Tehran | City of Museums
Set out to explore the bustling, cosmopolitan capital of Tehran, a mountain-fringed city replete with 7,000 years of Persian history. Take a glimpse into its fascinating past when you view prehistoric and ancient artifacts at the National Museum of Iran, among them silver and bronze objects, manuscripts and tiles from various post-Islamic periods. Pause for lunch before continuing to the ornate, textile-filled Carpet Museum of Iran, taking note of its Iwan-style entrance with Art Deco-style brickwork, as well as the extensive collection of old and new Persian carpets and rugs. Return to your hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Rejoin fellow guests this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.
Tehran/Shiraz | Priceless Relics
Begin the day at the Reza Abbasi Miniature and Calligraphy Museum, where you gain insight into the arts of Persian pottery, miniature painting and calligraphy dating back to the second millennium. Proceed to the breathtaking Golestan Palace complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest historic monuments in Tehran. See its impressive Marble Throne Hall, the Shams-ol-Emareh (Sun Palace) and several of its other stunning galleries. At The National Jewelry Treasury — situated in the limited-access vaults of the Central Bank of Iran — marvel at the glimmering, priceless collection of crown jewels and gems. Transfer to the airport and board an evening flight to Shiraz. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
Shiraz | The “City of Roses and Nightingales”
Embark on a city tour of Shiraz, named for the wine once produced here. Discover some of its idyllic, iconic gardens, which inspired others from Andalusia to India and beyond, including historic Eram Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built during the 13th century. Later, visit Madrassa Khan, an active theological school, where you may have the chance to interact with teachers and students. Also view the beautiful pink-tiled, 19th-century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque; the garden-situated tomb of celebrated lyrical poet Hafez; and the Holy Shrine of Shah-e-Cheragh.
Persepolis | Ancient Archaeological Wonders
Set out on a half-day excursion to one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, Persepolis. Upon arrival in the expansive, ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings, see remains of the palaces of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, in addition to fabled bas-reliefs that depict kings, courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of the Persian Empire. Also, visit Naqsh-e Rustam to see the Kába-ye Zartosht (fire temple/sanctuary), Royal Tombs and seven magnificent Sasanian rock-reliefs, including one depicting Shapur the First’s victory over Roman Emperor Valerian. Return to Shiraz this afternoon, with time at leisure. Then, gather with fellow guests for a private visit to a Persian carpet shop to witness an ancient weaving demonstration, followed by the opportunity to browse.
Yazd | Discovering Pasargadae
Drive to Yazd, stopping en route at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pasargadae, where you see the impressive tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. Also, witness the remains of three palaces, set within the vast plain of Dasht-e-Morghab. Continue to the desert town of Abarkuh, where you observe its storied 4,000-year-old cypress tree before arriving in Yazd. The following day, explore Yazd, the center for Iran’s small Zoroastrian community. Visit one of the two abandoned Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, dating back to the 19th century. Until some 50 years ago, the dead were carried here and left to decompose as they were devoured by birds. See the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, its fire burning for about 1,500 years. Then, visit the Friday Mosque, noting its minarets, the highest in Iran. Observe the town’s beautiful old houses and the Dowlat-Abad Garden, an 18th-century hexagonal house with the highest badgir (wind-catcher) in Iran. Return to your hotel, where dinner is served this evening.
Isfahan | Persian Marvels
Spend the day driving to Isfahan, stopping en route in the mud-brick desert town of Meybod, to visit the crumbling Narein Castle dating back to Sasanian times. After taking in panoramic views of the town, visit an old ice house and intriguing pigeon house. Continue to Isfahan, and check in to your hotel. After settling in, gather with fellow guests for a private visit to a local gallery for a Persian miniature painting demonstration by an artist and professor at the local university. The next morning, embark on a full-day tour of picturesque Isfahan, the 17th-century capital of the Safavids. Visit the breathtaking Masjed-e Jāmé (Friday Mosque), the oldest congregational mosque in Iran. It stands as an impressive example of the evolution in mosque architecture, one spanning 12 centuries. Continue to the Armenian Quarter, site of the Vank Cathedral. After lunch, visit a local music museum, where you learn about ancient Iranian instruments, followed by an enriching, engaging demonstration by local musicians. At Chehel Sotoun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th century for entertaining and receptions — witness its 20 wooden columns as they reflect in the surface of the pool, as well as magnificent artwork depicting famous battle scenes from Persian history. Then, spend the remainder of the afternoon viewing some of Isfahan’s most iconic bridges: Khajou double-decker bridge and Si-o-Seh Pol, with its 33 arches. Spend your final morning in Isfahan at the Meidan Emam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you discover the Imam (Shah) Mosque, featuring brilliant, seven-color mosaic tiles; Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, showcasing magnificent architecture and tiles; and the Ali-Qapu Palace, known for its enchanting music rooms and balcony overlooking the famous square below. In the afternoon, explore the famed Qeisarieh Bazaar, which is filled with Isfahan’s storied arts and handicrafts. This evening, attend a private farewell dinner at your hotel.
Tehran | Unwinding or Departing
This morning, drive to Tehran, stopping en route in Kashan. Upon arrival, visit the Tabātabāei mansion, a picturesque, 19th-century merchant's house offering the chance to see how the wealthy lived amid gracious courtyards with verdant gardens. Continue to Tehran, where a room awaits prior to your departure this evening or tomorrow morning.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and depart for home.