Grand Tour, Culture

Ancient Wonders of Persia by Rail

30 April - 15 May 2018
Iran

Join us for a two week visit to the Ancient Wonders of Persia by rail. Persia, or modern-day Iran, has a rich archaeological heritage dating from thousands of years ago, much of which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Throughout our tour we will stay in top hotels, mainly 5-star, and travel on Iran Railways modern trains. We will be accompanied by a local guide and air-conditioned coach for the transfers to hotels and all our visits. Weather-wise, this is the best time of year to visit Iran, avoiding the extreme cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer.

All breakfasts and many lunches and dinners are included, but there are also ample opportunities for you to use local restaurants and fully enjoy the rich variety of food that can be found in Iran.

For those who like new rail adventures and love ancient culture and history, this trip has it all.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, or read about the experiences of clients who did the 2017 tour, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Itinerary

Monday 30th April (L) Overnight flight with British Airways departing Heathrow on Sunday evening, with an early morning arrival in Tehran. We have immediate access to our hotel rooms and have the morning free to relax and freshen up before meeting up again for lunch. This afternoon, we enjoy a sightseeing tour in Tehran, visiting Sa’dabad Palace. Free evening.

Tuesday 1st May (B,L,D) During our stay in Tehran, we shall visit the MAPNA Locomotive Company, and film studios with a replica of Old Tehran including a reconstruction of Tehran’s first railway.  Bridges have always been close to the heart of Iranian identity, and we could not miss seeing the futuristic Tabiat Bridge in northern Tehran. Built on three large pillars, the 270-metre curved structure has broad entrances, multiple pathways and three floors of restaurants and cafes and sitting areas. We end the day watching the sun set over Tehran as we dine in the revolving restaurant at the top of Milad Tower.

Wednesday 2nd May (B,L) This morning we have our first experience of Iranian Railways as we travel south to Isfahan. Isfahan is famous for its Persian–Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. In the afternoon we visit Vank Cathedral, established by Armenian deportees in the 17th century. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation of the world and man’s expulsion from Eden. Later we visit Siose Bridge, a double deck stone arch bridge built between 1599 and 1602, and the 17th century Khaju Bridge which are illuminated at night.

Thursday 3rd May (B) Naghsh-e Jahan Square is a UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site, built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century, and bordered on all sides by monumental buildings linked by a series of two-storey arcades. On the western side is Ali Qapu Palace, originally designed as a vast portal. From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler watched Chowgan (polo) and horse-racing. Also around the square are the Shah Mosque, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, both dating from the early 17th century, and the 1.5-mile-long Grand Bazaar. This afternoon is free for your own exploration of this fascinating town.

Friday 4th May (B,L) In our last morning in Isfahan, we visit Vank Cathedral, established by Armenian deportees in the 17th century. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation of the world and man’s expulsion from Eden. We also explore Chaharbagh School, a 17th – 18th century cultural complex built during the time of Soltan Hossein, a Safavid king. After lunch, we move on to Shiraz. Evening free in Shiraz.

Saturday 5th May (B) During our stay in this south-western city, we shall visit the 19th century Qavam House, built by a family of merchants to show their elegant and refined way of life. The house is surrounded by Eram Garden, one of the examples of the UNESCO listed Persian Gardens. These gardens exemplify the diversity of Persian garden designs that evolved and adapted to different climatic conditions while retaining principles that have their roots in the times of Cyrus the Great, 6th century BC. Afif Abad Garden is a symbol of the Iranian art of planting flowers. It is located in a wealthy area of Shiraz and contains a royal palace, a museum of old weapons and an Iranian garden.

Sunday 6th May (B,L,D) We move on to our next destination in our tour, the UNESCO listed ancient city of Yazd. On the way, we visit the hugely important site of Persepolis. Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site. We also have the chance to visit Naqsh-e Rustam, where the oldest relief dates to c. 1000 BC. Though it is severely damaged, it depicts a faint image of a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin.

Monday 7th May (B,L) We have a full day in Yazd, visiting several important sites including a water museum and the Amir Chakhmaq Complex. This is a mosque located on a square of the same name. It also contains a caravanserai, a tekyeh, a bathhouse, a cold water well, and a confectionery. At night, the building is lit up after twilight hours after sun set with orange lighting in the arched alcoves which makes it a spectacle. The Persian garden is well-known, and we will explore Dolata Abad Garden. Built in 1747, the walled complex includes the country’s tallest wind catcher, orchards & fountains. We also have an opportunity to visit a Zoroastrian fire temple

Tuesday 8th May (B) A day in Yazd. This morning we visit the famous bazaar and the historic centre. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore the city. Yazd has a unique Persian architecture. It is nicknamed the “City of Windcatchers” from its many examples. It is also very well known for its Zoroastrian fire temples, ab anbars, qanats, yakhchals, Persian handicrafts, handwoven cloth, silk weaving, Persian Cotton Candy, and its time-honoured confectioneries.

Wednesday 9th May (B,D) We once again experience Iranian rail travel as we catch the morning train back to the capital, Tehran. A free afternoon to explore the historic part of the city, from our base at a city centre hotel.

Thursday 10th May (B,L) The lavish Golestan Palace is a masterpiece of the Qajar era, embodying the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences. The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Teheran, became the seat of government of the Qajar family, which came into power in 1779 and made Teheran the capital of the country. It became a centre of Qajari arts and architecture of which it is an outstanding example and has remained a source of inspiration for Iranian artists and architects to this day. We also have lunch at the Grand Bazaar.

Friday 11th May (B,L) No trip to Persia would be complete without finding out about the famous Persia carpets! So important are they, that there is even a museum dedicated to them, and we will have the chance to learn about their history today in the museum. Another highlight today is the breath-taking Jewellery Museum of Iran, home to the most exceptional jewels in the country. The Crown Jewels of Iran are by far the largest and most dazzling jewel collection in the world. So valuable is the collection that it backs the Iranian national currency as a reserve.

Saturday 12th May (B,L) An early start today as we catch our train to Veresk, crossing the famous bridge and travelling on the line which has several loops to gain and lose height. We have a sightseeing tour around this area next to the Caspian Sea, and we will spend tonight in the city of Gorgan.

Sunday 13th May (B,L) In the morning we visit Bandar Torkaman on the Caspian Sea coast. This town is well-known for caviar, with 50% of Iranian caviar being extracted near here. A popular pastime here is horse-racing. Before catching our train back to Tehran, we also visit a cloud forest. Tonight, we stay in a hotel near the airport ready for our flight home tomorrow morning.

There will be a reasonable amount of walking on this trip, in particular when visiting historic sites where there may also be rough ground and steps. Iran is a large country, so there are long train journeys.  

Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person

• Including flight from LondonHeathrow (16 days): £3,575

• Own travel to/from Iran: £3,075

Options

• Single room Supplement: £350

Deposit

• £100 (balance of deposit due by 01/01/2018)

 

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Highlights
  • Our own reserved carriages on trains
  • Visits to sites of historical importance, many of which are UNESCO listed
  • Good quality hotels
  • Unique country
Price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • En-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted by a PTG Tour Manager and a local guide
Flights

Direct flights from Heathrow with British Airways to Tehran or with Air France, via Paris, from UK regional airports.