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Lodestar Luxury Travel

The Comprehensive Iran Tour

16 days / 15 Nights

Classic Iran Tour Gate of All Nations Persepolis Iran

About The Comprehensive Iran Tour

This tour begins and ends in Tehran. You’ll get to see a beautiful country—Iran is an ancient civilization, home to no fewer than 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can visit 10 of those on this tour, and you can customize any tour.

About Iran

Iran, ranked as the 10th country in the world with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, often prompts surprising reactions when we mention our tours to this captivating nation. Many people express disbelief, saying, “I didn’t think Americans could travel to Iran” or “Isn’t it unsafe to travel there?” However, it’s important to note that reality often contradicts preconceived notions, and this holds particularly true for Iran.

Despite the fact that Iran and the United States do indeed have significant political differences and that Iran is home to a repressive clerical regime that suppresses dissent, a remarkable truth becomes apparent when traveling there. Nowhere else have we experienced such warmth and admiration for Americans on an individual level. Iranians frequently extend invitations to share tea or meals and eagerly engage in personal discussions.

Moreover, it is crucial to emphasize that Iran is an incredibly safe destination for foreign tourists, including Americans. Unlike places like Mexico, which attract a large number of American tourists despite their relatively high crime rates, Iran boasts an almost crime-free environment. In fact, statistically speaking, Iran is safer than most major American cities.

While it is true that there have been unfortunate instances of American citizens being detained in Iran, such cases are rare and predominantly involve dual citizens. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship for individuals born in Iran, which is typically irrelevant to the average American or European tourist.

Visiting Iran as an American tourist will undoubtedly shatter any preconceived notions and reveal the country’s true nature, as well as the immense popularity of Americans among its people. It is safe to say that among the many countries we have explored, Iran stands out as the least predictable and most eye-opening. We encourage you to experience it firsthand and witness the remarkable reality for yourself.

Comprehensive Iran Tour Pricing

16-day and 15-night prices are based on all members of the group traveling together in one vehicle.

A single supplement for all tours is $595. For example, if two people travel together but each has his or her own room, the cost is an additional $595.

Included in the Comprehensive Iran Tour Price:

Not Included in the Comprehensive Iran Tour Price:

Comprehensive Iran Tour Itinerary

Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 1
Landing in Tehran
Landing in Tehran
Espinas Palace Hotel

Arrive in Tehran (IKA Airport). Most flights from the US arrive late at night or early in the morning. After passing through customs and claiming your baggage, you’ll see your guide, holding a sign with your name on it, waiting for you outside the baggage area.

He or she will be your guide for the whole trip. Your driver will be waiting for you outside. Your hotel is around 40 minutes away. Get a good night’s sleep at the 5-star Espinas Hotel.

  • Overnight at the 5-star Espinas Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 2
Touring Tehran
Touring Tehran
Comprehensive Iran Tour Golestan Palace Tehran

After you enjoy a great buffet breakfast and leave the hotel, you and the guide can decide how you want to spend your time in Tehran.

There are many museums and places of interest, but obviously, you will have to pick and choose which are of the most interest to you. You won’t come close to seeing them all. Tehran is a huge city, with a population of around 12 million people.

The Alborz Mountains, snow-capped most of the year, rise just outside the city in the north. Traffic in Tehran is heavy and chaotic. The foothills of the Alborz have a number of beautiful restaurants, and you might want to tour that area and have dinner there. There is also a cable car that you can take most of the year, offering some very scenic views.

Among the sites that can be visited in Tehran are the Golestan Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a complex of 17 palaces built during the Qajar Dynasty in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The Archaeological Museum is a must-see in Tehran. The collection includes pottery, ceramics, stone figures, and carvings from the 5th and 4th millennia BC. Four tablets inscribed in cuneiform, the Darius I inscription, a carved staircase, tiles from Apadana Palace, and the salt man are some of the highlights.

The Carpet Museum, founded in 1976, exhibits a variety of Persian carpets from all over Iran, dating from the 18th century to the present.

