Iran has flourished on the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilisations for thousands of years, and its great past is ever-present, from its ancient Achaemenid palaces and royal tombs to its Sasanian fire temples and fabled cities, with their enchanting gardens, caravanserais, bazaars and stunning Savafid-era mosques. Explore the awe-inspiring art, architecture and history of Iran on this 18-day tour, and see how this country’s ancient traditions live on in their arts, crafts and customs, especially in the friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people, which leave many people longing to return.
The power and influence of ancient Persia, seen through its magnificent remains
The diverse landscapes, cultures and peoples which make up modern Iran
The art and architecture of Islamic Iran, in the spectacular cities of Shiraz and Isfahan
Renaissance Iran, from enchanting Persian gardens to Sufi poetry
Bustling bazaars, where ancient traditions live on in the arts, crafts and exotic spices on sale
A remarkably friendly, cultured and inquisitive population, eager to engage with the world outside Iran
Tehran’s wonderful museums and palaces, including the Crown Jewels Museum and Golestan Palace complex
The imposing Mausoleum of Oljeitu and the Sasanian watch towers, palaces and fire temples at Takht-e Soleyman
Wandering through the gardens of Shiraz, where Persia’s poets are celebrated
Great classical sites at Persepolis, Pasargadae and Firuzabad
Travel to the desert city of Yazd, with its evocative Zoroastrian towers of silence and medieval sites
Stay in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Isfahan, centre of the ‘Renaissance’ Safavid period
Days 1–3: Explore Tehran’s palaces and museums, including the ancient and Islamic collections at the National Museum.
Days 4–5: Drive to Zanjan via Qazvin, and examine the Sasanian ruins of Takht-e Soleyman.
Days 6–7: Continue to Hamadan, visit the Mausoleum of Oljeitu and explore ancient Ecbatana.
Days 8–10: Fly to Shiraz, admire its gardens and investigate Firuzabad.
Day 11: See the great city of Persepolis.
Days 12–13: Travel to Yazd, visiting Pasargadae and the Zoroastrian fire temples.
Days 14–16: Enjoy the Maidan, mosques, palaces and Armenian Quarter of Isfahan.
Days 17–18: Return to Tehran via Natanz and Kashan, before departure.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates and Qatar airlines have daily flights from Australia to Tehran. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Saturday April 20: Arrival
Arrive into Tehran where the tour starts at our hotel this afternoon at 2pm. Visit the Carpet Museum to see the extensive collection of old and new Persian carpets and rugs sourced from the major carpet-weaving centres of Iran. Overnight Tehran (D)
Sunday April 21: Tehran museums
Today is devoted to visiting some of Tehran’s Museums, demonstrating the rich cultural heritage of the country. The visits will include the archaeological section of Iran’s National Museum, displaying an authenticated collection of pre-historic and ancient artefacts with pottery dating back to 6-7 millennium BCE, and exhibits from Persepolis including the famous inscribed cuneiform tablets from the time of Darius I. We also explore the unique collection of Persian art and artefacts at the Reza Abbasi Museum. Overnight Tehran (B, L, D)
Monday April 22: Golestan Palace
This morning we visit the Golestan Palace and Museum Complex, the former residence of the 19th and early 20th century Qajar Kings of Iran, incorporating several museums including the Marble Throne Room. After a break for lunch we visit the fabulous State’s 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. Overnight Tehran (B, L, D)
Tuesday April 23: 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. Overnight Zanjan (B, L, D)
Wednesday April 24: Takht-e-Soleiman
We take 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 mainly by the Sassanians in the 6th century around the conical crater lake. Overnight Zanjan (B, L)
Thursday April 25: To Hamadan
Today we depart by coach to Hamadan stopping at the magnificent Mausoleum of Oljeitu, constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Khoda Bandeh (1304-1330). Its huge dome, which is about 51 metres high, ranks amongst the largest in the world; the stucco-work, tile-work, and the designs decorating this monument make it unique. Overnight Hamadan (B, L, D)
Friday April 26: Ancient Ectabana
Ecbatana was 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 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)
