Classical Persia: An Intense Emotion
8 days/ 7 nights
“Classical Persia: An Intense Emotion” opens us a cultural window into a world that dates back to the birth of human civilization.
Few places in the world, like Iran, are able to offer us the opportunity to relive history and, thus, understand the modern Middle East. Persian culture is presented through popular sites, such as markets, as well as architecture and archaeology. Travelling is the only way to discover the mesmerizing wonders that reveal themselves to our eyes during the tour. Passing through Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran and Kashan we have no choice but to admire a land full of beauty that narrates, with a seductive charm, a genuine history inherited from the Persian Empire. During the trip to Iran, the traveler’s eyes wander through the picturesque scenes of Persian Gardens and other varied landscapes. In Iran, the greatness of Persian civilization is reconciled with the hospitality of its people.
All in all, it is necessary to know how to observe well and get involved in this poetic and fairytale atmosphere where the dreamlike world of “A thousand and One Nights” is relived with the contemplation of places and faces that the visitor will discover throughout his journey in Iran. Human relations and greetings accompanied by smiles make this country a fascinating and contradictory land. The most surprising point of the trip to Iran will undoubtedly be the friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people who leave one of the most unforgettable memories in the hearts of travelers. A memory that sometimes even surpasses antiquity and Iranian history. Due to its dry continental climate, the itinerary “Classical Persia: An Intense Emotion” is possible all year round.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||IKA International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.|
1° Day; Country of origin - Tehran
Departure by scheduled flight to the capital of Iran, Tehran, located at the foot of Mount Alborz. Welcome and greetings by SITO TRAVEL’s tour guide at the airport. Transfer to hotel and check-in.
2° Day; Tehran - Shiraz
Starting the trip with a full day city tour in Tehran, the most dynamic and effervescent city of Iran. With a population of over 8 million, this bustling city reflects its complexity in a chaotic atmosphere like any other metropolis. However, Tehran is a cornerstone of modern history as it offers its extraordinary museums to travelers among which are National Jewelry Museum that has the most important collection of precious jewels in the world.
Iran’s concern of artistic developments, recent architectural interventions and the revival of many traditional style cafes has made the city a fascinating labyrinth that holds a surprise for visitors at every corner. In order to discover the real Tehran, one must not be fulfilled with only visiting the museums, but also it is highly recommended to dive into the urban bustle, enjoying the contrast between modernity and tradition present in its many cafes and bazaars. It is the only way to get to know its culture and the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the metropolis.
After breakfast, we will walk through the streets of Tehran, to discover its particularly unique rhythm.
- National Museum of Iran exhibits history, art and culture through archaeological findings from the sixth millennium BC to the Islamic era, the 7th century AD. There is a wonderful collection of ceramics, pottery and bronze in this museum and, in addition, every six months, a temporary exhibition is organized with the most valuable archaeological objects, borrowed from other museums such as Venice, Berlin, etc.
- Golestan Palace, located near the Grand Bazaar, is a remarkable complex that has its roots in the 16th century, when Tehran slowly transformed from a simple village into a real city. Golestan means “garden of flowers”, a name that honors wonderful Persian Gardens in the place. The contemporary Iranian history is so indebted to this complex where Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was crowned claiming himself the successor to Cyrus the Great. Next, we visit the entrance to Tehran Grand Bazaar where, among its 10 kilometers of galleries, is possible to find any imaginable object.
- National Jewelry Museum (open only from Saturday to Tuesday) is located in a large vault with a 25 cm thick door in the basement of the Central Bank of Iran. The museum houses royal jewels, precious stones, a globe set with gems, a variety of tiaras, the crowns of the Pahlavi and Qajar dynasties, and the world’s largest pink diamond, Darya-e Nour (182 carats). This diamond was brought to Iran as a symbol of Nader Shah’s victorious campaigns in India in 1739.
Transfer to Mehrabad Airport to catch the domestic flight Tehran-Shiraz. Arrival in Shiraz. Transfer to hotel and overnight stay.
3° Day; Shiraz - Persepolis - Naqshe Rostam - Shiraz
The city of Shiraz is the capital of the administrative region of Fars or Pars. A single moment of reflection on the last word is enough to realize that we are in the geographical heart of Iran’s history where the Persians built Parse, also known as Persepolis: the city of the Persians. The historical relevance of the region is not limited to the Achaemenid era, as Shiraz covers a vast historical axis that goes from the 4th century BC to the 1700s. In Shiraz, Persian poetry becomes truly tangible; the gardens, bazaars and mosques of its historic center, steeped in culture, embraces every visitor. The city’s inhabitants take refuge in their homes at noon to reappear around the Arg Citadel in the afternoon, where activity continues until late at night. The people of Shiraz are known for their taste for nature and picnic and are considered to be the liveliest and funniest people in the whole country.