The National Jewels Museum: The treasury of Iranian national royal jewels accommodates the world’s most precious jewelry collection. The Treasury has an interesting history going back centuries.

The Glassware and Ceramic Museum (Abgineh): The premises have been turned into a museum where glass and clay works are on display and were built about 90 years ago. The building is a combination of the traditional Iranian style and the European architecture of the 19th century.

The collection of glass and clay works that are on display at the museum is among the rarest in Iran, and it includes clay pots dating back to the 4th millennium BC up to the present time as well as glass works from the 1st millennium BC up to the contemporary era. European glass works from the 18th and 19th centuries are also part of the collection.

You might also decide to visit a large student art center where art students exhibit their work, and you might have the opportunity to meet some of them.

  • Overnight at the 5-star Espinas Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 3
Tehran — Zanjan
Tehran — Zanjan
Comprehensive Iran Tour Soltaniyeh dome by Mardetanha

In the morning, drive to Zanjan (Tehran-Zanjan: 319 km). Once you are clear of the Tehran traffic, almost all of your itinerary will be on 4- or 6-lane divided highways. On the way to Zanjan, make a stop in the small city of Soltaniyeh, just off the highway.

There you can see the Soltaniyeh Dome, erected by the Mongol rulers of Persia in the early 14th Century. It is the largest brick dome in the world and the third largest dome all told, after the domes of the Florence Cathedral and the Hagia Sophia. Stairs lead up to the top of the Dome. The climb to the top offers a bit of exercise and is not obligatory.

You can also stop en route at the Katalekhor Cave. The name Katalekhor means “Mount of the Sun.” Geological studies in 1984 show that the cave formation dates back to the Jurassic period.

  • Overnight at the 4-star Grand Hotel in Zanjan
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 4
Zanjan — Hamadan
Zanjan — Hamadan
Takht-e Soleyman West Azerbaijan tekab

After driving 140 km from Zanjan, stop to visit the Takht-e Soleiman. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a very impressive one. The archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman is situated in a valley set in a volcanic mountain region.

The site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary, partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period in the 13th century, as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th centuries) dedicated to Anahita.

The site has important symbolic significance. The designs of the fire temple, the palace, and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture. There are still around 150,000 Zoroastrians living in Iran, and every October they hold an important ceremony at Takht-e Soleyman.

Leaving Takht-e Soleyman, the route continues on to the ancient city of Hamadan. After checking into your hotel, visit the tomb of Esther and her uncle Mordechai.

According to the Old Testament, Esther was the wife of Xerxes (the Biblical King Ahasuerus), who saved the Jews from the evil Haman.

If you happen to think of it, the Rabbi/custodian of the tomb is a great collector of foreign fountain pens and appreciates any addition to his collection.

You can also visit Hegmataneh Hill, where there are recent excavations from the ancient Median and Achaemenid dynasties. Also around Hamadan, in the mountains above the city, is Ganjnameh, the site of ancient cuneiform rock carvings dating from the time of King Xerxes in the 5th Century BC.

  • Overnight at the 4-star Hotel Bouali
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 5
Hamadan — Kermanshah
Hamadan — Kermanshah
Taq-e Bostan Iran tours

In the morning, you still have time to visit any sites in Hamadan that you might not have covered the day before. Then drive to Kermanshah, 190 km away.

The major attraction in Kermanshah is the Taq-e Bostan, a series of large rock bas-reliefs dating from the Sassanid Empire of Persia, the Iranian dynasty that ruled western Asia from 226 to 650 AD.

It is located in the heart of the Zagros Mountains, where it has withstood almost 1,700 years of wind and rain.

  • Overnight in Kermanshah at the 4-star Jamshid Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 6
Kermanshah — Khorramabad
Kermanshah — Khorramabad
Falak ol - Aflak Castle, Khoramabad Lorestan Iran tour

After breakfast, set out for Khorammabad, 320 km away. On the way, 35 km south of Kermanshah, visit another UNESCO World Heritage site: Bisotun, a series of bas-relief carvings set into cliffs.

In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great ordered them. The inscriptions are in three languages and depict Darius receiving chained supplicants.

