Iran – Treasures of the South

Code: IR/SR/IRTRS
14 Days
  • Naqsh e Jahan Square Isfahan Iran
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Fixed Departure Date : 15th September – 28th September 2019. See Itinerary below for details.

This expertly-curated Persian odyssey will follow in many of Joanna’s Lumley’s footsteps across Iran, as documented in her recent ITV travelogue on the Silk Road.  A land of incredible diversity and phenomenal beauty, Iran was once the thriving heart of the mighty Persian empire, and we’re sure you’re going to adore it just as much as Joanna did.

From the bustling bazaars of Tehran to the mud-brick antiquity of Yazd;  from the emptiness of the Dasht-e-Lut desert to the pleasure gardens of Kashan; from the ancient wonders of Persepolis to the Abbasid architecture of Isfahan, this country will astound you. And that’s not to mention the superlative defying Persian cuisine or the humbling hospitality of the Iranian people

As you travel, you’ll not only gain a deep insight into how the  Silk Road shaped this fantastic country, but what it means to be a modern Iranian.

The trip will be led by our excellent local partner who will look after you like royalty! Our own Director, Antonia was a producer on Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road series, spending a year researching and designing Joanna’s journey and filming several episodes of the series with Joanna and the crew. Thanks to these months of specialist research, this is a completely unique opportunity to follow directly in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places featured in the series, meet the people she met, stay in the same hotels and much more. No other company can give you this same experience.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Arrive: Tehran IK International Airport

Depart: Shiraz Shahid Dastgheib International Airport

DEPARTURE TIME Please arrive on the date that this trip is scheduled to depart.
See Itinerary for details
INCLUDED
  • Accommodation
  • All meals
  • All transfers and transport
  • Professional guide
  • Entrance fees
  • Coffee, tea, filtered water and fresh fruit throughout
NOT INCLUDED
  • Visa for Iran
  • Guide gratuity
  • Souvenirs

We’ll pick you up at the airport and be with you throughout this amazing trip.

You are going to love it.

Treasures of southern Iran.
Fixed Date Departure
Minimum 2 persons, maximum 8 persons.
15th September – 28th September 2019

1

Day 1: Sunday 15th September

Arrive in Tehran.
You’ll be met at the airport and transfer to our hotel in central Tehran after a late evening arrival.

2

Day 2: Monday 16th September

Tehran
Our first day in Tehran is all about acclimatising and finding our feet in what for some will be a very different timezone. After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll make a morning visit to Golestan Palace and bazaar, and then take a late lunch in a historic Tehran mansion in the old downtown area. In the afternoon we’ll have more time to relax before an evening stroll to the Tabiat Nature bridge and a delicious supper. We’ll be in our rather lovely hotel again this evening.

3

Day 3: Tuesday 17th September

Tehran
Our second day in Tehran begins with a visit to the Niavaran Palace Complex followed by the Sa’ad Abad Palace and Tajrish Bazaar in the afternoon. You’ll find time today feel rejuvenated and ready for the road ahead. After an evening meal at a local restaurant, we’ll return to our friendly hotel once more.

4

Day 4: Wednesday 18th September

Tehran – Qom – Kashan
We leave Tehran this morning and spend an hour or so on the road to Qom, a little-visited city on the road towards Kashan. A highly important centre for religious education for centuries, Qom hosts the very beautiful Alholbait Mosque and Fatima Musameh Shrine. We’ll grab a bite to eat in Qom and you can look out on the modern city to imagine the many times it has been sacked over the millennia! The Mongols, Tamerlane and Afghans are amongst those who have plundered here in its 8000 years of existence.

From Qom we’ll continue on to the city of Kashan. This city has a record of inhabitation stretching back over 9000 years. The name itself gave rise to the Persian name for a tile – kashi – so this gives an idea of why this was such an important place on the Silk Road in terms of architectural impact.  This afternoon we will settle into our comfortable hotel, and tomorrow we’ll explore the city.

5

Day 5: Thursday 19th September

Kashan – Matinabad
We can afford to savour our breakfast this morning as we have all day to see the sights of Kashan. This morning we’ll visit the Fin Gardens (UNESCO) – the most complete traditional Persian garden of its kind in the world –  and tour the Kashan bazaar, with its speciality carpets and famous local products including rose water and essences. In the afternoon, hopefully we will have the chance to follow Joanna’s example and meet the talented carpet weavers of Kashan. We will make the short transfer (1 hour) to Matinabad desert Eco Camp this evening and enjoy supper there. Tonight is the night that families travel to Matinabad from Tehran and Isfahan, so the ambience is superb and there is more chance to meet local families. This is what Iran is all about.

