Iran Tour: Empires of Everlasting Fires
Iran Tour: Persepolis, Pasargad, Bistoun, Isfahan, Shiraz, Shush, Isfahan, Hamadan
October 7 – 23, 2023
Why Take this Tour?
- Far Horizons has been taking groups to Iran since 2000
- Led by Dr. Jenny Rose, an expert on ancient Persia
- Visit twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Golestan Palace, Bisotun, Shushtar historic hydraulic system, Chogha Zanbil, Susa, Bishapur, Persepolis, Pasargadae, Isfahan’s Jameh Mosque and Maidan, the Persian Qanat, and Fin’s Persian Garden
- 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 in Tehran.
Day 3: Tehran: National Museum, Abgineh Museum, Golestan Palace, Carpet Museum.
Day 4: Alavyan Tower. Ecbatana. Tomb of Esther and Mordechai. Tomb of Avicenna, Ganjname.
Day 5: Kangavar. Bisotun. Tepe Nush-e Jan, 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 al-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, Amir Chakmaq Complex, Qanat of Zarch.
Day 13: Isfahan: Chehel Sotun Palace, Khaju Bridge, Pol-e Si-o-Se, Qeisarieh Bazaar
Day 14: Isfahan: Hasht Behest, Jameh Mosque, Vank Cathedral, Maidan, Ali Qapu Palace.
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, 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!
‘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)
“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 – Jenny Rose
Jennifer Rose received her MA in Religious Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and her PhD from Columbia University in Ancient Iranian Studies. While writing her doctoral dissertation (since published as The Image of Zoroaster: The Persian Mage Through European Eyes), Dr. Rose was simultaneously a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Brunel University, London, and the Deputy Director of a Religious Education Centre that supported the teaching of world faiths in the British public school system. She is presently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University and is frequently an invited speaker at conferences in both North America and Europe. Her two most recent publications on the Zoroastrian religion are Zoroastrianism an Introduction, and Zoroastrianism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Dr. Rose’s breadth of knowledge concerning the world’s religions, and her particular interest in the historical interaction between Iranians and those of other cultures along the Silk Roads into modern Central Asia, China and India, make her an ideal study leader for this trip..
(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. 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)
Day 4: 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)
Day 5: 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)
Day 6: 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)
Day 7: 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)
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. 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)
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 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)
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. 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)
Day 11: 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)
Day 12: 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
Day 13: 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)
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. 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)
Day 15: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)
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)
$9,995.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels, all meals (as noted), land transportation; English speaking guide; and all gratuities.
Single Supplement: $1055.00. 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; necessary vaccines or tests; 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 per person 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 and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
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