Far Horizons has been taking groups to Iran since 2000, and our in-depth knowledge of the destination means we offer a truly special view of the country. Enjoy interacting with local people and visiting no fewer than twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Included in our 17-day itinerary are a wealth of mesmerizing sites – Bisotun, where an enormous multilingual inscription was carved into a cliff face by Darius the Great in the 5th century BC; the Biblical city of Susa; the ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil built about 1250 BC; Shushtar’s 2,500-year-old Hydraulic System; Isfahan’s stunning Jameh Mosque and Maidan Emam, or public square; Tehran’s sparkling Golestan Palace, where ornamented walls made of colored mirrors sparkle in the light; Pasargadae, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great; The Persian Qanat, a unique water control system; several of The Persian Gardens; and, of course, Persepolis, an amazing testament to ancient international relations. The echoes of the ancient world are ever present in modern-day Iran. Not only is it the home of millennia-old monuments but also striking works of art which include intricate carpets, fine ceramics, ornate miniatures, and Ghalamzani, the art of engraving exquisite designs on metal!
Join only 13 others and learn about the archaeology, architecture, and art of this fascinating country!
Depart on a flight bound for Iran
Arrive into Tehran and transfer to the 5-star Azadi Hotel where we will stay the next two nights. (D)
Begin the day at the Carpet Museum, exhibiting lush carpets from all over the country dating from the 17th century to present day. Then we enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Golestan Palace, part of a complex of royal buildings. One of the oldest of the historical monuments in Tehran, it was originally built during the Safavid dynasty. At that time, it was enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s historic arg, or citadel. However, it received its most characteristic features in the 19th century. At that time, the palace complex became the royal residence and seat of power of the Qajar ruling family. Move on to the National Museum, displaying the country’s archaeological findings. The Abgineh Glass and Ceramics Museum offers a window into the rich Iranian civilizations. It is impressive not only for the exhibits but for the building itself. In the early 1920s, it was constructed as a private residence for a prominent local family. Ultimately, it was the Egyptian Embassy before housing the Museum. (B/L/D)
Leave Tehran for Hamadan, a major stop on the ancient royal road to Baghdad. Here, view the Alavyan Tomb Tower. Uniquely, this 12th-century structure is regarded as the finest example of Seljuk art in Iran. See the latest excavations of ancient Ecbatana, created by King Deioces as his capital where he ruled from 728-675 B.C. Next, see the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai of Biblical fame as well as the Tomb of Avicenna, a world-renowned astronomer and physician of the 10th century. Finally, stop at Ganjnameh, to view the area’s oldest Achaemenid rock carving. Engraved on two immense stone panels, the inscriptions record the achievements of Darius I and his son Xerxes and the extent of their empires. Overnight in the Azadi Hotel in Hamadan. (B/L/D)
Proceed towards Kermanshah with a stop at the Sasanian site at Kangavar. Here, in the remains of a temple dedicated to her, learn about the goddess Anahita, the benevolent divinity of water. Then it’s on to Bisotun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on an ancient trade route, Bisotun is noted for the spectacular 50-foot-tall bas-relief stretched almost hundred feet across the face of the cliff. Darius I, The Great, ordered it when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire in 521 BC. Interestingly, the inscription is in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. Subsequently, this was the key to the decipherment of cuneiform script in the mid-19th century. Next, view breathtaking Tagh-é Bostan, where a sacred spring emerges from a mountain cliff and empties into a large reflecting pool. Here, in what was once a royal hunting park, the Sasanian kings etched spectacular rock reliefs. These include an oversize equestrian statue of King Khosrow II mounted on his favorite charger, Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor. Also, see depictions of two cosmic beings, Ahura Mazda and Mithra. Mithra is haloed with the rays of the sun as he is also portrayed at Nemrut Dag in southeastern Turkey. Overnight for one night in the Parsian Hotel in Kermanshah. (B/L/D)
