Iran | Splendors of the Persian Empire Itinerary
IRAN | SPLENDORS OF THE PERSIAN EMPIRE
Join Cross Cultural Journeys on an odyssey to the Republic of Iran, commonly called Persia by the West. A multicultural nation with many ethnic and linguistic groups (mostly Shi'ites), this ancient country straddles Eurasia, Western Asia, the Caspian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Already a crossroads culture of great geo-strategic significance, Iran has endured invasions by the Greeks, Arabs, Turks and Mongols. Meet indigenous communities from the Zagross Mountains; Nomadic tribes near Tehran; Armenian Christians, and the people of remote Abyaneh, who have kept their traditions, dialect and costumes intact for hundreds of years.
One of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, Persia was once a major empire of superpower proportions. It played a vital role in the Islamic Golden Age, producing hundreds of influential scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. Let us introduce you to our network of off-the-beaten-track locations and peoples, who care deeply about celebrating and sharing the artistic, architectural, religious and intellectual traditions of Iran through the lens of an unique cultural identity.
Day 1 | Sunday, October 29 | Tehran Early morning arrival in Tehran. Meet our guide and transfer to the hotel. After a chance to freshen up, depart on a city tour where you have the opportunity to observe Iran’s bustling capital with a population of twelve million. Our first stop is at the National Museum of Iran. Walking through, you can see within arm's reach many different periods of Iran's rich history. After lunch in a local restaurant, visit the National Jewelry Treasury that is housed within the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Here we view one of the most stunning collections of gemstones and jewelry known in the world. Laleh Hotel or similar (L/D)
Day 2 | Monday, October 30 | Tehran After breakfast we begin the day with a morning tour of the Carpet Museum of Iran containing the collection of precious Persian carpets from all over the country dating from 18th century to present. Continue to the Contemporary Arts Museum where our guide will explain the recent history of Iran through its art. Transfer to the airport for a two and a half flight to Kerman. Upon arrival in Kerman, transfer to our hotel for dinner and overnight. Kerman Pars Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 3 | Tuesday, October 31 | Kerman Begin our day with an excursion to the pre-Islamic, immaculately preserved castle known as the Rayen citadel. On the way back, stop in the town of Mahan for a visit to the 15th century Shah Ne'mat ollah Vali Sufi shrine where we will discuss the art and artistic mentality of the Sufis, as we view the people praying, immersed in spiritual contemplation. Then we will visit the Baghe Shazdeh (prince’s garden), a 19th century green oasis in the midst of the surrounding desert with its water cascades flowing from an underground water system. After lunch visit the Ghanj Ali Khan bathhouse and the paintings and tile-works of the Vakil teahouse contained within a bustling bazaar in Kerman. Tonight you will have several courses of home cooked delicacies in a family run restaurant. Kerman Pars Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 4 | Wednesday, November 1 | Yazd Drive to Yazd passing by the second biggest copper mine in the world before arriving at the village of Meymand where the modern society has lived in hand-dug rock houses for almost 3,000 years. After wandering the caves of Meymand, we will stop along what once was the Silk Road at the Zeynoddin Caravanserai, one of the 999 inns that were built during the reign of Shah Abbas I to provide facilities to travelers. Arrive in Yazd in time for dinner. Moshirol Mamalek Garden Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 5 | Thursday, November 2 | Yazd Yazd, known for its very studious and religious people is also the center of Zoroastrian culture in Iran. Our first visit is to Dakhmeh, the “Tower of Silence”—a circular, raised structure used to expose the dead, much like the traditional Tibetan “sky burial.” Still in use today, we visit the Zoroastrian fire-temple holding a fire that has been kept alight continuously since 470 A.D. On to explore the 15th-century Mirchakhmaq square and the façade of the old Bazaar of Yazd. Yazd mosques are well known for their high and lofty minarets and you can find the tallest one on the Jame’ mosque which we will visit today along with the Seyyed Roknoddin holy shrine. From here, stroll through the spiral back alleys of the old quarters of the city, visiting the 12-Imam mosque and the traditional Lariha house. Lunch in an 18th-century public