Home to one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures, Iran has become one of the hottest emerging travel destinations on the planet in recent years. With a moderate government now in place, adventurers are increasingly being drawn to the exotic Middle Eastern country to discover its treasures. Meander through bustling bazaars, majestic palaces and mosques and see the ruins of UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples, tombs and other archaeological sites to rival those in Egypt.
With settlements dating back to 4000BC, Iran is heaven for history lovers. Known as Persia until 1939, and officially as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nation has a diverse population made up of many ethnic and religious backgrounds. This has led to a fascinating culture, which can be discovered through its food, art and architecture. A mountainous and mostly arid country around the size of Queensland, Iran is home to 80 million people, who are astonishingly welcoming towards foreigners.
Our small group tours begin and end in the modern capital, Tehran, which is surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Alborz mountain range. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran's palaces were transformed into museums showcasing works of art, calligraphy, weapons and other artefacts. In the city's north, visitors can wander through the rooms of Sa'ad Abad Palace complex, the former summer residence of the royal family, and the Niavaran Palace Complex, where the last Shah and his family lived.
Another highlight of our private tours is the troglodyte village of Kandovan, in the province of East Azarbaijan. Here, people still live in cone-shaped houses up to 700-years- that were carved into the rock formed by eruptions of Mount Sahand volcano.
See the largest lake in the Middle East, Orumeih Lake, before moving on to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman – or the Throne of Solomon - in the country's north-west. Built around a mineral rich spring-fed lake in a valley surrounded by mountains, the design of the site's fire temple, palace and layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture. According to legend, King Solomon used to imprison monsters inside the crater of a nearby volcano.
Every day brings a new wonder. On our unique tours, you'll see inscriptions by Darius I and his son Xerxes carved on the mountain face at Hamaden, which was the capital of the Median Empire in the 7th century BC and the summer capital of the Achaemenid kings in the 5th century BC. Marvel at rock carvings depicting royal hunting scenes and the investiture of Sassaian kings, including a gigantic equestrian statue of Khosrow the 2nd mounted on his horse, Shabdiz, at Tagh-e-Bostan, near Kermanshah. Visit the tomb of the biblical prophet Daniel in Susa, and a temple dedicated to the goddess of water and fertility Anahita in the round city of Bishapur.
Around 50km north-east of Shiraz, known as 'the city of roses and nightingales', you'll find the ancient city of Persepolis, where you can wander among the remains of palaces and tombs admiring the rock reliefs and sculptures. Sip tea under the shade of a 4000-year-old cypress tree in the small desert town of Abarkuh, before visiting the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for 1500 years, in Yazd.
There is no question that Iran is a truly unique travel destination.
- The people of this wonderful country
- Picnics on the side of the road
- The ancient fortress of Alamut and the surrounding countryside
- Persepolis, one of the worlds great archaeological sites
- Isfahan and its wonderful Islamic architecture
- Shiraz and her beautiful gardens