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Iran.. In-depth Journey to Ancient & Modern Persia

Sep 30 to Oct 22, 2017

Ancient Persia has been the seat of many civilizations and unique contributions in poetry, art, architecture, science and history. Many of Iran’s achievers have contributed to our modern world. Most of the country’s archaeological gems are well preserved and portray a rich historical heritage. Your tour will not only explore ancient ruins and colorful cities but also exotic bazaars and old baths. Marvel at ancient monuments and beautifully tiled mosques. Stroll through medieval bazaars that remain much as they were centuries ago. Stop to visit local nomadic tribes when driving across the vast country. Your journey will take you to Yazd the center of Zoroastrian culture, to Shiraz city of poets which has had major Jewish and Christian communities and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Isfahan, and Persepolis. Come and discover Iran, a repository of grand relics and ruins.

This abbreviated version of our itinerary does not begin to do justice to the many wonderful sights we experienced on this fabulous tour, nor to the delicious Persian cuisine.
– Michael A. Rea

Tour Escort: Led by Professor Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Archaeologist, the University of Texas at Austin

Tour cost per person in double occupancy (Air & Land from JFK): $8,995.00

Single Supplement: $1,200.00

Credit for not using the included air $800.00

Other Eastern US gateways cities available

Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 12 participants

Your tour Includes:

  • International airfare from JFK to Tehran and back (via Europe).
  • Deluxe and First class properties in most cities & one or two hotels superior tourist class in smaller towns for few nights.
  • All meals (Full-board) as specified in the itinerary: (B-breakfast, L-lunch and D-dinner).
  • All tours as per itinerary including entrance fees and high qualified English speaking guide throughout the trip.
  • Transfers/transportation by large comfortable modern A/C vehicle during the whole tour.
  • A bottle of mineral water per passenger per day on touring days plus juice, coffee and tea on board the bus.
  • All local taxes and service charges on included items.
  • Tipping to guide, drivers, porters, hotel and restaurant staff.

Your tour Does Not Include:

  • Airport taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges (estimated at $480.00).
  • Airfare from cities other than New York City (price differs depending on gateway city).
  • Iran visa (Cost is currently $148.00, but subject to change)
  • Passport should not include any Israeli stamps.
  • Items of a personal nature (camera fees at sites, laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage, etc.)
  • Travel protection insurance.
  • Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled flights/tour dates.
  • Dayroom or overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

Tour Notes

Trip Grade: Moderately-Rigorous Touring
We will be covering great distances by road during this journey. The roads are very good and the air-conditioned bus very comfortable. You will often be served cold water, tea and fruits along the way. We will make several rest stops (some will not be five star bathrooms and others will be in the beautiful wilderness). It is important to recognize the exhausting nature of some of the long driving days as well as some of the site visits where you might have to climb on uneven terrain and do some long walks. Also, it is our responsibility to inform you that despite the immense progress in standard of accommodations over the last years, you might still encounter minor annoyances, such as leaky plumbing fixtures, or hot water interruptions in hotels. This will necessitate a flexible, tolerant attitude and a sense of humor. Women will be required to wear loose, ankle-length dresses with long sleeves or pants and tunic and have their hair covered with a scarf or shawl at all times when outside their hotel rooms.

About your lecturer…Professor Denise Schmandt-Besserat is professor emerita of Art History and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. A graduate of L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris, she is a renowned Near Eastern archaeologist. She has worked on archaeological collections in all the major museums of the Middle East, Europe and the USA. She is the author of When Writing Before Writing (1992), Met Art (2007), and How Writing Came About (1996), which was selected by American Scientist magazine as “one of the 100 books that shaped science in the 20th century”. Her work on the origins of writing and mathematics has been covered by Scientific American, Time, Life, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. She has appeared on television programs such as Out of the Past (Discovery Channel), the Nature of Things (CBC), Search for Solutions (PBS) and Tell the Truth (NBC). For many years Denise has led our tours to the Near East and Central Asia and her lectures and handouts will add to the enjoyment of your tour. You can also browse her web site to get acquainted with her scholarly works: http://sites.utexas.edu/dsb

Trip Grade

Trip Grade: II Active  Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long bus rides.

Lodging Level: **** Luxury – Mostly large hotels, typical western standard with ample venues & full amenities. (4- 5 stars)

View Tour Itinerary

Sat-Sun, Sep 30/Oct 01

Leave the USA late on Saturday arriving very early the third day into Tabriz and transfer to your hotel.

