UNESCO Sites of Iran

Iran

Culture | Archaeology | Silk Road

Discover the unique wonders of Iran

25 days £5,720 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.
Intro, Dates & Prices

Intro

Iran is home to 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each with its own story to tell. Embark on a trip through this ancient land to discover its complex culture, its warm hospitality and the seemingly endless layers of history beneath the surface of this fast-changing country. Visit the sublime Christian monasteries of St.Thaddeus and St.Stephanus, wander the labyrinth Tabriz Bazaar and explore the vast expanse of the former Persian capitals of Pasargadae and Persepolis. Explore mosques, palaces and ziggurats, marvel at ancient water systems and wander beautiful Persian gardens. Finally experience the warmth and welcome of the wonderful Iranian people.

New UNESCO sites declared in June 2018!

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ancient city of Ardabil in Iranian Azerbaijan
  • Susa, the ancient Elamite capital
  • Chogha Zanbil, a vast Ziggurat of ancient Mesopotamia
  • The famous gardens & bazaar of Shiraz
  • Ancient heritage and sublime stone carvings of Persepolis
  • Pasargadae and the Tomb of Cyrus the Great
  • Desert trading city of Kerman
  • UNESCO-heritage-listed Lut Desert
  • Palaces, mosques and plazas of Isfahan
  • Music Museum in Isfahan

Places Visited

Tehran - Gonbad-e-Kavus - Gorgan - Zanjan - Soltanieh - Ardabil - Jolfa - Tabriz - Takab - Bisotun - Kermanshah - Tagh-e-Bostan - Dezful - Susa - Chogha Zanbil - Shiraz - Firuz Abad - Persepolis - Pasargadae - Naghsh-e-Rostam - Naghsh-e-Rajab - Kerman - Meymand - Lut Desert - Bam - Yazd - Meybod - Na'in - Isfahan - Zahedan - Shahr-e Sukhteh

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks

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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 the different options available.
 

Overnight in Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel, Tehran

Meal plan: Breakfast

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 : Gorgan - Gonbad e Kavus

Fly to Gorgan  in the morning.  Drive to Gonbad e Kavus and visit the site. Return to Gorgan for overnight.

Overnight in Botanic Palace Hotel, Gorgan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Gonbad-e-Kavus ('Tower of Kavus') is famous for its ancient 53-metre-tall monument that was built in 1006 AD as a tomb for the Ziyarid ruler, Qabus Ibn Voshmgir. It is the only remaining structure of the ancient city of Jorjan, a former arts and science centre destroyed in a Mongol invasion during the 14th and 15th centuries. The innovative and geometrically-precise decagon shape of the tower represents the mathematical and scientific development of Iran.

Gorgan is the capital of the Golestan Province and the birthplace of the 'eunuch-King', founder of the Qajar dynasty Aga Mohammad. It is well known for its daily local markets where Turkmen nomads sell their handicrafts, silk textiles and handmade jewellery. The Turkmen and Jajim carpets and rugs are particularly renowned in this area.

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Day 4 : Tehran - Zanjan

Morning flight to Tehran airport, then drive to Zanjan where you will visit the famous Soltanieh Dome. Overnight in Zanjan. 

Overnight in Grand Hotel Zanjan, Zanjan

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located in the town of Soltanieh ('Land of the Sultans’) is the Soltanieh Dome, the founder Uljiatu's mausoleum. The dome was constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Khoda Bandeh, ruler from 1304 to 1330 and the last of Ilkanid royalty. The UNESCO-listed monument is renown for its architectural and artistic diversity. Most dramatic is the 51-metre-high dome, one of the largest in the world, with beatifully-embossed stucco designs and colourful tile work. 

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Day 5 : Zanjan - Ardabil

Drive to Ardabil, where you will see the Sheikh Safiadin Mausoleum. Overnight in Sarein.

Overnight in Laleh Hotel, Sarein

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ardabil (1,400m) is an ancient city at the centre of the Ardabil Province in Iranian Azerbaijan. It is believed to have been established during the Archaemenid era (550-330BC) and used to be an important place of trade between Russia and the Middle East. The city is famous for its silk production and carpet weaving, which is highly regarded among other Persian carpets. There are many hot springs in the area.

The Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh & Shrine Ensemble is the tomb of Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili. Built between the 16th and 18th century, the UNESCO-listed tomb has become a space for spiritual retreat. Its architecture and layout reflects Islamic culture, meaning that it has served a variety of functionalities - including a school, mosque, and hospital. It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of sheikh, which is divided in to 7 segments. These segments represent the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, or an experience of the divine. The shrine has become a focus for pilgrims from around the world.

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Day 6 : Ardabil - Tabriz - Jolfa

Drive to Jolfa via Tabriz. In Tabriz you will see the the Bazaar and, if there is time, the Blue Mosque. Overnight in Jolfa.

Overnight in Tourist Inn, Jolfa

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Blue Mosque is referred to in world-wide legend as ‘the turquoise of Islam’. Built in 1465, every part of the Mosque was coloured by blue majolica tiles which were engraved with striking calligraphy. The mosque was re-constructed in 1951, having lain in pieces for almost two centuries after Tabriz suffered a devastating earthquake. The restored interior now appears in the original blue style, but only the original entrance portal survived the 1773 earthquake. 

Tabriz Bazaar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that seels traditional spice blends, gold, household goods and, most famously, carpets. The bazaar is unusual because of its stunning 15th-century brick vaulting and incredible size of 7 square kilometres. Also of interest are the timchehs, or domed halls, all 22 of which are elaborately decorated. 



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Day 7 : Jolfa - Tabriz

In the morning, visit St. Stephanus Church and begin driving to Tabriz, visiting St. Thaddeus Monastery en route. Overnight in Tabriz.

Overnight in Tabriz El-Goli Pars Hotel, Tabriz

Meal plan: Breakfast

St. Stephanus Church is found in the green valley of Darreh Sham, some 15km west of the city of Jolfa. Set in the midst of this stunning scenery, it is one of the oldest and most beautiful Armenian churches in the area, dating to the 10-12 centuries AD. The church takes its name from St. Stephanus, one of the first Christian martyrs. The original structure has survived in its entirety thanks to a thick wall of stone and seven impressive watch towers that helped prevent attacks. The façade of the church shows images of Mary and Jesus, and beautiful stone carvings of angels and apostles. 

St. Thaddeus Monastery (also known as 'Kara Kilise' or the 'black church' in Azeri) is an Armenian structure located about 20 km south of Maku in the Azerbaijan province of Iran. Strategically located on a mountain ridge and built from local materials, its thick walls demonstrate both its defensive role and spiritual function. The original incarnation of the church is believed to date back to 66 AD when it was built on the site of a previous pagan temple. The current structure dates back, at least in part, to the 14th and 15th centuries, though much of it was  built  more recently.

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Day 8 : Tabriz - Takab

Drive to Takab, visiting Takht-e-Soleiman en route. Overnight in Takab.

Overnight in Ranji Hotel, Takab

Meal plan: Breakfast

Takht-e-Soleiman (‘The Throne of Solomon’) sits in a stunning remote mountain valley and continues to be an enigmatic and sacred place. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of towering stone walls, remains of 38 watch towers, the outlines of palaces, the fire temple and the Anahita temple. The site was first inhabited in Zoroastrian times, when Zoroastrian Magi priests worshiped pagan spirits and guarded the sacred fire of Azar Goshasp. The watch towers, palaces and the two temples were additions made by the Sassanians in the 3rd century AD. The site was considered a spiritual centre of its time and its natural surroundings, including the bottomless deep blue lake at its feet, preserve this feeling, even though the temples have long since crumbled. In the distance, beyond the main ruin complex, is the Zendan-e-Soleiman or the 'Prison of Solomon'. Interestingly, the reference to Solomon was deliberately adopted in the 7th century by the Persians as a disguise designed to fool invading Arabs.

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Day 9 : Takab - Bisotun - Kermanshah

Drive to Kermanshah, visiting 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.


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Day 10 : Kermanshah - Dezful

Visit Tagh-e-Bostan and Falik ol Aflik Castle, before continuing on to Dezful. 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. 

