B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World

ANCIENT IRAN:
HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY


Stunning blue tiles of the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan

All have gone sweeping in the garth of lore
And what I tell hath all been told before,
But though upon a fruit-tree I obtain
No place, and purpose not to climb, still he
That sheltereth beneath a lofty tree
Will from its shadow some protection gain;
A footing on the boughs too I may find
Of yonder shady cypress after all
For having left this history behind
Of famous kings as my memorial.
Deem not these legends lying fantasy,
As if the world were always in one stay,
For most accord with sense, or anyway
Contain a moral.
In the days gone by
There was an Epic Cycle spread broadcast
Among the learned archmages, and at last
A certain paladin, of rustic birth,
A man of courage, wisdom, rank, and worth,
An antiquary, one who ransacked earth
For any legends of the ages past,
Intent on learning what might yet be known,
Called hoar archmages out of every clime,
To ask about the annals of the throne,
The famed successful heroes of old tune,
What men were doing in those days that we
Inherit such a world of misery,
And how each day beneath auspicious skies
They carried out some daring enterprise.
The archmages told their legendary store,
How this world fared and what kings undertook,
And as he listened to the men of lore
He laid the basis of the famous book,
Which now remaineth his memorial,
Amid the plaudits both of great and small.

The Shahameh of Firdausi

THE TOUR

This 3-week study tour of Iran has an emphasis on the ancient and medieval sites of ancient Persia. The tour begins in Tehran where we explore the 18th Century Golestan palace. The following day we see the stunning collection of artefacts in the Reza Abbasi Museum and in the afternoon we wander through the pavilions of the remarkable Shahabad Palace Complex built in the 19th Century.

From Tehran we drive to Qazvin, located on the Silk Road where we see the recently restored Bazaar. Our next stop is Hamadan, the ancient site of Ecbatana, which was a capital of the Median and Persian Empires. We see the excavations of the tell site and also the tomb of Avicenna, a famous philosopher and medical practitioner of the mediaeval period. We then explore Persian inscriptions at Ganjnameh and continue along the Silk Road to Kangavar to see the ruins of a Zoroastrian fire temple. We also see the famous Bisotun tri-lingual inscription of King Darius I which helped to decipher ancient cuneiform.

In Kermanshah we see the impressive rock reliefs at Taq-e Bostan. We then head south to Shush, the ancient site of Susa, which was inhabited for more than 4 millennia. We explore the ruins and the nearby Tomb of Daniel. We visit the local museum in a French built castle at the site. In Shushtar we visit the ancient Sassanid ruins.

We then proceed to Choga Zanbil which is the site of one of the few ziggurats outside Mesopotamia. Our road next takes us south to the impressive Sassanian site of Bishapur which still reains its 3rd Century AD walls. We slo see the nearby Sassanian rock reliefs of the Chogan Gorge.

We head to Shiraz where we see the tomb of the poet Hafez and the beautiful Gardens of Paradise. We explore the impressive mudbrick citadel known as the Arg-e-Karim in the centre of town and wander through the enormous Vakil Bazaar. From Shiraz we take a day trip south to Firuzabad where we see the remains of an ancient Sassanid palace built by King Ardashir I in the 3rd century AD. In the afternoon we see historical reliefs from the Persian period.

Our program then takes us to the remarkable site of Persepolis, ancient royal capital built by Darius I and subsequently destroyed during the campaigns of Alexander the Great. We explore Persian reliefs and the impressive carved tombs of the Achaemenid Kings at Naqsh-e Rostam.

At Pasargardae we visit the tomb of Cyrus the Great and his palace complex. Our road then takes us to Yazd where we visit the enormous 12th Century Jameh Mosque which is covered in blue tiles. We explore a Zoroastrian Temple which has been kept alight for more than a millennium and see the Towers of Silence where the Zoroastrians exposed the bodies of the dead to scavenging birds. We then head to the oasis town of Nain where we see the stunning medieval mosque and explore ancient Persian qanats, underground water channels used for irrigation.

