Arrive Dubai early morning, connect to Yerevan same day.
Arrive to Yerevan in the afternoon. After relaxing a little and checking into our hotel we plan a short sightseeing tour in Yerevan – Republic Square, Northern Avenue, Opera House and Freedom Square Cascade (huge staircase connecting the city center with Victory Park, from the top you have a great view of Yerevan) and Mother Armenia. Overnight Yerevan
In the morning we continue the city tour in Yerevan and visit Erebuni Fortress, the birthplace of Yerevan, and try to go to a Church service in Surp Sargis Church where the choir and liturgy are said to be very beautiful and proceed to Kootayek Province to see Garni Temple dedicated to the Roman God of the sun and Geghand monastery situated in a picturesque canyon; free time after return.
There is a still lot more to see and we plan visit to Mantenadaran (Armenia’s ancient manuscripts library, Zoravar Church, Katoghike, State Museum of Armenian History, Genocide memorial, and other recommended sights; Time for shopping and a walking tour in town in the afternoon.
This morning we take off early to visit Echmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Zvarnots Cathedral and the memorial site of Sardarapat. (Museum in the site is recommended as a treasure trove of carpets, jewelry, ceramic and handicrafts, apparently better than in the Museum in Yerevan). We continue our way north to visit the Ambered Fortress, from where we should (weather allowing) have a splendid view of mount Aragats and continue via Aparan, Spitak to Vanadzor.
We start early this morning to visit the Debed Canyon and the century old Monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, both UNESCO world heritage statuses. We return via Vanadzor to Dilijan.
Dilijan a very picturesque little town recently opened ‘Old Dilijan Complex’ to show the town as it was in the 19th century, visit the carpet workshop and continue to Lake Sevan, explore the Sevanavank Monastery on the peninsula and Noraduz’ an ancient cemetry with an amazing collection of medieval cross stones called, Khachkars.
Overnight Lake Sevan
Today we drive to Vayots Dzor province via the Selim Pass, visit Selim Caravanserai, once an important point of the Silk road, stop at Areni farmer’s market and continue to the Spa town of Jermuk, where we can walk in the beautiful surroundings.
Early start to drive to the heritage listed church of TATEV built on a natural fortress of rock and if time and weather allow we descend into a gorge to see Satan’s bridge. We continue via Sisian and Kapan to the Iranian border in Meghri.
Today starts our trip through Northern Iran. On way to Tabriz we visit the well preserved Babak Castle of Sasanid times close in Kaleybar. We continue driving to Tabriz.
Tabriz, capital of Azerbaijn province of Iran, is inhabited by an ethnic community called Azeris. In Tabriz we visit Goli Park, Blue Mosque, Tabriz Museum and the extensive bazaar built in the 15C. For our Overnight stay we travel to Kandovan (1 hour) to stay in a hotel built into the caves of Kandovan.
This morning we visit the caves on Kandovan, the ‘Cappadoccia’ of Iran and continue our drive to Ardabil. A visit to the Sheikh Safi’s mausoleum and surrounding rooms is a must and known as Western Iran’s ‘most dazzling’ Safavid monument. We continue to Sareen which is 35 km in the west of Ardabil. Sareen has the most famous spa complexes in Iran.
We descend from Sareen (altitude 1300m) to the Caspian Sea through beautiful fertile country along the Caspian Sea and return into mountainous area to visit the little village Masooleh. It is a beautiful village with a unique structure , houses are built on top of each other in a terraced way; the roofs and the front area of the houses are used as the pavement. After visiting this village we continue to Rasht for our Overnight stay.
Our next stop is Zanjan a picturesque little town, best access point to visit the impressive mausoleum Gonbad e Soltaniyeh with the world’s largest brick dome. UNESCO World Heritage (36 km far from the south east of Zanjan).
Another important site on our way to Hamadan is in Takab, the Takht e Soleiman ruin (UNESCO World Heritage site) the spiritual centre of Zoroastrians in the 3rd C. The age of the site as well as the magnificent setting are well worth the visit.
Drive to Hamadan, a city on the edge of the Alvand Mountain (3580m). The town itself, one of the world’s greatest ancient centres, has little to show for its past. We visit the tombs of Ester and Mordecai, Hegmataneh which is an ancient hill with excavations of Median and Achaemenid cities, the rock carvings from the 4th C. Out of town, in Ganj Nameh. After our visit we hopefully have time to visit the Carpet cooperative as well as the famous pottery shops a little out of town.
Today we backtrack a little to see the great Ali Sadr Water Cave, for Iranians the greatest tourist attraction. The 40 m high caves are situated north west of Hamadan. After visiting the Cave we continue to Tehran (337 km).
