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Unveiling Mysteries of Iran

  • Destination: Africa & Middle East, Iran
  • Duration: 15 days
  • Start: 04/04/2017
  • End: 04/18/2017
  • Price: $6895

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15 days/12 nights in 5-star hotels. Boasting three millennia of recorded history, Iran is the cradle of a great culture and civilization. The Iranian style of architecture is distinctive and creative. Persepolis and the rare impressive edifices of Isfahan as well as the Air Traps of the central desert region are the hallmarks of Iran’s unique architecture.
Start in Shiraz (SYZ) and End in Tabriz (TBZ)

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NOTE from JIM SMITH: This will be Coda Tours’ third small gay group tour to Iran. All of the trips have been very successful and very rewarding for all who participated. Contrary to popular belief, mostly perpetuated by the biased media, Iran is not a frightening country to visit for gay people or anyone for that matter. We had no problems being a gay group and Iran offers amazing sites to explore (Persepolis is among the world’s most important archaeological sites) and amazing insights into our world through its history and current events. Join us in 2017 and judge for yourself. You have nothing to be concerned about being gay or Jewish. Call me if you wish to discuss this personally.


Day 1

Tue, Apr 4, 2017 • Fly USA To Istanbul

Depart the USA. Turkish Airways (StarAlliance) is airline of choice for this tour. Some flights arrive in the early morning hours. Some arrive in the late afternoon. Depending on your arrival time, you may need an additional hotel night in Tehran and a private transfer (both at additional cost). At the time of publishing, the preferred Turkish Airways flight from New York is TK 12 departing JFK at 1155pm, arriving Istanbul at 445pm. Departing Istanbul on TK 884 at 910pm, arriving Shiraz, Iran at 230am. This is subject to change. Any flight can be taken from the USA to Istanbul, but we do want everyone to arrive on the same Turkish Air flight 884. Coda Tours can assist with overnight stays in Istanbul if required.
Day 2

Wed, Apr 5 • Fly Istanbul to Shiraz

Arrive Istanbul and connect with your flight to Shiraz, Iran.
Day 3

Thu Apr 6 • Arrive Shiraz, Iran

day3Arrive Shiraz (2:30am). Upon arrival, we will clear customs and immigrations and meet our guide who will transfer us to our hotel. We will sleep until late morning and begin our program around lunch time.

Today’s touring is dedicated to Shiraz, known as the “city of roses and nightingales.” Our tour will take us to Eram Garden, the pink-tiled 19-century mosque and the Qajar-period Narenjestan Palace. Iran’s two most famous poets hail from Shiraz: Hafez and Sadi. Their tombs are pilgrimage sites where everyone visiting Iran must go. Welcome dinner and overnight in Shiraz.

Hotel: Chamran Grand Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

Fri, Apr 7 • Tour to Persepolis

day4After breakfast, depart for a one hour drive to Persepolis, once the center of the Persian Empire and one of the most important sites in the ancient world. Explore the remains of the ceremonial palaces of Darius the Great, Xerxes and Artaxerxes. From Persepolis, continue to nearby Naqshi-i-Rustam, where we see the Royal Tombs carved into the rock walls. Enjoy lunch in a nearby garden restaurant before returning to Shiraz.

In the afternoon, explore the Shiraz bazaar and learn about its importance to the city’s commerce. Walk through the Qur’an Gate before returning to the hotel for overnight.

Hotel: Chamran Grand Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5

Sat, Apr 8 • Naqshi-I-Rustam | Pasargad To Yazd

day5From Persepolis, we will spend the day driving to Yadz with a stop in Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus the Great. Arrive early late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Yazd.

Hotel: Moshir Garden Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6

Sun, Apr 9 • Yazd

day6Yazd is a city of about a half million people in the middle of the desert. The architecture is distinctive, different from what we have seen so far in Iran. Much of Yazd’s historical importance is due to it being the home to what remains of Iran’s largest Zoroastrian community. Zoroastrianism was the primary religion of the region prior to the Arab conquests in the 7th century. The Arab conquest, within two centuries, resulted in a considerable decline of Zoroastrianism. Visits in Yazd will include the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, as well as the Towers of Silence, located on the outskirts of town. Within Yazd, you will visit the Jameh Mosque and the Amir Chakhmaq mosque, both of which are impressive in their architecture, as well as Alexander’s prison and the 11th-century Tomb of the 12 Imams. Dinner and overnight in Yazd.

