from $2,265

GEORGIA, ARMENIA & IRAN TOUR

ARRIVAL TO TBILISI & DEPARTURE FROM TEHRAN

15 DAYS | 14 NIGHTS

This 15 days/14 nights journey is showcases you all the glories of Georgia, Armenia and Iran, from the legendary sights to the hidden gems of local lives. They are the iconic witnesses of time long past, this is where Europe and the Middle East meet with Central Asia. Follow in pilgrims’ footsteps and explore the history, spirit and the diversity of the region. These three countries have spectacular natural beauty, mountain monasteries, ancient trade route caravanserais, unique cuisine, and much more. If you’ve never been near this route, you need to try this!  

DAY 1  TBILISI
Arrival to Tbilisi International Airport Airport by Qatar Airways in the afternoon. Meet your Travel Agency representative in Georgia. Transfer to the hotel. Check in. Start exploring Tbilisi, the capital and the largest city of Georgia.

Stop by the Abanotubani District, renowned for its sulfur baths. In the heart of Tbilisi’s old town, the district of Abanotubani is perhaps one of the city’s iconic spots. The blue tiles of the Orbeliani Bathhouse recall the grandeur of the Silk Road cities such as Samarkand and the domes from the numerous bath houses dot the square, whose purpose is reinforced by the sulfurous scented air in the neighborhood. These subterranean bathhouses date back to the 17th century and have been a favorite for travelers to the city, whose more famous bathers have included Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas.

Take a cable car to the 4th century Narikala Fortress, and get a superb panoramic view of Tbilisi, with its hanging houses, the historic Metekhi Church and the gold-topped Sameba Cathedral. Views also sweep down to the glass Peace Bridge, the gorge of the River Mtkvari and the picturesque spurs of the Trialeti Range. Take a walk along the fortress, and you’ll pass by the feet of the Mother Georgia monument, the celebrated symbol of Tbilisi. Lunch.

Continue to Sioni Cathedral. The first church on this site was built by King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century and has been rebuilt several times since. The most significant relic of the cathedral is the venerated Grapevine Cross, which, according to a tradition, was forged by St. Nino, a Cappadocian woman who preached Christianity in Georgia in the early 4th century. The Cross of St. Nino, according to legend, is made from the vine branches bound with the saint’s own hair. Visit on a Sunday morning and enjoy the singing by the Sioni Boys’ Choir.

Continue to the 13th century Metekhi Church and monument to Vakhtang Gorgasali, the legendary founder of Tbilisi. Stroll through the Shardeni Street, an area with cozy cafés, wine tasting bars and souvenir shops. Stop by the Bridge of Peace over the Mtkvari River and take a leisurely stroll along Rustaveli Avenue. Dinner. Overnight in Tbilisi.

DAY 2  TBILISI - MTSKHETA - GORI - UPLISTSIKHE - TBILISI
Breakfast. Drive to Mtskheta and Jvari Complex. Mtskheta is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has been Georgia’s spiritual heart since Christianity was established here in about 327 AD, and holds a near-mystical significance in Georgian culture.

Visible for miles around on its hilltop, overlooking Mtskheta from the east, the Jvari Church is, to many Georgians, the holiest of holies. The Jvari stands where the King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross, soon after his conversion by St. Nino in the 4th century. Between 585 and 604 AD, the Stepanos I, the duke of Kartli, constructed the church over the cross.

Visit the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, where the Robe of Jesus Christ is believed to be buried. Apparently a Mtskheta Jew, Elioz, was in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion and returned with the Robe to Mtskheta. Christ’s robe is believed to be buried in the nave beneath a square, and one of the greatest religious holidays of Georgia, the Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba is dedicated to the Svetitskhoveli and the Robe of Christ. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Continue to Joseph Stalin’s birth place in Gori. Gori has long been synonymous with just one man: this is the town where the Joseph Stalin was born and went to school. The large museum devoted to Stalin, is still Gori’s best known attraction, but there are also several intriguing older historical attractions close by. Lunch.

Visit the cave town of Uplistsikhe. Uplistsikhe is an ancient rock-hewn town, which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center of pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a Sun Goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity. Return to Tbilisi. Dinner. Overnight in Tbilisi.

DAY 3  TBILISI - ANANURI - GUDAURI - JVARI PASS - KAZBEGI - GERGETI - TBILISI
Breakfast. Take the Georgian Military Road across the Caucasus Mountains. Built by the Russians in the 19th century, the Georgian Military Road was a major route through the Caucasus from Georgia to Russia, and it passes through the narrow gorges, squeezed between colossal mountains, which makes for some awe-inspiring views.

Visit the 17th century Ananuri Castle. This fortress with its churches, was the seat of power of medieval Georgian dukes of Aragvi, and presently, it is one of the most scenic fortresses of Georgia. It’s lovely to walk around it as well as on the walls of the castle. You may even climb up to the tallest of the fortress towers for fine views.

