Small Group Discoveries

+ Explore fabled capitals of ancient empires with our expert Trip Leader, well-spoken and experienced in sharing his native land with American travelers.
+ Stroll in magnificent Persian gardens that trace their design principles to the days of Cyrus the Great .
+ Mingle with local residents and vendors in three colorful markets including the only bazaar in the world recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
+ Discover Pasargadae and Persepolis, cities of the Achaemenid Empire that rank among the world’s greatest sites of antiquity.
+ Get to know the warm Iranian people as you dine in fine local restaurants we’ve selected for their delicious Persian food and friendly ambience.
+ Visit 11 of Iran’s 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites c
  • Day 1 – Welcome to Dubai

    On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and chauffeured to the conveniently located, 5-star Le Meridien Hotel
  • Day 2 - Welcome to Tabriz, Iran

    We take you to the airport in Dubai for your included flight to Tehran. On arrival, our VIP Services will whisk our small group to a comfortable lounge where you can relax while entry formalities are handled – and your checked luggage is retrieved and brought to you. Upon clearing immigration and customs, you’ll fly to Tabriz where you’ll be escorted to the Tabriz El-Goli Pars Hotel, set on a hill with commanding views of this ancient city – one of Persia’s former capitals and a classic stop on the fabled Silk Road.

    Over the next two weeks, your travels will be punctuated by opportunities to engage with friendly locals.  Many of the places we visit are unbelievably old in age, but Iran today is so modern in spirit… You’ll find a youthful, forward-looking, techno-savvy population. Cell phones are ubiquitous, many people speak English – and you may find yourself both surprised and delighted by the number of people who are eager to engage with you. Take advantage, and you’ll return with a deep affection for the Iranian people!  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 3 – Ancient + Captivating… Tabriz and Kandovan

    It was completed in 1465, but skilled artisans spent another quarter-century painstakingly covering the entire Kabud Mosque with intricately-painted, brilliantly blue tiles and calligraphy. Often referred to as the Blue Mosque, this magnificent landmark was extensively damaged by two 18th-century earthquakes. But as you stand before the north façade with much of its original tile work still intact, you’ll get a glimpse into the enduring artistic legacy of Iran’s ancient dynasties. Next door at the Azerbaijan Museum, you’ll peruse a vast collection of archaeological artifacts spanning millennia of human history and culture in the region.

    You’ll also see the Arg-e Alishah, an imposing but unfinished 14th-century monument that later served as a military fortress during the Russo-Persian Wars of the 19th century. You’ll end the morning at the Grand Bazaar c, the only bazaar on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The present-day structure, a vast maze-like complex of bricked arches and vaulted passageways, still evokes the spirit of its earliest days when Tabriz was one of the most important commercial centers along the ancient Silk Road.  It’s a wonderful place to chat with engaging merchants and browse for jewelry, carpets and spices. But with 4 miles of shops, you’ll also mingle with friendly residents who are here to shop for spices and other daily staples.

    Later in the afternoon, you’ll journey to Kandovan in the volcanic highlands of Mt. Sahand. For more than 700 years, the people of this remote and rugged region have inhabited cave dwellings inside the mountains and unusual stone formations. You’ll spend time engaging with community residents for a fascinating look into their life. Some live in natural cave formations while others have excavated larger rooms, whitewashed and decorated with colorful carpets and textiles. Although traditions go back for generations, many families have modernized their homes with electricity and running water.

