ARMENIA & IRAN TOUR
ARRIVAL TO YEREVAN & DEPARTURE FROM TEHRAN
11 DAYS | 10 NIGHTS
Travelers, merchants, poets and scholars once made Armenia and Iran two of the most important states of the ancient Silk Road. Observe how history, still alive through the Armenia’s medieval architecture, shines through the modern scenes of bustling markets and cafes. Feel the breath of history as you wander the narrow streets of ancient towns and explore the palaces, bridges and mosques of the former Persian Empire. It will be a 11 days/10 nights journey featuring fascinating history, distinctive cultures and extraordinary scenery.
Take a walking tour of Cascade Complex, with its Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. See Fernando Botero’s sculpture of “The Black Cat” and other international artist’s works decorating the Park. The Cascade is an Art Deco version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a massive white stairway up a hillside of central Yerevan, decorated with green stretches, fountains and waterfalls, that run uphill and crowned with the obelisk of the Revived Armenia.
Visit the magnificent building of the Opera House, the postmodern Northern Avenue and the city’s main Republic Square, the centerpiece of the architect Alexander Tamanian’s master plan for Yerevan. The Republic Square is ringed by the National Gallery, National History Museum and several government buildings.
Drive to Echmiadzin, the spiritual and administrative center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Visit the churches of St. Hripsime and St. Gayane (UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The St. Hripsime Church is one of the famous ecclesiastical buildings in the city of Echmiadzin. The church is notable with its architectural simplicity and loftiness, and the tomb of the Christian martyr Virgin Hripsime is located in the sacristy of the church. The church of St. Gayane is not far from the Echmiadzin Cathedral, and according to the legend, this church was constructed over the tomb of Virgin Gayane, who was martyred for preaching Christianity in Armenia.
Visit the Main Cathedral of Echmiadzin, the oldest state-built church in the world, having been built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Attend the colorful service of the Holy Liturgy on Sundays, which attracts a numerous visitors and pilgrims from around the world. Visit the Cathedral Museum, where amongst other relics, you can see the Holy Lance, with which Jesus Christ was pierced on the cross.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Zvartnots Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 930 AD, and was lost to history until its discovery in the early 20th century. The Armenian and Arab historians alike marveled at the beauty of Zvartnots, calling it one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. Originally built to be the tallest church of the world at the time, and to last for 1,000 years (a projected date for the second coming of Christ), the Zvartnots Cathedral has been only partially reconstructed. Return to Yerevan. Dinner. Visit the Republic Square to see the “Dancing Fountains”, a choreographed water show synched with lights and music. Overnight in Yerevan.
Drive to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Armenia, the 13th century cave monastery of Geghard (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Geghard Complex is set in the landscape of great natural beauty, surrounded by towering cliffs at the entrance to the Azat Valley. Geghard literally means “Monastery of the Spear”. The name of the monastery originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin’s Cathedral Museum.
Continue to the oldest surviving building on the territory of Armenia, the 1st century Garni Pagan Temple. The Garni Temple was built by the Armenian King Tiridates with the money he received after visiting Emperor Nero in Rome, and was dedicated to Sun God Mithra. After adopting Christianity in 301 AD, the pagan temple lost its significance and the fortress of Garni became the summer residence of the Armenian kings. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times.
Listen to traditional Armenian wind instrument duduk at the temple. Born in the early eons of Armenian history, the duduk is considered the most “Armenian” of all folk instruments, because of its origins and its ability to express the soul of the Armenian people.
Return to Yerevan. Visit one of the richest depositories of manuscripts and books in the world, the Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. The Matenadaran stands like a cathedral at the top of Yerevan’s grandest avenue. At the base of the building there is a statue of Mesrop Mashtots teaching his alphabet to a disciple, while six other statues of great scholars and writers stand by the door. Dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.
Continue to the masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture, the 14th century Noravank Monastery. Set in the spectacular valley of red rocks, the monastery built out of the local stone, blends into the background of the molten red gorge, that contrasts with the stark blue sky. In the 13th–14th centuries the monastery became a residence of Syunik’s bishops and, consequently a major religious and cultural center of Armenia, closely connected with many of the local seats of learning.
