Our 19-day tour begins in Tehran, with an introduction to the fine arts and traditional culture of Iran. From here we travel to Zanjan and Ecbatana over the Zagros Mountains, and visit the Renaissance-era city of Isfahan. We view Iran’s remaining Zoroastrian shrines and intricate mosques in Yazd, then continue to Kerman and Shiraz, the city of poets. Here we see some of Iran’s most exceptional historical monuments, such as the magnificent relief carvings of Persepolis and Pasargadae, before returning to 21st-century Tehran.
The rich diversity of landscapes, cultures and peoples which make up modern Iran
Memorable archaeological sites of the ancient Persian Empire
The stunning art and architecture of Iran’s Safavid and Qajar-era mosques and palaces in the legendary cities of Shiraz and Isfahan
The crosscurrents of Eastern and Western cultures at key Silk Road sites
The enchanting world of Persian gardens and Sufi poetry
A remarkably friendly, cultured and inquisitive population
The Crown Jewels Museum and Golestan Palace in Tehran
The imposing Mausoleum of Öljeitü and ancient Ecbatana
Safavid Palaces, Islamic mosques and squares of Isfahan
Zoroastrian and medieval sites in Yazd
Gardens, fortresses and royal tombs around Shiraz
Achaemenid Persepolis and Cyrus the Great’s legacy at Pasargadae
Days 1–3: Visit Tehran’s Qajar Palaces and museums.
Days 4–5: See the Mausoleum of Öljeitü and Takht-e Soleyman near Zanjan.
Days 6–7: Drive to Hamadan and ancient Ecbatana.
Days 8–10: Explore Safavid Palaces, Islamic mosques and architecture in Isfahan.
Days 11–12: Delve into Zoroastrianism with Yazd’s fire temples and towers of silence.
Days 13–14: Investigate remnants of the Sasanian Empire around Kerman.
Days 15–17: Travel to Shiraz and visit Persepolis and Pasargadae.
Days 18–19: Fly to Tehran and visit the carpet museum before departure.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates and Etihad offer daily flights from Australia to Tehran.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday April 27: Arrive
Tour leader Chris Bradley will meet you on arrival at Tehran Airport shortly after the arrival of the Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai in the morning. After a coach transfer to the hotel and time to check in and freshen up, we meet Chris in the lobby this afternoon for a tour briefing and dinner in the hotel. Overnight Tehran (D)
Saturday April 28: Tehran Museums
Our touring today provides us with an overview of Iran’s history and culture, with visits to several of Tehran’s well regarded museums. Our first visit is to the archaeology museum with its collection showcasing the ancient cultures of Iran, from its prehistory to Elamite and ancient Persia. Set in a 19th-century Qajar house, the glass and ceramics museum houses an extraordinary collection of works dating from the 4th millennium BC to the contemporary era. After a break for lunch we continue on to the Reza Abassi Museum. The museum has select examples of the finest artworks produced in Iran, including Achaemenid gold vessels and outstanding examples of early Islamic ceramics, calligraphy and miniatures. This evening we gather for a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Tehran (B, L, D)
Sunday April 29: Golestan Palace and The Crown Jewels
This morning our focus is the downtown Golestan Palace Complex, built by the 19th-century Qajar Kings. Here we see the Marble Throne, an intricately carved ensemble of more than 65 pieces of stone, and a photographic exhibition of old Tehran. The Ethnography Museum has a wide range of traditional textiles on display, and the Painting Museum gives us an appreciation of the major cultural upheavals of Iran as it encountered the Western imperial powers. The afternoon is a highlight, with a visit to the Crown Jewels Museum. It showcases some of the magnificent jewellery belonging to the last kings of Iran, including the Darya-i Nur (Sea of Light), the largest uncut diamond in the world, and the ‘Globe of Jewels’, a map of the world in emerald, sapphire, ruby, and diamonds. Dinner is in the hotel this evening. Overnight Tehran (B, L)
Monday April 30: To Zanjan
