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Iran, Armenia, Georgia Tour

October 1 – 17, 2017
$6350 pp/do land only

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Garden Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz

Oct 1: Welcome to Iran! On your arrival in Shiraz, you will be met and transferred to the hotel for overnight. Keep in mind, most flights arrive around midnight or shortly after, so you may arrive early morning on the 2nd, depending on your flight. Overnight in Shiraz.

Oct 2: After breakfast you will visit the tombs of the poets Saadi and Hafez, and the beautiful Eram Garden. Continue to visit the famous Vakil Complex, which includes an extensive bazaar, a bath, and mosque. It extends from near the Isfahan Gate to where the Bazaars of the old city of Shiraz begin, and it comprises arched alcoves with wide platforms in between, and seventy-four high and well-proportioned arches sustaining the roof, and there is a high domed crossing, where the east and west bazaars diverge from the main bazaar. Several of the main arches, and a number of intervening alcoves of the Vakil Bazaar, which were used as shops, were demolished when the Zand Avenue was extended eastwards. Dinner and overnight in Shiraz. (B/L/D)

Persepolis

Persepolis

Oct 3: Today after an early morning breakfast we check out of our hotel and drive towards Yazd, with stops at Persepolis, site of the several palaces of Iran’s great Achaemenid kings, Darius the Great, Xerexes and Artaxerxes. We will also visit Naghsh-e-Rostam to visit the Kabe-e-Zardosht (fire temple/sanctuary), and Royal Tombs of Achaemenid kings, plus seven magnificent Sassanian rock-reliefs. Continue to Yazd, arriving late in the afternoon, and we see the city by night and then go to our hotel for dinner and overnight. (B/L/D)

Oct 4: Half day visits in Yazd, the center for Iran’s small Zoroastrian community, to include the active Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for more than a thousand year; the Friday Mosque (1324 A.D.) with the highest portal and minarets in Iran, and walk through the old Fahadan area; and also visit the Dowlat-Abad Garden, with an 18th century hexagonal house; afternoon drive to Isfahan, en-route visit the charming desert town of Na’in, half way between Yazd and Isfahan, to visit the 10th century Friday Mosque, and the 17th century Pirnia House/Ethnographic Museum (closed on Mondays); with a walk through the old part of the town. Continue the drive to Isfahan for overnight. (B/L/D)

Oct 5: Today we will have a full day tour of the beautiful city of Isfahan, the 17th century capital of the Safavids, referred to as Nesf-e-Jahan (Half of the World) in Safavid sources, to visit the famous bridges of Shahrestan, Khajou, and Sio-se-pol, the Armenian Quarter with several churches, including the important Cathedral of Vank; in the afternoon visit one of the world’s grandest squares, the Maidan-e-Naghsh-e-Jahan, with several sites (the Ali-Qapu Palace with its enchanting music rooms and balcony overlooking the Maidan, from where the Safavid Kings watched polo games, and two of Islamic world’s greatest mosques – the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Imam – with magnificent architecture and tilework), finishing with a visit to the Qeisarieh Bazaar with hundreds of shops displaying the arts and handicrafts for which Isfahan is world-famous (Bazaar is closed on Fridays). Overnight in Isfahan. (B/L/D)

Oct 6: This morning we drive to Tehran, en-route stopping over at the charming town of Natanz to visit a beautiful Islamic Complex (Friday Mosque/Monastery/Tomb of Sheikh Abdol Samad Isfahani), on to Kashan to visit the historical garden of Fin which was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Sulaimanieh Spring. This beautiful garden was expanded by the Zand and Qajar monarchs, with many open pavilions added. Continue to Tehran and drive by the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini, transfer to the hotel for overnight. (B/L/D)

Oct 7: We will have a full day visiting some of Tehran’s major museums, including Iran’s National Museum, displaying an authenticated collection of pre-historic and ancient artifacts with pottery dating back to 6-7 millennium B.C. We will also visit the Sa’ad Abad Palace Complex and the Residence of Imam Khomeini. Early evening transfer to airport for flight to Tabriz. Overnight in Tabriz. (B/L/D)

