Trekking Through Historical Landscapes
13 days/ 12 nights
“Trekking through historical landscapes” is an ideal trip for nature lovers and those who want to contemplate particular landscapes of the high plains of Iran, explaining absolutely the reason for being in touch with the pure nature of Iran during this trip in addition to having the opportunity to visit historical sites of Ancient Persia. Be prepared for a magnificent experience that you will remember for a lifetime.
The tour starts with the unforgettable stay in Tehran, the modern capital of Iran, whose visit brings to mind what a megalopolis in the Middle East is like. After visiting Tehran, we will head towards the west and northwest of Iran where the slopes of Mount Alborz make the journey as pleasant as possible. This tour, in addition to the breathtaking landscapes, offers us the opportunity to discover places of worship and the world’s quintessential bazaar called the Bazaar of Tabriz. The city of Tabriz, nestled on the slopes of Mount Alborz, reveals itself to the visitor by its exuberant nature and rich Azerbaijani style architecture. This style defines, from the very first moment, an anthropological divergence due to the fact that the ancient Azeri language is mostly spoken in the region of Iranian Azerbaijan.
“Trekking through historical landscapes” is a dive into the pure nature of Iran through diverse colors, mountains, lakes and sites of great historical importance such as Alamut Castle and Sheikh Safi al-Din Shrine. Ardebil gives us the opportunity to deepen our knowledge about the philosophical and religious thought of the mentor Ishaq Safi-al-din Ardebili whose reputation is indebted to his religious ideology that later became the official religion of the Safavid dynasty. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the tour will be Masouleh Village near the Caspian Sea. This village located in the middle of the Alborz Mountains enjoys bioclimatic architecture. The northwest of Iran is considered a fertile area suitable for honey elaboration and pomegranate juice concentrate, as well as livestock.
|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
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.
- Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art: A beautiful complex that was inaugurated by Farah Diba in 1977 and closed in 1979 by the Islamic Revolution and only reopened after that. In its new phase, many paintings by international artists were stored in the basement of the museum as the Western contemporary art was considered depraved. After 36 years, in 2015, many of these works were re-exhibited. However, part of its holdings were destroyed. Among its most outstanding works is Jackson Pollock’s Mural on Indian Red Ground, considered by many art critics to be the artist’s best work.
Having visited the museum, we will head north of the city for a walk along Tochal Mount in the Darband district, a popular area full of traditional restaurants and tea houses.
Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
3° Day; Tehran - Alamut
Scenic route to the enigmatic Alamut Castle (Hasan Sabbah Castle), located among the mountains at the western edge of the Alborz mountain range, in a valley near Qazvin in the southern Caspian Sea. In the past, part of these mountains formed the Daylam district, where still is remote and wild. This area separates the central plateau of Iran from the Caspian Sea and constitutes a formidable natural barrier. On the northern side, the slopes are densely forested and there are wild animals such as wild boar, bear and some other species such as the Caspian tiger on the verge of extinction.
During the reign of the Achaemenids over the Persian Empire a 3000 kilometer road called the Royal Persian Road was built by the order of Darius I connecting various satrapies from present-day Iran to the Mediterranean Sea, passing through present-day Turkey.
The Royal Road was originally part of the major trade route, the Silk Road, stretched from the city of Ecbatana in Hamadan to the port of Izmir (Smyrna) on the Aegean Sea in Turkey. Darius I, during his reign, ensured constant control over the Royal Road so that he could guarantee the security and continuous connection between all the satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire. This road had several stops and it took ordinary passengers three months to go over, while the imperial messengers with fresh horses crossed it within nine days. This road served as the main link between the East and the West with Alexander the Great’s conquests in Asia Minor. In fact, he established the farthest city of the Macedonian Kingdom, Alexandria, along the road and opened a sea route from the Indus River delta to the Persian Gulf.