    Back in Tabriz, you’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant we’ve selected for its delicious Persian cuisine and friendly ambience. The Iranian people are gregarious by nature and some of your fellow diners, once they hear you speaking English, may ask where you’re from… And once they learn you’re an American, they’ll be eager to engage with you!  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 4 – Excursion to Jolfa + On to Tehran

    After breakfast, you’ll travel into a deep fertile valley near the town of Jolfa to visit one of the most significant sites of the Armenian Christian faith. With origins that can be traced to older churches built as early as the first century CE, St. Stepanos Monastery c bears witness to the cultural exchange that flourished here between Armenian and Persian societies since the origins of Christianity – and later with other cultures including Ottoman and Byzantine. Dating back nearly 1,000 years, the lovely stone carvings and simply embellished façade of St. Stepanos are remarkable achievements of ancient Armenian architecture and artistry. Later, you’ll return to Tabriz for your included flight to Tehran where you’ll be escorted to the Hotel Espinas, the best in the capital.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 5 – Tehran + The Splendors of Iran

    This morning we take you north of town into the mountain foothills to a lovely park-like setting to visit the Sa’ad Abad Palace. This was the coronation and marriage palace of the Pahlavi Dynasty - and the residence from which the last Shah of Iran fled after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Now a museum, its extensive collection includes period furnishings and décor, and even the personal effects of the last Shah. Our guests also enjoy an exclusive tour through an intimate gallery dedicated to the 20th-century art collection of Iran’s last Empress.

    At the Treasury of National Jewels inside the Central Bank of Tehran, you’ll be dazzled by a breathtaking collection of crown jewels, many of them gathered from around world during the Safavid Dynasty that ruled from 1502 to 1736. Also part of this glittering collection is the Naderi Throne; made of wood, covered in gold, and encrusted with more than 26,000 precious gemstones, some believe that this throne was inspired by the legendary Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

    The day ends with another World Heritage Site, the lavish Golestan Palace c. Built during the Qajar Dynasty that rose to power in the late 1700’s, this fabulous walled complex is centered on a landscaped garden with tranquil pools. Many of the elements you’ll admire today date to the 19th century when local Qajari architects and artisans were looking to integrate traditional Persian style with elements of Western and Russian origin. The palace buildings are among the oldest in modern Tehran and they are still regarded as a crowning achievement of the Qajar era.

    Dining in the capital offers a chance to experience another slice of modern life. In our carefully selected city restaurants, you’ll sample traditional Iranian cuisine as it’s enjoyed today by the cosmopolitan citizens of the capital. You’re likely to meet smiling young Iranians who are delighted to engage with you.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 6 – From a Persian Garden to Isfahan

    Before departing the capital, we’ll visit the Carpet Museum of Iran, home to a dazzling collection of Persian carpets collected from around the country and representing centuries of extraordinary art and skill. Leaving Tehran behind, we’ll travel south to Kashan to visit Bagh-e Fin Garden c. This very early Persian garden reflects ancient landscaping principles that trace their roots to the time of Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BCE. Today, it’s a delightful setting where you can meet young Iranian families who are out to enjoy their day.

    You’ll also visit the historic Borujerdi House here in Kashan. With fine decorative motifs handcrafted of stucco, impressive domes, wall paintings and inlaid mirror mosaics, this former merchant’s home is regarded as a masterpiece of traditional Persian architecture. It also boasts 130-foot tall wind towers to catch lofty breezes that can cool the entire house. In the town of Natanz, you’ll see the finely decorated, 13th-century tomb of Sheikh Abd al-Samad. Continue to Isfahan for a 3-night stay at the Abbasi Hotel, set on the grounds of an ancient caravanserai with landscaped garden grounds and a traditional Persian reflecting pool.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 7 – Glorious, Historic Isfahan

    As the 17th-century capital of the Safavid Empire, Isfahan was one of the world’s greatest cities – architecturally striking, wealthy beyond imagine, and politically powerful with Europeans, Ottomans, Indians and Chinese coming to its court – the heart of a vast Persian Empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in present-day Iraq to the Oxus River in Afghanistan. Indeed, its grandeur inspired the rhyming proverb, Isfahan nesf-jahan (Isfahan is Half the World).

