THE TREASURES OF PERSIA
We will travel the old silk roads, through pretty villages and spectacular mountain ranges, between golden fields and green orchards, to desert towns glowing rose-pink in the setting sun. We will see the extraordinary parade of Persian history, from ancient fire temples, through citadels and caravanserais to glittering palaces and sublime blue-tiled mosques. We will stay in some lovely heritage-style hotels and enjoy regional cuisines. A highlight will be our stay at the magnificent 300 year-old Abbasi Caravanserai Hotel in Esfahan.
We are a small group, so you will experience the real treasures of Iran – the welcoming people. Iranians love nothing better than offering hospitality to travelers and we will join friends in Iran for home-cooked feasts and a farm visit. This tour will take you into the very heart of Iran.
YOUR TOUR LEADER: Ann Clancy is an inquisitive and intrepid traveler who has made her way through more than 45 countries. But Iran, she says, beats them all hands down. After falling in love with Iran and its people during an Alumni tour in 2013, she has tracked the Persians through central Asia, the Caucasus, Oman, India and Pakistan. Still utterly besotted, she is keen to share the story of Iran with you. Ann has a BA and a post-grad Bachelor of Social Administration. She has studied fine arts and architecture, literature and the social sciences. The author of three best-selling historical novels in English and German, Ann also won a Centenary Medal for directing an historical commemoration of the Overland Telegraph, which attracted more than 10,000 visitors and one million people online.
WED 23 SEPT ARRIVE TEHRAN
Arrive Tehran, pick up SIMs if needed and transfer to the hotel to settle in. Tour briefing, brief historical overview and local orientation tour on foot to help you feel at home.
Welcome dinner at hotel. (Meals in flight,L,D)
THU 24 SEP IRAN THROUGH HISTORY
Iran’s history museums alone make a stay in Tehran worthwhile. The National Museum displays artefacts and archaeological treasures in their chronological order, providing an unforgettable view of the history of Iran through time. The Reza Abbasi Museum does the same with the visual arts, through breath-taking displays of painting, metalwork and ceramics. After a delicious street food lunch of falafel rolls, we will visit the glittering Golestan Palace complex, a World Heritage Site, with its sparkling Qajar mirrorwork, decorative tiles and paintings. An early dinner at the hotel. (B,L,D)
FRI 25 SEP ON THE TRAIL OF SHEHEREZADE
After a relaxed start we visit the modern architectural wonder of the Tabiat (Nature) Bridge, with its lovely views and gardens. Enjoy a western-style coffee and cake at one of the trendy bridge cafes for morning tea. Visit the National Carpet Museum for a special talk on the role of women in carpet making. After lunch, we stop briefly to admire the striking modernist Tehran Theatre, an initiative of Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi. Then the women will take a specially booked women’s taxis for a visit to the Women’s Park, to meet local women and their kids. The men will be taken by our guide to another activity. In the evening, we will take a short stroll in the foothills to enjoy a traditional open-air dinner at Darband where we will hear the story of Sheherezade as we lie back on cushions and carpets by the trickling brook. (B,L,D)
SAT 26 SEP THE SILK ROAD TO ZANJAN
We say au revoir to Tehran and head north to Zanjan, to visit the Dome of Soltaniyeh, built in 1302 – 1312, and set in a pretty old village amongst rolling green pastures. Traditional dinner at the old Caravanserai Sangi where we will grind our own Dizi – slow-cooked lamb and chick pea stew – with a mortar and pestle. (B,L,D)
SUN 27 SEP ANCIENT WONDERS
Today we take the lovely winding road to visit the World Heritage Site of Takht-e Soleyman in West Azerbaijan province. This fortified and somewhat mystical site is located on a hill created by the outflow of a calcium-rich spring pond. The ancient citadel includes the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple built during the Sassanid period and was partially rebuilt during the Ilkhanid period. A short uphill hike will take us to Zendan-e Soleyman, the ‘Prison of Solomon’, a deep volcanic crater which legend says was used by King Solomon to imprison monsters. (B,L,D)
MON 28 SEP ZANJAN – QAZVIN – KASHAN
We depart early for Qazvin visiting the Zanjan Museum of Anthropology, set in a communal laundry dating back to the Qajar period, before the imperial capital of medieval times.