Soon after arrival in our hotel in Tehran we shall start out. Over the next two days we shall visit the Golestan palace, the National Museum, the Jewelry Museum, the Carpet Museum, the museum of Glass and Ceramics, the palaces of the Shahs, the White (Mellat) and the Green (Shahvand) Palace. With such staggering richness one forgets you are in a ‘museum’ and of course, we shall visit and ‘get lost’ in the grand bazaar.
Today we leave Tehran behind and travel via Qom, Kashan to Abyaneh. In the holy city of Qom we would like to visit the Shrine with the golden dome (we can only visit this holy center of Shiism with a permit) In Kashan we visit the Fin Gardens and beautifully decorated old Merchant Houses; Abyaneh, the pink village high in the mountains is our Overnight stay. Women wear colorful clothes. In this remote village accommodation will be in double rooms only.
After a walk through this very picturesque old village, we continue our tour into the Iranian desert. We arrive in Garmeh, and stay in a renovated private house in a little date palm oasis. The food is excellent and the host is interesting to talk to, with good English. There are single rooms available; however the European bathrooms are shared.
Overnight Mesr Village
In the morning we visit a huge salt lake– salt as far as the eye can see… we continue our way to Isfahan via Nain, entering the Zagros mountain range.
We have two full days in beautiful Isfahan. Isfahan has been the main attraction for travelers for the last three hundred years. It is home of some of the world’s finest Islamic art and architecture. The city’s splendor began with the reign of the Safavid Ruler Shah Abbas (1587 – 1629) who made the city his capital and built the huge bazaar, which was strategically located on the Silk Road. Under Abbas, Isfahan enjoyed great prosperity and flourished as a center of art, architecture and commerce (based on carpet, textile and silk production), earning the reputation as one of the greatest and most beautiful towns in the whole of Asia. Over the next two days we visit the Maydan Imam (huge central square), UNESCO World heritage the Majid-e Imam (Shah Mosque) the Sheikh Lotfollah (Ladies Mosque) the A’ali Qapu Palace and the Chehel Sotoun Palace, and the Majid- e Jameh (Friday Mosque). All of these buildings are located around the Maydan.
The Vank Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter will bring back memories of the sites we have seen in Armenia; we can visit the interesting Museum of the Armenian genocide and the ‘Church of Bethlehem’ with its original murals. We continue on and plan to spend time in the bazaar (Bazar —e Bozorg) to look at the handicraft workshops, the carpet shops, the copper smiths — or for those of us who want more than ‘ just ‘ bazaars a drive to visit the era bridges across the river Zandiyeh are well worth it.
It is hard to say ‘fare well’ to Isfahan, however we have another fantastic place as our next destination. Yazd, the current centre of the Zoroastrian faith in Iran. One of our visits will be to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple knows as Atashkadeh, where a sacred flame is believed to have been burning since 470 Ad, the Tower of Silence (an awesome site not to be missed) where, until only 50 years ago, the dead were taken to be devoured by vultures. We continue visiting this fascinating old town. The winding lanes, wind towers (bagdirs) cisterns, underground aqueducts and mudbrick houses make this town a highlight of the trip. We visit the Jameh mosque, the Amir Chakmakh Mosque (highest minarets in Iran), the water Museum and have the possibility to ‘get lost’ while walking through the old town.
Continuation of planned visit is Yazd and drive to our stunning
Overnight in Caravansary
Drive through stunning barren landscape until we arrive in Bavanat at the foothills of the Zagros Mountain, a little village where we stay in a private house in the middle of vineyards and walnut plantations.
We leave our rural retreat after a hearty homemade breakfast and drive deeper into the rugged Zargos Mountains towards Shiraz. If we are lucky we see nomads breaking up their summer tents and driving their animals into the valleys to spend the winter in greener and warmer pastures.
After arrival and settling into our hotel we have planned to meet with a group of teachers, friends and family of our Iranian Agent in a private house. This meeting is organized by our Agent– all will speak English and here is your chance to meet the locals.
Shiraz, once the cultural center of Persia, has been synonymous with learning, nightingales, roses, poetry and at one time, wine. While exploring the city today we will visit the tombs of the poets Hafez and Sadi, the Arg-I Karim Khani, Zandiyeh Complex and Vakil Bazaar. Dinner is planned to be in a traditional nomad restaurant.
An excursion out of town today will include Persepolis and Naghsh-i-Rostam. The Royal City of the Great Kings, Darius, Cyrus (Xerxes), Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. We walk through these remarkable ruins observing the superb stone reliefs that still remain, letting our imagination run free. Then just 10 km northwest is the important feature of Naghsh-e Rostam. These vertical cliffs with their Sassanian rock-cut sculptures are thought to be the royal burial tombs of Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II. Return to Shiraz.
We have one more free leisurely day in Shiraz.
End of tour.