    Today you’ll join our expert guide to begin your exploration of the city, starting with some of the centuries-old, still elegant bridges that span the Zayandeh River. The 14th-century Shahrestan Bridge, for example, evokes the greatest aqueducts of ancient Rome and is the oldest bridge in Iran. In the city’s Armenian quarter, you’ll delve more deeply into the region’s complex history as you visit several churches including the 17th-century Vank Cathedral with its lavishly decorated interior and unique blend of Islamic and European architectural elements.

    This afternoon, your exploration continues in Meidan Emam Square c. Evoking the Piazza San Marco in Venice and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, this 17th-century site is one of the largest public spaces in the world. Standing in its vast expanse, you can admire several of Iran’s most venerated landmarks – all connected by a series of perfectly-proportioned 2-story arcades. Here in the square, you’ll visit the 17th-century Shah Mosque, revered as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and easily recognized by its magnificent tile-work and soaring cupola and minarets. In the Ali Qapu Palace, you’ll marvel at its beautiful music rooms and the balconies where Safavid kings would sit to enjoy the polo matches unfolding in the square below. You’ll end your day exploring the Qeisarieh Bazaar that surrounds Meidan Emam Square. With hundreds of local vendors that specialize in traditional arts and crafts, it’s a wonderful place to shop for pottery, enamel, jewelry and delicately inlaid board games.   Meals B+L+D
  • Day 8 – Jameh Mosque + Chehel Sotun Palace

    Continue your exploration in Isfahan at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Simple at first glance but wondrous in its rich detail and bold design, the Masjed-e Jāmé c is another masterpiece of Iranian architecture, covering nearly 5 acres in the heart of this historic city. Its double-shelled ribbed dome was an architectural innovation that inspired architects throughout the Persian world, and its decorative elements reveal stylistic innovations spanning more than 1,000 years of Islamic art. This is one of the oldest congregational mosques in the country, and its construction and embellishment over the past twelve centuries illustrate a number of important periods in Islamic architecture. Your foray into Isfahan’s architectural treasures continues at the Harun-e Velayat Shrine. Built in 1512, the shrine’s dome offers a particularly fine example of Iranian tile work. Gazing up at the graceful 11th-century Ali Minaret, the oldest in Isfahan, offers further insight into the skill of Iranian architects and builders.

    Next up is Chehel Sotun c. Set in a landscaped and forested park in front of a tranquil reflecting pool, this graceful pavilion was built by Shah Abbas II for entertainment and court receptions. Entering through a portico with twenty slender wooden columns, you’ll discover soaring halls embellished with frescoes, paintings and mosaics; the Hall of Mirrors is especially breathtaking!

    In the afternoon, you’ll return to the center of town to continue exploring the shops and landmarks that surround Meidan Emam Square.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 9 – Through the Desert to Yazd

    Leaving Isfahan behind, your first stop this morning will be in Na’in, an ancient community with origins dating back to the 8th century. At the local Ethnographic Museum, set in an erstwhile private residence of the Safavid era, you’ll learn more about the region’s cultural traditions.

    Your overland journey continues to the small town of Meybod, where your first impression might be its striking monochromatic architecture of desert brick. But set along an ancient trade route, Meybod also offers a number of fascinating sites to visit including its caravanserai. Built in typical Safavid style, this ancient desert inn features verandahs, shaded passageways, and nearly 100 rooms – some of which are now used as artisan workshops. At the local icehouse, you’ll learn about the thick-clay construction and subterranean chamber that allowed local residents to have ice and food storage before refrigeration – even during the intense desert heat of summer! Continue to Yazd and check in to our hotel.