We then travel to stunning Isfahan, home of the some of the grandest mosques in the world. We explore the huge Imam Square with its famous array of historic buildings. We visit the 16th Century Ali Qapu Palace and explore the magnificent Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which was built in the 17th Century. In the afternoon we explore the famous Bazaar of Isfahan. We also see the Jameh Mosque which has its origins in the 8th Century, the Ali Gholi Agha bath complex and the Armenian Vank Church.

We head from Isfahan to Kashan, a centre of pottery production. We see the ruins of Salik where we explore an ancient ziggurat and enjoy a walk through the beautiful Fin Gardens. Back in Tehran we see the Imam Khomeini Shrine and then explore the stunning crown jewels in the National Jewels Museum. The tour concludes with a day to explore the archaeological treasures in the National Museum.

The tombs of the Achemenid Persian Kings at Naqsh e Rostam

ITINERARY*

Day 1: Depart Australia
Our Emirates Airlines flight leaves Australia with a short stop over (usually a few hours) in Dubai.

Day 2: Tehran: Golestan Palace
We arrive in Tehran in the morning and check into our hotel. In the afternoon we visit the beautiful Golestan palace built in the 19th Century. We see the stunning marble Throne before visiting the Ethnographic Museum with its display of traditional textiles. Overnight Tehran.

Day 3: Tehran: Reza Abbasi Museum - Saad Abad Palace
The day begins with a visit to the Reza Abbasi Museum which contains stunning examples of Persian art dating back to the 2nd Millennium BC. Highlights are an Achaemenid Persian gold vases and early Islamic ceramics and calligraphy. After lunch we see the Saad Abad Palace Complex, a 104 hectare park which houses ten buildings, many of which are now museums. The 19th Century palaces, built originally by the Qajar Dynasty, offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the last Shahs. Overnight Tehran.

Day 4: Qazvin
We leave Tehran in the morning and drive west to Qazvin, an important Silk Road settlement. We explore the impressive covered bazaar which has recently been restored. We also see the medieval Great Mosque of Qazvin and the Qajar era pavilion known as the Chehel Sotun. In the afternoon we drive to Hamadan. Overnight Hamadan.

Day 5: Hamadan - Ganjnameh
The day is spent in Hamadan, the ancient site of Ecbatana, where we visit the excavations of Tell Hagmatana, once the capital of the Medes, the summer retreat of the Persian Kings and a capital of the Parthian Empire. In the afternoon we see the inscriptions at Ganjnameh on the side of Mt Alvand. Located near a beautiful waterfall, there are two 5th Century BC cuneiform inscriptions by the Persian rulers Darius and Xerxes. Back in town we see the tomb of Avicenna, a famous medieval philosopher and physician and the Lion Gate sculpture said to have been erected by Alexander the Great to commemorate the death of his companion Hephaestion. Overnight Hamadan.

Choga Zanbil ziggurat
Tomb of Hafez in Shiraz

Day 6: Kangavar - Bisotun
We continue along the Silk Road to Kangavar where we see the ruins of a large Zoroastrian fire temple. After lunch we explore the stunning site of Bisotun, a UNESCO protected area with a famous tri-lingual inscription by the Persian King Darius I. The cuneiform texts, copied by Henry Rawlinson in the mid 19th Century, helped decipher this ancient script. Overnight Kermanshah.

Day 7: Taq-e Bostan - Shush (ancient Susa)
After breakfast we see the magnificent rock inscriptions at Taq-e Bostan which were carved by a number of Sassanid Kings between the 3rd - 7th Century AD. We head south, crossing the stunning Zagros Mountains to Shush, the ancient site of Susa, which prospered during the Elamite, Persian, and Sassanid Empires. We visit the ruins of the ancient city and the local museum which contains objects from the site. We also see the tomb of the Prophet Daniel, which remains an important Muslim pilgrimage site. Overnight Shaustar.