Continue in the Vayots Dzor Province, which is Armenia’s most storied wine growing region. Armenia is considered one of the most ancient cradles of grape growing and wine making, as the Bible states: “Noah descended from Mt. Ararat and he planted the first vine, and made wine from it.” Stopover for wine tasting at the local winery in Areni Village, which is famous for its rather delicious dry red wine. Areni is marked by spectacular cliffs and caves, where archaeologists found evidence in one of the caves of the very first winery in the world, along with the world’s first shoe.
Continue to one of the most spectacular and impressive places in Armenia, the 9th century Tatev Monastery. Take the cable car “Wings of Tatev” from the Halidzor Village to the magnificent complex of Tatev. The cable car, clocking in at around 5.7 km, passes through the magnificent landscape, over the serpentine roads with the breathtaking views of Zangezur Mountains. The “Wings of Tatev” built by the Swiss company, is included in the Guinness Book of World Records as world’s longest non-stop double track cable car.
Built on a fairy tale natural fortress of rock on the edge of the Vorotan Canyon, Tatev is one of the jaw-dropping sights in Armenia. According to tradition, Tatev Monastery is named after Eustateus, a disciple of St. Thaddeus the Apostle, who preached and was martyred in this region. His name has evolved to Tatev. In the 14th and 15th centuries Tatev Monastery hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, the University of Tatev, whose scholars contributed to the preservation of Armenian culture and creed during one of its most turbulent periods in its history.
Continue to Goris. The endlessly winding roads that leap through the gorges over the mountains of Syunik come to a major junction at Goris, making this an inevitable stop between Yerevan, Stepanakert and the Iranian border. Boasting fine stone houses with arched windows and balconies on tree-lined avenues, a couple of museums and a busy little shouka – Goris is a great place for strolling around. It’s worth making a trip to the cave city on the other bank of the river and equally majestic sets of volcanic pillars, that spear through the steep grassy slopes above town. Goris is also known for its variety of homemade fruit vodkas, including the deliciously potent mulberry and Cornelian cherry vodkas. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Goris.
Stop at Jolfa, a bustling border town, that connects the Islamic Republic both with Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is separated by the Araks River from its northern neighbor and namesake, the town of Julfa in the The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a landlocked exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Visit the 9th century St. Stepanos Monastery, an Armenian monastery, situated in a deep canyon along the Araks River (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The St. Stepanos is one of the landmark churches of Persia, which has been built inside a large castle with seven towers among a beautiful backdrop of rocky mountains. Many Armenian historians believe that the first church on the site was built in the 1st century by St. Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Continue to Tabriz. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Tabriz.
Visit the Bazaar of Tabriz, one of the oldest bazaars of the Middle East and the largest covered bazaar in the world (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex is located in the center of the city of Tabriz, and this spectacular structure consists of several sub-bazaars, such as Amir Bazaar (for gold and jewelry), Mozzafarieh (a carpet bazaar), a shoe bazaar, etc. Visiting the bazaar is a big part of the Tabriz experience and of particular interest among the many stalls and shops are the entire sections given over to rugs. Tabriz enjoys a strong reputation for Persian rugs, and other noteworthy items found in the bazaar include traditional herbal remedies, perfumes, and Azeri-style hats made from astrakhan wool.
Transfer to Tabriz International Airport and take a domestic flight to Shiraz. Arrival to Shiraz International Airport in the evening. Transfer to the hotel. Check in. Dinner. Overnight in Shiraz.
Return to Shiraz. Start exploring Shiraz, the treasure trove of Persian culture. It is the former capital of Iran and the celebrated birthplace of the great Persian poets Hafiz and Saadi. It has also been said to be the origin of one of the best wines in the world called “Syrah”.
Visit the Mausoleum of Hafez (1324-1391), one of the greatest masters of Persian lyric poetry and the literary giant of the 14th century in the west and central Asia. The extraordinary popularity and the wide appeal of this great poet among all Persian-speaking people make his tomb a cherished place, visited by all. The tombstone is beautifully inscribed with two of Hafez’s poems or Ghazals. Visitors to the tomb can still, as they have done for centuries, sit by his tomb and read his sonnets.