Continue to the ski resort of Gudauri, whose bare hillsides make for Georgia’s best downhill ski runs, and stop at the Jvari Pass. The Jvari Pass starts about 4 km after Gudauri, at 2,379m above sea level, and takes its name from a cross placed here by King David the Builder. The present red stone cross, about 500 meters to the east above the road, was erected by Russian General Yermolov in 1824.

Continue to Kazbegi. Kazbegi is a valley town at about 1,750m above sea level, just a few miles short of the Russian border, with the famous hilltop silhouette of Gergeti Trinity Church and the snowy peak of Mt. Kazbek towering to the west. Mount Kazbek is associated in Georgian folklore with Amirani, the Georgian version of Prometheus, who was chained to the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals. Lunch.

Visit the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church, near the village of Gergeti. During the dark times, the precious relics from Mtskheta, including St. Nino’s Cross were taken here for safekeeping. Hiking to Gergeti takes between 1 and 2 hours one way, and the difficulty depends on the path you take. For those, who prefer not to walk, you can rent a Jeep for an extra charge to make it up the hill. Return to Tbilisi. Dinner, featuring Georgian folklore show. Overnight in Tbilisi.

DAY 4  TBILISI - BAGRATASHEN - HAGHPAT - DILIJAN - LAKE SEVAN - YEREVAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Georgia-Armenia border and arrive at Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border crossing. After border formalities, change the guide and transportation. Start the Armenian part of the tour and continue to Alaverdi, the largest city in the Debed Canyon, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty.

Visit the 10th century Haghpat Monastery. This pearl of a monastery, perched on the lip of the Debed Canyon, has a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, along with Sanahin Monastery. These two magnificent monastic complexes are among the most outstanding examples of Armenian religious architecture. There is also a number of splendid khachkars (cross-stones) of the 11th-13th centuries standing on the territory of the monastery, the best known among them is the “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar, which has been standing there since 1273.

Drive to Lake Sevan via Dilijan, a resort town renowned for its charming nature and some traditional Armenian architecture. Stroll through the Dilijan’s Historic Center, the cobbled Sharambeyan Street, with its collection of stone and wooden traditional buildings, shops, restaurants, souvenir stalls and workshops. Lunch.

Continue to Lake Sevan. Lake Sevan is one of the highlights of a visit to Armenia. The lakeshore is lined with sandy beaches, some teeming with activity and resorts, offering water sports such as sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing, and some quiet and secluded. Lake Sevan’s proximity to Yerevan, coupled with its cooler summer temperatures, outstretched blue waters and historic sights make it one of Armenia’s key places to visit.

Walk up to the 8th century monastery of Sevanavank on Sevan Peninsula, one of Armenia’s iconic landmarks. Sevanavank is perhaps the most photographed part of the lake. The conical towers of the monastery set against the backdrop of the turquoise lake and blue sky may look idyllic, but it was once a place of penance, a place of exile for monks from the religious capital of Echmiadzin who were guilty of sinful acts. Continue to Yerevan. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.

DAY 5  YEREVAN - GEGHARD - GARNI - SYMPHONY OF THE STONES - YEREVAN
Breakfast. 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.

Lunch at the local village house, featuring traditional Armenian bread lavash making process. Throughout the ages, lavash have not only occupied the highest place in Armenian cuisine, but also acquired the sacramental meaning, symbolizing the soul of Armenian people. In 2014, “Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Take a trip down to Garni Gorge. The Goght River in Armenia carves through this beautiful, eye-catching gorge, referred to as Garni Gorge and located next to a village with the same name. To get to the bottom of the gorge breathtaking vertical cliffs, visitors must walk or take a 4×4 car, as the local buses in the area do not make trips down there. The cliffs themselves are extremely beautiful, consisting mainly of well preserved basalt columns. Those orderly octagonal columns look almost like an organ, that is why they are called “Symphony of the Stones”.

Return to Yerevan. Start exploring Yerevan, the Armenia’s capital city and one of the oldest cities in the world. Stop at the Victory Park and Mother Armenia monument to get a spectacular view of the Biblical Mt. Ararat with a panorama of central Yerevan.

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 renowned 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. Be sure to return to Republic Square after dark to see the “Dancing Fountains”, a choreographed water show synched with lights and music. Dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.

DAY 6  YEREVAN - ECHMIADZIN - ZVARTNOTS - YEREVAN
Breakfast. 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. Lunch.

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. Continue to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on the hills of Tsitsernakaberd. The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex houses both the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial. The museum offers an account of the 1915 genocide in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished while Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire.

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.

