Iran: A Thousand and One Tales of Beauty
Explore the rich heritage of Iran in a perfectly balanced tour that blends the treasures of Ancient Persia with the splendour of Islam.
"Andrea did a wonderful job designing an itinerary to suit three generations of diverse interests, and was flexible and responsive to last minute changes and requests. He showed us many hidden treasures of this beautiful region that would have missed we're it not for him."
- Heather on her journey in Italy
A possible, beautiful itinerary for you
Arrival in Tehran
Iran’s capital is an exciting city. All controversy aside, it is proof that our vision of some regions tends to be one-sided. An eye opener in every sense, you are travelling in a city splattered with monuments, with history, and a vibrant and living culture. You set in for the night in your luxury hotel. As far as first impressions go, Tehran scored a round ten.
Treasures of the Ancients
The National Museum of Iran houses some of the world’s most important artifacts. They are our link to the ancient world. As you cross the tall, domed entrance to the pre-Islamic section of the museum, you gain a different perspective: we humans are much older than your intuition told you at first. In prehistory, how many languages? How many stories? How many tales of suffering and overcoming have been lost. Naught but an echo remains of those voices. The Islamic section of the museum reveals another truth: how young we humans are! As you stroll through the corridors and narrow corners of the Bazaar, you feel transported to ancient times… a merchant on the Silk Road, a mystic in the grips of a vision, a secret Zoroastrian, enamoured by the play of light through the stained glasses. Read more
An early morning flight to the south, transports you to the city of Shiraz, evergreen subject of poetry and legends. I would say, close your eyes for a week, and have someone take you to Vakil Mosque, then open your eyes, and your whole life would be transformed. A gem of the Zand period, it is a great introduction to Shiraz. As you wander through monuments of indescribable beauty and gardens of paradisiacal sweetness, you learn of the true heritage of this city, as attested by the tombs of the great poets Hafiz and Saadi: not riches, but culture.
Capital of the Oecumene
Persepolis, the capital of the Darius the Great, gives you a glimpse into the Ancient World. The majestic pillars and the palaces still carry the echoes of Persian rule. Bearded figures, immortalised in the many reliefs, seem to have captured the ceremonial pacing of the Great Kings through the halls. When confronted with such precious remains and ruins, a traveller often experiences a gap between his experiences and what appears a silent lump of rock, however beautifully configured. Luckily, the expertise of your guides can bring these ancient cities to life, and the voices of the past become intelligible to some extent. The past is, after all, inaccessible to us, but beauty… well, that is more universal, and perhaps that’s what Xerxes had in mind when he commissioned the Gate of All Nations.
The Great King
Continue your road north through the Zagros Mountains. En route, you visit Pasargadae, where the Cyrus the Great was laid to rest. As your journey progresses, you arrive a small towns and villages that have prime examples of early Islamic architecture, and you meet people and places that seem little touched by time. As the sun sets, Yazd looms in the distance. You find it curious that you were meant to enter the city of Zoroastrianism in the growing darkness.
Yazd and the Desert
Yazd is perfectly adapted to the desert environment. The tall wind towers capture the blowing breezes to cool the adobe houses during the extremely hot summers. The Jane Mosque minarets are the tallest in the country and the fire that glows in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple has been kept burning for over 1,500 years. You walk from the hot streets into the cool interiors and learn of ancient religion. Eventually you make your way to the Tower of Silence, on the outskirts of the city. Zoroastrians believe that fire is sacred, and for that reason they do not burn the remains of the departed. Instead, they expose the dead bodies to the heavens, and let the winged scavengers excarnate the remains. Similar sky-burial practices exist in Tibet and other cultures. The desert harbours many manifestations of the divine. Being in contact with an ancient religion, in an ancient land, is deeply transformative, if a little difficult to understand at first.
Through the Desert
The desert unfolds as you drive north to Isfahan. Travellers in the desert describe a curious phenomenon. At first, the desert appears monochrome, featureless, a barren waste that contrasts violently with the cerulean sky. As their journey progresses, they begin to notice the nuances, the textures, and the exquisite blue above. After a while, they have become experts in colour, in the brilliant play of light over the desert surface, and the sky becomes a sacred mantle. Narin Castle, in the middle of the desert, dates back from Persian times: a guard in the desert before the gates of mighty Isfahan.
Half the World
As the sun rises over Isfahan, the beautiful architecture glows in all its glory. Isfahan saw it’s most glorious days during the 16th and 17th centuries. Mosques, cathedrals, bridges, and hundreds of heritage buildings. You would need a lifetime to explore it all in depth, and so the saying goes, that Isfahan is half the world.
Capital of Beauty
There are cities that remain in our memory, because they represent the past: ruins and remains, inaccessible for the most part, silent and morose. Isfahan is quite another story. The city lives and is lived. You walk through the bazaars to find at every corner craftsmanship that could very well belong to a museum. You visit holy sites where the devout pray, as they have done so for centuries. There are few cities in the world as proud as Isfahan.
A Stop in Kashan
The time to head back to Tehran has arrived. En route, you enjoy the gorgeous Fin Garden, in Kashan. Dating from the Persian period, it is a prime example of royal luxury. The flowing water, the colourful mosaics and the sweet scents that populate the enclosure, hide a dark tale of intrigue and power. Your expert guide tells the story with riveting mastery.
Today is your last full day in Tehran. The morning is devoted to the modernist side of the capital. The highlight is the Carpet Museum. It is a curious juxtaposition, since a huge collection of a traditional, ancient craft, is housed in one of Tehran’s most daring building. Here you enjoy precious carpets, and see craftsmen using the loom as they did since time immemorial. During the afternoon, you are left to your own devices, to catch a last taste of this beautiful country. Attend a farewell dinner in the evening, and prepare for the flight back home.
In this journey, you have experienced Iranian culture through its history, but also through its people. The welcoming demeanor of everyone you met, their hospitality and pride, fill you with reassurance and happiness. You take with you a meaningful glimpse of Iran, and that, in itself constitutes a vision.