Visit the Mausoleum of Saadi (1210-1291), one of the greatest figures in classical Persian literature. Even from the very early days after the poet’s death, the mausoleum of Saadi became a place of pilgrimage for lovers of poetry and literature. Tomb of Saadi has a beautiful garden with cypress trees and flowers, creating a lovely and refreshing atmosphere. The benches beside a small artificial lake create a perfect environment to relax with the great poet’s poems being recited in the background. Don’t miss the delicious faloodeh ice cream across the street.
Visit the Citadel of Arg of Karim Khan, located in the northeast of Shiraz. Arg of Karim Khan was built in 1767, where Karim Khan invited the best architects and artists of the time and bought the best materials from other cities and abroad for the construction of the citadel, which was quickly constructed. Tile works depicting legendary tales were added at the entrance gate of the citadel during the Qajar Period. After the fall of the Qajar Dynasty it was converted into a prison and the paintings were plastered over. Today, it is a museum operated by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization.
Continue to Eram Garden (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Eram Garden is a historic and monumental Persian garden in Shiraz. With its beautiful flowers, tall cypress trees and decorative plants as well as its amazing edifice, it is known for its beauties and aesthetic attractions resembling heaven. Since its construction and throughout the 18th century, it was predominantly used by the local rulers and Persian monarchs. The Pahlavi dynasty heavily invested in this Garden, renovating it to an internationally recognizable status. Today, Eram Garden is within Shiraz Botanical Garden of Shiraz University. Dinner. Overnight in Shiraz.
Visit the 14th century Jameh Mosque. The magnificent Jameh Mosque (Friday Mosque) with its tiled entrance portal is one of the tallest in Iran, flanked by two dazzling 48m-high minarets and adorned with an inscription from the 15th century. The exquisite mosaics on the dome and mihrab, and the tiles above the main western entrance to the courtyard are particularly stunning. The tile work has recently been skillfully restored and a modern library built to house the mosque’s valuable collection of books and manuscripts.
Visit the Eskandar Prison. Eskandar Prison is an ancient domed structure apparently known by this name as a result of a reference in a Hafez poem. It is alleged by some to have been built by Alexander the Great to hold his captives during his conquest of Persia, and alleged by others to have been built by the Persians to hold Alexander himself. Inside there is a museum with collection of archaeological artifacts that were dug up around the city. What really brings the museum to life, however, is the staff of traditionally trained artisans who are on hand to show off their skills, by working the old wood framed looms and throwing clay pots to demonstrate the crafts that made the city famous throughout Persia and along the old Silk Road to China.
Visit the 13th century Amir Chakhmagh Complex. The stunning three-storey facade of this religious complex makes it one of the largest such structures in Iran. Its rows of perfectly proportioned sunken alcoves are at their best, and most photogenic, around sunset when the light softens and the towering exterior is discreetly floodlit. In front of the complex, look out for the huge wooden palm Nakhl, an important centerpiece once used for the observance of the Shiites’ passionate Ashura commemorations.
Visit the Yazd Atashkadeh Fire Temple, where Zoroastrians from all over the world come to see the sacred fire that has been burning without interruption for 1,500 years. Yazd has long been a center of the Zoroastrian faith and the Ateshkadeh Fire Temple is considered a holy Zoroastrian temple which is home to Atash Bahram (Victorious Fire). The name Atash Bahram defines the grade of consecrated fire in the temple, which involves the gathering of different types of fire from 16 different sources. In the outlying southern suburbs of the town are a pair of defunct Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, where the bodies of believers were once left to the vultures after death.
Drive to Isfahan, the Iran’s number one tourist destination. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city, and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture.
Visit the Siosepol Bridge. The Siosepol Bridge, translated as the bridge of 33 arches, is one of the most famous bridges in the world, renowned for its beauty and for the remarkable architecture, and one of the most famous sites in Iran. It was constructed by the Allahverdi Khan Undiladze, the chancellor of Shah Abbas I, and consists of two rows of 33 arches from either side, left and right. There is a larger base plank at the start of the bridge where the Zayandeh River flows under it, supporting a traditional Tea House. Dinner. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Isfahan.