    Tonight’s dinner in a local restaurant offers a chance to experience daily Iranian life in a town that’s smaller than Tehran or Isfahan. The ambience is a bit more laid back and the residents may seem a bit more reserved. But again, you’ll find them warm, friendly and eager to meet Americans.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 10 – Ancient Yazd

    At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet with the rugged granite peak of Shir Kuh in the distance, Yazd is one of Iran’s oldest continuously inhabited towns, its silhouette punctuated by minarets and the ingeniously-designed wind towers that capture desert breezes to cool homes during the hot summer months. Yazd is also the center of Iran’s Zoroastrian community, which is where you’ll begin the day’s sightseeing. At the Tower of Silence, you’ll learn about one of the traditions of this ancient pre-Islamic religion: Until the mid 1900’s, the dead were transported to this tower where they were left to decompose and be devoured by birds. Zoroastrian tradition considers a deceased body to be “unclean” and this process of excarnation prevents contact with either fire or earth – both of which are considered to be sacred. At the still-active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, you’ll see a flame that is said to have been burning for the past 1,500 years. It’s an important pilgrimage site for the faithful and here our expert guide will offer additional insight into one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.

    In Amir Chakhmaq Square, you’ll see a very impressive Hussainiya – a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies. With three tiers of recessed alcoves, all perfectly proportioned, its façade is one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. Then visit the Friday Mosque, built in 1324, where you can gaze upon the tallest minarets in the country.

    At Zendan-e Eskandar, you’ll find an ancient domed structure with a deep, circular brick-lined pit that resembles a dungeon. According to legend, the complex was built by Alexander the Great to hold prisoners during his conquest of Persia. Others believe it was constructed by the Persians to hold Alexander himself. Among the many other historic sites to be seen in Yazd are beautiful old homes and the Dowlat Abad Garden c. Standing by the garden’s long reflecting pool, you’ll be shaded by ancient cypress trees. Ahead of you is an 18th-century hexagonal pavilion with a beautiful stained glass window and a graceful wind tower – the tallest in Iran. All around are flowering fruit trees and other ornamental plants and trees.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 11 – Pasargadae and Shiraz

    We’ll depart Yazd this morning to visit Pasargadae c, founded in the 6th century BCE as the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire that stretched from Anatolia and North Africa across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia. Hailed as the First Persian Empire, it was the largest that the ancient world had ever seen. Here in the middle of this vast plain, the impressive tomb of Cyrus the Great himself stands amazingly intact among the evocative ruins of his palace and the city he founded. These remains are outstanding examples of early royal Achaemenid art and bear witness to the soaring cultural heights of Persian civilization and the aesthetic influences they absorbed from the lands they controlled in Egypt. Continue to the Zandiyeh Hotel in the heart of Shiraz – Iran’s “City of Roses and Nightingales.”  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 12 – Excursion to Persepolis

    The archaeological excavations of Persepolis c rank with Ephesus and Pompeii as among the world’s most impressive sites of antiquity. Among scholars of the ancient Persian world, it’s regarded as a masterpiece of Achaemenid architecture, urban planning, construction and art. Indeed, you will be astounded by its strategic placement upon an enormous natural terrace that was ingeniously extended to accommodate a double flight of stairs, a monumental gateway, and walls covered with sculpted friezes. A splendid palace complex with throne rooms, receptions halls and gigantic carved winged bulls complete this grand ensemble. Although Darius I did not live to see its completion, Persepolis provided subsequent Persian kings with a glorious ceremonial capital befitting the wealth and glory of their empire. As you tour the site, our expert guide will bring Persepolis to life with dramatic stories including its legendary sacking by Alexander the Great after what was reportedly an epic night of drinking! According to Plutarch, Alexander’s men carried away the treasures of Persepolis on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels!

    Continue to the ancient Achaemenid necropolis at Naqsh-e Rustam to see the Ka’be Zartosht, an unusual cube-like tower that may have served as a sacred fire alter for the four royal tombs you’ll see nearby. Although there is still scholarly debate, these royal tombs with their spectacularly carved reliefs are believed to be those of Darius I, Darius II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I. Nearby, you’ll also visit Naqsh-e Rajab to admire the fine Sassanian bas-reliefs carved into the limestone rockface.