Today we travel to Zanjan via Qazvin, a Sassanian city that prospered later under Seljuk rule with architecture that was to become a precursor to Isfahan. After lunch in Zanjan we visit the magnificent Mausoleum of Oljeitu, constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Khoda Bandeh (1304-1330). Its huge dome, which is about 51 meters high, ranks amongst the largest in the world; the stucco-work, tile-work, and the designs decorating this monument make it unique. Overnight Zanjan (B, L, D)
Tuesday May 1: Takht-e-Soleiman
A full day’s journey into the Zagros Mountains where we visit the site of Takht-e-Soleiman located in a broad and remote mountain valley. What remains are the massive stone walls and remnants of the thirty eight watch towers, palaces, the fire temple and the Anahita temple, built around the conical crater lake mainly by the Sassanians in the 6th century. Overnight Zanjan (B, L)
Wednesday May 2: To Hamadan
Today we depart by coach to Hamadan stopping for refreshments and lunch along the way. Overnight Hamadan (B, L, D)
Thursday May 3: Ancient Ectabana
Ecbatana is one of the great royal capitals of the Achaemenid and Hellenistic World. This morning we visit the tomb of Esther and Mordeccai then the ruins of the ancient city to see the museum and traces of Alexander the Great’s city. After lunch we return to Hamadan and visit Avicenna’s tomb, the lion gates of the Old City (Shir Sangi), and visit Ganj Nameh, to see the ancient rock-cut inscriptions of Iran close up Overnight Hamadan (B, L)
Friday May 4: To Isfahan
Today we travel to Isfahan, stopping at Malayer and see the Median site of Tappeh Nush-e Jan, a fortified grain store and temples dating back from the 7th-century BC. The desert landscape fades as we continue to Isfahan and pass through the garden towns of Kanshar and Golpayegan. After checking into our hotel in Isfahan we take an evening stroll along the banks of the Zayandeh River, which originates in the Zagros Mountains and flows through the city, before dinner in the hotel. Overnight Isfahan (B, L, D)
Saturday May 5: Exploring Isfahan
We begin our explorations in Isfahan at Chehel Sotoun, a 17th-century garden palace of the Safavid kings built in the Achaemenid style. The unusual portico entrance to the palace has twenty columns: when they are reflected in the pool, the illusion of forty symbolises the days of mourning for the death of Mohammad’s grandson Hossein. Inside, the building’s historical wall paintings show the evolution of Iranian art and history. Visit the Vank Cathedral and Museum, the centre of Armenian life in Isfahan. The interior is decorated in a mixture of Islamic tile work designs, Christian imagery and wonderful frescoes. Following lunch we survey three of Isfahan’s fine bridges, beginning with the Sharestan Bridge, its eleven arches constructed from brick and stone in the 12th century. Further downriver is perhaps the finest, the Khaju Bridge, with two levels of terraced arcades. It also serves as a dam. Closest to town and one of the best examples of Safavid design is the Sio-Se Bridge. We also pass by the attractive Ali Mosque and Minaret before heading to the Mausoleum of Harun-e Vellayat, an important pilgrimage site containing some excellent frescoes and mosaics. Overnight Isfahan (B, L)
Sunday May 6: Mosques and Palaces
This morning is spent around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Naqsh-e Jahan Square (literally “Map of the World”). From the elegant Sheikh Lotfallah Shrine to the grand Imam Mosque, no expense was spared to decorate this square. The Ali Qapu Palace has some of the best acoustics in the medieval world with its innovative music room. Continue after lunch to the grand Jameh Mosque, an active place of worship that showcases 800 years of Islamic design and architecture, from elegant Seljuk geometry to the Safavid baroque style. There is time this afternoon to wander through the maze of alleyways and shops in the grand bazaar. Overnight Isfahan (B, L, D)
Monday May 7: To Yazd via Naeein
Before farewelling Isfahan, we visit the Hasht Beshesht or “Eight Paradises” Palace, whose interior features impressive mosaics and moulded ceilings. We stop at Naeein and admire the Friday Mosque with its fine Mihrab, and visit the Pirnia House and Ethnology Museum, a perfect example of desert architecture. Arrive in Yazd this afternoon and check in. Dinner this evening is in our hotel Overnight Yazd (B, L, D)
Tuesday May 8: Around Yazd