Monday, Oct 02

After late breakfast, Excursion to visit St. Stepanos Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is one of the oldest and most beautiful Armenian churches in the area (10-12 century A.D). Named after St. Stepanos (Stepanus), one of the first Christian martyrs, it is located in the green valley of Darreh Sham at the far western frontier of Iran next to the border with Azerbaijan. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Oct 03

Full day sightseeing in Tabriz to visit the Blue Mosque, known in the world as the Turquoise of Islam, and Azarbaijan Museum, displaying a fine collection of per-historic and historic artifacts found in the area; and drive by the 13th century Arg-e Alishah, which was originally a magnificent Friday Mosque, but turned into a fortress in the 19th century; also visit the Constitution House, Poets Cemetery (Maghbarat-ol-Shoa’ara), also visit the extensive and interesting Tabriz Bazaar (UNESCO site) and the El-Goli Park, O/N at hotel. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Oct 04
Tabriz to Zanjan

After breakfast, drive to Zanjan and visit Kandovan Village This village exemplifies manmade cliff dwellings which are still inhabited. The troglodyte homes, excavated inside volcanic rocks and tuffs similar to dwellings in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, are locally called “Karaan”. Karaans were cut into the Lahars (volcanic mudflow or debris flow) of Mount Sahand, afterwards check in your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Oct 05
Zanjan to Tehran

Depart Zanjan to Tehran, stopping along the way to visit Soltaniye, known for its mausoleum of the Mongol Sultan Oljeitu Khodabande, which has one of the largest domes in the world. Admire this UNESCO World Heritage site’s magnificent 14th-century tomb tower, whose decorations and patterns carved into plastered walls have inspired geometric and floral patterns on Persian textiles. Arriving at Tehran, transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, Oct 06

After breakfast, start your full-day visits in Tehran including Golestan Palace/Museum Complex, the former residence of the 19th early 20th century Qajar Kings of Iran, with several museums including the Marble Throne Room, and the Emarat-e-Badgir (Wind Catcher Building), Iran’s National Museum: the Archaeological, displaying an authenticated collection of pre-historic and ancient artifacts with pottery dating back to 6-7 millennium B.C.; and the Islamic with a unique collection of artifacts manuscripts, silver and bronze objects and tiles from different post-Islamic periods in Iran, displayed on three floors. After lunch visit the Abguineh Museum (also named the Glass & Ceramics Museum), a valuable collection of pre-Islamic and Islamic glass and ceramics, beautifully displayed and located in an elegant early 20th century mansion. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Oct 07
Tehran to Hamadan

Drive to Hamadan via Qazvin. In Qazvin visit the holy shrine of Shahzadeh Hussain, son of the 8th Shiite Imam, dating from early Safavid period. Continue to Hamadan, the capital of the Median Empire in the 7th century B.C., and the summer capital of the Achaemenid kings in the 5th century B.C. Visits include Ganjnameh, the inscriptions by Darius I, and his son, Xerxes, carved on the rocks of the mountain, the Tomb of Esther & Mordecai, a major Jewish pilgrimage center, the 12th century Alavyan Tomb Tower, plus the tomb of Avicenna, Iran’s celebrated philosopher/scientist/physician, whose prescriptions are still used by Western and Iranian medical universities and the Stone Lion, an intriguing statue believed to date from the Hellenistic Period when Alexander invaded Iran, supposedly, made to honor his slain general. In Hamadan for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Oct 08
Hamadan to Kermanshah

Drive to Kermanshah, via Kangavar, a small town dating back to 200 BC., to visit the Temple of Anahita, goddess of water and fertility. Continue to Bisutun; see texts that helped in the deciphering of the cuneiform script. The 400 foot high inscription carved into the cliff side has been recently restored and under restoration for several years. On arrival in Kermanshah visit the important Sassanian reliefs at Tagh-e-Bostan, depicting royal hunting scenes and the investiture of the Sassanian kings. Transfer to Parsian hotel or similar fro check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, Oct 09
Kermanshah to Dezful

After breakfast, drive via Pol-e-Dokhtar to see the remains of the Sassanian Bridge then continue leaving the Iranian Plateau and rolling down into Mesopotamia arriving to your hotel in Dezful for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Oct 10
Dezful – Susa – Ahwaz

Drive to Ahwaz and visit Chogha-Zanbil, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the ziggurat built around 1250 B.C. by the Elamite king “Untash Napirisha” is now referred to “Untash-Gal”. Also visit Haft-Tappeh (Elamite Necropolis), Susa and the remains of the Achaemenian palaces (plus the nearby Tomb of Biblical Prophet Daniel). Susa (Soush or Shush) is one of the oldest cities in the world (and the latest addition of UNESCO sites in Iran – June 2015). Excavations have established that people were living at the Acropolis in 5000 B.C., and have shown the evidence of urban structures about 4000 B.C. It was also the favorite residence of the Persian king Darius. The scene of the Biblical book of Esther is set in Susa. We also visit water mills and a suspension bridge over the Karun River. Return to your hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Oct 11
Ahwaz to Shiraz