    Back in Shiraz, you’ll visit the lovely garden tomb of Hafez, a revered poet who wrote for the royal court in the 14th century. Enjoy a stroll in this enchanting oasis of flowers, shade trees, reflecting pools and pavilions as our guide offers further insight into Persian culture and literary traditions.  Don’t be surprised if other visitors are inspired to recite the well-known verses of Hafez, which all Iranians study in school!  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 13 – Shiraz… The City of Roses and Nightingales

    This ancient city, birthplace of the Farsi language, traces its origins to the days of the Achaemenid Empire. But it did not reach its cultural heights until after the Arab conquest of Persia and indeed many of  Shiraz’s grand buildings and gardens were completed centuries later. Your full-day tour begins in the beautiful Eram Garden c with its aromatic myrtles, beautiful flowers, fruit trees, and towering cypress – one of which is said to be 3,000 years old!

    You’ll also visit the Arg-e Karim Khan – an impressive thick-walled citadel built during the Zand Dynasty. At the Madrassa Khan, you’ll engage in lively discussion with the theological students and their teachers; it’s a memorable experience that balances your recent forays into ancient Persia with insight into modern-day Iran. Then you’ll have time to explore and shop in the bustling Vakil Bazaar, home to hundreds of stores, beautiful courtyards, and even an ancient caravanserai. End your final day in Iran on a tranquil note in the beautiful orange-scented Narenjestan Garden, laid out in the 19th century during the Qajar Dynasty.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 14 – Depart Shiraz

    You’ll be escorted to the airport this morning for your departure flight.  Meals B

Similar Trips

Check In!

  • Le Meridien Hotel - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    Set amidst 38 acres of landscaped gardens, this modern, low-rise city hotel is two kilometers from Dubai International Airport and the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Le Meridien Dubai houses 18 restaurants and bars, a spa and wellness center, four outdoor heated swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, and a fitness center with aerobics studio. Air-conditioned guestrooms are decorated in neutral tones with dark wood furniture; all include free WiFi Internet access, LCD TVs, tea/coffee makers, minibars, bathrobes, and marble bathrooms with mosaic tiling.

  • El Goli Pars Hotel - Tabriz, Iran

    Set on a hill with commanding views, this is the finest hotel in this ancient and vibrant city.

  • Espinas Hotel - Tehran, Iran

    Our comfortable hotel is the perfect base for exploring the historic highlights of the capital.

  • Abbasi Hotel - Isfahan, Iran

    Lovely Persian-style gardens and reflecting pools capture the ancient heritage of this city.

  • Dad Hotel - Yazd, Iran

    You’ll enjoy comfort and modern amenities in our classic hotel with its traditional courtyard and Persian-inspired style.

  • Zandiyeh Hotel - Shiraz, Iran

    Behind an ornate facade, inspired by the architecture of this ancient city, you’ll find a modern and comfortable boutique hotel.

Our Small Group Journey Value

+ Save $1,000 per couple | $500 solo when you pay in full at time of booking
+ Complete sightseeing with our expert English-speaking Trip Leader and never more than 16 guests including all entry fees
+ All 38 meals: 13 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 12 dinners
+ 1 night at the 5-star Le Meridien in Dubai
+ VIP Arrival Services through immigration and customs in Iran
+ 12 nights in our handpicked hotels in Iran, the finest in these historic cities
+ Roundtrip flights between Dubai and Iran
+ All on-tour transportation including both internal flights and airport transfers
+ Luggage handling, all hotel taxes and service charges, and all service gratuities for meals and porterage
+ Family+Friends – Travel with 3 or more and save $50-$200 more per person

Trip Pricing

  • Traveling as a single?

Arrive Dubai - Per Person Double

Dates   Standard Accommodations
Departure Return   Regular Deal
9/1/2017
Sold Out
9/14/2017 $7199 $6699
Hosted by Executive Vice President Helena Novak
10/6/2017
Guaranteed
10/19/2017 $7199 $6699
 
10/27/2017
Sold Out
11/9/2017 $7199 $6699
 
3/2/2018 3/15/2018 $7199 $6699
 

Select all Deals that apply for best available price.

