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Extension: Ancient Treasures of Persia, Modern Life in Iran

Program Number: 21608RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/3/2014 - 9/11/2014; 5/11/2016 - 5/19/2016; 6/8/2016 - 6/16/2016; 9/21/2016 - 9/29/2016; 10/5/2016 - 10/13/2016; 10/19/2016 - 10/27/2016; 11/9/2016 - 11/17/2016; 11/23/2016 - 12/1/2016;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: Iran
Price starting at: $2,699.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: ; History & Culture Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 22; 9 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

A phone call on September 27, 2013, marked the first communication between American and Iranian presidents since 1979. At this historic moment when the promise of a new relationship between United States and Iran seems brighter than it has in decades, join Road Scholar’s knowledgeable local experts to discover ancient wonders of Persia, learn about life in today’s Iran and experience a beautiful land and culture that so few Americans have.


• Explore Persepolis, the powerful ancient citadel built by Persian kings, and five more UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
• In the lovely city of Shiraz, experience the cool tranquility of Persian gardens and learn about the legendary poet Hafez.
• Delve into the stories of the 1979 Revolution and the Iran hostage crisis and experience modern life in Tehran.

Activity Particulars

Significant walking on most field trips. Uneven terrain and some steep, uneven stairs.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. Road Scholar follows all State Department guidelines and will closely monitor events in Iran leading up to the program.

Itinerary Summary

Coach from Ashkabad (Turkmenistan) to Mashhad (Iran), 1 night; flight to Shiraz, 2 nights; coach to Isfahan, 2 nights; coach to Kashan, 1 night; coach to Tehran, 2 nights; departure.

Coach from Ashkabad (Turkmenistan) to Mashhad (Iran)
1 night
Flight to Shiraz
2 nights

From Ashkabad it’s a short journey to the border, where you pass through customs and meet your Iranian local expert and driver. Continue to Mashhad, a Silk Road village that has grown into Iran’s second largest city. Discover the magnificent Imam Reza shrine, a pilgrimage site visited by 12 million Shi’ite Muslims each year. Fly to southwest Iran to experience Shiraz. The capital of several ancient dynasties, Shiraz has a claim as one of the world’s great centers of language, art and poetry. Explore the luxuriant Eram Garden and learn about the influence of the legendary Persian poet Hafez as you visit his tomb.

Coach to Isfahan
2 nights

At the archaeological site of Persepolis, walk among the ruins of the capital of the First Persian Empire and examine bas-reliefs that depict the daily goings-on in court. Discover the necropolis where it’s believed kings including Darius the Great and Xerxes are entombed. Next continue to another historic capital of Persia, Isfahan. Explore the architectural legacy left behind from the rule of Shah Abbas the Great: sprawling Naqsh-e Jahan Square; the stunning Chehel Sotoun (“Forty Columns”) palace; and the graceful bridges crossing the Zayendeh River.

Coach to Kashan
1 night
Coach to Tehran
2 nights

Before departing Isfahan, step into the Jameh Mosque, whose interior encompasses 800 years of Islamic architectural styles, and walk through the Jewish Quarter. Journey to Kashan, an oasis town where you enjoy the tranquility of the spring-fed Bagh-e Fin garden. Make a stop in the holy city of Qom, where Shi’ites travel to pray at the Fatimah al-Masumeh Shrine. Complete your adventure in Tehran, the energetic capital of Iran. Explore the Saadabad Palace, the residence of the royal family until the Iranian Revolution, and drive by the vacant U.S. Embassy, its exterior walls still covered in anti-American graffiti. At the Treasury of National Jewels, admire the crown jewels of Persia including some of the world’s largest diamonds.