bathhouse, recently converted into a traditional Persian restaurant. The 18th-century Dowlat Abad garden and its lofty wind tower (badgir) is another wonder of Yazd that we’ll visit today. Wind towers, also referred to as wind trappers or ventilation towers, are inseparable parts of the architecture of central and southern Iran, and have provided natural air conditioning in this hot climate for thousands of years. The wind tower in this garden stands almost 110 feet tall, and is considered an architectural masterpiece. We’ll experience firsthand how one can be so deeply in harmony with nature. While in Yazd, one should not ignore Baqlava, Qottab, Halva and for dinner you may test the Yazdi gastronomy. Moshirol Mamalek Garden Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 6 | Friday, November 3 | Shiraz Drive to Shiraz, known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers, crossing Shirkuh (The lion mountain) at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Visit the 4,000 years old tree known as Sarv-e Abarqu considered an Iranian national monument, and an icehouse in Abarqu. After lunch visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pasargadae town and battlefield, dating from the 6th century B.C. and the final resting place of Cyrus the Great. Pars International Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 7 | Saturday, November 4 | Shiraz Embark on a city tour, including 19th century Eram garden (heavens garden), a 17th century Khan theological school still in operation, the colorful nomdic bazaar of Haji, amongst other sites and sounds of Persia. Lunch in a world beloved local traditional restaurant called Shater Abbas and on to visit Narenjestan Qavam, the residence of a former governor of Shiraz preserving the elegance and refinement enjoyed by the upper-class families during the 19th century. At the end of the day visit the marble tomb of poet Hafez and if we are lucky enough to catch them, listen to the local and traditional music spilling over into the Persian night. Pars International Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 8 | Sunday, November 5 | Persepolis Today, experience one of the many highlights of this journey- an excursion to Persepolis, the 6th century B.C. ancient ceremonial capital of Achaemenids. Once the home of the King of Kings for over 200 years, it consists of the remains of several monumental buildings including the Gate of All Nations, Palace of 100 Columns, Palace of Darius, Xerxes’ Palace, Central Palace, and Apadana Palace. Then, journey to the nearby ancient necropolis of Naqsh-e Rostam where many ancient royals have been interred. Lunch in a local restaurant run by an ex-nomad and relax before returning to Shiraz. Back in Shiraz enjoy some free time in the 18th-century colorful, traditional, and crowded Vakil Bazaar, where you’ll discover textiles, spices, copper handicrafts, and antiques. End the day at Saray-e Moshir, an urban caravanserai used in the Pahlavi period as the art festival center and now functioning as an exhibition space for Iranian handicrafts and antiques. Pars International Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 9 | Monday, November 6 | Isfahan Embark on a scenic drive today, crossing Iran’s largest mountain range known as the Zagros. Enjoy scenic views and passing villages as well as view some various Zagros-dwelling ethnic groups. Stop for a picnic lunch or relax in a local restaurant in Semirom, then move onward to arrive in Isfahan via Shahreza. Abbasi Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 10 | Tuesday, November 7 | Isfahan Welcome to Isfahan, a wonderful and colorful city filled with Islamic art and architecture. Twice serving as the capital city of Iran, most recently in the 16th and 17th centuries under Shah Abbas the Great, the Persians called it Nesf-e-Jahan (half the world), meaning to see it was to see half of the glories in the world. Our tour begins with the Vank Cathedral, also known as The Church of the Saintly Sisters, which belongs to the Armenian Christians who came to this area in the early 17th century by the order of Shah Abbas the Great. In addition to the main cathedral, it houses a museum, a historic printing press, and a large library, which includes the first book printed in Iran, as well as an array of Armenian textiles. From here we’ll drive to the Sio-Se-Pol and Khajou bridges and then to Chehel-Sotoun Palace, which we’ll view large frescoes depicting court life, counterbalanced by miniature paintings of the 17th-century Safavid dynasty. At the end of the day we’ll have some time to watch the beauty of a Persian carpet being woven in a carpet shop. Enjoy dinner in the famous Shahrzad restaurant in order to test the delicacies of Iran cuisine. Abbasi Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 