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Iran... Splendors of the Persian Empire

April 01 to 18, 2019

Ancient Persia has been the seat of many civilizations and   endless contributions in poetry, art, architecture, science and history. Many of Iran’s achievements have contributed to our modern world. Most of the country’s archaeological gems have been well preserved and portray a rich historical heritage. Your tour will not only explore ancient ruins and colorful cities but also exotic bazaars and old baths. Marvel at ancient monuments and beautifully tiled mosques. Stroll through medieval bazaars that remain much as they were centuries ago. Stop to visit local nomadic tribes when driving across the vast country. Come and discover Iran, a repository of grand relics and ruins.

This abbreviated version of our itinerary does not begin to do justice to the many wonderful sights we experienced on this fabulous tour, nor to the delicious Persian cuisine. – Michael A. Rea

Per person sharing in double occupancy (air and land from NYC): $7,995.00
Single Supplement: $995.00   

Led by Dr. Mehreen Chida-Razvi, Lecturer in Islamic Art & Architecture

Credit for not using our included airfare $750.00

Price based on a group size minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 participants

Your tour does not include

  • Airport taxes, fuel surcharge and security fees (approx. $540 at time of printing)

  • Iranian visa (Currently $160.00, subject to change); Passport should not include any Israeli stamps.

  • Items of a personal nature (camera fees at sites, laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage, etc.)

  • Dayroom or overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

  • Travel protection insurance.

  • If we did not reach the minimum there will be extra supplement.

Your tour includes

  • International Airfare US/Tabriz - Mashad/US (Based on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul)

  • Airport/Hotel/Airport transfers and all land transportations in A/C bus

  • Accommodation at mentioned hotels or similar on Full Board basis, with breakfast at hotels, lunch and dinner at best available local/traditional restaurants, or in hotels.

  • Approval letters for obtaining Visa.

  • Water daily on vehicle during touring.

  • All portages and entrance fees for main sites and excursions.

  • Tips to guide, driver, restaurant staff, porters, etc.,

  • Highly-qualified English-speaking national guide throughout the trip.

Trip Grade:

II Active - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long bus rides.

Lodging Level:

**** Luxury – Mostly large hotels, typical western standard with ample venues & full amenities. (4- 5 stars) while in couple of smaller cities we use 3 star hotels which are simple but adequate and clean.

About your lecturer Dr. Mehreen Chida-Razvi; earned her BSc and BA from the University of Florida, Gainesville, before moving to London, England where she completed an MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a second MA and a PhD in the History of Art & Archaeology from SOAS, University of London. She specializes in the history of Islamic art, architecture and material culture in the early modern era, with a particular emphasis on the Persianate regions of Mughal South Asia, Iran and Central Asia. Dr. Chida-Razvi’s primary research examines the history of architecture and the built environment and she has carried out extensive fieldwork and site-research in Pakistan and India. Another area of particular interest is the cultural and artistic interactions between Europe and the Persianate world and the social and historical circumstances which allowed for such connections to take place. Since 2007 Mehreen has given lectures and taught courses on Islamic art and architecture in London and Oxford, and has furthermore been an academic contributor and consultant for a documentary on the Taj Mahal.

NB: Actual trip dates may need to be slightly moved/adjusted to match any changes to the airline schedule into Tabriz and out of Mashad and maybe we will have the group connect via Tehran if service to those cities is amended by the airline in 2018.