Comfortable hotels with modern conveniences. Traditional Persian-style hotel in Isfahan. Historic boutique hotel in Kashan.
Meals and Lodgings
   Salam Hotel
  Mashhad, Iran 1 night
   Aryo Barzan Hotel
  Shiraz, Iran 2 nights
   Sheikh Bahei Hotel
  Isfahan, Iran 2 nights
   Manouchehri House
  Kashan, Iran 1 night
   Grand Hotel II
  Tehran, Iran 2 nights
 Salam Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located a short distance from the Imam Reza shrine, the four star Salam Hotel features two restaurants, a coffee shop, indoor pool, Jacuzzi and internet access. Rooms include satellite TV, air conditioning, minifridge and kitchen.
  Contact info: Pasardan 6 St
Mashad,   Iran
phone: +98511-851-8950
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Aryo Barzan Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located in the heart of Shiraz, the three star Aryo Barzan Hotel offers two restaurants, Internet access, a handicrafts and book shop and laundry services.
  Contact info: Zand Blvd., Roudaki St.
Shiraz,   Iran
phone: +98-711-2247182-4
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Sheikh Bahei Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located in the center of Isfahan, the three star Sheikh Bahei Hotel features a conference room, coffee shop and rooftop restaurant serving Persian and international cuisine. Rooms include air conditioning, color TV and telephone.
  Contact info: Chahar Bagh Abbasi St
Isfahan,   Iran
phone: +98-311-2207714-16
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Manouchehri House
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located in Kashan's historic center, the traditional Persian Manouchehri House has been renovated and preserved as a small boutique hotel. A beautiful dining room serves local cuisine and a buffet breakfast. The eight guest rooms surround a courtyard garden and include modern amenities such as air conditioning, WiFi, in-room safe, minifridge and hair dryer.
  Contact info: No. 49, 7th Emarat Alley, Sabat Alley Motasham St
Kashan,   Iran
phone: +98 0361-424-2617
  Smoking allowed: No

 Grand Hotel II
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located in the center of Tehran, the deluxe Grand II Hotel features a restaurant and 24-hour coffee shop. Rooms include air conditioning, satellite TV, minifridge, complimentary WiFi, in-room safe and hair dryer.
  Contact info: no.28 - Sepand Ave., Nejatollahi (vila) St.
Tehran,   Iran
phone: +98-21-89191
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Program ends after breakfast at the hotel in Ashkabad on day 1. You will be staying at Salam Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after breakfast at the hotel in Tehran on day 9. You will be staying at Grand Hotel II the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is not available.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Mashhad
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and arrive on the group date. Program Only Participants can take the group transfer as long as their flight arrives at or around the same time as the group.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Tehran
  Transportation from site: A group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. Program Only Participants can take the group transfer as long as their flight departs at or around the same time as the group.
Elevation Note: Mashhad - 3,230 ft Shiraz - 5,200 ft Isfahan - 5,220 ft Kashan - 3,220 ft Tehran - 3,900 ft

