Day 01: Arrive Tehran
We are cordially welcomed and transferred to our hotel. Our unique tour of legendary Persian garden begins.
Overnight: Laleh Hotel, Tehran 2 nights
Day 02: Tehran
We start our exciting and unique journey with a full day tour of Tehran. Begin with the lavish Golestan Palace (WHS*), a masterpiece of the Qajar era, integrating traditional Persian architecture with Western style. The walled palace was the seat of government of the 1779 Qajar dynasty who made Tehran the capital of the country. It was built within a handsome garden of the era featuring pools with orange groves, palms, planes and cypress trees. Next we visit the famous Crown Jewels Museum, which displays the riches of the Persian imperial families from the 16th century Safavid era. Elaborate crowns and decorative thrones, gem-encrusted tiaras, aigrettes, swords and bejeweled domestic objects; enhance our understanding of the formal lifestyle of the monarchs and their families and the rituals of the court. Time permitting; we visit a local bazaar. Tonight is a typical welcome dinner – Persian food in Persian style. (B, D)
Day 03: Tehran/Kerman (flight)
Still in Tehran, we visit the National Museum of Iran a combination of the Archaeological Museum and the National Arts Museum displaying both the Pre Islamic and modern day Iranian artifacts. Iran is known all over for its hand woven carpets. We visit the Carpet Museum and see the variety of Persian designed carpets - from the 18th century to the present. Within palaces and garden pavilions, carpets were traditionally used to soften and warm marble floors as well as for sitting. The perforated structure around the museum's exterior is designed to resemble a carpet loom. A short flight and we are in Kerman.
Overnight: Pars Hotel, Kerman 2 nights (B, D)
Day 04: Kerman (Bam and Mahan)
An exciting excursion to Bam, to explore Bam and its Cultural Landscape (WHS). to see the ancient city dating back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th centuries BCE) later becoming an important trading centre known for the production of silk and cotton garments. Here we see some of the earliest qanats in Iran. Qanats are deep underground irrigation channels that transported water over many miles enabling human settlements. The water was shared between households and used for crops characteristic also of Persian gardens and courtyards. At Mahan we visit the Shahzadeh Garden, the Prince’s Garden (WHS) dating to the early 1880s. The walled garden is terraced with fine water cascade with pools and fountains. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), it is flanked by the shrine of Ne’matollah Vali, a 15th century Sufi poet. The buildings and courtyard gardens here create an atmosphere of tranquility and seclusion. The central pool is surrounded by cypresses and umbrella pines overlooked by the brilliant blue dome of the Safavid shrine. (B, D)
Day 05: Kerman/Yazd (drive)
We visit another UNESCO WHS at the Bagh-e Pahlavanpur Garden before driving to Yazd - a desert oasis and centre of the Zoroastrian culture. It is one of the oldest cities in Iran. Evening free at leisure.
Overnight: Hotel Daad/Moshir (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 06: Yazd
With its winding lanes, mud-brick old town, Yazd is one of the highlights of any trip to Iran. We start our exploration with the Bagh-e Dolat Abad Garden (WHS), with its renowned pavilion set within walled gardens. The interior of the pavilion is superb, with intricate latticework and exquisite stained-glass windows and indoor pools, all of which open on to the garden. The garden contains a rectangular pool leading from the pavilion and is lined with cypress, pines and groves of pomegranate, quince and grapes. Yazd is an architecturally unique city of adobe buildings known for its quality handicrafts, silk weaving and confectionary. Later we visit the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, Temple of Fire and the 14th century Friday Mosque with exquisite mosaic tile-work. (B, D)
Day 07: Yazd/Shiraz via Abarkuh and Pasargadae
One of the climax of the tour as we drive to the ‘Garden City’ of Shiraz and visit Sarv-e Abar-Kuh (cypress of Abarkuh) reputed to be over 4000 years old and the oldest living thing in Asia. Next we visit Pasargadae (WHS), the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus II, the Great. This is a truly important site in our itinerary because we see here the tangible evidence of one of the earliest gardens in Persia and indeed, the world. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed earlier gardens of the Mesopotamian river deltas but this site is significant because of its sophisticated design, created by the man acknowledged to be the founding father of Persia. Cyrus was passionate about gardens and imported a wide variety of ornamental and useful plants. The garden outline can still be seen today. Dating from 6th century BCE, the remains of the palaces, gardens and the nearby mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization. Pasargadae was the capital of the first great multicultural empire. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River, the Achaemenid empire was the first to respect cultural diversity. Its architecture synthesized elements found in Egyptian, Elamite, Mesopotamian and Median societies.
