Shop for produce in a lively Iranian bazaar, prepare the food alongside local cooks and then feast on a five-course meal of age-old secret recipes with your new friends.. Enjoy a picnic in one of Iran’s women’s-only parks, one of the few places women can enjoy the sunshine without a hijab.. Immerse yourself in rural nomadic life on a beautifully remote homestay with the Qashqai people. Enjoy a meal, sing songs, try on the local dress, and give bread-baking a go.. Step inside the fascinating hidden world of an Iranian beauty salon. You’ll see that these are oases for many local women, providing a safe space for them to relax and (literally) let their hair down.
Discover culture and comradery from the perspective of local women on this female-only expedition in Iran. Spend 12 days exploring with a local female leader and a group of female travellers and partake in a range of experiences otherwise off limits to mixed gender groups. Step inside the hidden world of an Iranian beauty salon, wander through a women-only park, and travel by public transport in the women-only carriage of the metro, local buses and an overnight train. Experience rural nomadic life with Qashqai people, meet female entrepreneurs and learn secret recipes from those in the know. This trip will expose you to a range of fascinating local women – young and old, religious and secular, conservative and liberal.
Before booking on this trip we recommend that you read the ‘Safety’ section in the Essential Trip Information regarding special safety considerations for Iran trips.
Salam! Welcome to Iran. You will be met on arrival at Tehran International Airport and transferred to your hotel for an important welcome meeting at 6 pm today, where you will meet your female leader and fellow travellers joining you on this adventure. Many people have a preconceived idea on the appearance of Iranian women; however, once you start exploring the country, you’ll notice a diversity and range of clothing, facial coverings and styles on display. Tonight, be hosted by local Iranian women for a dinner with your group. Each night is never the same and so it will feel like a very personal experience with these women – learning about their lives while tasting different Persian specialties.
Head out on a leader-led orientation walk this morning, checking out the Imam Khomeini Mosque and the labyrinthine maze of the Grand Bazaar. A real highlight of this morning is gazing at the 182-carat pink diamond of Darya-ye-Noor and the sparkling 26,733 jewels of the Naderi Throne at the Treasury of National Jewels. Afterwards, pass by a small fashion boutique where you’ll learn different techniques of tying a headscarf, then continue on to the lively Behjat Abad Market for a food adventure. You’ll shop for fresh seasonal produce and fragrant spices, then head over to a cooking school where a local female cook will teach you how to create some of the most delectable Persian dishes. This class will include tahchin (Iranian savoury rice cake), morasa polo (jewelled rice), mirza qasemi (grilled eggplant), and the Iranian dessert of Sholeh Zard (saffron rice pudding). Take in the flavours and aromas of these delicious meals as the wafts fill the kitchen, then set the table and gather for a huge Persian feast as you chat and exchange stories.
Rise and shine nice and early for a 6 am train bound for Yazd (approximately 5–6 hours). Do not fear – the train is very comfortable and there will be time to rest on your way, if you can keep your eyes off the magic desert landscapes! On arrival, get exploring with your leader, perhaps stopping off for a sweet snack as you walk – Yazd is well-known for its range of confectionery featuring plenty of nuts, rosewater and flaky pastry. Continue to the Jameh Mosque, notable for its fine mosaics and beautiful exterior. Visit the Amir Chakmaq complex, then walk through the narrow kuches (lanes) past simple courtyards and the ornate doors of local mud brick buildings, explore the local Bazaar with your Leader and enjoy a free evening in Yazd.
Start your day with an exploration of Zaroastrian culture with a visit to two vestiges of Yazd’s Zoroastrian heritage, the Fire Temple and the Towers of Silence. Zoroastrianism, dating back over 4000 years, was the state religion of Iran before the arrival of Islam. In the Zoroastrian religion, fire and water are agents of ritual purity, and the fire in the Atashkadeh Fire Temple is said to have been continuously burning since AD470. The intriguing Towers of Silence are part of the Zoroastrian tradition of raised circular structures where the dead are laid out to be picked clean by scavenger birds. Afterwards make the short journey to the village of Taft, and spend some time discovering modern Zoroastrian culture and how to prepare some delicious local cuisine. Return to Yazd in the late afternoon.
After breakfast, get on the road and head towards Shiraz (approximately 5.5 hours). An hour into the journey, stop by the town of Abarkooh in the Zagros Mountains to explore its historic sights, including an ancient ice house, the 11th-century Gonbad Ali Dome, the Qajar-era mansion Khan-e Aghazadeh and a 4000-year-old cypress tree. Load up on some snacks and continue to Shiraz, arriving mid-afternoon. After checking in to your hotel, head out with your leader to get your bearings around the local neighbourhood and make a very special visit to the Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh, one of the holiest sites in Shiraz. This glittering mosque and funerary monument is a popular pilgrimage site, sure to impress even non-believers with its beauty and grandeur. Ladies will have to wear a Chador for visiting the shrine (provided). Afterwards, perhaps discover some popular local street food with your leader – they’ll know of all the good spots to eat.
