Last Modified: 17 Apr 2014
Trip code: HPSN
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Welcome to the hidden world of Iran. Travel through this fascinating country to discover refined Islamic cities, colourful bazaars, ancient Persian ruins, fascinating nomads, and shimmering deserts. Whether relaxing in a teahouse in Tehran or breaking bread with nomads on the harsh Iranian plateau, the warmth and hospitality of the Iranian people is endearing and the profound beauty of their land is mesmerising.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Day 1 Tehran
Salaam! Welcome to Iran.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 12 noon on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Iran's capital is exciting, noisy and chaotic. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is where the country's true national identity is found. Expect to see women wearing full-length chador competing for space with young and hip girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. Also expect to be stopped by friendly locals who love nothing more than to chat with you about anything and everything.
We'll visit the superb Golestan Palace to view some of the excesses of the Qajar rulers, ramble through the enormous bazaar and visit the ImanKhomeni Mosque.
Later, you could try some fine Iranian cuisine like dizi (soup stew mashed into paste) while enjoying traditional music at a local restaurant.
There's so much more to see and do than we can possibly fit into one day, so why not arrive a few days early and spend some time visiting the sites? Venture through teeming bazaars and chaotic streets to the ornate Golestan Palace with its exquisite marbled terraces and artistic treasures. There's a host of interesting museums, including the National Jewellery Museum and the Carpet Museum. There are also a handful of centuries-old churches and many monuments from the city's illustrious Persian past.
- Tehran walking tour
- Golestan Palace
- Iman Mosque entrance and guided tour
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Shiraz
Fly from Tehran to Shiraz (approx 1 hour).
The very name Shiraz evokes images of ancient Persia: exotic, tranquil gardens, lavish mansions, colourful woollen rugs, art, philosophy, poetry and of course, the famous Shiraz red wine (although it's no longer found here).
Shiraz is also a renowned centre of learning and boasts many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Known as Iran's cultural capital, this city was home to two of Persia's most famous poets in the 13th and 14th centuries, Hafez and Saadi, whose mausoleums are found here.
Our Shiraz walking tour includes Shahcheragh one of the most sacred shrines for Shiites having two sacred Imamzadeh’s buried there, Atique mosque and ends in a traditional teahouse in the wonderful Bazar-e Vakil.
Explore the city's beautiful Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque and Khan Madraseh.
Listen to some poetry being recited at the Hafez tombs.
- Shiraz walking tour including entrance to sights
- Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque and Khan Madraseh - Free
- Bagh-e Eram Gardens - IRR30000
- Tomb of Hafez - IRR20000
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 4 Nomad Stay
Leaving Shiraz, our first stop is Iran's premier attraction, Persepolis.
In Greek, Persepolis literally means the 'place of Persians'. Construction for this capital of the mighty Achaemenid empire was begun by Darius the Great in 518 BC. Alexander the Great burnt the city to the ground in 330 BC but many reminders of the city still remain and Persepolis lives on as one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world. Our guided tour will also take in the rock cut tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam, the resting place of Darius the Great.
Travel on to meet our nomadic hosts.
The Fars Province is famous for its nomadic people and the barren landscape of its lonely steppes provide a stark contrast to the vibrancy and hospitality of its inhabitants.
Iran has over 500 different nomadic tribes - the largest and most important is the Qashqai tribe. The Qashqai are Turkic speaking pastoral nomads who migrate between winter pastures near the Persian Gulf and summer pastures on the central Iranian Plateau. More than half the area north of Shiraz is home to different tribes who have gathered in this region over centuries of nomadic existence. Migration is a way of life and herding cattle, sewing carpets and embroidery form the basis of these tribal economies.
Join a group of local nomads and share a meal with these new friends, then we may be entertained with traditional nomad song and dance. A 'house of hair', which is made from goat and sheep fleece, is our accommodation for the night. This is our chance to observe the lifestyle of nomads as they herd their animals, tend to the fields and enjoy simple meals.
Please note that the accommodation is very simple so be prepared to rough it. We share the close quarters of one large communal tent and the ground is often quite hard. For your comfort a simple rollable foam mattress, pillows and a sleeping bag are provided, but consider bringing your own thermarest if you feel you would prefer the extra padding. Travellers who feel the cold may choose to pack thermal clothing for extra warmth. With an adventurous attitude and Intrepid spirit the simple nature of our camp will soon be overcome by the beauty of the landscape and this unique way of life.
Also please take note that due to the authenticity of this activity it's impossible to guarantee any set program. Expect the unexpected - anything can happen from a simple night in with local families to an invitation to a nomad wedding! Also due to the nature of the nomadic tribes there may be occasions when they are 'on the move' and we are not able to locate and stay with them in a normal camp. We'll do our best to make the regular arrangements, but on rare occasions there may be times when are not able to stay in a nomad camp and alternative arrangements are made. We request your patience and understanding in this situation.
- Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam entrance and guided tour
Nomad Tent (1 nt)
Day 5 Eghlid
Say goodbye to our nomad hosts and journey towards the town of Eghlid.
Perched between the desert and the mountains, Eghlid acted as the main gateway from the north to Persepolis in ancient times, as other routes were mountainous and difficult to pass. Some of the surrounding mountain peaks are covered by snow throughout the year.
Visit Sassanid empire ruins dating back 1800 years, a Zoroastrian 'tower of silence' and the sacred shrine of Eghlid.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6 Caravanserai Zein-o-din
Continue on our journey, arriving at the historical town of Abarqu.
Abarqu is located in the desert valley beneath the Zagros Mountains. Attractions in Abarqu include the famous ice house, the 11th century Gonbad Ali Dome, the Khan-e Aghazadeh Qajar-era mansion, the Jameh Mosque and a 4,000-year-old cypress tree.
Travel across the stunning Zagros Mountains and reach the Zein-o-din Caravanserai.
Situated in the desolate Dasht-e Lut desert, Zein-o-din is a classic small caravanserai built during the 16th century under the orders of Shah Abbas, who was reported to have constructed 999 such hostels to promote business. The constantly mobile Silk Road travellers had a frequent need for places of rest and shelter in areas between widely spaced cities and towns. This led to the construction of many such caravanserais. Their main function was to receive travellers and store merchandise, so they were designed to be spacious enough to shelter guests, as well as goods.
A night's stay in a caravanserai is a wonderful chance to relive the age when merchants travelled the remarkable Silk Road. Most of the rooms remain unchanged from days gone by, with carpets covering raised brick floors, and heavy curtains rather than doors separate rooms from the hallway. Like Silk Road travellers before us, we'll experience a rich red sunset while the night sky fills with stars.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Yazd
Get up early and enjoy an authentic breakfast of freshly baked bread. Then, enjoy free time to bask in the sunshine on the rooftop of the glorious caravanserai, overlooking the barren landscape of the surrounding desert plains. If you're lucky, you may even spot a gazelle.
Travel by private van to Yazd.
The ancient desert city of Yazd was a major stop on the caravan routes to Central Asia and India during the Silk Road period - Marco Polo visited the city on his way to China - and it retains a rustic feel. It's also the heart of the Zoroastrian religion. This religion, which dates back over 4000 years, is one the world's oldest and was Iran's state religion before the arrival of Islam.
Yadz is unique for its intriguing architecture, which has been perfectly adapted to the harsh weather conditions of the surrounding desert. Wind towers, or badgirs, are a feature of most of the buildings in the old city - they trap even the gentlest of draughts and direct them into the houses below for cooling.
Yazd is a fascinating place to wander around, being one of the best preserved mud brick old towns in the near East. Our walking tour snakes along the maze-like streets and we visit the impressive Amir Chakhmaq Complex, the Jameh Mosque, Water Musuem and the 'Towers of Silence'.
While in Yazd, why not hire a bicycle to explore the old town.
Simply relax in our hotel, a 19th-century traditional mansion, puff on a qalyan or try the local favourite, camel fesenjun, in the shady courtyard.
- Yazd walking tour including entrance to sights
- Kharanaq-Chak-Cahk-Meybod tour - IRR180000
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 9-11 Esfahan
Depart Yazd and embark on a local bus ride to Iran's jewel, Esfahan (approx 5 hrs).