Hotel: Moshir Garden Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7

Mon, Apr 10 • Yazd | Nain | Isfahan

day7This morning we depart Yazd and drive spend the day driving across the desert to Isfahan. En route, we will stop in Nain for lunch and a visit to the city’s 10th century mosque, which still has areas where the stucco relief is in its original state. Continue on to Isfahan with evening arrival. Check in to the legendary Abassi Hotel, our home for 3 nights. A former caravanserai, the Abassi Hotel was renovated and opened as a hotel in the mid-20th century. The courtyard is alive with activity in the evening, frequented as much by locals as tourists. Dinner and overnight in Isfahan.

Hotel: Abassi Hotel
Room: Courtyard View Rooms
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8

Tue, Apr 11 • Isfahan Touring

day8By nearly unanimous opinion, Isfahan is the city that visitors and Iranians alike consider Iran’s most beautiful city. It is filled with tree-lined streets and beautiful architecture. One does not get the sense of a city with nearly 2 million inhabitants. With the Zayandeh River flowing through Isfahan, crossed by a series of 11 impressive bridges, Isfahan is a visual delight. There will be plenty of time devoted to visiting this area, including the Bazar-e Bozorg, Isfahan’s main bazaar, as well as other buildings surrounding the beautifully designed Naghch-E-Jahan square, including the Jameh Mosque, Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and the Ali Ghapu Palace. In addition, our touring will include a visit to the Tchehel Sotoun Palace built as a pleasure pavilion and reception hall in the 17th century. Dinner and overnight Isfahan.

Hotel: Abassi Hotel
Room: Courtyard View Rooms
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9

Wed, Apr 12 • Isfahan Touring

day9Today’s touring of Isfahan continues, visiting 3 of the famous bridges: Khadju, Siose and Chahrestan. Following lunch, we will visit the Armenian quarter and see the Armenian Church and the community’s museum. Dinner and overnight in Isfahan.

Hotel: Abassi Hotel
Room: Courtyard View Rooms
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10

Thu, Apr 13 • Natanz | Kashan | Qom | Tehran

day10This morning depart Isfahan and drive to Tehran, with stops en route. Kashan rose to prominence during the Seljuk period from the 11th to 13th centuries, when it became legendary for rugs, ceramics and tile-work. These crafts were elevated to an even higher art under Shah Abbas I, in the 16th & 17th centuries.

Following an earthquake in 1779, destroying much of the city, the subsequent Qajar Dynasty spent abundantly to rebuild the city. Here we visit Tabatabai House, a 19th-century residence with a beautiful stucco dome and inlaid mirror work, and some of the best examples of existing badgirs (wind catchers.) Depart Kashan and drive toward Tehran, time permitting we will make another stop in Qom. Known as the holiest city in Iran, second only to Mashad, Qom is the seat of the Islamic council that governs Iran today, the city is filled with Mullahs who come to Qom for their religious training. Continue to Tehran, with a late afternoon arrival. Tonight, Dinner and overnight in Tehran.

Hotel: Espinas Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11

Fri, Apr 14 • Tehran

day11Tehran is not where one finds the roots of Persian history. However, in the Iran of the 20th century, as the world has come to know Iran, it is the heart and soul of the image Iran projects to the world. It was not until the end of the 18th century and early 19th century, under the Qajar Dynasty, that Tehran began an ascent which ultimately has led to it being Iran’s capital. In 1900, the city had some quarter-of-a-million inhabitants. Today, estimates are that Tehran has some 15 million people, spreading the city to much more expansive geographic boundaries, with tightly crowded residential areas and infamous traffic jams in its streets designed for less than half of its population. No one will visit Tehran and call it a beautiful city, but visiting Iran and not visiting Tehran would be overlooking the modern heartbeat of this country. Despite the revolution in 1979 and the political isolation and radical image that Iran projects to the West, when the political leadership is stripped away, daily life in Tehran seems as normal and friendly as any large city around the world.

Following breakfast, touring in Iran will include the Glass and Ceramics Museum. A well designed museum housed in what was once a private home for a prominent Persian family during the Qajar dynasty (1795-1925). It subsequently became the Egyptian embassy and in 1976 it was converted into a museum. Also visit the impressive Carpet Museum. The building was designed by the last Queen of Iran, Farah Diba Pahlavi. The National Museum of Iran houses artifacts from many archaeological sites around the country, providing a wonderful historical backdrop to our touring in Iran. Dinner and overnight in Tehran.

