AIA Tours: land

Iran: The Ancient Land of Persia

Tour Dates: May 18-June 2, 2023 (16 days)

Tour Leader(s): Alexander Nagel ,

For more information about this tour or to make a reservation, please contact us at aia@studytours.org or call 800-748-6262. Click here to reserve your space online.

Travel and learn with engaging AIA study leader Alexander Nagel, an expert in the archaeology of Iran. Enjoy the knowledge and services of an Iranian guide/professional tour manager who will attend to all of the travel logistics, freeing you to fully enjoy and experience your surroundings. Spend two full days in the capital city of Tehran for an introduction to Iran’s archaeology, culture, contemporary art, and history, with visits to several excellent museums, art galleries, and monuments. With another two full days in Isfahan, perhaps Iran’s most splendid city, with glittering, tiled domes that tower above wide, shaded avenues and terraced gardens.
Experience twelve UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Afternoon and morning visits to the astounding site of Persepolis
  • Soltaniye’s 14th-century mausoleum of Mongol Sultan Oljeitu Khodabande
  • Bisotun, with a 6th-century bas-relief surrounded by over a thousand lines of inscriptions in Elamite, Babylonian, and Old Persian
  • Tehran’s lavish, 18th-century Golestan Palace
  • The Sasanian religious center of Takht-e Soleiman (Solomon’s Throne)
  • Susa’s Ardeshir’s Palace and archaeological mounds, whose layers date from the 5th millennium B.C. to the 13th century A.D.
  • The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, an irrigation system that was begun by Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. and completed by the Romans in the 3rd century A.D.
  • Isfahan’s immense Meidan Emam (Royal Square) and Masjed-e Jame, one of the world’s greatest mosques
  • Choga Zanbil, a 13th-century B.C. Elamite complex with a ziggurat
  • Pasargadae, the location of the first Achaemenid capital, with the tomb of Cyrus II and the ruins of gardens, palaces, and altars
  • Yazd’s historic center and its traditional, underground irrigation channels (qanats)

Enjoy delicious cuisine, which emphasizes fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. This tour is limited to just 14 guests, reserve your space today.


Tour Prices per person (14 nights)
Per person, double occupancy.

11-14 participants $8,545
8-10 participants $8,945
Single supplement $1,395

Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 8 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.

To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

Persepolis, stairs of the Apadana

The Shah Mosque in Isfahan © goals

Yazd, Dolat Abad Garden © Andrew Moore

Naqsh-e Rustam

Persepolis ©2005b

Itinerary


Thursday, May 18, 2023: Depart home

Friday, May 19: Arrive Tehran, Iran

Saturday, May 20: Tehran: National Museum, Golestan Palace, Aaran Gallery | Welcome dinner

Sunday, May 21: Tehran: Sa’d Abad Museum Complex, Reza Abbasi Museum

Monday, May 22: Soltaniye | Takht-e Soleiman | Takab

Tuesday, May 23: Bisotun | Taq-e Bostan | Kermanshah

Wednesday, May 24: Khoramabad | Falak-ol-Aflak Fortress | Pol-e Dokhtar | Susa | Dezful

Thursday, May 25: Chogha Zanbil | Chogha Mish | Shushtar | Fly to Shiraz

Friday, May 26: Naqsh-e Rostam | Persepolis | Shiraz: Vakil Bazaar

Saturday, May 27: Firuzabad | Qal’eh Dokhtar & Palace of Ardashir | Shiraz: Tomb of Hafez

Sunday, May 28: Return to Persepolis | Pasargadae | Yazd

Monday, May 29: Yazd walking tour

Tuesday, May 30: Na’in | Ardestan | Isfahan: Hasht Behesht

Wednesday, May 31: Isfahan: Palace of Forty Columns, Meidan Emam, Bazaar | Farewell dinner

Thursday, June 1: Isfahan: Friday Mosque, Armenian Quarter, Music Museum

Friday, June 2: Isfahan | Fly home

View Detailed Itinerary

ITINERARY
(B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

Thursday, May 18, 2023: Depart home
Depart home on overnight flights to meet connecting flights.

Friday, May 19: Arrive Tehran, Iran
After connecting with our suggested flight (TBD), arrive late at night at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA), where you will be met and transferred to our hotel. Overnight at the 4-star Espinas International Hotel for three nights.