The highlight of your visit to Khorramabad is Falak-ol-Aflak Castle, situated on the top of a large hill overlooking the city. This gigantic structure has eight towers and offers great views of the city below.

Falak-ol-Aflak Castle is among the most important remaining architectural monuments built during the Sassanid era and was built over 1800 years ago.

Khorramabad is also the site of the Gerdab-e-Sangi, a 1600-year-old Sassanian stone reservoir, 18 m in diameter, said to be the world’s oldest.

  • Overnight at the 3-star Shahrdari Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 7
Khorramabad — Susa — Shushtar — Ahwaz
Khorramabad — Susa — Shushtar — Ahwaz
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System Darafsh

In the morning, set out for Shush (Susa), 290 km away. Shush (Susa or Biblical Sushun) dates from 400 BC and was a strategic Elamite city and a regional capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The city was gradually abandoned during the Mongol invasions.

At the entrance to Shush is the Chateau de Morgan, a fortress built to defend French archeologists working on the site at the turn of the twentieth century.

The ruins of the ancient citadel include a bare, one-foot-high wall of the Palace of Darius dating from 521 BC and two huge stones from the base of the royal apadana (reception hall).

Another attraction in Shush is the Tomb of Daniel, the supposed final remains of the biblical Daniel, an official in the service of King Darius (522–486 BC).

Ancient Shush, known as Susa, was also the birthplace of Esther, the biblical savior of the Jews at the time of their captivity in the 6th century BC. The town prospered as a Jewish pilgrimage site for over a thousand years throughout the first millennium until the arrival of the Mongols in the thirteenth century.

Leaving Shush, we head for the Choqa Zanbil Ziggurat, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, 45 km away.

An ancient Elamite complex built about 1250 BC and one of the few existent ziggurats outside of Mesopotamia, it became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Archaeological excavations undertaken between 1951 and 1962 revealed the site again, and the ziggurat is considered to be the best preserved example in the world.

Before arriving in Ahwaz, there is one more UNESCO World Heritage Site to visit: the Shustar Hydrolic System. This masterpiece of creative genius can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century BC.

It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Karun, one of which, the Gargar canal, is still in use, providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin.

The property has an ensemble of remarkable sites, including the Salisel Castel, the operation centre of the entire hydraulic system, the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins, and mills.

It bears witness to the know-how of the Elamites and Mesopotamians, as well as more recent Nabatean expertise and Roman building influence.

  • Overnight in Ahwaz at the 4-star Pars hotel.
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 8
Ahwaz — Shiraz
Ahwaz — Shiraz
Naghsh-e ostam Irán tours

Drive to Shiraz (539 km).

Shiraz will be your base for visiting three famous historical sites nearby: Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Naghsh-e-Rostam. All three of these sites are within easy driving distance of Shiraz, and the day-long tour to explore them will be the major activity for tomorrow (Day 9), so rest well.

  • Overnight in Shiraz at either the 5-star Chamran hotel or the 5-star Shiraz Hotel.
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 9
Shiraz — Excursion to Persepolis
Shiraz — Excursion to Persepolis
Iran Tours Persepolis Tachara

Today we will be visiting three world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Persepolis, Pasargadae, and Naghsh-e-Rostam.

Persepolis

Persepolis is probably the most famous single historical site in Iran and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well.

Persepolis, the Achaemenid Empire's capital when Darius III founded it in 518 BC, was where the king of kings built an impressive palace complex using Mesopotamian designs. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site.

Persepolis was the example par excellence of the dynastic city, the symbol of the Achaemenid dynasty, which is why it was burned by the Greeks under Alexander the Great in 330. According to Plutarch, they carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels. What remains today, dominating the city, is the immense stone terrace (530 m by 330 m), half natural, half artificial, backed against the mountains.

As in Mesopotamia, the principal building material was sun-dried brick, much of which has happily survived the vicissitudes of time.

Pasargadae

Cyrus II the Great founded Pasargadae in the sixth century BC, which became the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

Its palaces, gardens, and mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization.