To discover the Dionysian atmosphere of Shiraz (the name of the city says it all, as it refers to the shape of a snake), the traveler should not miss visiting the tomb of the Persian poet and mystic “Hafez” or wandering the alleys of the Vakil Bazaar where so many European traders came in search of the famous product of the god Bacchus.
After breakfast, the morning is dedicated to an excursion to the great archaeological sites of Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam, admiring the Achaemenid archaeological remains from the 4th century BC and Sassanid from the 3th century AD. It is about 70 km from Shiraz. On the way back to Shiraz, we will discover some elements of medieval and Islamic period.
- Persepolis is a sacred city founded by Darius I the Great in 524 BC to celebrate Nowruz festival (New Day), the Persian New Year, on 21st March. Persepolis was conquered and burned by Alexander the Great in the revenge for Xerxes’ plundering in the Median wars. The excursion to Persepolis explains in details this majestic city, built by the best craftsmen of the world who received wages and insurance according to the royal law. In this place, we will come to a deep understanding of its architecture by contemplating the wonderful bas-reliefs of the Apadana Palace.
Among the ruins, we can visit its imposing palaces that never fail to impress travelers: the Palace of 100 Columns where the King used to receive the generals and the Audience Hall of the Apadana Palace with a square plan and six rows of columns, up to 19 meters high, which includes the brilliant anti-seismic system to hold the ceiling in case of shock. The access stairways depict Satrap’s processions and the imperial guards called the Immortal soldiers.
- Naghsh-e Rostam is a necropolis and a stunning place where the stone tombs of the great Achaemenid kings are still preserved. It is no exaggeration to say that this site is the richest one among all from the archaeological point of view in Iran since in this place lies a magnificent bas-relief of the Elamites, 1300 BC, particular forms of royal tombs inscriptions in ancient Persian, 400 BC, and finally the very important Sassanid documents and manuscripts of the Middle Persian, 300 AD. In a single archaeological site, one can contemplate the history of Iran from the Elamites till the defeat of Valerian, the Roman emperor, against Shapur.
Return to Shiraz:
- Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque: The term “elegance” finds its true meaning inside this sacred space with its splendid polychrome majolica tiles. The springtime of Shiraz is reflected surprisingly on the walls, stained glass windows and the exquisite tile decorations. This mosque, a masterpiece of the late 1900s, also known as the Pink Mosque, is a welcoming place where the chromatic world from the rose petals, iris and so on catches the eye at first glance.
- Tomb of Hafez: a Sufi mentor, the great poet of the 14th century A.D. The sweetness of Persian philosophy was born between the lines of Hafez’s poems. What immortalizes this poet is beyond the meaning of his poetry, his Sufi thought, which makes him outstanding for all readers. The surprise lies in the fact that Hafez’s words are related to Bacchus and Venus. Therefore, reading Hafez’s Divan is like taking a walk in his paradisiacal garden to understand the contradiction that exists between Dolce Stil Novo and modernity: it may seem a subversive poem!
- Vakil Bazaar: a unique construction that thanks to its brick architecture and vaulted roofs, fresh air circulates here in summer as well as in winter.
- Saray-e-Moshir Caravanserai: originally a traditional bazaar, it has been used as a museum and traditional restaurant and tea shop. After the Islamic Revolution it was closed for some years. It has become a place where handicrafts and products of all kinds are produced, located next to the Vakil Bazaar. A world of dreams that lets the imagination fly.
Dinner in a traditional restaurant, transfer to the hotel and overnight stay.
4° Day; Shiraz - Pasargadae - Isfahan
The purpose of a cultural trip is to enrich the traveler’s knowledge. Pasargadae, the first political and diplomatic capital of ancient Persia, makes it possible and also demonstrates sagacity of his brilliant general known as Cyrus the Great. He, the father of all Medians and Persians, celebrated the conquest of Babylon with a declaration defined as the basis of the first charter of human rights: the Cyrus Cylinder that is a clay document whose content also includes the freedom of the exiles as well as the Jews. The archaeological site of Ancient Persia, Pasargadae, among its ruins, highlights the simple square-shaped Tomb of Cyrus made of stone blocks, reminiscent of a Mesopotamian ziggurat at first glance. Cyrus the Great with the construction of the tomb wanted to respect his origins, that is, the ancient Iranian civilizations. In addition, he also managed to surprise Alexander the Great centuries after his death in the summer of 530 BC. It is said that in the inner chamber he had written a message to all conquerors including Alexander the Great who burst into tears after hearing his words:
“O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know you will come, I am Cyrus who won the Persians their empire. Do not therefore begrudge me this bit of earth that covers my bones.”