Enroute to Ahvaz we stop to see the remains of Pol-é-Dokhtar. Constructed by the Sasanians 2,000 years ago, this bridge is huge. In order to span the Kashkan River, it is 900 feet long and eight arches rise 90 feet above water level. Finally, drive to the ancient fortress city of Shushtar to see the historical hydraulic system, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The watermills can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century BC and still supply water to the city. Continue to Ahvaz and overnight for two nights in the Fajr Hotel. (B/L/D)
Begin in Haft Tepe, the remains of an ancient city built 3,500 years ago. Today it is an imposing feature rising about the surrounding plain. Here we can see elaborate vaulted graves and a temple of the Middle Elamite royalty. Within the courtyard two broken stone stelae were excavated. Each was inscribed with the name of Tepti-ahar, the Elamite king believed to have built the Haft Tepe complex. We now visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Chogha Zanbil and Susa. The well-preserved Elamite ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil is the largest man-made structure in Iran. Additionally, it is one of the few remaining examples of ziggurats in the Middle East. Built about 1250 BC, the architects used distinctive construction techniques and elaborate glass-based materials while creating this great structure. Our next stop is Shush, or Susa, the setting of the Biblical Book of Esther. Dating back to around 6000 BC, Susa was one of the great ancient cities of Iran. As such, it was an important Elamite center until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in the 7th century BC. In the 5th century BC Darius I made it into the Achaemenid winter capital. Across the river, visit the Tomb of Daniel, said to hold the remains of the Jewish prophet. Even today, it is still a place of pilgrimage. (B/L/D)
Today’s long drive to Shiraz takes us through the oil-rich province of Khuzestan and the tribal areas of Mamasani and Boyer-Ahmadi and into the upland province of Fars. Bishapur is part of the UNESCO Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region. Here, explore the remains of the Bishapur city of King Shapur I, and six important rock carvings at nearby Tang-e Chogan. The temple at Shapur’s palace has been identified by several archaeologists as sacred to Anahita, the Zoroastrian goddess associated with the waters. Time permitting, visit the Sasanian rock carving at Sarab-é Bahram. Overnight at the Homa Hotel in Shiraz for three nights. (B/L/D)
Explore lovely Shiraz, the City of Roses and Nightingales. Begin in Eram Garden, with its beautiful cypress-lined avenues leading to an elegant summer palace. Continue to the pink-tiled 19th-century Nasir al-Molk Mosque and the Narenjestan Gardens. A richly decorated pavilion featuring a mirrored porch is set among graceful trees. Visit the tomb of Hafez, Iran’s greatest lyric poet. Finally, spend time in the famous (and enticing!) Shiraz bazaar. (B/L/D)
An early start takes us to Persepolis (Takht-é Jamshid), the heart of the Persian Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, walk through a complex of palaces and temples that is said to be one of the architectural wonders of the world. Massive winged bulls, derived from Assyria but given a characteristic Persian stateliness, greet us at the head of a grand stairway. The staircase is wide enough for five horses to ride abreast! It leads up to a vast platform, the Terrace at Persepolis. The Apadana, or great audience hall was part of the original design by Darius the Great. Here we find hundreds of figures carved in low relief exactly as Darius and Xerxes saw them. Nearby, Naqsh-e Rajab displays four magnificent Sassanid reliefs. One of the carvings is the investiture inscription of Ardashir I, the founder of the dynasty. Additionally, at Naqsh-e Rostam, gaze upon the immense memorial carved for the same Sasanian Ardashir I after his conquest of the Parthians. Even today, the oversize frieze remains a powerful testimony to his victory and subsequent coronation as king. Equally important are the four elaborate tombs belonging to the great Achaemenid rulers Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. They were hewn into the great vertical cliff of the tawny mountain. Most likely, this was the final resting place of these four kings. Notably, just below these tombs are eight large reliefs from the Sasanian dynasty. Each depicts imperial conquests and royal investitures. On one of them, the Roman Emperor Valerian submissively bows before the renowned Persian king, Shapur I. Valerian was the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, a lasting humiliation for the Romans. (B/L/D)