Particularly noteworthy vestiges include: the Mausoleum of Cyrus II; Tall-e Takht, a fortified terrace; and a royal ensemble of gatehouse, audience hall, residential palace, and gardens.

Pasargadae was the capital of the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River, it is considered to be the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples. This was reflected in Achaemenid architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures.

Naghsh-e-Rostam

This is one of our favorite sites in Iran. You will see four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings carved out of the rock face at a considerable height above the ground. They are somewhat reminiscent of Petra in Jordan, but much, much easier to get to.

The tombs are known locally as the ‘Persian crosses,’ after the shape of the tombs facades. In addition, there are seven over-life-sized rock reliefs at the site, depicting monarchs of the Sassanid period. It is believed that they were created to celebrate a great victory in ancient times.

  • Overnight at Grand Hotel Shiraz
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 10
Tour Shiraz
Tour Shiraz
Eram garden Iran tours

In the morning, begin your tour of Shiraz itself.

The number of places you visit will probably depend on how early you decide to start. Among the places to see are the Karim Khan Complex, resembling a medieval fortress; the mausoleum of the 8th-century poet Hatez; and the main bazaar.

You will also take the opportunity to visit Eram Gardens.

Established in the 11th century, the Eram Garden is a series of historic Persian gardens that, as a whole, have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Overnight at Grand Hotel Shiraz
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 11
Shiraz to Yazd
Shiraz to Yazd
Yazd Iran guided tour

In the morning, set out through the desert for Yazd, where you will spend the next 2 nights.

  • Overnight in Yazd at either the Moshir Hotel of the Hotel Dad
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 12
Yazd
Yazd
Comprehensive Iran Tour Yazd towers of silence

Yazd is a very interesting city to visit. Among the first things you notice are the many wind-catchers (badgirs) perched on the rooftops of many buildings. The wind catchers were an ancient form of air conditioning and Yazd is famous for having so many examples of them. Your guide will explain how they work.

You will also visit the great Jaameh Mosque, dating back to the 12th Century and still in use today. After a visit to the Mosque, you may take a stroll through the old city of Yazd, made up of a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys, where without a guide, it might be easy to get lost.

Yazd was known as a center of Zoroastrianism (there are still around 150,000 Zoroastrians living in lran today). The Towers of Silence, on the edge of the city, were used to expose bodies to the elements until the 1960s, when the practice was banned by the Shah.

You can climb up the large hills where the towers can be seen and you can also enter the ancient houses where members of the funeral parties stayed. Even in the surrounding heat, these houses are amazingly cool.

Yazd is also a place where you can learn about the fascinating ‘qanat’ water system, an ancient method of supplying water to cities and farms by means of underground channels. There is even a qanat museum.

One of the most exciting things you can do in Yazd is to see the body building men who show up twice an evening at the Zurkhane or House of strength.

This is an ancient martial arts ritual, accompanied by music and lasting an hour, that is open to the public. It is in the same building that houses an ancient reservoir. The men easily twirl 20-kilo pins as part of their exercises.

  • Overnight in Yazd at either the Moshir Hotel of the Hotel Dad
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 13
Tour Yazd
Tour Yazd
Comprehensive Iran Tour Khaju Bridge spring isfahan

After breakfast, set out for Na’in (155 km) en route to Isfahan. Na’in is an ancient town in the desert and a good place to break up the trip. In Na’in you will stop to see the Jame Mosque, one of the oldest in Iran, dating back to the 9th century.

Then continue on to Isfahan, another 145 km along the desert road. Approaching Isfahan the road starts to climb and the scenery becomes more interesting.

For many tourists Isfahan is the high point of the trip. It can be called the tourist center of Iran and you are likely to run into many foreign groups there.

After arriving in Isfahan and checking into your hotel, it will be time to start seeing some of the many sights of the city.

Isfahan is justly famous for its 11 bridges spanning the Zayandeh River (although the presence of water in the river is seasonal). These bridges are beautiful architectural feats, each one being distinctive and impressive in its own right. We will be able to visit several of these unique bridges and can walk across some of them.