Drive to Shiraz enroute visit Bishapur, remains of the Sassanian city built by Shapur 1st (241-273 A.D.), the second Sassanian king. The building complex includes a central chamber, a large courtyard which had been covered with impressive mosaics, plus the remains of a temple dedicated to Anahita, the Goddess of Water and Fertility; on either side of a narrow gorge, there are also six Sassanian rock/reliefs at Tang-e-Chogan, commemorating Shapur’s victories over the Romans and other adversaries; onto Shiraz for dinner and overnight stay. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Oct 12

Explore Shiraz, known as the city of “Roses and Nightingales” for its famous gardens. Visit the residential citadel of Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty, the pink-tiled 19th century Mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk, the Qajar Narenjestan Garden and House, the Vakil Complex and the Bazaar of Shiraz. Visit the 9th century Friday mosque, the most interesting and oldest of the buildings in Shiraz. After lunch we have a chance to visit a nomadic carpet workshop/gallery where you can shop or just learn about tribal rugs. Then we will continue our tour of Shiraz. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, Oct 13
Shiraz (Persepolis)

Full Day exploring the city of Persepolis with a visit to Persepolis, the magnificent springtime capital city of the ancient Persian empire, with its spectacular reliefs and towering columns, visit the rock-cut tombs of Persian kings at Naghsh-e Rostam and the Sassanian reliefs at Naghsh-e Rajab. Return to your hotel in Shiraz for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Oct 14
Shiraz to Yazd

Head to Yazd, visiting en route Pasargadae, the site of the impressive tomb of Cyrus the Great (founder of the Persian Empire), and the remains of his palaces and royal gardens and Abarkouh one of the ancient Iranian cities and was built on the foot of a nearby mountain. Arrive in Yazd and transfer to Moshir Garden hotel or similar for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Oct 15

Spend the morning visiting the Zoroastrian Sacred places, the eternal Fire Temple, the tombs perched atop the hill and the funerary Tower of Silence. Then drive to Kharanagh village, a deserted mud-brick town with its alleys, baths, minaret (reminiscent of Bam, which was destroyed by the 2003 earthquake) and also visit a local fabric and tile workshop in the afternoon; head back to Yazd for your overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, Oct 16
Yazd to Isfahan

Half day city tour of Yazd, have lunch then drive to Isfahan via Naei with a stop at the city of Maybod, see the ancient Sasanian Castle of Narin Ghale, the most ancient monument of Meybod and has very high dried mud walls and is located at the middle of Meybod historical texture. Continue to Isfahan and transfer to Abbasi hotel or similar. Dinner an overnight stay. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Oct 17

Enjoy a full day sightseeing in Isfahan the 17th century capital of the Safavids, referred to as Nesf-e-Jahan or Half of the World, including a city tour of Isfahan and visits to the palace of Chehel-Sotun (the Forty Columns) set in a beautiful park, and the vank church. In the afternoon, head to visit Hasht Behesht and some art workshops to see paintings and the old bridges built during the rule of Shah Abbas the Great. Dinner and overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Oct 18

After breakfast, head out for sightseeing in the magnificent city of Isfahan with a visit to Imam Square and Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah mosque with its magnificent architecture and tile work, Aliqapu Palace, and Friday mosque & Bazaar. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Oct 19
Isfahan–Kashan- Tehran

Drive to Tehran with stops at Natanz and Kashan to visit the Tabab-Tabai Mansion built in the late 18th century, and the Fin Garden, a beautiful example of a walled Persian Garden. This city is the epitome of everything grand from old Persia; its mosques, caravanserais, gardens and homes. Continue to Tehran with a possible stop at mausoleum of Imam Khomeini before arriving to Tehran in time for dinner and overnight at the Laleh hotel or similar. (B,L,D)

Friday, Oct 20
Tehran to Mashad

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Mashad, upon arrival drive to Toos historical city and visit the tomb and museum of Ferdosi, the famous epic poet and the remainders of Toos fortifications as well as Haroon’s prison. We will then drive to Torghabeh, a countryside town which is famous for its handicrafts, nuts and dried fruits. Then visit the huge complex of the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the 8th Shi-ite Imam. Afterwards transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Oct 21

After breakfast Excursion to Neishapur (earliest recorded capital of Khorassan Province and once a thriving literary, artistic and academic center), on the way visit Ghadamgah-e-Imam Reza, a late Safavid period and important pilgrimage place dedicated to Imam Reza (believed to have his foot print); in Neishapur visit the tombs of Iran’s greatest mystic poets Omar Khayyam and Farid-eddin Attar, and the well-known contemporary painter Kamal-al-Molk, all located in the garden of Imamzadeh Mahrough (mausoleum dating from the Safavid period with wonderful tile decoration); return to Mashad for overnight stay (B,L,D)

Sunday, Oct 22
Mashad to the US

Very early morning, transfer to the airport for the flight returning to the US (via Europe), arriving home the same day.

“We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed.”