In Qazvin, we will take in the Caravanserai of Sa’d al-Saltaneh, and the shimmering shrine of Imamzadeh Shahzadeh Hossein, before a lunch of Geymeh Nasar, a very special regional dish, fragrant with orange rind. After a short drive which will take us down Salaam’ Gaah Street and past the Chehel Sotoun, we will take the road south, beginning the journey to the desert trading route through the south of Iran. Settle back in the bus as we head straight for Kashan, bypassing both Tehran and the holy city of Qom, from where the Ayatollah Khomeini led his opposition to the Pahlavi dynasty in the mid-1960s. (B,L,D)
TUE 29 SEP THE AXIS OF CULTURE AND HISTORY
In 2007, Iran placed the Historical Axis of Fin, Sialk and Kashan on its Tentative List for possible future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will see it all, and more besides.
We will start the day at Tepe Sialk, which was one of the primary centres of civilization in pre-historic times. We will have seen the dynamic designs on beautiful Elamite painted potteries found at Sialk on our visit to the National Museum.
The ancient Sialk ziggurat still stands today in the suburbs of Kashan after 7,000 years. We will wander through the lovely historical Kashan Bazaar, with its vaulted corridors and fabulous dome. If the timing is right, we may take a look at the carpet wool dyeing workshop and watch bread being cooked in the gravel sangak oven.
In the afternoon we will look at the Abbasi House and Tabatabei House – two of the elegant merchants’ homes of Kashan, and as the afternoon draws to a close, we will stop at the Bagh-e Fin, a world-famous Persian Garden. Throughout the day enjoy the fabulous street art of Kashan. (B,L,D)
WED 30 SEP PRETTY VILLAGES
After an early start, our journey today will take us through the charming villages of Nyasar, Abyaneh and Natanz on the way to Esfahan.
Nyasar is a small town which grows the most fragrant roses in Iran, hosts the rose festival each year and produces some of the country’s finest rosewater and rose oil. Here we will see a simple and exceptionally elegant fire temple in the chahar taq style – four arched entrances with a dome over the top – dating back to the Sassanid period of Ardeshir 1 (180 – 242 CE). We will pause to reflect on the Zoroastrian philosophy and the power of its three precepts – good thoughts, good words and good deeds.
Abyaneh is a pretty traditional village built with rose-red adobe.
Here we will make a short stop to meet the older folk who remain in the dwindling village and see the women in their traditional white and floral dress.
After a short stop in Natanz to stretch our legs and stroll around the Shrine Complex of Abd al Samad we will head towards the city of Esfahan.
We arrive to the beautiful 5*Abbasi Hotel in Esfahan, once a caravanserai. When you have settled in, grab a jacket and find your way to the inner courtyard, where you can explore the extensive Persian garden of tiled walkways, roses and fruit trees. You can take tea at a café table set amongst the trees heavy with quince, pomegranate and persimmon. Then we will join together for dinner and a briefing in one of the sumptuous hotel dining rooms. (B,L,D)
THU 01 OCT SHAH ABBAS’S GLORIOUS CITY
We will take our early breakfast in a room decorated with elegant Persian paintings, overlooking the courtyard garden. After a short walk from our hotel will we enter the World Heritage Site of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, with its sublime mosques, bazaar and palace. This complex, built in the late 1500s and early 1600s by Shah Abbas, is the pinnacle of Safavid architecture, and will likely be one of the great highlights of your visit to Iran. We will see two mosques which might well both rival the Taj Mahal for the title of the most beautiful building in the world. Whereas the Taj is utterly perfect on the outside, Sheik Lotfollah and the Shah Mosque reveal interiors of tiled perfection and subtle, changing light. Our morning tea will be enjoyed in a delightful antique bric-a-brac teahouse just off the square. We will return to the square to see the Ali Qapu Palace, home to Shah Abbas in the early seventeenth century.