The routes of the Royal Persian Road, turned into the Silk Road today, have been very divergent according to the historical-economic conditions of the countries crossed: from the Far East, the Silk Road directed travelers toward Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran passing through Nishapur and Semnan to reach Tehran, Qazvin and Tabriz and then headed to the Aegean Sea. The origin of Qazvin dates back to the heyday of trade along the Silk Road in Iran. However, with the relocation of the Safavid capital from Tabriz to this city, it also became a political and commercial center.
Arrival in the valley of Alamut. Dinner and overnight stay at a traditional house.
4°; Day Alamut
The day is dedicated to the discovery of the enigma of Alamut Castle and the wonderful scenery of Avan Lake. A day full of history that is enriched by typical nature of the slopes of the Alborz Mountains. While walking, you should absolutely pay attention to what you hear around you as it is highly likely to have the opportunity to see the powerful and majestic flight of golden eagle that watches over the valley. Given the good circumstances for their habitat, the area is, in fact, recognized as the eagle’s nest.
The history of Alamut Castle is radically linked to that of Hassan Sabbah (1034 -1124). Hence, it will be useful to know about his ideology and religious doctrine as he was the leader of the Nizari sect. The power of the Nizari state, also called Hashshashin, whose fame is indebted to their strategy of targeted assassinations against political and military leaders, reached its peak during the Fatimid Caliphate. He was born in Qom in a Shiite Muslim family and received his religious education from an early age. At the age of seventeen, he converted to Ismailism, a sub-sect of Shiite Islam, which considers Imam Ismail as the seventh and last Shiite Imam and not his brother Musa ibn Jafar, whom the Twelver Shia recognizes as the successor of the prophetic lineage. The missionary of Ismailism is a very special person. He received intensive training in Ismaili doctrine and in his travels he sought new adherents to the Ismaili faith. He leaded an exemplary life in order to attract people with his piety. He behaved equally with people regardless of hierarchy and earned his living through different professions.
Hassan Sabbah is an Ismaili missionary or propagandist of this faith who gained so much fame especially in the northwest of Iran. The authorities pursued him and the vizier Nizam al-Mulk, with whom Hasan befriended, ordered to arrest him in other to prevent the proliferation of his revolutionary ideology, but he was killed by a follower of the faith. In 1090, Hassan Sabbah took the castle of Alamut and made it the center of the Ismailism. Despite the invasion of the Seljuk Turks and their small number, the Ismailis did not lose their independence in the castle in the Daylam Mountains for 166 years. Having lived among hostile populations, the Ismailis were often victims of massacres to which they responded with political assassinations and so-called “sacred crimes”, planned in Alamut. The practice of terrorism and the tendency to secrecy and esotericism have favored the development of legends and earned the Ismaili people pejorative epithets such as “hashashins” from which the word “assassin” is derived, misinterpreted as being derived from “hashish”.
The library, razed in the Mongol attack, and astronomical facilities of Alamut were famous. The Seljuks took over some of the Ismaili fortresses, but for seven years Alamut resisted the attacks. The castle consists of two parts: the upper for and the lower fort.With the death of Hassan Sabbah in 1124, the Seljuks took the control of the castle.
Dinner and overnight stay at a traditional house.
5° Day; Alamut - Qazvín - Masouleh
In the morning, departing for Qazvin to discover its magnificent historical sites:
- We will walk through the elegant Saray-e Sa’d al-Saltaneh, one of the most spectacular places in the traditional bazaar of Qazvin. This brick caravanserai contains several entrance gates, some of which are connected to the surrounding streets and others are connected to different parts of the bazaar. The entrance gates open into a vestibule of beautiful architectural style. There is a Chahar-Sough on the south side with a dome on top. Around this cross-shaped passageway, there are 16 chambers with a height of 1 meter and carved wooden doors.
- Chehel Sotoun, the Safavid pavilion, was originally part of the first Safavid palace complex in 1596, the only remaining construction from that period. In this pavilion, the decorative elements of the Safavid and Qajar dynasties are clearly distinguishable: tiles, mainly from the Qajar period, in the outside, and murals from the Safavid structure in the inside. In the development of architecture, the Chehel Sotoun Palace in Qazvin anticipates a particular style during the Safavid reign also in other cities of Iran such as Isfahan and Zanjan.
