Glories of Persia (Archaeology tour)

Iran

Culture | Archaeology

Journey into the history and archaeology of ancient Iran

16 days £2,995 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

NOTE: Iranian visa authorisation code is included for all those booking on this tour.

Discover Iran’s illustrious history including its four ancient capitals - Susa (Elamite), Ecbatana (Achaemenid/Median), Pasargadae (built by Cyrus the Great) and of course Persepolis - as well as its unique Zoroastrian heritage and the classical beauty of Isfahan. Trace the roots of Achaemenids, Elamites, Sassanians and Parthians as you traverse this ancient land. Iran is a country with a profound and intriguing history, a vibrant culture and a warm and welcoming people. Explore the architectural wonders of ancient Persia and uncover the layers of history at the heart of modern Iran.

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Classical City of Hamadan
  • Susa, the ancient Elamite capital
  • Chogha Zanbil, a vast Ziggurat of ancient Mesopotamia
  • The famous gardens & bazaar of Shiraz
  • Stunning limestone carvings of Tang-e-Chogan
  • Ancient heritage and sublime stone carvings of Persepolis
  • Visit the ancient site of Pasargadae
  • The Zoroastrian Heartland of Yazd
  • The palaces, mosques & plazas of Isfahan
  • UNESCO heritage sites of Sheikh Lotfollah & Shah Mosques

Places Visited

Tehran - Hamadan - Bisotun - Tagh-e-Bostan - Dezful - Susa - Chogha Zanbil - Ahvaz - Bishapour - Shiraz - Persepolis - Pasargadae - Yazd - Isfahan - Kashan - Sialk Mounds

What's Included

Visa authorisation code
Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Breakfasts (refer to meal plan for full details of all meals)
English-speaking guide
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Departure

Depart your home country. On arrival a hotel room will be available to you. 

NOTE: If you arrive on this day (as opposed to the early hours of the following day) it is not a problem. The hotel room will be available from 2pm.

Overnight in Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel, Tehran

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Tehran

Arrive at Tehran Airport. Transfer to your hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby at 11am. Visit Iran's National Museum and the Crown Jewels museum. Overnight in Tehran.

NOTE: The time spent in Tehran on this tour is necessarily short (especially given the typical flight arrival times of 1am-4am) but the city has much more to offer than this tour can showcase. If you would like to stay longer, please do ask us about options for spending more time in Tehran. 
 

Overnight in Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel, Tehran

Meal plan: Breakfast

Tehran has been Iran's capital since 1778 and is its biggest city, with over 14 million people living within its metropolitan area. It also boasts countless museums and is at the heart of most of Iran's cultural and artistic events. The city is on an upwards slope going North, with the city centre at about 1,200m and parts of North Tehran rising up to 1,700m. 

The National Archaeology Museum of Iran was completed in 1928 by the French architect Andre Godard. It contains ceramics, pottery and other archaeological gems from excavations all over Iran, including Persepolis, Susa and many other significant sites. The exhibition displays are charmingly chaotic, but stuffed with authentic artifacts, including pottery dating back to 6-7th millennium BC. Striking finds include a human-headed capital from Persepolis and some stunning friezes from the Apadana Palace. The museum is an absolute must for anyone interested in archaeology or the history of Iran.

The Crown Jewels Museum houses the largest set of crown jewels in the world. Its displays include splendid crowns and expensively decorated thrones, swords and shields, aigrettes and a vast number of precious gemstones used to make exquisite jewellery. Highlights include the world's largest pink diamond and the famous Peacock Throne. Open Saturday to Tuesday (afternoons only).

Ladies clothes shopping opportunity - as clothing in Iran can be difficult for ladies we will take you for a short visit to a market to pick up some items of clothing appropriate to the local customs, fashions and, of course, restrictions. 

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Day 3 : Tehran - Hamadan

After breakfast drive to Hamadan. Visit the Tomb of Ester & Modecai, the Stone Lion and the Sacred Defense Museum. Overnight in Hamadan.

Overnight in Baba Taher, Hamadan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Hamadan was the summer capital for the Achaemenid kings in the 5th century BC. The town is raised on a high plain which escapes the heat in summer but is mercilessly cold in winter, attracting snow and harsh winds. In classical times, Hamadan was known as ‘Ecbatana’ or ‘Hegmataneh’ and held a legendary reputation. In 728 BC, the Median King Deiokes claimed the city with a splendid palace and in the years that followed it, established itself as a crucial settlement under different leaders. Hamadan then finally collapsed after the Arab invasion at the end of the 7th century AD. Today, Hamadan is still an important city, having re-established itself under the planning of a German engineer in the 19th century. With its Grecian style, the stone lion was likely built in honour of one of Alexander’s slain generals.

Dating to the 14th century, the Tomb of Esther & Mordecai was once Iran's premier Jewish pilgrimage site. They are believed to have averted a massacre of Jews planned by Xerxes' commander, Haman, and instead had Xerxes have him killed.

The Stone Lion, an intriguing lone statue, is thought to date to Alexander the Great’s invasion of Iran in the Hellenistic period. With its Grecian style, the stone lion is believed to have been built by Alexander in honour of his close companion and one of his top generals, Hephaestion. 

Hamadan's Sacred Defense Museum was built in 1997 in collaboration with North Korean engineers, using modern technologies but keeping to traditional architecture. It was opened only in 2010. The museum contains a plethora of valuable information about contemporary war history, especially relating to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. You will be able to see various realistic wax scenes, military equipment, fighter aircraft replicas and an outdoor sculpture garden featuring martyrs and war heroes.

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Day 4 : Hamadan - Kermanshah

Spend the morning visiting Ecbatana, the Alavyan Dome and Ganjmaneh. In the afternoon drive to Kermanshah stopping at the Temple of Anahita at Kangavar and Bisotun en route. Overnight in Kermanshah. 

Overnight in Azadegan Hotel, Kermanshah

Meal plan: Breakfast

Bisotun’s bas-relief cliff carvings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The carvings were created around 521 BC and their highlight is the bas-relief of Darius I. Darius I is shown in confrontation with the nine rebel kings he suppressed before becoming ruler of the Achaemenid Empire. He appears holding a bow (a symbol of sovereignty) and an angel figure, likely blessing his reign, hovers overhead. Also remarkable about the relief are the trilingual inscriptions that tell the story of the scene in three lost languages: Elamite, Akkadian and Old Persian.

NOTE: The most interesting relief at Bisotun can only be seen from a distance at the present time.




The Temple of Anahita, located in the town of Kangavar, is a shrine to Anahita, the goddess of waters and fertility. Appropriately, the stairway of the temple leads underground to a large, tranquil pool which was the site of prayer for her worshippers. Anahita was worshipped in ancient Persia alongside Ahura-Mazda, the supreme creator goddess in Zoroastrian religious practice. The temple still contains remnants of some fascinating Irano-Roman mosaics.

Ganjnameh is a set of trilingual rock carvings in cuneiform engraved on the mountain by Darius I and his son, Xerxes. They were once believed to hold the key to hidden Median treasure.  They were, however, instrumental in the decoding of these ancient scripts (which later lead to the decoding of Sumerian as well) thanks to work by the English army officer, Henry Rawlinson. The Median treasure was, alas, not what they described. 

