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Day 1: Arrive in Tehran
You are met upon arrival at Tehran International Airport and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon we will arrange a visit to the Carpet Museum for those who arrive early, before meeting the group for dinner and orientation. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 2: Tehran City Sights
We begin our day at the Golestan Palace Complex (UNESCO) to visit a few of the many grand buildings, including the Ivan-e Takht-e Marmar (Marble Throne Veranda), the Sun Edifice and Badgir Palace. We visit the National Museum of Iran for an overview of the history of the country.
Day 3: Alisadra Cave, to Hamadan
This morning we will depart for Hamadan. We stop along the way to enjoy a visit inside the Alisadra Cave, the longest aquatic cave in the world which has constant temperature of 16 degrees centigrade. From here we enjoy lunch before making our way to Hamadan. The bustling city of Hamadan previously known as Ekbatana - was one of the ancient world's greatest cities. Hamadan has a wonderful setting surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Dinner and overnight in Hamadan.
Day 4: Hamadan, Ancient Ecbatana, Tombs of Esther & Mordecai
After lunch, we embark on a city tour and visit Ganjnameh; an ancient rock inscription carved in granite. Three languages are represented in the 2m high carvings: Old Persian, Elamite and Neo-Babylonian. We visit the tombs of Esther and Mordecai, Iran's most important Jewish pilgrimage site. We visit Bu Ali Sina Museum and Mausoleum. Bu Ali Sina, or better known as Avicenna in the west, was a great philosopher and physician (AD 980 - 1037) who produced 250 books including the medical encyclopedia (Canon Medicinae) which was used in European universities until the 17th century. We will also have time to explore the live excavation site of ancient Ecbatana, along with its small museum, which continually offers more as new sites and discoveries are made. We also visit the only standing monument from ancient Ecbatana, a 2,300 year old stone lion. Dinner and overnight in Hamadan.
Day 5: Kermanshah, Bisotun (UNESCO) and Taq-e-Bostan
Drive to Kermanshah. Enroute we stop at Bisotun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to visit the Achaemanian rock relief. The principal monument is the stone relief and inscription ordered by Darius the Great, when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire in 521 BC. The carving depicts Darius' conquest over his enemies. There are 1,200 lines of inscription telling the story of the battles Darius waged, and won. We also visit the Takieh Mo'aven ol-Molk (Hosseiniehs Shiite shrines) to observe visiting pilgrims. After lunch, we continue on to Taq-e-Bostan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we enjoy its stunning carved rock reliefs. Dinner and overnight in Kermanshah.
Day 6: To Dezful via the Citadel of Khoramabad
Today we drive to Khoramabad. The city's main attraction is its fortified citadel, known as Falak-ol-aflak, built in the Sassanid era (AD 226-651). This impressive landmark served as a fortified castle, a governors residence, a prison and today is a museum. We continue on to Dezful for dinner and overnight.
Day 7: Tomb of Daniel, Choqha Zanbil (UNESCO) - Largest Pyramid in Mesopotamia
Today we drive to Susa stopping to visit the Tomb of Daniel, of the lion's den fame, a place of pilgrimage for both the Muslim and Jewish faiths and the Palace of Darius, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to 521 BC. We continue on to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Choqha Zanbil, where we find the largest ziggurat (pyramid) in Mesopotamia, consisting of five towers built inside of each other. The pyramid was built 3,300 years ago and contains the ruins of the sacred city of the Elamites. See the world's first alphabet inscription and evidence of water channels that brought water from 45 kms away. Time permitting, we will visit the impressive water channels of Shushtar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We continue to Ahwaz for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Temple of Anahita, to Shiraz
Today we depart for Shiraz, stopping enroute at the Bishapour City that used to be the fortified Temple of Anahita ruins and the Palace of Shapur. The ruins include an underground pool (now dried up). Nearby, we visit some interesting bas-reliefs depicting victory over the Romans carved along the river in a beautiful mountain setting. We continue to Shiraz for dinner and overnight.
Day 9: To Firouzabad
We drive to Firouzabad where we explore the Great palace of Ardashir Babakan, which dates back to 260 AD. This area of Iran is home to many nomadic tribal groups and if we are lucky we may encounter them today. Here, we visit the Old Tower of Gur City, Sassanid Relief. Dinner and overnight in Shiraz.
Day 10: Sites of Shiraz
Shiraz is known as the center of Persian culture, the city of poets and gardens. Today we visit the Karim Khan Citadel for a panoramic view, followed by time at the Vakil Bazaar and Regent's Mosque that features 48 columns. After lunch we visit the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque to see the beautiful stained glass and blue tiles. We also visit the Mausoleums of Saadi & Hafez (two famous Iranian Poets), with time to enjoy the lovely gardens at each location. Dinner and overnight in Shiraz.