Visit the Safavid Garden Palace of Hasht Behesht (The Eight Paradises). The Hasht Behesht conveys the meaning of the entrance gate of Paradise and this name was chosen to attribute the elegances of this Palace. It was built in 1669 in the center of Baghe Bolbol (The Nightingale Garden), and of more than 40 mansions which existed in Isfahan during the rule of the Safavids, this is the only one left today. The gardens of Hasht Behesht are well used by the Isfahanis for family strolls, picnics and other leisure activities.
Visit the Naqsh’e Jahan Square (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the second biggest square in the world (after Beijing’s Tianamen Square). During the reign of Shah Abbas I and his successors, this square was an area where festivities, polo, dramatics and military parades took place. This immense square is nearly 1,700ft long – twice the size of Red Square in Moscow, seven times the size of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The square is depicted on the back of the Iranian 20,000 Rial banknote. Dinner. Overnight in Isfahan.
Stop at Kashan town and visit the 19th century Boroujerdis House. The Boroujerdi House is a historic house in Kashan, located on Alavi Street. The house was built by architect Ostad Ali Maryam Kashani, at the order of a wealthy merchant, Haj Seyed Hassan Natanzi (who was nicknamed Boroujerdi because of the trade he did with the city of Boroujerd). The unique features of the House have resulted in a minimal amount of renovation and alteration of the original structure.
Continue to Fin Garden. Fin Garden is a historical Persian garden, and it contains Kashan’s Fin Bath, where Amir Kabir, the Qajarid chancellor, was murdered by an assassin sent by King Nasereddin Shah in 1852. In keeping with many of the Persian gardens of this era, the Fin Garden employs a great many water features. The canals are lined with blue-green tiles, a color which contrasts wonderfully with the desert outside the garden walls.
Continue to Tehran. With its relatively short history, sometimes choking smog and manic streets flowing with cars, many travelers, and no small number of Tehranis will tell you there’s no reason to hang around in the capital. But to take their advice is to miss out. For while Isfahan or Persepolis has a convincing case for being the soul of Iran, Tehran is indisputably its big, chaotic and dynamic beating heart. Packed onto the lower slopes of the Alborz Mountains, this is Iran’s most secular and liberal city. Expect a range of ethnic and international restaurants, teahouses, chic cafés and plenty of art galleries.
Take a tour of the National Museum of Iran. It is the best place to see the history of the Persia through preserved ancient and medieval Persian antiquities. This modest museum is no Louvre, but it is chock-full of Iran’s rich history. Designed by French architect André Godard and completed in 1928, it’s one of the more attractive modern buildings in Tehran, blending Sassanian principles such as the grand iwan style entrance with Art Deco style brickwork. Inside is a collection, including ceramics, pottery, stone figures and carvings, mostly taken from excavations at Persepolis, Ismail Abad (near Qazvin), Shush, Rey and Turang Tappeh. Farewell dinner. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Tehran.
THE FEATURED TIER PRICE OF 1,130 USD PER PERSON IS BASED ON GROUP SIZE OF 10 PERSONS IN 3 STAR HOTELS
all transfers according to a program in a 17 seater bus with A/C; accommodation in a DBL room in 3 star hotels (10 nights: 2 nights in Yerevan with an early check-in on arrival day, 1 night in Goris, 1 night in Tabriz; 2 nights in Shiraz; 1 night in Yazd; 2 nights in Isfahan; 1 night in Tehran); meals HB (breakfasts & dinners); foreign speaking guide services; local guide services; 1 country map per person; 1 bottled water per person per day; entrance fees to museums and temples; duduk playing at Garni Temple; wine tasting in Areni; “Wings of Tatev” cable ride; Tabriz-Shiraz domestic flight ticket; 1 free of charge place for a tour leader.
PRICE DOESN’T INCLUDE
airfare; entry visas; insurance; alcohol during the meals; all additional tours not mentioned in the program; tips.