Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran

Itinerary: Iran Journey

28 September to 13 October 2018

Iran Journey will bring the histories vividly to life, as we encounter one of the world’s most potent and creative civilizations and Asia’s greatest sights; not only the astonishing Royal City of Isfahan and the silent legacy of Pasargade and Persepolis, but equally arresting is Iran’s rich heritage explored in old desert cities off the beaten track, such as Yazd, Estahban and Abyaneh. You’ll encounter deserts punctuated with historic oases, rugged mountain ranges giving Iran more than a fair share of places to see and peoples to meet. These buildings remain as an awesome reminder of the brilliant achievement of the mathematicians, scientists and artists of the ancient Persian Islamic world.

For everyone, there’s plenty to witness in the atmospheric teahouses, local life of the bustling bazaars, or indulge your interests in ancient streets, sublime gardens and courtyards festooned with colourful carpets, textiles, pottery and handicrafts.

On this Journey you will:

• Be dazzled by the Museum of Jewels possessed by the Shahs of Persia
• Explore desert caravansaries and mud brick fortresses
• See traditional carpet making in ancient Yazd
• Spend three nights in fabled Shiraz, city of roses, poets and nightingales
• Gaze in awe at ancient Persepolis, Naqsh-i-Rustam and Pasargadae
• Experience the ancient Zoroastrian Fire Temples and Towers of Silence
• Admire the beauties of Isfahan: ‘half the world’
• Shop for carpets, metalware, pottery and decorated tiles in covered bazaars
• Enjoy magnificent gardens and pleasure pavilions

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Iran Journey is a tour for everyone wanting to see ‘Persia’ on roads less travelled and explore new horizons rarely encountered. We have chosen hotels rich with atmospheric heritage, which are generally of a 3 - 4 star standard.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, museum opening hours, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies.


Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner).


Day 1: 28 September 2018, Australia - Dubai

Depart Adelaide (or your capital city) by Emirates Airways at 21:50

Day 2: 29 September 2018, Tehran

Transfer in Dubai International Airport and arrive in Tehran at 09:25. Meet our local guide and have lunch at a local restaurant.

Your discovery of the nation’s capital and its recent history begins with the Saadabad Palace built by the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran, first inhabited by Qajar monarchs and the royal family in the 19th century. After an expansion of the compounds, Reza Shah lived there in the 1920s. And his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (the last Shah) moved there in the 1970s.

Displayed in vaults of the National Bank, the Crown Jewels Museum is an accumulation of gems and the art of the goldsmith without rival.

No visitor to Iran should miss the magnificent Carpet Museum which displays the dazzling beauty and excellent quality of Persian carpets. Major examples of historic Persian carpet art will give you a context if you would like to take home the ultimate memory of this fabled land. See Tribal, village, and city styles of carpet design and manufacture.

On to the bustling Tajrish Bazaar which boasts a vibrant central section selling fresh fruit and vegetables as well as traditional Iranian sweets. The other alleyways of the bazaar peddle everyday items alongside traditional crafts, all backing on to the picturesque Imamazadeh Saleh Shrine.

Day 3: 30 September 2018, En-route to Yazd (621 KM)

Into mountain-fringed desert this morning today to see traditional kilim-weaving at Mohammediye. In Na’in, see the splendid early mosque, with imposing arcades and stucco reliefs which dates to the 10th & 11th centuries. Visit also the fascinating 16th-cent. Governor’s house with its precious sgraffito decoration. In Meybod, visit the mud-brick citadel of Sassanian (5th century AD) origin, a caravanserai and a remarkable ice house.

Day 4: 1 October 2018, Yazd

The ancient desert city of Yazd is a perfect example of adaption to the environment. You’ll be in awe of its winding lanes, blue-tiled domes, soaring minarets and covered bazaars. You’ll also find superb courtyard homes with badgirs or wind-catching towers and networks of famous qanats or underground irrigation and water supply channels.

