B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


Stunning blue tiles of the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
And oh, Wilderness is Paradise now.

Quatrain by Omar Khayyam


This 2-week study tour of Iran has an emphasis on the ancient and medieval sites of ancient Persia. Our tour begins in Tehran where we see the Golestan Palace, built in the 19th Century by the Qajar Dynasty. In the afternoon we see the superb Crown Jewels of the royal family. The next day we explore the stunning collection of artefacts in the National Archaeological Museum and in the afternoon, we fly to Shiraz.

In Kermanshah we see the impressive Sassanian rock reliefs at Taq-e Bostan. We then head south to Shushtar where we visit the ancient Sassanid ruins. The next day we explore the ancient site of Susa, which was inhabited for more than 4 millennia, and see the nearby Tomb of Daniel. We visit the site museum. We then proceed to Choga Zanbil which is the site of one of the few ziggurats outside Mesopotamia.

We head to Shiraz where we see the tombs of the poets Hafez and Saadi and see and the beautiful Eram Gardens. We explore the impressive mudbrick citadel known as the Arg-e-Karim in the centre of town and wander through the enormous Vakil Bazaar. In Shiraz we also see the Nasir el-Moluk Mosque (also known as the Pink Mosque) and the stunning shrine known as the Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh.

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. From Shiraz we take a day trip to the impressive Sassanian site of Bishapur which still retains its 3rd Century AD walls. We also see the nearby Sassanian rock reliefs of the Chogan Gorge. We also see the ruins of Firuzabad including an ancient Sassanid palace built by King Ardashir I in the 3rd century AD.

At Pasargadae 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 north to see the medieval fortress at Meybod and visit the oasis town of Nain where we see the stunning medieval mosque.

We travel to 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, and the Armenian Vank Church.

We head next to Kashan, a centre of pottery production. We see the ruins of ancient Sialk where we explore a ziggurat and enjoy a walk through the beautiful Fin Gardens. Back in Tehran we see the Reza Abbasi Museum and explore the Saadabad Palace, which offers us an insight into the lives of the last Shah.

Gold rhyton, National Archaeological Museum

Day 1: Tehran
You should arrive in Tehran and will be transferred to our hotel. The rest of the afternoon is free. Overnight Tehran.

Day 2: Golestan Palace - National Jewels Museum
This morning we visit the beautiful Golestan palace built for the Qajar Shahs in the 19th Century. We see the stunning marble Throne and mirrored halls. In the afternoon we visit the National Jewels Museum where we see the royal collection of the last kings of Iran. Overnight Tehran.

Golestan palace in Tehran
National Archaeological Museum

Day 3: Tehran - Archaeological Museum - fly to Shiraz
Today we visit the stunning National Museum of Iran where we explore its wonderful collection of archaeological artefacts. We see the Elamite, ancient Persian and Parthian remains. After lunch we see the collection of Islamic artefacts which includes stunning ceramics, textiles and artworks from the medieval period. In the afternoon we fly to Shiraz. Overnight Shiraz.

Day 4: 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.

Day 5: 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.

Naqsh-e Rostam royal tombs
Relief at Persepolis

Day 6: Bishapur
We take a day excursion 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. Overnight Shiraz.

Day 7: Firuzabad
Today we head south from Shiraz 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.

Day 8: 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.

Palace of Ardeshir at Firuzabad
The Nasir al-Moluk Mosque in Shiraz

Day 9: 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 10: 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.

The great mosque in Yazd
The fortress of Meybod

Day 11: 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.

Day 12: 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 13: 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.

The Shah Mosque in Isfahan
The Fin gardens in Kashan

Day 14: 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 travel to Tehran. Overnight Tehran.

Day 15: 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. Our flight departs Tehran in the evening.

* 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.


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