Saturday April 27: To shiraz
This morning we head to Tehran’s domestic airport by coach and board our flight to Shiraz. Arriving in Shiraz we transfer to our hotel where the remainder of the day is at leisure. Overnight Shiraz (B, L, D)
Sunday April 28: Firuzabad
We travel south to the city known today as Firuzabad to visit the enormous palace of Ardashir. Its unique architectural design is dominated by its huge arch and three domes. On the ancient road to Firuzabad we pass by two bas-reliefs, depicting Ardashir defeating the Parthian king Artabanus and receiving the crown of kingship from Ahuramazda, as well as the Qaleh-i Dokhtar, built by Ardashir as a fortress guarding the entrance to the valley. Overnight Shiraz (B, L, D)
Monday April 29: Exploring Shiraz
Our morning commences with a visit to the tomb of the great 14th century 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. We wander through the wonderful Bagh-i-Eram garden with a grand residence overlooking the fountains and botanic gardens; and Nasr el-Molk mosque with its unusually deep blue tiling, finely carved pillars and exquisite stained glass. The afternoon is free for further shopping in the bazaar or visiting more of the many monuments of Shiraz. Overnight Shiraz (B, L, D)
Tuesday April 30: Persepolis
Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the Ancient World, is our destination today. It was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings with remains of the palaces of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, and its famous bas-reliefs, depicting kings and courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire. At Naghsh-e-Rostam we see the Achaemenid fire temple Ka’be-Zardosht and Royal Tombs plus seven magnificent Sassanian rock-reliefs (including Shapur the First’s famous victory over the Roman Emperor Valerian). Overnight Persepolis (B, L, D)
Wednesday May 1: Pasargardae
On the way to Yazd we visit Pasargadae, the site of the tomb and remains of palaces of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, all located in the magnificent Dasht-e-Morghab. Driving through the typical desert town of Abarkuh, we stop and and have tea under the shade of a 4,000-year old Cypress tree before arriving into Yazd and checking into our hotel. Overnight Yazd (B, L, D)
Thursday May 2: Zoroastrian Yazd
The Zoroastrian religion was the main religion of Iran from at least Sassanian times and perhaps even earlier. It emphasizes the manifestation of divinity in nature, and its centres of worship are nature itself or the fire temples in each city or town. Today in Yazd, the centre for Iran’s small remaining Zoroastrian community, we visit one of the two Zoroastrian abandoned Towers of Silence (Dakhma), and the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for about 1500 years. Among Yazd’s Islamic sites is the Friday Mosque, with the highest portal and minarets in Iran. There are also many beautiful old houses in Yazd, among them the Dowlat Abad Garden which we see this afternoon. Overnight Yazd (B, L, D)
Friday May 3: To Isfahan
Leaving Yazd we drive to Isfahan, with a stop en-route at the village of Meybod where we visit the fine Zilou museum and ceramic shops. We continue to Na’in, another charming desert town and visit the 10th century Friday Mosque, and the 17th century Pirnia House and Ethnographic Museum, with a walk through the old part of town. After a break for lunch we head to Isfahan and check into our hotel. Overnight Isfahan (B, L, D)
Saturday May 4: Exploring Isfahan
Our full day tour of the beautiful city of Isfahan commences with a survey of the city’s three famous bridges – Shahrestan, Khajou, Sio-se-pol – each with its own design and architectural features. We visit the Armenian Quarter with several churches, including the important Cathedral of Vank, decorated in a mixture of Islamic tile designs, Christian imagery and wonderful frescoes. In the afternoon we visit one of the world’s grandest squares, the Maidan-e-Naghsh-e-Jahan, including the Ali-Qapu Palace with its balcony overlooking the Maidan. We also visit two of Islamic world’s greatest mosques – the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Shah – both with magnificent architecture and tile work. Our touring today concludes with a visit to the Qeisarieh Bazaar. Overnight Isfahan (B, L, D)
Sunday May 5: Isfahan