Departure to the Masouleh Village, located in the middle of the mountains, very close to Rasht, on rocky slopes. The peculiar architecture style of this village makes the roof of the lower houses the courtyard of the upper houses and the front areas of the houses and roofs are used as sidewalks. The materials used for the construction of the houses are local, mostly stone in irregular shapes with mud and lime. This type of housing represents the knowledge of past generations by adapting the geographical conditions to the building technology. Masouleh Village is one of the most picturesque villages in Iran that, under the constant control of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, has preserved its eco-architectural charm.
Dinner in a restaurant and accommodation in a traditional village house.
6° Day; Masouleh - Talesh - Subatan
Heading to the Caspian Sea, Talesh and the beautiful Subatan area.
The culture of the people of Gilan is very different from that of the Azeris because it comes from the Caucasian culture. Gilan Province enjoys pure nature, unspoiled landscapes, history and abundance of natural resources. As for gastronomy, the cuisines of the Caspian region makes this area one of the most outstanding, with an extensive variety compared to the rest of the country. In Gilan, we are going to taste typical dishes of this area that mostly include Iranian rice, fresh fish, goose or stew and marinated veal accompanied by aromatic herbs and tasty pomegranate sauce. Approximately 11 million people inhabit the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the main urban centers are located on the southern and western shores of Iran’s coastal cities.
Geographically, the Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world with a salinity of over 13.7%. Historically, the Caspian Sea was the border between Europe and the Middle East, a barrier that, over the centuries, has contributed to the intercultural exchange between people and inhabitants of its shores. The southern part, the Iranian coast, is formed by fine sand, slit and a series of marine terraces bordered by Mount Alborz. The biological diversity of the Caspian Sea with a high rate of endemism makes it one of the richest ecosystems in the world. It is worth mentioning that the Hyrcanian forests on the southern coast of this sea have been registered on the UNESCO Heritage List.
Finally, we should mention the most important fishery resource for the Caspian Sea economy, the sturgeon. The largest sturgeons measure more than 4 meters, weigh approximately 500 kilos and feed on crustaceans, mollusks and worms. Iranian caviar as well as pistachio and saffron create the most remarkable products of Iran.
Excursion to Rudkhan Castle (Qaleh Rudkhan). A castle belonging to the Sassanid era in the mountains whose ruins are still in good condition. Access to the castle requires a 50-minute walk along a stream between moss-covered rocks and steps to the castle entrance.
After lunch, departure to Talesh, 110 km from Rudkhan Castle.
Drive to Subatan, located at the top of Alborz Mount. Talesh is a coastal town bordered by the Caspian Sea on one side and the Alborz Mountains on the other. Talesh was the first Aryan settlement where they migrated from Siberia to Persia.
Dinner and overnight stay at a traditional village house.
7° Day; Subatan - Neur Lake - Khalkhal
After breakfast, we start hiking in the mountains, accompanied by our local guide, to Neur Lake. On the way, it is likely to meet nomads and their herds along the way. We will have a picnic lunch next to a waterfall, as well as other stops for coffee and rest. The route from Subatan to Neur Lake is one of the most famous trekking routes in Iran, a magnificent environment with splendid scenery and flowers, as well as trout fishing in Neur Lake.
Being a good habitat for one species of trout, rainbow trout, many tourists want to experience fishing in this lake. As a thick layer of ice covers the surface of the lake in the cold season, every year the fish in this lake are caught in advance of that time. However, the area enjoys pleasant weather in summer and, therefore, many travelers choose this place to relax in pure nature and try their talent in fishing. After approximately 8 hours of hiking, we will arrive at Neur Lake.
Dinner and overnight stay at a traditional house in Khalkhal
8° Day; Khalkhal - Ardebil - Sareyn
Departure for Ardebil. We will visit Sheikh Safi al-Din Khaneqah and Shrine Ensemble, mausoleum of the mentor of Islamic Sufi (15th century).
