Armenia and Iran
Two religions, two cultures
Iran, the ancient land of Persia is one of few countries in the world which can boast such an illustrious past and astounding diversity of cultures, (tribes, dynasties) and the world's greatest empires. Til today you are able to witness the magnificent ruins of ancient times, imposing monuments, uniquely beautiful works of Islamic art and nomadic life in the country side.
Most of Iran is made up of rugged terrain. The dominating feature is a central plateau that is about 1.220 metres altitude which is almost ringed by mountain chains. This plateau, originally populated by races whose origins stretch into the unknown millennia of prehistory, later became the home of Aryan tribes.
Invaders included the Greeks accompanying Alexander, the Arab armies during its Islamisation, followed by the Turkish tribes who forced their way westward from Central Asia, and finally the Mongols. These waves of invaders throughout its long history all left their mark upon the people of Persia but in turn, were assimilated into Persia's cultural world.
After arrival in Tehran we fly to Shiraz where we start our trip. From Shiraz, the city of gardens, poetry and nightingales to the plains of Khuzistan, from the grand palaces of Darius and Xerxes at Persepolis to the heart of Zaroastrian monuments and sites in and around Yadz; in all of these we visit and enjoy the remarkable variety in Islamic architecture, and then we lose ourselves in the bazaars and also experience the life of nomads. We visit the majestic mosques of the beautiful city of Isfahan and end our trip in Tehran, the capital of Iran visiting the best museums of the ancient land of Persia as well as the riches of the palaces of the last shahs and the now state owned crown jewels.
Climate in Iran is characterized by large differences in temperature from one season to another and between the north and south of the country. We are travelling in spring, the most pleasant time to visit, when the inland regions are generally dry and comfortably warm, although nights are cool. Showers and storms may occur in Tehran and the snow capped Mt. Damavand will be seen from Tehran.
A strict dress code applies to both men and women and alcohol is forbidden. Adapting to these customs is easy and is a small price to pay for the opportunity to visit the impressive ruins of ancient cities, such as Persepolis, glorious mosques and mausoleums, usually set in majestic gardens, and museums covering every conceivable matter of interest.
Iranian people are exceptionally friendly, courteous and hospitable and really welcoming to foreigners. The country is safe for travellers, with petty theft, pickpockets and muggers virtually non existent. Food is wholesome, fresh and interesting and we do not experience the stomach upsets which are often a feature of travel in the Middle East and Asia. The water is clean and drinkable.
I have been to Iran in 2005 and was so fascinated by the people and the sites that I decided to organise this trip so that more people can share the beauties of this country with me. This trip does not only allow you to enjoy thel famous sites of Iran but also incorporates contact with Iranians, visits to nomads and allows time to enjoy the buzz of a visit to bazaars…
A tour showing you the essence - the past, the present , the glory, the beauty of IRAN.
Armenia the landlocked country south of the Caucasus has a long and tumultuous history. Over the centuries Armenia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and Russians. Armenia was the first country in the world to officially embrace Christianity as its religion in the 3rd C.
Contemporary Armenia is a fraction of the size of ancient Armenia. However it still has plenty of monasteries, churches and Armenian sites to witness its long and turbulent past.
As one of the world's oldest civilizations Armenia once included Mount Ararat, today in Turkey, which biblical tradition identifies as the mountain that Noah's Ark grounded after the flood.
A land of rugged mountains, (Mt. Aragats is 4095 m high), extinct volcanoes, lush forests, deep canyons and gorges and a turquoise Lake Sevan. Its beauty is often compared with Switzerland.
The sites vary from Greek to Roman temples, fortresses of various invaders, though the 'jewels' are the old monasteries (many of them are World Heritage listed) and churches situated in picturesque yet often isolated spots.
The capital Yerevan is the cultural centre with a busy night-life and a lively cafe and bistro scene, numerous museums dedicated to Armenian modern and traditional art and folklore.
Our week long trip through Armenia, covers the region in the North, the capital Yerevan, Echmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic church, the beautiful landscape around Lake Sevan as well as the historically interesting area of Yayots Dzor.
Our trip planned for late summer should allow for warm agreeable weather, with trees starting to turn into autumn colour, beautiful freshly harvested fruit and wine, and very hospitable post harvest locals.
Iran and Armenia
In Armenia we visit ancient monasteries, and the Holy See of the Armenian Church Echmiadzin, the capital Yerevan, drive along beautiful Lake Sevan situated within mountains, visit more historic monuments in the south and drive through strikingly beautiful landscape towards Iran.
In Iran we discover the less visited areas of North West Iran, visit Ardebil, drive along the fertile coastline of the Caspian Sea, the mountain village of Masooleh, visit sights and markets in Tabriz, Hamadan, the Zoroastrian ancient site of Takab before we arrive in Tehran. In Tehran we visit several absolutely fascinating museums including the carpet museum.
The trip includes visits to the most important sites in glorious Isfahan, the Zoroastrian centre of Yazd, and ends in the beautiful town of Shiraz, known for poets and gardens .
Accommodation is local, equivalent to 2-3* hotels, home stay or village pension, usually with ensuite bathrooms.
