Day 1 & 2: Departure from JFK to Tashkent
Overnight flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan via Istanbul, Turkey.
Day 3: Arrive in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) [D]
Welcome to Central Asia! Upon arrival to Tashkent Airport, we will meet you and transfer you to the hotel. Rest of the day is at your leisure!! Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 4: Tashkent (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast a full day sightseeing in Tashkent, visit the old part of the city – Khast Imam complex as well as possessing a rich Islamic Library with immense Osman Koran VII, Chorsu Bazaar, Kukeldash Madrasah. Afternoon visit Independence (Mustakillik) Square with governmental buildings, A. Navoi Theater Square, A. Temur Museum and Square. Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 5: Tashkent – Samarkand (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we transfer to the railway station for the bullet train AFROSIAB to Samarkand.Upon arrival to Samarkand, start tour of “Rome of the East” visiting: Registan Square, Gur Emir Mausoleum, Bibi – Khanum Mosque and Central Bazaar in Samarkand, Afrosiyob Museum, and Museum of Ulugbek Observatory, Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis. Overnight in Samarkand.
Day 6: Samarkand – Shakhrisabz – Samarkand (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, transfer to Shakhrisabz, hometown of Great Tamerlane, arrival to Shakhrisabz: visit remains of Ak-Saray Palace, Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, Khazrati Imom Ensemble. After sightseeing Shakhrisabz depart back to Samarkand and visit Paper Mills. Overnight in Samarkand.
Day 7: Samarkand – Bukhara (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we drive to Bukhara via Gijduvan. En route visit remains of Caravanserai and Sardoba, a water reservoir. Excursion to Gijduvan – famous pottery house. Arrival to Bukhara, check into the hotel. Sightseeing tour in Bukhara: Kalon Ensemble, Madrasah Miri-Arab, Magoki-Attori Mosque, Chashma-Ayub, Madrasah Ulugbek and Abdulaziz Khan, Kosh Madrasah, Trade Domes, Lyabi Hauz Complex, Madrasah Chor – Minor. Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 8: Bukhara (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we continue sightseeing in Bukhara: summer palace of Bukhara emirs Sitora-i-Mokhi Khosa, Necropolis Chor Bark, burial of Sheikhs and Royal family members, Complex of Bahauddin Naqshband, place of locals to worship, visit Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, Ark Fortress. Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 9: Bukhara – Farab – Turkmenabat – Mary (Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we depart Bukhara and drive to Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border point in Farab. Border formalities on both sides, cross the border. Transfer to Mary via Turkmenabat and Merv (4.5hrs). Upon arrival tour of Merv which was located at the crossroads of Great Silk Road and quickly became one of most important and biggest cities of the Ancient World. Sightseeing will include: Gyz Gala and Oglan Gala, Complex of Askhabs, Gyaur Gala, Erk Gala, Soltan Gala, Soltan Sanjar Mausoleum, Ibn Zeid Mausoleum. Overnight in Mary.
Day 10: Mary – Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we transfer to airport for your flight to Ashgabat. Upon arrival, enjoy sightseeing tour of the Blue Mosque, Arch of Neutrality and Independence Park with its rotating gold statue of Turkmenbashi. Drive to Nisa and explore the ancient ruined capital of the Parthians. Discover the unique fortresses, citadel, temples and tombs (III Century B.C.), the National Museum of History and Ethnography. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Day 11: Ashgabat – Mashhad (Turkmenistan – Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, an early morning transfer to Iran border with border formalities on both sides. Meeting with Iranian guide and driver, route to Mashhad (155 miles). Accommodation upon your arrival. Mashhad, capital of Iran Khorasan Province and Iran’s second largest city, is known for the shrine of Imam Reza , the Eighth Imam of the Shia Muslims who follow Twelve Imams. Mashhad literally means “burial place of the martyr.” The city started out as Sanabad, a stop-over for trade caravans traveling to and from Turkmenistan. It was only after the martyrdom of Imam Reza at Tus in 818 and the construction of his shrine here that the city became a pilgrim site. The complex is a city in itself and visitors are frisked by security at all gates. Women must observe shrine decorum and cover themselves with the Chador, without which they will not be permitted to enter the complex. Apart from its religious significance, the complex is an architectural masterpiece decorated with intricate tiles, calligraphy, beautiful courtyards and porches. The complex also houses a museum, library and the very beautiful Masjid-e-Gohar Shaad of the Timurid period. Overnight in Mashhad.