Overnight: Homa Hotels, Shiraz (3 nights) (B, D)
Day 08: Shiraz
Today’s exploration includes the citadel and home to Karim Khan Zand. During his dynasty, Shiraz became the capital and during his benevolent reign the city thrived. With its imposing walls and watchtowers the Arg resembles a mediaeval fortress. The residence however is surrounded by a garden with pools, flowing water and orchards of orange trees. Next we visit Bagh-e Eram Garden (WHS) now the Shiraz University Botanical Garden and a popular public park. The Koran refers to Eram (Iram) as a paradise garden, hence, the name has been ascribed to several royal gardens in Persia and Samarkand (Uzbekistan). A WHS, it is a garden with long axis of pools and waterfalls descending a series of terraces featuring orchards of oranges and pomegranates with avenues of majestic cypress trees. Shiraz is the birthplace of the 14th Century Hafez poet. Hafiz’s tomb is set within the Musalla Garden and is made of alabaster and inscribed with the poet’s verse. This is a popular picnic spot of Shirazis. Many pilgrims come here to open his collected poems (known as Divan) at random which they believe will answer any question that was in the mind of the reader. (B, D)
Day 09: Shiraz
Yet another day in the City of Gardens. We start with the Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque the best known buildings of the Qajar era. Its outer walls are lined with pink floral tiles characteristic of the period which has led to its popular name as the Pink Mosque. At Narangistan we see the most exquisite mansions of the Qajar dynasty. It is a traditional town house (biruni) built for the Governor’s court. Built for opulence and show, Narangistan had three functions - business, ceremonious reception and residential dwelling. The garden with its adjacent waiting rooms served as a shady courtyard for visiting guests. We end the day at the Vakil Bazaar, which has beautiful courtyards, caravanserais, bath houses and old shops - amongst the best places in Shiraz to buy Persian rugs, spices, copper handicrafts and antiques. (B, D)
Day 10: Shiraz/Isfahan (Air)
We visit the ancient ruined city of Persepolis (518 B.C.E) (WHS). Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C.E Persepolis is the greatest and best-preserved monument to the achievements of the Achaemenid kings. It was created specifically for the observance of Nou Ruz (New Year), a period of rebirth when the desert briefly blooms. Envoys from vassal states of the Empire would come to pay tribute to the king. We visit the Palace of Xerxes, the Gate of All Nations and the 100 Column Hall. What is certain is the truth of Darius’s words, “I made it, adequate, secure and beautiful”. This is an astonishing and profoundly moving site and an experience not to be missed. Next we visit the famous Nadhsh-e-Rajab and Nadhsh-e-Rostam (rock tombs), the tombs of Darius and his successor, Xerxes. Culminating our stay in the City of Gardens, we visit several historical gardens. Bagh-e Afifabad constructed in 1863 extending over 13 hectares, the Jahan Nama (Garden of the Image of the World) - a walled garden with a long pedigree. It is an excellent example of the classic Persian garden arrangement or chahar-bagh and time permitting, the Bagh-e Nazar or Fars Museum. A short flight gets us to Isfahan. The beauty of Isfahan is best described by the quotation, Isafahan is ‘Half the World’.
Overnight: Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan 3 nights (B, D)
Day 11: Isfahan
We start with the Chahar Bagh the main boulevard built in 1598 by the great Safavid king, Shah Abbas I. We visit the royal palace complex (Ali Qapu) located in the Imam Square - Meidan Emam (WHS*), measuring 160m wide and 508m long. Our full day tour includes visits of the private royal Sheik Lutfollah Mosque and the Chahar Bagh which continues from the Maidan to the Allahverdi Khan Bridge, one of many historic bridges over the River Zayandeh. The name Chahar Bagh is literally translated as "four gardens” and refers to the garden typology that we will have seen in many of the gardens on the tour. We also visit the famous royal gardens, Hasht Behesht and Bagh-e Chehel Sotun (WHS). Time at the Qeisarieh Bazaar with hundreds of shops displaying local arts and handicrafts. (B, D)
Day 12: Isfahan
Another full day visit of the beautiful city starting with Masjed-e Jameh (Friday mosque) (WHS), built from 841 to the 17th century. With 476 separate domes, it can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over eight centuries. It is the oldest preserved edifice and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. Because of the technological challenges associated with dome construction it has been compared to St. Paul's Cathedral, built 600 hundred years later with a conical dome. One architectural historian has said, "The Seljuks solved the difficulties which Sir Christopher Wren avoided." The Chehel Sotun Palace, is famed for its soaring wooden columns reflected in the surface of the grand rectangular pool which emanates from it. It is known as The Palace of Forty Columns. The garden survives largely intact and the layout once again is chahar bagh with the palace situated as a pavilion in the centre. Built for receptions and ceremonial use and not as a residence with astounding paintings. The Hasht Behesht Palace (Palace of the Eight Paradises) is situated within The Nightingale Garden dating back to 1660. The garden, now a public park, radiates from the pavilion with water rills and the avenues are lined with towering elm trees. (B, D)
Day 13: Isfahan/Kashan
Desert drive to Kashan to visit Bagh-e Fin or Fin Garden, another WHS. Completed in 1590, it is the oldest extant garden in Iran. In keeping with many of the Persian gardens of this era, the Fin Garden employs a great many water features. The garden contains numerous cypress trees and contains pavilions and other architectural features. This is the place that brings our garden experiences together in a magnificent climax. The abundance of water and the delight that visitors experience summarizes the essence of the Persian Garden as a walled oasis set within a desert environment. We visit Borujerdi House and the Tabataba’i House - merchants’ mansions, built in the 19th century. Their gardens are set within courtyards and Borujerdi has three 40m high badgirs for cooling. Throughout the building are delightful wall paintings of flowers and birds by the royal painter Kamal-ol-Molk. Tabataba’i has 2 inner courtyards and central pools and the windows are stained glass typical of the period. These houses are good examples of biruni and daruni, traditional Persian residential architecture.
Overnight: Hotel Nagerstan, Kashan (1 night) (B, D)
Day 14: Kashan/Tehran
The mid-19th century Agha Bozorg Mosque & Madraseh is noted for its precise architecture. Rising four storeys above a large sunken courtyard it has an austere dome and unusual lofty badgirs(wind towers) above the entrance. The courtyard has a central pool and simple planting and the dome is flanked by two minarets with coloured tiles. Koranic inscriptions and mosaics stand out against the mud-brick construction. Desert drive to Tehran. Evening, we have our Farewell Dinner at a Persian restaurant.
Overnight: Laleh Hotel, Tehran (1 night) (B, D)
Day 15: Depart Tehran
After this fascinating insight into the Persian Gardens and the Treasures of Iran, we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. (B)