  • Pay-in-Full Savings Save $1,000 per couple + $500 solo when you book and pay in full for our new Persian Moments.
    View Day by Day »
  • Travel is one life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Combine our limited-time pay-in-full discount with our Family & Friends offers and save even more:
    • Save $50 more per person when 3 guests go
    • Save $100 more per person with 4 people
    • Save $150 more per person with 5 people
    • Save $200 more per person with 6 or more people!
    For Groups of 8 or more please call 800.221.2216

Our Private Travel Value

Save $1,000 per couple | $500 solo when you pay in full at time of booking
Complete private sightseeing with an expert English-speaking guide and driver including all entry fees
All 37 meals: 12 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 12 dinners
VIP Arrival Services through immigration and customs in Iran
12 nights in our handpicked hotels in Iran, the finest in these historic cities
All on-tour transportation including both internal flights and airport transfers
Luggage handling, all hotel taxes and service charges, and all service gratuities for meals and porterage
Family+Friends – Travel with 3 or more and save $50-$200 more per person

Trip Pricing

  • Traveling as a single?

Arrive Tabriz - Per Person Double

Dates   Private Accommodations
Departure Return   Regular Deal
1/7/2017 12/31/2017 $8799 $8299
 
1/1/2018 5/1/2018 $8799 $8299
 

Select all Deals that apply for best available price.

  • Pay-in-Full Savings Save $1,000 per couple + $500 solo when you book and pay in full for our new Persian Moments.
    View Day by Day »
  • Travel is one life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Combine our limited-time pay-in-full discount with our Family & Friends offers and save even more:
    • Save $50 more per person when 3 guests go
    • Save $100 more per person with 4 people
    • Save $150 more per person with 5 people
    • Save $200 more per person with 6 or more people!
    For Groups of 8 or more please call 800.221.2216

Private Tour Add-Ons

  • Dubai Stopover

    3 Day Private Tour

    Our 3-day Private Tour includes your choice of deluxe or luxury hotel, daily breakfast, roundtrip airport transfers and city sightseeing.

  • The Kingdom of Oman

    4 Day Private Tour

    Our Private Tour includes first class and deluxe hotels, daily breakfast, our signature sightseeing and your own personal car, driver and guide.

  • Alexandria

    3 Day Private Tour

    Discover the fabled city of Cleopatra and Alexander the Great… Our tour includes roundtrip transportation from Cairo, 2 nights hotel, and in-depth sightseeing with your own personal car, driver and expert guide.

Trip Reviews

Average Traveler Rating:  Review This Trip »

(2 Traveler Reviews)

  • Jane & Felix from TX gives this tour 

    What a privilege it was to interact with the people throughout Iran. We have traveled extensively and have never encountered such friendly people. We always felt welcome. Alexander + Roberts made traveling throughout the country easy and without worry. Read More »

  • Diane from NV gives this tour 

    Iran is proud of its 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, but the most outstanding of all is its warm and engaging people. The Iranians are delightful with their wide, friendly smiles, hospitable greetings and a curiosity about foreigners. One day, while sipping a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in Meidan Emam Square, a passerby offered me a piece of candy from her handbag. She spoke little English, but her gentle smile and generous offering expressed a sisterhood. And while photographing... Read More »

Save $1,000 Per Couple
+ $500 Solo

Just pay in full at time of booking.

Iran: The Essential
Reading List
 

As Iran emerges from decades of isolation, her ancient monuments, vibrant culture, and millennia-long traditions are making sure that this intriguing nation soars to the top of every discerning traveler’s bucket list... Read More >>

Tabriz's Incomparable Bazaar  

In Tabriz, there exists a particular badge of honor of “a bazaar family.”  This denotes a longstanding association with the city’s ancient bazaar; the only marketplace in the world to be designated a... 
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