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.
CASPIAN SEA TO THE PERSIAN GULF.
A traverse of Ancient Persia and Modern Iran.
October 10th to 28th 2017.
All tours are planned and led by Harry McQuillan.
October 10. Arrive Tehran and transfer to Espinas Hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby at 1PM and attend arrival lunch. Later visit the Jewelry Museum (formerly The Crown Jewels), Golestan Palace and the Carpet Museum.
October 11. Tehran. Drive to the northern suburbs and visit palaces of the Qajar and Pahlavi Shahs at Sahebgaranieh and Niavaran. Return to downtown Tehran for lunch at the Ferdowsi Hotel and later visit the (pre-Islamic) Archaeological Museum and Glass and Ceramics museum.
October 12. Chalus. Drive eastwards from Tehran via Polour and Ab Ali thence past Iran’s highest mountain, Mt. Demavand (18,600ft) and on to Amol and the Caspian coast. Overnight at the seaside resort of Chalus.
October 13. Chalus. A day on the Caspian coast. A visit to the seaside resort of Ramsar where the last Shah built a palace in the forested foothills of the Alborz Mountains. The Caspian museum was originally the summer palace of Reza Shah and there we see the lavishly furnished rooms retained just as when the Pahlavis occupied them. Return to Chalus.
October 14. Kashan. An early start to drive southwards across the Alborz Mountains to Karaj. At first we drive through dense rain forests and wonderful mountain scenery of the northern Alborz range slopes. Higher up a sharp change occurs to semi arid mountain scenery once the water shed is crossed. After passing the Karaj dam and the town of Karaj the road joins an expressway which takes us past Qom and low lying areas of salt lakes (playas) marking the western limit of the Dasht-e Kavir (great salt desert) which extends for more than 600 km eastwards towards the Afghan border. A late afternoon visit to the Fin Gardens of Kashan before checking in to the Negarestan Hotel. Kashan has a long history and in excavations at Sialk hills French archaeologists recovered artefacts dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Kashan was a favourite place for Safavid ruler Shah Abbas (1587-1629AD) and he beautified the town with gardens including Bagh-e Fin.
October 15. Yazd. Before leaving Kashan we visit a restored traditional merchant’s house. The route SE to Yazd follows the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir where it meets the foothills of the central ranges. Oases towns along this route rely on natural springs which feed qanat subsurface water systems. This unique reticulation system dates back more than 2000 years. We have lunch at Nain, a town famed for its fine carpets and woven fabrics. Closer to Yazd, at Meybod, we pause at a restored caravansari which now houses a museum of “zelu” woven cotton floor coverings. Closeby is a large yakhchal (ice storage structure) where, in winter months, snow and ice was stored in a deep pit covered by an insulating huge mud brick dome. The compacted snow and ice provided cool storage space in summer months. Late afternoon arrival in Yazd.
October 16. Yazd. There is much to see in this “good and noble” city as described by Marco Polo during his late 13th century visit. Here the Zoroastrian religion survives and we visit a fire temple and a Zoroastrian village with its adjacent “dakhmeh” (tower of silence). Yazd Jameh Mosque boasts the tallest (48m) minarettes in Iran. After visiting the mosque we’ll wander through the labyrinth of winding streets and bazaars and mud walled dwellings with their “badgirs” (wind trap cooling towers). Lunch in a traditional house before visiting the water museum where the underground “qanat” water distribution system is well explained. Water is all important in this region and an extensive system of qanats continues to sustain life in this desert environment. An evening performance at the Zurkhaneh (house of strength) where pahlavans exercise in a ritual which embodies a mixture of sport and religious devotion.
October 17. Isfahan. The drive from Yazd to Isfahan at first retraces our route to Nain where we have lunch and proceed on to arrive at Isfahan mid to late afternoon. After settling in to the Abbasi hotel there will be time for a visit to the Imam Square which provides for an interesting introduction to this very popular tourist destination.
October 18. Isfahan. At first we visit Chehel Setoon (forty columns) which was built as an entertainment pavilion by Safavid Shah Abbas 2 (1647AD). The entrance foyer roof is supported by twenty wooden columns and their reflection in a large pool in the entrance garden accounts for the additional 20 columns. Huge frescos cover the interior walls and display historical events pertinent to the Safafid dynasty period (1499 to 1736AD). Closeby on the periphery of the expansive “Maidan-e Imam” we visit the Ali Qapu palace, the huge Imam Mosque and the exquisite Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque where some of Persia’s finest mosaic tile work is displayed. After lunch there will be time to wander in the extensive bazaar where all sorts of handicrafts will temp you to buy. In the evening a traditional Persian dinner will be served at our hotel.
October 19. Isfahan. Visit the 11th century Jumeh Mosque where the buildings trace history from the early brickwork designs of the 11th Century Seljuk period through the Mongul period to the Safafid ornate coloured tile work of the early 18th century. American Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope comments that the construction of parts of the Mosque complex represents the world’s finest example of Islamic structures. Pope was a prolific research writer on Islamic art and set up the Asia Institute in Shiraz where he died in 1969. He and his wife are buried in a small tomb on the north bank of the Zayandeh river near the Kadju bridge in Isfahan Later, in the Armenian quarter of New Julfa, we visit the Vank Cathedral and Armenian Museum. Armenian artisans were brought to Isfahan by Shah Abbas 1 (1587AD) to assist in the building of his capital and their descendants remain there to this day. After lunch at an Armenian restaurant we pause to see the Se-o-Seh (33 arches) and Kadju bridges, two of the eleven bridges which span the Zayandeh river.
