Iran is rich in cultural heritage, dated from ancient Persian civilization to Islamic influence. When touring Iran, one would be awed by exquisitely crafted architectural gems, from ancient ruins and necropolis to mosques and bazaars, and many of them listed as UNESCO world heritage. Iran has ancient villages that dated more than thousand years old, its countryside has semi-nomadic folks who maintain distinctly different traditional lifestyle. Nothing beats Iranian hospitality, which is the most impressive thing during one’s visit, the warmth and friendliness of Iranians will rid your prejudice stemmed from negative news.
Take a late night flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Iran, arrival in capital city Tehran Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA) the following day during wee hours. (Remarks: tour members embarking from other countries may opt to meet the group in Tehran)
Arrive in Tehran IKA around 3am, transfer to domestic airport some 60km away to catch a flight to Esfahan, arrival late morning, transfer to hotel in city center for rest and refresh. Afternoon explore Armenian quarter named New Jolfa and visit the Vank Cathedral. Christian Armenians fleeing from Ottoman Empire migrated to Esfahan in early 17th century. Evening stroll along Zanyandeh River, admire ancient bridges such as Si-o-Se-Pol and Khaju.
Esfahan is the Persian Empire imperial capital, and Iran’s traditional culture and arts center. Walking tour with a local guide to explore Imam Square, listed as world’s heritage site. The Square is surrounded by an ensemble of ancient buildings (15th and 17th century), richly decorated with tiles and carvings, including Emam mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah mosque, Ali Qapu palace, Chehel Sotoon palace. North of the Square is indoor Bazaar-e Bozorg, housed in a 400-year-old building with dome-roof.
After breakfast, take a bus (5h) to ancient oasis town Yazd, home to the largest population of Zoroastrians (pre-Islam Persian religion) in Iran. Upon arrival, explore the old quarter on foot, admire desert town architecture, a maze of alleyways sandwiched by aged old mud houses with wind tower. Evening, visit traditional gym called Zurkhaneh (House of Strength), watch local sportsmen maneuver traditional gym equipment evolved from ancient weaponry, while accompanied by drum and singing.
Explore ancient sites in city outskirts with chartered car. Firstly, visit Zoroastrians’ ancient burial site Tower of Silence, where the deceased were left in the open for scavenging birds. Later, drive to the deserted village of Karanagh, a group of thousand years old earthen structures left abandoned in mountain valley, mud houses linked by a maze of alleyways, staircases, and dome-shaped corridors. Lastly, visit Zoroastrian pilgrimage site Chak Chak Temple. Late afternoon back in Yazd.
Drive south through desert region, visit aged old desert structure along the way. Firstly, explore the abandoned Saryadz Castle, a pre-Islamic bank vault dated more than a thousand years for storing valuables, jewels, and grains. Later, stopover at a caravanserai standing alone in the middle of desert, it was once used by Silk Road caravans. Around sunset, arrive at ancient troglodyte village Meymand, a UNESCO world heritage site. Overnight in cave lodging.
Meymand village is a self-contained, semi-arid area tucked in a valley. The villagers are semi-nomadic agro-pastoralists, living in caves carved out of soft rock as winter homes. The village has a cave mosque, and a Zoroastrian cave temple turned museum. Explore the village and surrounding hills with petroglyph. Late afternoon transfer to nearby pasture and herds grazing ground, overnight in traditional Markhaneh, which is circular stone house with a roof covering of wood and thatch.
Today drive to the southern-end of Zagrus Mountain ranges, in search of the nomadic Qashqai people scattered in the hills. Iran has some 40,000 Qashqai, a Turkic people from Central Asia who settled in Iran during the 11th and 12th Centuries. Every summer they move with their goats and tents to highland pasture ground, while in winter to the warmer southern Persian Gulf region. Overnight in nomad tents, learn about Qashqai nomads’ way of life.
Wake up to the sound of donkey braying and goat bleating, participate in the nomads daily chores, such as traditional bread making and shooting demonstration (nomads has a tradition of hunting). Later, transfer to a small desert village Deh-e-Moord, observe countryside lifestyle up-close. Overnight in homestay. At night, mingle with the host family, and enjoy delicious home cooked dinner.
Early morning bid farewell to homestay host, drive to ancient Persian ruins Persepolis, capital of Achaemenid Empire, founded by King Darius I in 518 B.C. Built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, Persepolis was an impressive palace complex, but Alexander the Great burnt it down during invasion. Also visit ancient necropolis Naqsh-e-Rustam, the rock tombs hewn out of a cliff high dated back to some 3000 years. Evening arrive in hill village Ghalat, check in to a guesthouse.
Morning hiking in the forest and hills surrounding Ghalat, a centuries-old village lined with many ruined mud-brick houses, abandoned church and mosque. Ghalat is a weekend holiday spot for urban Iranians, hence there’re a number of restaurants and cafes. After lunch, transfer to Shiraz, a city known for poetry appreciation. Afternoon stroll through the centuries old Vakil Bazaar, evening may opt to visit trendy teahouse at the tomb garden of 14th century poet Hafez, whose poems are widely recited by Iranians.
Early morning visit Nasir Al Molk Mosque, admire the dreamy sight of sun rays shining through rows of stained glass windows, scattering multi-colour lights into the prayer hall. Later, visit the holy shrine of Shah-e-Cheragh and the adjacent ancient fire temple turned mosque. Late afternoon, transfer to railway station, board an overnight sleeper train back to capital city Tehran. (Remarks: packed food and drinks for the train ride in advance)
Morning arrival in Tehran, transfer to downtown with private transport, leave luggage in the vehicle, breakfast near the grand bazaar. Later, visit Golestan Palace (Palace of Flowers) that blends Persian and European styles. It was built in late 18th and 19th century. After touring Europe, Qajar King Nasser al-Din Shah was so impressed by European arts that he ordered to build a western-style palace. Late afternoon transfer to airport, en-route visit Imam Khomeini Tomb. Catch a night flight bound for Kuala Lumpur.
Late morning arrival in Kuala Lumpur, end of tour.
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Kae is passionate about music, photography, and travel. Composing music aside, Kae also makes a living out of filming weddings and events; whereas travel, is his on-going “career”. He once made a non-stop journey for more than half a year in Asian countries. He is infatuated with high-altitude places, making frequent trips to plateaus and mountains.
In recent years, he has developed a keen interest in cycling, he now dreams of traveling around the world on two wheels. Be it journeying on foot or on wheels, he believes places must be experienced first-hand to gain insights.
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