' cries and, of course, thousands of locals bargaining at the stalls. Walk the covered lanes of the sprawling marketplace, where shafts of light filter through ceiling and lattice and perhaps stop for lunch.
This afternoon visit the astonishing Armenian Vank Church before an evening stroll along the river.
Journey from Esfahan to Tehran after breakfast, (5 hours). Stop off in Kashan a merchant town known for its high-quality ceramics, silks, carpets and fine houses. Spend time at the fascinating Tabataei House, built in the 1840s for the affluent Tabatabaei family, and enjoy a farewell lunch at Morshedi House, a traditional house serving traditional Iranian Cuisine. Continue to Tehran for the evening.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart at anytime. Check out time at the hotel is 12 pm.