The Middle East’s best-kept secret, Iran forms a footbridge between Europe and Asia, and has hosted some of the great invaders from Genghis Khan from the East and Alexander the Great from the West. A visit to Iran is a voyage of contrasts; women clad in black, mosques bejeweled and dazzling desert towns with twisting alleyways, formal gardens and snow-capped peaks. And, wherever you go, you are welcomed with a warmth that is astounding. It is to this little-understood destination, that Somerset Tours & Travel invite you to join them on a voyage of discovery.

Our tour departs from South Africa on 18 April 2017 and flies via Dubai to Tehran. We will spend two nights in this vibrant city with time to explore its Jewel and Archaeological Museums, before driving west to the desert city of Hamadan, one of the oldest cities or Iran, and indeed, of the world. For millenia it has been an important trading city and is the site of Ecbatana, one of the ancient world’s greatest cities when it was the fortified capital of the Median Empire.

The tour continues on to Kermanshah via Kagava. We will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sassanid bass reliefs of Bisotun Rock and Taq-e Bostan grottoes. Authored by Darius the Great sometime between his coronation as king of the Persian Empire in 522 BC and his death in 486 BC, the inscription at Bisotun begins with a brief autobiography of Darius, including his ancestry ad lineage.

The following day we will drive through to Khorramabad. Set in a long, steep-sided valley, the scenic capital of Lorestan is famous for, and dominated by, the imposing hilltop citadel, the Falak-ol-Aflak. Views from the top are breathtaking.

The next overnight stop is Ahwaz. En route we’ll stop at Susa, one of the oldest archaeological sites in Iran. The religious centre of Tchogha Zanbil remains the best-surviving example of Elamite architecture and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The itinerary proceeds to Shiraz, traditionally known as the City of Poets and the City of Roses and Nightingales. Two days will be spent in Shiraz to explore the magnificent city of Persepolis built by Darius the Great 2500 years ago. Not far from this famed city, at Naqsh-e-Rustan, are the four impressive tombs of ancient Persian kings, Darius I and II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes, hewn out of cliff rocks.

We continue our drive through the desert to Kerman where we will spend two days exploring the area with its characterful bazaar, Sufi mosques, museums, fortress and fabulous gardens.

Yazd is “the second most ancient and historic city in the world” and a centre of Zoroastrian culture. Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, Yazd is an architecturally unique city. It is also known in Iran for the high quality handicrafts, especially silk weaving, and its sweets shops.

The next stop on our routing is the fabled city of Isfahan, once a vibrant trade centre on the ancient Silk Route. Its glorious Islamic architecture and beautiful gardens has captured the hearts of many. The unique blue tiles of Isfahan’s Islamic buildings, and the city’s majestic bridges, contrast perfectly with the hot, dry Iranian countryside around it. Isfahan is a sight you will not easily forget. Not only is the architecture superb and the climate pleasant, but there’s a fairly relaxed atmosphere here, compared with many other Iranian towns.

From Isfahan its back to Tehran for a night before flying back to South Africa on 04 May to arrive in South Africa on 05 May 2017.

The tour will be accompanied by Liz Cotton and will escorted by a local guide throughout.

The tour is limited to 17 participants, and if you are interested in joining us, please do not hesitate to let me know.

This is a very special and unique tour. If you are at all interested in the spectacular history of this part of the world, I would suggest you make a plan to be part of our group!