Dezful is an ancient city located in North Khuzestan and has a fascinating history. There is a 3rd-century Sassanid bridge (known locally as Pol-e-Qadam or ‘Old Bridge’) straddling the river, though it is really only the foundation that dates back to this time. The bridge is believed to have been built by Roman soldiers captured by Shapour I. Along the Des river are also several water mills from the same era - one of which was used up until 1985. The Dezful area is one of the best archaeological sites in the world, with discoveries from the past 8,000 years found in the vicinity. The historical importance of this area is reflected in the modern-day lives of the people that live in the area - the native Dezfuli dialect is one of the most archaic of all Persian dialects.

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 11 : Susa - Chogha Zanbil - Shushtar

Go on a short visit to the Pol-e-Qadam bridge in Dezful and continue to Susa, one of the oldest sites in the Khuzestani Province. See nearby Chogha Zanbil and the Sushtar Water Mills before continuing to Ahvaz for an evening flight to Shiraz. Overnight in Shiraz. 

NOTE: If flight schedules change it is possible the overnight on this day will be in Ahvaz, and the flight to Shiraz will be on the following morning instead.

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'. 

Daniel’s Tomb is widely accepted to be the in Susa, though there are other sites claiming to be the original. It is an important place of pilgrimage for Jews and Muslims alike.  

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Day 12 : Shiraz - Firuz Abad - Shiraz

After breakfast, there will be an excursion to Firuz Abad from Shiraz. Visit the old walled city and the famous palace of Ardashir overlooking the lake. In the evening you will visit Vakil Bazaar. Overnight in Shiraz.

Overnight in Homa Hotel, Shiraz

Meal plan: Breakfast

Firuz Abad was originally built by the Sassanian King Ardashir in 200 AD, who designed it as his own royal residence. Firuz Abad was christened "Ardashir-Khurra" which means 'the Glory of Ardashir'. It was originally a walled city in the shape of a circle, with four gates located at each cardinal point. Out of the centre of the city, the remains of the square minaret of rubble-rose stone can still be seen. Nearby is the enormous palace of Ardashir, which was built on a plain overlooking a small natural lake. In the opening of the valley are some striking bas-reliefs that depict Ardashir defeating the Parthian King, Artabanus. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in June 2018 as part of the Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region.

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.

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Day 13 : Shiraz - Persepolis - Pasargadae - Shiraz

Take an unforgettable excursion to the lost world of Persepolis and visit Naghsh–e-Rostam, Nagsh-e-Rajab and Pasargadae. 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.

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. 

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 14 : Shiraz - Meymand - Kerman

Visit the Eram Gardens in Shiraz, then begin your journey to Kerman, visiting Meymand en route. Overnight in Kerman.

Overnight in Pars Hotel, Kerman

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Eram Garden takes its name from the word ‘Iram’, the Muslim word for Quranic heaven. The luxurious gardens are surrounded by elaborate marble tiles and stones. In the centre is the Qavam House, which has been modified over the last 150 years by various owners. 

Kerman is a former capital of Iran which acts as the gateway to southeastern Iran. It boasts a strong cultural heritage and is home to numerous mosques and Zoroastrian fire temples. The city is located on a high margin of Kavir-e Lut (Lut Desert), and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. This desert trading city is known for large handmade carpet trade and mud-brick structures built around the lively Grand Bazaar, the city's main attraction. Kerman shows evidence of the myriad of dynasties that have held sway here, including the Sassanians, Arabs, Buyids, Turkmen, Mongols and Qajars. 

The ancient troglodyte village of Meymand is one of the oldest surviving villages in Iran and is believed to date back to the middle stone ages. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it has thousands of rooms in hundreds of caves. People have inhabited the area for at least the past 2,000 to 3,000 years, although 6,000-year-old pottery and 10,000-year-old stone engravings have also been discovered in the area.

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Day 15 : Kerman

Explore the Kaluts (Lut) Desert and the surroundings of Shahdad. Overnight in Kerman.

Overnight in Pars Hotel, Kerman

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Lut Desert, listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 2016, was identified by NASA scientists as the hottest place on earth in terms of land temperature, with 70.7 degrees Celsius recorded in the lowest area of the desert in 2005. Covering an area of 200,000 km sq, its extreme temperatures and less than 5cm of annual rainfall mean that no life can be found in the majority of the area. This gives one a real sense of isolation when travelling through. These harsh climatic conditions have given rise to geological processes that create intriguing landforms, like the kaluts. Kaluts are tall sand formations formed by wind, water and soil erosion that can be up to 80 metres high. There are also some craters that have been found in the aptly-named Valley of Meteorites.