Wake up early for some fresh bread tasting at a local bakery then visit the colourfully decorated Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, where sunlight streaming through stain glass windows fills the interior with kaleidoscopic colours. Take to streets on a walking tour and discover 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. If weather permits grab some snacks and enjoy a stroll in one of the female-only parks that are popping up to allow women to exercise, picnic or just enjoy the sun without a hijab. This afternoon we spend some time with some very talented local women and discover the art of carpet weaving. Late this afternoon we take some time to relax and head to a popular gym to join in on a yoga class with local women. This is one of the ‘private’ spaces that Iranian women can safely and legally remove their Islamic dress to exercise and be themselves without any issues.
Today make the short journey to to Persepolis (approximately 1 hour). Once the centre of the Achaemenid Empire and one of the great cities of the ancient world, Persepolis took more than 150 years to build. It was designed primarily to be a centre for the events of the kings and their empire, and its grandiosity and architectural marvel is still on show today. Afterwards, head back to Shiraz and step inside the hidden world of an Iranian hair salon. The hijab comes off, the conversation is lively, and the music is blaring. Treat yourself to a manicure, or perhaps a wash and blow wave. In post-revolution Iran, opening a beauty salon was one of the most conventional ways for Iranian women to have financial independence. Often the basement of a building, or an extra room in the house was used, and off limits to men, these salons have become oases for many. In the evening, head to a local home to help cook dinner and enjoy a meal of local favourites with Shiraz locals.
Depart this morning for Bishapur – located 130 kilometres from Shiraz, Bishapur was once the centre of one of the five ancient provinces of Fars. We have a guided tour of the fortified structures and palaces, that date back to the earliest and latest times of the Sassanian Empire, which stretched across the region from 224 to 658 CE. This archaeological landscape was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list in 2018. Bishapur has also acted as the summer home of migrating nomadic tribes over the centuries, and although most nomads are more settled in villages nowadays, many of the customs and traditions live on. Spend the eveining in Tang-e-Chogan, a simple village of settled Qashqai nomads where you can discover traditional costumes and share a meal, some stories, a song or two and perhaps even learn how to make local bread with your host.
Today is a long travel day (approximately 6 hours) but will be broken up with some stops along the way – you’ll get to enjoy the natural surroundings and perhaps stop off for a picnic lunch, before cruising into Esfahan in the late afternoon. Simply put, Esfahan is one of the finest places in the Islamic world. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is renowned for. There's also an enormous bazaar – an ideal place to shop for exquisite Persian carpets, or you can relax by the tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces around town. This evening, take a stroll down to the Zayandeh River and have a look at its historic bridges, which appear to have been lifted straight out of a fairy tale. At several of the bridges, local people gather to talk, drink tea and sing beautiful folk songs. It's a magical place to while away some time, and one of the most atmospheric places in all of Iran.
Embark a half-day tour of the city, visiting the World Heritage-listed Imam (or Naqsh-e Jahan) Square. Here, your guide will you give you an insight into life under Persia's greatest ruler, Shah Abbas. Surrounding the square are several grand buildings, such as the Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Qeysarieh Portal and the majestic Imam Mosque. Located in the west of Imam Square, the Ali Qapu Palace covers six floors and was originally built as the main palace of Shah Abbas. In the afternoon, explore the bazaar with its wonderful scents and spices, musical merchants' cries and, of course, thousands of locals bargaining for their goods. Walk the covered lanes, where shafts of light filter through ceiling and lattice, and browse for fabrics, spices, jewellery and other treasures. Stop by the Music Museum – a privately-run space showcasing over 300 traditional Iranian musical instruments. Later in the afternoon, perhaps head out with your local Leader to visit the magnificent Armenian Vank Cathedral, wander the bazaar or just relax with your travel buddies.
This morning, drive around 2 hours to Kashan – a merchant town known for its high-quality ceramics, silks, carpets and fine houses. On arrival, take a walk in the local market for some lunch, and perhaps visit the grand Borujerdi House (Khan-e Borujerdi) with your leader. Built in the 1857 by the famed Persian architect Ustad Ali Maryam, this private residence was a gift to the new bride of a wealthy merchant. Enjoy a final lunch together in a traditional house in Kashan before continuing to Tehran, arriving in the evening.
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policies (usually 12 pm).