Iran Tour: Empires of Everlasting Fires
Iran Tour: Persepolis, Pasargad, Bistoun, Isfahan, Shiraz, Shush, Isfahan, Hamadan
Why Take this Tour?
- Far Horizons has been taking groups to Iran since 2000
- Led by expert on ancient Persia Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
- Visit twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- One full day in Yazd, the center of Zoroastrian culture
- Limited to 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive into Tehran.
Day 3: Tehran: National Museum, Abgineh Museum, Golestan Palace, Carpet Museum.
Day 4: Alavyan Tower. Ecbatana. Tomb of Esther and Mordechai. Ganjname.
Day 5: Kangavar. Bisotun. Taq-e-Bostan.
Day 6: Pol-e-Dokhtar. Shushtar watermills.
Day 7: Chogha Zanbil. Haft Tepe. Susa. Tomb of Daniel.
Day 8: Sarab-é Bahram. Tang e Chogan. Bishapur.
Day 9: Shiraz: Eram Garden, Nasir ol Molk, Narenjestan Gardens, Tomb of Hafez. Ali Ibn Hamzah Mausoleum.
Day 10: Persepolis. Naqsh-e Rajab. Naqsh-e Rostam.
Day 11: Pasargadae.
Day 12: Yazd: Towers of Silence, Fire Temple, Old City, Bazaar, Zurkhaneh, Jameh Mosque, Amir Chakmaq Complex, Qanat of Zarch.
Day 13: Isfahan: Chehel Sotun Palace, Khaju Bridge, 33 arch bridge, Bazaar.
Day 14: Isfahan: Hasht Behest, Jameh Mosque, Vank Cathedral, Maidan, Ali Ghapu Palace, Loftolloh Mosque, Bazaar.
Day 15: Finn Garden in Kashan. Drive to Tehran.
Day 16: Tehran: Shah’s Palace, Abbasi Museum, Tavazo
Day 17: Fly back to the USA.
Far Horizons has been taking groups to Iran since 2000, 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 eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Included in our 17-day itinerary are Bisotun, where an enormous multilingual inscription was carved into a cliff face by Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C.; the Biblical city of Susa; the ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil, built about 1250 BC; Shushtar’s 2,500-year-old Hydraulic System; Isfahan’s Jameh Mosque and Meidan Emam, or public square; Tehran’s sparkling Golestan Palace, with ornamented walls made of colored mirrors; 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 spectacular metal work!
Join only 13 others and learn about the archaeology, architecture, and art of this fascinating country!
‘This is a trip I would recommend to anybody loving to see great historical and archaeological sights and wonderful people. Nothing is true of the officially supported “not safe country” preconception.’– Erla Walther (she traveled to Iran a second time in 2015)
“This was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken! Great on every level. And by far the friendliest people I’ve ever travelled among. Iran, as viewed in the US media and by US politicians, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real Iran.‘ – Professor Michael Coe of Maya fame.
Tour Leader – To Be Announced
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive into Tehran and transfer to the 5-star Azadi Hotel where we will stay the next two nights. (D)
Day 3: 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 that were once enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s historic arg, or citadel. The oldest of the historical monuments in Tehran, this opulent palace dates back to the Qajar Dynasty. Continue this afternoon with an exploration of the National Museum, displaying the country’s archaeological findings. Then view the collection at the Abgineh Glass and Ceramics Museum, impressive not only for its exhibits but for the building itself, constructed in the early 1920s as a private residence for a prominent local family and later housing the Egyptian Embassy. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Depart Tehran for Hamadan, a major stop on the ancient royal road to Baghdad. Here, view the Alavyan Tomb Tower, a 12th-century structure 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. Visit 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. We will also visit Ganjnameh, where the area’s oldest Achaemenid rock carving is located. Engraved on two 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)
Day 5: An early departure for Kermanshah takes us via the Sassanian site at Kangavar, where the remains of a temple dedicated to Anahita, the beneficent divinity of water, are to be found. We then view the incredible Achaemenid bas-reliefs at Bisotun, one of the most famous Near Eastern archaeological sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trilingual inscriptions, carved 521-519 BC in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian, served as the key to the decipherment of cuneiform script in the mid-19th century. The relief above the inscription shows Darius the Great facing nine rebel kings—the rulers crushed by Darius when he came to power. The winged genius floating above the scene indicates that Darius was supported by the “great god” Ahura Mazda. Then on to the sensational site at 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 Sassanian kings carved some spectacular rock reliefs, including an oversize equestrian statue of King Khosrow II mounted on his favorite charger, Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor. Two cosmic beings, Ahura Mazda and Mithra, also are portrayed at this site. Mithra is haloed with the rays of the sun as he is also depicted at Nemrut Dag in southeastern Turkey. He offers a bundle of sacred twigs to King Shapur II as part of the rites of royal investiture. Overnight for one night in the Parsian Hotel in Kermanshah. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Enroute to Ahvaz we enjoy a picnic lunch and in the afternoon view the remains of Pol-é-Dokhtar, a bridge constructed by the Sassanians 2,000 years ago. It is huge – 900 feet long and rising 90 feet above water level and with eight arches needed to span the Kashkan River. 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 B.C. and still supply water to the city. Continue to Ahvaz and overnight for two nights in the Fajr Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Begin in Haft Tepe, the site of an ancient city built 3,500 years ago and an imposing feature rising about the surrounding plain. Here are found elaborate vaulted graves and a temple of the Middle Elamite royalty. Within the courtyard were found two broken stone stelae 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 and one of the few remaining examples of ziggurats in the Middle East. Distinctive construction techniques and elaborate glass-based materials were used for this great structure. Our next site 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 and an important Elamite center until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in the 7th 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, and still a place of pilgrimage. (B/L/D)
Day 8: 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. At Bishapur, explore the remains of the 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 Sassanian rock carving at Sarab-é Bahram. Overnight at the Homa Hotel in Shiraz for three nights. (B/L/D)