Saturday, May 20: Tehran: National Museum, Golestan Palace, Aaran Gallery | Welcome dinner
After an introductory lecture this morning we visit the Archaeological Collection of the National Museum of Iran, including many famous sculptures of the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires. After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit the lavish Golestan Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands on the site of the historic Arg (citadel) of Tehran. End the day at the Aaran Gallery, one of Tehran’s most important contemporary art galleries. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel. (B,L,D)

Sunday, May 21: Tehran: Sa’d Abad Museum Complex, Reza Abbasi Museum
This morning we call at the seldom-visited Sa’d Abad Museum Complex, a former royal estate whose opulent Green Palace houses some of the most beautiful carpets from Iran’s various provinces. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue on to the Reza Abbasi Museum, whose collections focus on art, culture, and technology in Iran from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Return to the hotel, and then gather to dine at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 22: Soltaniye | Takht-e Soleiman | Takab
Depart Tehran and drive northwest to Takab (total driving time 7 to 8 hours), stopping along the way to visit Soltaniye, known for its mausoleum of the Mongol Sultan Oljeitu Khodabande. Admire this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s magnificent 14th-century tomb tower, whose decorations and patterns carved into plastered walls have inspired geometric and floral patterns on Persian textiles. After lunch, take a spectacular drive through outliers of the Zagros Mountains to Takht-e Soleiman (Solomon’s Throne), another UNESCO World Heritage Site and once a great Sasanian religious center, where we find the well-preserved remains of a large, fortified settlement built around a small lake on a hilltop. Arrive in Takab, and check-in to the best-available, but very simple, hotel. Overnight at the Ranji Hotel. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 23: Bisotun | Taq-e Bostan | Kermanshah
Depart Takab early this morning and drive to Kermanshah. Make a stop at Bisotun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose principle significance is a 6th-century bas-relief ordered by Darius I (“The Great”), below and around which are over a thousand lines of inscriptions, written in three languages (Elamite, Babylonian, and Old Persian). Upon arrival in Kermanshah we have lunch and then visit Taq-e Bostan, where a series of bas-reliefs and grottoes (the latter unique in Sasanian art) were carved into the cliff face. Check-in to our hotel, get settled, and gather for dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Parsian Hotel Kermanshah. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 24: Khoramabad | Falak-ol-Aflak Fortress | Pol-e Dokhtar | Susa | Dezful
Set out for a day of driving to Dezful (six to seven hours total), with stops along the way at several archaeological sites. Our first stop is at Khoramabad, where there are several Paleolithic cave-dwelling sites and views of the Zagros Mountains, which stretch 932 miles and form an imposing backdrop to many of Iran’s towns and cities. Visit Falak-ol-Aflak Fortress, which was built during the Sasanid period, once served as a prison, and today houses one of Iran’s most prestigious anthropology museums. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue driving to Pol-e Dokhtar (“Bridge of the Daughter”), whose eight arches span the River Kashkan. The bridge was part of the Sasanian royal road, which linked the Persian capitals of Istakhr and Bishapur with towns in central and northern Mesopotamia. Continue on to Susa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising archaeological mounds and Ardeshir’s Palace, whose layers of urban settlements date from the late 5th millennium B.C. to the 13th century A.D. Arrive at Dezful, where we check-in to the best-available, but very simple, hotel and have dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at the Tourist Inn. (B,L,D)