The Zoroastrian religion was the original religion of Iran dating back one thousand years before Christ. It emphasises the manifestation of divinity in nature, and its centres of worship are nature itself or the fire temples in each city or town. Today we visit one of the few remaining fire temples in Iran, and then stroll through the old town to the Masjid-e Jameh (Friday Mosque) and the mud-brick quarter of ancient Yazd. In the afternoon we visit the Towers of Silence (Dakhmeh) and the Amir Chakhmagh Complex, from where we can enjoy views over the Old City. This evening there is an opportunity to witness Zurkhaneh, a unique Iranian experience. Meaning “house of strength”, it is a combination of moral and philosophical values and feats of strength performed to music and the poetry of Hafez. Overnight Yazd (B, L, D)
Wednesday May 9: To Kerman
Depart for Kerman, a major city on the Persia-India trade route founded as a defensive outpost of the Sassanid Empire. Kerman is home to a large population of Baluchi people, nomadic tent dwellers originally from the Baluchestan desert region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Arriving mid-afternoon, we visit the bazaar before checking into our hotel. Dinner this evening is in the hotel. Overnight Kerman (B, L, D)
Thursday May 10: Around Kerman
Outside of Kerman are the small towns Mahan and Rayen, which we visit today. Unlike Bam – which was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 2003 – the mud brick city of Rayen is extremely well preserved. The Arg-e Rayen, a citadel constructed of mud with thick outer walls supporting 15 towers, dates back 1000 years and is believed to have been inhabited up until 150 years ago. Inside, the governor’s complex of four separate houses has been restored, giving us a perspective of the relative luxury the governor and his family enjoyed. This afternoon we stop at Mahan to visit the Shahzahdeh garden, an oasis of tall trees, beautifully maintained grounds and split level fountains fed from the surrounding natural springs and qanats (water channels). Before returning to Kerman, we visit the mausoleum of Shah Nematollah Vali, a Sufi poet and founder of a Darvish order. The central domed mausoleum dates from the 15th century and was erected by an Indian king and devoted disciple. Overnight Kerman (B, L)
Friday May 11: To Shiraz
Today we travel to Shiraz, stopping at Neyriz to stretch our legs before continuing on to Sarvestan, where we see the Sassanian monument that may have also served as a Zoroastrian fire temple. Arriving in Shiraz in the late afternoon, we check into our hotel before reconvening for dinner this evening. Overnight Shiraz (B, L, D)
Saturday May 12: Persepolis
Pasargadae is the first of our destinations today. Construction of the city was begun by Cyrus the Great, an enlightened ruler who wished to create a society in which the diverse cultures of each region were respected and promoted. Cyrus was killed in battle before his great city was finished and the site became his final resting place. We visit his tomb and the ruins of his nearby gardens and palaces. On the way to Persepolis we visit the ancient fire temple Kab-e Zaratosht and the royal tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam, as well as the coronation site of the Sasanian Kings at Naqsh-e Rajab. Persepolis is the best-preserved city of ancient Persia, dating from the 6th century BC, and was the home of Darius, Xerxes, and the Achaemenid kings, who built Iran into a major power of the ancient world. Overnight Shiraz (B, L)
Sunday May 13: Touring Shiraz
Our touring in Shiraz, the city of poets and gardens, fittingly commences at the tomb and garden of Iran’s great poet, Hafez. Set in a peaceful garden, the marble tombstone is engraved with a verse from the poet and many Iranians treat the tomb as a site of pilgrimage, seeking to tell their fortunes by reading from the poet’s works. We visit two of Shiraz’s famous gardens, 19th-century Bagh-e Eram, with a grand residence overseeing the fountains and botanic gardens; and Bagh-e Naranjestan a beautiful traditional rose garden. Following a break for lunch we explore some of Shiraz’s architecture at Arg-e Karim Khan, a 250-year old fortress that formed part of the royal court to rival Isfahan. In contrast is the elegant Nasir al Molk Mosque with its unusually deep blue tiling, finely carved pillars and exquisite stained glass. Finally, there is some free time for shopping in the Vakil Bazaar before we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Shiraz (B, L, D)
