Explore Iran: Treasures of Persia (September 2017)

Trip dates: September 15 – 29, 2017

Trip Highlights

  • Journey through Iran and visit four UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Persepolis, Pasargadae, Isfahan’s Jame’ Mosque and Meidan Emam
  • Travel with expert guide Saeid Haji-Hadi (aka Hadi), who has been leading tours in Iran for almost 20 years
  • Visit a colorful and crowded 18th-century bazaar, where vendors sell Persian rugs, spices, copper handicrafts, and antiques
  • Experience the warmth and friendliness of the Persian people as you immerse yourself in 2,500 years of continuous history

Why Travel to Iran?

For thousands of years before it was known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world called this land of enchantment “Persia.” The warmth of the Persian people is legendary, and visitors are considered a gift. Home to some of the world’s most renowned and best-preserved archaeological sites, Iran is a veritable treasure trove of art and history. Starting and ending in Tehran, you’ll explore the cities of Shiraz, Yazd, and Isfahan, and learn about the country’s rich, textured past while visiting ancient ruins, palaces, and world-class museums. You’ll wander through vibrant bazaars and discover priceless treasures and dazzling beauty, including Iran’s crown jewels and mosques—beautifully decorated with blue and aqua tile mosaic. With the knowledge and experience of our local guide who’s led trips here for over 20 years, you’ll be one of the few lucky travelers to discover this unique destination.


For booking details and inquires, please contact Brian Allen at ballen@mtsobek.com.


2017 Prices

**$7,595 (6-18 members)–special September 15 departure with explorer Richard Bangs**

$1,600 single supplement


Day 1: Welcome to Iran!

Welcome to Tehran, the capital city and modern heart of Iran! After arriving at Tehran’s international airport early in the morning, a Mountain Travel Sobek representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport, brief you on your immediate arrangements, and escort you to your hotel. There will be a group meeting with your leader at around 10 am on Day 1.

Our hotel is situated adjacent to Laleh Park—Tehran’s version of New York’s Central Park. This large, well-kept park has many walking paths and is home to Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which has a fascinating collection of works by modern Iranian painters and a large collection of Western modern art. In addition to the art museum, we’ll also take a tour of Tehran’s stunning Carpet Museum, which has more than 36,000 square feet of exhibition space containing the largest collection of Persian carpets on the planet! Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner at Zeytun restaurant.

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Laleh Hotel

Day 2: Discover the jewels of Tehran

We’ll start the day with a buffet breakfast, before driving to the city center to visit one of the gates of old Tehran. We’ll then spend the rest of the morning visiting the National Museum of Iran, which features some of the world’s most valuable Persian antiquities right up to the modern Islamic era. After lunch, prepare to be dazzled by the largest collection of jewels in the world at the Crown Jewels Museum located in the National Treasury. Enjoy dinner with the group this evening.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Laleh Hotel

Day 3: Walk through Tehran’s Sa’ad Abad Palace Complex

After our buffet breakfast, we’ll begin a morning tour of Sa’ad Abad Palace Complex, the former residence and working office of the Pahlavi kings (Shahs). Walking through the hills of this huge complex of palaces, you’ll feel the difference in temperature between here and the main city. Later, we’ll explore the Reza Abbasi Museum, which showcases Persian art dating back to the second millennium B.C., including an impressive collection of gold and silver Achaemenid and Sassanid artifacts. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant before returning to the hotel to rest and pack for tomorrow’s drive to Yazd.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Laleh Hotel

Day 4: Take a scenic drive to Yazd

Today we’ll drive on the highway to Yazd, passing mountains, desert, and a salt lake. En route we’ll visit 12th-century Jame’ mosque in Ardestan and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. Next we’ll head to Na’in to visit an early 11th-century Seljuq mosque and an 18th-century Safavid Persian traditional house, before taking and a walk around the town’s ancient citadel and old neighborhoods. This evening we’ll check into our hotel in Yazd.