The Alavyan Dome no longer has a dome, but it does house some floral stucco from the Ilkhanid era, the most interesting of which represent a poem by Atar about thirty birds that move through the seven stages of Sufi’ism in their search for a God, a fable that explains the concepts of the religion.

Ecbatana, the first Median capital founded in 612BC, was built along a grid system with a main avenue wide enough for two chariots to pass and even a sewerage system. The city walls were allegedly composed of seven layers, enclosing two walls lined with gold and silver in the centre. Houses boasted wind badgirs similar to those at Yazd today as well as clay ovens. There is also a small but interesting museum on site.

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Day 5 : Kermanshah - Tagh-e-Bostan - Dezful

Visit Tagh-e-Bostan. Drive to Dezful stopping at Falik ol Aflik Castle en route. Overnight in Dezful.

Overnight in Tourist Inn, Dezful

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Sassanian rock-carvings at Tagh-e-Bostan depict a series of royal hunting scenes and investitures of Sassanian Kings. Some of these rock carvings are sheltered in a grotto. Khosrow II, king from 591-628 AD, has the most dramatic portrait - a gigantic equestrian statue, with the ruler mounted on his favourite charger, Shabdiz. 

Falik ol Aflik Castle in Khorammbad was built by Shapour I in the 3rd century BC. Built originally as a fortified caravanserai, first a town, and later a city, grew up around it. It is believed to have held up the Mongol invasion for about seven years. There is also a small museum on site.

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Day 6 : Dezful - Susa - Ahvaz.

Short visit to the bridge in Dezful and continue to Susa. Visit the ancient site of Susa, one of the oldest in the Khuzestani Province. See nearby Chogha Zanbil and the Shushtar Water Mills. Continue to Ahvaz for overnight. 

Overnight in Pars Hotel, Ahvaz

Meal plan: Breakfast

Archaeologists have traced signs of life at Susa as far back as 7000 BC, but the first settlements were probably established around 4000 BC. Painted pottery from 5000 BC is however scattered around the site. Susa was once the capital of the Elamite Empire and is mentioned in the Bible as the home of prophet Daniel. First mentioned in early Sumerian records, the town was significant under Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires. Much of what can be seen today at the site dates back to the time of Darius’ reign, including the Apadana Palace. Its 72 columns reflect the 72 chapters of Ghath Ha, the Zoroastrian holy book. The palace was a feat of logistics for the time with stone from the Zagros Mountains located 200km away and cedar wood for the roof coming from Lebanon. The cedar was also used for the pit where Darius fed traitors to lions. It remained the winter capital for subsequent Achaemenid kings. Much of the stone from the site was plundered by the British during the First World War to build a train line to service an oil refinery at Abadan, though some of the stones were later recovered by Reza Shah.

Chogha Zanbil, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the few remaining ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia. Literally translating to ‘basket mound,’ the Chogha Zanbil temple complex was built around 1250 BC by King Untash Napirisha, in honour of the great god Inshshinak. The majority of people who lived there were probably either priests or their servants. Originally five storeys high, there were four separate entrances giving different levels of access. Only priests and royalty had access to the highest level. The site also features an offering platform where bulls and goats would have been sacrificed. The complex would have been served by what is believed to be the world's first water refinery. There are numerous hand-carved Elamite cuneiform inscriptions around the building. The site was abandoned after Assyrian attack.

Dating back to the Sassanid era, the Shushtar Water Mills are composed of a series of dams, canals, tunnels and watermills which form a complex irrigation system. The mills, one of which is still functioning, were used to grind wheat and barley. They were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 2009 and described as 'a masterpiece of creative genius'. 

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Day 7 : Ahvaz - Bishapour - Shiraz

Early start. Drive to Bishapour. Visit site and nearby Temple of Anahita. Continue to Shiraz for overnight stay.

Overnight in Homa Hotel, Shiraz

Meal plan: Breakfast

Bishapour (meaning 'Shapour's city) was an ancient metropolis built by King Shapour in 266 AD, with the help of about 70,000 captured Roma soldiers. It was home to a community of 50,000-80,000 people before falling to ruin in the 10th century. The remains of this once-magnificent city include the ruins of the Palace of the Sassanid King Shapour and the fragmented structures of a second palace, built  for the defeated Emperor Valerian  in a style similar to that of Persepolis. Shapour’s Palace contains a cruciform-shaped hall and a large court, which still possesses its original paintings, decorations and stones. It is bordered with a series of colourful mosaics that combine Iranian and Roman motifs in images of nobles and ladies, dancers and musicians. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in June 2018 as part of the Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region.

The building known as the Temple of Anahita at Bishapour is actually an unidentified structure located deeper than the other rooms of the palace. The structure, with its pleasant, harmonious dimensions, can only be reached by descending a long flight of stairs. Once you've descended the stairs, you will find yourself on a small square surrounded by high walls. This square must have been a pool surrounded by sidewalks. The doors in the walls give access to a corridor that surrounded the square and gave access to the nearby aqueduct. On top of two of the walls there used to be triangle-shaped structure that looked like roof supports. This is not the case, as the sanctuary was open and the triangle-shaped structures supported large bull imposts. One of these can now be seen in the Western Mosaic Hall of the Palace.

Across the river from the city of Bishapour are a series of beautiful carvings from 260AD known as Tang-e-Chogan. They tell the story of Shapour I’s victory over the Romans, including his capture of  Roman Emperor  Valerian and a large number of his soldiers, as well as the surrender of Philip the Arab. Further carvings show scenes from the lives of later kings, Bahram I, II and III and Shapour II. There are also investitures with Azura Mazda and Anahita bestowing legitimacy and further victories over Arab tribes.

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Day 8 : Shiraz

Morning tour of Shiraz including Nasir Ol Molk mosque, Narenjestan-e-Ghavam and Ali Ebn e-Hamze Shrine. In the afternoon visit Vakil Bazaar. Overnight in Shiraz.

Overnight in Homa Hotel, Shiraz

Meal plan: Breakfast

Vakil Bazaar is the most famous of Shiraz’s markets. With its wide brick avenues, it is more roomy than most and was originally intended to enhance Shiraz’s role as a trading centre in the Zand era when it was built by Karim Khan. It acts as a living ethnographic museum and is a great place to people-watch, with frequent visitors from the Persian Gulf, various Nomadic tribes and people from all over Southern Iran. The lovely Serai Mushir is a caravanserai near the Southern Vakil Bazaar that is also worth visiting. 

Shiraz is the capital of Fars province in Iran and the fifth most populous city in the country. The earliest references to the city date back to 2000 BC and it has been an important trading centre for over a thousand years. It was briefly the country's capital on two occasions in the Zand and Saffavid eras. It is famous for its poets, including Hafez and Saadi.

Nasir Ol Molk was a wealthy governor of Shiraz during the Qajar era and built this private mosque to his own personal taste. It is a very colourful affair known as the “Pink Mosque” for its liberal use of pink tiles. Its design follows advanced mathematical and geometrical patterns and the wooden elements are made from expensive walnut wood. Some bricks are also made of wood and were designed to insulate the building from earthquakes. There is also a well that used cows to pull up water. The mosque, however, is most famous for its stained glass windows. 

Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze is a 19th century shrine built on the site of older shrines. The current incarnation boasts a huge bulbous Shirazi dome, stained glass windows that allow plenty of light to enter and mirror work that is truly dazzling.