Oct 8: Early in the morning we depart for the border with Armenia cross the border into Armenia. Drive via the city of Kapan, the heart of the copper industry in Armenia and on to Goris. Time permitting, we will have a brief tour of Goris en route to the hotel. We will have a traditional dinner and overnight at a local hotel in Goris. (B/L/D)

Oct 9: After breakfast at our hotel we shall check out and head to Yerevan. Visit the fortress-like medieval Monastery of Tatev (UNESCO Heritage site) – another masterpiece of the Armenian architecture of the 9-13th cc. and a great educational center of the entire region in the past. This magnificent monastery, which seems to have melded with nature, is situated on an inaccessible hill, surrounded by a river gorge of 1000 m deep. After our visit we will drive along the main highway and head in the direction of Sissian where we make a detour for a brief visit of Armenia’s Stonehenge – Megalithic settlement and observatory, Karahounge. We then continue our drive along the Great Silk Route to visit the Noravank Monastery (10-14th cc. UNESCO Site) – a splendid monastic complex hidden in the pictorial reddish mountains – like a wild flower, or a white dressed bride in the heart of the rocks. Late noon optional visit to the “Areni” winery and an opportunity to taste the local wines. Continue by the road to Yerevan and visit Khor Virap monastery – once a royal prison of the early Christians in pagan Armenia and the site from where the light of Christianity spread all over Armenia (time permitting). Arrive in Yerevan and check in to your hotel. Dinner at one of the local restaurants and overnight in Yerevan. (B/L/D)

Garni Temple

Garni Temple

Oct 10: After an early breakfast, we leave for a brief orientation tour of Yerevan, covering its major landmarks including the Republic Square, the Opera House, etc. We shall then head to the north-east from the capital to visit the Fortress of Garni and the Gueghard Monastery. Garni village is one of the ancient centers of Armenian civilization and was once the summer residence for the Armenian Royalty. Here we visit the mighty fortress of Garni of the 2nd – 1st cc BC, the splendid Hellenistic Pagan Temple, built in the 1st c. AD, as well as the bath-house with a rare 3rd c. mosaic floor. Thereafter, we continue to visit the Monastery of Gueghard (UNESCO World Heritage Site), built in 10-13th cc into the side of a solid rock formation. The site has an ascetic atmosphere and is rich in tradition, history and architecture. It is surrounded with extraordinarily striking landscape – no wonder that the entire area is acknowledged as. We shall break for a late lunch at one of the local restaurants and drive back to Yerevan. Upon our return to Yerevan we shall continue our city tour and visit the Cascade with a world-class Sculpture Garden & Cafesjian Centre for Arts, where one can find the works from Bottero, Chihuly, Arshile Gorky, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynn Chadwick, and many others. After a brief photo-stop we head to visit the Memorial to the victims of Genocide. Your evening is free to explore the pedestrian streets of Yerevan by night. Overnight at your hotel in Yerevan. (B/L)

Oct 11: Today we will visit the old capital of Armenia, Etchmiadzin – the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church and home to the Supreme Catholicos of All Armenians. It is one of the oldest centers of Christianity in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main cathedral is constructed upon remains of a pagan temple and houses a unique collection of Christian relics (Holy Gueghard, small pieces from the Crown of Thorns and Holy Cross, other), as well as vestments, ritual vessels, bas-reliefs, illuminated manuscripts and other objects of 17-19th cc. art and culture. Our tour can also include visit St. Hripsimeh Church – 618 AD. Return to Yerevan and visit the Matenadaran – Repository of ancient manuscripts (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Dinner is on your own, and overnight in Yerevan. (B/L)

