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Paradise in Persia

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Quick Overview

Come and see dreamy courtyards, magnificent plants, decorated walls, orange groves, and cypress trees. The first gardens in the world existed in Persia. They were places of refuge from heat, with hordes of water. The very first was designed by the founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great (559-529 BC). The excavations in the 1960s showed that the arrangement of seemingly arbitrary scale palaces, and of the gatehouse, was in fact dictated by an extensive garden with a water basin of limestone, water channels, and a gazebo.
Originally divided into four areas, it was later redesigned as a classical Persian Chahar Bagh or four-part garden. From the Persian “Paira (pa ira) DAISA“ comes the term paradise. This early garden is considered to be the cornerstone of all subsequent Persian gardens, as well as the Indian gardens of the Monogol Empire. It influenced the European Renaissance gardens, as well as many other European gardens. On this trip we will deal mainly with the Persian gardens.

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Trip Type: Small Group Tours
Group Size: 6-20 Passengers limit
Trip Length: 13 Days
Trip Dates: (October 24, 2015 – November 5, 2015), (October 15, 2016 – October 27, 2016)
Trip in Detail: Tehran (1), Isfahan (3), Yazd (2), Kerman (2), Shiraz (3), Tehran (1)

Arrival in Tehran; meet and transfer to hotel. Overnight in Tehran.

Day 02. TEHRAN
A first impression of the art and history of the country will be made in the archaeological museum. The unique exhibits bring the history and culture of ancient Persia to life. Afterwards, we drive to Saadabad Palace, the summer residence of the last Shah of Iran. The huge plant is above Tadschrish, near the rich northern foothills of Tehran. Apart from avenues of plane trees and a few pools and channels in the woods, the park has European influences, with magnificent magnolias on emerald lawns. We visit the White Palace, once receiving Reza Shah’s palace, and the Green Palace, which got its name from its green marble facade. We will then visit the Niavaran palace complex, about eleven acres of park-like grounds in Niavaran district. Overnight in Tehran.

Drive to Kashan, an oasis city in the area of the prehistoric city Sialk. The city has been famous for its ceramics since time immemorial, for silk fabrics and carpets, as well asfor the Kashan Rose, which is grown in Mahalat Valley for the production of rose water. In Kashan, we will visit the merchant houses of Broudjerdi and Tabatabai. The gardens are bent behind high walls in courtyards. We will then visit the Bagh-e-Fin (Fin Garden). Afterwards we drive to Isfahan, arriving in Isfahan in the afternoon. Overnight in Isfahan.

In the morning, discover the secrets of Kakh-e Hasht Behesht and Chehel-Sotun Palace, built under the reign of the Safavied. The garden pavilion Hasht behesht (Eight Paradise), with its octagonal water basin in a domed hall, was built in 1669 by Shah Sulaiman, and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Isfahan. The Chehel-Sotun Palace was not meant for receptions and parties, built as a residential palace in the reign of Shah Abbas I (1642-1662). We will then visit the Naqhs-e-Jahan Square (UNESCO World Heritage) with the Imam Mosque and the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah, the six-story palace qapu Ali (Sublime Porte). In the evening, we take an atmospheric stroll through one of the many historic arch bridges that cross the Eternal River “Zayandehroud”. Overnight in Isfahan.

On the right side of the Zayandehroud River is the Djolfa district. At first glance, one cannot distinguish these roads from those of the rest of the former Persian capital. Upon closer inspection, one notices, however, that these domes adorn mosques, churches with the provocative Christian crosses. The Armenians of Isfahan, dating from the 17th Century, practice their religion freely there. We will have a look at the center of a Christian minority in the country of the Shiites, and visit its Vank Cathedral and the Armenian Museum. In the free afternoon, we can stroll through the bazaar and craft studios. In the evening we will travel into the world of Oriental fairy tale. Overnight in Isfahan.

Along the Silk Road, with snow-capped mountains, green hills, and black nomad tents, we view the scenic beauty of the country, and the journey towards Yazd continues. Under way, we will visit the city situated on the edge of the desert Nain. In the city that is known for the finest silk carpets, the Friday Mosque from the 10th Century is astonishing. In the late afternoon we arrive in Yazd. Overnight in Yazd.

Day 07. YAZD
Yazd, known for its traditional magnificent architecture, was at the time of the Sassanid a center of the Zoroastrian faith community, which today bears witness to numerous fire temples and burial sites (Towers of Silence). Although the city is completely surrounded by desert, agriculture plays a large roll in and around Yazd. An extensive channel system (Qanat) provides both the drinking water and the water to irrigate the fields and orchards. First visit the Towers of Silence and the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, where you can learn more about this community in conversation with a representative of the Zoroastrians. After a stop at the arcaded Amir Chaqmaq continues still made on traditional looms in the local Dowlatabad Garden, where the cooling function of the wind towers will be explained, and then we will visit the Friday Mosque, with its beautiful blue ceramic tiles as well as a silk weaving. The mud brick labyrinthine old town and the many wind towers are also worth seeing. Overnight in Yazd.