Narenjestan-e-Ghavam (also known as “Qavam House”) is a beautifully-set historic house built by the Qavam Family who were originally merchants from Qazvin (west of Tehran). The inside is ornately decorated with mirrors, inlay work and hand-painted tiles. The gardens, Bagh-e-Ghavam, boast seven types of orange trees and display beautiful symmetry.

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Day 9 : Shiraz - Persepolis - Shiraz

An unforgettable excursion to the lost world of Persepolis as well as a visit to Naghsh–e-Rostam and Nagsh-e-Rajab. Overnight in Shiraz.

Overnight in Homa Hotel, Shiraz

Meal plan: Breakfast

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings that tells the story of the Archaemenid Empire’s magnificence and grandeur, as well as its demise. The city wasn’t recovered until the 1930s, which is partly why it still survives so intact today. Construction of the site began under Darius the Great, but the complex was expanded upon by subsequent rulers and contains the remains of the palaces of Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes. The Tachara Palace is decorated with famous bas-reliefs depicting kings, courtiers and other gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire. The Persepolis Museum, thought to have once been a harem to the king’s consorts and concubines, displays a stone foundation tablet and other artefacts recovered during excavations.

Naghsh-e-Rostam, a mooted UNESCO world heritage site, is a series of four rock-tombs, fashioned out of a cliff. Archaeologists think the tombs are those of Xerxes I, Artaxeres I, Darius I and Darius II. The tombs copy the model from Persepolis, showing the kings supported by figures of surrounding nations. Also carved into the cliff are seven Sassanian reliefs that show images of imperial conquests and royal processions, including Shapur I’s famous victory over the Roman Emperor Valerian.

Naghsh-e-Rajab is a magnificent archaeological site dating back to the early Sassanid era, located near the ruins of the ancient Achaemenid city of Istakhr. It is the site of four limestone rockface inscriptions and bas-reliefs that feature the investitures of Ardeshir I and Shapur I, as well as Shapur's military victory over the Romans.

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Day 10 : Shiraz - Pasargadae - Yazd

Drive to Yazd, and visit Pasargadae en route. Stop at Abarkuh for a short visit to a 4000 year old Cyprus tree. Visit the Towers of Silence in Yazd. Overnight in Yazd. 

Overnight in Dad International, Yazd

Meal plan: Breakfast

Pasargadae was established as a city by Cyrus the Great (the founder of the Persian Empire) in about 546 BC, predating the famous site of Persepolis. The city houses Cyrus the Great’s simply-constructed tomb, which consists of six stone tiers supporting a modest rectangular burial chamber. The tomb has an unusually imposing architecture which combines styles of its contemporary civilizations. Also in the serene plain of Dasht-e-Morghab are the remains of Cyrus the Great’s several palaces made of black limestone plinth. Just north of the Palace is the Prison of Solomon, often mistaken for a sundial or fire-temple. 

The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence are an eerie set of flat topped buildings from which the bodies of the dead were placed, to prevent the body from being contaminated by demons - the belief was that by exposing the body to the elements and vultures, the body would be purified. The bodies were arranged in 3 concentric circles - the inner most for children, the middle for women and the outer circle for men. Once the bones had been bleached, they were placed in ossuaries either inside or near the towers - some of which date from the 4th and 5th century. The towers were used up until as recently as the 1970's.

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Day 11 : Yazd

Full day tour of Yazd, including the Dowlabad Gardens, the Old Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the Mirchachmagh Complex and the Friday Mosque. Overnight in Yazd.

Overnight in Dad International, Yazd

Meal plan: Breakfast

Yazd, one of the oldest mud-brick cities in Iran, is the centre for Iran’s small Zoroastrian community, who first established a settlement there to shelter from the invading Arabs. Having escaped destruction from Genghis Khan, it blossomed into a trade centre in the 14th and 15th centuries, producing silk, textiles and carpets. Named after Yazdegerd I, a Sassanid ruler, the city’s modern-day inhabitants are known as peaceful, hardworking and family-oriented people. Its skyline is famous for wind badgirs, an energy-efficient form of air conditioning that makes use of any little wind to cool building interiors.

Yazd’s Zoroastrian Fire Temple is also known as 'Ateshkadeh', which means 'Eternal Sacred Flame'. It houses an active fire that has burned for about 1,500 years. It was first moved to Yazd in 1174 and to its present site in 1940.  

Yazd’s Jameh Mosque (Friday mosque) is arguably the city's greatest architectural landmark. It dates back to the 15th century and was built on the site of an older mosque, which was most likely built on the site of an even older Fire Temple. Flanked by two 48-metre-high minarets, it boasts a 15th- century inscription and has one of the tallest tiled entrance portals in Iran. The best mosaics can be seen on the dome and mihrab. 

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Day 12 : Yazd - Na'in - Isfahan

Early start. Visit Meybod if there is time. Continue to Na'in for a visit before driving to Isfahan. Afternoon visit of the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan. Overnight in Isfahan. 

Overnight in Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Meybod is an ancient desert town composed of mud-brick buildings dating back some 1,800 years. Visitors have the chance to look around a 17th-century caravanserai and witness a weaving demonstration. There is also a 300-year-old postal station and a colossal Safavid-era Ice House with an eccentric cone-shaped roof. Several pottery workshops surround the town’s masterpiece, the Narin Castle. It dates back to Sassannian times and is said to be the oldest mud-brick construction in Iran.

Na’in is a relaxed ancient town situated on a crossroads in the desert between Yazd and Isfahan. Its location has allowed Na’in to act as a trading centre since the Sassanid era. Na’in has long specialized in handicrafts and in past centuries it was famous for spectacular ceramics and textiles. Today it exports skillfully-woven carpets and camel-wool cloaks to all over Iran and beyond. Most striking in the town are the Narin Castle and Jameh Mosque. Narin Castle is a fire temple from the pre-Islamic Parthian and Sassanid eras that  is composed of roughly-shaped mud bricks and boasts a large moat. Na'in's Jameh Mosque is one of the first Iranian mosques and was built between the 11th and 12th centuries. ‘Jameh’ is understood by Persians to refer to the grand mosque of a city where people congregate for Eid and Friday prayers (the word ‘Jam’ means 'gathering'). Defying the style of its time, it has elaborate stucco work inside and an underground prayer hall.  

With a myriad of stunning boulevards, ornate gardens and some of the most impressive architecture Iran has to offer, Isfahan was once the 17th-century Safavid capital of Persia and still retains a high status in the country today. It was referred to as ‘Nesf-e-Jahan’ in ancient Safavid sources, which translates to 'Half of the World'. 

Located in the historic centre of Isfahan, the Masjed-e-Jameh ('Friday mosque') can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries, starting in 841AD. It is the oldest-preserved edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. The complex, covering more than 20,000 square metres, is also the first Islamic building that adapted the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. Its double-shelled ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired builders throughout the region. The site also features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than a thousand years of Islamic art.

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Day 13 : Isfahan

A full day sightseeing in Isfahan, visiting the main sites - including Chehel Sotun, Ali Gopu Palace, the Grand Square, Sheikh Lotfallah and Shah Mosques and Qeisarien Bazaar. Overnight in Isfahan. 

