With such a multitude and variety of places to see and experience in Persia we vary the tour itinerary from season to season. Always included are the highlights of Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan and Tehran.
Second time tourists have been astounded at what they missed taking in on their initial tour and are delighted with the additional unique sights included.
Examples of alternative 18 day itineraries:
TOUR 1: Tehran, Kashan, Abyaneh, Nain, Yazd, Pasargade, Persepolis, Shiraz, Bishapur, Yasuj, Isfahan, Hamedan, Soltanieh, Tabriz, Tehran.
TOUR 2: Tehran, the Caspian Coast, Ramsaar, Masuleh, Anzali, Ardabil, Tabriz, Soltanieh, Hamedan, Bisatun, Isfahan, Yasuj, Shiraz, Firuzabad, Bishapur, Tehran.
Zagros Ltd has over the past years conducted geological field trips for academic groups and oil exploration companies. These are normally of 7 to 10 days duration and can be based in Shiraz and/or from fully serviced tented camps. The emphasis is on the stratigraphy and structure of the Zagros fold belt, the active plate margin to the NE of Shiraz and visits to the unique emergent salt domes and salt glaciers for which Fars Province is renouned.
ADD ON TOURS:
Some tourists often wish to extend their tours to visit other areas including the Mashad region in the north east and western Iranian Azerbaijan with its Lake Urumia and Mt Ararat on the Turkish border. Others wish to see the oil field belt in Khuzestan Province and the archaeological sites of the Elamite ceremonial Ziggurat at Choga Zanbil, the nearby Susa Achemenian palace and the tomb of Daniel. We are able to arrange such extensions to our tours.
A CULTURAL TOUR OF PERSIA
April 28 to May 14 2018.
All tours are planned and led by Harry McQuillan.
April 28. Arrive at IKA International Airport Tehran. Meet in the hotel lobby at 1PM for welcome lunch. Later visit the Jewelry Museum, Glass and Ceramics Museum and Carpet Museum.
April 29. Tehran. Visit palaces of the Qajar and Pahlavi Shahs at Golestan and Niavaran. Afternoon visit to the (pre-Islamic) Archaeological Museum.
April 29. Hamadan. On departing from Tehran we pause at Azadi Square. There an impressive monument was built in 1971 to commemorate 2500 years of Persian Monarchy. This was also the site of Aotollah Khomani’s 1979 return to Iran to pronounce the Islamic Republic. We continue on to the west via Qazvin, once Safavid capital of Iran 1524 -1576AD, to the Soltanieh mausoleum, an impressive UNESCO site built by Oljeitu Khodabandi last of the mongul rulers who was buried here in 1317AD. We continue through the Iran central ranges to Hamadan.
April 30. Hamadan. This 6000ft elevated city, originally biblical Ecabatana, was the capital of Media in 650BC. In 521BC it fell to the Achemenian Persians. Here we visit the tomb of Ester and her guardian Mordecai. Ester, a Jewish orphan, married the Persian King Xerxes. Thereafter persecution of the Jews was much reduced. The Hekmatana Hill excavations and museum will be visited and later the mausoleums of the early medical writer Ibn Sina (Avicenna) 980AD, and poet BabaTaher (1000-1055AD), a much revered wandering mystic who influenced later Persian poets. At Ganjnameh we see Achemenian cuniform inscriptions on granite panels in Elamite, Old Persian and Babylonian languages extolling the achievements of Darius 1 and Xerxes 1.
May 1. Kashan. From Hamadan we drive to the pottery producing town of Lalejin thence eastwards passing Saveh and Qom to reach Kashan. Kashan is an ancient city dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Situated on the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir this oasis town was much liked by Safavid Shah Abbas 1 and during the later Qajar dynasty many splendid traditional merchants’ houses were built and several are now museums. Fin Gardens is a classical Persian version of paradise. The extensive gardens are built around natural springs.
May 2. Kashan. A day trip to the mountain village of Abyaneh. Set high in mountains in the Mt Karkas (13,000ft) region this UNESCO recognised village, built of red clay and mud bricks, is unique in its location and antiquity. We return to Kashan in the afternoon and visit the Kashan Bazaar.
May 3 Yazd. Our route south east to Yazd follows a line of oasis towns along the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir (great salt desert) where it meets the central ranges. At Nain, famed for its fine carpets, we see local weavers producing camel hair and woollen fabrics. Further on at Meybod we visit a caravanserai now converted into a museum and an adjacent huge "yakh chal” (ice house) where, during winter, ice and snow was stored to compact into ice providing a cool environment during hot summers. Late in the afternoon we visit the small village of Cham near Yazd. This Zoroastrian village has only a few surviving families and nearby we will climb to an elevated platform forming a ‘tower of silence’ or dakhmeh. Return to Yazd and check in to the ‘Dad’ hotel.
May 4. Yazd. A full day in Yazd where we visit a Zoroastrian fire temple, see the tallest minarettes in all Persia at the Jumeh Mosque and explore the labyrinth of mud walled streets as we make our way for lunch to a traditional house converted into a restaurant. Later in the afternoon we visit the water museum where displays show how water is utilized in this arid region. The use of the qanat system of underground water tunnels is extensively used in this region. The construction of qanats often extending 50 km or more dates back over 2000 years. In the evening we attend a display at the Zurkhaneh (house of strength) where pahlavans perform their exercise ritual which embodies a mixture of sport and religious devotion.
