As the British embassy in Tehran reopens and travel restrictions are lifted, tour operators are gearing up to show visitors Iran’s natural and man-made glories
With the reciprocal reopening of the Iranian Embassy in London and the British embassy in Tehran, and the Foreign Office no longer advising against travel, adventurous travelers may decide now’s the time to see the country. Here’s a list of some of the trips available; all are guided group tours. Prices exclude flights but include accommodation, transport, some meals and entry fees.
The sacred shrines in the holy city of Qom, ancient monuments at Persepolis and Isfahan, the gardens of Kashan, poets’ tombs in Shiraz, and the tiled Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, considered the pinnacle of Iranian-Islamic art, are among the cultural highlights of this 15-day tour.
The Dasht-e Lut desert, one of the Earth’s hottest and driest places, is a (hardy) trekker’s dream, with incredible rock formations, sand dunes, salt plains and the Valley of Meteorites – imposing landscapes that enchanted Marco Polo and, 700 years later, Wilfred Thesiger.
A walking tour based around the eponymous 1934 travelogue by the explorer Freya Stark, showcasing the greener side of Iran, traditional villages, the castles of the “assassins” and Alborz Mountain hikes. The trip includes a stay with the Shahsevan nomadic tribe, a visit to Tabriz’s blue mosque and Unesco world heritage bazaar.
Independent travel isn’t allowed in Iran, Brits must book a group trip, but you can tailor-make one with a minimum of two people with some operators, and on a budget. The guide must accompany travel across country but you can roam freely in each location. The Borders of Adventure website has some sound advice on travel in the country.
Iran by train, from Turkey
After boarding the train in Ankara, passengers travel to Tehran to explore the archeological sites, before taking a sleeper to Isfahan for its iconic covered bridges and huge Naqhsh-e Jahan Square. The unique desert architecture of Yazd is a short train ride away; the final train trip is to Shiraz, the city of flowers and poetry.
Iraq with Iran
A 16-day group trip explores the connected Persian and Iraqi cultures. Beginning in Baghdad, it visits Babylon, Kufa and Uruk (ancient Gilgamesh), includes canoeing along the Tigris then tours western Iran, spectacular Persepolis, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran.
Climb Mount Damavand
It takes four days to reach the summit of the country’s highest mountain, a 5,671-metre volcano. Base camp is two hours from Tehran, making Damavand one of the most accessible 5,000-metre-plus mountains in the world. If all goes to plan, this seven-day trip includes two days’ recovery in Larijan’s thermal spring and Tehran.
A 10-day riding adventure through the central nomadic lands on dareshori Persian horses takes in mountains and lush forests and paddy fields. Camping is in flat arable grasslands.
Dizin, with lifts to 3,600 metres and Shemshak, at 3,050 metres, are Iran’s most famous resorts, with chalets, hotels and equipment hire. They are both near Tehran and access is straightforward. Another of the larger resorts is Pooladkaf, 85km from Shiraz in the south, peaking at 3,400 metres and enjoying strong sunshine despite high snow totals.
Religious and cultural events abound in Iran, reflecting the country’s diverse peoples and historical influences. They range from the Gol-o-Golab (Rose and Rosewater) festival in Kashan in May, to the Chak Chak fire temple festival near Yazd in June, which celebrates the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Thetis Travel can organize tailor made tours combined with sightseeing and trips to meet nomadic groups.
Adventure and activity trips
Adventure Iran has a range of activity trips, such as eight days’ biking from Alamut through mountains to the Caspian, or a 4WD off-road tour of the Dasht-e Kavir and Lut deserts. Ten days’ biking the Central Desert and Yazd includes a Silk Route desert stretch of 240km.