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 24 to MAY 11, 2020
Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.
All tours are planned and led by Harry McQuillan.
April 24 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) and the Golestan Palace complex
April 25 Tehran.Visit the Carpet Museum and later drive to the northern suburbs to visit palaces of 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.
April 26 Flight Tehran to Tabriz. Before reaching Tehran Mehrabad airport 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 Khomeini’s arrival in 1979 to form the Islamic Republic. On arrival in Tabriz transfer to the El Goli hotel. An afternoon visit to the Tabriz bazaar, a great labyrinth of covered passageways which include 7000 or more shops selling a huge variety of goods including tempting carpets and handicrafts.
April 27 Tabriz. Visit the Azerbayjan Museum and the adjacent Blue Mosque. A masterpiece built in 1465 the mosque suffered great damage in two severe earthquakes in 1727 and 1773. It was not until 1951 that reconstruction work was commenced and has still to be completed. Afternoon free to wander in the El Goli park adjacent to our hotel.
April 28 Hamadan. The route from Tabriz to Hamadan follows a major expressway to Zanjan for lunch at Caravansari Sangi. On then to the Soltanieh Mausoleum. A UNESCO site, this huge structure, said to be the world’s largest mud brick dome, was built by Oljeitu Khodabandi the last mongul ruler who was buried there in 1317 AD. We continue to the south through farmlands of the central ranges to Hamadan.
April 29 This elevated city( 6000ft) originally biblical Ecbatana, was in 650BC the capital of Media. In 521BC it fell to the Achaemenian Persians. Here we visit the tomb of biblical Ester and her guardian Mordecai. Ester, a Jewish orphan , married the Persian King Xerxes 1. The Hekmatana excavations and museum will be visited and later the mausoleums of the early medical writer Ibn Sina (Avicena) 920AD and poet Baba Taher, (1000-1055AD) a much revered wandering mystic who influenced later poets. At Ganjnameh we see Achaemenian cuniform inscriptions on granite panels in Elamite, Old Persian and Babylonian languages extolling the achievements of Darius 1 and his son Xerxes 1(486-466BC)
April 30 Kashan.From Hamadan we visit the pottery producing town of Lalejin thence eastwards to Saveh and Qom to reach Kashan. This ancient city, dating back to the 4th millennium BC, has some of Persia’s most ancient archaeological sites. Kashan, situated on the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir (great salt desert), is an oasis town fed by springs from the central ranges to the south. The city was much revered by the Safavid Shah Abbas 1 and during the later Qajar dynasty many splendid traditional merchants’ houses were built there. Several are now museums one of which we visit. Fin Garden, built around natural springs, is a classical Persian version of paradise.
May 1 Kashan. A day trip to the mountain village of Abyaneh. Set high in the Mt Karkas (13,000ft) ranges this UNESCO heritage site is unique in its location and antiquity. Return to Kashan with a visit to the bazaar.
May 2 Yazd. Our route SE to Yazd follows a line of oases towns along the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir where it meets the central ranges. At Nain, famed for its fine carpets, we see weavers of camel hair fabrics. On to Meybod where we visit a caravanserai now a museum and the adjacent huge “yakh chal” (ice house) where, during winter months compacted ice and snow was stored to provide cool storage space during the hot summers. Near sunset we visit the small Zoroastrian village of Cham near Yazd. Only a few families survive there and closeby we climb to an elevated rocky platform called a dakhmeh (tower of silence). Return to the Dad hotel in Yazd.
May 3 A full day in Yazd visiting a Zoroastrian fire temple, the tallest minarettes in Persia at the Jumeh Mosque and explore the labyrinth of mud walled streets as we proceed to a traditional house for lunch. Later we visit the water museum where displays indicate how water is transported in this arid region via qanats (underground water tunnels) some of which date back 2000 years. A chance to visit the Yazd bazaar and bargain over exqusite brocades before attending a display at the Zurkaneh (house of strength) where pahlavans perform their exercise ritual which embodies a mixture of sport and religious devotion.
