15–30 APRIL 2018
A country that delights the eye with beauty, feeds the soul with kindness and nourishes the body with delicious cuisine; a cultured and sophisticated people who are friendly and welcoming; Iran is a perfect setting for our tour.
The country’s history is ancient, ranging from the Achaemenians and Sassanians, and conquest by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, to the advent of Islam and the Mongol invasion. From the 16th century the country was ruled by the Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties until the foundation of the Islamic Republic in the late 20th century.
Iranians are quite distinct from Arabs and speak Farsi. The majority are Shi’ite Muslims by faith. They are tolerant towards people of other religions, some of whom we will encounter, including Zoroastrians and Armenian Christians. We visit some stunning mosques, admiring the architecture and tile work, and absorbing the Iranians’ sense of colour and symmetry.
Iran is twice the size of France. Landscapes range from the coastal reaches of the Persian Gulf to vast deserts and salt pans to mighty mountains up to 5000m and the gentle Caspian Sea shores. We have included a day in the Zagros Mountains to discover the wild flowers in bloom in springtime, as well as the rose fields near Kashan.
Chahar Bagh denotes the four square plan of a Persian garden intersected by water channels lined with trees. Hidden behind high boundary walls, gardens are filled with orchards of pomegranate, citrus and almond trees, and there may be vines, roses and even a decorative brick pigeon tower in one corner. Pavilions are a feature: Used as summer homes, they are decorated with stucco and colourful tiles.
Long distances are travelled on some days, but we always stay two or three days at our base and travel by comfortable, air-conditioned coach. Our hotels have been handpicked to be of excellent quality and typical of the local Iranian style.
Throughout the trip you are accompanied by an excellent, knowledgeable local guide, Nima Fallahi, and by Susan as tour manager. We are delighted to have with us as lecturer Robin Lane Fox, garden correspondent of the Financial Times and professor of ancient history at New College, Oxford, an expert on Alexander the Great; Harriet Rix is our botanist and wild flower specialist. Harriet has a degree in Biochemistry from Oxford and has hunted for plants in the Zagros mountains from Turkey to Iraq.
We welcome you on our tour to Iran for a first-hand experience of this amazing country, so refreshingly different from how it is often portrayed in the media.
In preparation for your tour, you may wish to enjoy a little armchair exploration of the fascinating history and gardens of Iran. We suggest:
Iran Empire of the Mind – Michael Axworthy
Gardens of Persia – Penelope Hobhouse
Climate: Warm during the day (25C up to 30C), with pleasant evenings. Cooler on the mountain day (warm layers required and good walking footwear). A waterproof jacket is suggested in case of rain.
Housekeeping: Meals are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner)
Communications: Wifi is usually available in the hotels but is sometimes not effective. Some websites are not available, e.g. BBC, CNN
Safety: This is not a problem, the local people are very friendly. The Foreign Office (FCO) website is monitored by us. If for any reason the FCO recommends not to visit Iran, we will reluctantly cancel the tour. Please watch for motorbike and car drivers when crossing the road.
Language: Farsi is spoken but most people speak a little English and are welcoming and open to visitors. They often approach us in the street to make us feel welcome.
Clothing: Iran has specific dress codes. Women should keep their heads covered at all times in public from leaving the aircraft to appearing in any public space including hotel restaurants. The headscarf need only be loosely draped over the head, neck and shoulders. Arms and legs must be covered and we recommend long-sleeved blouses and full-length trousers or dress. Men should wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. No sandals without socks for men or women. A fleece or jacket is recommended for the mountains along with suitable footwear (see above).
Activity level: A reasonable level of fitness is required to walk well in the cities, gardens and archaeological sites. If in doubt, please contact us.
Travelling: We have a modern, comfortable coach with air conditioning. Water is supplied on board. Some journeys are quite long, but there are regular stops or site visits en route. Please note that toilets are usually “squat” type, except in the hotels.
Meals: Water, coffee and tea are served with all meals. No alcoholic drinks are available (forbidden). No alcoholic drinks can be brought into the country in your luggage. All meals are included except for dinner on Day Six when we reserve tables in a garden restaurant and you are free to choose from the excellent menu and settle the bill yourselves (in rials). Iranian cuisine is delicious: Dishes are moderately spiced and usually served accompanied by tasty rice that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Chicken, lamb and beef are the main ingredients in kebabs and casseroles – fish is rarely served. The salad buffet, often including cooked vegetables, offers a good choice. To round off meals there are delicious desserts or fresh seasonal fruit.
Money: Nearly all expenses are included. It is simple to change money at exchange shops. Euros and US$ are acceptable, but £ sterling is not always accepted. No debit or credit card can be used to withdraw cash or to make purchases; however, some carpet stores and jewellery shops accept card payments via Dubai. Each hotel has a room safe.
BRITISH AIRWAYS –
London Heathrow terminal 5
15 April 2018 – Depart 21.10 – Arrive Tehran Imam Khomeini International 06.25
BA152 Tehran Iman Khomeini airport
30 April 2018 – Depart 08.35 – Arrive London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 11.20
Flight upgrades can be arranged: World Traveller Plus or Business Class
You will require a Visa for entry. The following procedure has to be followed – it is not complicated for British or European Union passports:
- When you confirm your booking, you must send us by post or scanned email a copy of your passport showing the page with the photo only; and an up-to-date passport photo.
- On submitting the passport page and photo, we obtain from the authorities in Iran a code to apply for a Visa.
- Apply for a Visa in your passport: complete a Visa application form, arrange to visit the Iranian Consulate in London (Kensington) with your passport and to provide fingerprints. This will cost £165 per person for a UK passport (7 day service).
- Those not residing in the UK or with a non-UK passport must contact the relevant Iranian Embassy in the country of residence.
- Those who have visited Israel are not likely to be accepted for a Visa.
- From January 2016 those travelling to or through the US must apply for a US Visa (not an ESTA) if they have travelled to Iran since March 2011. It is quite straightforward.