16 Day The jewels of the Northwest

Best season: Oct. to Des. & Mar. to May.
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Expedition Summary In sixteen days, you’ll be exposed to the jewels of Iran’s rich and diverse history, culture and landscapes. To summarize, you will:
  • visit the genius Hydraulic Systems in Shushtar
  • immerse yourself in 3,000 years old history in Chogha Zanbil
  • visit Shush, the favourite residence of the kings from 4,200 years ago
  • travel to Lur city of Khoramabad and visit the ancient Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
  • discover the Taq-e Bostan, a 1,700 years old bas-relief masterpiece
  • harmonise with the mountains in the scenic village of Palangan
  • get familiar with Kurd’s lifestyle in beautiful Sanandaj
  • visit Takht-e Soleymān, the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary
  • discover Soltaniyeh, the birthplace of Mogul architecture like Taj Mahal
  • learn about the Persian cisterns in Qazvin
  • visit Tehran, the dynamic, multicultural capital city and the beating heart of the country
Itinerary Details:

Day 1. Arrival in Tehran

Upon arrival in Tehran, you will be welcomed at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival, you can spend the day touring the beautiful and diverse city of Tehran, or spend the evening at a traditional restaurant for a delicious Persian cuisine. If you arrive late, don’t worry! You’ll have three full days of sightseeing in Tehran at the end of your trip (L/D).
You’ll stay overnight at your hotel in Tehran.

Day 2. Ahvaz, birthplace of Middle East’s Oil Rush

Today, you will be transferred to the airport to take your domestic flight to Ahvaz. Upon arrival in Ahvaz, your driver guide will welcome you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Ahvaz is a vast city built on the banks of Karun, the biggest and the only navigable river in Iran, which is dividing Ahvaz into eastern and western sections. Although the city has a history going back to around 2,000 years, Ahvaz today is more a populated industrial city and an important commercial hub in the southwest of Iran. The first oil well in Iran was drilled around Ahvaz in 1908 which was the starting point for National Iranian Oil Company, the world’s third-largest oil company.
We use Ahvaz as a transit point due to its well-served airport. Being an oil business-oriented city, there are not a lot of interesting places to see in Ahvaz. Depending on the time of your arrival, we will spend the rest of the day touring the city of Ahvaz, visiting the Moein-o-Tojar caravanserai, the Riverside Park. We will also visit the White Bridge, Iran’s first and world’s fourth modern Suspension Bridge. We will have dinner at a riverside restaurant with traditional seafood cuisine before we head back to our hotel. Our road trip expedition will officially kick off tomorrow, with a drive to Shush and Chogha Zanbil (B/L/D)
You’ll stay overnight at your hotel in Ahvaz.

Day 3. Shush, favorite Residence of the Kings and Chogha Zanbil, stunning remains of the Elamite Civilization

Today is the start of your wonderful expedition in western Iran. We hope you are as excited as we are; an incredible journey is ahead of us. We will begin by driving to Shush. Shush was one of the city-states of ancient Elam, which later became the winter capital of the Persian Achaemenian kings. There is evidence that Shush has been continuously inhabited from 4,200 BC placing it among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Today we will visit the Tomb of Daniel, which is the traditional burial place of the biblical prophet Daniel and is a popular attraction among local Muslims, as well as Iran’s Jewish community. If time permits, we will stroll among the Shush bazaar and then head for a delightful dinner before we call the day.
Before we head out of town, we will visit the Shush Castle, constructed by French archaeologists in the late 1890s as a secure base for archaeological exploration and excavation. The castle is similar to medieval monuments in France.