Oct 12: After breakfast we will check out and drive through the mountains to the famous spa town of Dilijan, called the Little Switzerland of Armenia, also drive along the shores of the Lake Sevan, one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world. Stop to visit Sevanavank, a monastery built on an island (now a peninsula) in Lake Sevan in 305 AD on the site of a former pagan temple. The present day structure dates back to 8-9th cc. This mountainous lake covers approximately 5% of Armenia’s surface area and is 2000 meters/2187 yards above sea level. Hidden in the forest, Dilijan has preserved its vivid style of architecture, which differs from what we see in the rest of Armenia with its wooden elements. We will visit Haghartsin – one of the best samples of Medieval Armenian ecumenical architecture. Haghartsin monastery was a major religious and cultural center of Armenia. Spend some time to leisurely explore the site and enjoy walking in the Natural Reserve. Time permitting, we will also visit to Goshavank Monastery. Goshavank was established in the late 12th century by the cleric Mkhitar Gosh. It was here that Mkhitar Gosh first formally codified Armenian law and also wrote his fables. We continue our drive and will tour briefly the recently restored historic 19th century Old Town with its beautiful wooden houses and ornately carved balconies, and visit authentically recreated artisans’ workshops. Check in at the local hotel in Dilijan. (B/L/D)

Haghpat

Haghpat Monastery

Oct 13: Check out after breakfast and head further to the North of Armenia. Visit the Haghpat Monastery, perched on the edge of the Debed Canyon. The monastery has UNESCO World Heritage status and the view alone with worth the visit. Built by Queen Khosrvanuch in 976, it is a splendid architectural monument in a spectacular natural setting. Also visit another UNESCO site – the Sanahin Monastery. Continue to the border with Georgia where meet our Georgian colleagues and change to their bus. Welcome to Georgia! Change onto Georgian transport and drive to Tbilisi. On arrival in Tbilisi we will have lunch and a city tour which will include the Art Museum of Georgia, which has a vast collection of icons and metalwork. We will visit the old quarter and walk along Chardin Street. Overnight in Tbilisi. (B/L)

Oct 14: After breakfast, check out and we will drive to Mtskheta, the ancient spiritual capital of Georgia. Visits will include Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century) and Jvari Church (7th century). Then we drive along the Georgian Military Highway by exploring its attractive surroundings, as well as learning from sightseeing tours. Enjoy the breathtaking views of mountain passes littered by watchtowers and alpine fields. If weather conditions permit, you’ll see ‘Mkinvartsveri’ or Kazbek (5047 m.) meaning ‘ice-top’. Natives of Khevi province often call this giant volcano ‘the bride of the Khevi. Dinner and overnight at a guesthouse in Kazbegi. (B/D)

Oct 15: After breakfast, we will depart to the cave town of Uplistsikhe. The word means “The Fortress of God”. Uplistsikhe is an ancient cave town from the 1st half of the 1st millennium BC situated on the crossroads of important trade routes. It was the main center of paganism, and represents a complex of halls, caves, theatres, altars, pagan temples, secret tunnels, prisons, pharmacy, passages-streets all carved out of stone over an area of 4 hectares. At its peak of prosperity, the city had a population of 20,000. In 9th -10th cc AD a three-nave basilica was added to the complex. Lunch en route. Return to Tbilisi for overnight. (B/L)

Signahi

Hilltop village of Signahi, view of the valley and Caucasus Mountains

Oct 16: Today we will visit Tsinandali – a noble family house museum of the 19th c with a beautiful park, followed by a visit to the hilltop village of Signaghi – 16-17th cc town, renovated, so called town of love. You will have a chance to wander around and to explore the town and enjoy an independent lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants here. Return to Tbilisi for a farewell dinner and overnight. (B/D)

Oct 17: Transfer to Tbilisi International Airport. (B)
End of services

Included:

  • Accommodations on bed and breakfast basis, double occupancy in 4-5 star hotels or best available
  • Meals as listed in program
  • English speaking guide throughout the program
  • Transfers and transport as in the program in air conditioned van/mini bus/coach
  • All entrance and parking fees to sites listed on itinerary
  • Complimentary visa for citizens of the USA, UK & EU to Armenia, Georgia visa obtained on arrival
  • Iran Visa authorization (visa stamp is a separate fee)
  • Domestic flight in Iran Tehran – Tabriz

Not included:

  • Travel insurance
  • Air/train/other tickets
  • Iran visa application and stamp fee of $200
  • Porter service
  • Meals other than specified above, beverages at meals
  • Personal expenses, optional tours
  • Tips for drivers and guides

Minimum passengers: 6