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Iran: Ancient Persian Wonders


Welcome to Iran, a land of mystifying contrasts, ancient archaeological sites, spectacular engineering feats that boggle the mind, and incredible hospitality. This historic country has a role in the birthplace of a civilization that cannot be denied. Spend 11 days journeying through beautiful mountains, arid deserts, and learn the culture and traditions of a country largely unknown to much of the world.

Itinerary at a glance Tour Highlights Your tour includes
  • 2 nights in Tehran
  • 1 night in Kashan
  • 2 nights in Isfahan
  • 2 nights in Yazd
  • 2 nights in Shiraz
  • Golestan Palace (Tehran)
  • Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan
  • Meidan Emam (Isfahan)
  • Pasargadae (Shiraz)
  • Persepolis (Shiraz)
  • Fin Garden (Kashan)
  • Tower of Silence (Yazd)
  • Dowlat Abad Garden (Yazd)
  • Naqshe-Jahan Square (Isfahan)
  • Nasir ol Molk (Shiraz)
  • Round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) via award-winning Qatar Airways
  • Airfare taxes, fees & fuel surcharges
  • Accommodations at first class hotels
  • 23 meals: 10 breakfasts (B), 4 lunches (L), 9 dinners (D)
  • Comprehensive sightseeing tours and entry fees
  • Experienced English-speaking Tour Director throughout
  • Transportation in an air conditioned bus

Click on the tabs below to learn more!