From Kerman to Yazd, we follow the edge of the desert on an old caravan route, passing pistachio orchards and picturesque caravanserais. In the afternoon arrive in Kerman. After transfer to a hotel, we take a short break to explore the Ganj Ali Khan complex consisting of a bathroom, a tea house, and a garden. Overnights in Kerman.

Day 09. KERMAN (Excursion to Mahan)
We leave Kerman head southeast and reach the small oasis town Mahan. Small but prosperous, it is the only green oasis southeast of Kerman. Although the peaks are covered almost year round with snow, there are citrus and pomegranate groves in the city. Overshadowed by eucalyptus trees and tall cypress trees, tamarisk and oleander bushes line the streets. Even from afar, we can see the turquoise domes and minarets of the mausoleum of the late poet and Sufi master in Mahan. Before we come to the grave, we go through a series of garden courtyards, where tall cypresses overshadow a pool. Glorious tiled entrance gates, peaceful pools, and plenty of green make it a paradise for travelers. We will then visit Bagh-e Schazdeh (Prince Garden). Built at the end of the 19th Century, the Qajarian gardens, located at the feet of the mountains at the edge of Mahan, are one of the last paradise gardens in Old Persian tradition. After the sightseeing we return to Kerman. Overnight in Kerman.

Full day scenic responsive ride along the Maharlu and Bakhtegan Salt Lake heading west. Shiraz, city of roses, nightingales and the famous poet is our destination. En route, we visit the ruins of a Sassanid palace in Sarvestan. Evening arrival in Shiraz. Overnight in Shiraz.

Day 11. SHIRAZ
Shiraz, a city of historic monuments, poets, kings, wonderfully fragrant flowers, orchids, and orange trees. The great Persian poet Saadi stated that “May God, whose name be exalted and hallowed, keep in security and peace the pure country of Shiraz until the time of the resurrection.” The mausoleums of poets Hafez and Saadi dive into the world of Persian poetry. Next we will visit the magnificent gardens of Shiraz and begin Bagh-e Eram (Eram Garden), the gardens of the city most worth seeing, complete with a three-story palace. Here we experience the shade of cypress, fragrant orange groves, rippling water channels, and lushly planted beds of roses. Then we visit the Narendschestan Palace and its gardens. The 19th Century building was built by the wealthy Qawam family, who like to use it for festive and business events. The associated garden is divided manifold. Here can be found, along with streams and pools, splendid flowerbeds planted with roses, summer flowers, and perennials. Enjoy a stroll through this garden, opening up the grand life of the 19th Century. Overnight in Shiraz.

Day 12. SHIRAZ (Excursion to Perspolis)
Excursion to Persepolis (UNESCO World Heritage), which is among the outstanding examples of Persian Achaemenid architecture. The ruins of the vividly restored royal residence offer a remarkable insight into the most important time of pre-Islamic history. Then we visit the Achaemenid tombs and Sassanid reliefs of Naqsh-e Rustam. We continue to Pasargadae, the oldest of the Achaemenid town foundations. In the evening we return to Shiraz. At night we are pampered in a traditional Persian restaurant, with all the rules of Persian cuisine. Overnight in Shiraz.

Today we will visit the impressive fortified residence of the Khan dynasty, the Arg-e Karim Khan. Here, in the middle of the 18th Century, was the center of power, and from here the destinies of Persia unfolded. After visiting the Vakil Mosque, with its beautiful tiles and the 48 spirally twisted columns (each of which is carved out of a single rock), the Vakil Bazaar awaits us. Its airy ceilings and wind domes are built so that in summer and in winter it maintains a pleasant climate. In it, all branches of the famous arts and crafts are represented. After visiting the evocative sanctuary of Shiite saint Ibn Ali Hamze, from the 11th Century, we go under the Koran Gate on the road to Isfahan, thought to bring good luck. Flight to Tehran. Overnight in Tehran.

Day 13. TEHRAN
Transfer to Imam Khomeini airport.

Price includes:
- Iran visa authorization

- All domestic flights within Iran
- All hotel accommodations in deluxe or best-available hotels based on double-occupancy
- All land transportations in minibus or coach
- All group transfers to/from airport, from/to hotel
- Highly-qualified English-speaking guide
- Meals (B,L,D), breakfast at hotels, lunch and dinner at best available local restaurants, or hotels (with the exception of alcohol and caviar)
- All tours, sightseeing, portages and entrance fees for main sites and excursions
- Gratuities to local guides and drivers, porters, and other staff
Price does not include:
- Round trip international airfare

- Visa and processing fee
- Personal expenses such as room service, telephone/fax calls, laundry, dry cleaning, etc.
- Optional tours or entrance fees not shown on the itinerary
- Refreshments, snacks, en-route or during meals, caviar at any meals
- Trip insurance, baggage loss insurance, trip cancellation, travel delay, and charge - incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of us
- Trip Price based on double occupancy for the single supplement fee/single occupancy, please add $1,800
NOTE: You will probably have to leave your home country on the previous day to arrive in the early morning on the first day. If flight arrives earlier or later than the rest of the group, private transfers are $75 per transfer. Extra nights at the hotel in Tehran for early arrival or late departure are $110 per person sharing a double room and $165 for a single room.

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