May 5 to 8 Isfahan. On departure from Yazd we retrace our route to Nain and there turn to the SW to reach Isfahan mid– afternoon. Once checked in to the Abbasi Hotel there will be time to explore the huge square "Maidan-e Imam” which is equal to or somewhat larger than Beijing’s Tianaman square. Four nights in Isfahan enables us to see many of the wonders of this well preserved jewel of Safavid Persia now often referred to as Nesfh-e Jahan (half the world). Around the periphery of the square we visit the Ali Qapu Palace, the Imam Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which displays some of Persia’s finest mosaic tile work. Close by is the Safavid’s Chehel Setoon reception palace renouned for its magnificent frescos depicting significant scenes from Safavid history. The sprawling Isfahan bazaar extends north of the Maidan to the 11th Century (Seljuk) Jameh Mosque. There the intricate and varied brick design work has been well documented by American Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope whose tomb is on the banks of the Zayandeh Rud river close to the Khaju Bridge. We later drive to south Isfahan to New Julfa and the Armenian quarter. The Vank Cathedral and adjoining Armenian Museum visit will be followed by lunch at the Julfa hotel. There will be ample time for free shopping time during our time in Isfahan. One day we shall take a day trip via Shahr–e Kurd to Kuh–e Rang where, in the Zagros Mountain valleys, we should see many wild flowers including fritelleria imperialus and meet the nomadic Bakhtyari Tribes as they move to their summer pastures.
May 9. Yasuj. Today’s journey takes us south into the Zagros Mountains. After a short stop at the ShahReza shrine and cemetery for young martyrs from the 8 year Iran–Iraq war we continue on to the apple growing region of Semirum for lunch. Our route later takes us along the structural grain of the mountains paralleling the 7000ft thrust fault scarp of Kuh–e Dina (15,000ft) culmination of the Zagros ranges. Overnight at Yasuj in the heart of the Boyer Ahmadi tribal region.
May 10 to 12 Shiraz. From 6000ft elevation at Yasuj our route southwards takes us through spectacular folded mountains to 3000ft where we join the route where Alexander the Macedonian in 330BC followed his quest to defeat the Persians and take their capital of Persepolis. At Bishapur, the partly excavated capital of the Sassanians (224-633AD) we see ceremonial buildings including the temple of Anahita, goddess of water and fertility, and the crumbling remains of a castle guarding the entrance to Tang–e Chogan. On the walls of the tang (gorge) are several well preserved bas reliefs depicting the supremacy of the Sassanians against invading Indians,Arabs and the Roman Emperor Valerian. En route to Shiraz the road climbs through impressive mountain passes to Dasht–e Arjan an elevated plain where lions were once hunted and further on at 5000 ft to Shiraz. Our Shiraz Hotel lies close to the Qoran Gate at the northern entrance to the city. Saints and Poets, nightingales in perfumed gardens amongst tall Cyprus trees all epitomise this ancient city. We visit the garden mausoleums of the 12th and 13th century poets Saadi and Hafez at sunset when throngs of locals are encountered enjoying the tranquil surroundings. We also visit the Bagh Eram gardens once a Qashqai tribal residence and now part of the Botanical Department of Shiraz University. Narenjestan garden, originally residence of the Qavam family, later housed the Asia Institute under Arthur Upham Pope and is now a museum. We also visit the exquisite Nasir–ol Molk (pink) Mosque before going on to the colourful Vakil Bazaar where we mix with the local Shirazis and colourful Qashqai tribal nomads and bargain for tempting handicrafts. A highlight of this tour is the visit to Persepolis a 9 hectare area of ruins of the ceremonial capital of Darius 1, Xerxes 1 and other Achemenian Kings dating back to 550 BC.
May 13. Return to Tehran by air. Farewell dinner at the Espinas Hotel.
May 14. End of tour. Transfers to IKA international airport Tehran will be arranged.
In our efforts to be informative regarding all the new and different sights and experiences encountered during our tours we are fully aware of the tedium of standing listening to lengthy descriptions and details of sometimes trivial matters. We realise that having travelled around the world tourists desire to have sufficient time to explore the sites we visit and so we streamline the descriptive dialogue. Should further explanation be requested personal attention is provided. Harry McQuillan provides explanations of many of the sites and tries to bring to life the history surrounding them. Leila Farmani, our English speaking assistant is a qualified tour guide who is able to give in depth explanations if required but has now adapted her style with brevity in mind.
In some instances we seek assistance from local guides if considered necessary. Having led these tours for several years we have assembled a group of efficient personnel including competent and cooperative coach drivers and their assistants. Hotel staff know us and are always waiting with a warm welcome.
Maureen McQuillan's guiding abilities are helpful in dealing with personal matters, shopping and local etiquette for women. Being familiar with the traditional Persian kitchen she is adept at ensuring that we are served a varied selection of dishes. Her Persian language ability assists in circumventing any misunderstandings that occasionally arise.
DISCLAIMER: The itinerary outlined above may require some modification should circumstances such as closures of some sites on certain days occur. In such cases a change of timing of visits will be made or an alternative place of interest will be included. Our tours frequently encounter unexpected treats such as tribal weddings, musical functions and other entertainments.
Selection of photos from Zagros Tours of Persia
"We have just returned from the most wonderful tour we have ever experienced. Our escorts lived in Iran for 20 years when Harry was leading oil exploration surveys Also he has lectured extensively at many Universities in Iran. The tour took in not only historical sites and places of interest but also we were given a unique tour of the Zagros Mountains where we searched for fossils and were made aware of the geological significance and history of the region.We had plenty of time to shop, we dined for lunch and most dinners at local restaurants, but most of all our escorts could speak the Persian language , were well versed in the history of Persia and took us to remote villages and nomad camps where we gained experience in the local customs and everyday life of those polite, very friendly people. A unique and first class tour in every respect, relaxed, thoroughly enjoyable and ALL expenses were pre-paid, so we were not continually paying for extras, even water was included! We consider that this tour with the McQuillans is a Must."
Julie and Alastair Rose,
Nelson, New Zealand.