A PERSIAN SPRING
28 April - 12 May 2011
with John and Karen Osborne
COST: £2595: the price includes return flights, accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, transport, including one internal flight in Iran, services of the tour leader and a local, English-speaking escort, and entrance fees.
EXTRAS: the price does not include the rather expensive visa (currently £87 plus £20 procurement charge), drinks or tips, insurance, or any items of personal expenditure. Single Room Supplement £490.
IRAN has had long and distinctive periods of civilization: the era of Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes, the Persian kings who made such an impact upon Biblical and Classical Greek history; the Parthians and Sassanians, who earned the continued respect of the mighty Roman empire; the successive dynasties who ruled after the Islamic conquest in 641 AD, including the Mongols, Tamberlaine and Shah Abbas, who turned Isfahan into a brilliant capital city; and, finally, the monarchies of the 19th and 20th century, which has seen the overthrow of the Qajar and the Pahlavi dynasties, and the resurgence of Shia Islam as a political force.
Our tour will start and finish in Teheran, where we visit the Archaeological and Islamic Museums with their fine collections from all periods of Persian history. We visit the palace of the Great Kings destroyed by Alexander the Great at Persepolis, where the magnificent ruins include finely sculptured reliefs, and their spectacular tombs hewn into the cliffs nearby at Naqsh-e-Rustam. We stay in the lovely city of Shiraz, famous for its gardens and its lyric poets, Hafiz and Saadi, buried there. We travel to the desert cities of Kerman and Yazd, each with its fine mosque, the Sufi shrine at Mahan, and the Zoroastrian fire temple and ‘Towers of Silence’ outside Yazd. We spend two full days in Isfahan, the city which is ‘half the world’, according to the Iranians, to enjoy the splendour of its tiled mosques and painted palaces, and the lively, colourful bazaars, with their traditional trades and crafts.
Thursday 28 April Fly from Heathrow to Teheran (arr Friday 15 April). Three nights’ accommodation at the 5* Laleh Hotel.
Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April Visits to the Carpet Museum, to the National Bank to see the crown jewels and the Peacock Throne, and to a selection of important palaces and museums, such as the Golestan and Niavaran Palaces, and the Archaeological and Glass Museums
Sunday 1 May Midday Iran Air flight to Shiraz. Visit the Citadel and the colourful Bazaar. Three nights’ accommodation at the 5* Pars Hotel.
Monday 2 May A day in Shiraz, traditionally the city of roses, nightingales and poets. We visit three lovely gardens: the Eram Garden, and the tombs of the poets Hafez and Saadi.
Tuesday 3 May Drive out to visit the imposing remains of the ancient royal palaces at Persepolis, the tombs of the Persian kings high on the rock face at Naqsh-e-Rustam, and the Sassanian reliefs there and at Naqsh-e-Rajab.
Wednesday 4 May Drive to Kerman. En route we have a picnic lunch, and visit the remains of the Sassanian palace at Sarvestan and the mosque at Niriz. Two nights at the 5* Pars Hotel in Kerman.
Thursday 5 May We visit the fine Friday mosque in Kerman and the fascinating bazaar area. We then drive out of town to the shrine of Nimatollah at Mahan, a place of great calm and beauty. We continue to the ruins of the citadel of Rayan and the Shehzadeh Garden.
Friday 6 May Drive to Yazd, with a stop at a restored caravanserai en route. Two nights’ accommodation at the 4* Moshir Garden Hotel.
Saturday 7 May An exploration of the old city centre with its fine traditional architecture, including the lovely Friday Mosque and the Water Museum. We see henna produced by traditional methods, and we visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and the imposing ‘Towers of Silence’ on the city’s outskirts.
Sunday 8 May Drive to Isfahan via Nain, where we visit one of the oldest mosques in Iran, the ruins of a Sassanian castle and a local weaving centre. Three nights at the 5* Abbasi Hotel.
Monday 9 May & Tuesday 10 May Two days in the great city of Isfahan, visiting the mediaeval Friday Mosque; the bazaars; the lovely palace of the Chehel Situn; the fine 17th cent bridges; Vank Cathedral in the old Armenian suburb of Julfa; the beautifully tiled Imam and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques and the Ali Kapu Palace around the spacious Maidan, all dating from the reign of Shah Abbas.
Wednesday 11 May We drive back to Tehran via Kashan, where we visit the tranquil Garden of Fin. Our farewell dinner will be in traditional local restaurant. Overnight at the Laleh Hotel
Thursday 12 May Fly from Teheran to London Heathrow.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Local Custom: the courtesy and interest we will customarily be shown as visitors may be different from our impressions of Iran from the media. Nevertheless, Iran is a strict Islamic country and visitors must conform to this code:
Dress for women includes covering the head, arms and legs at all times in public places (more detailed guidelines will be provided).
Men do not wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts.
Alcoholic drinks are forbidden, even if imported for private consumption only.
Travel: There are long bus journeys on some days, but these are compensated by the rich evidence everywhere of Iran’s history and culture, by comfortable hotels and by one internal flight. There will be a considerable amount of walking in city centres and at Persepolis.
Climate: We are generally at an altitude of 1,000m – 1,750m and the atmosphere is remarkably dry, clear and bright. The spring weather will be warm or very warm by day, with strong sun, but still cool in the evenings. There is a chance of rain.
Food and Drink: Local cuisine includes a lot of rice. Kebabs and stews are ubiquitous. Fruits in season and herbs can add a lot of interest and variety. Local water is safe. Bottled water is generally available, along with tea, fizzy orange and coca cola-style soft drinks. No alcohol.
Health: There are no particular health problems for the visitor.
Money: US Dollars (1 USD = approx 10,000 Rials) are the main medium of exchange. Things are comparatively inexpensive in Iran, unless you are shopping for rugs of good quality or for jewellery. Opportunities to use credit cards are very limited.
Visas and Passports: Our agents, Prestige Holidays and Persian Voyages, submit applications for visas for our group en masse. Prestige require passport details, but not passports, in January. Passports, which should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of our visit, will be required in February for a week for stamping at the Iranian Embassy in London.