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Day 16 : Kerman

Visit Prince's Garden, Mahan Shah Nehmatolah Vali Shrine, the Jupar Qanats, Bam citadel and return to Kerman. Overnight in Kerman.

Overnight in Pars Hotel, Kerman

Meal plan: Breakfast

Bam is a city in the Kerman province founded by the Parthians that is famous for its silk, textiles and cloth. An earthquake in 2003 destroyed the majority of the UNESCO Heritage mud-brick citadel and the fortified medieval town whose origins can be traced back to the Achaemenid period. The fortress contains a governor’s quarters, a fortified residential area and crumbling ramparts. Reconstruction continues today and will for many years to come. The city’s other highlights include Qal’eh dokhtar, the Maiden’s Fortress, Emamzadeh Zeyd Mausoleum and Emamzadeh Asiri Mausoleum.

Built in the Qajar era (late 19th century), the UNESCO-heritage-listed Prince's Garden is known as 'the bride of the Persian garden' due to subtle differences from typical Persian gardens. For example, it features a stepped effect and uses a river for water supply instead of a qanat. Cascading waterfalls and a diverse range of trees and plants make this garden a wonderful retreat. Legend has it that to choose the coolest spot, rabbit carcasses were hung at various places known to be cool and the last place where the carcass rotted was chosen as the location for the gardens! The entrance archway was left unfinished as the Qajar king who oversaw its construction died and work ceased immediately afterwards. 

Shah Nehmatolah Vali, a Sufi poet and mystic who lived to be 103 years old, spent the last 30 of those in Mahan. A contemporary of Hafez, each wrote poems referencing the other’s work. He was believed to have reached the seventh and highest level of Sufi’ism. Parts of the Shah Nehmatolah Vali Shrine were constructed variously under the Safavids, the Qajars and the Pahlavis. His prayer room is particularly beautiful and the walls are lined with  verses of his poems in  calligraphy . It is also sometimes possible to hear the haunting strains of Sufi prayers here. 

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Day 17 : Kerman - Yazd

Drive to Yazd, where you will see qanats, the old town, Dowlatabad Gardens and the Towers of Silence. 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 two Dakhma, or 'Towers of Silence' date back to the 18th century and reign over the city. The towers were used as storage houses for the dead, who were left there to decompose and be devoured by birds until as recently as 50-60 years ago. Zoroastrians believed burials or cremations would pollute the Earth or Fire, which are precious elements in their religion. They felt that using Towers of Silence was a better way of recycling the deceased.

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.  

The beautiful Dowlatabad Garden complex features historic buildings constructed during the time of Mohammad Taqi Khan. Its wind badgir is 33 metres high, the highest in Yazd. The advanced building architecture and the beautiful gardens make it one of the city's most celebrated sights.

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Day 18 : Yazd

Visit the famous Jameh Mosque of Yazd, and the Water Museum. Rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure. Optional visit to a Zurkhaneh. Overnight in Yazd.

Overnight in Dad International, Yazd

Meal plan: Breakfast

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. 

Yazd Water Museum, housed in a former merchant’s house orignally built in 1929, is one of Yazd's best new attractions. The museum displays a variety of water objects from qanat to water ownership documents. The museum traces the water history of the region and how water technologies and everyday life have been interwoven across the ages. 

A Zurkhaneh, which literally translates as “house of strength”, is a traditional gymnasium where Pahlevani rituals are practised. These rituals combine martial arts, callisthenics, strength training, music and poetry. There are around 500 of the gyms dotted around the country, each with strong ties to its local community. Some of them welcome visitors, though a small contribution may be expected.

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Day 19 : Yazd - Isfahan

Drive to Isfahan, seeing Maybod and Na'in en route. In Isfahan, see the studding Jameh Mosque. 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 20 : Isfahan

Wander around Imam Square,Sheikh Lotfollah & Shah Mosques and the Chehel Sotun palace. Later visit the music museum, where if you are lucky you can catch a traditional music performance. Overnight in Isfahan. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located in Isfahan's Armenian quarter, the Music Museum was opened in 2015 by two local musicians and has since been named the Best Private Museum in Iran by the International Council of Museums. More than 300 instruments from all over the country are displayed in well-lit glass cases, with less precious pieces available for visitors to try out themselves. A visit to this museum often ends in a private performance of traditional Persian love songs by the owners or local masters.