After a restful lunch we will head for the Jame Mosque at the far end of the bazaar. You will then be free to shop or to return to any of the mosques for further viewing in the changing light of the afternoon. (B,L)
FRI 02 OCT HEAVENLY DAY
Today we will explore the theme of heaven. Our day will start with a visit to the Hasht Behesht – the palace of eight heavens – a small pavilion with elegant columns seamlessly extending through to the tall trees in the surrounding park. If we time it right, we may meet the retired gardeners who come each morning to enjoy the park they so lovingly tended over so many years. We will then move on to the heavenly Chehel Sotoun, the palace of forty columns, reflected in a long pool amidst another heritage garden. The interior is decorated with frescoes and paintings which illustrate the lives of the Safavids – in battle, feasting, drinking, dancing and in love. In the afternoon we will visit the Vank Cathedral. This cathedral, built and decorated by Armenian refugees in the early 1600s, is astonishingly beautiful, with its gilded carvings, tiled wainscots and vibrant frescoes portraying Christian visions of heaven and hell. (B,L)
SAT 03 OCT FAMILY FEAST AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC
Today we join my friends, the Shafiee family, for a day at home. During my last visit to Esfahan, I had a wonderful time socialising with this warm and lively modern family. These visits to families are not commercial tourist activities, they are invitations to build friendships. Today we will cook traditional family fare, talk about modern Iran, and enjoy a concert of Iranian folk music on traditional instruments including santur and tombak. (B,L,D)
SUN 04 OCT THE SILK ROAD TO YAZD
We will start our day early with the beautiful bridges of Esfahan, stopping to enjoy the Sunday morning performance of poetry as it echoes under the arches of the Khajou Bridge. Perhaps we will hear part of the epic poem of the Shahnameh, the Book of Kings, the great Persian literary work written by Ferdowsi around 1,000 CE. The Shahnameh is the longest epic poem in the world and is credited with restoring Persian culture and the Farsi language. We continue our journey to the south, skirting the great Dasht-e Kavir salt desert and visiting small desert towns on the way to Yazd. We will be on the lookout for fields of saffron being harvested, and if we find it, we shall stop to see how the red stamens of these beautiful flowers are harvested and why this spice is more expensive than gold.
We will visit the town of Na’in to see one of the oldest mosques in the world. Very different from the tiled mosques we have seen, the Na’in mosque has beautiful decorative columns, a deep basement prayer space for gathering in the heat of the summer and a qanat (an ancient watercourse) running beneath. Arrive in to Yazd for an afternoon walk through the old city, with its cool narrow pathways between tall adobe homes. Dinner will be at our lovely heritage hotel. (B,L,D)
MON 05 OCT THE ZOROASTRIAN PATH
Today we visit one of the two Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians have long buried their dead in a practice known as sky burials. We will then go to see the live fire temple, burning continuously since 470 CE.
Today we will also make our way to the blue-tiled Jame Mosque and the Water Museum. (B,L)
TUES 06 OCT IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CYRUS
Our long journey to Shiraz today will be made worthwhile by a visit to the incredible site of Pasargadae founded in 550 BCE, where the simple tomb of King Cyrus stands tall on the sun-drenched plain, a testament to the extraordinary history of the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids.
Dinner at Soofi Traditional Restaurant where we listen to traditional Iranian music and enjoy the sweet aroma of freshly baking bread. (B,L,D)
WED 07 OCT POETRY AND ROSES
Shiraz is a cosmopolitan city of poets, gardens, nightingales and flowers. We will visit some lovely historical buildings here – the Vakil Mosque, Vakil bath-house and Vakil bazaar, and the jewel-like pink mosque, the Nasir al-Mulk.