- On the way, we will make a visit to the archaeological site of Pasargadae, the first capital of the Persian Empire founded in 546 BC by Cyrus the Great during his reign. In Pasargadae, the real Pardis or Paradise was born: the “Persian Garden”. Among the monuments and ruins of the site, there are three royal palaces and a magnificent bas-relief: The Private Palace of Cyrus the Great, the Audience Hall and the Tomb of Cyrus. Pasargadae was once surrounded by two rivers that flowed through a peculiar irrigation canal into the Persian Garden and entered the city after having been purified.
Arrival in Isfahan in the evening, the capital of the Safavid dynasty in 1600. Transfer to the hotel and overnight stay.
5° Day; Isfahan
The highlight of the itinerary is Isfahan. This city is a historical image that completes the journey in Iran. It is no coincidence that Isfahan attracted Pasolini’s attention to shoot some scenes of his film in Naqsh-e Jahan square. There is a Persian saying: “Isfahan is half of the world.” In fact, the flourishing of Islamic-Iranian architecture was born here in Naqsh-e Jahan Square where the turquoise blue dominates the domes of mosques and the sky above. Over time, the former polo field was converted into the home of valuable art workshops. The Safavid era corresponds to the third Persian Empire which restored Iran’s power and established a new country based on political, religious and military relations. The presence of Vank Cathedral (also called St. Savior’s Cathedral), run by the Armenian Christian community since 1605 AD makes a good example of this city. However, the Safavid power was represented through art and thus, a phase of “Renaissance” of Persian civilization, culture and art was born in Isfahan. The Islamic Renaissance period in Iran sees artistic lightning under the rule of the Shah Abbas I (1587-1629). In Isfahan, in a matter of seconds, every traveler’s dream of Middle East comes true: Iran and the appeal of the Renaissance, Chehel Sotun Palace and the magnificent ceiling of the Music Palace of Ali Qapu Mansion.
Breakfast. The whole day is dedicated to visit the city walking through the streets of Naqsh-e Jahan Square and handicraft stores.
- Royal Square or Naqsh-e Jahan: (the image of the world) located in the center of the city, was redesigned by Shah Abbas I. There are two arches in the large central square of Naqsh-e Jahan (512 by 163 meters). On the southern side, there are many handicraft stores selling miniatures, turquoise work, enamels and traditional fabrics. Naqsh-e Jahan Square was home to an elite of merchants who sought artistic refinement. In the square, there are still the pillars that served to delimit the Polo field built 400 years ago.
- Queen’s Mosque or Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque: is a magnificent masterpiece of the Safavid era that stands in a harmonious atmosphere. Shah Abbas I selected the talented Iranian architect, Ali Akbar Isfahani, as the chief builder of the mosque which lasted almost 17 years. On the shah’s order, this mosque was dedicated to his father-in-law the Lebanese theologian who would later have a Koranic school in Isfahan. The architect Isfahani’s masterpiece put into practice an innovative pattern that never existed before. The mosque, in fact, has neither minarets nor internal courtyard, nor an ablution basin. The prestigious exterior and interior decoration, the play of lights towards the altar, the glory of the calligraphy with a background of the lapis lazuli and finally the complexity and beauty of the floral motifs under the dome have made Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque the most beautiful mosque in Iran.
- Royal Mosque: (today is known as Imam Mosque) puts before our eyes the genius of the architect Isfahani. Once you finish visiting the interior space of the mosque, in the middle of Naqsh-e Jahan Square – former Polo camp –, you can see the unusual grandeur of the minarets and a clever and completely voluntary deviation of the architect in order to create an aesthetic harmony with the square. The Imam Mosque is a unique masterpiece where every decoration and every particle finds its meaning in geometric symmetry. In this place, the inner courtyard is decorated with an ablution basin around which there are the four majestic iwans that represent the glory of the use of blue color in the sacred Islamic space. In addition to the decorative beauty of the two-layer dome – 36.3 m internal height and 51 m external height–, from southern iwan applies a peculiar system to amplify the sound or the calls of the adhan. It is advisable to walk there and listen to the pleasant echo of footsteps.