Day 9: 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-ol-Molk Mosque and the Narenjestan Gardens, with the richly decorated pavilion featuring a mirrored porch set among graceful trees. Visit the tomb of Hafez, Iran’s greatest lyric poet. Late this afternoon, spend some time in the famous Shiraz bazaar. (B/L/D)
Day 10: 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 wide enough for five horses to ride abreast. The stairway leads up to the vast platform on which the entire site is built. On the stairway up to the Apadana, the reception hall to the palace of King Darius I, survey the hundreds of figures carved in low relief exactly as Darius and Xerxes saw them. They look so fresh they might have been carved yesterday. The small museum at Persepolis has been created from the ruins of a building called the “harem of Xerxes”. Nearby, visit Naqsh-e Rajab, where magnificent Sassanian reliefs are located in an alcove in the rocks. Nearby, at Naqsh-e Rostam, gaze upon the immense memorial carved for the Sassanian Ardashir I after his conquest of the Parthians. The oversize frieze remains a powerful testimony to his victory and subsequent coronation as king of Iran. Hewn into the great vertical bluff of tawny rock are also the four elaborate tombs belonging to the great Achaemenid rulers Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. Just below these tombs are eight large reliefs from the Sassanian dynasty, depicting imperial conquests and royal investitures. On one of them, the Roman Emperor Philip the Arab is shown kneeling in respect before the renowned Persian king, Shapur I. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Our explorations take us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pasargadae to see the impressive, elevated Tomb of Cyrus and to walk through the different sections of the ancient city: the Residential Palace, the Audience Hall, the Gatehouse, and the curious Zendan-e Soleiman. Continue to Yazd and overnight for two nights in the Moshir Garden Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 12: Located in the remote desert, the old city of Yazd is built almost entirely of adobe and is an architectural wonder. It is the country’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. To deal with the extremely hot summers, many old buildings have magnificent wind towers, with 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, and the Atashkadeh in Yazd is the most important Zoroastrian fire temple in Iran. The sacred flame visible behind a glass in the interior of the fire temple is said to have been burning for over 1500 years. We visit the temple and its grounds, and then a Tower of Silence, or dakhma, where in Zoroastrian funerary tradition the bodies of the deceased were placed, to avoid contaminating the earth. Towards evening, we will visit the Zurkhaneh, the traditional gymnasium, where 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 Tom Westheimer, 2009 trip participant
Day 13: Drive this morning to Isfahan. Iranians say that their lovely city is “half the world”. The capital of the Safavids from the 16th century on, Isfahan is said to have the most beautiful bridges. We view two of them, Pol-e Si-o-Se as well as the ornate Pol-e Khaju. The Persian garden was conceived to symbolize Eden and the four Zoroastrian elements of sky, earth, water and plants. They exemplify the diversity of Persian garden designs that evolved and adapted to different climate conditions while retaining principles that have their roots in the times of Cyrus the Great. There are nine gardens in Iran designated UNESCO World Heritage, and we will visit one today – Chehel Sotun, a pavilion constructed as a reception hall for visiting dignitaries by Shah Abbas II. The interior is covered with exquisite paintings along with cut glass and mirrored mosaic embellishments. We conclude our day in 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 memorable views overlooking one of Isfahan’s striking bridges. (B/L/D)
Day 14: 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 and 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 Site. 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 where the Safavid kings sat to watch polo tournaments. Finish our day in the Qeisarieh Bazaar, located just off the Maidan. (B/L/D)
Day 15:This morning, drive to Kashan to walk through the famous Fin Gardens, another one of the UNESCO Persian Gardens. In keeping with many of the gardens 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)
Day 16: 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)
Day 17: Transfer to the airport for our return flights to the USA. (B)
CALL (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels, meals as noted, land transportation, entry fees, gratuities.
Single Supplement: CALL. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International airfare, a separate donation check for $150.00 (per person) to the donation project; airport transfers for flights other than designated group flights; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, and beverages not on set menus; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone, and fax charges; laundry; or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: 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 projects and museums 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 write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $750.00 to Far Horizons is required upon making your reservation, along with a completed and signed registration form. Final payment is due 120 days prior to departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 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. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation, trip interruption and emergency evacuation coverage.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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.
Travel in Iran
Please bear in mind that, though Iran receives more and more tourists every year, their tourist infrastructure, particularly their hotels, have not been well-maintained and often do not meet Western standards. The food offered in restaurants though good and plentiful is not always diverse. At times we will be walking over uneven terrain for a two miles or more. All participants are expected to be physically active and able to walk independently throughout our very full touring days. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility. Do not expect assistance from the other participants or staff. Several days will include long drives in the bus. A good book to read, a flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor are helpful! If you have questions or concerns about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This Archaeological Tour to Iran is Limited to 14 Participants