From Shiraz we fly back to Dubai where the trip ends.
Arrive Yerevan in the afternoon…. After relaxing a little and checking into our hotel we plan a short sightseeing tour in Yerevan - Republic Square, Northern Avenue, Opera House and Freedom Square Cascade (huge staircase connecting the city centre with Victory Park, from the top you have a great view of Yerevan) and
Mother Armenia. O/N in Yerevan
In the morning we continue the city tour in Yerevan and visit Erebuni Fortress, the birthplace of Yerevan, and try to go to a Church service in Surp Sargis Church where the choir and liturgy are said to be very beautiful and proceed to Kootayek Province to see Garni Temple dedicated to the Roman God of the sun and Geghand monastery situated in a picturesque canyon. Free time after return. O/N in Yerevan
There is still lots more to see and we plan visit to Mantenadaran (Armenia's ancient manuscripts library, Zoravar Church, Katoghike, State Museum of Armenian History, Genocide memorial, and other recommended sights; Time for shopping and a walking tour in town in the afternoon. . O/N Yerevan
This morning we take off early to visit Echmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Zvarnots Cathedral and the memorial site of Sardarapat. (Museum in the site is recommended as a treasure trove of carpets, jewellery, ceramic and handicrafts, apparently better than in the Museum in Yerevan). We continue our way north to visit the Ambered Fortress, from where we should (weather allowing) have a splendid view of mount Aragats and continue via Aparan, Spitak to Vanadzor.
We start early this morning to visit the Debed Canyon and the century old Monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, both UNESCO world heritage status.
We return via Vanadzor to Dilijan. O/N Dilijan
Dilijan a very picturesque little town recently opened 'Old Dilijan Complex' to show the town as it was in the 19th century; we visit the carpet workshop and continue to Lake Sevan, explore the Sevanavank Monastery on the peninsula and Noraduz an ancient cemetry with an amazing collection of medieval cross stones called, Khachkars.
O/N Lake Sevan
Today we drive to Vayots Dzor province via the Selim Pass, visit Selim Caravanserai, once an important point of the Silk road, and travel through the famous wine growing area of Areni (we plan to stop for winetasting) and continue to the old town of Goris. O/N Goris
Early start to drive to the heritage listed church of TATEV built on a natural fortress of rock and if time and weather allow we descend into a gorge to see Satan's bridge. We continue via Sisian and Kapan to the Iranian border in Meghri. We cross border and have a short drive to our O/N stay in Jolfa. O/N Jolfa
Today starts our trip through Northern Iran. On way to Tabris we visit the well preserved Babak Castle of Sasanid times close in Kaleybar. We continue driving to Tabris. O/N Tabris
Tabris, capital of Azerbaijn province of Iran, is inhabited by an ethnic community called Azeris. In Tabris we visit Goli Park, Blue Mosque, Tabriz Museum and the extensive bazaar built in the 15C. . O/N Kaondovan or Tabris
This morning we visit the caves in Kandovan, the 'Cappadoccia' of Iran and continue our drive to Ardabil. A visit to the Sheikh Safi's mausoleum and surrounding rooms known as Western Iran's 'most dazzling' Safavid monument is a must and. We continue to Sareen which is 35 km west of Ardabil. Sareen has the most famous spa complexes in Iran. Anybody for a spa in a hot outdoor pool?
We descend from Sareen (altitude 1300m) to the Caspian Sea through beautiful fertile country and return into mountainous area to visit the little village Masooleh. It is a beautiful village with a unique structure, houses are built on top of each other in a terraced way; the roofs and the front area of the houses are used as the pavement. After visiting this village we continue to Rasht for our overnight stay. O/N Rasht
Our next stop is Zanjan a picturesque little town, best access point to visit the impressive mausoleum Gonbad e Soltaniyeh with the world's largest brick dome. UNESCO World Heritage (36 km south east of Zanjan) O/N Zanjan
Another important site on our way to Hamadan is in Takab, the Takht e Soleiman ruin (UNESCO World Heritage site) the spiritual centre of Zoroastrians in the 3rd C. The age of the site as well as the magnificent setting are well worth the visit. We return to Takab for our overnight stay O/N Takab
Drive to Hamadan, a city on the edge of the Alvand Mountain (3580m). The town itself, one of the world's greatest ancient centres, has little to show for its past. We visit the tombs of Ester and Mordecai, Hegmataneh which is an ancient hill with excavations of Median and Achaemenid cities, the rock carvings from the 4th C. are out of town, in Ganj Nameh. After our visit we hopefully have time to visit the Carpet cooperative as well as the famous pottery shops a little out of town. O/N Hamadan
Today we backtrack a little to see the great Ali Sadr Water Cave, for Iranians the greatest tourist attraction. The 40 m high caves are situated north west of Hamadan. After visiting the Cave we continue to Tehran (337 km) where we arrive in the early afternoon. O/N Tehran
Day 17 & 18
Soon after arrival in our hotel in Tehran we shall start out. Over the next two days we shall visit the Golestan palace, the National Museum, the Jewellery Museum, the Carpet Museum, the museum of Glass and Ceramics, the palaces of the Shahs, the White (Mellat) and the Green (Shahvand) Palace. With such staggering richness one forgets you are in a 'museum' and of course, we shall visit and 'get lost' in the grand bazaar…. . O/N Tehran
Today we leave Tehran behind and travel via Qom, Kashan to Abyaneh. In the holy city of Qom we would like to visit the Shrine with the golden dome (we can only visit this holy centre of Shiism with a permit) In Kashan we visit the Fin Gardens and beautifully decorated old Merchant Houses;.; Abyaneh, the pink village high in the mountains is our overnight stay.Women wear colourful clothes a delight for the eye fter all the black garments… In this remote village accommodation will be in double rooms only O/N.Abyaneh
After a walk through this very picturesque old village, we continue our tour into the Dasht-e-Kavir desert. We arrive in Garmeh, and stay in a renovated private house in a little date palm oasis . The food is excellent and the host is interesting to talk to, with good English. There are single rooms available, however the European bathrooms are shared. O/N Mesr Village
In the morning we visit a huge salt lake, an eery place - salt as far as the eye can see… we continue our way to Isfahan via Nain,entering the Zagros mountain range.