Our sightseeing in Isfahan continues with a visit to the magnificent Friday Mosque, with the famous Uljaitu Mihrab (Prayer Niche) of the Il-Khanid period. The Friday Mosque is considered a museum of a thousand years of Persian religious architecture. Our exploration continues to the Chehel Sotun Palace, where the wooden columns reflected in the surface of the pool givethe palace its name ‘The Palace of Forty Columns’. In the afternoon we have a guided tour of Isfahan’s new Music Museum housing an interesting collection of Persian instruments and enjoy a performance of traditional music. We gather for our farewell dinner this evening in a restaurant in the Armenian Quarter Overnight Isfahan (B, L, D)
Monday May 6: Return to Tehran
Today we return to Tehran by road, firstly stopping at the town of Natanz to visit a beautiful Islamic mosque and dervish complex. Next we travel to Kashan to visit one of the most important and ancient archaeological sites in Iran, the ziggurat known as Tepe Sialk. We also visit the historical garden of Fin, which was first planted during the Safavid period and kept alive with water from the nearby Sulaimanieh Spring. A museum on the site displays artefacts from nearby Tepe Sialk. Before departing Kashan we visit a fine example of a 19th century merchant residence known as Borujerdi House with its beautiful stucco and painted decoration. We arrive in Tehran this afternoon and check into our hotel located at Tehran Airport. Overnight Tehran (B, L, D)
Tuesday May 7: Departure
Flights depart Tehran throughout the day. Your tour consultant can assist with arranging the best possible connections and booking a late check out at an extra cost if required. (B)
Dr John Tidmarsh
The former president of the University of Sydney's Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, and a former lecturer in the Department of Archaeology.
Dr John Tidmarsh is an archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Syria, Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus. He is currently Co-Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan and also Co-Director of the Australian Mission to Jebel Khalid, Syria. He is an Honorary Associate, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Sydney and was previously Senior Investigator of the University of Sydney excavations in Torone, Greece and Associate Director of the University of Sydney excavations at Paphos, Cyprus.
He has travelled widely in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East and since the 1980s has led numerous tours to Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Oman, and Greece.
His main interests are in the art, archaeology and history of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period in the east, and in the Islamic World. He has written many articles and conference papers on these areas and has co-authored several books on the excavations at Jebel Khalid in Syria. He is soon to complete his book on the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods at Pella in Jordan.
John has a BA (Hons), MA (Hons) and PhD from the University of Sydney where he was previously tutor, then part-time lecturer in Classical Archaeology. He is a former President of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at that university.
He is also a Clinical Endocrinologist (MBBS, FRACP) who worked previously in private practice and at Bankstown Hospital in Sydney, and is now at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
We asked John, what motivates your passion for travel?
“Since I first joined the excavation team in 1978 at Pella in Jordan I have become addicted to travelling and working in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
Along with my fascination for the detective work and discovery which archaeological excavation entails, one of my greatest joys is introducing my tour groups to worlds very different from those they have encountered while travelling in the USA and Europe. It is a source of real pleasure for me to see those first-timers to the Middle East, who often approach the region with slight trepidation though they may have travelled widely elsewhere, become quickly entranced by the marvellous mountain and desert landscapes and monuments that these countries possess and, more importantly, by the unsurpassed friendliness and hospitality of both Arabs and Persians alike.”
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.
Tehran, Espinas Hotel (3 nights)
Zanjan, Grand Hotel (2 nights)
Hamadan, Parsian AzadiHotel (2 nights)
Shiraz, Homa Hotel (3 nights)
Persepolis, Apadana Hotel (1 night)
Yazd, Moshir GardenHotel (2 nights)
Isfahan, AbbasiHotel (3 nights)
Tehran, Novotel AirportHotel (1 night)
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.