Overnight in Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Built by Shah Abbas the Great, the magnificently-tiled Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-e-Jahan Square in Isfahan. Built between 1603 and 1619, the mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mosque is also known as Imam Mosque or Jameh Abbasi Mosque.

Isfahan’s Grand Bazaar (a.k.a. Quesarieh or Imperial Bazaar) links the Shah mosque in Imam Square with the Jameh Mosque. Parts of it date back over a thousand years, but the majority dates to the Shah Abbas period (16th Century). The bazaar is a maze of alleyways, madrassas and caravanserais and is probably the best place in Iran for souvenir and gift shopping including many arts and crafts for which Isfahan is famous.

The Chehel Sotun Palace was built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th century. The 20 wooden columns of the palace are reflected in the surface of the pool and give rise to its nickname, 'Palace of Forty Columns'. The Throne Hall has a fascinating series of frescos with imposing historical scenes above them on the upper walls. The perfectly-manicured palace garden Bagh-e Chetal Sotun is UNESCO listed. 

Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (meaning 'pattern of the world', a.k.a. Imam Square) was built at the centre of Isfahan between 1598 and 1629. It measures about 160m wide by 510m long and is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era including the Shah Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and the Ali Qapu palace. The creation of the square by Shah Abbas the Great was key to centralising power in Iran. It was this square that inspired French poet Renier to describe Isfahan as 'half the world', a tag that has stuck with Iranians. It is the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen Square. 

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Day 14 : Isfahan

Morning visit of Vank Cathedral and Isfahan's famous bridges. Afternoon free to relax and explore Isfahan at leisure. Overnight in Isfahan.

Overnight in Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Isfahan’s Armenian Quarter (a.k.a Jolfa or New Jolfa) dates back to the era of Shah Abbas I, who transported Christian craftsmen from the town of Jolfa in Northwest Iran. Today it boasts 13 Armenian Churches, the most important and interesting of which is Vank Cathedral. Its interior  mixes Islamic and Christian styles. It  is a riot of Biblical scenes, many of which are gloriously gruesome.

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Day 15 : Isfahan - Kashan - Tehran

After breakfast drive to Kashan and explore the city, visiting the Royal Gardens of Fin, a traditional house and the Sialk Mounds. Then continue to Tehran for overnight stay.

Overnight in Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel, Tehran

Meal plan: Breakfast

Found on the rim of the central Salt Desert, Kashan dates back to prehistoric times. It is the city of carpets, velvets, glazed tiles, pottery and rosewater. Kashan is home to the Royal Gardens of Fin, with their abundant water supply, garden, pool with numerous spouts and an old historical bathing-house. Kashan also boasts numerous old khans (private residences, the Agha Bozorg Mosque, a covered bazaar and the ancient Sialk Mounds - a settlement dating back to approximately 4,500 BC.

The Sialk Mounds, or Sialk Ziggurat, date back to the 6th millenium BC. The mounds which you can see today were built around 2,900BC. The area surrounding the mounds has been linked to the Zayandeh Rud Civilization. There are two hills at this site, about half a kilometre apart, with two cemeteries, where some 5,500 year old skeletons have been unearthed.

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Day 16 : Departure

Transfer to Tehran airport for your return flight home. 
 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel

Tehran (3 nights)

Espinas Persian Gulf is a modern hotel in the heart of Tehran. Boasting a traditional Persian restaurant and a breakfast bar which commands wonderful views among the treetops of Keshavarz Boulevard. The hotel also has a fitness centre with sauna, steam room and swimming pool for guests use.  All rooms have contemporary furnishes with a range of modern amenities including; a safety deposit box, mini-bar, LCD TV and tea/coffee making facilities. 

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Baba Taher

Hamadan (1 night)

Baba Taher Hotel is located in the north of Hamadan, next to the shrine of the famous 11th century Iranian poet, Baba Taher. The hotel offers 24 hour room service, wifi and satellite television. There is also a garden for guests to enjoy.

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Azadegan Hotel

Kermanshah (1 night)

The Azadegan is a 4 star hotel in Kermanshah not far from Tagh-e-Bostan. The clean bedrooms provide guests with access to basic facilities including an ensuite bathroom and wifi. The hotel restaurant serves a variety of national and international dishes that guests can choose between. 

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Tourist Inn

Dezful (1 night)

The Tourist Inn is a simple hotel in Dezful, that provides a comfortable stay to those visiting the region. The hotel provides access to basic modern facilities including wifi, air conditioning and satellite television. There is also a restaurant and a garden, which guests can enjoy during their stay.

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Pars Hotel

Ahvaz (1 night)

Pars Hotel is located next to the white bridge of Ahvaz and Karoon River. This hotel offers comfortable and basic accommodation near the city centre. The bedrooms are spacious and fitted with modern fixtures to allow for a relaxing stay. Hotel facilities include; swimming pool, gym, restaurant and wireless internet.  

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Homa Hotel

Shiraz (3 nights)

The Shiraz Homa Hotel is located right next to the Azadi Park, with spectacular views of the Zagros Mountains. The hotel offers both garden and mountain view rooms. The Homa Hotel boasts several restaurants serving various cuisines, including Iranian and Western. A tennis court, swimming pool and shopping arcade provide guests with ample activities to fill their leisure time. There is also free wireless internet.

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Dad International

Yazd (2 nights)

Hotel Dad is located at the heart of the historic city of Yazd and is among Yazd's most famous structures and establishments. Dating back to almost a century ago, Hotel Dad was designed by Haj Abdolkhalegh Dad who created the site in 1928. The bedrooms each feature an en suite bathroom, air conditioning, free internet connection, mini-bar and satellite TV. The hotel offers an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi in the area.
 

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Abbasi Hotel

Isfahan (3 nights)

The Abbasi Hotel is well known as the location of the 1974 Agatha Christie-based film, Ten Little Indians. The 300 year old complex was built as a Caravanserai for travellers journeying along the Silk Road. The bedrooms include air-conditioning, satellite television and a fridge. Wifi available.

Visit hotel's site
Trip Notes

Introduction

Welcome

Thank you for booking your holiday with Travel The Unknown. We love Iran and we are confident that you will go away with fantastic memories of your tour in this incredible country. Please read the Money Exchange section below under the Money Matters heading, so you don't get caught out and also pay particular attention to the Cultural Sensitivity (dress code) section under the Responsible Travel heading. Please contact us if there's anything else you need to know before your trip. 

Itinerary

Your final itinerary will include the day-by-day details of your trip, meal plan, accommodation and relevant contacts. If you do not have your final itinerary, or are unsure about it, please contact us by one of the methods below:
 
Phone (UK): 020 7183 6371
Phone (US): 1 800 604 6024
Phone (IRL): 01 254 8657
Email: operations@traveltheunknown.com 
Skype: traveltheunknown

Itineraries are correct at the time of printing and are updated throughout the year to incorporate suggestions from past travellers, our own research and information from our guides and local operators. Itineraries are also subject to change as a result of local and individual trip circumstances, and are to be treated as a guide rather than a definitive plan. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this. Please ensure that you have read and reviewed the final copy of your final Trip Notes and itinerary at least a week prior to travel in case there have been changes that may affect you.

Health & Safety

Hygiene

It is important to keep a high standard of hygiene when travelling, just as you would at home. Wash your hands with soap and water or antibacterial gel before eating or drinking and after using the toilet. 

