Arrival in Tehran; meet and transfer to hotel for overnight stay at hotel. Laleh Hotel.
Full day visit to some of Tehran’s major museums, that may include Iran’s National Museum (Archaeological only – Islamic Museum is currently under renovation), displaying an authenticated collection of pre-historic and ancient artifacts with pottery dating back to 6-7 millennium B.C.; the Abguineh (Glass & Ceramics) Museum, a valuable collection of pre-Islamic and Islamic glass and ceramics, beautifully displayed and located in an elegant early 20th-century mansion; and also visit the Carpet Museum, with an extensive collection of old and new Persian carpets and rugs from the major carpet-weaving centers of Iran (all above museums are closed on Mondays); early evening transfer to airport for flight to Kerman, as available, overnight stay at the Pars Hotel.
Morning excursion to the village of Rayen, to visit the Arg, or Citadel, of Rayen, a miniature version of the Arg-e-Bam, with all the architectural features of a desert citadel, now on the map as a result of the tragic earthquake in Bam, which destroyed the town and its magnificent citadel; on the return journey stop at Mahan, to visit the blue-tiled Mausoleum of Shah Nematollah-e-Vali, the great 14th century Sufi Leader; and the Shahzadeh Garden (late 19th century Qajar period garden/house); return to Kerman to see the Ganj-Ali-Khan Complex (17th century Safavid period bathhouse/caravanserai and bazaar), plus the Friday Mosque and bazaar. Overnight in Kerman.
Drive to Shiraz, via Neiriz, and en-route visit the remains of the Sassanian Palace at Sarvestan. This fifth century A.D. building is thought by many to be a hunting lodge or small palace built by Bahram V (420-440 A.D.); on to Shiraz for overnight stay at the Homa or Chamran Hotel.
Half day excursion to Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the Ancient World, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings with remains of the palaces of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, and its famous bas-reliefs, depicting kings and courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire; also visit Naghsh-e-Rostam to see Ka’be-Zardosht (fire temple/sanctuary), and Royal Tombs (also Achaemenid); plus seven magnificent Sassanian rock-reliefs (including Shapur the First’s famous victory over Roman Emperor Valerian); return to Shiraz to visit tomb of Iran’s greatest lyric poet Hafez; the pink tiled 19th-century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, the Arg-e-Karim Khan (18th-century citadel), the Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz; overnight in Shiraz.
Further visits in Shiraz, and drive to Yazd, en-route visit Pasargadae, the site of the simple, but impressive, tomb and remains of the palaces of Cyrus the Great (the Founder of the Persian Empire); continue to Yazd for overnight stay at the Moshir Garden or Safaieh hotel.
Full day sightseeing in Yazd, the center for Iran’s small Zoroastrian community, who seeking refuge from the invading Arabs found a safe haven within its fortified walls. On this day you will visit one of the two Zoroastrian abandoned Towers of Silence (Dakhma), dating back to the 18th century, where until some 50-60 years ago the dead were carried and left to decompose and be devoured by birds; and the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for about 1500 years. Among Yazd’s Islamic sites are the Friday Mosque (1324 A.D.) with the highest portal and minarets in Iran and the Mirchachmagh Maidan and Mosque. Other notable Islamic monuments in the old Fahadan area of Yazd are the Seljuk shrine dedicated to the Twelve Shi’ite Imams; and Ziaieyeh Theological School, known as Zendan-e-Eskander or Alexandar’s Prison. There are, also many beautiful old houses in Yazd, among them the Dowlat-Abad Garden, with an 18th century feudal hexagonal house. Overnight in Yazd.
Drive to Isfahan, via Na’in, a charming desert town, 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 to Isfahan for overnight stay at the Abbasi or Kowsar Hotel.
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/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 Shah – with magnificent architecture and tile work), finishing with a visit to the Qeisarieh Bazaar with hundreds of shops displaying the arts and handicrafts for which Isfahan is world-famous. Overnight in Isfahan.