The history of the Safavids is highlighted through the mystical figure of Sheikh Ishaq Safi al-Din, mentor and master of Islamic Sufi brotherhood based in Ardabil, in present-day Azerbaijan, Iran. Sheikh Safi’s reputation is indebted to his religious ideology that later became the official religion of the Safavid dynasty. In fact, Shiite Islam and its development in Iran has its roots in the ideological study and school of thought of this mentor of Ardabil.
- Sheikh Safi al-Din Shrine is considered as one of the most important ones in Iran. During the Safavid period, many politicians, travelers, writers and merchants came from Germany, France and Britain to Iran to visit the city of Ardabil and wrote about this shrine. The construction of this shrine started in the early 16th century and completed the late 18th century. It is a Sufi spiritual retreat that uses traditional Iranian architectural forms. The builders made the most of the space to provide several sections that have served multiple functions including library, mosque, school, mausoleum, cistern, hospital, kitchens, bakery and some offices. The site incorporates leading to the shrine in seven segments reflecting the seven phases of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates representing the eight attitudes of Sufism. It also includes richly decorated facades and interiors, as well as a remarkable collection of ancient artifacts displayed in the side room next to the tombs of Sheikh Safi and Shah Isma’il, the founder of the Safavid dynasty.
Shah Isma’il had a remarkable talent in the military field. He succeeded in reunifying the existing bringing autonomous states, small monarchs or feudal states in the Iranian territory. Moreover, Shah Isma’il started a new phase of international relations with the Republic of Venice, the Papacy in Rome and France, in order to demonstrate his diplomatic interest in European countries.
On the other hand, the danger of Ottoman attack constantly threatened the Safavids and other Iranian dynasties until the defeat of the Ottomans in war conflicts.
Arrival in Sareyn. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
9° Day; Sareyn
Sareyn, the capital of Sareyn County, is located at 30 kilometers west of Ardebil. The fame of this city is indebted to its hot springs and spas near a dormant volcano of Mount Sabalan. The water of these springs contains sulfur particles, useful for bone and joint pains. The pleasant climate and hot springs are the first attractions for tourists traveling to this region. Lately a main street has been created which makes it easier to reach the village where you can buy honey and taste yugor soup (Ash-e Duq), the typical soup of the region. The day is dedicated to nature excursions, hot springs and purchase of herbs for infusions.
Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
10° Day; Sareyn - Kaleybar
Departure to Kaleybar, 310 km from Sareyn. Located in a steep valley, the town of Kaleybar is an ideal starting point for hiking and, with a touch of luck, meeting the nomads of the Aras Valley.
However, the biggest attraction of the area are the ruins of Babak Castle, named after its owner, Babak Khorramdin. This castle is a fortified complex built in the early 9th century. The castle was identified as the refuge of Babak Khorramdin, leader of the Khorramite movement who fought in Azerbaijan against the Abbasid Caliphate between the 8th and 9th centuries.
Rest in the afternoon in order to prepare for the next day’s excursion.
Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
11° Day; Kaleybar
The day is devoted to the visit of the impressive Babak Castle, named after its owner, Babak Khorramdin. Throughout the hiking, which takes almost 3 hours, it is advisable to wear boots, hat and have water. This fortress, also known as the Immortal Castle, is a fortified complex built in the early 9th century on the top of a mountain. The castle has been identified as the refuge of Babak Khorramdin. As such, the castle has become a symbol of Iranian nationalism. Every year, the castle becomes the meeting point of Iranians from Azerbaijan who gather at the foot of the castle during the commemoration of Babak Khorramdin. The festival falls on the first weekend in July.
The castle, built at an altitude of 2300-2600 meters, surrounded by deep gorges of 400-600 meters, is supposed to belong to the Parthian dynasty and some modifications were made during the Sassanid dynasty. To reach the castle it is enough to cross a narrow winding passage and pass through a temple in the form of a corridor, 200 meters long.
Return to Kaleybar. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
12° Day; Kaleybar - Tabriz
The region of Iranian Azerbaijan occupies a small territory compared to the total area of Iran. Azerbaijan region was a kind of international agora, which observed all the geopolitical movements of the Safavid and Ottoman empires, as well as the arrival of Christian evangelists for the propagation of Christianity. Tabriz has a fundamental role in the modern history of Iran as the initial phase of one of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution took place in this city.
