DAY 01: ARRIVAL TEHRAN- Arrival in Tehran; meet and transfer to hotel for overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 02: TEHRAN –Full day visit to some of Tehran’s major museums to include Iran’s National Museum (Archaeological only, as Islamic is still under renovation), displaying an authenticated collection of pre-historic and ancient artifacts with pottery dating back to 6-7 millennium B.C.; and 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; 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); overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 03: TEHRAN-QAZVIN-HAMADAN –Drive to Hamadan, stopping in Qazvin to visit the glittering shrine of Shahzadeh Hussain (a Shi’ite Saint), and the extensive Friday Mosque of Qazvin; continue to Hamadan, and start sightseeing with visits to the Tomb of Esther & Mordecai, a major Jewish pilgrimage center, the 12th century Alavyan Tomb Tower, the Tomb of Avicenna (died in 1034), Iran’s celebrated philosopher/scientist/physician; finishing with a visit to Ganjnameh, the cuneiform inscriptions by Darius I, and his son Xerxes, carved on the mountain face; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 04: HAMADAN-KERMANSHAH –Further visits in Hamadan and drive to Kermanshah via Kangavar (a small town of great antiquity dating back to 200 B.C. lying half way between Hamadan and Kermanshah), to visit the Temple of Anahita, the Goddess of Water and Fertility; on to Bisotun to see the Achaemenid inscription/bas-reliefs, depicting Darius I facing the nine rebel kings, whom the Achaemenid ruler suppressed when he came to power; on arrival in Kermanshah, and after lunch, visit the several important Sassanian reliefs at Tagh-e-Bostan (some inside a grotto), depicting royal hunting scenes and the investiture of the Sassanian kings, including the gigantic equestrian statue of Khosrow II (AD 591-628), mounted on his favorite charger Shabdiz; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 05: KERMANSHAH-AHWAZ –Drive to Ahwaz, via Islam Abad Gharb and through the Province of Ilam, visiting remains of the Sassanian Bridge at Pol-e-Dokhtar; on to Ahwaz and, time-permitting, divert to Shushtar, a small town perched on limestone cliffs above the Karun River, whose past can be traced through a remarkable series of interconnecting channels, dams, bridges and water mills; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 06: AHWAZ/EXCURSION TO CHOGHA ZANBIL & SUSA –Full day excursion to Chogha-Zanbil, to visit the ziggurat built by Untash Gal, King of Elam, about 1250 B.C., the massive man-made mound was the focal point of his city of Dur Untashi, and was dedicated to the great god Inshushinak, ‘Lord of Susa’, symbolized by the form of a bull; continue and visit Haft-Tappeh or Seven Mounds (Elamite Necropolis) whose discovery in the 1960’s has filled one of the less well-documented periods in Elamite history; and Susa, the site of one of the oldest civilizations in Western Asia, dating back to 5,000 B.C. and the remains of Achaemenian palaces, plus the nearby Tomb of Biblical Prophet Daniel; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 07: AHWAZ-SHIRAZ-Drive to Shiraz, en-route visit Bishapur, remains of the Sassanian city built by Shapur 1st (241-273 A.D.), the second Sassanian king. The building complex includes a central chamber, a large courtyard which had been covered with impressive mosaics, plus the remains of a temple dedicated to Anahita, the Goddess of Water and Fertility; on either side of a narrow gorge, there are also six Sassanian rock-reliefs at Tang-e-Chogan, commemorating Shapur’s victories over the Romans and other adversaries; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 08: SHIRAZ-Full day city tour of Shiraz to visit some of the famous gardens of this city of “roses and nightingales”, including the Eram Garden, the tomb of Iran’s greatest lyric poets, Hafez and Sa’adi; the pink tiled 19th-century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, the Arg-e-Karim Khan (18th-century citadel), the Madrassa Khan (Theological School), to have interaction with teachers and students, the Qajar-period Narenjestan Garden/House, the Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz (Bazaar is closed on Fridays), and the Holy Shrine of Shah-e-Cheragh (not open to non-Moslems and can only be seen from outside); overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 09: SHIRAZ/EXCURSION TO PERSEPOLIS–Full 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); and Naghsh-e-Rajab, a nearby grotto with several more Sassanian reliefs; return to Shiraz for overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 10: SHIRAZ-YAZD-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); also stop over at the small desert town of Abarkuh to see the 4000-year old Cypress tree; continue to Yazd; general city tour and visit the Maidan-e-Mirchachmagh (main square); overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 11: YAZD-ISFAHAN –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 stay at hotel.
DAY 12: ISFAHAN-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 stay at hotel.
DAY 13: ISFAHAN-Another full day sightseeing in Isfahan to include 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 amongst tree-lined alleys, a reflecting pool and water rills; return to the Maidan for further visit to handicraft shops and bazaar; overnight stay at hotel.
DAY 14: ISFAHAN-TEHRAN-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 hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 15: DEPARTURE TEHRAN-Transfer to IKA airport for departure flight.
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