Cook culinary favourites in Iranian family homes – from the sumptuous spiced meat and rice of biryani to sharp and tangy fesenjan stews, you’ll be tasting exotic yet oh so delightful dishes every day.. Sample regional delicacies at some of the finest sweet stores in Iran during a visit to Yazd, snacking on crunchy almond qottab or chewy soft baqlava as you experience local life passing you by.. You haven’t had real kabab until you’ve tried Iran’s version. Discover the regional variations of the national dish, including kabab koobideh (the original) and kabab barg (barbecued fillets of meat).. Learn the secrets of ancient Persian ‘medicine’ at a local home, where food and drink were, and still are, pivotal to overall health and wellness, and the prevention of ailments.
Iran’s charm begins with its stunning environment – snow-capped mountains, rolling deserts, ancient cities and crowded bazaars all add to an unforgettable tapestry of a culture less experienced. However the heart of this charm truly lies in the palate – within the odorous spices, succulent meats and mouth-watering stews created through thousands of years of perfected techniques. Saffron, cheeses, crispy rice and succulent meats all contribute to full flavoured meals capable of taking anyone to another place. It’ll happen to you too. Once you dine on tah chin, fesenjan or any of the other dishes on this Real Food Adventure, it’ll only take a hint of saffron to throw your thoughts back into the depths of that bazaar – that unforgettable moment where the taste of Persia first hit your tongue.
Salam! Welcome to Tehran, Iran. You will be met on arrival at Tehran International airport and transferred to your hotel. This marvellous city sits at the bottom of the Alborz Mountains – their snowy peaks serving as a photogenic backdrop for the colourful buildings below. Tehran is commonly known as one of the country’s most liberal metropolitan areas and this may become obvious through an adventure into the depths of their hospitality scene. It’d be easy to call Iran a land of kebabs, but the country’s gastronomy is a little more complicated than that. Lamb, chickpeas, tahdig (crispy rice pies) and potatoes are all common staples – just don’t forget they’re best washed down with a cup of dugh (minty yoghurt drink). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. Once you arrive, jump straight into a food adventure by sharing a welcome meal with family in their home. Depending on the day, your hosts may prepare typical dishes like khoresht gheimeh (a beef and split pea stew with fried potatoes), zereshk polo morgh (baked saffron rice with barberries and chicken), the famous fesenjan (a poultry stew with pomegranates and walnuts), baghali polo (a rice dish with lamb, saffron, fava beans and dill), or ghormeh sabzi (lamb with herbs and kidney beans, served with rice). Tonight is also about introductions, so enjoy this dinner spread while getting to know your new travel crew.
This morning, head to the local food markets to gather ingredients in preparation for today’s lunch – tahchin. Meaning ‘arranged at the bottom’, this Persian dish, often made for special occasions, is a type of crisp saffron-infused rice cake layered with onions, chicken, rice, yoghurt and eggs. The layer of rice at the bottom becomes crunchy as it bakes against the pan. If you ask most people, that’s the best part of the dish! Also today, you’ll be introduced to traditional Iranian ‘medicine’ – more so a focus on food and drink for overall health and wellness. Traditionally, Persian ‘medicines’ thought of the psychological factors of the human body to be based on seven principles, known as umoor e tabiya. Food is a very important factor in this to establish a synchronised biological rhythm, and your hosts for today will share how, historically, maintaining health by following these methods has always been part of Persian culture. Not only will this cooking class at a local house gives you the chance to learn how to cook this Persian favourite, you’ll also understand the larger picture of local health and wellbeing. After your lunch, take to the streets of Tehran on an orientation walk with your group leader. Check out the Golestan Palace – the dazzling colours of the walls and stained-glass windows are definitely worth a photo or two. Also, stop by the bustling Tehran Bazaar before returning to your hotel for a relaxed evening.
Make tracks for Esfahan this morning. On your way, you’ll stop by the township of Kashan to have lunch at a restaurant called Morshedi – well-known for its high-quality traditional Iranian cuisine. Also on the agenda for today is Tabatabaei House – a classic example of Persian architecture, designed by 19th-century architect Professor Ali Maryam Kashani. The house has two distinct sections and is joined by a grand quadrangle and courtyard. Tabatabaei’s examples of stucco and tile art and striking mirror and glass work provide a glimpse into Iran’s fascinating past. Afterwards, continue on to Esfahan, and once the evening kicks in, get ready to prepare to cook up a delicious homemade Persian biryani. The delicate layering of rice interspersed with spices and meat relies on a Persian steaming method known as ‘dam pohkt’, meaning ‘steam-cooked’. While it can be served up with a variety of meats, tonight’s dish will contain lamb, onions, Iranian sangak bread and spices.
A top destination for travellers to Iran, Esfahan has a lot to offer for those looking to explore Persian culture. The gardens, Islamic buildings and the World Heritage-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square are just a few of the highlights the city has to offer – it’s hard to miss something that isn’t full of colour or boasting some intricate architecture. Start off today with one of the country’s biggest cities on a guided walk past the Naqsh-e Jahan Square and its nearby mosque, before heading to the Sheik Lotfollah Mosque and the palace of Ali Qapu. Later today, take a visit to a nearby farm to get a feel how the local farmers work these lands. Thanks to a variety of diverse factors such as climate, regional soil and altitude differences throughout the region, the Esfahan Province is widely regarded as one of the most important agricultural sites in Iran. This means there’s plenty of fresh produce growing in the area outside the city just waiting to be harvested. You’ll then travel back into town for a visit to the Esfahan bazaar located in the old part of the city. Fresh fruit, rugs, trinkets, memoirs and entire shops dedicated to saffron are hallmarks of the typical Persian market – just make sure to stick close to the group as these busy halls can easily sweep up lost people.