October 20. Shiraz. The drive from Isfahan to Yasuj takes us through the apple growing region of Semirum and thence into the heart of the Zagros Mountains. The mountain scenery is spectacular as the road winds its way to the SE along the “structural grain” of the country. There a huge escarpment resulting from the 7000ft upthrust fault scarp of Kuh-e Dena (15,000 ft) dominates the skyline as we pass through Sisakht towards the sugar beet and agricultural centre of Yasuj. A late arrival at the Shiraz Hotel.
October 21. Shiraz. A morning visit to the Bagh-e Eram botanical garden. Once a Qashqai tribal palace the garden was later used as a residence for the visits of Pahlavi dynasty Shahs and is now part of the Shiraz University botany department. Later we visit the Nasir-ol Molk mosque and the Narenjestan garden complex. Once the garden of the Ghavam family it later was the site of the Asia Institute and is now a museum. There will be ample time to wander through the extensive Bazaar-e Vakil and mix with the local Shirazis and the colourful Qashqai tribal nomads and bargain for tempting handicrafts.
October 22. Shiraz. Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire (559-330BC) is the archaeological highlight of our tour. The 9 hectare site lies about 40km north of Shiraz. An early start will enable us to reach Persepolis before the crowds arrive and when photographic conditions are optimum. Persepolis was built by Darius 1 and his son Xerxes 1 as a site where annually at the commencement of Spring (March 21) representatives of the 23 conquered nations including India, Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia and others would arrive to pay homage to the King and present gifts from their countries. The exquisite rock carvings depict these events along with many other Achaemenian themes. A few km west of Persepolis lies Naqsh-e Rustam (Necropolis) where high in a limestone escarpment lie the tombs of 5 of the Achaemenian Kings .In the cliff below the tombs are later Sassanian Bas reliefs(224-651AD). 45 minutes drive to the north are the less impressive but very significant remains of Pasargade, a city built by Cyrus the Great (546BC), founder of the Persian Empire. On the elevated plain of Dasht-e Morghab Cyrus defeated his Median grandfather and united the Medes and Persians to create the Achaemenian Empire. The tomb of Cyrus is the most impressive monument at this site. We return to Shiraz for free time to revisit the Bazaar-e Vakil.
October 23. Shiraz. A day trip to the partly excavated Sassanian city of Bishapur (224 -651AD) The route passes through the graben (downfaulted block) of Dasht-e Arjan bounded east and west by fault scarps forming bold cliffs of Asmari limestone. 200 or more years ago tribesmen hunted the (now extinct) Persian lion on this elevated plain. Continuing on through spectacular folded mountains we traverse part of Alexander’s 330BC invasion route to Persepolis. Little remains of the former splendor of Bishapur but remnants of Roman style mosaic floor surfaces from here are displayed at the National Museum in Tehran.In the nearby gorge of Tang-e Chogan we view bas reliefs depicting the Sassanian’s defeat of invading Indians, Arabs and the Roman Emperor Valerian. Return to Shiraz.
October 24. Bandar Abbas.The flight to Bandar Abbas departs from Shiraz at 1.45PM. After checking in at the Homa Hotel we can explore the waterfront of this most busy port of Iran and visit the bazaar and fish market. Bandar Abbas lies at the entrance to the strait of Hormoz, and is the take off point for visits to the islands of Qeshm and Hormuz. This region was once an important trading destination for the British East India Company and Portugese, Dutch and French traders. Now there is a never ending passing of oil tankers through the strait.
October 25. Bandar Abbas. A visit to Qeshm the largest island in the Persian Gulf. By boat from Bandar Abbas to Qeshm town at the eastern tip of the island.The island has a rugged topography and has only small settlements in the interior. We visit Laft, a picturesque coastal town dotted with bad ghir (cooling) towers. In the waters nearby dhows which once traded down the east African coast to Zanzibar may be seen. Return to Bandar Abbas.
October 26. Bandar Abbas. A morning drive to visit the date plantation region of Minab and what has been called the most colourful market in Iran. There many of the Bandari women wear colourful burqas, headscarfs and long dresses over brocade trimmed pants. On returning to Bandar Abbas a visit to Hormuz Island. This small salt dome island is of both geological and historical interest. The Portugese invaded the island in 1507AD and it formed part of their trading network which included Goa, Aden, Malacca and Macao. The Portugese castle is an impressive fortress still retaining cannon emplacements guarding the strait of Hormuz. The Bandar Abbas hinterland is dotted with a multitude of emergent salt domes. Deep seated Cambrian (550 million years) salt deposits, because of their plasticity and low specific gravity, have pierced the overlying 60,000 ft or more of younger sediments through fault planes to emerge at the surface and form salt glaciers. Hormuz Island is one of these unique geological forms and various coloured minerals eroded from the salt now appear on the surface. Return to Bandar Abbas.
October 27. Tehran . Our flight from Bandar Abbas to Mehrabad Airport Tehran departs at 9.45AM. En route to the Espinas Hotel we pause at the Azadi Square monument built in 1971 to commemorate 2500 years of Persian Monarchy. It was where, in early February 1979, Aotollah Khomeini returned to proclaim the Islamic Republic of Iran. Free time in the afternoon prior to the tour farewell dinner at the Espinas Hotel.
October 28. The tour ends at check out time of 1200 noon. Assistance will be provided for transfers to IKA International Airport Tehran.
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.