- Ali Qapu Mansion: the palace where the sovereign used to welcomed his guests. Ali Qapu Palace has six floors and a gate connecting the square to the Chehel Sotun Palace. From the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, you have a view of the palace terrace with its 18 columns. This masterpiece consists of the incorporated details such as the pond on the 5th floor, the stucco ceilings, the type of materials and ornaments used on the walls of the building which highlight the oriental world and, finally, the spiral staircase that leads up to the enchanting music hall decorated with stucco that depicts vases and other similar themes which together help to enhance the acoustic space of the hall.
- Chehel Sotun Palace: (40 Columns Palace) is the pavilion where the king held ceremonies. A few steps from the square, another magnificent Persian Garden shines in the courtyard of this palace that embraces one of the delights of the Safavid Renaissance: the pavilion is still alive in the heart of the Persian Garden as if the luxury of real life had never ceased there. In this place, we will see the masterpiece of miniature art which, by admiring the paintings and the stories they tell, open a door of culture and anthropology to familiarize us with the most important characters in the history of the Middle East in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Dinner at a restaurant and overnight at the hotel.
6° Day; Isfahan
Iran’s multi-ethnicity is a relevant factor in understanding Iran today. While some of today’s nomads have been living in the Iranian plateau for centuries, other ethnic groups such as Turkmens or followers of other religions, such as Christians, came to Iran for geopolitical reasons and recognized Iran’s tolerance towards other ethnicities and religions. One need only think of the particular case of the Armenians who were forced to move to Iran on the orders of Shah Abbas I. In fact, the Armenians of Jolfa region of Armenia, in the 1920s, left their homeland, devastated due to ongoing conflicts between the Ottomans and the Safavids, and after arriving in Isfahan, the Armenian patriarchate began a new socio-religious phase by setting up new headquarters and communities. The Jolfa district of Isfahan welcomed the Armenians, and Shah Abbas I, in a manuscript signed by himself, allowed them to establish new commercial and religious relations, giving them a certain freedom, fully supported by the Safavid court. The Armenians opened an important trade route in the heart of Isfahan, the Safavid capital. The headquarters of the Armenian caliphate was centralized mainly through the publication of new religious texts using the Gutenberg invention in Iran. The beauty of the architecture and the details of the murals in Vank Cathedral surprise any traveler.
- Vank Cathedral: and its adjoining museum tell the story of the Armenian diaspora who have lived outside their homeland for over 300 years. Iran not only knew how to welcome its guests, but also protected them from serious conflicts that threatened their social life in the Armenian neighborhood of Isfahan. Today, in the courtyard of the Vank Cathedral, the Armenians have opened a new museum of anthropology, with such precision and care, where you can immerse yourself in the real culture of a country so far, thanks to the information displayed in the galleries of these historical exhibits of the Armenian people. But this is not the end of the story since Vank Cathedral – not the only church in Isfahan – invites the Armenian community to religious celebrations and, most importantly, genocide commemorations. Every year on April 24, the Armenians gather at Vank Cathedral in order to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide in 1915. As you enter the elegant courtyard of Vank Cathedral, you will notice one of the most important Armenian historical monuments, dedicated to the deported Armenians.
- Jameh Mosque of Isfahan: passing through Isfahan means to be surprised and immersed in the local culture. To get from the Jolfa district to the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, we have to cross the Zayandehrud which defines the border between the two religious quarters of Isfahan. Crossing the Armenian quarter and entering the very popular district of the Jameh Mosque is one of the most important visits as we can admire the progress of Iranian-Islamic architecture that occurred from the seventh century until 1900. Therefore, it is not wrong to point out that Isfahan Jameh Mosque is the oldest and most complete of its kind in the whole country. Here, details are infinite and spaces are immense. In the 14th century, an exemplary model of altar, called the Oljato mihrab, was born in this mosque. The building has a complex stucco composition consisting of three-dimensional inscriptions blended in floral and geometric carvings. The mosque has two clearly recognizable spaces, even for inexperienced people: the interior and the exterior. The admiration of the monochromatic bricks inside and the turquoise blue outside is unavoidable. The transition from one space to the other allows us to travel back in time, especially when we are under the magnificent Taj al-Moluk dome, considered to be the most beautiful brick dome of Iran.