We have two full days in beautiful Isfahan. Isfahan has been the main attraction for travellers for the last three hundred years. It is home of some of the world's finest Islamic art and architecture. The city's splendour began with the reign of the Safavid Ruler Shah Abbas (1587 - 1629) who made the city his capital and built the huge bazaar, which was strategically located on the Silk Road. Under Abbas, Isfahan enjoyed great prosperity and flourished as a centre of art, architecture and commerce (based on carpet, textile and silk production), earning the reputation as one of the greatest and most beautiful towns in the whole of Asia. Over the next two days we visit the Maydan Imam (huge central square) the Majid-e Imam (Shah Mosque) the Sheikh Lotfollah (Ladies Mosque) the Ali Qapu Palace and the Chehel Sotoun Palace, and the Majid- e Jameh (Friday Mosque). All of these buildings are located around the Maydan . O/N Isfahan
The Vank Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter will bring back memories of the sites we have seen in Armenia; we can visit the interesting Museum of the Armenian genocide and visit the 'Church of Bethlehem' with its original murals. We continue on and plan to spend time in the bazaar (Bazar -e Bozorg) to look at the handicraft workshops, the carpet shops, the copper smiths -- or for those of us who want more than ' just ' bazaars a drive to visit the different picturesque bridges across the river Zandiyeh are well worth it. . O/N Isfahan
It is hard to say 'fare well' to Isfahan, however we have another fantastic place as our next destination. Yazd, the current centre of the Zoroastrian faith in Iran. One of our visits will be to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple knows as Atashkadeh, where a sacred flame is believed to have been burning since 470 Ad, the Tower of Silence (an awesome site not to be missed) where, until only 50 years ago, the dead were taken to be devoured by vultures. We continue visiting this fascinating old town. The winding lanes, wind towers (bagdirs) cisterns, underground aqueducts and mud brick houses make this town a highlight of the trip. We visit the Jameh mosque, the Amir Chakmakh Mosque (higest minarets in Iran), the water Museum and have the possibility to 'get lost' while walking through the old town. O/N Yazd
continuation of planned visits in Yazd and drive to our stunning O/N stay in the renovated Caravanserai (newly renovated shared bathrooms) Zein-O-Deyn
Drive through stunning barren landscape until we arrive in Bavanat at the foothills of the Zagros mountain, a little village where we stay in a private house in the middle of vineyards and walnut plantations . O/N Bavanat
We leave our rural retreat after a hearty home made breakfast and drive deeper into the rugged Zargos mountains towards Shiraz. If we are lucky we see nomads breaking up their summer tents and driving their animals into the valleys to spend the winter in greener and warmer pastures.
After arrival in Shiraz we start our visiting programme with the tombs of the poets Hafez and Sadi. O/N Hotel Eram
Shiraz, once the cultural centre of Persia, has been synonymous with learning, nightingales, roses, poetry and at one time, wine. While exploring the city today we will visit the 'pink mosque', the Arg-I Karim Khani, Zandiyeh Complex and Vakil Bazaar.
Today we have arranged to have dinner with a group of teachers, friends and family of our Iranian Agent in a private house. This meeting is organised by our Agent on my request - all will speak English and here is your chance to meet the locals.
O/N Hotel Eram
An excursion out of town today will include Persepolis and Naghsh-i-Rostam.
The Royal City of the Great Kings, Darius, Cyrus (Xerxes), Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. We walk through these remarkable ruins observing the superb stone reliefs that still remain, letting our imagination run free. Then just 10 km northwest is the important feature of Naghsh-e Rostam. These vertical cliffs with their Sassanian rock-cut sculptures are thought to be the royal burial tombs of Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II.
Return to Shiraz. Dinner will be organised in a traditional nomadic restaurant. O/N Hotel Eram
We have one more free leisurely day in Shiraz.
We leave for the airport in the late afternoon to fly out of Shiraz at 20.30 with Iran Air or Aseman. Our connecting flight from Dubai to Aus leaves in the early morning.