In the afternoon we will visit the tombs of the great poets, Hafez and Sa’adi, to enjoy the memorials themselves, the pretty gardens and the sight of young lovers reading poetry to each other. You might like to have your fortune read by a canary or perhaps we may catch the sweet song of a nightingale.
For dinner, we will visit the street food area and each enjoy a Shirazi dish of our choice. (B,L)
THU 08 OCT PERSEPOLIS
Persepolis! Founded by Darius I in 518 BCE, Persepolis was the grand ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense terrace, where the King of Kings created an impressive palace complex designed to impress. We will walk through this vast site, through the Gate of Nations, past the wonderful bas-relief artworks displaying all the peoples of the Persian Empire, and take a short hike up the hill to see the magnificent aerial view.
After lunch, we will visit Naqsh-e Rustam, an ancient necropolis. Here, the imposing rock-cut tombs and reliefs commemorate the Achaemenid and Sassanid kings and tell of the great battle victories of the empire. Dinner at a very cool restaurant complex – the Haft Khan. (B,L,D)
FRI 09 OCT THE SASSANIDS
We farewell lovely Shiraz for the journey to Kerman. We will visit the 5th century Sassanid ‘palace’ of Sarvestan and there will be opportunities for impromptu activities along the way – maybe we can taste Sarvestan’s famous yoghurt, visit some Qashgai nomads or see the yakhchal (traditional icehouse) in Sirjan. (B,L,D)
SAT 10 OCT PARADISE GARDENS, CHAI AND SPICES
This morning we start our exploration of the city of Kerman. We will visit the tiled and vaulted Vakil bathhouse, now a museum, and the tea house, also once a hammam, where we will sip our tea while watching a traditional musical performance. The vaulted brick bazaar of Kerman will be fragrant with cumin, for Kerman has been the world centre of cumin production throughout the ages. Could there be a link between the names? After lunch we will visit the magnificent blue-tiled mausoleum of Shah Nemat-ollah Vali, the renowned 14th Century Sufi Leader, located in a beautiful garden. During the afternoon, we will enjoy Shahzadeh, the loveliest public garden in Iran, with its roses, terraces of trickling water and delightful pavilions. (B,L,D)
SUN 11 OCT CITADELS AND FORTRESSES
Around 30,000 people died in the quake which struck Bam before dawn on Friday morning, December 26, 2003. The World Heritage citadel of Arg-e Bam, 2,000 years old, remains the biggest adobe citadel in the world. Large parts have been rebuilt and we might see the adobe bricks being made on-site for this purpose. On the way home, we will visit the smaller and largely-intact Arg-e Rayen. (B,L,D)
MON 12 OCT TREASURES OF PERSIA
The warm, welcoming people are the true treasures of Persia. We will visit the farm of grandmother Khanom and the Khosropour family at Bezanjan. Here you will use your newly-learnt language skills and Persian courtesies to get to know this lovely family, with help from English-speaking Hossein Khosropour and our guide Hossein. We will tour the neighbouring farms on foot or by bus, harvest walnuts in the traditional communal way, bake bread, make a lunch of home-grown foods with the older ladies, sit around the campfire for ash reshte soup or a regional dish of abghoosht, rest in Khanom’s home and garden, and listen to the stories of old. This will be the very first visit of any tourists to this small traditional community. You can only begin to imagine the hospitality that will be showered upon us by this extended family group. Our last full day of touring will truly be a day to treasure. (B,L,D)
TUE 13 OCT SOPHISTICATED ARTS AND CRAFTS
We board our flight to Tehran. On our way back to the Laleh Hotel, we will call at the APS centre, where several very cool shops sell arts, crafts and stylish homewares by the leading designers of Iran.
