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.
ITINERARY TOUR PERSIA
April 18 to May 5 2019
Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.
All tours are planned and led by Harry McQuillan.
April 18. Arrive at Tehran. Transfer to the Espinas Hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby at 1PM and attend the arrival lunch. Later visit the Jewelry Museum (formerly the Crown Jewels), and the Golestan Palace.
April 19. Tehran. After visiting the Carpet Museum drive to the city’s northern suburbs to the palaces of the Qajar and Pahlavi Shahs at Sahebgaranieh and Niavaran. Lunch at the downtown Ferdowsi Hotel and later visit the pre-Islamic Archaeological Museum and the Glass and Ceramics Museum.
April 20. Chalus. Drive east from Tehran via Polour and Ab Ali to Mt Demavand, a 18,600 ft dormant volcano, Iran’s most elevated point. Descend to Amol and the Caspian Coast. Overnight at the seaside resort of Chalus.
April 21. Chalus. A day on the Caspian Coast. By cable car through forested hills to 700m above sea level for fine views of the Caspian coast and Chalus. Visit the seaside resort of Ramsar. There the Pahlavi Shahs built a small summer palace where the lavishly furnished rooms are retained just as when occupied by the Pahlavis.
April 22. Hamadan. An early start to travel south across the spectacular Alborz mountains to Karaj thence on to the Soltanieh Mausoleum. This UNESCO Heritage site, said to be the world’s largest mud brick dome, was built by Oljeitu Khodabandi Iran’s last Mongul ruler who was buried there in 1317AD. Continue southwards through farmlands of the central ranges to Hamadan.
April 23. Hamadan. This 6000ft elevated city, originally biblical Ecbatana, was the Median capital in 650BC. In 521BC it fell to the Achaemenian Persians. We visit the tomb of Ester and her guardian Mordecai. A Jewish orphan, Ester married the Persian King Xerxes 1. The site is a Jewish pilgrimage destination. The Hekmetana excavations and museum plus the mausoleums of the early medical writer Ibn Sina (Avicena) 920AD and poet BabaTaher (1000-1055AD) a much revered wandering mystic will be visited. At Ganjnameh we see Achaemenian cuniform inscriptions on granite panels in Elamite, Old Persian and Babylonian languages extolling the great achievements of Darius 1 and his son Xerxes 1 (486-466BC).
April 24. Kashan. Visit to the pottery producing town of Lalejin before travelling eastwards to Saveh, Qom and on to Kashan. This ancient city, dating back to the 4th millennium BC has some of Persia’s oldest archaeological sites. Situated on the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir (salt desert) where it meets the central ranges Kashan is an oasis settlement fed by natural springs. The city was much liked by Safavid Shah Abbas 1 and during the later Qajar dynasty many splendid traditional merchants’ houses were built. Some of these are now museums one of which we shall visit.
April 25. Yazd. Before leaving Kashan we visit Fin garden a formal Persian masterpiece built around natural springs. This garden has been called a classical Persian version of paradise. The route to the SE follows a line of oases towns which rely on the presence of natural springs which feed unique “qanat” subsurface water reticulation systems a technology which dates back more than 2000 years. Lunch stop at Nain a town famed for its fine carpets and woven fabrics. At Meybod we visit a restored caravansari which houses a museum of “zelu” woven cotton floor coverings. Closeby is a large “yakhchal” (ice storage structure) where in winter months ice and snow was compacted in a deep pit covered by an insulating huge mud brick dome. This provided cool storage in summer months. Late afternoon arrival at Yazd.
April 26. 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. We visit a fire temple and a Zoroastrian village with its adjacent “dakhmeh” (tower of silence). Jameh Mosque boasts the tallest (48m) minarettes in Iran. We’ll wander through the labyrinth of mud walled winding streets and bazaars and dwellings with their distinctive “badgirs” (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.
April 27. Isfahan. The drive from Yazd to Isfahan at first retraces our route to Nain where we turn to the SW for a late afternoon arrival at Isfahan. After settling in to the Abbasi Hotel there will be time for a visit to Imam Square which provides an interesting introduction to this interesting medieval masterpiece of Safavid construction.