View Tour Itinerary

Mon-Tue April 01-02
USA to Tabriz

Depart USA on Monday evening and connect via Istanbul or one of the Gulf States to Tabriz, arriving late night on Tuesday or early am on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 03

Very early AM arrival in Tabriz and upon arrival meet and transfer to your hotel, afterwards enjoy some rest and late breakfast then start your city tour of Tabriz, this fourth largest city of Iran with its multiple sites, starting with the majestic gates of the Arg (citadel), built when Tabriz became the third (last) capital of the Mongol Empire in the Near East in the 14th century. Visit the Blue Mosque (Masjed-e-Kabud, 1465) and, after lunch visit the Qajar Museum (Amir Nezam House), the House of the Constitutional Iranian Revolution of 1905-1907, the cute Virgin Mary's Armenian Church. Time permitting; tour the fascinating private mansions of the 19th century Iranian aristocracy (Salmasi House/The Measurement Museum, Behnam House, Paron Avag Armenian Quarter). At sunset stroll around the picturesque Shah Goli Park. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, April 04

After breakfast, begin your day with visiting the Grand Bazaar of Tabriz, one of the oldest bazaars of the Middle East and the largest covered bazar in the world. It was inscribed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July 2010, Shah Goli or the present EilGoli (the Shah's pool) is one of the recreational areas of Tabriz, Jame mosque, Mashrutiat house, afterwards have an excursion to Ardabil and visit the beautiful Mausoleum of Sheikh Safiedin Aradabili, which is composed of a series of monuments built in various periods that was shaped as a complex for the first time by Shah Tahmasb. Later Shah Abbas added to the previous ones and renovated some sections. This historical complex is closely intertwined with the history of the Safavid Dynasty. Some of the Safavid kings as well as Shah Esmail I have been buried at this site. The main section of the mausoleum is composed of a circular tower with circumference of 22 m. which is about 17 meters high. In the interior of this monument, near Sheikh Safi's tomb, the tomb of his son (the founder of mausoleum) and those of other family members can be found. At the time of Naseredin Shah Qajar, i.e., about 115 years ago, major renovations took place and some changes were made to the complex. This site has been a major attraction for domestic and international tourists. Then return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, April 05
Tabriz - Zanjan

Start your day with driving to Zanjan and visit Kandovan Village This village exemplifies manmade cliff dwellings which are still inhabited. The troglodyte homes, excavated inside volcanic rocks and tuffs similar to dwellings in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, are locally called "Karaan". Karaans were cut into the Lahars (volcanic mudflow or debris flow) of Mount Sahand, afterwards check in your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, April 06
Zanjan - Tehran

After breakfast tour Zanjan, the city known as the "town of happiest people" in nowadays Iran. Today Zanjan is renowned for its beautiful handcrafts that can be purchased at the Bazaar. From Zanjan drive through the great nomadic grasslands around Soltanieh (dry during this time of the year), which, because of those grasslands, was chosen as the second (following Maragheh) capital of the Mongol Empire in the Near East. Visit the "Dome of Soltanieh," the mausoleum of Emperor Oljeitu and one of the most important UNESCO sites of Iran. Lunch at Qazvin, the 16th century capital of the Safavid Empire. Continue to Tehran and check in your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, April 07

You will visit a few of Tehran’s famous and opulent palaces: The oldest of the historic monuments in Tehran, a world heritage site is Golestan Palace then the Saadabad Palace Complex, founded in the 19th century under the Qajar Kings and the Palace of Niavaran, one of the most impressive and opulent Pahlavi palaces. Some time at bazaar Tajrish for last minute shopping. (B,L,D)

Monday, April 08
Tehran - Shiraz

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Shiraz, Today we will have a half day tour of Shiraz to see Hafez tomb, Eram Garden, the pink Mosque, Orangery house. Afterwards transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, April 09

Full Day exploring the city of Persepolis with a visit to Persepolis, the magnificent springtime capital city of the Ancient Persian Empire, with its spectacular reliefs and towering columns, Visit the rock-cut tombs of Persian kings at Naghsh-e Rostam. Return to Shiraz for your overnight (B,L,D)

Wednesday, April 10
Shiraz - Yazd

After breakfast, drive to Yazd, en route visit Pasargadae, site of the simple but impressive tomb of Cyrus the Great, Founder of the Persian Empire, and remains of his several palaces. On to Abarkuh, a charming desert town, for a tea-break under the shade of a 4000-year old Cyprus tree; continue to Yazd and transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, April 11