We recommend that you stick to drinking bottled water and even use it to brush your teeth as tap water may be unsafe to drink. When dining, avoid food which has been left out (especially in the heat), salads and raw vegetables (as they may have been washed in local water) and ice creams (which may have been made with local water or allowed to thaw and re-freeze). Decline ice cubes in cold drinks and remove them when provided, as they may also be made with local untreated water.
 
When organising your own meals, be selective where you eat. Choose places that seem quite clean and where you see many locals eating. A high turnover usually means food is not left lying around and is made fresh. 

Health

All Travel The Unknown travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in the group travel experience. If, in the opinion of our ground handler, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Travel The Unknown reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. Please read the itinerary for this tour thoroughly and pay close attention to the Activity Ratings shown on our website and then realistically self-assess your physical ability to complete the trip as described. Please consult with your doctor if you have any doubts or give us a call with any queries you may have. 

An excellent resource for up-to-date travel medicinal requirements is www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. We recommend that you consult your doctor or a travel clinic at least 45 days prior to your departure for up-to-date medical travel information. You should also carry a first aid kit, as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that in some more remote areas you could be some distance away from medical facilities. For legal reasons, our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drugs, including headache tablets and antibiotics.

At the time of writing the following vaccinations were recommended for travel to Iran: Hepatitis A and Tetanus. Others to consider included: Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Cholera, Rabies. 

Travellers should vigilantly protect themselves against mosquito bites from Spring until Autumn by wearing long-sleeved tops and long trousers, and using a mosquito repellent with a high quantity of DEET.

Safety

There is rarely any trouble in the areas our tours cover. We closely monitor the safety situation on a continuous basis, using both government sources and our own network of contacts on the ground, and will amend the itinerary if safety concerns require us to. Please check www.fco.gov.uk for the latest government advice on travel to the region and please contact us if you have any further questions or concerns about safety issues.

When travelling, you are subject to the same dangers that you may find at home, such as theft or pick pocketing in busy places. Travelling with an experienced group leader will help protect your trip from such dangers, but do not let your guard down completely. You are still responsible for your own belongings. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities; however during your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Travel The Unknown itinerary, and Travel The Unknown makes no guarantees about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement. Travel The Unknown cannot be held responsible for any injuries or losses that may occur during any such optional activity. Please also note that Travel The Unknown retains the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. 

To ensure the safety of your documents and other valuables, we strongly recommend that you use a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, whilst a lock is recommended for securing your luggage. It is not advisable to bring valuable jewellery when travelling. 

Generally speaking, Iran is a safe place, crime rates are low and most Iranians are very honest. However, normal precautions against pick pockets and petty criminals should be taken and you should always know where your important belongings are. Drugs are something not tolerated by the Iranian regime and we strongly advise that you take this seriously. 

Money Matters

Spending Money

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some people spend a lot of money on drinks, whereas others may spend more on souvenirs or presents. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing money for drinks, shopping, participation in optional activities and tipping. 

- a soft drink in bar/restaurant        $2-4
- a meal in a mid-range restaurant  $10-20
- 10km taxi ride in a big city            $5-7

Tipping

Tipping is completely voluntary and often not expected. It is, however, almost always appreciated. It is customary on tours to tip guides and drivers if you have been happy with their services.

If you would like to tip whilst in Iran, the following guidelines will give you an average tipping amount:

Suggested tip per person:

Guide for 1 Day          $10
Guide for 3 Days        $20
Guide for 1 Week       $50
Guide for 2 Weeks     $80
       
Driver for 1 Day          $5
Driver for 3 Days        $10
Driver for 1 Week       $25
Driver for 2 Weeks     $40
       
Restaurant                  7-10% of total bill
Porter at hotel            $1

Departure Tax

Please note, departure tax for Iran is only levied on Nationals of Iran, residing in Iran. 

Emergency Funds

Please make sure you have access to an additional £200 ($300), to be used if unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster or political strife) necessitate a change to our intended itinerary. This is not a common occurrence, but it is better to be prepared.

Money Exchange

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Iran is currently cut off from the international financial markets and it is NOT possible to get money from banks, ATMs or through travellers cheques. You must bring any money you will need for your trip IN CASH.

It is best to exchange your foreign currency (ideally US dollars, Euros or Sterling) in money exchange shops or in small amounts at your hotel. If bringing dollars, the only acceptable notes are ones that have been issued after 2006. If bringing Euros, the only acceptable notes are ones that have been issued after 2000. Money exchange shops may be found in all major towns and cities, as well as in almost all hotels (though the rate in some hotels is not particularly good). There are no money exchange shops at the Tehran airport, only banks, which will not give you a good exchange rate. It is best to ask your guide before exchanging anything other than a small amount of money.

At the time of writing the rate in money exchange shops was about 15-20% more than the official rate, but this can change quickly. A useful, though not always up-to-date, website is www.farsinet.com/toman/exchange.html, which shows both official and unofficial rates. Another that may be more up-to-date is www.bonbast.com​, but this uses Tomans (see note below on denominations).

Some carpet sellers, in certain cities, have recently accepted credit cards for payments. Payments are usually processed over the phone with an agent elsewhere (often Dubai). If you opt to make payment via this method, you do so at your own risk, however we have not heard of any problems with such payments to date. 

Iranian Currency Denominations
The Iranian unit of currency is Rial - Internationally abbreviated to IRR. Every 10 Rials is also know as 1 Toman and Tomans are the way Iranians most often express prices though written prices will most often be in Rials. It is best to ask your guide to explain Iranian money as it can be confusing. 

Meals

Some meals are included in the price. Please refer to your itinerary for information on which meals are provided and budget accordingly for meals not included. 

We recommend that you budget about £7-15 or $10-20 per meal, although it will often be substantially cheaper.

Practicalities

Group Travel

To minimise the footprint our tours leave - both on the environment and the local culture - we keep our group sizes limited to 12 people.

In your group, there may be large variations in age and a variety of nationalities. While this is mostly a good thing, it can occasionally cause some difficulties, so we ask you to be patient with your fellow passengers and realise that everyone likes to travel differently. Please also consider your fellow passengers by respecting scheduled meeting times. If any issues occur within the group please inform your guide who will do his / her best to help to resolve it.

Tour guides

We have gone to great lengths in securing the best guides and drivers available to ensure your trip runs smoothly and you have the best experiences possible in your chosen region. 

However, please note, Iran has recently experienced a very significant surge in tourism and there are a very limited number of experienced guides and certainly not enough senior guides to meet the demand. Thus, whilst we endeavour to find the most experienced guides, many of the guides available to us are less experienced than we would ideally like to offer to our clients. In some cases, the guides we use may still be learning their trade and we ask you to show some understanding and patience with this. They are doing their best and are very eager to learn. We appreciate all of the feedback you can provide both to us and directly to our guides, as the only way they can improve is through experience and feedback. We thank you for your understanding.

Transport

Travel between destinations is by well-maintained and comfortable vehicles. If you need to get around town on your own in Iran, taxis are an inexpensive and easy way to do so. You can ask your guide or the reception at your hotel to call you a taxi and to help you arrange services. It can be useful to have your guide's number on hand when getting a taxi if language is a problem. The majority of taxi drivers in Iran are honest and helpful.

Additional Tours/Services

We can arrange additional tours, hotel nights and airport transfers before or after your chosen tour. Please let us know what you would like to do and we'll be happy to help.