Another full day sightseeing of Isfahan to visit the magnificent Friday Mosque, with the famous Uljaitu Mihrab (Prayer Niche) of the Il-Khanid period. The Friday Mosque is considered a museum of a thousand years of Persian religious architecture and is truly one of the world’s greatest mosques. From here drive to the Chehel Sotun Palace, built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th century; its twenty wooden columns reflected in the surface of the pool give rise to its name ‘The Palace of Forty Columns’. Final stop of the day is at the Hasht Behesht pavilion built in 1670 by Shah Solayman and known as the Pavilion of Eight Paradises or the Palace of Nightingales. The small but intricate building is set among tree-lined alleys, a reflecting pool and water rills. Overnight in Isfahan.
Morning drive to Tehran, en-route stop 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. You will also visit a fine example of a 19th century merchant residence known as Taba-Tabai House with its beautiful stucco dome and inlaid mirror work, with some of the best examples of existing “badgirs” (wind-catchers); continue to Tehran and drive by the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini, transfer to the hotel for overnight.
In the morning, Leave for Zanjan (4-hour drive) upon arrival see the magnificent 14th century Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh, the tomb/tower of Olijaytu, the last Mongol/Il-Khanid Ruler of Iran (1304-1330). The monument is remarkable in many different architectural aspects, including its huge dome, which is about 167 feet high and ranks amongst the largest domes in the world. Gonbad-e-Soltaniyeh is one of 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran. then visit the unique ‘Rakhtshur-Khaneh’ (old public laundry now turned into an ethnographic museum) and the old Public Bath House. Arrive Zanjan city for dinner and overnight. Overnight at the Zanjan Grand Hotel.
In the morning, Leave for Tabriz, upon arrival in Tabriz, Transfer to your hotel for check in and a short rest then Afternoon visit of Tabriz is the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashad. According to Herodotus, even in ancient times, this area had a turbulent history. In the 13th century it was the Mongol capital. We’ll see the Blue Mosque built by Shah Jahan in 1465, the small exquisite Azerbaijan Museum, and the Citadel. Later, our guide will lead us through the wonderfully constructed Tabriz Bazaar, second oldest in the world after the one in Aleppo, Syria another UNESCO World Heritages Site. The Silk Road passed through Tabriz; today silk, wool and cotton Tabriz carpets with figures on a pink background, are a well known export to France and Germany. Before leaving Tabriz see the El Goli Safavid site and park with beautifully renovated old building surrounded by a large pool. Overnight in Tabriz at the Pars Ilgoli Hotel.
Today we will have a day excursion to the picturesque village of Kanduvan to see an old village where people have cut their homes out of the volcanic rocks. Here we will have a nice stroll in the local bazaar and enjoy the beauty o this area. After lunch return to Tabriz for further visits and last minute shopping. Overnight in Tabriz.
Today after breakfast we drive all the way to Anzali, which is the oldest port on the Caspian sea, , en route stopping at the city of Ardabil to visit one of Iran’s great gems, the Mausoleum Complex of Sheikh Safii-eddinn Ardabil, the great Sufi Leader of the 14th century and the forefather of the Sufi inspired Safavid kings, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visits include the tomb of the Sheikh, the tomb of Shah Isma’ail, the Founder of the Safavid Dynasty, and the ‘Chini-Khaneh’ (China House), where the famous collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain, ordered by Shah Abbas for his ancestor’s tomb, is on display. Then we continue our trip towards Anzali with some lovely stops in the beautiful and picturesque heights of Alborz range for lunch and photo stops. Upon arrival transfer to your beautiful resort hotel of Sepid Kenar, on the Caspian sea. There will also be a chance to visit the Anzali old port. Overnight in Anzali.
Today we drive to Tehran via the Rasht scenic freeway. En route visit the lovely town of Fuman, with its rice paddies and neatly manicured tea plantations, where we will have lunch. Cuttings to start the plants came from India and produce healthy tea, full of antioxidants. There are many nature reserves in this area where birds winter near poplar lined freshwater pools. Indulge in a taste of kuliches, a delicious local pastry filled with walnuts, cinnamon and cardamom. From Anzali we make a short excursion to the picturesque 1,000-year-old village of Masuleh, protected by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. Have a leisurely walk through the multi layered paths of the village, with its quaint shops, and perhaps enjoy some tea. Then return to the main freeway to drive back to Tehran. Upon arrival in the afternoon transfer to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Early in the morning transfer to the IKA airport for your flight back home.