Hotel: Espinas Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12

Sat, Apr 15 • Tehran

day12Today our touring of Tehran continues with a visit to the National Jewels Museum, where the highlight of many highlights is the Peacock Throne. Many jewels of Iran’s rulers date back to the 18th century and are part of an extensive collection amassed under the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife, Queen Farah. Continue with the Niyavaran Palace Museum, a complex set amidst beautiful landscaped grounds where the late Shah and his family spent much of their last decade in Iran. A visit will also be made to the Tehran Bazaar, a maze of alleyways that serves not only as the economic heart of the city, but with this economic importance, the merchants of the bazaar have become a major political force in modern Iran, so much so that the bazaar is an important constituency for anyone who intends to govern Iran. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Hotel: Espinas Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13

Sun, Apr 16 • Fly Tehran | Tabriz

t1Fly from Tehran to Tabriz. Tabriz, with its ancient history, is known in modern times as the cornerstone of the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, and considered by many as the most progressive city in Iran. Our afternoon touring begins at the 15th century Blue Mosque and nearby Azerbaijan Museum with its collection of Sasanian gold and Bronze Age pottery.
Dinner and overnight in Tabriz.

Hotel: Hotel Pars El-Goli Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14

Mon, Apr 17 • Tabriz

t2Drive about 1 hour outside of Tabriz this morning to the troglodyte village of Kandovan whose rock houses were created in a landscape similar to that of Cappadocia in Turkey. Some houses still in use are more than 800 years old. Return to Tabriz for lunch. In the afternoon we see the Constitution House and Calligraphy Museum before concluding at the Grand Bazaar, one of Iran’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This evening we gather for a Farewell Dinner. Tomorrow’s departure is very early.

Hotel: Hotel Pars El-Goli Hotel
Room: Standard
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15

Tue, Apr 18 • Tabriz/ Istanbul/ USA

Depart early for the flight to Istanbul TK883 @ 5:30AM. Connect in Istanbul with your flight to the USA.

Hotels

Hotel Chamran Grand Shiraz

5star

The tallest hotel in Iran’s capital of culture and history, with breathtaking views of the city of Shiraz and the heavenly gardens in the vicinity, Chamran Grand promises a memorable stay.

Moshir Garden Hotel

5star

The first Iranian garden hotel enjoying strikingy traditional architecture & deluxe comforts. It is located in the old–fashioned Moshir–Al-Mamalek garden proud of Qajar antiguity.

Abassi Hotel Isfahan

5star

Considered the world’s oldest hotel, the Abassi complex was built at the time of king Sultan Husayn of Safavid about 300 years ago. It was built as a caravansary to provide lodging for passengers.

Espinas Hotel Tehran

5star

Built in 2009 to international luxury hotel standards, the 5-star Espinas Hotel is a fully modern oasis of comfort and fine service in the heart of Iran’s capital Tehran.

Hotel Pars El-Goli Hotel Tabriz

5star

Considered one of Iran’s best hotels, this is a very clean hotel located next to the ElGoli park, with helpful staff. Spacious room with comfy beds and an amazing view of Tabriz.

Rates & Facts

Rates Double Occupancy Single Occupancy
Per Person $6895 $7795

A small group surcharge of $500 per person will be added to a group size less than 8 travelers.

Inclusions
  • Iran visa authorization support
  • Hotel accommodations as noted or similar, based on double occupancy. Room categories as noted.
  • All ground transportation in private air-conditioned vehicles, including international arrival and departure transfers
  • All meals as noted in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) inclusive of bottled water and beverages
  • Bottled water and snacks in all vehicles for long drives
  • All entrance fees, service charges and applicable taxes
  • Services of a Coda International Tours representative on minimum participation of 6 travelers.
Not included

Round-trip international airfare to/from Iran (Coda Tours will be happy to assist); Iran visa and passport fees; En route hotels, meals, ground arrangements and services not noted in the itinerary; Meals not noted in the itinerary; Items of a personal nature including but not limited to bottled water in hotels, additional beverages, laundry, internet, personal telecommunication, etc.; Customary end of trip gratuities to your Iranian National guide & driver; Excess baggage charges for international and domestic flights; VAT increase, which may be applied at any time prior to departure; International airport departure taxes if applicable; Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage insurance.

International Air

You may arrive on any carrier/flight you wish; although, you may find Turkish Airways to be the best carrier to use for flying to Iran. We highly recommend you use Turkish Air from your nearest departure city in the USA to Istanbul and book TK 884 at 910pm, arriving Shiraz, Iran at 230am. For Departure you should be on TK883 @ 5:30AM to Istanbul from Tabriz where you can connect with you flight to the USA.