Our explorations take us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pasargadae. Here see the impressive, elevated Tomb of Cyrus. Then, walk through the different sections of the ancient city: the Residential Palace, the Audience Hall, the Gatehouse. A highlight is the curious Zendan-e Soleiman, a modest extinct volcano with the remains of temples encircling the hollow cone. Continue to Yazd and overnight for two nights in the Moshir Garden Hotel. (B/L/D)
Located in the remote desert, the old city of Yazd is built almost entirely of adobe. This architectural wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To deal with the extremely hot summers, many old buildings have magnificent wind towers and large underground areas to circulate cooling air. Yazd has been a Zoroastrian center since Sassanian times. Zoroastrians still make up a significant minority of the population. Therefore, the Atashkadeh in Yazd is the most important Zoroastrian fire temple in Iran. Within the building the sacred flame is visible. Reputedly, it has been burning continuously for over 1500 years. After visiting the temple and its grounds, we move on to a Tower of Silence, or dakhma. In Zoroastrian funerary tradition the bodies of the deceased were placed here to avoid contaminating the earth. We enter the Qanat of Zarch, part of a 3,000 year old water system, and the Amir Chakmaq Complex noted for its symmetrical sunken alcoves. Towards evening, we will stop by the Zurkhaneh, the traditional gymnasium. Here, amateurs practice their strength and flexibility to the accompaniment of devotional music. (B/L/D) Click here to view a Zoroastrian Temple Prayer in Isfahan by Far Horizons group member, om Westheimer
Drive to Isfahan, the capital of the Safavids from the 16th century on. Within the city are eleven beautiful historical bridges and we will examine two of them. Pol-e Si-o-Se is the largest in the city. And the ornate Khanju, or Pol-e Xāju in Persian, is touted as the city’s finest. It links the Khaju quarter on the north bank with the Zoroastrian quarter across the river. Continue to Chehel Sotun. Shah Abbas II constructed this pavilion four hundred years ago as a reception hall for visiting dignitaries. The interior is elaborately decorated with exquisite paintings along with cut glass and mirrored mosaic embellishments. We conclude the day with a visit to the Qeisarieh Bazaar, where hundreds of shops and stalls offer a rich variety of carpets, tiles, hand block-printed cloth, miniature paintings, and jewelry. Overnight for two nights in the Kowsar Hotel, with views overlooking one of Isfahan’s striking bridges. (B/L/D)
We begin the day at Hasht Behesht, an octagonal pleasure palace built during the Safavid era. Then it’s on to the Armenian Quarter to visit Vank Cathedral, built in the imperial style. This was one of the first churches to be established in the city’s Jolfa district by Armenian immigrants transplanted there by Shah Abbas I after the Ottoman War of 1603-1605. Next, we visit the magnificent Jameh Mosque with its famous Uljaitu Mihrab of the Il-Khanid Period and with UNESCO World Heritage status. Continue on to the Maidan, yet another UNESCO World Heritage property. The gigantic open plaza is framed by a wall of arches and surrounded by two of the Islamic world’s most impressive mosques, the Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and the Masjed-e Emam. Both houses of worship contain magnificent architecture and tile work. Walk through the Ali Qapu Palace with its enchanting music room and balcony overlooking the Maidan. This is where the Safavid kings sat to watch polo tournaments. (B/L/D)
This morning, drive to Kashan to walk through the famous Fin Gardens one of the UNESCO Persian Gardens. In keeping with many of the parks of this era, the Fin Garden has many stunning water features that are fed from a spring emerging from a slope behind the garden. Circulating pools and fountains were created using only the water pressure of the waterway. This Spring of Solomon, or Soleymanieh Spring, is part of UNESCO’s designated Persian Qanat. Thousands of years old, the Qanat system is an elaborate hand-dug tunnel scheme for directing water from the mountains to the dry plains for irrigating fields. This complex design allowed Persian farmers to produce crops despite long dry periods. Qanats are still in use from China on the east to Morocco on the west. Overnight in the Azadi Hotel in Tehran for two nights. (B/L/D)
Spanning an impressive amount of human history, the Reza Abbasi Museum displays artifacts from the 2nd millennium BC to the 20th century AD. Explore this museum and continue to the Shah’s Palace before breaking for a free evening to explore or relax. Gather together again this evening for our farewell dinner at a restaurant serving Italian cuisine. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport for return flights home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.