Day 8: Shushtar - Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat
In the morning we see the historic sites of Shushtar. This includes a Sassanid Bridge called the Pol-e Shandravan and Salosel Castle where Shapur I imprisoned the Roman Emperor Valerian. We then head south to the site of Chogha Zanbil, site of one of the few ancient ziggurats outside Mesopotamia. Constructed around 1250 BC it honoured the god Inshushinak. Overnight Ahvaz.

Day 9: Bishapur
We continue south to the impressive Sassanid site of Bishapur, the grand capital of King Shapur I. Much of the city is said to have been built by Roman captives after the defeat of Valerian in AD 260. We see the palace and nearby temple of the goddess Anahita. After lunch, we see the Chogan Gorge Sassanid bas reliefs and at Tang-e Chogan see a 7 m high statue of Shapur I. In the afternoon, we travel in the footsteps of Alexander the Great as we ascend the Zagros Mountains to Shiraz. Overnight Shiraz.

Day 10: Shiraz
The day starts with a visit to the Arg-e Karim Khan, an impressive mudbrick citadel built in the 18th Century. We then walk through the Vakil Bazaar and see the Vakil Mosque and bath complex also built by Karim Khan. In the afternoon we visit the tomb of the 14th Century poet Hafez, the tomb of the poet Saadi and see the beautiful Gardens of Paradise (the Bagh-e Eram garden). Overnight Shiraz.

Ruins of Perspolis
Naqsh e Rostam relief showing Shapur I

Day 11: Shiraz
This morning we explore some more of the historic monuments of Shiraz. We will see the beautiful Nasir el-Moluk Mosque which was built in the 19th Century. We then explore the shrine of a brother of Imam Reza known as the Mausoleum of the King of Light (Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh). In the afternoon there is some free time for rest and relaxation, or you can revisit the Vakil Bazaar for shopping. Overnight Shiraz.

Day 12: Persepolis - Naqsh-e Rostam
This morning we head NE of Shiraz to explore the ancient site of Persepolis, ancient capital of the Persian Empire. Most of the terrace and great palaces were built by Darius I in the late 6th Century BC with later additions over the subsequent 150 years. Alexander the Great's soldiers destroyed the city in 330 BC. In the afternoon we explore the nearby site of Naqsh-e Rostam where four tombs of the Achaemenid kings have been found; Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II. Seven historic reliefs from the Sassanid Persian Period are also visited. Overnight Shiraz.

Day 13: Firuzabad
Today we head south from Shiraz for a day trip to Firuzabad. We stop to see the Qalat-e Dokhtar fortress built by King Ardashir to guard a strategic valley. We then continue to Firuzabad where we see the splendid remains of the palace built in AD 224 by Sassanid King Ardashir I. Nearby are the ruins of the ancient city of Gur. In the afternoon we see two important historical reliefs showing the King Ardashir defeating the Parthian King Atabanus and receiving the crown from the god Ahuramazda. Overnight Shiraz.

Fire temple in Yazd
Pink Mosque in Shiraz

Day 14: Pasargadae - Yazd
In the morning we head to the ancient site of Pasargadae where we explore the remains of the palace and tomb of Cyrus the Great. After lunch we continue our journey to the adobe city of Yazd which dates back to the time of the Medes (6th Century BC). We see the impressive mudbrick city walls and visit the enormous 12th century congregational Jameh Mosque with its two minarets and stunning blue tiles. We also go for a walk in the nearby Bazaar of Yazd. Overnight Yazd.

Day 15: Yazd
Today we continue our exploration of the historical remains of Yazd. In the morning we see the Towers of Silence on the outskirts of the town which were used by the Zoroastrians to expose the dead to scavenging birds. The Ateshkadeh Zoroastrian Fire temple will also be visited - this holds a fire supposedly kept alight since AD 470. We visit the 15th Century domed school known as 'Alexander's Prison' and the Khan-e Lari, a 150 year old Qajar house. In the cool of the afternoon we enjoy the 17th Century Dowlatabad Garden which was a residence of Karim Khan. Overnight Yazd.