(Driving time: 8 hours approx. with rest stops, lunch, and visits on the way)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Yazd Arg Hotel

Day 5: Explore Yazd, one of the oldest towns on earth

With a history of more than 5,000 years, Yazd is regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest towns on earth. We’ll start the day by exploring the 15th-century Mirchakhmaq Square, followed by a visit to the water museum, which showcases an impressive desert water supply system. Yazd is also a center of Zoroastrian culture and we’ll visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, which holds a fire that has been kept alight continuously since 470 A.D. In the temple’s “Tower of Silence,” we’ll see a circular, raised structure used to expose their dead, much like the traditional Tibetan “sky burial.”  Then we take a short ride to the nearby town of Saryazd to visit an ancient desert rural citadel, where people stored their precious personal belongings—similar to a bank deposit system today. Its one of the earliest in the world and used since the Sassanid period! We’ll also visit the caravanserai there before heading back to town for a look around the old Bazaar of Yazd.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Yazd Arg Hotel

Day 6: Stroll through the serpentine streets of Yazd

We’ll start the day with a visit to 14th-century Jame’ Mosque, known for its lofty minarets and exquisite blue tilework. From here, we’ll stroll through the serpentine back alleys of the old quarters of the city, visiting the prison of Alexander, the 12-Imam Mosque, and Lariha House, one of the most beautiful and splendid aristocratic houses of the 13th century. All of the sights offer a glimpse of what Yazd was like centuries ago.

After tea and baqlava in an 18th-century public bathhouse, which was recently converted into a traditional Persian restaurant, we’ll visit the 18th-century Dowlat Abad Garden and its lofty wind tower. Wind towers are an important part of the architecture and have provided natural air conditioning for thousands of years. This one stands almost 110 feet tall and is considered an architectural masterpiece. Next we’ll visit Pire Sabze Chak Chak the Ka’ba of Zoroastrians, the most important Zoroastrian site in the world, located in the middle of nowhere!

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Yazd Arg Hotel

Day 7: Cross Lion Mountain and visit Pasargadae

Today we’ll travel to Shiraz via Shirkuh (“Lion”) Mountain. En route we’ll visit Abarqu, which is home to an ice-house and a 4,000-year-old cypress tree! One of the oldest trees on earth, it’s more than 80 feet tall and is protected as a national monument. After lunch, we’ll visit the archeological site of Pasargadae, the first Achaemenid capital and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you’ll find the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the hillside fort of Tall-e Takht, and the remains of palaces and gardens.

(Driving time: 5 hours approx.)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Bozorg Hotel

Day 8: Full-day tour of Shiraz

This morning we’ll head out on a full-day tour of Shiraz, “the town of roses and nightingales.” We’ll begin with Bagh-e Eram (Eram Garden) with its collection of magnificent roses, followed by a visit to the tomb of Hafiz, the 13th-century mystic and the most celebrated Persian poet. Later we’ll enter the old quarter of town, with its heavy traffic and noise, to pay a visit to the 9th-century old Jame’ mosque, Khan theological school, and the colorful nomadic bazaar.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Bozorg Hotel

Day 9: Tour ancient Persepolis

Today may very well be the highlight of our trip, with an excursion to Persepolis (the ancient ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire) and the royal necropolis in Naqsh-e Rostam. Persepolis was home of the King of Persia for over 200 years. It once was a vast complex located on an elevated terrace, with a series of ceremonial palaces, halls, the royal treasury, and tombs. Although it was burned to the ground by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, you can still see the incredible remains of several monumental buildings, including the Gate of All Nations, Palace of 100 Columns, Palace of Darius, Xerxes’ Palace, Central Palace, and Apadana Palace.

After a tour of these exquisite antiquities, we’ll dine in a local restaurant and relax before returning to Shiraz. Back in Shiraz, we’ll have free time in the 18th-century Vakil Bazaar, a colorful, traditional, and crowded marketplace where you’ll find Persian rugs, spices, copper handicrafts, and antiques. We’ll end in Saray-e Moshir, an urban caravanserai at the south entrance of the bazaar that now functions as exhibition space for Iranian handicrafts.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Bozorg Hotel

Day 10: Journey through the scenic Zagros mountains to Isfahan

Today we’ll enjoy a scenic drive through the Zagros mountain range, passing villages along the way. We’ll stop to enjoy lunch in Yasuj, before arriving in Isfahan via Shahreza.