En route from Esfahan to Yazd today, stop by Aqda for another traditional Persian lunch; this time in a beautifully preserved house. Your main dish will be fesenjan – a rich tangy chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranates. This dish is typically served as a holiday favourite during Shab-e Yalda – a winter solstice that predates Islam by thousands of years. To prepare, cook chicken in olive oil until lightly golden, then a sauce is then made from ground-up toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses and spices, and slowly simmered until it turns a rich walnut colour. The end result is a complex and delicious sauce that’s sweet and slightly tart in flavour. Onwards to Yazd – a maze of streets, winding lanes and archways upon archways, Yazd is much of a city as it is a labyrinth! Begin your adventure on a leader-led orientation walk, visiting the Masid-e Jameh – a stunning example of an Azari mosque that boasts the tallest minarets in the country. Check out the symmetrical alcoves of the Amir Chakhmaq Complex, then head on to the Water Museum before arriving at the old mud brick city. Tonight, your food experience is a Yazd favourite. It’s a delicious, traditional stew called gheimeh yazdi, made of lamb or beef, with peas, onion, turmeric and tomato. Your local hosts will lay out a tablecloth on their carpeted floor, and while this may seem unusual, this is the way most Iranians still dine.
Take to the streets of Yazd for a wander through the finest sweet stalls in Iran. Many generations of confectioners have operated in this area for centuries, selling treats unlike anywhere else in the world. There’s haji badam – small round balls made with chickpea flour, eggs, sugar, almonds, cardamoms and nutmeg; nan berenji – a round cookie made with rice flour, cardamom and rosewater and sprinkled with poppy seeds; and souhan – a grainy version of brittle made with pistachios instead of peanut. There’s also the flour-based baqlava – made with almonds, pistachios, cardamom and rosewater. The best seller of all is qottab – an almond-shaped and infused cookie with a crispy shell rolled in powdered sugar. After loading up on sweet treats, visit a local workshop that makes sugar cubes before heading on to a traditional bakery for a bite of gata or koloocheh. The afternoon is free for you to explore the streets of Yazd, perhaps finding a local restaurant for Iran’s favourite: kabab.
Today’s adventures begin with a drive from Yazd to Shiraz (approximately 6.5 hours), and once arrived, head on an orientation walk through the town, visiting locations such as the Karimkhan Citadel and the Pars Museum. A stop at the Vakil Bazaar offers a taste and insight into the making of traditional Iranian ice-cream and faloudeh – a delicious cold desert consisting of noodles and frozen rose water syrup with lime juice added to serve. While the city may have once played namesake to Shiraz wine, not a drop of the stuff has come from the area since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Yet the region is still full of master beverage producers with some of the local non-alcoholic drinks boasting an unmatched flavour through the use of unexpected ingredients. Different plants such as rose, mint, musk willow and walnut are distilled to create drinks with both medical and gastronomic uses. You’ll be able to learn more about this at an included visit to a workshop where some of these beverages are kept and produced.
Drive 60 kilometres northeast of Shiraz into the countryside of the Fars Province on a hunt for the ancient city of Persepolis. The former capital of the Achaemenid Empire, this World Heritage-listed site holds some of the earliest examples of the Achaemenid style of architecture – hallmarked by intricate carvings, flat surfaced structures and lots of stone. A few more kilometres north of Persepolis lies the necropolis of Naqsh-e Rustam. Though parts of this ‘city of the dead’ is said to have suffered major damage over the last millennium, the impressive stone carvings on the side of the necropolis’ massive cliff face are still a spectacular site to this day. After exploring these ancient cities, head to a cheese making process in the evening. Persians are big lovers of cheese, so expect some excellent flavours which you might get to sample, if you’re lucky. A traditional panir cheese recipe creates a very delicate, mild tasting cheese with hints of mint and lime. Lighvan cheese is a little more sour – it’s covered with holes and usually ends up served at breakfast or dinner with a piece of fresh bread. An Iranian favourite is Persian feta, which involves taking a block of Greek style feta, drying it out, brining it for a day before serving it up dry with sunflower oil, lime zest and garlic – a flavour you can’t beat.
After a free morning in Shiraz, prepare for a flight back to Iran’s capital, Tehran (approximately 1.5 hours). Depending on flight schedules, you’ll have some time in the afternoon to check out the city, and maybe head somewhere you missed earlier on in your Iranian adventure. In the evening, celebrate your culinary quest through Iran with a special dinner at Gilani restaurant in town. Gilani cuisine is a regional variation of Northern Iran, specialising in fish and caviar, as well as an abundance of vegetables, due to the region’s vicinity to the Caspian Sea, Sefid-Rud River and the lush Alborz Mountains. This regional cuisine has been acclaimed by UNESCO, with its capital, Rasht, having been named a Creative City of Gastronomy. Toast with your group leader and travel crew the fascinating sites and delicious tastes you’ve tasted in Iran.
There are no activities planned for today and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. Please note you must check out of the hotel by 12 pm.