Flights

Our tours typically include any in-country domestic flights. International flights from the UK can also be arranged if required. If you prefer however, you can book your own flights and our representative will meet you at the airport on arrival and take you to your hotel before your tour starts. Please let us know your preference when booking your trip.

Please note, for domestic flights, the typical baggage allowance, unless explicitly stated elsewhere, is 15kg.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. As a minimum, we require that your insurance covers you for medical expenses, including emergency repatriation. We also strongly recommend you are covered for personal liability, loss of luggage and personal effects. You will be required to give details of your insurance prior to departure. 

Many insurers now cover Iran, but if you are having any problems finding an insurer, please contact Mike Berry at Campbell Irvine (020 7937 6981, mike@campbellirvine.com, www.campbellirvine.com) or Ian Hawes at Harrison Beaumont (ian.hawes@harrison-beaumont.com) for help with an Iran travel insurance policy.

Alternatively Ulle at IHI based in Denmark should be able to help with insurance to Iran for those based outside as well as in the UK. Webpage and contact details are below.

Web: www.global.ihi.com/travel%20insurance.aspx?sc_lang=en
Email: travel@ihi-bupa.com
Phone: +45 70 23 84 48 

Accommodation

We or our trusted ground handlers have personally vetted all accommodation. If any of our preferred first choice accommodations are not available, we will organise something of a similar standard. Please check your itinerary for a list of the accommodations on your trip.

Due to the unprecedented demand for hotels in Iran at the current time, it is not always possible to get our first choice accommodation. We will always do our best to get these and, where we cannot, to provide an adequate replacement. For Iran tours, it is usual that the final confirmed hotel list will not be provided until about a month before the trip starts.

Note also that we will generally use the best available accommodation, particularly when we are away from Iran's tourist trail, though in remote or less-visited places, this can often mean quite basic hotels and lodges with minimal services. 

Joining and finishing points

Unless otherwise indicated on your itinerary, you will be greeted at your arrival airport by a Travel The Unknown representative and escorted to your accommodation. See itinerary for details. At the end of your trip, you will be escorted to the airport for your departing flight, unless otherwise specified in your itinerary. 

Trip Specifics

Passports, Visas & Immigration

Passports:
All travellers require a passport to travel. Your passport must have validity for 6 months beyond the intended length of your stay. Your passport must also have a minimum of two blank pages.

Visas:
All travellers will require an Iranian visa to enter Iran. For all clients, we will arrange a visa authorisation code which will enable you to get an Iranian visa by going to your local embassy in person. In some countries, this can also be done by post. For more information on Iran visas and the latest information visit www.traveltheunknown.com/iranvisa

Embassies/Consulates:
United Kingdom - Consulate Section of Iranian Embassy, London
USA/Canada - Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistan Embassy, Washington D.C 
Australia - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Canberra
Ireland* - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dublin (*It may be possible for clients from NI to issue their visa here) 
New Zealand - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Wellington

Immigration:
Clients obtaining an Iranian visa on arrival in Iran are in theory required to pay a compulsory $20 health insurance fee though in practice this may not be enforced. 

Electricity

Electricity in Iran is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Iran with a device that does not accept 230 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. 

There are three main types of voltage converter. 

- Resistor-network converters will usually be advertised as supporting something like 50-1600 Watts. They are light-weight and support high-wattage electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons. However, they can only be used for short periods of time and are not ideal for digital devices.

- Transformers will have a much lower maximum Watt rating, usually 50 or 100. Transformers can often be used continuously and provide better electricity for low wattage appliances like battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players and camcorders. However, they are heavy because they contain large iron rods and lots of copper wire.

- Some companies sell combination converters that include both a resistor network and a transformer in the same package. This kind of converter will usually come with a switch that switches between the two modes. If you absolutely need both types of converter, then this is the type to buy.

Outlets in Iran generally accept 1 type of plug: Two round pins (as used in continental Europe).

If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter. 

Communications

There are internet cafés and call shops in most large Iranian towns. International calls are also reasonably simple. Many foreign mobile phones will not work in Iran though it is worth checking with your mobile phone provider prior to travel. Many hotels have internet, often including wi-fi, but connections can be spotty and many sites can be blocked, e.g. Facebook, BBC News, Virgin email.

TIP:  If you think you will need to make or receive a lot of calls, then it would be worth investing in a prepaid SIM card on arrival at the airport or soon after. Ask your guide if you would like to buy a local SIM card. Do ensure that you have also purchased credit on your new SIM.  You have to make sure your handset is unlocked prior to leaving your home country. 

TIP 2: You can download VPN (virtual private network) software to your phone, tablet or laptop prior to travel to Iran to enable you to get around some of the blocks on accessing specific websites.

Time

Iran is 3.5 hours ahead of the UK. 

Laundry

Laundry facilities are offered by some hotels for a charge. In addition, laundry services can be found outside our hotels in all major cities and many smaller ones.

We advise you not to leave doing your laundry to the last minute, as drying times may be required and laundry services will not be available at all stops.

Climate

Iran has a hot, dry climate characterized by long, hot, dry summers and short, cool winters. The climate is influenced by Iran's location between the subtropical aridity of the Arabian desert areas and the subtropical humidity of the eastern Mediterranean area. January is the coldest month, with temperatures from 5°C to 10°C, and August is the hottest month, with temperatures from 20°C to 30°C.

In most areas, summers are warm to hot with virtually continuous sunshine, but high humidity on the southern coastal areas of the Persian Gulf. Daily temperatures can be very hot; on some days temperatures can reach easily 40°C or more, especially along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, which causes a danger of heat exhaustion.

About 70% of the average rainfall in the country falls between November and March; June through August are often rainless. Rainfall varies from season-to-season and from year-to-year. Precipitation is sometimes concentrated in local, but violent storms, causing erosion and local flooding, especially in the winter months. A small area along the Caspian coast has a very different climate, where rainfall is heaviest from late summer to mid-winter but continues to fall throughout the year.

The most comfortable times to travel to most parts of Iran are April, May, September, October and November, when it is not excessively hot, but the days are long enough for sufficient sightseeing.

Required clothing:
Lightweight cotton clothes are advised in the spring, summer and autumn, with a sweater for cooler evenings, especially in the inland areas. Waterproof gear is recommended for the winter, and warmer clothing for the mountainous areas of northern Iran. Please see the Cultural Sensitivity / Dress Code section under the Responsible Travel heading for more information on what to wear in Iran.