Esfahan, the pearl in the Persian crown, is quite simply one of the finest places in the Islamic world and a visit here will leave you breathless. A 16th-century rhyme called it 'half the world' and after spending a few days here, you might agree. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is famous for. There's also an enormous bazaar, which is perfect for shopping for exquisite Persian carpets, tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces.
Our tour of Esfahan starts in the world's second biggest square - Iman Square. Our guide will give us an insight into life under Persia's greatest ruler, Shah Abbas, and take us through the Iman Mosque, Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque and the Ali Qapu Palace. Iman Square itself, actually built as a royal polo ground, was once home to entertainers, storytellers, preachers and Silk Road caravans. Also explore the atmospheric bazaar with its wonderful scents and spices, musical merchants' cries and, of course, thousands of locals bargaining for their most desired items.
You have a free day to explore this lovely city so take time to wander along the city's many tree-lined boulevards and spacious gardens. Make sure to take a stroll by the Zayandeh River and stop for a well-deserved chai at one of the stunning bridges that give this part of the city a relaxing, but colourful air. A visit to the Jameh Mosque (Friday Mosque), the Chehel Sotun Palace or perhaps the bizarre Manar Jomban (shaking minarets) is also highly recommended.
- Esfahan walking tour
- Ali Qapu Palace
- Iman Mosque entrance and guided tour
- Sheik Lotfallah Mosque
- Chehel Sotun Palace - IRR5000
- Jameh Mosque - IRR5000
- Manar Jomban (Shaking Minarets) - IRR5000
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 12 Abyaneh
Travel on to our next stop at the charming mountain village of Abyaneh.
Set at an altitude of 2,500 metres and nestled at the foot of Mt Karkus, Abyaneh features houses that are arranged in a stair-step shape. An impressive aspect of Abyaneh's architecture is that the houses are uniform in appearance. The doors, most of which have two knockers, are wooden and built in traditional style. There are beautiful patterns and poems carved upon most of these doors, and often the names of the owner and mason. These etchings afford a good picture of ancient Iranian culture. The layout of the houses also hints at the country's occasionally tumultuous history - the buildings were built huddled together to protect them from frequent raids by passing armies.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Kashan
Continue on by private van to Kashan.
Kashan is a beautiful oasis city with a very long history - human settlements in the area date back to the 4th millennium BC.
Discover some of the finest traditional houses in Iran on visits to the Khan-e Borujerdi and Khan-e Tabatabei. These 19th-century khans were funded by wealthy merchants and feature lovely courtyards, lush gardens and fine intricate relief designs carved into stone and stucco work.
Visit the most impressive Islamic complex in Kashan - the Agha Bozorg Mosque and Madraseh.
You have some free time to explore the town's other sights such as the Fin Gardens, a classical Persian vision of paradise and one of the most beautiful gardens in the Middle East.
In the evening, there's an opportunity to experience some delicious Iranian cooking in the home of a local family. The city is famed for having the country's tastiest khoresht (a thick meaty stew of vegetables and nuts) and fesenjun (a sauce of pomegranate juice, walnuts, aubergine and cardamom - usually served over chicken or even camel).
- Traditional houses
- Agha Bozorg Mosque and Madraseh
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 14-15 Tehran
This morning we make our way from Kashan to Tehran ( approx 4 hour drive )
Stopping along the way to visit the holy shrine of Imam Khomeni, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, which is still under construction. When finished it will be one of the greatest buildings in the Islamic world. Revered as the father of the 1979 revolution, Imam Khomeni was laid to rest here in 1989. His funeral was attended by an incredible 10 million people, making it the world's biggest funeral. People from all around Iran come here to pay their respects.
Also visit the nearby Behesht-e Zahra, an enormous cemetery where many who lost their lives during the Iran-Iraq War are buried. Over 200,000 people are buried here and it serves as a moving reminder of the futility of war.
Transfer back to our hotel in Tehran this afternoon. You may want to use this free time to check out some of Capital's many museums such as the Iran National Museum and Ceramics Museum. Tonight we relive our unforgettable adventure over a farewell dinner at a local restaurant (not included), which will conclude the organised activities for this trip.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Visit to the holy shrine of Imam Khomeni
Hotel (1 nt)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
The Middle East is a region which may be very different to anything you have experienced before. Heat, pollution, poverty and crowds can result in some initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge. During our time here we have come to love this wonderfully different region but we know that we should always be prepared to encounter some difficulties along the way. You will come across very different attitudes to time keeping, public cleanliness, privacy and service. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a sense of humour, then we know that you - like all of us - will be captivated by the fabulous Middle East.
Iran is a safe and friendly place to travel but it is conservative. It is very important that before you sign up for this tour you are committed to following a strict dress code (particularly for women) in what may be quite warm weather. Things don't get much more different to home than this! Please see the 'Responsible Travel' section for more information.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
A reasonable level of fitness is expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. Some of the archaeological sites and activities included involve a fair amount of walking.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
There are many opportunities to purchase souvenirs and handicrafts while on this trip. While we do not make arrangements for specific shopping excursions due to our passengers feedback, there may be opportunities where your local guides can offer services if you are particularly interested. Please note it is customary for local guides (not Intrepid group leaders) to accept commission from the factory or shop in exchange for their service. You are under no obligation to purchase anything from local guides and we do encourage you to enjoy shopping in the markets to compare prices and quality.
The official unit of currency is the Iranian rial (IRR), but locals almost always talk in terms of tomans, a unit equal to 10 rials.
Iran is very much a cash economy. This means travellers can rarely use debit or credit cards or travellers cheques while in Iran. There may be rare occasions in tourist-orientated shops that credit cards are accepted, otherwise cash is the main method of trade in Iran.
US dollars and euro notes are the only hard currencies accepted by Iranian banks and money changers (please don't bring British pounds as it's very difficult to find banks that will change them). Having those notes changed into Iranian rials is a fairly simple exercise. Please make sure that all the bills are unmarked and undamaged in any way and were printed since 1996. New and fresh notes are preferred in most banks. You'll get a slightly higher rate for larger notes (50 and 100 notes) but also bring plenty of smaller denominations (5, 10, 20 etc).
Upon arrival at the Tehran airport there are a few places where you can change money. However we do not recommend that you change your money in the Airport because the rate you will get is dramatically different to what you will get at a money exchange downtown. If you need to, change just a small amount at the airport on arrival and the rest at a money changer in the city. There are quite a few located along the main street near the hotel. Ask your leader to take you to one.
Please note that if you run out of money while in Iran it can be difficult, expensive and time consuming to find banks that can transfer money over to you. Before leaving for Iran, calculate how much money you think you'll need in either US dollars or euros and take that with you, plus a bit extra. This should cover all optional activities, meals, special clothing requirements, some souvenirs and other items. If you're a big shopper (and there are so many great things to buy in Iran, especially carpets) we recommend you bring more. Please take into consideration the safety issues of carrying so much cash with you - bringing a money belt with you is absolutely essential. Thankfully Iran is one of the safest countries that you'll probably ever visit and crime against foreigners is virtually unheard of.
Banks and money changers can be found in most of the places that we visit throughout the country. The largest Iranian rial note is the IRR20,000 note (approx US$2) but the IRR10,000 notes (approx US$1) are far more widely used. Thankfully new 'Iranian travellers cheques' make dealing with such large numbers of rials much easier. It's a lot safer and easier than carrying around huge wads of notes. It's especially useful for people who may need to spend up big on that special gift (carpets!). These cheques are available in 1 million and 500,000 rial denominations and can be organised easily in most Iranian banks. Changing them back into Iranian rial notes is trouble free. Note: you can't change Iranian rials into hard currency outside of Iran.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
The Middle East is often misjudged as being an inexpensive destination. With tourism booming and the influx of cheap flights from Europe, prices for some items are becoming more equivalent to prices you would be used to at home. Eating in local restaurants, roadside stalls and from markets can be inexpensive, but for nights out at tourist-friendly restaurants you can expect to pay much more. Budgets are a personal choice but please bear in mind that you shouldn't expect the Middle East to always be a budget destination.
Tipping - known as 'baksheesh' in the Middle East - is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry. If you are satisfied with the services provided, a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate and always appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - leave the loose change. More up-market restaurants, we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1-2 per person per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of private drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however US$1-2 per person per day is generally appropriate.
Public toilet attendants: When using public toilets there will most likely be a attendant that will expect a tip. 20-50 cents is appropriate.
Desert Camp hosts: If you have a night camping included on your itinerary, US$2-3 is appropriate for the camp hosts.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL 2014:
In 2014, the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from 28 June through until 27 July, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan, business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it's a period of national holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be effected.
IRANIAN NEW YEAR:
Please note that the Iranian New Year will take place from 21 March to 25 March. Many Iranian banks and government offices will be closed for the week of this period.
IRANIAN NEW YEAR AND VISA APPLICATION:
The Iranian Foreign Ministry will be closed from 21 March to 2 April and will not be processing any visa applications over this time. Please have your visa application in well before this date.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN IRAN:
Iran has a lot of public holidays. The dates of many of these holidays change annually as they are scheduled according to the lunar calendar.
ALCOHOL, DRUGS AND CONTRABAND:
Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran and severe penalties will be incurred by anyone attempting to bring it into the country. Drug laws are also extremely strict and travellers face lengthy jail terms if caught. If found, pork products, obscene material (even glossy magazines showing people in immodest poses), and controversial literature will all be confiscated by custom officials. Upon arrival, you as a foreigner will likely be whisked through customs but note that random bag checks do commonly occur.
Please bring two (2) photocopies of your passport. These may be used to assist with hotel check-in, and sometimes at road security points.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (12 nts), Nomad Tent (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
HEATING & AIR-CONDITIONING:
As a desert region, this part of the world has extremes of weather. Winter (approx. November to February) can be very cold. Not all of our hotels have heating so consider bringing thermals, scarf, gloves and a warm jacket for travel in this period. Summer (approx. June to August) can be very hot. Not all our hotels have air-conditioning, and in those that do, it's not always functioning.
When we have three single female travellers or three single male travellers on a trip we occasionally make use of triple-share rooms.
Nights spent camping can be in recognised camps or wild camping in the desert. Some campsites do have facilities but are usually not to the same standard as you would find in western countries, often toilet paper is not provided. Wild camps obviously have no facilities at all, and the toilet is simply a hole dug into the sand! Some nights can be spent in a tent whilst other nights will be under the stars. Mattresses and blankets are often provided, however some trips will require a sleeping bag. Please see the 'What to Take' section for more information.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
10 Breakfasts, 2 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Breakfast is generally a very simple affair. It typically consists of bread, jam and tea/coffee, and on occasions tomato, cucumber and juice (or similar).
Vegetarians may choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home - ie. protein bars, dried fruit, etc - although vegetarian options (while limited) are always offered for all included meals.
Private Bus, Plane, Bus
There are some long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. Windy roads, rough surfaces and cramped conditions make for some challenging travel experiences. On some long travel days we depart early in the morning to ensure we optimise our time at our next destination. If you experience travel sickness we recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort.
SECURITY WHILE TRAVELLING:
Occasionally you may experience armed security and convoys between select towns or regions. Convoys are used to ensure all travellers are transported safely and, in many cases, tourists are only allowed to travel in scheduled convoys of buses and jeeps. On rare occasions you may have an armed guard in your vehicle. We want to warn you so you are not alarmed. This is a practice designed to keep tourists safe, although at time it can appear a little overkill.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
DJomhouri St, between Pole Hafez & Chahar rahe 30 Tir, koochehye shahrokh
Djomhoori Avenue (District)
IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF
Joining point description
Parastoo Hotel is located in central Tehran, close to the Iran National Museum and Grand Bazaar. Rooms have en suite bathrooms, satellite TV and air-conditioning.
Joining point instructions
You'll arrive at Iman Khomeni airport, located 40 km south of central Tehran. On arrival you may be asked to fill out a standard customs declaration form, which you show to the customs officer, who stamps it. It’s best that you keep this form until you leave Iran.
From the airport taxi booth, taxis should cost around US$30 with bargaining. There may be some delays waiting for an available taxi. The trip will take between 1 and 2 hours depending on the time of the day and subsequent traffic conditions.
If you have booked an arrival transfer please look out for our transfer operator, who will be holding a sign with your name, after clearing customs. If you have difficulty locating the driver or you encounter unexpected delays before clearing customs and immigration - please call our local representative Mr Reza: +989 1771 42602
Check-in time at our joining point hotel is after 12 noon. Early check-in is not guaranteed, however if you arrive early, luggage storage is available. Speak to the hotel reception on arrival.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operators Emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
DJomhouri St, between Pole Hafez & Chahar rahe 30 Tir, koochehye shahrokh
Djomhoori Avenue (District)
IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF
Finish point description
Parastoo Hotel is located in central Tehran, close to the Iran National Museum and Grand Bazaar. Rooms have en suite bathrooms, satellite TV and air-conditioning.
Finish point instructions
The standard cost of a taxi to the airport is approx IRR300,000-400,000 (US$30-40). The trip will take between 1 and 2 hours depending on the time of the day and subsequent traffic conditions.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
All foreign visitors require a visa to enter Iran except citizens of the following countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Egypt and Turkey. Citizens of these countries can stay for up to 3 months without a visa.
IRAN: Iranian visas are issued in a two step process:
1. An authorisation code for your visa must be issued by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
2. A visa for your passport must then be obtained at an Iranian Embassy once the authorisation code has been issued.
For your nearest Iranian Embassy please check the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs of Iran website: www.mfa.gov.ir
Authorisation code/Visa Approval number and Iran Invite Number all have the same meaning but can be displayed as different names on different forms
Please note the Iranian Embassy also now require a letter of authorisation to be submitted with your visa application form. Please speak to your agent to arrange this.
Step 1- How to apply for your authorisation code:
Please immediately fill in the visa authorisation form sent to you by our sales team at the time of booking. If you are arriving early or staying on afterwards this needs to be written on your application form. As you are technically the responsibility of our Intrepid operator for your entire stay, only Intrepid-booked activities/accommodation are able to be nominated as part of this visa application. If you don’t receive this form at the time of booking please enquire with your agent. We recommend your flight to Iran should be as close to the starting date as possible. We also recommend your flight dates should be changeable in case of delays at the embassy issuing the visa. Return the visa authorisation form together with a scanned copy of the first page of your passport via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com immediately.
Please ensure all details are correct before sending. Any errors may result in your visa being denied or delayed. It’s vital that you provide us with an email contact at the time of booking. On occasions our local operator may contact you directly regarding the information provided for the authorisation code processing. Our local operator in Iran will process visa authorisation applications with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visa authorisation generally take 3-5 weeks depending on your nationality (up to two months for US citizens).
When approved, your visa authorisation code will be faxed to the Iranian embassy processing your visa (nominated on the authorisation form). Our Iranian operator will also notify you of your authorisation code via email. Once the code is received please apply for your visa directly with the nominated Iranian embassy (see Step 2 for further instructions). The process is complete once your passport is returned with the Iran visa stamped inside.
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 authorisation 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. If you haven’t received your authorisation code within 10 days of trip departure contact us to make alternative travel plans
Step 2 - How to obtain your visa stamp:
Once you have received your emailed authorisation code and leter from our local operator, immediately apply for your visa with your nominated Iranian embassy. You’ll need to provide a visa application form (usually you can download it from the embassy website), your passport, the visa fee, photos and insurance policy. Some consulate may have different requirements that you must check out beforehand. The cost of an Iran visa varies between US$60-80 depending on your nationality. Please check with your nominated embassy for visa costs. For women we recommend they provide a photo with their hair covered by a headscarf (not a hat). If you wish to personally collect your visa at the designated embassy you must also arrive wearing a headscarf. In order to collect your visa from the consulate, you must carry your travel insurance policy that covers you whilst in Iran. In our experience the turnaround time for your visa to be stamped in your passport and returned to your home address is normally within a week, but can take longer. Please check with your nominated Iranian embassy for their opening times and processing times for visas (some embassies will say that it takes up to a month). Please note that Iran embassies and consulates worldwide may only open for 3 or 4 days a week and have very limited opening hours. If possible, visiting the embassy personally can speed up the process (even to one day). Visas are valid for three months from the time of issue. We will do our best to secure your authorisation code, however the final decision rests with the government of Iran, therefore we cannot guarantee when and if a visa will be granted. If you have any questions regarding this process, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.Important Visa Notes:
Please check that the embassy issues you with a tourist visa and not a business visa (the stamp in your passport must state that the visa is a tourist one). If you’re issued with a business visa, hotels will charge you the business travellers rates which are often far higher than the tourist rates.
2. 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.
3. 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 if you 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.
4. The Iranian Foreign Ministry usually closes over the Iranian New Year period (approx 12 March to 2 April) and will not receive visa applications over this time. Please have your visa application in well before this date.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
All travellers will require good walking shoes for our walk in Abyaneh. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat is essential. Although generally hot, warm clothes will be needed for the cooler nights.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
CLOTHING & CLIMATE:
Please note that as a desert region, the Middle East can have extreme weather. Temperatures are generally hot with little rain. This can become extreme during the summer months of June to August. In the months of December to March it can be very cold, particularly next to the river or the ocean and out in the desert where night temperatures can drop dramatically. Even in the hot months, it can get cold in the desert at night. Consider bringing a sleeping bag, thermals, scarf, gloves and a warm jacket for travel in this period, especially on itineraries which include camping. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat is essential.
All of our hotel accommodation contains suitable bedding, and simple light bedding is provided during camping activities such as: overnight felucca, desert camps, or at the Red Sea Beach camp stay. Most Intrepid travellers find the bedding provided here adequate, but for your own comfort and if you are particularly sensitive to the cold, consider bringing your own sleeping bag if your itinerary includes camping over the winter months (approx. Dec-Mar).
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about 3 litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
Iran you say, is it safe? In a word, yes.
This question will be asked of you many times before you arrive in Iran and long after you return. One of the biggest misconceptions is that Iran is an unfriendly country - this couldn't be further from the truth. You are likely to be greeted with salaams (hello) by the many friendly faces that you'll see during your time here. The Iranian people are famous for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature so don't be surprised if locals invite you into their homes where you'll suddenly find yourself reclining on a Persian carpet with your smiling hosts, drinking tea and sharing food and plenty of laughs. Tourism is in its infancy in Iran and you'll find that the local people will show a genuine interest towards you and want to try out their English on you. Of course, petty crime does exist but probably the only danger you'll face while here is the country's chaotic traffic, especially when crossing the road or even while walking on the footpath.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
Iran is a traditional Islamic nation and a strict dress code is enforced throughout the country. The code of dress must be adhered to at all times. Men must wear long trousers at all times and generally keep themselves neat and tidy. Loose fitting cotton pants are preferable for the Iranian heat. Short sleeve shirts that cover your shoulders and open-toed sandals are now acceptable for men - but ankles must be covered and full-length shirts must be worn at religious sites.
Women must wear the hejab at all times, apart from in their hotel bedrooms of course. A hejab consists of the manteau, a loose-fitting trench coat that comes down to just above your knees, plus a headscarf. A headscarf can be of any colour but you'll be better received if you're wearing a darker colour. It's now perfectly OK for women to wear a headscarf that shows some of their fringe and you'll see many ladies doing so. A manteau can be purchased in some of the shops along Ferdosi St in Tehran, a short walk away from the Atlas Hotel, for about US$15 and different styles of headscarves are available for about US$4. Your group leader will advise you of what attire is appropriate during the welcome meeting.
Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing a headscarf, long sleeves, sealed 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, long sleeved shirt or tunic from home if you choose to buy a manteau after you arrive). Men must be wearing long trousers upon arrival and shirts that cover their shoulder, or they to may be refused entry.
Ladies, please don't bring any tight-fitting clothing with you to Iran as it's forbidden to show any hint of the shape of your body. Many Iranian women wear western-style clothing and you'll be shocked at how trendy these girls can be. Make up, lipstick and nail-polish, however are all the rage and don't be surprised if these ladies outdo even yourself when it comes to looking the part. The most comfortable clothing to wear underneath your manteau are full-length, lightweight cotton garments like trousers or even skirts. Women must also wear covered shoes or sandals that cover their ankles and skin.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 488.00 kgs per pax.
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