Day 12: Mashhad – Tehran (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we will visit Bazaar-e-Reza. It has two-stories and one of the main shopping areas in Mashhad. You can explore the local fabrics, handicrafts, jewelry and more. After lunch, transfer to the airport for our flight to Tehran – capital city of Iran. Upon arrival in Tehran, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 13: Tehran (Iran) [B,L,D]
After you enjoy a great buffet breakfast and leave the hotel, enjoy a full day guided tour of Tehran. First we will visit The Archaeological Museum: A must-see in Tehran. The collection includes pottery, ceramics, stone figures and carvings from 4th & 5th millennium BC. Four tablets inscribed in cuneiform, Darius I inscription, carved staircase, tiles from Apadana Palace, and salt man are some of the highlights. Later, we will explore The National Jewels Museum: The treasury of Iranian national royal jewels accommodates the world’s most precious jewelry collection. The treasury has an interesting history, going back centuries. The Glassware and Ceramic Museum would be our last stop before lunch. The premises have been turned into a museum where glass and clay works are on display and were built about 90 years ago. The building is a combination of the traditional Iranian style and the European architecture of the XIX Century. The collection of glass and clay works that are on display at the museum is among the rarest in Iran and it includes clay pots dating back the 4th millennium BC up to the present time, as well as glass works from the 1st millennium BC up to the contemporary era. European glass works from the XVIII and XIX Centuries are also part of the collection.
In the afternoon, we will visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Golestan Palace. The lavish Golestan Palace is a masterpiece of the Qajar Era, embodying the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences. The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Tehran, became the seat of government of the Qajar Family, which came into power in 1779 and made Tehran the capital of the country. Built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas, the Palace’s most characteristic features and rich ornaments date from the XIX Century. It became a center of Qajar Arts and architecture of which it is an outstanding example and has remained a source of inspiration for Iranian artists and architects to this day. It represents a new style incorporating traditional Persian arts and crafts and elements of XVIII Century architecture and technology. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 14: Tehran – Shiraz (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we will visit the Carpet Museum with its beautiful modern architecture and a facade resembling a carpet-weaving loom. Founded in 1978 the museum provides a historical background for the evolution of this art form. Transfer to the airport and a short flight to Shiraz.
Shiraz is crowned as the heartland of Persian culture and this city of sophistication will never fail to conjure up images of roses and nightingales, gardens and poetry. This gorgeous city in the province of Fars is home to famous poets such as Hafez and Sa’adi. Also, historical sites from different eras stretching back 6,000 years ago can be found there. Relish in the highlights of Shiraz when it was the capital of Iran during the Zand Dynasty. Be inspired by the glorious Karim Khan palace, the splendid Vakil mosque, Vakil Bazaar and Saray-e-Moshir with its splendid architecture and interesting ethnic souvenir shops and Nasir Almolk Mosque. Next, we will stop for a mouth-watering Iranian lunch at one of the traditional restaurants of Shiraz. In the evening, we will visit Ali-Ebn-e-Hamzeh and be prepared to marvel at its beauties. Take a stroll through the Jahan Nama Garden and witness its tall and proud cedars. Not forgetting the two famous Persian poets, Hafez and Sa’adi, whose mysterious poems are everlasting in the Persian language, we will get a chance to pay homage to their tombs. Finally visit the Delgosha Garden and Khajoy-e-Kermani tomb from where the perspective of the mysterious city of Shiraz will perpetuate in our mind. In the evening, have dinner in a restaurant in the north of Shiraz. Overnight in Shiraz.