Today Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province, is not only among the metropolises of Iran, but also considered as an important industrial center of tiles, tractors, textiles and carpets. It is also famous for the production of dried fruits. The foundation of this historic city dates back to 1500 BC whose few historic buildings remain standing due to tremendous earthquakes. In 2012, Tabriz was selected as the most beautiful city in Iran and was named the tourism capital of Islamic countries in 2018. Tabriz was the capital of Iran during several dynasties such as Ilkhanid, Qara Qoyunlu and Safavid. In addition, it was the residence of the royal family and the crown prince during the Qajar dynasty. This city credited with the title of “the city of the firsts” contains the historical complex of Tabriz Bazaar, the largest covered bazaar in the world. From a cultural point of view, what highlights the importance of Tabriz is the cultural and religious exchange with the neighboring countries such as Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Visiting Tabriz and its rich history will give us an opportunity to reflect on socio-historical events such as the Tobacco Protest, the Constitutional Revolution and the economic crisis during the Qajar dynast.
- Tabriz Archaeological Museum: where a repertoire of historical objects, mainly discovered in excavations in Azerbaijan, is displayed in three main halls. This collection tells us about the passage of Persian art from Iran to the West. One of the most interesting areas will obviously be that of ceramics and terracotta dating from the 12th and 13th centuries AD, when Persian calligraphy had an artistic influence on decoration of objects. In addition to the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, the Museum of Azerbaijan has the largest collection belonging to different periods of Persian history.
- Blue Mosque: built in 1465, by order of the ruler Jahanshah, an art lover and also a poet of the Turkmen dynasty Qara Qoyunlu. It was not only a mosque but a large complex containing a library, a dervish convent, a garden, baths and a mausoleum. Following an earthquake in the 18th century, today only a part of the mosque has remained standing thanks to the collaboration and restoration of archaeologists. The particular style of this mosque, very different from others, is known as the Azebaijani style which is even unusual in the Persian world, especially because it confirms an Ottoman influence in Tabriz. Among the photographers, attracted by this mosque, we could mention Luigi Montabone -Italian photographer- who photographed the mosque in 1862. Here is a description of Ella Maillart- Swiss traveler, writer and photographer- of this fascinating mosque: “This particular feeling when you are in love and you think you have never understood, until then, the splendor of the sky at midnight when stars, not equal no each other, shine with such brightness that they seem to come toward you. This extraordinary mosaic makes you dream of a corner where each star is a colorful flower.”
Tabriz Bazaar: an exceptional complex that includes about 35 km of covered walkways, with more than 7000 shops, 24 caravanserais and 28 mosques. The main activity inside the bazaar was the manufacture of carpets, but it is also famous for its jewelry and goldsmiths, the sale of dried fruits, spices and the famous cheese of the region called Lighvan. The bazaar of Tabriz in Iran is a traditional bazaar and was the center of economic life where most of the activities of the inhabitants took place. Architecturally, the bazaar contained several buildings whose shape was adapted to the low winter temperature of Tabriz. The Tabriz bazaar is a shining example because it includes almost every conceivable example of a complex suitable for economic activities: stores, workshops, warehouses, trading houses, caravanserais, passages and intersections. In addition, the second section of the bazaar was devoted to places related to other socio-religious activities: mosques, Koranic schools, spaces dedicated to religious ceremonies, traditional Iranian gymnasium (Varzesh-e Pahlevani), tea houses and taverns. In short, this commercial labyrinth can make us lose hours and hours in its beauty where we will have a unique sensory experience. Just walking and taking a deep breath, you will be intoxicated by the aroma of freshly ground cinnamon, the wool of Saray-e Mozaffari carpets, fresh cheese and Barbari bread, the typical bread of the Azeris of Iran, freshly baked.
13° Day; Tabriz - Destination Country
Transfer to Tabriz International Airport to take the international flight departing Tabriz to destination country.