Traveling in the ancient land of Persia, this unique adventure explores destinations that have been off the tourist map for many years and rarely experienced by Western visitors. Tehran, Mashad, Yadz, Isfahan, ancient Persepolis, the cultural capital of Shiraz—these are just a few of the enchanting sites on this journey. This tour is perfect for those who have a true pioneering spirit—a distinctive adventure that may not always follow the itinerary step-by-step, but will delight and enthrall with the potential for a surprise or two along the way.
Arrive in Tehran, where you will be met and transferred to the five-star Espinas Hotel (or similar). Enjoy a welcome reception dinner and meet your fellow travelers on this highly anticipated journey.
The highlight of your stay in Tehran is undoubtedly the visit to the breathtaking Crown Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building, with its vast array of crown jewels used by the Qajar and Pahlavid royalty. You’ll also visit the prestigious National Museum of Iran, opened in 1937, detailing many periods of the rich history of the country with some artifacts dating back approximately 30,000-35,000 years. While here you’ll also explore the city’s Grand Bazaar, situated in the southern heart of Tehran, a historic market with a seemingly never-ending maze of bustling alleyways. In the late afternoon on Day 3, transfer to the Tehran railway station, with its huge portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Kamenei at the entrance, to board the Golden Eagle, your home for the next ten nights. Settle in to your cabin and later enjoy dinner as the train begins its exciting voyage through Iran.
An early morning arrival provides you with the whole day to explore the city of Mashhad, home to the Imam Reza Holy Shrine, the largest mosque in the world in terms of its dimensions, followed by a tour of the Nader Shah Museum. After lunch in the city, visit the Tomb of Ferdowsi, the father of Persian literature who lived over a thousand years ago. Dinner on the train.
Rayen and Mahan
Arrive in Rayen after lunch. The 20,000-square-meter Rayen castle is situated beneath snow-capped Mt. Hezar in the Province of Kerman. A huge medieval mud brick citadel, it was considered second only to Bam before the 2003 earthquake. Rayen displays all the architectural elements of a deserted citadel (it was inhabited until 150 years ago) and is extremely well preserved. It is considered one of the most interesting sites in Iran. Continue by road to Mahan and visit the 19th century Royal building, Prince Garden, and tomb. Later, visit the sanctuary and tomb of the famous Soufi, Shah Nematollah Vali, dating back to the Mongol Era. Rejoin the train at dusk in time for dinner.
This morning you’ll travel to the desert trading city of Kerman. The city has a mud-brick core centered around the historic and very lively bazaar, where you will have free time. You’ll also visit a 19th century old tea house and the Hamam Ganj Ali Khan, now restored and transformed into a museum. Wonderful frescoes adorn the walls and wax dummies illustrate the workings of a traditional bathhouse. Later this afternoon, rejoin the Golden Eagle for dinner as you travel onward to Yazd.
Yazd is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. Your tour takes in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Silent Towers, Amir Chakhmagh Square and the Friday Mosque, home to one of Persia’s finest mosaics (both 14th century) and finally the water museum. Lunch will be served in the Moshir Garden Hotel, which features a lovely Pomegranate Garden (Yazd is famous for pomegranates). Return to the train in the late afternoon.
This enchanting city, which served as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722, is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest in Iran. As a crossroads of international trade and diplomacy, Isfahan has a rich mix of languages, religions, and customs. The city is famous for its silver filigree and metal work, array of great historical monuments, and the Life-Giving River, the Zayandeh-Rood, which has given the city its beauty. Isfahan is packed with some of Iran’s best sights and today you’ll spend a whole day in the city, visiting the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter. Following a traditional Iranian lunch, you move on to Naghshe Jahan Square, a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where the Ali Qapou Palace and Shah and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques can be found. Here, the time is yours to enjoy the huge square and pick up a bargain at the handicraft bazaar of Qaisarieh.
Persepolis and Shiraz
Following breakfast onboard, arrive in Sadat Shaha, close to the ruins of Persepolis, another World Heritage Site. Perhaps Iran’s most important archaeological site, this ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire dates back to the 6th century. Even now, the ruins are extremely impressive. Your final visit today is to the Necropolis at nearby Naghsh-e Rustam. After lunch, continue by road to Shiraz, Persia’s cultural capital. Dating back over 4,000 years, it is also known as the city of poets, literature, wine, and flowers. A visit to the Quran Gate, Hafez Tomb, and the Vakil Citadel are the highlights of your afternoon tour.
Morning finds you in the ancient city of Kashan, where you’ll visit the Fin garden, Iran’s oldest garden (and a World Heritage Site) dating from 1590, and nearby Sialk Hills archaeological site, dating back almost 8,000 years, and Brojerdi and Taba Tabaei, 19th century historical houses. Kashan is the most important center for Persian carpets, so after lunch in a local restaurant you’ll visit the impressive and ancient bazaar to explore the exquisite carpets on offer, before returning to the train mid-afternoon. As dinner is served, you’ll pass through Qom and arrive at Dorud, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, around midnight.
Shushtar and Susa
As dawn rises in Dorud, a comfortable Iranian train awaits to take you to the fascinating city of Shushtar. Admire the magnificent scenery as you meander through the mountainous landscape before arriving in the city in the late morning. Visit the hydraulic system that dates back to 590 BC and still provides water to the town of Shushtar. You’ll move on to the Choghazambil site dating back to 1250 BC and then tour the ancient city of Susa before rejoining the train for the spectacular return journey through the Zagros Mountains. Dinner will be served as you head back to join the Golden Eagle for your onward journey.
After breakfast, leave the train for a spectacular drive through the Alborz Mountains as you head toward Pol-e Sefid where the Iranian train awaits. This afternoon, enjoy the ever-changing, mountainous landscapes as you climb the Trans-Iranian Railway, crossing the infamous Veresk bridge, hailed as the “Bridge of Victory” in World War II, and the outstanding “Three Golden Lines” spiral, as you make your way back to the Golden Eagle for your final dinner aboard the train.
This morning, visit the Golestan Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its renovated Versailles-inspired, mirror-encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah. Most of the remaining brick and tile buildings date back to the 19th century Qajar dynasty. Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Gala Dinner at the hotel, the Espinas, where you can join fellow passengers to reminisce on all the experiences you have shared together during this remarkable adventure.
Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.