Entry Requirements

A visa is required for your entry into Iran. An Authorization Letter must be obtained through our operator before you can apply for your visa. Our operator will obtain this Authorization Letter upon receipt of a scanned copy of the information page of your passport. This is done as a group approximately 60 days prior to the trip departure. Once the Authorization Letter is received, you APRIL use any visa service you wish to submit your application. We recommend using www.cibt.com Once your application is submitted, it APRIL take up to 6 weeks for you to receive your visa. This means your passport APRIL be tied up at the Iranian Embassy for several weeks. Here is a sample of the visa application packet from CIBT Visas.

Iranian Visa Application

While not common, there are occasions where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejects a visa application for a variety of reasons (usually unknown to us). Unfortunately we have no control over the success of your application and have little recourse if it’s rejected. It’s not uncommon for Iran authorization codes to be submitted very close to the actual time of travel. Obviously this can be an anxious period but again unfortunately we have little authority to speed up the process.
Please note the following regarding Israel! A visa will be flatly refused if your passport contains evidence of travel to Israel. Note: this is not confined to just an Israeli stamp in your passport. You will be refused an Iranian visa if there’s an Egyptian entry or exit stamp from the Egyptian/Israeli border (at Taba or Rafah) or a Jordanian entry or exit stamp from the Jordanian/Israeli border (at Wadi Araba near Aqaba, Sheikh Hussein bridge or King Hussein bridge, otherwise known as the Allenby bridge) in your passport. Even without actually having an Israeli stamp in your passport, these exit or entry stamps prove that you have visited Israel and entry into Iran will be disallowed.

Dress

Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing an Islamic headscarf, long sleeves, covered shoes and a loose fitting skirt or pants may be refused entry into the country (to avoid this problem bring a thin full-length raincoat with you of you may choose to buy a manteau after you arrive). A manteau is a loose-fitting trench coat that comes down to just above your knees and is required by law to be worn by all women in Iran. Men must also be conservatively dressed, wearing long trousers upon arrival, or they too may be refused entry. Shorts are not worn in Iran – by women or men.

Tipping

It’s customary to tip service workers in Iran, so set aside small amounts for porters, local guides, waiters, drivers and cleaners. More details on tipping will be in final documents.
The recommended tip to our National Guide will be $100-$125 per person. The recommended tip to our driver will $50-$60 per person.

Internet

You’ll be able to access the internet in Iran’s cities, with many major hotels and cafes having internet access. Expect little to no access in rural and remote areas.

Cellphones

Mobile phones from other parts of the world may not work in Iran; although, it’s possible to buy a low-cost prepaid SIM card in most of Iran’s large cities.

Toilets

Squat toilets are the most common variety in Iran; although, flushable western-style toilets can be found in some tourist areas and hotels. Carry your own supply of toilet paper and soap, as these aren’t always provided.

Water

Tap water is considered safe to drink but due to the high mineral content, you should avoid drinking tap water which can cause stomach upsets. For environmental reasons, try to avoid drinking bottled water.

Money

Iran is very much a cash economy. This means travelers can rarely use debit or credit cards or travelers checks while in Iran. A handful of tourist-orientated shops accept credit cards; otherwise, cash is the main method of trade in Iran. US dollars and euros are the only hard currencies accepted at Iranian banks and money-changers. Having those notes changed into Iranian rials is a fairly simple.

ATMs

As with the question above, ATMs in Iran rarely accept foreign cards, so cash is the main form of currency. Bring US dollars and euros, which can be exchanged into local currency.

The Gay-Friendly Question

Iran is not a gay-friendly destination. Although our group will be composed of gay men and women, we will leave our sexuality at home for duration of this tour. Anyone who has an issue with this should not join the tour. That said, there is no danger being a gay tourist in Iran. We will not receive anything less than the warmest of welcomes everywhere we go. You should not be concerned about traveling as a gay person, in a gay group or with a gay company.

A Note on Security in Iran

Note that there is currently a US State Department Travel warning issued for Iran. Over the years there has been political tension between the United States and Iran mitigated only by degree with tensions seemingly heightened with the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Nonetheless you can expect only the warmest of welcomes from the Iranian people, who make a very clear distinction between ‘ordinary’ American travelers and official US regional foreign policy. We will provide participants with a copy of this warning upon request so that each participant can carefully consider the risks of travel.

Our Iranian Tour Guide

afshinAfshin Pasha will be guiding us throughout Iran. He has guided every Coda group that has visited his country. His expert knowledge and engaging personality are a highlight of our trip. We feel very fortunate to call Afshin our friend and colleague.