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Depart Ashkabad • drive to Mashhad
(Wednesday, September 3)
 Breakfast: In the hotel in Ashkabad.
 Morning: Depart Ashkabad this morning for the drive to the Iranian border. Arrive mid-morning and begin customs procedures. After meeting the Iranian guide and driver, continue to Mashhad for lunch and check-in at the hotel.
 Lunch: In Mashhad on arrival.
 Afternoon: This afternoon is yours to rest and relax.
 Dinner: Enjoy dinner this evening at the hotel.
Accommodations: Salam Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2: Mashhad • fly to Shiraz
(Thursday, September 4)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast at the hotel, set out for a full day of touring in Mashhad. Begin at the “Holy Precinct,” or Haram-e Motahar, a beautiful circular complex surrounded by a boulevard in the center of the city. The Holy Precinct is composed of Imam Reza’s Tomb, several madrassahs, spacious courtyards, blue-tiled and copper-clad domes, libraries and minarets. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the tomb or the 15th century Great Mosque of Gohar Shad, but can admire the gilded domes and tiled portals of the exteriors. Three museums are open to non-Muslims – the Main Museum, filled with art and fabulous artifacts, the Carpet Museum and the Koran Museum.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Drive to the north of Mashhad to visit the Mausoleum of Khajeh Rabi, a contemporary of the Prophet Mohammad. The mausoleum itself dates from the 16th century, but it is adorned with the fine calligraphy of Al Reza Abbasi, Persia’s most famous calligrapher, dating as far back as the 11th century. The cemetery that surrounds the mausoleum is filled with more recent history - people killed in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
 Dinner: Enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant before transferring to the airport for the flight to Shiraz.
 Evening: On arrival into Shiraz, transfer to the hotel an overnight.
 In Transit: Flight from Mashhad to Shiraz.
Accommodations: Aryo Barzan Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Shiraz
(Friday, September 5)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: The fabled city of Shiraz has a remarkable history stretching over 2,500 years. It is the capital of Fars province where the Persian language of Farsi originated. One of the most important cities of the Islamic medieval period, Shiraz has reigned as the capital of several Islamic dynasties. A major artistic, religious, and academic center, the city is famed for its poetry, its luxuriant gardens, its learning centers and extravagant architecture. Beautiful, romantic, and hospitable, Shiraz is the favorite of many travelers, and remains one of the most enjoyable places to visit in all of Iran. Visit the stunning Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque. Constructed from 1876 to 1887, the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque is an explosion of colors with some of the finest examples of Persian Islamic tilework and architecture in Shiraz. Admire the Citadel of Karim Khan, a massive medieval-looking stronghold built in the 12th century to house and protect Karim Khan and his retainers. Constructed of stone and baked clay, the powerful citadel dominates the center of Shiraz. Wander the beautifully tended Eram Garden, a 19th century Persian garden surrounding a stately home. With its graceful structural elements of water, greenery and flowering plants, the garden is included in the nine Persian Gardens listed by UNESCO in 2011.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, visit the Tomb of Hafez. Surrounded by a lovely garden, the tomb of Iran’s favorite poet is a place of pilgrimage and reverence. Hafez was born and died in Shiraz in the 14th century, and his poetry is memorized by many Iranians. The marble tombstone is engraved with some of his verses. The teahouse by a cooling pool is a wonderful place to sit and people-watch.
 Dinner: This evening, enjoy an independent dinner.
Accommodations: Aryo Barzan Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Shiraz • drive to Isfahan via Persepolis
(Saturday, September 6)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast, depart for one of the most important sites of the Ancient World ¬– the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings, Persepolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arguably the greatest of the Persian dynasties, the period of Achaemenid rule, from the 7th to the 4th century BC, saw the empire at its greatest extent, both in territory and in political, artistic, and philosophical respects. Darius I initiated the building of Persepolis, a huge undertaking of art and architecture. Spend the day exploring this venerable city, some of the most fascinating ruins in the world. View the famous bas-reliefs showing kings, courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of the Persian Empire's tributary nations. The tour continues to the tombs of Naghsh-e Rostam, thought to be the burial sites of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes. Admire the Kabe-Zardosht fire temple and sanctuary, and seven magnificent Sassanian rock-reliefs, including Shapur I's famous victory over Roman Emperor Valerian.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch near Persepolis before continuing on to Isfahan.