Day 16: Meybod - Nain
In the morning, we leave Yazd and head north to Meybod where we stop to see the ruins of Narin Castle, dating back to Sasanid times. We continue to the desert oasis town of Nain where we see some of the ancient Persian qanats, underground aqueducts which brought water to the settlement and gardens. We visit the superb 10th Century Jameh Mosque, predominantly made of brick and one of the oldest in Iran. We also see the 17th Century Pirnia House Museum. Overnight Isfahan.

Traditional life in Abanyeh
Gardens in Kashan

Day 17: Isfahan
Today we start our tour of Isfahan which was the garden capital of Persia during the Safavid period (16th-18th Centuries) and famous for its blue tiled buildings. We start with the enormous Jameh Mosque, a huge congregational establishment which dates back to the 8th Century which has been renovated and enlarged over the centuries. We also visit the Bazaar of Isfahan where we can browse for fabrics, jewelry and other treasures. In the afternoon we see the Chehel Sotun Palace which is a Safavid era pavilion set in a beautiful garden. We also see the 17th Century Armenian Orthodox Vank Church with its stunning frescoes. Overnight Isfahan.

Day 18: Isfahan
In the morning we continue our exploration of Isfahan. We visit Imam Square which is surrounded by a collection of grand buildings. We start with the Shah Mosque with its stunning blue tiled courtyard. We then visit the Ali Qapu Palace constructed by Shah Abbas in the 16th Century; its plaster and paintings are a masterpiece of the Safavid era. In the afternoon we visit the stunning Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which was built in the early 17th Century and is justly famous for its tile decoration. You can then return to the hotel or wander the Isfahan Bazaars. Overnight Isfahan.

Lotfallah Mosque in Isfahan
Stunning Persian artefacts in Tehran Museum

Day 19: Kashan
Today we head to Kashan, an important centre of pottery and title production, which is also renowned for its rosewater. We start by visiting the ruins of ancient Tepe Sialk where a 5000-year-old ziggurat is preserved - the site museum has artefacts from the important excavations. We then see the beautiful Fin Gardens (Bagh-e Fin), constructed in the 1590s and now a World Heritage site. In the afternoon we explore the magnificent Khan-e Boroujerdi House which was built in the 1850s for the affluent Tabatabei family. We also explore the nearby Hamman-e Sultan Mir Ahmad, a 500 year old bath complex. Overnight Kashan.

Day 20: Tehran - Shrine of Imam Khomeini - National Jewels Museum
Today we leave Kashan and head north to Tehran. We cross a broad plain. After lunch we see the Shrine of Imam Khomeini which was built to commemorate this major figure of the 20th Century. In the afternoon we visit the National Jewels Museum where we see the royal collection of the last kings of Iran. This includes the famous Peacock Throne encrusted with 26,000 gems, the largest uncut diamond in the world and a map of the world made from emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. We check into our hotel in Tehran. Overnight Tehran.

Day 21: Tehran - Archaeological Museum and Islamic Museum
Our last day in Iran is set aside to visit the stunning National Museum of Iran where we explore its wonderful collection of archaeological artefacts. We explore the Museum of Ancient Iran with its stunning Elamite and ancient Persian remains. After lunch we see the collection of Islamic artefacts which includes stunning ceramics, textiles and artworks from the medieval period. Our Emirates flight departs Tehran in the evening.

Day 22: Arrive Australia
We stop briefly in Dubai. In the evening we arrive in Australia.

My thanks to Margaret Debenham and Sandra Bardsley for the use of some of their photos.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.

FOR DATES AND PRICES OF THIS TOUR PLEASE CLICK HERE

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