- At the end of the visits, we throw ourselves in the crowd. In Isfahan, as one visit ends, another begins, and the traveler unconsciously prepares to listen to the city’s narratives, as if Scheherazade were reading them directly from “the Arabian Nights”. Those who love to get lost in the alleys and spend time with the people, should know that it is time to enjoy walking among the stores with the scent of perfume and spices as there is a bazaar right at the main entrance of the mosque. After a 40-minute walk, you can reach Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Before following the covered corridors of the bazaar, one can satisfy his curiosity by visiting the synagogues of Isfahan’s Jewish community. This is speaking of multi-ethnicity in the true sense of the word and not easily found in other parts of the world.
- Visit the historic bridges over Zayandehrud: Si-o-Se Pol (33 Arches Bridge) and Khaju Bridge (Pol-e Khaju).
Free time. Dinner at a restaurant and overnight stay at the hotel.
7° Day; Isfahan - Kashan - IKA Airport in Tehran
Many trips are made to the Middle East as a destination and hundreds of beautiful places are visited. However, when we speak of the cradle of civilization, we are not referring to Persepolis or Isfahan but to Tape Sialk in Kashan, the site excavated by the French archaeologist Roman Grishman in the 1930s. In Kashan, a hill was discovered with the date belonging to 6000-5500 BC, which was considered as the first permanent human settlement after the caves. The history of Kashan is an endless book. Considering the first houses built by human beings until the construction of the ziggurat in 3000 BC, we can say that the most important museums in the world are indebted to Kashan for filling their shelves with the ceramic pieces of Tape Sialk and artistic masterpieces of utmost importance considering their antiquity.
In addition to the existence of its millenary hill, Kashan is also known for its 19th century villas, also called bioclimatic houses. It is necessary to know that Kashan has a desert climate and very hot summers. The invention of the city’s inhabitants led to the birth of a house in two or three different levels making easy to cool or heat the rooms depending on the season. The importance of the city is not only based on the variety of houses, but it is mainly known for the production of high quality rose water.
In fact, the trip to Iran now takes on its original scent of rose petals grown in the hills of central Iran. This beautiful city, located in a green oasis, still houses some of the most beautiful traditional houses in the area, such as the magnificent house of the wealthy merchant Tabatabai. During the visit, some details of a patriarchal house come to light, where the head of the family, father (pedar), gathers the children in the same villa in order to facilitate family access and economic management. Furthermore, this 19th century mansion highlights two criteria of Iranian-Islamic architecture: introversion and extroversion.
- In Kashan, there is also Bagh-e Fin, one of the most famous Persian gardens you can visit during the trip to Iran. The Fin Garden was designed by Shah Abbas I (1557-1629), as an earthly vision of Paradise. The concept of the Persian garden appeals to the soul only by listening to the melody of spring water overflowing into different canals. Today, the central pond called “camel’s throat” (Shotor Galu) is responsible to distribute water to all side channels, using the simple theory of communicating vessels. In 16th century, the Persian Garden in Iran became particularly important as Shah Abbas I chose it as the ideal place for the royal coronation when he ascended the throne. Two centuries later, the Qajar kings also chose the Persian Garden of Fin as the operational headquarters of the court. Among the greenery of Fin Garden, only cypresses and sycamore trees can explain the symmetry and elegance of its design. On the other hand, there are some extraordinary frescoes from the Qajar era. To find out the secrets of the garden, we need to pass by the Fin Bath (Hammam-e Fin), known for the suicide, or rather, the assassination of Amir Kabir, the reformer of Qajar government.
As the sun sets and its rays brighten, the route back to Tehran becomes more noticeable, as if the journey to Iran has just started. It is time to pack the suitcase, which returns loaded with excitement, enthusiasm and a lot of culture. Normally, travelers worry about the cost of overloading their luggage, and as the color of the sky darkens, they are thinking about how to arrange souvenirs and gifts; they like to buy everything from pistachios to fabrics and turquoise stones. There is no doubt that everything will fit, except one thing: the hospitality of the people we met in the markets, historical sites and restaurants. This image is engraved in their hearts and is an unforgettable memory that the traveler will carry with him everywhere. Above all, it will be a good incentive for all those who have enjoyed this trip to return to Iran for the second time.
Transfer to Tehran airport, dinner and overnight stay at IBIS hotel.
8° Day; Tehran - Destination Country
Transfer to Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) departing Tehran to destination country.