Yazd has one of the largest surviving Zoroastrian communities in Iran; two funerary ‘Towers of Silence’ rise on hillocks on the edge of the city, and there is a fire temple in the centre. Of the Islamic architecture, the Jameh Mosque is spectacularly clad in 14th-century tile mosaics. See also an area of traditional vernacular architecture and the beautiful Dolatabad Garden and pavilion. Dolatabad is among the Persian gardens that have just been registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list as one of the masterpieces of traditional garden design.

Tower of Silence, circular, raised structure used by Zoroastrians for exposure of the dead, desert city Yazd, Iran

Jame Mosque, Yazd, Iran

Day 5: 2 October 2018, Land transfer from Yazd to Kerman (373 KM)

Driving towards Kerman, one of Iran’s oldest cities, we take an excursion to Abyaneh, an ancient village more than 1500 years old. It’s a maze of winding streets, twisting lanes and crumbling brick houses with lattice windows and overhanging wooden balconies. Elderly residents here speak ‘Middle Persian’, testament to its age and isolation.

Blink and you could miss Zein-o-din, where the sole structure is a 400-year-old caravanserai built on the orders of Shah Abbas I. Located two days’ camel ride south of Yazd (that’s 60km) on the main road to Kerman, the caravanserai was part of a network of 999 such hostels built to promote trade. Of those, it’s one of only two circular caravanserais remaining. Today, this Caravanserai gives a romantic taste of a caravan traders’ life on the ancient Silk Road. Kerman was founded in the early third century and the city has historically played an important role on the Trans-Asian trade routes.

Rayen Citadel, Kerman Province, Iran

Day 6: 3 October 2018, Kerman

Spend the day visiting highlights of the area. The Nematollah Vali historical complex contains the mausoleum of Shah Mentollah Vali, one of Iran's revered mystics and poets. The shrine was built in 1436 and has since become a pilgrimage site.

In a country known for its beautiful gardens, the Shahzadeh Garden is a particular delight. It is a walled garden encompassing 5.5 hectares, and the residential building at one end looks out over fountains and manicured flora. The Kerman region is known for its fantastic mudbrick cities. One of the finest, Bam, was completely destroyed in the 2003 earthquake. We will visit another, Rayen, similar in style and boasts the same architectural elements. Enjoy a fascinating look into what is believed to be over 1,000 years old; its structures are all extremely well-preserved and inhabited until about 150 years ago.

Day 7: 4 October 2018, Kerman to Shiraz (567 KM) via Estahban

Driving today through areas criss-crossed with little streams and oases we encounter Estahban, set in a very fertile vale, being the largest producer of saffron, grain, cotton, walnut, almond, grapes and other fruits in the Middle East. Estahban has been the most famous provider of figs to the world. It is also one of the biggest producers of saffron. Continue our drive across Iran to arrive in Shiraz, a city of poets, home to the graves of Hafez and Sa’di, both major pilgrimage sites for Iranians. It’s also home to splendid gardens, exquisite mosques and whispered echoes of ancient sophistication.

Day 8: 5 October 2018, Excursion to Persepolis, Necropolis, Quran Gate

A highlight of the tour today as we explore the monumental stairways, spectacular archways and exquisite relief carvings which leaves you in no doubt that this was the centre of the world. Construction of Persepolis began under Darius I in 516 BC and continued under Xerxes and successive Achaemenid kings until partially destroyed by Alexander the Great in 300-BC.. The sculpture is particularly impressive, especially the low reliefs depicting the 26 nationalities of the empire. It remains as one of the most spectacular sites of the ancient world. Celebrated as the heartland of Persian culture for over 2000 years, Shiraz has become synonymous with education, nightingales, poetry and wine. It was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (AD 1747–79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. Pass through the Darvazeh Quran, located at the entrance of the city of Shiraz, the place where two huge Qurans, known as the Hefdah-man Quran were kept. All who entered or left the city had to pass through Darvazeh Quran, thus passing underneath the two Holy Qurans.

Stone works and Giant lamassu statues guarding Gate of All Nations, Persepolis, capital of Achaemenid Empire, Shiraz, Iran

Tachara Palace of Darius at Persepolis, Iran

Day 9: 6 October 2018, Shiraz

From the outside, the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque seems like a fairly traditional house of worship -- but it's hiding a gorgeously colourful secret. Not only are its stained-glass windows richly coloured, but its walls feature a beautiful and vibrantly colourful array of painted geometric tiles. The stained glass windows capture the morning light and create a glorious play of colours on the floor of the mosque, earning it the name of the “Pink Mosque” and inviting photographers to capture its beauty.