May 4,5,6 We retrace our route to Nain and then turn SW to reach Isfahan mid-afternoon. Once checked in to the Abbasi hotel there will be time to explore the “Maidan-e Imam” a huge square where several of the city’s architectural wonders are located. Three full days in Isfahan enable us to see many sites in this well preserved jewel of Safavid Persia now often referred to as “Nesf-e Jahan” (half the world). Around the square we visit the Ali Qapu Palace, the Imam Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah (Ladies) Mosque where some of Persia’s finest mosaic tile work is displayed. Close by the Safavid Chehel Setoon (forty columns) reception palace is renowned for its magnificent frescos depicting scenes from Safavid history. The sprawling Isfahan bazaar extends for a kilometer north of the Maidan to the 11th century (Seljuk) Jameh Mosque. Built over several centuries this edifice has been well documented by American Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope.We later drive to the Armenian Quarter of Julfa. The Vank Cathedral and adjoining Armenian Museum visit will be followed by lunch at the Julfa Hotel. Later in the afternoon we visit the Se-o Seh (33 arches) and Khaju bridges spanning the Zayandeh Rud river and explore the extensive Bagh-e Gol Persian gardens.
May 7 Yasuj. Yoday’s journey takes us south into the Zagros Mountains. At Shahreza we have a brief visit to the shrine and cemetery for young martyrs of the 8 year Iran-Iraq war then continue on to the apple growing area of Semirum for lunch. Further on our route takes us along the structural grain of mountains paralleling the 7000ft thrust fault scarp of Kuh-e Dena (15,000ft) culmination of the Zagros ranges. Overnight at Yasuj in the heart of the Boyer Ahmadi tribal region.
May 8,9,10 Shiraz. Driving south from Yasuj at 6000ft we make a traverse through spectacular folded mountains of the Zagros ranges descending to 3000ft to join the route Alexander the Macedonian took in his 330BC quest to defeat the Persians and take their capital of Persepolis. At Bishapur, the partly excavated Sassanian (224-633AD) capital, we see ceremonial structures including the temple of Anahita, goddess of water and fertility and the crumbling remains of fortifications guarding the entrance to Tang-e Chogan. On the walls of the tang (gorge) several well preserved bas reliefs depict the supremacy of the Sassanians over invading Indians,Arabs and the Roman Emperor Valerian. En route to Shiraz the road climbs through impressive mountain passes to the elevated plain of Dasht-e Arjan once a lion hunting region. At Shiraz our hotel is situated close to the Qoran Gate at the northern entrance to the city. Saints and Poets, nightingales in perfumed gardens amongst tall Cyprus trees epitomize this ancient city. At sunset in the garden mausoleums of the 12th and 13th century poets Saadi and Hafez we mix with throngs of local Shirazis relaxing in the tranquil surroundings. We also visit Bagh-e Eram gardens once a Qashqai tribal residence and now part of the Botanical faculty of Shiraz University. Elsewhere the Narenjestan garden and museum was originally the residence of the Qavam family and later housed the Asia Institute during the tenure of Iranologist Arthur Upham Pope. We also visit the exquisite Nasir-ol Mol Mosque. In the Bazaar-e Vakil we mix with locals and colourful Qashqai tribal nomads and bargain for tempting handicrafts. The tour highlight is a visit to the 550BC 9 hectare ruins of the ceremonial capital of Achemenian Kings Darius 1, Xerxes 1. This impressive complex was plundered by Alexander in 330BC. Much of the original magnificence of this archaeological jewel is still preserved. We later visit Naqsh-e Rustam site of Achemenian Kings’ tombs cut in a huge limestone escarpment a few km west of Persepolis. On May 10 we fly to Tehran where we have a farewell dinner at the Espinas Hotel.
May 11 End of tour. Transfers to IKA Tehran airport 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.