Language

Thank you ------------------ Motshekeram
Hello ------------------------- Salam
Meat ------------------------- Gosht
Yes --------------------------- Bale
No ---------------------------- Na
Hot water ------------------- Abe Garm
I don’t understand -------- Man Nemifahmam
Please ----------------------- Lotfan
How are you? -------------- Che tor hastid?
I’m fine ----------------------- Khobam
How much? ----------------- Chand ast?
There is some -------------- Yek lami ast
There isn’t any ------------- Chizi nist
Toilet ------------------------- Toilet or WC
Where? ---------------------- Koja
Food -------------------------- Ghaza
Is there any food? --------- Ghaza hast?
Key ---------------------------- Kelid

Checklist

This is a generic checklist of things to remember before travelling. Not all may apply to you:
- Tell your bank you are travelling, so that they do not block your transactions when you are abroad
- Ensure you have the relevant visas and a valid passport
- Ensure you have any required vaccinations and medications for the trip
- Ensure you have adequate travel insurance and that you have sent the relevant details of your policy to Travel The Unknown
- Make a note of your passport number, take a photocopy with you and email a scanned version to yourself
- Email a copy of your itinerary and trip contacts to any family members who may want to contact you
- Bring some money to cover emergency situations
- Check with your mobile service provider to make sure your phone works abroad (enable roaming if required)
- Check the What To Bring section of these Trip Notes to see if there are any particular items you require

While travelling, please bear in mind the following:
- Think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts - don’t take risks that you wouldn’t at home
- Don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
- Find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws - there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
- Respect the environment – don’t buy wildlife souvenirs, conserve resources (like water) and don’t drop litter

Fitness

Please note that some of our tours can be physically demanding. A basic level of fitness, mobility and decent health is assumed. Please contact us if you are unsure about your suitability for this trip.

Check the activity rating of your tour on our website and consult the chart below.

ACTIVITY RATINGS
*     Relaxation. There are no activities scheduled.

**    This will typically include some short walking tours and some medium-length car/minibus journeys.

***   This is the standard for most of our cultural tours. It involves city walking, short walks in rural areas and some medium-to-long drives.

****  This typically involves some short hikes or the equivalent, as well as some long-ish drives and city walking.

***** This is typically a hiking or activity itinerary and can be quite strenuous. A good level of fitness is expected.

NOTE: Ratings are inherently subjective and are made using our best judgement. Also, different parts of an itinerary may merit different ratings, so the ratings assigned are an assumed average for the whole trip. In any case, please contact us if you are unsure of the level of fitness required for any given trip.

Please note that many sites in Iran have uneven steps, often with no banisters. 

Please note that this trip involves long days of driving to get to remote sites and you may spend quite a few hours walking around some of the sites. Some of the sites, e.g. Chogha Zanbil, are quite exposed with little shelter from the sun. 

What to bring

Below is a recommended list of items to bring. It does not claim to be exhaustive. 

•    Any required medicines
•    Basic first aid kit, insect repellent and sunscreen (min. factor 15)
•    Day pack (useful for carrying basic items)
•    Basic toiletries and tissues
•    Clothing for both hot and cold conditions (practical clothing is strongly advised, especially long-sleeved tops, long trousers and a sun hat)
•    Sandals and walking shoes
•    Binoculars, torch, sunglasses, small towel and electricity adapter
•    Waterproof bag for documents and electronics
•    Notepad, pen and book
•    Watch (strict time-keeping is required at times)
•    Money for meals, souvenirs and contingencies
•    Drinking bottle
•    Travel plug (for sinks without plugs)
•    Travel pillow (can come in handy for longer journeys)

Most importantly, come with an open mind!

Please also read the 'money matters' section and don't forget to bring cash in foreign currency.

What can I not bring?
There is a lot of misinformation on this. Generally speaking there are not a lot of things you cannot bring into Iran. You cannot bring in alcohol or any illegal drugs (prescription medicines are not a problem. It is not necessary to carry prescriptions unless you have very large quantities). You also cannot bring in more than US$5000 without declaring it on arrival.

Cameras and camera equipment is not a problem on arrival but carrying a lot of specialist camera equipment/large lenses etc is may attract unwanted attention from the authorities during the trip. There are no restrictions or problems about which books you bring in.

What can I not leave Iran with?
You cannot leave Iran with any objects over a hundred years old. Furthermore it is a crime to buy or sell any pre-Islamic objects. You must declare any foreign currency amounts over US$10,000 you leave with.

Electronic Items

•    Camera – don't forget your accessories: memory cards, battery and charger
•    If you use a film camera, bring film, lenses, batteries, etc.
•    Mobile phone and charger
•    Plug adaptors 
•    Music player and charger
•    Laptop or tablet and charger (useful if you want to keep a blog and upload photos)

Recommended Reading

David's recommendations:
A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind - Michael Axworthy
Iran Awakening: A memoir of revolution and hope - Shirin Ebadi
​City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran - Ramita Navai
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs - Christopher de Bellaigue

More good books:
The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Iran - Homa Katouzian
Shah of Shahs - Ryszard Kapuscinski
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror - Stephen Kinzer
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - Azar Nafisi
​Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
Persia through writers' eyes - edited by David Blow
The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran - Hooman Majd
The Road To Oxiana: Robert Byron

Poetry:
Faces of Love - Hafez, Khatun (lady poet of same time) and Zakani (Cat and Mice) - translations by Dick Davis
Persian Poems - Everyman's Library, Pocket Poets

Video:
YouTube - The last Shah - Iran History BBC Documentary (Ben Kingsley Narration)

Music:
The Rough Guide to the Music of Iran

Please do suggest more if you have read/watched anything good. We do try to keep up and others are always welcome of new suggestions.

Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel

As regular travellers, one thing that never ceases to amaze and inspire us is the kindness and generosity of people, often people who have very little to their name. We firmly believe that the people who make these places special should also benefit from our visit. Therefore, as first preference, we use local guides and locally-owned lodges, shops and eateries. We do our best to ensure that the benefits of our tours reach as widely as possible into the communities where they operate. We also support a small portfolio of charities and local grassroots organisations which you can see on our website at www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible

The Environment

Please be mindful of the environment in which you travel. We ask you to be vigilant about disposing of your waste.  Dispose of all rubbish correctly and do not leave litter or cigarette butts in natural environments. 

Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible for further information.

Cultural Sensitivity

We go to great lengths to ensure our tours have minimal impact on the environment and the people who live there. We ask you to respect the culture of the people and to familiarise yourself with local laws and customs prior to travelling with us. 

If you would like to photograph someone, ask their permission first to avoid causing offence. In some countries, photographing officials, the army, police, government buildings and borders may be illegal and may result in having your equipment confiscated.

Dress Code: 
Iranian law states that women should cover their hair, neck, arms and legs, so some type of head scarf is a necessity. Loose clothing and long garments should also be worn to cover the body. Jeans are acceptable when worn with a long shirt that covers the bottom. Men are not allowed to wear shorts, extreme short-sleeved shirts, or tight shirts. Sandals without socks are acceptable for both sexes. Generally, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to pick up some suitable clothing while in Iran. Do a Google search of 'Iran clothes' and look at the photo results to get an idea of the range of clothing worn in Iran. Check out our blog this blog post for more information on the female dress code: http://www.traveltheunknown.com/blog/?p=3089.

We typically include a visit to a small clothing market after the first day of sightseeing to allow people to pick some clothing suitable for the climate and the local styles but there may not always be a huge selection so it would be wise not to only rely on this.

Please note that the smaller towns are generally more conservative when it comes to dress code.

Stay in touch

Newsletter

If you would like to find out about new tours and all that is happening with Travel The Unknown, please sign up to our newsletter on our website, www.traveltheunknown.com, send us an email at enquiries@traveltheunknown.com or call us on 020 7183 6371 (UK) or 1 347 329 5524 (US).

Feedback

We have spent much time and effort to make your trip a memorable experience for all the right reasons. However, we are constantly looking to improve our tours and any feedback you can give us or suggestions you may have would be very much appreciated. Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/feedback to share your thoughts with us. 