Day 4. Shushtar, a Masterpiece of Creative Genius

Today we’ll visit Shushtar, an island city from the Sassanid era with a sophisticated irrigation system. Shushtar’s Historical Hydraulic System is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is honored by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of Creative Genius”. It includes a collection of dams, tunnels, and ancillary canals watermills traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century BC, which are still in use and provide water from Karon River to the city.
In Shushtar, we will visit the hydraulic system and water mills, as well as the Qaleh Salāsel (Salāsel Castle), the operation centre of the entire hydraulic system. We’ll also see the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins and mills. We will have lunch at a restaurant to try some of the traditional Persian cuisines, local pickles and Kolucheh (a type of sweet).
In the evening, we will hit the road again towards the scenic city of Khoramābād. On our way, we will briefly visit the ancient city of Dezful to visit the old Bridge of Dezful. Dating back to 1,700 years ago, it was built during the Sassanid dynasty that is making it the oldest still-standing bridge in the world.
Arriving in Khoramābād, you’ll check-in to your hotel and call the day after having dinner in a traditional restaurant. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 240 km

Day 5. Khoramābād, the Sky of Skies

Have you noticed the changes in climate and the density of vegetation and plants as we were travelling north? Iran is a four season country. In fact, you can find all four seasons at the same time in different regions of the country, which makes Iran a unique destination for travelers.
Khoramābād, literally meaning green city, is the capital of Lurestan province of Iran, with a population of predominantly Lur and Lak people and tribes. The city possesses a historical importance due to its golden time during the Sassanid era. Its most remarkable relic is a tall citadel called Falak-ol-Aflak Castle (The Sky of Skies) which is situated on the top of a large hill with the same name within the city. Falak-ol-Aflak castle is made with different materials like stone and wood that are vulnerable to humidity. Therefore, the Sassanid engineers have equipped the castle with a dehumidifier! The castle houses several museums as well to give us a better understanding of the life of the Lur tribes of Iran.
We will spend today’s morning visiting the glorious Falak-ol-Aflak castle.
In the afternoon, we will leave Khoramābād heading north towards Bisotun to visit the world-famous bas-relief stone carvings on the cliffs from 521 BC. Stone carvings were ordered by Darius I the Great, when he rose to the throne of the Persian Empire. This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the re-establishment of the Empire by Darius I.
After a day full of sightseeing, we will drive to your hotel in the close-by city of Kermanshah to relax and get ready for the rest of our adventure tomorrow. (B/L/D).
Total drive for the day: 235 km

Day 6. Taq-e Bostan, figure of the King of Kings

After a refreshing breakfast, we’ll hit the road for a short drive to visit Taq-e Bostan, a 1,700 years old bas-relief masterpiece and an excellent example of the Sassanid art at the heart of Zagros Mountains. Taq-e Bostan is a site with a series of large rock carvings from the era of Sassanid, the Iranian dynasty that ruled western Asia from 226 to 650 AD, are some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sassanids. The carvings include representations of the investitures of the Sassanid “King of Kings” of Iran.
We will then have lunch at a traditional restaurant back in Kermanshah to try some of the famous local cuisines like Khoresht-e Khalal (almonds and lamb stew) and Dandeh Kabab (massive grilled lamb rib kebab). After a heavy lunch, we need to take it easy for the rest of the day! So, we’ll head to your hotel for an afternoon break.
When you are ready to wander in the city, we’ll visit the Tekyeh Moaven-ol-Molk. Tekyeh in Iran is a shrine and a mourning place used for religious acts and ceremonies. Tekyeh Moaven-ol-Molk, built during Qajar dynasty, is the finest example of them in Kermanshah with beautiful paintings and tile work. It consists of three buildings, the Abbasieh, Hosseinieh and Zeinabieh. Also, there is an ethnology museum of in the Tekyeh, putting on display local costumes, tools and utensils.
We will spend the rest of the day wandering in Kermanshah Bazaar, the biggest roofed bazaar in the Middle East. We will also try the special local cookies like Nan Berenji Kaak and Naan Khormaei, which are the famous souvenirs of Kermanshah.
We’ll call the day off by having dinner at a nice Persian restaurant, and head back to the hotel to get ready for a day full of sightseeing tomorrow. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 40 km