Day 1
Depart USA
Your fascinating journey to Iran begins today with an overnight flight to Tehran.
Day 2
Arrive Tehran
Welcome to Tehran! Arrive in the morning, and transfer directly to your hotel for a short rest, then begin your first day exploring Tehran, a city that blends old and new. Meet your tour director and driver, and drive to visit the National Museum of Iran, which contains items dating from the 5th millennium B.C. ; Prehistoric, Median, Achaemenid, Selucid, Parthian and Sassanid periods. After visiting one of the gates of Old Tehran, stop and visit the Carpet Museum, with a collection of precious Persian carpets. Drive back to your hotel, and enjoy your welcome dinner! Parsian Azadi Hotel or Laleh International Hotel (B,D)
Day 3
After your buffet breakfast, we will begin our tour of Golestan Palace Complex, the former residence, working office and ceremonial center of the Qajar and Pahlavi kings. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the palaces were changed into various museums, including the Marble Throne, Karimkhani Khalvat Mirror and Reception Hall, and Berelyan Hall. Visiting the Grand Bazaar of Tehran is the next wonder, as you stroll the streets listening to the sounds of the people and the vendors hawking their wares. After lunch, we visit the Royal Jewelry Museum, a place that many agree is the best in the world! Return to your hotel, and enjoy dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
Day 4
Today, after your breakfast, we will drive to Kashan. This delightful oasis city on the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir gets our vote as one of the most alluring destinations in Iran, boasting a highly atmospheric covered bazaar, a cluster of architecturally significant 19th-century houses, and the oldest Ziggurat in Iran. Passing by the holy city of Qom, you will arrive in Kashan, where your first stop will be at Bagh-e-Fin (Fin Garden), a prime example of a Persian style garden of the 17th century. A short drive will then take us to the 19th century tiled mausoleum of Emamzadeh Ebrahim, where we will see exceptional tile and mirror work, unique to Persian art. Next, we go to the old quarter of town, and visit a traditional 19th century house. After a typical Persian lunch in a local restaurant, we will continue on, and visit the 19th century Aqa Bozorg Mosque & Madrassa, and then the Tappe Sialk (the oldest ziggurat in the world). We will finish the day by walking the labyrinth of streets that make up the Old Bazaar of Kashan, and enjoy a cup of tea. Next, we check in to our hotel in Kashan, and enjoy dinner. Amir Kabir Hotel or Negarestan Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5
Depart after breakfast for Isfahan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most important cities in Iran’s history. Lying right in the center of the country, equidistant from the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, it sits on both the east-west and north-south trade routes that transverse the country. Four times, the capital of Iran, 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, which belongs to the Armenian Christians who came to this area in the early 17th century. In addition to the cathedral, it houses a museum, and a large library. After lunch, we will drive to Sio-Se-Pol, and Khajou bridges. These are two of many legendary bridges that cross Zayandeh Road, built during the Safavid era. At the end of the day, we will have some time to watch the beauty of a Persian carpet show in a beautiful carpet shop. Return to your hotel and enjoy dinner.Parsian Kowsar Hotel or Aseman Hotel (B,D)
Day 6
We will begin another fascinating day with a drive to “Pigeon Tower”, an engineering feat from the 17th century. We continue on to visit Chehel-Sotoun Palace, where we will view large frescoes depicting court life, counterbalanced by miniature paintings of the 17th century Safavid dynasty. The peaceful sound of water fountains and birds singing in the gardens are enchanting. A short walk leads us to Naqshe-Jahan (Royal) Square, the second largest square in the world. The square was an entertainment site and the main polo ground for Safavid kings. You can imagine the horses neighing and the roaring applause of the crowds. The eternal eyewitness to these games and parades is Ali-Qapu Palace, with a large platform from which the court boasted the power of their king. Crossing the square, we’ll visit Sheikh Lotfallah, the first ladies’ mosque in the Islamic world. It was a place where women of the court used to come via the underground tunnel to say their prayers in privacy. As we depart the ladies’ mosque, you can window shop your way through the covered bazaar on your way to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we will have a visit to the art gallery of a very well known miniaturist. As we walk around Isfahan’s old Qeisariya Bazaar, we will have the chance to have a cup of tea in a traditional Sufi teahouse. Return to your hotel and dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 7
After breakfast, we depart our hotel, and visit the Imam Mosque in the Meydan. It is a main gathering place, containing an ocean of blue tile work that embodies a spirit of peace and tranquility, with a large pool in the center of the courtyard. We’ll relax and meditate awhile, and continue on our journey to Yazd. We will have a stop for lunch, have a glance at Shahrestan Bridge, and visit a desert caravanserai with camels. Arrive Yazd, check in to hotel, and have dinner. Moshir Al-Mamalek Garden or Parsian Safaiyeh Hotel or Arg-E-Jadid Hotel (B,D)
Day 8
Yazd is considered as having very studious and religious people, and is also a center of Zoroastrian culture in Iran. Our first visit this morning is the “Tower of Silence” . Then, we will visit the Zoroastrian fire-temple, which is still in use today. It holds a fire that has been kept alight continuously since 450a.D. On to explore the 15th century Mirchakhmaq Square, followed by a visit to the 14th century Jame’ Mosque. Yazd mosques are very well known for their high and lofty minarets. From here, we stroll through the spiral back labyrinths of the old quarters of the city, visiting the prison of Alexander. After lunch in a restaurant, we will visit the Dowlat Abad Garden and its lofty wind tower (badgir) – this is an architectural wonder! Wind towers, also referred to as wind trappers or ventilation towers, are an inseparable part of the architecture of central and southern Iran, and have provided natural air conditioning in this hot climate for thousands of years. We will experience first- hand how one can be deeply in harmony with nature! Return to hotel and enjoy dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 9
After an early breakfast, we will now depart Yazd, and journey to Shiraz. On the way, we will visit the ancient ice collecting system in the Abarqu Ice-house. We will also visit the Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae, the first capital of Achamenid dynasty (6th century B.C.). Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Today is a real highlight of the tour, as we next visit Persepolis, the ancient ceremonial capital of Achaemenids, and also the royal necropolis in Naqsh-e-Rostam nearby. Persepolis was the home of the King of Kings for over 200 years. See the monumental buildings including the Gate of All Nations, Palace of 100 Columns, Palace of Darius, Xerxes’ Palace, Central Palace, and Apadana Palace. Continue to Shiraz, and check in to your hotel, and have dinner. ) Grand Shiraz Hotel or Chamran Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10
After breakfast, you will begin your city tour of Shiraz, often called the “City of Gardens”. The first stop will be at the 19th century Eram Garden, alongside the 17th century Khan theological school which is still operational. Next, visit the colorful nomadic bazaar of Haji. The Shrine of Shah Cherq is a highlight today, as is Nasir ol Molk mosque. Nasr ol Molk mosque is just a beautiful, colorful, peaceful place to just sit and contemplate – it is also called the “Pink Mosque”. After lunch, we have the chance to visit a precious collection of village and nomadic carpets, and then on to visit the Tomb of the poet Hafez. If we are lucky, we can hear locals playing their traditional music. At the end of the day, we have free time in the 18th century colorful, traditional Vakil Bazaar, where you will find Persian spices, handicrafts and antiques. We end in Saray-e-Moshir, an urban caravanserai at the south entrance of the bazaar, and return to hotel for your Farewell Dinner. (B,D)
Day 11
Today, transfer to the Shiraz Airport for your return flight to the USA.