6

Day 6: Friday 20th September

Matinabad
Whilst Iran is certainly a centre for arts, architecture and high culture, it is also a place of deserts, so it would be remiss not to visit the desert for at least one night on our trip – in fact, we will spend 2 nights here! Having transferred last night from Kashan, we will spend the day at Matinabad. The Eco Camp here is the first of its kind in Iran and permits us to enjoy the desert vistas whilst sleeping in comfort. This afternoon there will be a chance to get our onto a guided walk in the desert close to the camp, to learn about – and hopefully see – some of the wildlife that calls this place home. You can also ride camels and help with the planting of the desert around the Eco Camp if you wish.

7

Day 7: Saturday 21st September

Matinabad – Isfahan
We’ve a couple of hours on the road this morning to bring us to Isfahan. Rightly considered one of the jewels in the crown of the Silk Road, we will have time to explore Isfahan today and tomorrow. This afternoon you can explore Isfahan with our guide on a relaxed walking tour. Suggested sights for this afternoon will be the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan, with its local artisans and handicrafts, and Vank Armenian Cathedral. This evening we’ll have dinner in Jofla Armenian district plus an evening stroll on one of iconic bridges of Isfahan and Chahar Bagh Boulevard. Delightful.

8

Day 8: Sunday 22nd September

Isfahan
Explore Isfahan:
Today we have a full day to explore this incredible and very beautiful Silk Road city,  including Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the Shah Mosque, Sheikh Mosque and Ali Qapu Palace. We’ll have time to meet some carpet sellers too for another authentic Silk Road experience and take lunch either in a traditional place in the bazaar, or a new tea house such as Atiq O Dole – depending on time! Following this we will visit Hasht Behasht and Chehul Sotoun pavilions built in the 17th Century – incredible parts of Isfahan not alwasys on every time-pressured itinerary. Another relaxing night in our hotel will leave a lasting impression of this great city, sometimes known to its inhabitants as “half the world”.

9

Day 9: Monday 23rd September

Isfahan – Yazd
An early morning visit to the Friday Mosque of Isfahan (UNESCO world heritage site) will start our day on the right note, before a four hour drive to Yazd – the first Iranian city to have a historic center designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Outside of Yazd we’ll stop in Meybod to have lunch in a traditional home. In Yazd itself we’ll have an introductory walking tour of the historic Fahadan neighborhood including Amir Chamagh square, and water museum. In the evening we’ll visit the Zuhrkhane “house of strength” – a place where Zoroastrian ritual, spiritual practice and wrestling meet. This is one of the highlights of Joanna’s ITV episode on Iran. We’ll have supper on a rooftop overlooking the city before retiring to a traditional hotel for the night.

10

Day 10: Tuesday 24th September

Yazd
This morning we’ll visit some key Zoarastrian sites in Yazd, including the Towers of Silence and Fire Temple, as well as visit the Grand Bazaar. Here you’ll find Termeh textiles. If you haven’t heard of them but have ever seen a paisley pattern, then you’ve looked upon one of the motifs often employed in termeh textiles – known here as a ‘botteh’. These textiles are as intricately woven as they are linked with the Silk Road itself, being printed on silk and wool mix cloth for hundreds of years. We’ll have time for baklava tasting and tea, visit the Dowlat Abad gardens and spend our evening once again at our hotel. You’ll have had the time to really feel the ambience of this remote desert city.

11

Day 11: Wednesday 25th September

Yazd – Shiraz
Today marks our longest transfer of about 5 hours from Yazd to the famous city of Shiraz. We’ll have a hearty breakfast and make a stop for lunch on the way in Abarkuh – good photo opportunities and great food abound – leaving plenty of time for a wash and brush-up before our evening meal in Shiraz itself, home to many unique dishes. This warm southern city will hopefully bless our first evening with a beautiful sunset to put us in the mood for the famed poetry if its famous son, Hafez. When Joanna travelled here, she adored the reverence for and knowledge of poetry that suffuses the city.

12

Day 12: Thursday 26th September

Shiraz
We’ve all day to soak-up the sights of Shiraz, of which there are plenty. We can offer a guided set of visits or you can spend your time here as you wish. Key among the sites to visit are the Nasir-ol-Molk (Pink Mosque), the Vakil bazaar and mosque, the Zand-era citadel, the Quran gate, Qavam House and Gardens, Eram Gardens Shiraz carpets and so much more. We’ll have the option to try local food specialities such as faloodeh, torshi and karam polo, followed by dinner in a local home. We’ll then repair to our comfortable hotel before an early start tomorrow.

13

Day 13: Friday 27th September

Shiraz – Persepolis – Shiraz
Today will be one of the very few early starts on our trip! The reason? Persepolis – as with any ancient and popular site – is best seen without hordes of stampeding click-happy groups! So, we’ll have a short transfer that will bring us 60km to Persepolis bright and early in order that we can enjoy just a fraction more privacy in this most special of places.