April 28. Isfahan. The Chehel Setoon (forty columns) entertainment pavilion was built by Safavid Shah Abbas 2 (1647AD). Huge frescos cover the interior walls and display historical events of the Safavid dynasty period (1499-1736 AD). Closeby on the periphery of the expansive Maidan-Imam we visit the Ali Qapu Palace, the hugh Imam Mosque and the exquisite Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque where some of Persia’s finest mosaic tile work is displayed. Time in the afternoon to wander in the extensive bazaar where tempting handicrafts abound. A traditional Persian dinner at our hotel.
April 29. At the 11th century Jumeh Mosque the buildings trace history from the early brickwork designs of the Seljuk period through the Mongul period to the ornate coloured tile work of the 18th century Safavids. American Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope comments that parts of the mosque complex represents the world’s finest examples of Islamic structures. A prolific research writer on Islamic art Pope died in Iran in 1969 and he and his wife are buried in a small tomb near the Kadju bridge. In the Armenian quarter of New Julfa we visit the Vank Cathedral and museum. Armenian artisans were brought to Isfahan by Shah Abbas 1 (1587 AD) 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 eleven bridges which span the Zayandeh river.
April 30. Yasuj. Travelling south from Isfahan to Shahreza and into the Zagros mountains we pass through the apple growing region of Semirom and continue on through impressive folded mountains. Pass SE along the “structural grain” of the high Zagros to Kuh-e Dena formed by a huge 7000ft upthrust fault scarp forming the 15000ft culmination of the range in this Boyer Ahmadi tribal region. On then to the sugar beet and agricultural centre of Yasuj.
May 1. Bushehr. From an elevation of 6000ft at Yasuj we drive south through huge folded mountains of well bedded limestones dropping to 3000 ft at Nurabad where we join the 330BC route Alexander the Macedonian took on his way to conquer the Persians at Persepolis. At Tang-e Chogan near the partly excavated Sassanian (224-621AD) city of Bishapur we see several well preserved bas reliefs depicting Sassanian victories over Indian, Arab and Roman invaders. From Bishapur the road south links the port of Bushehr with Shiraz. We drive through ever descending passes in the Zagros foothills and then cross coastal arid plains to reach Bushehr. The city has in the past been a major silk road trade centre. Portugese, Dutch and the British East India Co had trading posts here in the 18th century. Due to the shallow anchorage and lack of rail connection Bushehr lost its importance in later years. Construction of Iran’s first nuclear power station began here in 1975 but bombing by Iraq in the !980-88 war interrupted the project. Russian contractors completed construction with the plant supplying electricity to the national grid in 2011.
May 2. Shiraz. Return to Bishapur then en route to Shiraz gain altitude as the road passes through the huge defile of Tang-e Bul Hayat in steeply inclined limestone formations. Gaining elevation we reach Dasht-e Arjan, an extensive graben (down faulted block) bounded by major faults. Shiraz at 5000ft elevation is an ancient city built on the northern margin of a plain between two huge anticlines of the Zagros fold belt.
May 3. Shiraz. Bagh-e Eram botanical garden. Once a Qashqai tribal palace the garden was later the residence for the visits of Pahlavi Shahs and is now part of the Shiraz University botany department. Later we visit Nasir-ol Molk mosque and the Narenjestan garden complex. Originally the Ghavam family residence, Narenjestan later housed 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.
May 4. Shiraz. Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire (559-330BC) is the archaeological highlight of our tour. The 9 hectare site lies 40km north of Shiraz. An early start will enable us to reach the site before crowds gather and when photographic conditions are optimum. Persepolis was built by Darius 1 and his son Xerxes 1 as a site where, at the beginning of Spring (March 21), representatives of the 23 conquered nations including India, Greece, Ethiopia and others would arrive with gifts and pay homage to the King. Exquisite rock carvings depict these events along with many other Achaemenian themes. A few km west of Persepolis at Naqsh-e Rustam (Necropolis) we view the tombs of 5 of the Achaemenian Kings. In the cliff face below the tombs are much later Sassanian Bas Reliefs (224-651AD). Forty five minutes drive to the north are the less impressive but very significant remains of Pasargade, the Persian capital built by Cyrus the Great (546BC), founder of the Persian Empire. There on the elevated plain of Dasht-e Morgab 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. Return for late afternoon visits to the mausoleum gardens of the 12th and 13th century poets Saadi and Hafez.
May 5. A flight to Tehran and our final night at the Espinas for a farewell dinner.
May 6. Departures. Transfers to IKA International Airport will be provided.
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.