Full day sightseeing in Yazd, the center for Iran’s Zoroastrian community; on this day you will visit one of the two Zoroastrian abandoned Towers of Silence (Dakhma), dating back to the 18th century, and the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for about 1500 years. Among Yazd’s Islamic sites is the Friday Mosque (1324 A.D.), with the highest portal and minarets in Iran. Other notable Islamic period monuments in Yazd are the Seljuk shrine dedicated to the Twelve Shi’ite Imams; and Ziaieyeh Theological School, known as Zendan-e-Eskander or Alexander’s Prison. There are, also, many beautiful old houses in Yazd, among them the Dowlat-Abad Garden, with an 18th century feudal hexagonal house. Return to the hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, April 12
Yazd - Isfahan

Drive to Isfahan, via Na’in, a small desert town, to visit the 10th century Friday Mosque, also visit the Ethnological Museum/Pirnia House, referred to as Nesf-e-Jahan (Half of the World) in Safavid sources. Continue to Isfahan and transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, April 13

Full day tour of the beautiful city of Isfahan, the 17th century capital of the Safavids, visit the famous bridges of Shahrestan/Khajou/Sio-se-pol, the Armenian Quarter with several churches, including the important Cathedral of Vank; in the afternoon visit one of the world’s grandest squares, the Maidan-e-Naghsh-e-Jahan, with several sites (the Ali-Qapu Palace with its enchanting music rooms and balcony overlooking the Maidan, from where the Safavid Kings watched polo games, and two of Islamic world’s greatest mosques – the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Imam – with magnificent architecture and tilework), finishing with a visit to Qeisarieh Bazaar with its shops displaying the arts and handicrafts for which Isfahan is world-famous. Return the hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, April 14

Another full day sightseeing of Isfahan visiting Friday Mosque, with the famous Uljaitu Mihrab (Prayer Niche) of the Il-Khanid period, it is considered a museum of a thousand years of Persian religious architecture and is truly one of the world’s greatest mosques. Also visit the Harun-e-Velayat Shrine and the Ali Minaret. Drive to Chehel Sotun Palace, built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th century; its twenty wooden columns reflected in the surface of the pool give rise to its name ‘The Palace of Forty Columns’. Finally, visit the Hasht Behesht pavilion built in 1670 by Shah Solayman. This small, but intricate, building is set amongst tree-lined alleys, a reflecting pool and water rills. Return to the hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, April 15
Isfahan - Tehran

Morning drive to Tehran, en-route stop over at the charming town of Natanz to visit a beautiful Islamic Complex (Friday Mosque/Monastery/Tomb of Sheikh Abdol Samad Isfahani), on to Kashan to visit the historical garden of Fin which was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Sulaimanieh Spring. This beautiful garden was expanded by the Zand and Qajar monarchs, with many open pavilions added. You will also visit a fine example of a 19th century merchant residence known as Taba-Tabai House with its beautiful stucco dome and inlaid mirror work, with some of the best examples of existing “badgirs” (wind-catchers); continue to Tehran and transfer to the hotel for check in and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, April 16
Tehran - Mashad

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Mashad, upon arrival drive to Toos historical city and visit the tomb and museum of Ferdosi, the famous epic poet and the remainders of Toos fortifications as well as Haroon’s prison. We will then drive to Torghabeh, a countryside town which is famous for its handicrafts, nuts and dried fruits. Then visit the huge complex of the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the 8th Shi-ite Imam. Afterwards transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, April 17

After breakfast enjoy visiting Ribat-e-sharaf Caravanserai which Built in the 12th century (circa 1114), it looks like a fortified rectangle from the exterior. The courtyard and four Iwan floorplan is that of the traditional standard Iranian mosque. The walls and the pishtaq , the entrance way inside an iwan, are decorated with vegetal and geometric patterning that function to provide a good example of the "Textile Metaphor" seen in Islamic architecture of this era, Afterwards return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, April 18
Mashad - USA

Early morning transfer to the Airport for your flight back home. (B)

We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed