On arrival you will be transferred to the hotel. A group briefing will be arranged at lunchtime. The afternoon will be spent visiting the former Shah's palace, and onto Darband, a delightful mountain area in North Tehran. Darband is accessed by chairlift, by foot or by donkey and time permitting you can climb further up to the flanks of Mount Tochal (3933m). The view, whilst often quite hazy, will nevertheless show the vastness of the Tehran sprawl and the culinary delights awaiting at the many cafes will make the hike up well worth it.
**Please note that our itinerary in Tehran will depend on current opening times (and days) of the museums and therefore the order of sights visited may vary accordingly.
Today we will spend the morning visiting the best museums of Tehran. The National Jewels Museum will impress with its ostentatious display of precious jewels, many of which are the largest of their kind (namely the Darya-ye-Nur which at 182 carats is the largest uncut diamond in the world). Also the jewelled globe which is covered in 51,363 precious stones. From here we will visit the Carpet Museum, essential for those planning to purchase a carpet during their visit, but also to illustrate the history of Iran, its pts and its myths. After lunch we plan to visit the National Museum (or Archaeological Museum) which begins with exhibits dating back to the 5th and 4th Millenium BC and provides a fascinating insight into Persian History.
After breakfast we drive via the city of Qazvin to the Alborz mountains. Once we reach the picturesque cherry growing village of Gazor Khan we take a day walk to the Alamut Castle. Alamut Castle is a famous fortress site and the views from the top are unmissable.Our accommodation tonight is in the Zarabad village in a local house where we are fortunate to experience the warmth of the local hospitality.
Today we drive to Rudkhan village where we take a 4 hour hike to "Roodkhan Castle". The surrounds are certainly picturesque as we make our way up through pebble studded stairs and on to a trail head to access the castle. The ruins of the castle are relatively complete, with many architectural photo opportunities with its attractive towers and arches. After our hike we drive to Masuleh for overnight accommodation. Masuleh is one of Iran's most beautiful villages. Set into a steep hillside it is surrounded by forests and a favourite pass time is to take tea on the delightful tea terraces.
Today we transfer from Massouleh to Sareyn via Caspian Sea. We will pass Asalem and Khalkhal road which is one of the most beautiful road and gorge of Iran and has a very nice and beautiful nature. We will arrive to Sareyn where we will overnight. It is a small hot springs resort which attracts Iranians during the summer for the healing properties of the mineral waters here. You will have a view of Mt Sabalan (4811 m) that sits on the plains above the village.
Tabriz is a large, sprawling city with a population of over 1 million. Once Persia's national capital, Tabriz came into its own in the mid 1400's when the city saw a remarkable growth in arts and architecture, culminating in the beautiful and impressive Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). Afternoon is at leisure to wander the fascinating bazaar which covers 7 square kms with 24 separate caravanserais and 22 timches (domed halls).
Today we will visit Kandovan in East Azarbaijan a volcanic region where rocks were formed from lava, known as Troglodyte. It is believed that wind over time formed the cylindrical shaped cones of rock that the area is well known for. Kandovan is also well known for it's cliff dwellings, some as old as 700 years and seven stories high, many of them are still inhabited. In the afternoon we will visit the Azarbaijan museum, Blue mosque, Jame mosque, and Bazar. Overnight in Tabriz.
After breakfast we make our way towards the Iranian-Armenian border at Meghri-Nordoz. We drive via Jolfa a town which is split into 2 parts one part is located in Iran and the other in Azerbaijan. Visit St. Stephen's church of 14c which has been listed as a UNESCO site since 2008. On arrival to the border we will complete formalities and be met by our Armenian guide and driver. After border formalities continue to Armenia and to Kapan city.
Overnight in Kapan.
Note that the border of Iran and Armenia has a 1km stretch of no mans land, where you are required to walk with your luggage. We strongly recommend wheelie bags otherwise you will need to carry your luggage.
Serpentine road will bring us to Tatev village, en-route we drive through Vorotan canyon - the deepest canyon in Armenia reaching to almost 1 km depth. At the bottom of the canyon we will see the Devil's Bridge an amazing geological monument located on the Vorotan river. We then visit Tatev Monastery located on the edge of Vorotan Canyon. This was one of the most prominent religious, cultural and educational centers of medieval Armenia.
We will also visit Karahunge local Stone Henge, believed to be an ancient observatory (around 7500 yrs old) and a worship site for ancient people.
Overnight in Jermuk.
Today we will explore the famous spa and resort town of Jermuk, located at an altitude of approximately 2200m above sea level. Surrounded by mountains and rich forests, Jermuk attracts numerous tourists and holiday makers from abroad as well as from different parts of Armenia. It is considered a place to relax and improve health, drinking and taking baths with the special mineral waters found here. We also visit the Mineral Water Gallery and waterfall in Jermuk canyon.
A winding road will bring us to Noravank monastery with its intricate carvings. The gorge of Noravank is a place of natural beauty, rich with beautiful multi-colored rocks.
En route we will stop in Areni village, the wine capital of Armenia, and visit a family-owned winery to sample the local wine. We continue to the plains of Ararat to visit Khor Virap monastery located at the foot of biblical Mt. Ararat. Overnight Yerevan.
Today we will have a familiarization tour of the Armenian capital visiting all the major sights. We will explore Erebuni fortress the birthplace of Yerevan and the museum of Urartu period located nearby. We then continue to the Manuscript Museum, which hosts one of the biggest depositories of ancient manuscripts in the world. We will view the panorama of the city from the Victory Park, where Mother Armenia statue is located. Finally a visit to the Food Market where you can find a variety of organic fruits and vegetables.
In the afternoon we will take a trip to the religious capital of Armenia, the town of Echmiadzin. We will first visit the archeological site of Zvartnots Cathedral, which is a masterpiece of Armenian architecture of the 7th century. The area is a UNESCO's World Heritage Site. We will then come to the main Cathedral of Echmiadzin the residence of the Catholicos of Armenia.
Overnight in Yerevan.
Today we drive east of Yerevan and visit Garni pagan temple, the only pagan temple remaining from the pre-Christian period. At one time this was the summer residence of the Armenian kings located in a picturesque place overlooking a deep canyon.
We will then explore the medieval Armenian architecture Geghard Cave Monastery is a UNESCO site and some chambers of the monastery were carved out of solid rock and possess exceptional acoustics. The monastic complex received its name after the Holy Lance which was kept here in the middle ages.
Overnight in Yerevan.
In the morning we will head towards Lake Sevan - the "Pearl of Armenia", which is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world located at 1900m. This fresh-water lake is surrounded with snow-covered mountains. Here we visit a 9th century Sevan monastery, perched on a cliff above the lake. From this point is a wonderful view of the lake and if we are lucky we will witness the changing colors of the water.
We continue our journey to the beautiful rolling valley framed by the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus. We will explore the resort town of Dilijan located in the midst of the forests of Dilijan National Park. We take a walk in the old town, which still preserves 19-century housing, stopping at a ceramicist's studio.
We then head further to the north. Driving via the deep gorge of the Debed River, we reach the monastery of Haghpat - a UNESCO site. The fantastic scenery and the breathtaking position of this monastery make this visit a truly unforgettable experience.
Afternoon transfer to Armenian-Georgian border at Sadakhlo where we meet our new guide and bus, and continue to Tbilisi.
Overnight in the hotel in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia with a population of approx. 1.5 million. We visit the old city with its narrow streets and religious and secular architecture. Here we find a mix of buildings churches, synagogues, mosques, as well as famous 19th century houses with wooden multi-colored balconies and the sulfur bath which made an unforgettable impression on Pushkin. Afterwards we visit the stunning treasury of the Georgian National Historical Museum. Overnight Tbilisi.
Today we will visit the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia Mtskheta, which is 3000 years old. Here we will see Jvari Church and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral where the Robe of Christ is said to be buried. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli are UNESCO World Heritage sites. We continue to Kartli region, and visit Uplistsikhe the ancient cave town, (1st millennium BC), located on the legendary Silk Road. We return to Tbilisi for our last evening together.
After breakfast, trip concludes with a group transfer to the airport for onward travel.