(Driving time: 7½ hours approx.)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Abbasi Hotel or Kowsar Hotel

Day 11: Tour the colorful city of Isfahan

Isfahan (also spelled Esfahan) is a wonderful and colorful city filled with Islamic art and architecture. Four times the capital city of Iran, most recently in the 16th and 17th centuries under Shah Abbas the Great, the Persians called it Nesf-e-Jahan (half the world), meaning that to see it was to see half the world. Our tour begins with the Vank Cathedral, also known as The Church of the Saintly Sisters, which belongs to the Armenian Christians who came to this area in the early 17th century by the order of Shah Abbas the Great. In addition to the cathedral, it houses a museum, a historic printing press, and a large library which includes the first book printed in Iran, as well as an array of Armenian textiles.

From here we’ll walk (if time permits, otherwise we’ll drive) on the Sio-Se-Pol and Khajou bridges to Chehel-Sotoun Palace, where we’ll view large frescoes depicting court life, counterbalanced by miniature paintings of the 17th-century Safavid dynasty. Later we’ll visit the Jāmé mosque where you can study and enjoy the thousand-year history of the art and architecture of the Islamic world in Iran. At the end of the day we’ll have some time to watch the beauty of a Persian carpet show in a fantastic carpet shop.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Abbasi Hotel or Kowsar Hotel

Day 12: Explore gardens, mosques and teahouses in Isfahan

We’ll begin another fascinating day accompanied by the peaceful sound of water fountains and birds as we stroll through the harem garden of the 17th-century Hasht Behesht (Eight Paradises) Palace. A short walk leads us to the Royal Square (Naqsh-e Jahan), the main polo ground and entertainment center for Safavid kings. At 1,840 feet long—over five football fields—it’s the second largest square in the world, surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era including the Imam Mosque (also known as Shah Mosque) and Ali-Qapu Palace.

Across the square, we’ll visit Sheikh Lotfollah, the first ladies’ mosque in the Islamic world, accessed by women of the court via underground tunnel. Inside the double-shelled dome, we’ll find a peaceful ambience along with a magnificent mixture of calligraphy and tiles. As we depart the ladies’ mosque, we’ll window-shop our way through the covered bazaar to the ornate Imam Mosque, which contains an ocean of blue tilework along with a pool in the center of the courtyard. After relaxing and meditating for a while, we’ll enjoy a cup of tea at a traditional Sufi teahouse.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Abbasi Hotel or Kowsar Hotel

Day 13: Enjoy a scenic mountain drive to Kashan

Today we’ll take a scenic drive through the central mountains of Iran, the Karkas Mountains. En route, we’ll take a look at the façade of a Khanegah (monastery or Dervish house), visit a Sufi tomb with magnificent stalactite decorations, and observe a skillful artist in a ceramic workshop in Natanz. We’ll then move on to the remote and traditional village of Abyaneh, which has kept its ancient traditions, costumes, and dialect intact for hundreds of years.

Next, we’ll arrive in Kashan, where we’ll visit Bagh-e Fin, a prime example of the Persian-style gardens of the 17th century with a huge spring and two pavilions. We’ll also visit the 19th-century mausoleum of Emamzadeh Ebrahim, where we’ll see exceptional tile and mirror work that’s unique to Persian art. At the end of the day we’ll visit the bazaar and check into our hotel.

(Driving time: 3½ hours approx.)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Negarestan Hotel or similar

Day 14: Explore the old quarter of Kashan and return to Tehran

Today we’ll take a morning drive to the old quarter of town, visiting Aqa Bozorg mosque, a traditional 19th-century Tabatabiha house, and a visit Teppe Sialk archeological mounds—one of the first human settlements in the world dating back to 6th millennium B.C. We’ll then hit the road towards Tehran, passing by Qom. We’ll stop for lunch and ice cream in Mahtab rest area, check into our hotel in Tehran later in the day. Enjoy a farewell dinner this evening!

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Espinas Hotel

Day 15: Bid farewell to Iran

Today we’ll bid the group and Iran farewell, and transfer to the international airport for homeward-bound flights.

  • Breakfast


Abbasi Hotel or Kowsar Hotel — Isfahan

The Abbasi Hotel is a living piece of history that was established as a hotel over 300 years ago, and still exhibits some of its original glory, as seen in the intricate tile work, the glittering turquoise dome of Chaharbagh Madresseh. The courtyard-facing guest rooms have a beautiful view of the lovely gardens, which are prettily lit at night. The hotel also has six different restaurants that offer traditional Iranian and continental dishes, as well as coffee shops and a tea house.