The Karim Khan Castle is a citadel built as part of a complex during the Zand dynasty and is named after Karim Khan, and served as his living quarters. In shape it resembles a medieval fortress. Then it’s on to the Narenjestan Palace and Gardens. Taking its name from a species of Persian orange found growing across the garden amongst tulips and date palms, the palace was built in the late 19th Century by a wealthy merchant family – a time in which upper classes of the country experimented with blending Persian decorative traditions such as mosaic mirrored tiles with ancient Zoroastrian iconography, and Victorian era embellishments. We will visit the gardens around the tomb of Hafez, the great Persian poet. Poetry is part of the Persian soul and reveals a sharp contrast to the widespread view of Iran as a place of fundamentalism, utilitarianism and nationalism. The love of poetry is an essential part of being Persian (not everyone in Iran is ethnically Persian but about 65 per cent of the population is). Paying homage at the graves of Iran's greatest poets and writers is a popular component of domestic tourism and will feature on Iran Journey too.

Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Day 10: 7 October 2018, En-route to Isfahan (482 KM) visit of Izad Khast and Pasargadae

Leave the delights of Shiraz behind this morning and drive to the tombs of four Achaemenid kings which were cut high up in the cliff at Naqsh-i-Rustam. Reliefs of Sassanian kings and their captive Roman emperors were added below 500 years later. Nestled in the very heart of Persia’s segment of the ancient Silk Road, Izadkhast caravanserai is an important station of the storied Silk Road trade route and comprises of a castle fortress, a caravanserai and a Safavid-era bridge. Mixed in architectural styles and steeped in history and adventurous tales, Izadkhast complex is utterly fascinating and able to whirl you back in the Asian middle ages, when Persia lived its cultural heyday under the Safavid reign. On a remote plateau ringed by hills, Pasargadae was built by Cyrus the Great (d. 529 BC), the first of the Achaemenid emperors. His ziggurat-like tomb and remains of palaces survive.

Day 11: 8 October 2018, Isfahan

For those of you who visited Samarkand, you will understand how in 1889 Lord Curzon declared the Registan as being ‘the noblest public square in the world.’ Perhaps he had not seen the magnificent Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square which would most certainly rival it. ‘Isfahan is half the world’ and this collection of majestic buildings is arguably the finest of the Islamic world. Shah Abass I, the greatest of the Safavid kings, chose Isfahan as capital in 1598. He began the transformation of the city into one of the loveliest in the world. We explore the immense Imam Square, some 500m long and formed of a two-storey arcade and the façades of three architectural masterpieces: the Ali Qapu Pavilion, a palace with loggia and well-preserved interiors; the Imam Mosque, magnificent in scale and detail; and the private Shaikh Lutfollah Mosque with a near perfect dome and unsurpassed tile work. At one end of the square you will visit the Chehel Sotoun. This palace is entered via the elegant talar terrace that perfectly bridges the transition between the Persian love of gardens and interior splendour. Its 20 slender, ribbed wooden pillars rise to a superb wooden ceiling with crossbeams and exquisite inlay work. Chehel Sotoun means ‘40 pillars’ – the number reflected in the long pool in front of the palace. The palace’s garden, Bagh-e Chehel Sotun, is an excellent example of the classic Persian Garden form and was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Located in the centre of the Garden of Nightingales (the Bagh-e Bulbul), the Hasht Behesht is one of Isfahan's two surviving Safavid pavilions. 'Hasht Behesht' translates as 'Eight Paradises' and refers to a Timurid palace building type consisting of two stories of four corner rooms around a central domed space. Of more than forty mansions which existed in Isfahan during the rule of Safavids, this is the only one left today.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and details, Isfahan, Iran

The Imposing Imam Mosque in Esfahan, Iran

Day 12: 9 October 2018, Isfahan

Today there is plenty to see as we visit the Zayandeh River, straddled by two beautiful 17th-century bridges, and cross to the Armenian Quarter. This quarter of Isfahan dates from the time of Shah Abbas I, who transported a colony of Christians from the town of Jolfa. Abbas sought their skills as merchants, entrepreneurs and artists and he ensured that their religious freedom was respected. At one time over 42,000 Armenian Christians lived here. The Vank Cathedral interior is covered in high quality paintings of the 1660s, stylistically a fascinating western-Persian hybrid. Set in a garden a few minutes away is the exquisite Chehel Sotun pleasure pavilion has very fine 17th-century figurative wall paintings.