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.

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. 

Read more
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Day 21 : Isfahan [FREE DAY]

Today is free to enjoy at your leisure. Your guide will offer suggestions of activities for those that want to venture out and explore the area. Overnight in Isfahan. 

Overnight in Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 22 : Isfahan - Zahedan

Fly to Zahedan. Note flight may go via Tehran. Rest of the day free. Overnight in Zahedan.

Overnight in Esteghlal , Zahedan

Meal plan: Breakfast

The modern city of Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, strategically colated along routes connecting Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. However its ideal position for foreign trade has also made it a victim of smuggling, as it became a major centre of opium processing and trafficking. It is now one of the less economically-developed cities in Iran. Outside of narcotics, its main specialities include embroidered clothing, hand-knotted rugs, ceramics, bricks, livestock feed and milled rice. Many of these goods can be found at the lively and colourful Rasouli Bazaar frequented by the local Baluchi tribes.

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Day 23 : Shahr-e-Sukhteh

Drive to Shahr-e-Sukhteh and visit the site. Return to Zahedan for overnight.

Overnight in Esteghlal , Zahedan

Meal plan: Breakfast

The archaeological site of Shahr-e Sukhteh can be found in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Excavations at the UNESCO-listed settlement have led to the discovery of artifacts that date back to the Bronze age, between 2700 and 2300 BC. The prehistoric city was once a trading hub that connected Mesopotamia and Iran with Central Asian and Indian civilisations. 

Read more
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Day 24 : Zahedan - Tehran [FREE DAY]

Fly to Tehran and spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Tehran.

Overnight in Espinas Persian Gulf Hotel, Tehran

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 25 : Departure

At an appropriate time, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home or onward destination. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

This tour uses a selection of 4 and 5 star hotels, the best available, except for the leg between Mashhad and Tehran where the best available hotels are used.

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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. 

Visit hotel's site
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Botanic Palace Hotel

Gorgan (1 night)

The Palace Hotel in Gorgan has views across its botanic gardens. The rooms are simple yet spacious and clean. The hotel also offers guests access to its spa, with jacuzzi and swimming pool. Nearby sights include the Jahannama forest and Ashooradeh island.

Visit hotel's site
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Grand Hotel Zanjan

Zanjan (1 night)

The Grand Hotel Zanjan is nestled in the mountainous region of North West Iran. The hotel's comfortable bedrooms are clean and spacious with facilities such as a mini bar, television, internet and a telephone.

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Laleh Hotel

Sarein (1 night)

The Laleh is a four star Laleh hotel in the Ardebil province, which provides guests with access to spacious and comfortable bedrooms. It is located in the heart of the town, near to the hot springs Sabalan hydrotherapy spa and Alvares, the largest ski resort in Iran. Hotel facilities include a restaurant and swimming pool.

Visit hotel's site
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Tourist Inn

Jolfa (1 night)

Jolfa Tourist Inn is the perfect spot for excursions in and around the area. It provides simple yet comfortable facilities, while its location allows for easy access to nearby natural and historical sights, such as St. Stephanus Church.

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Tabriz El-Goli Pars Hotel

Tabriz (1 night)

The Pars Hotel is a large, modern building with spectacular views overlooking Tabriz and El Goli Park, as well as the Sahand and Sabalan Peaks in the distance. Three restaurants within the hotel serve both traditional Iranian and Western food, with the main tower containing a revolving restaurant. Guests can also enjoy the hotel's library and coffee shop, while rooms include luxury amenities such as free Wi-Fi and satellite television. 
 

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Ranji Hotel

Takab (1 night)

The Ranji Hotel is situated on the upper part of Takab. The hotel provides basic accommodation to those visiting the region. Wifi is available in the hotel lobby. The hotel restaurant serves a variety of Iranian and international dishes to guests. 

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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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Homa Hotel

Shiraz (2 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.