 Afternoon: Under the rule of Shah Abbas the Great of the 16th century Safavid dynasty, Isfahan became a celebrated and beautiful city, referred to as Nesf-e-Jahan, meaning “half of the world.” Even after centuries of turmoil and destruction at the hands of foreign invaders, Isfahan’s grace is palpable.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Sheikh Bahei Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Isfahan
(Sunday, September 7)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Admire some of the graceful bridges over Isfahan's Zayendeh River. The Khaju Bridge, built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th century, has 23 arches and connects the Khaju quarter with the Zoroastrian quarter. Another especially beautiful bridge is the 33-arched Si-o-se Pol Bridge, with its arcades on either side of the walkway. Admire the oldest of Isfahan’s bridges, Shahrestan Bridge, which has foundations dating as far back as the 3rd century AD. Cross the Zayandeh River to explore Isfahan’s Armenian Quarter. The sand colored stonework of the Armenian Vank Cathedral conceals a beautifully ornate interior, with delicate tilework and gilt embellishments. Vank is an important historical reminder of the Armenian migration to Isfahan and is located in the Armenian neighborhood of New Julfa. During the 17th century, Armenians began settling at the southern bank of the Zayandeh Roud River and the cathedral dates from some of the earliest settlement in 1606. Used now as a museum, a memorial to the Armenian genocide, and as the home of a historic printing press, Vank is still at the heart of the community of Armenian-Iranians and houses over 20,000 volumes of literary and religious works in Armenian. Continue with the Chehel Sotun Palace. Shah Abbas II built the Chehel Sotun Palace in 1647. Set in a park by a long pool between the Ali Qapu Palace and Chahar Bagh Avenue, the pavilion was used for receptions and entertainment. The name means “40 Columns,” and refers to the 20 wooden columns supporting the entrance to the Great Hall, multiplied by their reflection in the pool. Inside are wonderful frescoes, miniatures and ceramics.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon continue on to Imam Square. Maiden-e Naghsh-e Jahan, also known as Imam Square, in the center of Isfahan, is one of the largest urban squares in the world. Shah Abbas the Great built the graceful ensemble in the early 17th century after he moved the capital here. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the square was the symbolic center of the Safavid Empire. Some of the buildings surrounding the square are the fabulous Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the Ali Qapu Palace, and the Quaisarieh Bazaar. Namaaz-e Jom’eh, Friday prayer, is held in this square. Visit three cultural monuments on Imam Square, beginning with Ali Qapu Palace. The Ali-Qapu Palace was built at the end of the 16th century and intended as a gateway to the royal palaces beyond. Its central feature is the tall verandah overlooking the square, its ceiling richly decorated with painted plaster. The music room on the sixth floor has a gorgeous ceiling punctuated with cutouts of vases and musical instruments, which served an acoustical as well as decorative function. Located opposite Ali Qapu Palace, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is an exquisite small mosque on Imam Square built during Shah Abbas’ time, and dedicated to his father-in-law. This beautifully decorated 17th century mosque took nearly 20 years to complete. Visit the Qeisarieh Bazaar.
 Dinner: Dinner this evening is independent.
Accommodations: Sheikh Bahei Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Isfahan • drive to Kashan
(Monday, September 8)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast, continue touring the city of Isfahan. Isfahan’s Masjid-e-Jameh, or Friday Mosque, looks more austere from the outside than the mosques in Imam Square. Its interior, however, encompasses over 800 years of Islamic architectural styles. With over 200 vaults, some of them decorated with the then-innovative muqarnas (small pointed niches or stalactite formations), the complex makes up the largest and most eclectic mosque in Iran. It was included on the UNESCO list in 2012. Take a walk in the former Jewish Quarter, called the Juibareh, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Isfahan. Jews no longer live here, although about a thousand still live in Isfahan. Jews trace their relationship with Persia to the 6th century BC, when they were exiled to Babylon and scattered throughout the area. It was Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great who allowed them to return to the Land of Israel. Through the centuries the Jews in Persia were alternately tolerated and persecuted. In the 16th century, Shah Abbas I encouraged Jews to settle in Isfahan, although by the time Lord Curzon visited in the 19th century, many restrictions were in force. Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were perhaps 3,000 Jews in Isfahan, many of whom fled to Israel or the U.S. Today several synagogues hold Sabbath services in other parts of the city, including an unmarked synagogue on Meidan Felestin (Palestine Square).
 Lunch: Independent.
