After winding through the mountains and deserts of Central Asia, the Silk Road split into two main routes around the northern and southern shores of the Caspian Sea. It was this latter, southern, route which passed through present-day Iran – one of the oldest civilizations on earth. A land of incredible diversity and phenomenal beauty, Iran was once the thriving heart of the mighty Persian empire, but nowadays it’s little visited by Westerners, and grossly misunderstood. From our experience though, Iran is a nation of heart-warming hospitality, mouth-wateringly wonderful food and some of the most beautiful cities on earth. Every visitor to Iran returns smitten by this beguiling, romantic land.
Pay a visit to this nation of glittering mosques, noisy tea houses, labyrinthine bazaars, ancient caravanserai, cacophonous cities and silent deserts and learn not only how the Silk Road shaped it, but what it means to be a modern Iranian. Life isn’t always easy in this strict authoritarian regime, particularly for women – but you’ll find there is much more to Iran than how the Western media portray it.
We hope you’ll take the plunge and come on an Iranian odyssey with us – you are going to be telling people about it for a long time afterwards….
Things we love about Iran
- The people. Despite their difficult political situation, the Iranians are a uniquely hospitable, fun-loving people. If you’re in any doubt, read our good friend Lois Pryce’s excellent book about Iran, Revolutionary Ride.
- The food. Iranian cuisine is utterly delicious and a major aspect of any trip here – as well it should! Saffron, pomegranate, turmeric, fresh herbs, kebabs, exotic fruits and rice all feature heavily.
- The Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan. A UNESCO World Heritage site that’s regularly cited as the most beautiful public square in the world. You’ll soon understand why.
- Persepolis. The ruined capital of Darius the Great’s all-conquering Persian Empire which, when he founded this city in 518 BC, stretched as far as Libya and the Indus Valley. So wealthy was the empire that when Alexander the Great looted Persepolis in 330 BC he needed 3000 camels to carry its treasures away. It may be in ruins today, but it’s still mightily impressive.
- Zurkhaneh. A small, traditional gymnasium often decorated like a shrine, which literally translates as ‘house of strength.’ Men come here to practice a mix of sport, theatre and religion that dates back thousands of years, to a time when the Persian empire needed to train up its men to defend itself from possible invasions. An astonishing spectacle that’s quite unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else.
- The picnics. The Iranians might just love their picnics even more than we do! British explorer Freya Stark, who travelled in the region in the 1930s, wrote in The Valleys of the Assassins: “It is a charming trait in Persia that anyone you meet understands the pleasures of a picnic.” Spend any time in Iran and you’ll likely be asked to join one of these lavish spreads of tea-making paraphernalia, pyramids of pomegranates, cakes, sweets and shisha pipes. Say no at your peril!
A superbly-curated tour that follows in Joanna Lumley’s footsteps from her ITV Silk Road TV series. Led by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, a producer of the series itself. This is a classic Iran itinerary with a personal twist that can’t be replicated. All aboard!