Day 7. Palangan, a harmonized blend of Human and Mountain

If you haven’t tried Kale Pacheh, a traditional Persian brunch, it is time to do it. The dish is traditional to Azerbaijan and Iran and is usually consumed as a breakfast soup. It includes meat from lamb’s chick and tongue as well as shank.
And now, it is time to drive through the waving mountain roads of Zagros to the spectacular and of remote Kurdish village Palangan. Palangan (meaning leopards in Persian) is one of Iran’s most picturesque villages, not only because of its unique architecture, but also because of its amazingly beautiful nature. Like a staircase, the houses continuously follow a particular pattern, i.e. the roof of one house is the yard of another house. It gives the feeling that the citadels and mountains in this region are purposely blended into each other. Only broken up by the blue skies and stretches of green grass in between the valley, it is one of the most stunning landscapes you can ever imagine.
This area was one of the principal regions of Kurdistan from Saljooqi period on, and Palangan Castle that is next to the village over a mountain bears witness to this claim.
In the evening, we will head to our next destination, the city of Sanandaj around 125 km away. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 275 km

Day 8. Sanandaj, the jewel of Kurdistan

Today, our expedition takes us to the Kurdish city of Sanandaj situated in a fertile valley of the Zagros Mountains. It is a very friendly city with super-hospitable people. Although it is fairly a young city compared to other historical-places in Iran, it houses a number of important monuments from Qajar dynasty.
In our first day in Sanandaj, we will visit the Khan Hamam (bath) with beautiful Persian bath architecture and detailed tile work, then we will visit the iconic Divan-e Moshir mansion with beautiful Persian architecture and garden. We will also visit the Masjed-e Jameh (Jameh Mosque) with its two minarets and 32 beautifully decorated interior domes. Masjed-e Jameh has an incredible story behind its construction to leave you surprised and shocked for a while!
In the evening, we will drive up into the slopes of the Abidar Mountain to get a beautiful panoramic view of the city and stroll among its beautiful parks.
In the evening, we’ll have dinner at a traditional restaurant and head to your hotel to relax. (B/L/D)

Day 9. Takht-e Soleymān, the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary

Today we will drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Takht-e Soleymān, the remains of an exceptional ensemble of the royal architecture of Persia’s Sassanid dynasty, and the spiritual center for Zoroastrians. It is one of the most fascinating and mysterious sacred sites in Iran and the world.
The historic citadel is consisted of a 14 m high oval-shaped outer wall with 38 defence towers. The wall houses the remains of several monuments such as Azargoshnasb Fire Temple and Anahita (angle of water) Temple. An important centrepiece of the site is the crater lake, around 112 m deep which is fed by an underground spring. Fire of the temples was provided using a natural volcanic gas brought using ceramic pipes to sustain an eternal flame in the Fire Temple. It is written in the ancient literature that this fire has been burning for more than 700 years. In Takht-e Soleymān, Zoroastrians had showcased the magic harmony of the four astrology elements, Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.
In the evening, we will have a short drive to your hotel in Takab and call the day after a delicious Persian dinner. (B/L/D).
Total drive for the day: 230 km

Day 10. Zanjan, the Imperial city of Moguls

After a refreshing breakfast, we will continue our expedition, driving through the scenic roads to Zanjan. Zanjan’s name translates as “the Imperial”, and it used to be the capital of Mongol Ilkhanid rulers of Persia in the 14th century. Zanjan is home to several historic monuments including the UNESCO World Heritage Soltaniyeh. The city is also known for its beautiful handicrafts such as knives, traditional sandals called Charoogh, and a handcraft made with silver wires called Malileh.
In our first day in Zanjan, we will visit the remarkable monuments inside the city. We will start with Rakhtshoor Khaneh, a public laundry that was used by local women to wash their clothes. It consists an underground hall with unique dome and column architecture and waterways fed from a nearby Qanat. Then, we will head to the old bazaar complex that is one of the most important historical complexes in Iran due to its cultural, economic and religious significance. We will visit several historic mosques and caravanserais including the Dokhtar Caravanserai, Jameh and Khanoom (Women’s) Mosques. Zanjan bazaar comprises 940 shops and is a fantastic place to see and learn about different handicrafts produced in the region.
In the evening, we will have dinner at a local traditional restaurant, and head to your hotel. We need to relax, as tomorrow we are going to visit two of the most astonishing historical and natural attractions of Iran! (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 140 km

