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Day 1: Arrive in Tehran
Met on arrival at Tehran International Airport and transfer to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure 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 to visit a few of the many grand buildings, including the Ivan-e Takht-e Marmar (Marble Throne Veranda), the Negar Khane Qajar Art Gallery, and the Photograph Gallery. We visit the National Museum of Iran for an overview of the history of the country.
Day 3: To Hamadan, Ali Sadr Cave
This morning we will depart for Hamadan. Enroute stopping at Ali Sadr cave, which is easily one of Iran's most popular domestic attractions. See the cave's caverns during your unique paddle-boat excursion. The bustling city of Hamadan previously known as Ecbatana- was one of the ancient world's greatest cities. Hamadan has a wonderful setting surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Overnight in Hamadan.
Day 4: Hamadan
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 Buali Sina Museum and mausoleum. Buali 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. Overnight in Hamadan.
Day 5: Kermanshah
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 n 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 Takt-e-Boston and its stunning carved rock reliefs. Overnight in Kermanshah.
Day 6: Kermanshah to Andimeshk via Khoramabad
Drive to Khoramabad. The city's main attraction is its fortified citadel, known as Falak-ol-aflak, built in the Sassanid era (226-651). This impressive landmark served as a fortified castle, a governors residence, a prison and today is a museum. Overnight in Andismeshk.
Day 7: Zigurrat-e-Choqa-Zanbil, Andimeshk to Ahvaz
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 which dates back to 521 BC. We continue on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Choqa 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. Continue to Ahwaz for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Temple of Anahita, Ahvaz to Kazeroon
Today we depart for Kazeroon, stopping enroute at 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. Continue to Kazeroon for Dinner and Overnight.
Day 9: Kazeroon to Shiraz via Firouzabad
We continue to Firouzabad where we explore the Great palace of Ardashir Babakan, which dates from 260 AD. This area of Iran is home to many Nomadic groups and if we are lucky we may encounter them today. Continuing onto Shiraz to overnight.
Day 10: Shiraz City Sights
Shiraz is known as the center of Persian culture, the city of poets and gardens. Today we visit the Harim 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 then visit the Mausoleums of Saadi & Hafez (two famous Iranian Poets), with time to enjoy the lovely gardens at each location. Overnight in Shiraz.
Day 11: Persepolis - The Ancient City of the Persians; The 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 World Heritage Site; to Zeinoddin Caravanserai
Zeinoddin is a Safavid Caravanserai which has been completely restored giving it great ambience. On the way we will have a short stop in Pasargadae to visit the tomb of Cyrus the Great. Pasargadae dates back to 550 BC and while the ruins are not as well preserved as the ruins at Persepolis there is still much to be seen at this UNESCO World Heritage Site including the six-level Tomb, 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 traditional cisterns, ancient ice house and 4500 year old cypress tree. Overnight at Zeinoddin Caravanserai.
Day 13: Caravan Serai 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. This afternoon, we see the sacred Eternal Flame in Ateskadeh, which is supposed to have been lit and burning continuously since 470 AD. A visit to the water museum gives us an insight into how water is sourced in the desert. Overnight in Yazd.
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 carpet exhibit. 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. Overnight Isfahan
Day 16: Isfahan City Sights
Known as the masterpiece of Persian culture,this former capital of Iran created by Shah Abbas 1, 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 and its attractive grounds. Continuing on we see the city's main attraction Imam square which contains the 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 will drive by the river to see the bridges illuminated. Overnight in Isfahan
Day 17: Isfahan City Sights
Today we continue visiting sights in and around Isfahan. We visit the jameh mosque, 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. We see the famous shaking minarets. The minarets are actually part of the tomb of a revered dervish of the 14th century. If you lean hard against one minaret, it will begin to sway back and forth-followed by the second minaret. Also we visit kabootar khaneh (pigeon towers), the Ali Gholi Agha ancient bath and Vank church to learn more about Iran's Armenian community. Overnight in Isfahan.
Day 18: Abyaneh
Today, you will visit the UNESCO recognized village of Abyaneh, 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. Overnight in Abyaneh.
Day 19: To Tehran via Kashan
We begin our way back to Tehran stopping in the city of Kashan which is renowned for its rosewater. We will visit the remains of a 7000 year old pyramid known as Sialk Hills as well as Boroujerdi and Tabatabai ancient houses. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 20: Tehran
We begin with a visit to the glass and ceramic 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 till the farewell dinner. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 21: Depart Tehran
We transfer today to the international airport for our departure flight.
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