Day 15: Shiraz – Persepolis – Shiraz (Iran) [B,L,D]
Get ready for a truly wonderful day! After breakfast, we’ll drive about 35 miles to Takht-e-Jamshid or as the Greeks called it, Persepolis, a ruined capital of ancient Iran. It is one of the greatest artistic legacies of the ancient world and perhaps one of the most beautiful and spectacular archaeological sites surviving today. In the VI Century B.C., the Achaemenian King Darius I, created Persepolis as a palatial precinct for an empire which eventually became larger and more efficiently ruled than any other in the ancient world. Persepolis was reserved only for ritual celebrations. In the spring of each new year, on Nowruz, the Zoroastrian observance of the beginning of Spring, March 21st, the dynamic ruler and his court gathered at Persepolis to receive the tribute of subject nations and to reestablish universal order for the coming year. Nowruz is still celebrated today. Step back in time as we enter through the Gate of All Nations. The arrival of the erstwhile delegations was announced by trumpeters who stood at the top of the staircase in front of the Gate of Nations. They were then led to the Hundred Column Palace to the presence of the king. Superb bas reliefs depict the flow of ritual processions that once passed through the palaces and audience halls of the Achaemenian Kings. We’ll explore the Gate of Xerxes, the Apadana Palace, the Treasury, the Harem and the private palaces of the different rulers. Persepolis was completed by Xerxes and Artaxerxes I who ruled Persia in the V Century B.C. The palaces were used by the Achaemenid kings up until they were destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. as revenge for the sacking of Athens during the Persian Wars with the Greeks. To top off the afternoon, visit Naghsh-é-Rostam, which contains the rock carved chambers of four Achaemenian tombs, believed to be those of Darius the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes and Darius II. The ornamental façades are rock reliefs from the Sassanian dynasty depicting various scenes of imperial conquests as well as a probable fire temple from Achaemenian times. Later, return to Shiraz via the Koran Gate, for dinner and overnight.
Day 16: Shiraz – Pasargadae – Yazd (Iran) [B,L,D]
Today we say goodbye to Shiraz and embark on our journey to Yazd, stopping en route at Pasargadae – another UNESCO World Heritage site. Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great in the VI Century B.C. Its palaces, gardens and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization. Particularly noteworthy vestiges include: the Mausoleum of Cyrus II; Tall-e-Takht, a fortified terrace; and a royal ensemble of gatehouse, audience hall, residential palace and gardens. Pasargadae was the capital of the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Indus River, it is considered to be the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples. This was reflected in Achaemenid Architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures. After a leisurely visit to Pasargadae, you continue on through the desert to the city of Yazd. Upon arrival, we’ll have an evening stroll through the Fahadan Historical Neighborhood and Amir Chakhmagh Square. Overnight in Yazd.
Day 17: Yazd (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we will explore the city of Yazd. Visit the Towers of Silence and the Fire Temple and adjoining museum, to learn about the Zoroastrian faith, their holy book – the Avesta, four divine elements – air, water, earth and fire, and motto – good thoughts, good words, good deeds! Next at the Yazd Water Museum we learn about the construction of Qanat (canals or canats), which are underground tunnels or subterranean aqueducts carrying life-giving water from the mountains to the homes, Persian gardens, fields, orchards, pomegranate groves. You’ll admire their courageous builders using techniques developed from the IV Century B.C., and explore a house with its own Qanat System in place. There are enough Qanats’ in Iran the distance of which to go the moon and back four times! Walk through the Friday Mosque and see more of the crafts of the area. Visit Alexander Prison and learn about the famous “Badgirs” or wind-catchers water towers that efficiently cool a home in a desert setting. We’ll have a look at the area’s famed handicrafts – carpets, ceramics and textiles. You’ll find silk Ikats and Termeh – a traditional hand-made cloth woven with precious threads and metals. Textile design spread from Persia to Moghul, India. Overnight in Yazd.
Day 18: Yazd -Na’in – Esfahan (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we continue to the city of Esfahan. We’ll make stops along our journey to visit the early Islamic period Friday Mosque in the city of Na’in. We will continue our drive to the beautiful city of Esfahan (Isfahan), the XVII Century capital of the Safavids, referred to as “Nesf-e-Jahan” (Half of the World) in Safavid sources. We’ll stay for three nights at the exotic Abbasi Hotel which was built in the 1960’s on the site of a XVII Century caravansary. Overnight in Esfahan.
