DAYS 29 – 43: IRAN
Crossing the border from Armenia, you enter the rugged barren landscape of north-western Iran and make your way south along the Zagros Mountain Range. Your first stop is Tabriz, and there should be time to explore the 35km labyrinthine bazaar and shop for the local Azari Hats made of tight curled Astrakhan Wool. A visit to the Blue (Kabud) Mosque or Elgoli Park with its lake and Qajar-era palace are both must sees.
From Tabriz, your next stop will be Tehran, Iran’s capital, a cosmopolitan city in the shadow of another mountain range – the Alborz. You have a free day here to discover the numerous mosques, museums and pay a visit to the former US Embassy and the fascinating painted murals close by.
From Tehran your overland tour continues south to Esfahan; the jewel in Iran’s crown.
Esfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world and served as the capital of Persia in the 16th Century. You have the option of a guided city tour to take in the majestic Imam Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is home to the famous blue mosaic tiled Imam Mosque, the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah and the Ali Qapu Palace. Other highlights are the historic bridges on the Zayandeh River and the old Shah Carvanserai that used to be the port of call for caravans on the ancient Silk Road. Esfahan is a great city to wander around, while away the day in local tea houses, converse with the incredibly hospitable and friendly Iranians, watch artists at work in bazaars and marvel at the silk Persian rugs in the carpet emporiums.
Journeying south you follow in Alexander the Great’s footsteps, with the opportunity to visit Persepolis. Some compare this magnificent site to other ancient constructions such as Angkor Wat or the Great Pyramids!
Your next stop will be Shiraz. Once famous for its vineyards, Shiraz portrays a certain sophistication. Whether you visit the exquisite mosques and mausoleums or just soak up the atmosphere in the tranquil gardens, you are sure to enjoy your time here. It’s also a great place to try typical Iranian food or get a fast food fix!
As your overland journey continues north east, after camping out under the stars, you get the chance to brush up on your history of the Iranian Zoroastrians, visiting the Fire Temple and the Towers of Silence.
Yazd is next on the list and with its mudbrick old town and winding lanes, it’s one of Iran’s highlights. The city has a very relaxed atmosphere and you have a free day to explore.
After the hustle and bustle of the cities, you will take a quieter route through the Dasht e Kavir Desert. You’ll visit one of the remaining Caravanserais – ancient stopping points for camel trains travelling the old Silk Road – as well as exploring some abandoned sites.
Your last destination in Iran is Mashhad, the second most visited pilgrim city in the Islamic world (besides Mecca). The holy city, meaning The Place of Martyrdom in Arabic is said to have over 20 million pilgrims a year visiting the Imam Reza shrine. You have time to explore the stunning Iranian architecture and monuments of religious significance.