An early farewell dinner for the tour, with the evening free for packing and last-minute sight-seeing. (B,L,D)
WED 14 OCT DEPART TEHRAN
Transfer to the airport for your flight home, or stay on to see more of wonderful Iran. (B, Meals in flight)
GENERAL INFORMATION AND SPECIAL BOOKING CONDITIONS
Land only, per person twin share $10,300.00
Single Supplement $2,160.00
LAND ONLY TOUR PRICE INCLUDES:
• Twin-share accommodation in comfortable hotels with private facilities
• Domestic airfares as per the itinerary
• Transport in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
• Meals as per the itinerary: B signifies breakfast; L signifies lunch;
D signifies dinner
• All transfers, entrance fees and sightseeing as per itinerary
• Services of Tour Leader Ann Clancy
• Service of English speaking guides throughout the tour
• Group tipping arrangements
• Program Handbook
LAND ONLY TOUR PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
• Return international air travel from Sydney to Tehran
• Applicable passenger airport taxes
• Meals not listed in itinerary
• Beverages with meals
• Airport to hotel transfers if not traveling on group flights
• Visa requirements of the tour member
• Travel Insurance
• Items of personal nature (telephone, laundry etc)
Please contact Tony for the best fares available at the time of booking.
I’m Interested…How Do I Book?
Fill in the online Booking Form, read and agree with our Terms & Conditions, select your payment option for your deposit of $450.00 per person to Alumni Travel and Submit. Upon receipt of your Booking Form and deposit, you will receive a confirmation of your place in writing.
DEPOSIT AND FINAL PAYMENT:
The deposit is accepted as a first installment of the tour cost and will be fully refunded if the arrangements can not be confirmed or the tour is cancelled by Alumni Travel. Final payment for the tour needs to be received at least 60 days prior to tour departure. An invoice will be sent to you about a fortnight before the final payment becomes due.
CANCELLATION AND REFUNDS:
Any cancellation from the tour needs to be done in writing. The cancellation date will be taken from the day your written cancellation is received by Alumni Travel. Because of the tour cancellation charges imposed by our various suppliers, the following cancellation charges apply, per person:
Over 60 days $100.00 – Administration Fee
59 – 40 days 25% of tour cost
39 – 10 days 50% of tour cost
Within 10 days 100% of tour cost
If a difference occurs between these cancellation conditions and those imposed by our suppliers, then the conditions of the supplier shall apply.
There is no refund before or after travel has commenced or for any unused portion of the tour, either in regard to the standard group arrangements or separate independent arrangements.
CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS:
Any payments by credit card will be subject to a 2% non-refundable Merchant Administration Fee.
It is now standard policy with our company that all our international travellers have some type of international travel insurance, so that you are covered for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise. A comprehensive Insurance brochure is available from Alumni Travel. The insurance brochure contains the terms and conditions under which insurance cover will be offered to you.
ADDITIONAL TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS:
If you would like Alumni Travel to assist you with any additional arrangements pre or post tour, please contact our office for assistance at time of booking. All arrangements need to be finalised at least 30 days prior to your departure.
An administration fee of $30.00 per amendment will be charged for any changes made to any reservation within 30 days prior to your departure. Any additional charges imposed by our suppliers will also be payable.
PASSPORT AND VISAS:
It is the traveller’s responsibility to ensure that they possess the necessary travel documentation for the tour, such as a valid passport and any required visas. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months beyond the end of your journey and have two clear pages for each country to be visited in your journey.
In the event that passenger numbers do not reach the minimum number of tour participants (approximately 12, excluding the tour leader) required for the tour, it may be necessary to either surcharge or cancel the tour. If such an event does occur, you will be notified at least 60 days prior to the tour departure.
This tour price has been calculated on the basis of exchange rates and tariffs at the time of print and is subject to change up until final payment has been received. At the time of final invoicing (approximately two months prior to the tour departure date), Alumni Travel reserves the right to re-cost the tour based on actual exchange rates. This could mean an increase or decrease to the above listed prices. Should you decide to cancel your arrangements on the basis of a change in the tour price, normal cancellation charges will apply.