  • Overnight at either the modern 5-Star Kowsar Hotel or  the historic 5-Star Abbasi Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 14
Isfahan
Isfahan
Comprehensive Iran Tour Meidan Emam Esfahan

Isfahan boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You may have already seen photos of the Meidan Emam. Shah Abbas I the Great constructed the Meidan at the beginning of the 17th century, and grand buildings encircle it on all sides, connecting them with a network of two-story arcades.

The site is known for the Royal Mosque, the Mosque of Sheykh Lotfollah, the magnificent Portico of Qaysariyyeh, and the 1st-century Timurid palace. They are an impressive testimony to the level of social and cultural life in Persia during the Safavid era.

There will be plenty of time to walk around the square, visit some of the adjoining buildings and the great mosque, and explore the nearby bazaar. The bazaar itself is huge, and you may well find some things to purchase, even carpets (see Q. & A. on buying carpets in Iran).

The second UNESCO site is the Jameh Mosque. Located in the historic center of Isfahan, the Masjed-e Jim (‘Friday mosque’) can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries, starting in AD 841.

It is the oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. The complex, covering more than 20,000 m, is also the first Islamic building to adapt the four courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. Its double-shelled, ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired builders throughout the region.

The site also features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than a thousand years of Islamic art.

It may even be possible for you to meet with some Muslim clerics who speak English and are interested in having discussions with Americans. You may not always agree with what they have to say, but it is guaranteed to be an interesting discussion.

The Vank Cathedral, which Armenian immigrants built after the Ottoman War of 1603–1605, is another location in Isfahan that is well worth visiting. The church has beautifully detailed wall paintings that retell Biblical stories.

There is also an Armenian museum on the site. The neighborhood around the Vank Cathedral has become somewhat “trendy” and is an interesting area to walk around and have dinner in.

These are only some of the highlights of Isfahan. There is a lot more to see, and how much you see depends on how early you get up in the morning. Your guide and driver will leave as early as you like, and together you can decide on your day’s itinerary.

  • Overnight at either the modern 5-Star Kowsar Hotel or  the historic 5-Star Abbasi Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 15
Isfahan
Isfahan
Comprehensive Iran Tour Bazaar de Vakil Shiraz Irán

This is the last full day of the tour, and it can be used to visit some additional sites in Isfahan, such as the Hafez Mausoleum and the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque. One of the benefits of a custom tour is that you can choose, after consulting with your guide, how to best spend your time in a place like Isfahan, where there are so many choices. You may well decide to return to the Grand Bazaar to finish some shopping.

  • Overnight at either the modern 5-Star Kowsar Hotel or  the historic 5-Star Abbasi Hotel
Comprehensive Iran Tour: Day 16
Isfahan — Abyaneh — Kashan — Tehran — Departure
Isfahan — Abyaneh — Kashan — Tehran — Departure
Comprehensive Iran Tour Kashan Timche-ye Amin od-Dowleh

This is the last full day of your trip, and there is still a lot of ground to cover.

After breakfast, set out for the ancient town of Abyaneh, 160 km away. One of the interesting things here is seeing how the women dress. Abyunaki women typically wear a long white scarf (covering the shoulders and upper trunk) with a colorful pattern and an under-knee skirt.

The Abyunaki people have persistently maintained this traditional costume despite pressure from time to time from the government trying to change it.

After leaving Abyaneh, it’s another 80 kilometers to Kashan, a city famous for its carpets. There are a number of interesting things to see here, including the bazaar, which is particularly interesting. There are also several restored 18th-century houses that you can visit.

You can have a walk in the Fin Garden, which is a historical Persian garden containing Kashan's Fin Bath, where an assassin sent by King Nasereddin Shah murdered Amir Kabir, the Qajar chancellor, in 1852. Completed in 1590, the Fin Garden is the oldest extant garden in Iran.

After a good exploration of Kashan, it’s time to head for the IKA Airport, 200 km away. Almost all international flights leave late at night or early in the morning. Depending on your flight time, you can stop for dinner on the way to the airport. Your guide will make sure that you get there in plenty of time to make your flight home.