Trip Preparation

Please make sure to allow sufficient time for clearing customs and immigration if you are planning a connecting flight.  We recommend at least 3 ½ hours.  Please note that flight schedules are subject to change without prior notice.

Departure Date Airline Depart JFK Return JFK

Qatar Airways does not assign seats in advance. Seat assignments can only be arranged at the airport upon check in. If you have a preferred seating choice, please make sure you check in for your flight as early as possible. These airlines do not offer any frequent flyer miles.
You must be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel. smarTours provides visa assistance for guests who travel with us to Iran. Obtaining the visa is a two-step process. First, you’ll require a visa authorization code from the authorities in Iran, which smarTours requests on your behalf. Once authorization is granted, smarTours alerts you to submit your visa application through a visa service provider or local Iranian embassy. For more information, please click the “Passport & Visa Info” tab or click here.

Please remember that it is your responsibility to obtain the necessary travel documents before the trip.

Your airline tickets along with final instruction and additional travel tips will be sent to you 7 – 10 days before the scheduled departure of your tour.  Please make sure to advise us in case your address changes.


Immunizations are NOT currently required; however, you should consult your personal physician, local public health authorities or the Center of Disease Control (CDC) as to their suggestions.
You can expect average temperatures in the 80s from June through September. In October daytime highs are usually in the 70s with nighttime lows in the 50’s. In November, daytime highs are usually in the low 60’s with an average nighttime low in the 40’s.
Iran is one of the safest and friendliest places you can travel to but it is VERY conservative. It is very important that before you sign up for this tour you are committed to following a dress code (particularly for women).
Iran is a traditional Islamic nation and a dress code is enforced throughout the country.

Men must wear long trousers at all times but can wear short sleeved shirts in less strict destinations. Plan to be as conservative as possible when visiting mosques or holy sites. Open toed sandals are now acceptable for men.

Women must wear a scarf on their heads, apart from in their hotel bedrooms. A long shirt with a crew neck, or collar is fine, as long as it is not form fitting and should reach mid thigh. A tunic over slacks or jeans is perfect. A typical outfit for stylish Iranian women would be something called a ‘manteau’ that looks a bit like a trench coat over a pair of jeans and converse sneakers. There is no rule for the color of your outfit as long as it is modest and includes a head scarf. Women are allowed to wear open toed shoes and sandals. Typically, wearing a dress over a pair of pants works as well, if it follows all the other rules, too.
Alcohol is forbidden in Iran and will be confiscated at customs by anyone attempting to bring it into the country. Drug laws are also extremely strict and travelers face lengthy jail terms if caught breaking the law. Additionally, pornographic or obscene material (even glossy magazines showing people in immodest poses), and controversial CDs or literature will all be confiscated by customs officials if found. Upon leaving the customs hall, all passengers are required to put their bags through X-ray machines for scanning.
US dollars are accepted at Iranian banks and money-changers. Banks and money-changers can be found in most of the places that you’ll visit throughout the country. Notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition are preferred when changing money in Iran. Usually 50 and 100 USD notes get better exchange rate. We recommend you bring smaller denominations as well as many vendors accept them if you don’t have local currency.