Thursday, May 25: Chogha Zanbil | Chogha Mish | Shushtar | Fly to Shiraz
Begin the day at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chogha Zanbil, a 13th-century B.C. Elamite complex with one of the few extant ziggurats (pyramidal, stepped, tower temples) outside of Mesopotamia. (Please note that due to erosion concerns Chogha Zanbil has recently been fenced, and it is not possible to get close to the site.) Continue on to Chogha Mish, which was a regional center during Mesopotamia’s late Uruk period and is important today as a source of information about the development of writing. The site provided evidence of an accounting system that evolved from clay tokens, to clay tablets with marks, to a cuneiform writing system. Drive to Shushtar for lunch at a local restaurant, and then visit the UNESCO-listed Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, an irrigation system that was begun by Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. and completed by the Romans in the 3rd century A.D. Transfer to the airport in Ahwaz for a short, late afternoon flight to Shiraz, and transfer upon arrival to our luxurious hotel, where we have dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Zandiyeh Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Friday, May 26: Naqsh-e Rostam | Persepolis | Shiraz: Vakil Bazaar
This morning visit Naqsh-e Rostam, where we find the carved tombs of Achaemenid rulers Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. After lunch we visit nearby Persepolis, ceremonial capital of the vast Achaemenid Empire. It is perhaps one of the most spectacular surviving archaeological sites in the world, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Persepolis comprises about 15 major ceremonial buildings, including the Apadana, Treasury, and “Harem,” as well as smaller palaces also embellished with sculpture. Return to Shiraz and end the day at Vakil Bazaar, Shiraz’s main bazaar and considered by many to be the finest in Iran. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Saturday, May 27: Firuzabad | Qal’eh Dokhtar & Palace of Ardashir | Shiraz: Tomb of Hafez
Take a day trip to Firuzabad, formerly known as Gor and Ardashir-Khorra (“Glory of Ardashir”). Firuzabad was the capital of Ardashir I (A.D. 224-241), founder of the Sasanian Empire, and was built in a circular plan more than a mile in diameter and encircled by double walls. A few miles from the old city of Gor is Qal’eh Dokhtar (“The Maiden Castle”), a three-story fortress built by Ardashir I in A.D. 209. In A.D. 224, he built the nearby Palace of Ardashir with a design particular to architects of Fars. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and visit the remains of the Sasanian Tangab Bridge. Return to Shiraz and visit the tomb of the celebrated, 14th-century poet Hafez, whose marble tombstone is engraved with a long verse from his works. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Sunday, May 28: Return to Persepolis | Pasargadae | Yazd
This morning we drive to Yazd, making a stop at Persepolis for a repeat visit of this magnificent site. Continue on to Pasargadae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cyrus II (“The Great”) defeated Astyages the Mede nearby in 550 B.C. and Cyrus is said to have built this first Persian capital on the site of his victory. His white limestone tomb stands apart from the scattered ruins of formal gardens, palaces, and altars on a beautiful plain. Upon arriving in Yazd, those who are up to it may climb a steep, dirt path to the spiritual site of the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians once laid out their dead. Dinner is at a local restaurant. Overnight at the 4-star Moshir Garden Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 29: Yazd walking tour
The architecture of Yazd is perhaps the most traditionally Persian to be found, preserved by the dry climate and spared the devastations of the Mongols. Wind towers are seen all over Iran but are most highly developed in Yazd. Begin exploring Yazd at the home of the city’s former Governor to learn how wind towers work and more about residential Persian architecture in the desert. Take a walking tour through the bazaar, ending at the Water Museum, an excellent introduction to qanats (traditional underground water channels for irrigation, which have been collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site). After lunch in the old quarter, enjoy a walk through covered streets. End the day concentrating on the Zoroastrian religion, which during Sasanian times was the state creed. There are about 400,000 Zoroastrians left in the world, of which about 60,000 live in and around Yazd. Zoroastrians worship fire as a symbol of God, and keep eternal flames burning at their temples. Visit the Ateshkade, where it is said that a sacred flame has been burning since about A.D. 470. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 30: Na’in | Ardestan | Isfahan: Hasht Behesht
This morning we drive to Na’in, an important trade center at the geographical center of Iran that is known for its carpet-making and fine early mosque. After a visit to a private house with some superb, 17th-century stucco carvings, we have lunch at a charming local restaurant. Continue driving to Ardestan, home to a large, 10th-century Seljuk mosque (one of the earliest built on a four-ivan plan), and near to a 16th-century, carved alabaster tomb of a soldier and early Safavid administrator, Amin Oways, who was killed and buried on the battlefield. Drive onward to Isfahan, arriving mid-afternoon, and visit the Hasht Behesht, one of the city’s two surviving Safavid pavilions (restored in the 1970s), in the center of the Garden of Nightingales (Bagh-e Bulbul). Check-in to our charming hotel, a converted, double-storied caravanserai of the late Safavid period, where we have dinner tonight. Overnight at the 4-star Abbasi Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 31: Isfahan: Palace of Forty Columns, Meidan Emam, Bazaar | Farewell dinner
Today we begin exploring Isfahan, perhaps the most splendid of all Iranian cities, at the Palace of Forty Columns, a charming pavilion whose walls are covered with frescoes and paintings. Walk to the nearby, immense, Meidan Emam (“Royal Square”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Four jewels of 17th-century architecture adorn each side, symbolizing the political, economic, and religious spheres of Safavid Persia. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and spend some time this afternoon exploring the city’s bazaar. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Thursday, June 1: Isfahan: Friday Mosque, Armenian Quarter, Music Museum
This morning visit the complex and magnificent Masjed-e Jame (Friday Mosque), a UNESCO World Heritage Site and truly one of the world’s greatest mosques. Its tiled ivans, vaulted ceilings, and lofty domes demonstrate more than 800 years of Persian religious architecture. View some of the five bridges crossing the Zayendehrud River (which is often dry, due to drought and construction of a dam). Perhaps the most beautiful is the two-story, 17th-century Khaju Bridge that is essentially a bridge superimposed upon a dam and supported by 24 stone arches. Continue on to Isfahan’s Armenian quarter, where there are 14 churches, and take a walking tour through its narrow, twisting alleys and streets. End the day with a private, guided tour of the new Music Museum, which houses more than 300 instruments from around Iran (many unchanged for centuries). We have an early dinner at our hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

Friday, June 2: Isfahan | Fly home
Transfer very early this morning to Isfahan International Airport (IFN) for our suggested flight (TBD) connecting to your homeward flights.


For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

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