Unveiling Extraordinary Iran Destinations

The Highlights of Iran Tour

10 days / 9 Nights

Classic Iran Tour Gate of All Nations Persepolis Iran

About The Highlights of Iran Tour

This tour begins and ends in Shiraz; it does not include Tehran. But you’ll get to see the highlights of a beautiful country, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can customize any tour, but the Highlights of Iran Tour picks out several important must-sees in Iran. This tour includes one domestic flight.

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.

Highlights of Iran Tour Pricing

The single supplement for this tour is $450. For example, if two people travel together but each has his or her own room, the cost is an additional $450 per person.

Included in the Highlights of Iran Tour Price:

Not Included in the Highlights of Iran Tour Price:

Highlights of Iran Tour Itinerary

Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 1
Arrive in Shiraz
Arrive in Shiraz
Naghsh-e rostam Iran

Your guide will meet you at baggage claim. Your driver will be outside to take you to your hotel. Most flights arrive late at night or early in the morning, so you will probably be ready for some rest.

Shiraz will be your base for visiting three famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 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 2).

  • Overnight in Shiraz at either the 5-star Chamran hotel or the 5-star Shiraz Hotel
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 2
Shiraz — Excursion to Persepolis
Shiraz — Excursion to Persepolis
Persepolis Iran

After a good buffet breakfast, prepare for your excursion to Persepolis. This day-long tour will encompass three major sites around Shiraz.

Persepolis is probably the most famous single historical site in the world 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 and the symbol of the Achaemenid dynasty, which is why it was burned by the Greeks under Alexander the Great in 330 BC. 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.

Still another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus ll the Great in the 6th century BC.

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.

This is one of our favorite sites in Iran, although perhaps not as famous as the two described above. 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
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 3
Tour Shiraz + Flight to Kerman
Tour Shiraz + Flight to Kerman
Highlights of Iran Tour Eram garden

In the morning, before your flight to Kerman, you will have time to visit some of the interesting places within 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 the Eram Garden. 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.

Then you will head to the airport for a short flight to Kerman.

NOTE: Although the short flight from Shiraz to Kerman is usually very reliable, it is possible that on a specific day it may not be available and that it will be necessary to cover that route by road — a comfortable yet 7-hour drive by car. 

  • Overnight in Kerman at 5-star Pars Hotel
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 4
Kerman — Rayen — Mahan — Bam
Kerman — Rayen — Mahan — Bam
Highlights of Iran Tour Rayen Castle Kerman

This day will include visits to Rayen and Mahan. Additionally, it will be possible to visit Bam, a well-known medieval city that suffered significant damage from an earthquake in 2003. Prior to this quake, there was no question that you would visit Bam.

But even after reconstruction work, Bam is no longer what it had been before 2003. You can discuss with your guide whether you want to make the effort to visit Bam. It can certainly be included if you decide to go.

Meanwhile, there will be a visit to Rayen. The medieval mud-brick city of Rayen displays all the architectural elements of a deserted citadel. Rayen Castle has been well preserved, considering the numerous natural disasters that have destroyed similar structures nearby.

Arg-e-Rayen was inhabited until 150 years ago and, although believed to be at least 1,000 years old, may in fact have foundations from the pre-Islamic Sassanid. (1500 years ago).

From Rayen, move on to Mahan and the Shahzadeh Garden. This is one of the finest examples of a Persian garden, which, as a group, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mahan is well known for the tomb of the great Sufi leader Shah Ne’emat Ollah-e-Vali, which dates from the 15th century.

Within Kerman itself is the Ganjali Khan, a Safavid-era building complex located in the old center of the city. The complex is composed of a school, a square, a caravanserai, a bathhouse, an Ab Anbar (water reservoir), a mint, a mosque, and a bazaar, and it dates back to the early 1600s.

  • Overnight at the Pars Hotel in Kerman
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 5
Kerman — Yazd
Kerman — Yazd
Highlights of Iran Tour Yazd Iran

After breakfast, drive to Yazd, around 4 hours away. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel, which will be either the Moshir Hotel or the Hotel Dad. Each of these hotels is a converted caravanserai that is now a fully modern hotel. Your guide will be able to tell you all about the fascinating history of Persian caravanserais.

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. This neighborhood is also a good place to stop for tea or a cold drink.

  • Overnight Yazd at either the Hotel Moshir or the Hotel Dad
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 6
men dancing during Zurkaneh with weights Hightlights of Iran Tour

Yazd was known as a center of Zoroastrianism (there are still around 150,000 Zoroastrians living in Iran 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 see the body-building men who show up twice an evening at the Zurkhane, or House of Strength.

This is a historical martial arts ritual that lasts for an hour and has music playing in the background. It is in the same building that houses an ancient reservoir. The men easily twirl 20-kilogram pins as part of their exercises.

  • Overnight in Yazd at either the Moshir Hotel or Hotel Dad
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 7
Yazd — Na’in — Isfahan
Yazd — Na’in — Isfahan
Khaju Bridge Isfahan Iran

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 kilometers 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 distinctive and impressive in its own right. We will be able to visit several of these unique bridges and walk across some of them.

  • Overnight at either the modern 5-Star Kowsar Hotel or the historic 5-Star Abbasi Hotel
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 8
Meidan Emam, Ispahan

The next two days of the tour are completely devoted to exploring the many sights of Isfahan. Some visitors may want to spend more time shopping in the huge bazaar. Others may want to visit as many mosques as possible.

Isfahan boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You may have already seen photos of the Meidan Emam.

Built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century, it’s bordered on all sides by monumental buildings linked by a series 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.

  • Overnight at either the modern 5-Star Kowsar Hotel or the historic 5-Star Abbasi Hotel
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 9
Meidan Emam, Ispahan

The complex, covering more than 20,000 square meters, 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.

These clerics, with whom we met on our last trip to Isfahan, will be very happy to meet with you, and if you are interested, we will try to set up a meeting with them in advance of your visit.

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
Highlights of Iran Tour: Day 10
Isfahan — Shiraz
Isfahan — Shiraz
Iran Tour highlights Isfahan Royal Mosque general

This is your scheduled day of departure. Since most international flights leave at night, there should be plenty of time to get to the Shiraz airport for your departure.

You will probably have enough time to do a little more exploring in Isfahan, but at some point it will be time to set out on the 5 to 6 hour drive back to Shiraz and your flight home.

Whenever your flight departs from Shiraz, your guide and driver will make sure that you get to the airport in plenty of time.