IRAN: A PERSIAN SPRING
Thursday 11 April - Thursday 25 April 2019
Tour Leaders: John and Karen Osborne
PROVISIONAL COST: £3838: the price includes return flights, accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, all transport, services of the tour leader and a local, English-speaking escort, and entrance fees.
EXTRAS: the price does not include the visa (currently £165), drinks or tips, insurance, or any items of personal expenditure. Single Room Supplement £620.
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 in Shiraz and finish in Isfahan. 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 Kerman and on to the desert city of Yazd, with its fine mosque, and the Zoroastrian fire temple and ‘Towers of Silence’ outside Yazd. We spend four full days in and around 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.
PROVISIONAL ITINERARY Please note that it is not always possible to secure our first choice hotels.
Thursday 11 April - We fly to Shiraz with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul from Heathrow, arriving early on Friday morning. We have four nights at the Homa Hotel in Shiraz.
Friday 12 April – After a morning’s rest, we begin our sightseeing in Shiraz. During this afternoon and the whole of the following day - Saturday 13 April - we shall visit three of the lovely gardens for which Shiraz is famous, the tombs of Saadi and Hafez and the Bagh-e-Eram, and also the downtown area which includes the citadel, the colourful bazaar, the Narenjestan, with its pretty 19th c. house and garden, and the fine Nasir-ol-Molk mosque .and bath house, the latter now an interesting ethnographic museum.
Sunday 14 April - We drive out for a full day to visit the substantial remains of the great palace of the Persian kings at Persepolis and their royal tombs at Naqsh-e-Rustam. We have lunch nearby, and also inspect the Sassanian reliefs on the rocks at Naqsh-e-Rustam and nearby Naqsh-e-Rajab.
Monday 15 April – A full day’s drive across the desert to Kerman, stopping at the Sassanian palace at Sarvestan and the ancient Friday Mosque in Neiriz en route. In Kerman our accommodation will be (e.g.) the Pars Hotel for two nights.
Tuesday 16 April – We drive out to the well-conserved ruins of the old citadel of Rayan and continue to the shrine of Nimatollah at Mahan, a place of great calm and beauty, and the lovely garden of the 19th c. crown prince, the Shehzadeh.
Wednesday 17 April – We visit the Friday mosque in Kerman and walk through the lively bazaar. We then travel to Yazd, stopping en route at the restored Zeir-o-Din caravanserai south of Yazd, where we have our lunch before spending three nights in Yazd.
Thursday 18 April – We spend a full day in Yazd, including a fascinating walk through the lanes of the old city centre to visit the lovely Friday Mosque and the so-called ‘Alexander’s Prison’. We also visit the Zoroastrian temple and their ‘Towers of Silence’, a Hennah factory, and the Water Museum. Our accommodation for three nights is either the Dad or the Moshir Garden Hotel, both of them traditional buildings with a good deal of character.
Friday 19 April - We drive a short distance out to the small town of Meybod, where we visit a pottery factory, the old citadel, and a traditional pigeon tower.
Saturday 20 April - A whole day’s drive to Isfahan, via Nain, where we visit the early Friday Mosque and the traditional Pirnia House en route. In Isfahan we spend five nights at either the Shafir or Piroozi Hotel.
Sunday 21 April, Monday 22 April, Tuesday 23 April, Wednesday 24 April – We have four full days in the great city of Isfahan, visiting the wonderful Friday Mosque, the Armenian Cathedral and Museum, and an array of wonderful 17th c. buildings from the period of the Savafid monarchy: the bridges, the palace of the Chehel Situn and Ali Kapu, the Imam and Sheikh Lotfullah Mosques and the great bazaar.
During our time in Isfahan, we have a day's outing to the colourful, traditional mountain village of Abyaneh and the small town of Natana,, which has a remarkable shrine and mosque, before returning to Isfahan.
Thursday 25 April – Early morning flight from Isfahan via Istanbul to 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, and may not be imported - even for private consumption.
Travel: There are long bus journeys on some days, but these are compensated by the rich evidence everywhere of Iran’s history and culture, and by comfortable hotels. 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 autumn 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.
Money: US Dollars (1 USD = approx 25,000 Rials at present) 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: The regulations for visas for Iran are subject to change. Prestige Holidays will inform intending travellers in good time.
Books: Two guide-books are recommended - Patricia Baker: ‘Iran’ (Bradt); and Helen Loveday and others: ‘Iran’ (Odyssey). For background reading, there are numerous books on Iran, and a book list will be circulated.