Day 19: Esfahan (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, is another full day of sightseeing in wonderful Esfahan. Wander through the antique Friday Mosque; as it stands now is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the XX Century. Archaeological excavation has determined an Abbasid hypostyle mosque in place by the X Century. Buyid construction lined a facade around the courtyard and added two minarets that are the earliest example of the double minaret on record. Continue to the Naghsh-e-Jahan complex, the central focus of Esfahan. It is a Royal Square, 1674 feet by 540 feet and enclosed by double-storied arcades. The square drew merchants and ambassadors to the Safavid court for centuries. It’s unmatched in elegance and spaciousness anywhere in the world! It is seven times the size of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and puts the grandeur of the surrounding palaces and mosques into appropriate proportions. On the north side is the entrance to the Royal Qaysari Bazaar. On the east side is the Lotfollah Mosque. Constructed between 1603 and 1617, it served as a private chapel for the Imperial Family. You’ll see exquisite XVII Century Persian tile work on the domed ceiling. On the west side is the Ali Qapu Palace. To the south is the Friday Mosque and Shah Mosque, dedicated to Shah Abbas the Great. To many it is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world. Overnight in Esfahan.
Day 20: Esfahan (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we continue our tour of Esfahan. We’ll begin with a visit to the beautiful Chehel Sotoun (forty pillars) Palace, with its exquisite collection of fresco and paintings on tile. The reflecting pool magnified the majesty of the ruler. Here Shah Abbas II welcomed dignitaries and ambassadors. Today you are the guests of honor! Next, we’ll begin with a walk across the historical bridge of Khaju, constructed by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is essentially a bridge superimposed upon a dam, 436 feet long and supported by twenty-four stone arches. On the far side is the garden tomb of Arthur Upham Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman, Americans who were dedicated to the study of Persian art, history and culture.
Continue to the Armenian Quarter to visit the richly decorated Vank Cathedral. Begun in 1606 at the time of arrival of Armenian immigrants to Isfahan, it was completed between 1655 and 1664 under the supervision of Archbishop David, with the encouragement of the Savid rulers. It is the historic focal point of the Armenian Christian Church in Iran. The dome and walls have colorful paintings representing the story of Creation. Pause for lunch in the Armenian Quarter. During our time in Isfahan, you are invited to a private gallery to visit with a famous miniature artist.
Those who are interested may visit a carpet shop to sip tea and admire Iran’s most valuable craft and art form. The Persian knot allowed the tight composition to create intricate Arabesques, geometric and other floral designs. See both City and Tribal carpets. Unlike Arabic Islamic design, Shia Muslims took literally God’s commandment to know Him through His creation. Thus you find figurative art in all forms including tile, metalwork and carpets. Persians also developed natural – and lasting- dyes. Cobalt found in Isfahan was exported to China where it was used in the blue on ceramics known later by the British as ‘China’.
End the afternoon with a visit to the Hasht Bahesht (eight heavens) Pavilion and Park. It was built as an official court and a reception hall by Shah Abbas II (1647 AD) where the ceilings are outstanding!! Overnight in Esfahan.
Day 21: Abyaneh – Kashan – Tehran (Iran) [B,L,D]
After breakfast today, will visit the UNESCO recognized village of Abyaneh, located at the foot of Mount Karkas and in the vicinity of desert. Appreciate the serenity of this quaint village with its splendid archaeology and meet the dwellers who speak, live and dress in the original Persian style. Province and the city of Kashan are among the most prominent producers of the stunning handicraft. The wool for the carpets is usually shorn by local men in Spring or Autumn and women are mostly in charge of the weaving. Next, hop onto Kashan and visit Tabatabaiha and Boroujerdi houses and some other historical places specially chosen by our tour guide and be acquainted with the previous century’s architecture, the Qajar Era. Overnight in Tehran.
Day 22: Departure from Tehran (Iran) [B]
After breakfast, you will transfer to the airport for your flight back home.