11 | Wednesday, November 8 | Isfahan Begin another fascinating day with a short walk to Naqshe-Jahan (Royal) Square, the second largest square in the world. Once an entertainment site and the main polo ground for the Safavid kings. Imagine the neighing of the horses, struggling and pushed to the limit and the roaring applause of the crowds. The eternal eyewitness to these games and parades is Ali-Qapu Palace, with a large platform from which the court boasted the power of their king. Crossing the square, we’ll visit Sheikh Lotfollah, the first ladies’ mosque in the Islamic world. It was a place where women of the court used to come via the underground tunnel to say their prayers in privacy. Inside the dome, we’ll find a magnificent mixture of calligraphy and tiles, with a peaceful ambience created by the soft lighting system. As we depart the ladies’ mosque, you can window-shop your way through the covered bazaar on your way to the Imam Mosque (in Meidan Emam). Built by Shah Abbas, it is a main gathering place, especially on Fridays, containing an ocean of blue tile work that embodies a spirit of peace and tranquility, with a pool in the center of the courtyard. We’ll relax and meditate, followed by a cup of tea at a traditional Sufi teahouse. After a short rest, we will visit a traditional restaurant. Abbasi Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 12 | Thursday, November 9 | Natanz / Abyaneh / Kashan Today we embark on a scenic drive through the central mountains of Iran known as the Karkas (Vulture) Mountains. En route, we will look at a khanqah façade, a monastery housing for Sufi brotherhood, collections of tile work and calligraphy, and observe a skillful artist in a ceramic workshop in Natanz. In the remote and traditional village of Abyaneh we will greet people who have kept their ancient traditions, costumes, and dialect intact for hundreds of years. As we continue to drive towards Tehran, we will stop in Kashan for lunch at a local restaurant before hitting the road and arrive back into the golden city of Tehran. Laleh Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 13 | Friday, November 10 | Tehran After a buffet breakfast begin a morning tour of Golestan Palace Complex, the former residence, working offices and ceremonial center of the Qajar (19th century) and Pahlavi kings (Shahs). Visit its painting galleries and mirrored palaces, which after the Islamic revolution of 1979 were changed into various museums for the public to enjoy. Then weave through the corridors of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. Lunch is at a local restaurant, followed by free afternoon to revisit any sights, last minute shopping or to pack. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner and discussion of our experiences in this fascinating country. Laleh Hotel or similar (B/L/D)
Day 14 | Saturday, November 11 | Tehran/Home After breakfast depart to airport and depart home. (B)
INCLUDED: Accommodations (first class hotels or best available); in-country ground and air transportation; all meals; English speaking National Guide; CCJ trip leader; guest speakers; all entrance fees; tips for baggage at airports, hotels, meals, locals guides; preparation materials; personalized luggage tags; bottled water on the bus.
NOT INCLUDED: International flight to/from Tehran; tips for National Guide, drivers; visa and passport fees; departure tax; travel insurance (strongly recommended, info will be sent upon registration). A tourist visa is required to travel to Iran. CCJ will send Information after registration.
Please note that you cannot have an Israeli visa or stamp in your passport. If you do, you must get either a second passport or a new passport. If this is the case, please let us know immediately.
Saied “Hadi” Haji Hadi , a native of Iran, always dreamed of traveling and interacting with other cultures. He started his career as an air traffic controller, including three years of education in the United States. After 20 years, Hadi completed a tour guide course, and traded in his sky-watching days for tour guiding in his home country.
Now, after 26 years in tourism, he has led over 325 tours for Western groups, along with a position of leadership as Chairman of the Iranian Tour Guide Association (ITGA) for six years. Aside from leading tours, he spends considerable time exploring the nooks and crannies of Iran and other parts of the world. Hadi keeps up his passion for the skies by collecting war-bird planes, building and flying RC model aircraft, and seeking out aviation museums abroad. A diligent student of cultures and of life, Hadi is a warm and incredibly knowledgeable resource, the perfect person to impart understanding of Iranian culture on this cultural odyssey.