See the Sio-Seh bridge, ‘The bridge of thirty three spans’, the most famous and longest bridge in Isfahan (nearly 300m). It is supported by a series of 33 arches and was commissioned in 1602 by Sha Abbas 1. Located in the historic centre of Isfahan, the Masjed-e-Jame (Friday Mosque) can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries. Begun in 841 it is the oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran and features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than 100 years of Islamic art.

Khaju-Bridge, Esfahan, Iran

Hasht Behesht Palace, Isfahan, Iran

Day 13: 10 October 2018, Isfahan to Abyaneh (183 KM)

This morning we head to the ancient village of Abyaneh, known for having retained its ancient charm. Enjoy a village walk and wander through the narrow lanes of this mountain village. Observe locals in traditional dress and learn more about the simple way of life in this scenic spot. Visit Kashan’s Historical Houses, Agha Bozorg Mosque, and the magnificent Fin Garden. Time permitting a stop may be made at Natanz. The cobalt blue and turquoise façade of the Friday Mosque is one of the most exquisite sights in Iran. Kashan has an outstanding Seljuk mosque and a number of large and richly embellished 19th-century courtyard mansions; we visit two, Tabatabiyeh House and Borujerdiyeh House. Overnight in Kashan or Abyaneh

Historic Abyaneh Village, Iran (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Iran

Day 14: 11 October 2018, Drive to Tehran via Qom

Qom is the most strictly religious city in Iran and a huge pilgrimage site. Non-Muslims will not be able to enter religious buildings. Qom is a famed centre of magnificent carpet manufacture, and, time permitting; we will visit the Carpet Museum. Continue to Tehran and see the impressive contemporary Tabiat or ‘Nature Bridge’. The design of this three-level pedestrian bridge is inspired by ancient Iranian architecture in which a bridge was not just a crossing path, linking 2 sides of a river or valley, but It was a place to stay, relax and enjoy beautiful views.

Day 15: 12 October 2018, Tehran

Check out from the hotel this morning and continue your discovery of Iran’s treasures. The Qajar period surges to a crescendo of enrichment at the Golestan Palace, which also houses fine carpets and other objets d’art. The archaeological section of the Iran Bastan (National Museum) of Iran is of international importance and includes items from places visited on the tour. We celebrate Iran Journey by enjoying a late Farewell Luncheon at a local restaurant before driving to the Imam Komeni Airport for check in for your flight to Dubai. Depart Tehran at 2000, arriving in Dubai at 2050. Transfer for your homebound flight.

Day 16: 13 October 2018

Arrival in Adelaide at 20:50. For interstate passengers, there will be other connections.


Anticipated price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 5200.00 (based on 2017 prices)
Single Supplement: AUD 595.00
Airfare ex Adelaide or (other capitals by arrangement): from AUD 1468.00


• Tour Manager from Australia subject to 10 passengers
• 14 night’s accommodation at 3 - 4 star hotels with breakfast
• Visa confirmation code and Visa assistance
• English-speaking guide throughout the entire Journey
• All land transportation as indicated in the program
• Daily refreshment and some other meals
• Entrance Fees


• International Airfares from Australia
• Visa (Zen will provide specific advice and assistance)
• Meals not specified in the itinerary
• Any expenses of a personal nature such as telephone bills, bar bills, laundry bills, camera fees
• Tips (approx. USD 150 per person to be disbursed by the tour leader)
• International stopover if required
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government traveladvice.


On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to your conditions of ticketing

On land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-16 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 15-1 Days: 100 % of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347


Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

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