Stop at the popular fruit market “Shouka” to buy traditional sweets and dry fruits. You will be greeted by vendors of all types asking you to sample their goods – from delicious homemade dried fruits stuffed with nuts, paper thin fruit lavash and grape sujukh (local walnuts threaded on string and dipped in grape molasses) – right through to fresh lavash bread, an organic fruit and vegetables. Dinner, featuring Armenian folk music. After dinner, return to Republic Square to see the “Dancing Fountains”, a choreographed water show synched with lights and music. Overnight in Yerevan.

DAY 7  YEREVAN - KHOR VIRAP - NORAVANK - ARENI - TATEV - GORIS
Breakfast. Drive to the Khor Virap Monastery, where the Mt. Ararat reveals its breathtaking size and splendor. The monastery is located a few hundred meters from the border with Turkey, on the banks of the river Araks, right at the foot of the Mt. Ararat. Khor Virap is one of the most popular destinations in Armenia for a number of reasons, primarily because it is where the St. Gregory the Illuminator, the future head of the Armenian Apostolic Church was imprisoned here for 13 years. To this day you can visit the underground chamber which he was imprisoned in, located in the St. Gevorg Chapel, apart from the main church.

Continue to the masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture, the 14th century Noravank Monastery. Set in a 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. Lunch. 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.

Drive 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.

DAY 8  GORIS - MEGHRI - AGARAK - JOLFA - TABRIZ
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to the Armenia-Iran border. Pass through Meghri town and arrive at the Agarak-Nordooz border crossing. Strategic Meghri, Armenia’s toehold on Iran, is worth exploring for its fine stone houses and stark but beautiful scenery. The town sits deep in the rocky, lushly irrigated gorge of the Meghri River surrounded by sawtooth peaks. After border formalities, change the guide and transportation. Start the Iranian part of the tour and continue to Tabriz.

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. Lunch.

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.

DAY 9  TABRIZ - SHIRAZ
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Start exploring Tabriz, the second largest city of Iran and important commercial center of Persia since antiquity. Tabriz is situated at the crossroads of the Middle East and the Caucasus and was a classic stop along the famed Silk Road.

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. Lunch.

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.

DAY 10  SHIRAZ - PERSEPOLIS - SHIRAZ
Breakfast. Drive to Persepolis, one of the most majestic ancient monuments in the world, the capital of the Achaemenid Kings of Persia (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Founded by Darius I in 518 BC, the magnificent Persepolis embodies the greatest successes of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, and also its final demise. The monumental staircases, exquisite reliefs and imposing gateways leave you in no doubt how grand this empire was, just as the broken and fallen columns attest that its end was both emphatic and merciless.

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. Lunch.

Visit Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque. Built by the order from one of the lords of the Qajar Dynasty, Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al-Mulk, it took 12 years to complete in 1888. Its interior reveals a magnificent masterpiece of design with stunning colors. The designers used extensively stained glass on the facade and other traditional elements such as panj kāseh-I (five concave), which create a breathtaking effect of the interior, like standing in a kaleidoscope. Once the sunlight hits the stained glass, the entire building is flooded by a vibrant rainbow of colors.

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.

Visit the Shah-e-Cheragh Mausoleum, where lies the tomb of Amir Ahmad and his brother Mir Muhammad, sons of the seventh Imam and brothers of Imam Reza. The brothers’ tombs, became celebrated pilgrimage destinations in the 14th century, when the pious and art loving Queen Tashi Khatun erected a mosque and theological school by the tombs. After carrying out essential repairs, the queen ordered the tomb to be covered with millions of pieces of colored glass that glitter in the light and magnify its brilliance a thousand times. Shah-e-Cheragh is one of the most beautiful mosques and an important pilgrimage center of the city of Shiraz. Dinner. Overnight in Shiraz.

DAY 11  SHIRAZ - PASARGAD - YAZD
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Visit the ruins of the Ancient Persian city of Pasargad (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Pasargad was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great who had issued its construction (559–530 BC), as it was also the location of his tomb, the most important monument in Pasargad. Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians tell that Alexander believed it was. Lunch.

Drive to Yazd, an architecturally unique city and the center of the Zoroastrian culture. The scenery on the journey will range from green valleys to jagged mountains, and a flat deep desert with some moonscape vistas. Arrive in Yazd. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Yazd.

DAY 12  YAZD - ISFAHAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Start exploring Yazd, a home to Iran’s second largest population of Zoroastrians. The ancient city of Yazd can lay claim to being one of the oldest, continuously inhabited places on earth. In the course of history due to its distance from important capitals and its harsh natural surrounding, Yazd remained immune to major military conflicts and destruction from wars, therefore it kept many of its traditions and architecture until recent times.

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. Lunch.

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.