Day 11. Soltaniyeh, masterpiece of the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty and Qazvin, the Calligraphy capital of Iran

Today we will visit one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and a multi-record breaker from the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty. The mausoleum of Oljaytu was constructed in 1310s in the city of Soltaniyeh, the capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty. Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The principal feature of Soltaniyeh’s several ruins is the Dome of Soltaniyeh. The octagonal building is crowned with a 50 m tall dome covered in blue-green faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. The dome is the earliest existing example and the biggest of the double-shelled dome in Iran and is the third largest dome in the world after Santa Maria and Hagia Sophia. Many believe that the construction of the Soltaniyeh has paved the way to other Mongol architectures, so much that scholars such as A.U. Pope have described the building as ‘anticipating the Taj Mahal’.
After visiting Soltaniyeh, we will drive to Qazvin. Qazvin was the ancient capital of the Persian Empire during Safavid dynasty and has been an important cultural center throughout history. Thus, it offers excellent examples of Iranian architecture from various ages.
After arriving at Qazvin, we will have lunch and head to your hotel for a short break. In the afternoon, we will visit Chehel Sotun, the majestic Safavid royal palace with a beautiful pool and garden. Nowadays, Qazvin is known as the Calligraphy capital of Iran as many of the masters of Persian calligraphy are coming from Qazvin. And Chehel Sotun houses the Iran’s Calligraphy Museum, which displays some of the masterpieces of this authentic and brilliant art in Iran.
We will then head to fascinating Bazaar to visit the Sara-ye Vazir caravanserai and its old carpets. In Bazaar, we will also visit the Mogul style Nabi Masque with its expansive and impressive courtyard.
After down, we will head back to Chehel Sotun to see it glowing beautifully under the floodlights and its back-lit colored glass windows. We will then head to a traditional restaurant for a delicious dinner before we go back to the hotel. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 180 km

Day 12. Qazvin, the city of Cisterns

We start our sightseeing tour today by visiting a āb anbār, a traditional reservoir or cistern of drinking water in Persian antiquity. Qazvin is renowned for its cisterns from which, the Sardar-e Bozorg āb anbār is the most famous, being the largest single domed cistern of Iran. We will then go to Hosseinieh Aminiha, a beautiful example of traditional Persian residential architecture indigenous to Qazvin. We will also visit the Imamzadeh-ye Hossein shrine, which presents an excellent example of the Iranian mirror-tiling decoration and art.
In the afternoon, we will head to Bazaar again to stroll through the shops before we go to a traditional restaurant for dinner. You’ll stay overnight at your hotel in Qazvin. (B/L/D)