Bozorg Hotel — Shiraz

The Bozorg Hotel is a modern hotel with a pleasant and welcoming vibe. It offers all of the comforts and amenities—including a restaurant, gym, and pool—to allow for an enjoyable stay. The Bozorg’s interior design is spectacular, with guests consistently noting its “classy” appeal. The property is located next to the Tomb of Hafez, the famous Iranian poet, and boasts gorgeous views of Shiraz, renowned for being the birthplace of Persian art and culture. With its excellent combination of comfort, luxury, and location, the Bozorg Hotel offers travelers a comfortable base from which to enjoy the wonders of this ancient city.

Espinas Hotel — Tehran

The elegant Espinas Hotel is consistently noted as one of the premier hotels in Tehran. Beyond the opulent lobby, the boutique-style rooms and suites are spacious and well appointed, with comfortable beds and ample en-suite bathrooms. Guests looking to beat jet lag upon arrival in Iran can enjoy the gym, spa, and indoor pool. Espinas provides an elegant stay for all visitors—from visiting diplomats to business travelers to global adventurers—on the front or back end of their trips to Iran.

Laleh Hotel — Tehran

With its prime location near the Carpet Museum and charming cafés, the 380-room Laleh International Hotel provides standard accommodations in Tehran. The property features lovely courtyards, a 24-hour coffee shop, helpful staff, and generous breakfasts, and there is a lovely large park behind the hotel. The Laleh was formerly an Intercontinental, and has a nostalgic feel that will transport you to a different time and place.

Negarestan Hotel or similar — Kashan

The Negarestan Hotel provides modern accommodations for MTS guests on their journey through Iran. A dramatic mountain landscape beckons in the distance as travelers enjoy an excellent combination of comfort and beautiful scenery. Past travelers spoke admirably about the tranquil, quiet, and clean environment the Negarestan provides in addition to its comfortable beds and large rooms. There is a small café and pool table located inside the hotel, making it a convenient place to unwind after a day of exploring the cultural wonders of Iran.

Yazd Arg Hotel — Yazd

Located near the sacred Towers of Silence, Yazd Arg-E-Jadid Hotel has pride of place in this deeply spiritual and mysterious region of Iran. This new hotel features spacious, comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms fully stocked with toiletries. The breakfast and dinner buffets offer a wide selection of fresh food, and the hotel shop sells quality goods.


“Our trip to Iran was an outstanding success! Both of our guides were knowledgeable and well prepared, and played off of each other, incorporating lectures, poetry, literature, music, and historical sights. They were generous with their time and answered questions non-stop. Iran is an important country, strategically situated, with 3,000+ years of culture and history. I don’t think MTS could have done more for us.” Joseph Vosicky

Why Travel to Iran with MTS?

Mountain Travel Sobek have been operating their current Iran trip for five years and have taken dozens of guests into the country to experience its ancient sites and warm, welcoming culture. Even though the U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations at this time, it is legal for Americans to travel to Iran. Our role at MTS is to navigate the continuing complexities involved in traveling to Iran by skillfully:

  • Handling the group’s tourist visa through a complex, four-step process
  • Coordinating other required paperwork, from journalist waivers to resumes
  • Keeping groups up-to-date on U.S. State Department travel warnings and alerts
  • Staying informed of any changing regulations in Iran for tourist groups
  • Handling all in-country operations and logistics
  • Registering the group with the State Department Enrollment Program (STEP)
  • Registering the group with the Swiss Embassy, who handle all Western country diplomatic matters in Iran

At MTS we strive to make our Iran adventures seamless, while also ensuring that guests are aware of the realities of travel within the country. For example, the best accommodations in Iran might not be equal to the standard experienced on other group trips and the itinerary not as flexible. What guests can be assured of on every trip is expert leadership from local guide Saeid Haji-Hadi (aka Hadi), who has been leading tours in Iran for almost 20 years.

For more info, contact: Brian Allen at ballen@mtsobek.com.


  1. Timothy N. Tamburelli says:

    I really think that this would be a trip for the life time, I have done a lot of white water rafting, but this sounds like it takes the cake

  2. Please send detailed info about the Iran trip in September, with daily itinerary, activities, meals, lodging, transportation, and, of course price per person!

    • Josalin Saffer says:

      Hi Cris, this page has been updated with the itinerary and corresponding info. Have a look and let me know if you have any follow-up questions! -Josalin of the Richard Bangs Team (Josalin@whitenilemedia)