Tour photos

We prefer to use real photos taken on our tours on our website and in our print material, so we actively encourage you to send us your photos. Happy snapping! 

If we use your pictures we will be happy to credit you as the photographer - just let us know you would like us to do so when you send in your photos. You can also share your photos on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/traveltheunknown

Stay in Touch

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and our blog by visiting our pages shown below:

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/traveltheunknown
Twitter:      www.twitter.com/travel_unknown
Pinterest:   www.pinterest.com/TTUnknown
YouTube:   www.youtube.com/traveltheunknown
Blog:         www.traveltheunknown​.com/blog
 

Extensions

Mashhad Extensions (3 days)

Extend your trip from Mashhad

Isfahan Extensions (1 days)

Extend your trip from Isfahan

Kerman Extensions (4 days)

Extend your trip from Kerman

Culinary Iran (1-14 days)

Discover sumptuous Persian cuisine & hospitality

Meet Iran's Women

A glimpse into the lives of Iran's women

Tehran Extensions (8 days)

Extend your trip from Tehran

Shiraz Extensions (4 days)

Extend your trip from Shiraz

UNESCO Sites of Iran (25 days)

Discover the unique wonders of Iran

Grand Tour of Iran (21 days)

In-depth tour to get under the skin of modern Iran

Silk Road through Persia (19 days)

Ancient routes of merchants, scholars and smugglers

Axes Apart: Iran & Cuba (16 days)

Delve into two beautiful, friendly & contrasting pariah sites

Glories of Persia (Archaeology tour) (16 days)

Journey into the history and archaeology of ancient Iran

Essential Iran & Armenia (15 days)

Discover ancient traditions, rich culture & sublime landscapes

Classical Iran (14 days)

Discover the history and culture behind modern Iran

Troglodytes & Assassins (14 days)

Get off-the-beaten-track in Northwest Iran

Reviews

A journey to Iran with Travel The Unknown is a true experience of many things sights history ancient culture, fascinating people and interesting food. I was impressed that during the journey the company rang to make sure we where happy with everything, hotels and transport, that was wonderful in such a different place in the world that is considered unsafe by most people! But I can assure you it is more safe than any other country I have visited and that is almost most places in the world! We where looked after extremely well!

Paula Austin , Tailormade Iran

Our 17-day tour encompassed Elamite architecture, the great Achaemenid palaces at Susa, Persepolis and Pasargadae, the Sasanian reliefs at Bishapur, Firuzabad and Naqsh-e-Rajab, and the highlights of the glorious cities of Yazd, Shiraz and Isfahan. I shan`t forget our evening reading Hafez by the poet`s tomb at sunset, or the bookseller who sang passages of Attar to me. The kindness and friendliness of the people will stay with me for a long time.

Richard Stoneman , Glories of Persia, Iran

We wanted a holiday with a difference and Travel the Unknown gave us it. From our holiday experience I would recommend not only Iran, but also Travel the Unknown to anyone.

Andrew & Sandra Doyle , Glories of Persia, Iran

This is the first time I have journeyed with Travel The Unknown. We had a hitch in the itinerary and we contacted David - he was immediately on the phone to sort it out despite the fact we were in Iran. That is what I call serivce and I was very impressed.

Patrick Lau & Alan Davis , Glories of Persia, Iran

This was my first experience with Travel the Unknown, and it exceeded my expectations. The itinerary was comprehensive, the local guide exceedingly knowledgeable, and hotels carefully selected for convenience and comfort. Staff were readily accessible to answer pre-trip queries, and the visa application efficiently handled.

Peter Adams , Glories of Persia, Iran

We've been fortunate enough to travel a great deal in our lives and only recently (in our 70's) have we come to accept the fact that for some destinations that we have long wanted to visit an organised tour is the best solution. This is exactly what we experienced in Iran and your flexibility and excellent planning made it possible for us to do what would otherwise have been impossible. We still have our eye on Central Asia and your "Stans" tours are at the top of our list.

Robert Lamberton , Glories of Persia

Loved our trip to Iran! Iran is an amazing country with lots of history, culture, good food and the most welcoming people I have ever come across in my travels! We would like to thank Travel The Unknown for a memorable trip of a lifetime!

The Champagne Family (USA) , Tailormade Iran

Travel the Unknown organised a really excellent tour, very extensive and covering a huge variety of sites. Travelling in a small minibus was very comfortable and gave us enormous freedom to decide where to stop and for how long. As someone who has always organised their own travel, I was worried that this type of organised tour might be constraining, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Diana Darke (Travel Writer) , Glories of Persia, Iran

I have recently returned from a very comprehensive tour of Iran with 'Travel the Unknown'. I was determined to take the opportunity to visit Iran and given the bad press from the media I was a little concerned if all was to go well. ALL of my fears were dispelled from the totally issue free booking and visa process prior to departure, very close and accurate communication from operations staff (Emily) to the wonderful reception we received in Iran wherever we went, locals smiling and wishing us well!, wanting photos with us and generally showing immense hospitality. Then of course there were the sites, which for their historic value were inspiring, and brought to life by the comprehensive, in depth knowledge of our tour guide. Enjoyed the whole experience and am now faced with the mountain task of editing down my photos, which will also give me the chance to relive the experience again - day by day.

Keith Peter Roe , Glories of Persia, Iran

Just returned from the Glories of Persia trip. The tour was perfect, the guide, Merhdad, was exceptional. My travelling companions were great, it was good to travel with like minded people. Just loved the way we were treated by the Iranians, coming up to you, out of the blue, and saying "welcome". The whole experience was a real pleasure.

Linda Abbott , Glories of Persia, Iran

It was again a hugely successful and enjoyable time for us - thank you for all your suggestions and organisation. This time, we were more keen to experience slightly different things having seen and enthused about architecture and art in mosques, houses and ancient monuments on our first trip. And this is exactly what we did: our guide went to great lengths to research and source our more off-the-tourist-trail requests, such as: shisha smoking, seeing carpet making and wool dying, tutorial on carpet design etc, rose picking and rose water processing, evening at bridge in Isfahan, music museum and concert, picnic in Isfahan square. All an absolute delight and fascinating. Thanks to you too for suggesting going to Darband in Tehran, which we loved, and the trip to Varzaneh and the desert which was one of the highlights. Once again, thank you for setting up another great tour for us.

Sarah & Adrian Snell , Tailormade Iran

What an amazing tour. There was just so much to enjoy - the wonderful historical sites, the intriguing layers of culture and politics, the delicious food, the lovely people and stunning landscapes. I'm still processing it all! The trip was really well organised, the hotels a good mixture from 5* to simple. Marina our guide was super-good and I think made the tour such a success. I'm sure everybody is impressed as I was by Persepolis, the necropolis, and wonderful mosques and gardens, but the little things also stay with me, such as the picnics that Marina put together for us, looking out at the landscape as we drove between cities whilst everyone else was asleep, seeing a (very small!) sandstorm, buying freshly made bread and eating it, still hot, as we wandered down a street looking at the shops, having Persian coffee for the first time in a little cafe, watching cars narrowly miss each other at speed all the time, having mountains around wherever we went. I just loved the whole experience. Thanks again, I've got so many lovely memories and when I've saved up again I'm sure I'll be booking my next trip with you!

Anne Sagnia , Classical Iran
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