Day 11: Persepolis, Ancient City of the Persians; Rock Tombs of Naqsh-E Rostam
On a bare plain surrounded by sharp edged cliffs, Cyrus the Great built a palace now known as "The city of the Persians". Dating back to 518 BC, Persepolis has been compared to the Valley of the Kings, Angkor Wat and the Roman Coliseum in terms of archeological significance. Highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site include the Gate of Nations, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, the Great Stairway, the Apadana Palace, the Palace of Artaxerxes III, the Royal Treasury, the Imperial Stable, and the Chariot House. The morning is dedicated to Persepolis and in the afternoon we visit Naqsh-e Rostam, whose 4 rock tombs, are said to be the final resting place of Achaemenian Sovereigns such as Xerxes, Darius the Great, Artaxerxes I and Darius II. We also stop at Naqsh-e Rajab to see the magnificent Sassanian bas-reliefs carved into the rock face. Overnight in Marve Dasht.
Day 12: Pasargadae (UNESCO), to Zeinoddin Caravanserai
Today we explore Pasargadae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to 550 BC. We start with a visit to the tomb of Cyrus the Great, followed by the ruins of the Prison of Solomon, the ruins of the Throne of the Mother of Solomon, the remains of the Private Palace, the Entrance Palace and the Audience Palace. We continue to Abarqu to visit its massive 4500 year old cypress tree (world's second oldest tree) followed by a visit to the Aqazade House, which is the largest wind catcher in Iran.
Day 13: To Yazd, Towers of Silence
A short drive takes us to Saryazd where we visit 2 caravanserais, one restored and one being restored. We continue towards Yazd stopping enroute at the Towers of Silence. These two Zoroastrian towers set on two barren mountains provided a ritual site for dealing with death according to Zoroastrian beliefs. Dead bodies would be placed in the towers so that the vultures could pick the bones clean, maintaining purity of the earth. This practice lasted until the 1960's.
Day 14: Yazd, Old City Walking Tour
Yazd, the oldest adobe city in the world, is considered an oasis, surrounded by the 4000m summit of Shir Kooh Mountain and the two majestic deserts of Iran - Dasht-e-Kavir and Kavir-e-Lut. Marco Polo visited Yazd in 1250 A.D. and described it as the "noble city of Yazd". UNESCO has declared Yazd to be the 2nd most historic city in the world. This ancient city is furnished with lovely winding streets and mosques of stunning beauty. The co-existence of the splendid fire temples and the holy sites of different religions astonish every visitor. For many, no visit to Iran would be complete without a visit to Yazd.
Day 15: To Isfahan; Meybod and Nain
We begin our day with a visit to Meybod. This ancient city was established in pre-Islamic times and today contains many fine buildings from both the Sassanid and Safavid eras. We stop at Narein Castle, one of the oldest mud castles in Iran along with a restored caravanserai which now features a small Zilog (carpet) exhibit including a visit to the traditional ice house from the 19th century. Next we head to the attractive city of Nain. Nain's Jameh mosque dates back to the 10th century and is considered one of the oldest and most important mosques of Persian Islamic architecture. We continue on to the beautiful city of Isfahan. Dinner and overnight in Isfahan.
Day 16: Stunning Bridges of Isfahan
Known as the masterpiece of Persian culture,this former capital of Iran created by Shah Abbas I, in the 16th century, is known as a city of beautiful gardens, fine art and for its bridges that span the Zayandeh river. The city is best explored on foot. We start with the Chehel-Sotun Museum (UNESCO) and its attractive grounds. We then explore the city's main attraction, Imam Square (UNESCO) which contains the beautiful Imam Mosque, Ali Qapu palace and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Nearly two thirds of Iran's handicrafts come from Isfahan and this afternoon we will visit several workshop/stores to learn about carpets, miniatures and print blocking on fabric. Tonight, we drive by the river to see Isfahan's beautiful bridges illuminated after dark. Dinner and overnight in Isfahan.
Day 17: Jameh Mosque & the Shaking Minarets
Today we continue visiting sites in and around Isfahan. We visit the Jameh Mosque (UNESCO), the origins of which date back to the 8th century, but after a fire in the 11th century it has undergone many phases of renovation and today offers a condensed history of Iranian architecture.
Day 18: Traditional Village of Abyaneh
Today, we visit the Natanz mosque followed by the village of Abyaneh, part of Iran's national heritage, located at the foot of Mount Karkas. Experience the serenity of this quaint village with its splendid archaeology and meet the local people who speak, live, and dress in the original Persian style. Here will will have an opportunity to visit a wooden underground mosque and the oldest wooden niche of muslims. After lunch we make our way to Kashan, which is renowned for its rosewater. We will enjoy dinner and overnight in Kashan.
Day 19: To Tehran via Kashan, 7,000 Year Old Pyramid
This morning, we visit the Sialk Archeological Hill, a 7000 year old pyramid, as well as Boroujerdi and Tabatabai ancient houses before visiting the Fin Garden (UNESCO). From here we make our way back to Tehran. Dinner and overnight in Tehran.
Day 20: Tehran
We begin our day with a visit to the Jewelry Museum, then head to the north of Tehran to visit the Sa'dabad Museum complex where we visit the white and green palaces. The rest of the day is free until our farewell dinner. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 21: Depart Tehran
We transfer today to the international airport for our departure flight.
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