Visit hotel's site
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Pars Hotel

Kerman (3 nights)

This 170 room hotel was built in 2002 and is located close to the historic and touristic areas of Kerman. The Pars Hotel's facilities include a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, sporting hall, conference and banquet halls and money-exchange shop. 

Visit hotel's site
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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
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Abbasi Hotel

Isfahan (2 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
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Esteghlal

Zahedan (2 nights)

The Esteghlal is a four star hotel located in the Bagh-e-Sahr area. The spacious rooms are ornately decorated, each with modern facilities to make your stay comfortable. Its many resturants and coffee shops provide a range of cuisines. The hotel also offers many extra services to its guests, including a barbers and a souvenir shop.

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.

Note:  you will be responsible for any additional expenses incurred on your trip which are outside the scope of your tour package (e.g. costs related to personal emergencies, extra meals, phone calls, etc.). Any such costs must be paid in full locally.

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. 


Help us to reduce single-use plastics
We are very happy to announce our tie-up with WaterToGo - https://www.watertogo.eu/traveltheunknown

This will give you the chance to help us to reduce single-use plastic usage on our trips - and as such we would encourage you to buy reusable water bottles from the link above. This will not cost you any more, in fact you can get a 15% discount by entering the code "TTU15" at the checkout - and we will get a small percentage commission too which we will donate to WaterAid - https://www.wateraid.org/uk/.   They have many amazing water-related projects ensuring clean water, decent toilets and sanitation are something everyone can access. Thank you for helping us to make a little difference.

Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible for further information on our responsible travel initiatives.

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

We had a fantastic holiday. Iran has an incredibly rich past and in many ways presents an enigma today. Travel the Unknown helped us to plan a trip which allowed us to explore its wonders. We experienced ancient Persepolis, beautiful tiled mosques, the stunning Alborz mountains, and the unexpected and genuinely warm welcome of local people. Our brilliant guide, Shima, who made every effort to understand what we were interested in, and to make our trip such a success, commented several times on what a good itinerary we had compared to other tours.

Sarah & James Bradley , Tailormade 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

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

Very moving, life-changing experience. Iran is a fascinating, complex place with a long, dramatic history. The itinerary of three days in each significant city (Shiraz, Yazd, Esfahan) follows the chronology of the empires beautifully. Three days in each place gives you time to relax and explore. The hotels are first class and quite spectacular. A small group gives you the chance to respond to group ideas, and also to go to local restaurants, off the beaten track from the large tour groups.

Madeleine Murray , Classical Iran, Iran

We have recently returned from a wonderful trip to Iran. The size of the group (12) was just right and staying several nights in each place a bonus. An interesting and varied itinerary and our experience of the welcoming people made for a very memorable holiday. We’d be happy to book with Travel the Unknown again.

Margaret & David Baker , Classical Iran, Iran

When people say "Why Iran?" say "Why not?". We will never forget all of the amazing sites we saw and the beauty of the countryside but the enduring thing we will take away from this trip is the warmth and friendliness of the people we met. We sat down after an amazing tour around Persepolis and were immediately part of an Iranian picnic. We don't speak Persian, they had little English but we were welcomed like old friends. Not only is Iran the cradle of civilisation it is also the most welcoming place we have ever been.

Julia & Clive Stephen , Classical Iran

A thoughtfully organised and fully educative trip into, what was for me, substantially the 'unknown'.

Andrew Sanders , Classical 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 was probably the best holiday I have ever had. There was so much to see and do and we received the warmest of welcomes everywhere we went. Every aspect of the trip worked out as planned with no delays or changes.

Nigel Semmens , Tailormade 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

This was our second tailored trip to Iran with Travel the Unknown who kindly arranged for us to have Hamid and Reza as guide and driver again. Highlights in Tehran were the breathtaking Treasury of National Jewels, the serene Negarestan Gardens and the mountain resort of Darband. In Esfahan the Ali Qapu Palace illustrated the beauty of Persian craftmanship. During the trip we met a farmer who sings to his ox to make it draw well-water, lovely lady weavers in Kashan and so many children eager to practice their English lessons on us. For me the outstanding experience of the trip was picking blooms on a rose farm to distil rose-water. Delightful hotels, exquisite cuisine and welcoming people. Thank you.

Tony & Chris Cram , Tailormade Iran
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