Joanna simply loved Persepolis and the chances are that you will, too. You’ll hopefully enjoy the chance to marvel at the mind-boggling scale of the place and imagine how other travellers – including Alexander the Great, who also plundered it – must have felt on first approaching the giant flat terrace with it’s sky-scraping columns.

After Persepolis we’ll visit the ancient Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis about 20 minutes from Persepolis, before heading to the Eram Gardens for an afternoon visit. This wonderful house and gardens were laid-out between the 12th and 14th Centuries and were known literally as ‘the Emperors’s Gardens, or Bagh e Shah.

We’ll have a bite of lunch near the gardens, and then return to Shiraz for a farewell dinner this evening where we’ll wish you all safe travels. The suggested Turkish Airlines flight departs at 03.00 tomorrow morning so we’ll transfer you to the airport around midnight.

14

Day 14: Saturday 28th September

Shiraz – Home
We will get you to the airport in good time for your flight home early this morning. You’ll fly away with wonderful memories of Iran and it’s people, and you’ll have followed part of Joanna’s exact route.

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be staying in a variety of accommodation – from larger hotels in Isfahan and Shiraz to local hotels in Yazd and Kashan and wonderful, family-run guesthouses and even an eco-resort on the edge of the desert. The accommodation has been chosen to give you a real glimpse of life in Iran.

What size of group will it be?

Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. On this trip we won’t have more than ten guests, plus our local guides and drivers. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range.

How is this different to other ‘Silk Road’ expeditions I’ve seen?

We have been living, breathing, reading, researching and travelling the Silk Road for the past five years and  – with this trip – are in the unique position that one of our directors, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, was the producer on Joanna Lumley’s ITV Silk Road series. Antonia, who is an award-winning travel writer as well as a TV producer and expedition leader, spent a year researching and designing Joanna’s route – the people she’d meet, the stories she’d tell, the places she’d visit – and then travelling across some of these countries with Joanna and the crew. This expedition gives you a completely unique opportunity to follow in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places you’ve seen in the series, meet some of the people she met and much more. No other company can give you this experience. We also offer the chance to follow this itinerary in the company of Antonia herself. You can find details of that trip here.

What will the weather be like?

It’s late summer and Iran will be just beginning to cool down from the summer heat, so you can expect very warm days around 25-35 degrees C and warm nights – down to around 15 degrees C – especially in the desert.  But have no fear, we will supply you with a detailed packing list after you’ve signed up.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?

We try not to. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges.  It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive,  all costs are included in the expedition price. In the case of this Iran trip, we will get single rooms in some places but in others the accommodation is based on two sharing a twin room. If you’d like to book single accommodation throughout then there is a supplemental payment of £365 that we must charge, sorry!

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

What vehicles will we be travelling in?

We’ll be travelling by small ‘midi’ bus in comfort to most locations on this trip. 4×4’s are not necessary.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, it’s around £500 return (outbound to Tehran and return from Shiraz) with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. We can offer flight inclusive packages also though. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place.

What will the food be like?

Very, very good. The food in Iran is justly famed and you’ll enjoy a dazzling array of dishes. Vegetarians are well catered-for and you’ll also have meat and fish. This isn’t the country to come on a diet!

Will I have to share a room?

Yes, at times. There will be hotels and guest houses where we will have separate rooms and wherever possible we will arrange this, but there will also be times where we are staying there is scant option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring earplugs, in case of snorers.

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?

Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?

Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our Tailor Made tours page.

Is it a guaranteed departure?

As with any new, pioneering itinerary we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. For this trip, we need a minimum of 6 guests. When you express interest in this expedition, we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least 5 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.

Is it good value for money?

We are very proud of the routes we design and the way in which we travel them. We don’t cut corners and we plan meticulously. We are a small company that treats every guest as our friend and you won’t find that kind of service in many places. 85% of our customers have re-booked to travel again with us and some of them come on a trip every year. We also do annual expedition and remote medicine training and pay for 24/7 remote medical assistance cover. We employ professional military-grade risk assessments and plan for every possible negative scenario whilst hoping that none ever come to pass. We take our obligations to you and your safety very seriously and this all does cost money. We think the price represents great value for an experience you won’t find elsewhere. This trip is also being led by one of our directors, Antonia, so you are in good hands.

Is this really for me?

If you love adventure, new places, friendly people, wild landscapes, history and culture then yes! However, if you’re the sort of person who is going to be worried about the lack of flush loos in a desert camp, might complain that the road to Persepolis is too bumpy (it isn’t!) or frets about Wi-Fi availability, then this probably isn’t your bag.

Price:£2,540.00