Monday May 14: Tehran
After checking out of our hotel, we travel to Shiraz Airport for our flight to Tehran. Upon arrival we visit the Carpet Museum and see the extensive collection of old and new Persian carpets and rugs sourced from the major carpet-weaving centres of Iran. There is time to relax this afternoon before we gather for our farewell dinner. Overnight Tehran (B, L, D)
Tuesday May 15: Departure
Flights departing Tehran throughout the day. Your tour consultant can assist with arranging the best possible connections and booking a late check out if required. (B)
Has an honours degree from Liverpool University and specialises in the history and art of North Africa and Arabia.
Chris Bradley is a cultural historian specialising in the religion and art of the Middle East and North Africa. After many years of leading tours he has built up an enviable knowledge and personal photographic library that he uses to enhance the Academy Travel tours that he leads to Ethiopia, Iran and Central Asia.
Chris gained an honours degree at the University of Liverpool and spent several years working in Arabia, which gave him a good foundation for understanding the Middle East in general. The Arabic that he learnt through the 1970s proved invaluable for his own travels throughout the Middle East whilst researching, writing and photographing more than a dozen guidebooks as well as countless travel articles. For 30 years he has supplied international picture libraries with photographs that are used worldwide in newspapers, magazines, websites and museums, including the V&A and British Museum in London. This experience also led to his filming and producing credits on many television documentaries for the BBC and National Geographic TV.
Chris was invited by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to analyse sustainable tourism development, initially for Libya and later Egypt. His interest in Islamic and early Christian art is an underlying theme for many of his illustrated talks and lectures for the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and around the world. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and regularly gives lectures at their various locations. His study days on Islamic Art, The Silk Road, Roman and Islamic Art of North Africa are always over-subscribed.
In the 40 years since Chris started leading group tours in the Middle East he has worked in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Tunisia. This experience has allowed him to design and develop his own itineraries to Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. His tours aim, where possible, to go beyond the obvious major sights and search for the hidden gems.
We asked Chris, what do you enjoy about tour leading?
“Because of the scope of my interests I enjoy making connections between countries and religions that are often not obvious and I am always searching for links along the lines of ‘where did that idea come from?’ Working with each country’s national guides (many of whom are now personal friends), I love to expand every aspect of the subjects that we cover for the groups, which could be the Queen of Sheba, Zoroastrianism or Shia Islam.”
Potential participants are advised that Iran is well off the mainstream tourist path. While every effort has been made to provide the best available accommodation and services, not all tourist services are at western standards. Where possible, all hotels on this tour are four or five-star – though this does not necessarily imply the standards of four and five-star hotels in Western countries.
Tehran, Azadi or Laleh Hotel (3 nights)
Zanjan, Grand Hotel (2 nights)
Hamadan, Parsian AzadiHotel (2 nights)
Isfahan, AbbasiHotel (3 nights)
Yazd, Moshir GardenHotel (2 nights)
Kerman, Pars Hotel (2 nights)
Shiraz, Homa Hotel (3 nights)
Tehran, AzadiHotel (1 night)
*Hotels may be subject to change (to another hotel of equivalent quality). Any changes will be advised to all clients booked on the tour.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.