Iran is a strictly CASH country. Due to US banking restrictions, no foreign credit cards or travelers cheques can be used for withdrawing money at Iranian banks and ATMs. The only time you will be able to use your credit card in Iran is if you buy a carpet in a shop that has a bank account in Dubai or UAE.

The official printed currency of Iran is “Rial”. There is another money unit called “Toman” which is most used by locals. 1 Toman is equal to 10 Rials (when discussing Toman, the “0” is frequently dropped); it is best to clarify with the person or service provider to tell you the price in Rials so you pay the correct amount. The largest Iranian Rial note is the 100,000 IRR note. You can also get a 500,000 IRR cheque, that can be exchanged into small denominations in shops and hotels.

Note: You cannot change Iranian Rials into hard currency outside of Iran. Upon arrival at the Tehran airport there are a few places where you can change money and we recommend you change some money at the airport before departing. Remember if you run out of money while in Iran it is essentially impossible to get more sent to you.
While traveling with us you will experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Generally, to give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together so you may taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other’s company. There is no obligation to do this though. Remember there is absolutely no alcohol in Iran; non-alcoholic beer is available in a variety of flavors including lemon, apple, and strawberry, as well as coke, Fanta etc.
Local transportation is by air conditioned bus. American passport holders must be accompanied by a guide for all travel and touring, including airport transfers. Your guide will meet you at the airport upon arrival in Tehran, and will accompany you throughout your trip.

Each passenger may bring one piece of checked-in luggage (suitcase), max. 44 pounds and one carry-on piece. Carry on must not exceed 18”x10”x8”. We recommend that you do not over-pack and that you take a variety of casual separates with climate and comfort in mind.

Please note that suitcases are not recommended as travelers may need to carry their own bags.

Passport & Visa Information

For information regarding dress, currency, and other trip preparation, please click the Trip Prep tab or click here.
You must be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel with blank pages. smarTours provides visa assistance for guests who travel with us to Iran. Obtaining the visa is a two-step process.

First, you’ll require a visa authorization code from the authorities in Iran, which smarTours requests on your behalf. Once authorization is granted, smarTours alerts you to submit your visa application through a visa service provider or local Iranian embassy.

  1. 1. As soon as possible, complete and return the Visa Authorization Questionnaire, and provide a Resume (click here for an example). This information is necessary to obtain an authorization code. smarTours will request a visa authorization code on your behalf. As long as all information is provided in a timely manner, the authorization code should be available 8 weeks prior to departure.
  2. 2. When the authorization code is obtained, smarTours will provide the visa service with the code directly and you will be alerted so you may submit your passport, 2 photos, and visa form to the visa service provider. Detailed instructions will be provided.

As Iran visas are dated specifically for entry and exit, please ensure you enter the correct dates. Americans, Canadians and British citizens must be accompanied by a guide at all times while in Iran, so these dates are important for obtaining your visa. We can only provide an Authorization Number/Visa Approval Number for the length of the tour. Please enter your name the same way it appears on your passport. The information on the application form must match your passport.

If you have an umlaut or other character not recognized in the English alphabet in your name (ie. ü), please enter it in the longer form (ie. ue).

NOTE: If you have an Israeli stamp in passport, you will need to obtain a new passport. Journalists are currently not able to obtain a visa for Iran. Government employees may experience a longer wait time for their authorization code. The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship: people with both U.S. and Iranian citizenship will be treated as Iranian nationals, and must enter and exit the country on their Iranian passports.

Nancy’s Trip to Iran

In December 2016, Nancy Stern (smarTours Product Manager) visited Iran to experience it for herself and put the finishing touches on the smarTours trip! Please find below some reflections from Nancy on her trip, as well as a video interview  for more detail!

“The truth is, I found Iran to be an amazing country, its people incredibly hospitable, open, and eager to share their culture with me – a guest from the USA, who is both a woman, AND Jewish.

As a woman traveling alone with a smarTours guide, I felt extremely well looked after. Eager to share the history of Persepolis, the Tower of Silence, seeing the Armenian communities, the Zoroastrian communities and even Jewish communities showed me that there is tolerance where I did not think existed. I have traveled the world, and this country was by far, the most unexpected experience. “

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