 Afternoon: After an independent lunch, continue to Kashan. Located on the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir salt desert, Kashan gets its water from a system of qanats and from a nearby spring. These provide water for one of Iran's most treasured gardens, UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Fin, with its centuries-old cypress trees. The classical Persian Bagh-e Fin Garden was designed for Shah Abbas I, probably in the late 16th century, and centered around a natural spring. A grid of tiled waterways, bubbling jets and pools supplies water for the cypress trees, flowering plants and orchards that help to make the garden cool and peaceful. The original pavilions have, on the whole, been replaced during the 19th century, but the layout remains close to the original. This example of a classical Persian Garden was declared, with eight other gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. The museum located on the grounds is dedicated to Amir Kabir, Iran's reformist prime minister in the mid-19th century, who was assassinated here in the gardens. The museum also displays items from an archaeological dig at nearby Tappeh Sialk, one of the oldest inhabited areas on the Iranian Plateau.
 Dinner: Check in at the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Accommodations: Manouchehri House
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Kashan • drive to Tehran via Qom
(Tuesday, September 9)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast at the hotel, set out to admire Tabatabei House before continuing to Qom. The sacred city of Qom is home to the important Shi’ite shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh, sister of the 8th Imam. In 816, while traveling to be with her brother, Imam Reza, Fatima became ill and died at Qom. A shrine grew up around her grave, and became a pilgrimage site said to guarantee entry into Paradise. Qom and Fatima’s shrine were plundered by the Mongols during the 13th century invasion and later by Tamerlane. In the early 17th century, Shah Abbas I rebuilt the shrine complex, and some of the buildings date from his reign. Many were restored, embellished or constructed at the beginning of the 19th century. Non-Muslims may not enter the gates of the shrine. While in the city, be sure to sample Qom’s signature sweet, called sohan, a sort of cookie flavored with saffron and pistachios.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue to Tehran. On your way into the city, drive by perhaps one of the most enduring symbols of post-revolution Iran, the vacant U.S. embassy. Its outside remains painted with the Statue-of-Liberty-as-skeleton and anti-US slogans. It was here, of course, where 52 diplomats were taken hostage after student militants stormed the building in 1979, ending U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations. Now the building is known as the U.S. Den of Espionage, and is not open to the general public, though its facade remains a place of great fascination for Iranians and foreigners alike.
 Dinner: Check in at the hotel before dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel II
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Tehran
(Wednesday, September 10)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After the Mongols destroyed the Silk Road city of Rey, Tehran rose in its place as the region’s most important trading center. By 1789 Tehran had become the capital of Persia under the Qajar ruler, Agha Mohammed Khan. While the city grew in prominence, it remained essentially unchanged until the massive modernization efforts of the 1920s. Since then, Tehran has grown in population from less than 300,000 to a metropolis of several million. Modern Tehran is full of shops, museums, mosques, minarets, restaurants, teahouses and a sprawling bazaar. Touring in Tehran begins this morning with a visit to the Sa’ad Abad Palace Complex, the former residence of the deposed royal family of Iran. Today the several palaces of the complex, all located on beautiful and extensive grounds, have been converted into museums, including the White and Green Palaces and several art museums. Continue on to explore Gulestan Palace. The Gulestan Palace complex is the oldest of Tehran’s historic monuments, begun in the 16th century as a fortress by the Safavid dynasty. Encompassing several palatial buildings around a cool green garden, the complex includes the Marble Throne, created from 65 pieces of yellow Yazd marble. In late June 2013, Gulestan Palace was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Admire the collection at the Archaeological Museum. Iran's Archaeological Museum displays Persian antiquities, art and artifacts from Iran's long past. French architect and archaeologist Andre Godard designed the museum's main building in the early 20th century, and was for many years director of the Archaeology Department as well. Tools thought to have been made by Neanderthal man, figures from the Achaemenid Empire, bronzes, carvings, pre-historic pottery and artifacts from Susa and Persepolis can be seen here.
 Dinner: Enjoy a festive farewell dinner this evening.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel II
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Depart Tehran
(Thursday, September 11)
 Breakfast: Available at the hotel.
 Morning: The tour concludes with a departure transfer to the airport.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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