You will discover the mysteries of the Zoroastrian fire temples, the power of Darius the Great at Persepolis, the exquisite inventiveness of early Islamic architecture in Isfahan, the gardens of Kashan, the ancient wind towers at Yazd, and of course carpet making, bazaars and warm and kind people. This trip to Iran is the opportunity of a lifetime. This is a country with 7,000 years of history and like the carpets it is famous for, it is patterned by colorful and complex influences.
Day 1: Evening Depart London Heathrow and arrive Tehran early morning. This flight is to Tehran and straight on to Shiraz sounds tiring, but is preferable to a night in a Tehran airport hotel. We arrive at Tehran, transfer by bus to the domestic airport and check in for the Shiraz flight, arriving in Shiraz very early and going straight to bed.
Day 2: Early Flight to Shiraz. After taking time to rest in the morning we will lunch together. Shiraz is a city dear to the heart of Persian romantics, the home of poets, famous for its roses, and in the past, vineyards. We will take time to visit the Tombs of Hafiz and Saadi and explore the gardens for which Shiraz is famous before eating in a former Bath house
Day 3: Day excursion to Persepolis and Naksh-e-Rustam. Short tour of Shiraz. Then travel to Persepolis, about an hour from Shiraz. Persepolis was built by the biblical Darius the Great and destroyed in 331 BC by Alexander. It is the probably the most impressive pre-Islamic monument in Iran, thoroughly excavated to reveal columns, ceremonial staircases, chambers and stunning reliefs celebrating the triumphs of the Achaemenid dynasty.
Naksh-I Rustam nearby is the site of huge rock reliefs dating from five centuries later, telling the stories of Sassanian victories over their neighbors, including the Roman emperor Valerian in 260 AD. In the evening we will return to Shiraz and explore the bazaar.
Day 4: Drive to Yazd via Abarquh. This drive of about 450 km will take us an easy day, including a picnic at a deserted caravanserai. We will pass through the Zagros mountains (up to 12,000 ft), and hope for sight of some fine landscapes. Abarquh, en route, is a village with an imposing tomb tower, an early example (1056) of the Islamic architecture you will become familiar with by the end of the trip.
Day 5: Yazd. Full day in Yazd, with a short out of town excursion to visit Zorastrian towers of silence. Yazd is the traditional capital of the Iranian Zoroastrian community, the now tiny remnant of the major world religion celebrated by Persepolis, and later the Sassanians. We shall see something of their community and customs. Fine cloth is made in Yazd and we usually find fine old pottery and traditional crafts in a small bazaar. Yazd also offers some fine Islamic buildings, notably its stunning Friday mosque (1330-ish), the masterpiece of late Mongol tilework.
Day 6: Drive to Isfahan via Nain. We will break the drive to Isfahan of about 300 km (5 hours) at the small town of Nain on the edge of the Great Salt Desert, which has one of the earliest mosques in Iran (10th century). The all-over decoration of carved plaster and clever brickwork, shows how you don’t need pretty tiles (not yet invented) to work magic with decoration. Tonight the accommodation in the Abbasi Hotel 5 stars, the grandest hotel in Iran, built in a converted 17th century caravanserai, still as romantic as ever in the very center of this wonderful city.
Days 7 – 8: Isfahan. Isfahan is the Florence of Iran - full of architectural jewels, and also a great center for trading and handicrafts. Some highlights:
- The Friday mosque. Huge and complex, built from the 10th to the 17th centuries, a miracle of space and decoration. The great square (Maidan-i Imam) surrounded by half a dozen scintillating tiled and painted buildings of the 16th and 17th centuries, representing one of Iran’s periods of imperial greatness.
- The 17th century bazaar, full of life and trade and things to buy, but also an architectural gem in its own right. Runs for miles and can occupy hours and hours.
- The Armenian area of Julfa, with churches displaying a disorienting mix of Christian symbols and liturgy with Islamic architectural style.
Day 9: Drive to Tehran via Natanz and Kashan. We will leave after an early breakfast and break our journey at the shrine of Abd-al Samad (1299) in Natanz, a lovely spot where cool tilework sets off peaceful sylvan surroundings. Then on to Kashan where we will visit:
- The Bagh-i Fin, a classic Persian walled garden of the 16th to 19th century, full of flowing water and little pavilions.
- The Borujerdi house, a flamboyant merchant house of the 19th century, also celebrated by architects for its voluptuous exterior.
Day 10: Day in Tehran. We will begin the day with a visit to the Central Bazaar where a carpet merchant will show us carpets made only from vegetable dyes. For those who wish to buy these can be shipped to UK if necessary. After lunch we will visit the Ceramics Museum and possibly the Carpet Museum. There you will have the chance to buy gifts of glass, jewelry etc.
Day 11: Return flight to London. Arrive Heathrow around 10:00.
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Middle East Iran Local Culture Cultural Journey Sightseeing