Stop by the Narin Castle, a mud brick castle in the town of Meybod. Structures like these constituted the government stronghold in some of the older (pre-Islamic) towns of central Iran. Some of these castles incorporate mud bricks of the Medes period and of the Achaemenid and Sassanid dynasties. Explore the old part of Naeen desert city. After the advent of Islam, the city became a rest stop for caravans crossing the desert. Arrive in Isfahan. Dinner. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Isfahan.

DAY 13  ISFAHAN
Breakfast. Visit Chehel Sotoun (The Forty Pillars). Built in 1647, Chehel Sotoun is a pavilion in the middle of a garden, covering 67,000 square meters at the far end of a long rectangular shaped pool, built by Shah Abbas II to be used for the Shah’s entertainment and receptions. The name, “Forty Columns,” was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the waters of the fountain, are said to appear to be forty. The palace is now a museum of Safavid paintings and ceramics, which attracts numerous visitors.

Stop by the Ali Qapu Grand Palace. Built at the very end of the 16th century as a residence for Shah Abbas I, this six-storey palace also served as a monumental gateway to the royal palaces that lay in the parklands beyond (Ali Qapu means the “Gate of Ali”). Named for the Abbas’ hero, the Imam Ali, it was built to make an impression, and at six storeys and 38m tall it certainly does this. On the upper floor, the music room is definitely worth the climb. The stucco ceiling is riddled with the shapes of vases and other household utensils, cut to enhance the acoustics. This distinctive craftsmanship, considered by some to be one of the finest examples of secular Persian art, extends to the walls.

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.

Visit the Vank Cathedral in Isfahan. Holy Savior Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Saintly Sisters, is one of the largest and most beautiful churches of Iran. It was one of the first churches to be established in Isfahan by Armenian immigrants settled by Shah Abbas I after the Ottoman War of 1603-1605. Church construction is believed to have begun in 1606, and completed with major alterations to design between 1655 and 1664 under the supervision of Archbishop David. The interior is covered with fine paintings and gilded carvings and includes a wainscot of rich tile work. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation of the world and man’s expulsion from Eden.

Visit the Khaju and Siosepol bridges. The Khaju Bridge, or Pol-e-Khajoo in Isfahan, was built in the 17th century by Shah Abbas II. Besides having a beautiful golden look during the night, the bridge also serves as a dam, with sluice gates under the archways. At the center of the bridge, there are two large pavilions, called the Prince Parlors, that were originally reserved for the Shah.

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. Overnight in Isfahan.

DAY 14  ISFAHAN - KASHAN - TEHRAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. Drive to Tehran. En route to Tehran 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.

Arrive in 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. Check into hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Tehran.

DAY 15  TEHRAN
Breakfast. Check out from hotel. 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.

Visit the Golestan Palace. The Golestan Palace in Tehran is on top of the list when it comes to must-sees in Iran. The “Palace of Flowers” is a true masterpiece of the Qajar era, one the oldest of all historic monuments in the capitol of the Islamic Republic and since mid 2013 listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering 17 palaces, museums, and halls in total, this place with all its detailed ornaments, massive wind towers and golden cupolas embodies the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences.

Take a tour of the famous Grand Bazaar. Historic, expansive, and dizzying, Tehran’s Grand Bazaar should be at the top of any bargain-hunter’s agenda. The bazaar consists of over 10 kilometers of labyrinthine covered alleys, and is divided up into sections selling different types of product. Everything imaginable is up for sale here: of particular note are the jewelry and carpet sections. The frenzied atmosphere may not be every shopper’s cup of tea, but the Grand Bazaar offers a tour de force of Iranian market life, and there are plenty of teahouses and eateries around for a moment’s respite. Lunch.

Visit Iran’s National Jewelry Museum.The national treasury of the jewelry of Iran, namely the Treasury of Royal Jewelry was established in Tehran in 1955 in order to take care of the national jewelry of Iran. Most of the royal jewelry of Iran is in display in this museum from Safavid, Afsharid, Ghajarid and Pahlavid dynasties such as the Darya-ye-Noor diamond (the Sea of Light), Naderi Paisley, the crown of Queen Farah Pahlavi, Kiyani crown, the gemmed globe, the Peacock bed (Ghajarid) (The Sun bed), and the Naderi bed.

Light dinner (sandwiches). Transfer to Imam Khomeini International Airport. Departure from Tehran by Qatar Airways in the evening.

THE FEATURED TIER PRICE OF 2,265 USD PER PERSON IS BASED ON GROUP SIZE OF 15 PERSONS IN 4 STAR HOTELS

PRICE INCLUDES

all transfers according to a program in a 32 or 45 seater bus with A/C; accommodation in a DBL room in 4 star hotels (14 nights: 3 nights in Tbilisi, 3 nights in Yerevan, 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, lunches & dinners); English speaking guide services; 1 country map per person; 1 bottled water per person per day; entrance fees to museums and temples; Kazbegi Jeep rentals; local transfer to Garni Gorge; 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.

 

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