Day 13. Tehran, dynamic beating heart of Iran

After checking out from the hotel, we’ll hit the road again heading to Tehran, the dynamic capital of Iran. It house mind-blowing 14 million people with diverse culture and ethnic backgrounds. Tehran is a relatively old city; as such, it has an architectural tradition unique to itself. Archeological investigations and excavations in Tehran demonstrate that this area was home to civilizations as far back as 6,000 years BC in the village of Rey, which is now incorporated into the city.
On arrival, we’ll head straight for lunch in an amazing traditional teahouse and restaurant called Sofrekhane-ye Azeri. With themes from the Azerbaijan ethnic design with traditional garden restaurant setup from the north-west of Iran, this is one of the best places to try the traditional Persian dish, Dizi.
After a heavy lunch, we need to take it easy for the rest of the day! So, we’ll head to your hotel for an afternoon break.
When you are ready to wander in the city, we’ll visit the Azadi Tower. Built in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the first Persian Empire, this Gateway to Iran is one of the symbols of Tehran and marks the west entrance to the city. Then, we will head to Milad Tower dominating the sky of Tehran. Opened in 2008, it stands at 435 m from the base to the tip of the antenna which makes it the sixth tallest tower in the world. In clear weather, we will take the elevators to the 360-degree open observation deck at the height of 280 m to get a glimpse of how vast and live this megacity is.
We’ll call the day off by having dinner at a nice Persian restaurant, and head back to the hotel to get ready for a day full of sightseeing tomorrow. (B/L/D)
Total drive for the day: 155 km

Day 14. Glories and excesses of the Qajar Rulers

Today, we will visit the central Tehran, where many monuments to the glories and excesses of the Qajar rulers are established. We’ll first visit the Golestan Palace complex, the former royal Qajar compound in Tehran. The Golestan Palace, the oldest of the historic monuments of Tehran and a UNESCO World Heritage site, belongs to a group of royal buildings that were once enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s Historic Arg (citadel). Golestan Palace complex consists of 17 structures including palaces, museums, and halls. Almost this entire complex was built during the 200 years ruling of Qajar kings. These palaces were used for many different occasions such as coronations and other important celebrations.
Later, we will head to Grand Bazaar, a huge maze of corridors each specializing in various types of goods, including copper, carpets, paper, spices, and precious metals. Although Tehran’s Grand Bazaar economic influence has diminished somewhat in recent years, it remains the largest market of its kind in the world. In Grand Bazaar, we will have lunch first in Sharaf-ol-Eslami restaurant, one of the best and most popular attractions for food lovers. Then we’ll walk in Grand Bazaar towards the Imam Khomeini Mosque for a quiet finish to our hustling and bustling bazaar tour.
After an afternoon break at your hotel, we will go to Tajrish in the evening to experience the nightlife in Tehran and stroll in its narrow alleys and busy shopping centers. We’ll head back to your hotel after dinner in a new-age contemporary restaurant in Tajrish. (B/L/D)

Day 15. Royal living of Pahlavi Dynasty

Today, we will head to the cultural and historic Sa’adabad Palace complex, established on 110 hectares of spectacular parkland in the ever refreshing foothills of Tehran’s northern mountains. During Qajar dynasty, this area was used as the summer palace of the Royal family. After the coup of 1,921 by Pahlavi, it expanded to a greater area with the addition of new gardens and became the summer residence of the kings of Pahlavi dynasty. It’s a vast complex of 18 buildings including royal houses and palaces, art galleries and house museums, guaranteed to keep you amazed.
If time permits, we’ll visit Niavaran Palace complex that was the primary residence of the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the Imperial family until the Iranian Revolution. It is set on 5 hectares of beautifully designed Persian gardens and has five separate museums.
By this, we will wrap up our Tehran history tour, but no visit to Tehran is complete without a visit to Darband that towers over Tehran. Darband is the northern neighborhood within Tehran’s city limits, the beginning of a very popular hiking trail into the Mount Tochal. The initial start of the trail at Darband is about 250 m long and is dotted with a number of small cafes and restaurants. These are quite popular and are busy in the evenings as locals and tourists alike visit for delicious traditional food, tea and hookah in a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere. (B/L/D)

Day 16. “Bedrood”, va “Be Omid-e Didar”

It is time to say “Bedrood” (goodbye) and “Be Omid-e Didar” (hope to see you again). Today is the last day of your tour, and we will arrange it as you wish. Depending on your departure time, we can have short walks in the city, spend some time shopping “Soghati” (souvenir), visit a museum or whatever else you wish. We’ll take you to the airport for your departure, and start missing you already!(B)

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