Hell’s Hottest Heart

A Safari into the Lut Desert

Venture into one of the most inhospitable places in the world on this adventure to end all adventures! Set up camp in the hottest desert on Earth to explore its strange formations, hardy flora and fauna and experience the warm hearts of the people who reside in this harsh environment. Visit the oasis towns of Garmeh and Mesr and discover the ancient citadel of Bam, the largest adobe building in the world. Explore the ancient Zoroastrian religion in the cities of Yazd and Kerman, with visits to so-called ‘Towers of Silence’ and temples of fire, as well as discover magical Isfahan and the small, but beautiful city of Kashan. Call in at some of Iran’s most spectacular villages including the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, Kharanaq with its vibrating minaret and the strange dug out village of Meymand.

Spend four nights camping under a sky filled with stars, stay in a desert castle (yes you read that right), a traditional house, guesthouses, quirky hostels and local hotels, as well as mingle with the local people on the overnight train from Tehran to Kerman.


TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Safari into the Lut Desert by 4×4, traverse the dunes of the hottest place in the world, discover the strange Martian like landscape and meet the desert dwellers of Iran’s harshest environment
  • Visit the off the beaten path village of Abyaneh – the so-called ‘Red Village’, and journey to Garmeh and Mesr in Iran’s desert Oases
  • Explore the desert town of Kharanaq complete with its vibrating minaret and visit the ancient citadel of Bam which sits on the crossroads of the Silk Road
  • Discover the Zoroastrian cities of Iran, gaze in wonder at the ‘Tower of Silence’ and explore the Zoroastrian Quarter of Yazd, as well as pay a visit to the Fire Temple of Kerman
  • Stay in locally run hotels, hostels, guest houses, a desert castle and camp under a million stars in one of the harshest deserts in the world!

The Basics

Start: Tehran

Finish: Tehran

Trip style: Explorer

Max group size: 15

19 Days

TEHRAN – TEHRAN

$7485 AUD*

Departure date: 15 April 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: HHTT *from

ITINERARY

Arrive in Tehran and make your own way to the trip hostel. Meet your trip leader and traveling companions for a welcome meeting at 17.00. After the meeting head out into Tehran for street food walk along 30- Tir Street to sample some of Iran’s local cuisine.

Head out into the capital this morning to explore the intricate designs of the Carpet Museum of Iran, after all what’s a visit to Persia without seeing a Persian rug? A sight in itself, the exterior of the museum is designed to represent a giant carpet loom and the interior houses some of Iran’s most spectacular carpets dating from the 16th century.

Take a walk down Valiasr Street, Tehran’s main throughfare and see the local people of the city going about their business, after visit the Tajrish Bazaar, Tehran’s traditional marketplace.

For lunch we will visit a local kebab shop in the bazaar and later relax with a cup of tea from the world’s smallest tea house.

The afternoon is yours to explore Tehran, tonight we head to the station to board the overnight train to the southern city of Kerman where we will begin our Lut Desert safari.

Arriving in Kerman we will head straight out to see this city in the desert. Our first stop will be at the city’s fire temple, a place of worship for followers of Zoroastrianism. We will take a stroll through the historical Fath Abad Garden of the Qajar period on the outskirts of the city and visit the Hindu Caravanserai, a remnant of the Silk Road, and visit the Malek Mosque.

Then stop for a short break at a traditional tea house and then have some free time to peruse Kerman’s lively bazaar before checking in to the hostel.

The remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore Kerman.

This morning we start early to begin our safari into the Lut Desert. Our first stop is the town of Bam, famed for its ancient citadel, the largest adobe building in the world. The citadel can be traced back to at least the Achaemenid Empire and rose to importance from the 7th to 11th centuries CE at which point it was situated on a major crossroads of the Silk Road.

Later we will traverse the sand dunes of Ab Yalan and safari deep into the desert of at Dahte-Kashk before setting up camp at our first spot for the night.

Enjoy your first night around the campfire and a traditional meal prepared by your guide.

We will set off from our camp this morning on a two-hour hike to reach the so-called ‘star-shaped dunes.’ The dunes get their enigmatic name from the giant star-shape they form when viewed from above.

Our lunch today will be a picnic in the desert before we venture into Malek Mohamad canyon and then our final stop at Borj Canyon, a natural desert masterpiece. The canyon is an alluvial ravine which facilitates water flow through the desert. Sometimes water is found here even after light rains.

This morning we will journey to Royel canyon the largest of the canyons in the Lut Desert, after which we will seek out the formations of the ‘egg hills’, Dolphin and Aghigh plains and finish out day at the Lut’s Eye, the landscape of which is the closest approximation to the landscape of Mars that we have here on Earth.

Out of the eye of the Lut Desert we head into Gandom Beryan, the hottest part of the desert. We will explore the castle of Shafi Abad which dates to the Qajar era and the strange sandcastle like rock formations of the area called ‘kalouts’.

Our last stop for today will be, surprisingly, in a place called the ‘Nebka Jungle.’ The jungle is an odd patch of windblown trees, growing from the stark desert mounds. This area is home to much of the Lut’s flora and fauna and we will keep our eyes peeled for glimpses as we explore this strange area.

We will spend today hiking around some nearby kalouts in the Lut Desert, followed by a desert picnic.

In the afternoon we will have an opportunity to try sandboarding down some nearby dunes, before checking into a traditional house hotel to recuperate from our desert adventure

This morning we will transfer back to Kerman making a stop at the epic Rayen Citadel along the way. Similar to the citadel of Bam, this mud-brick fortress was still inhabited up to 150 years ago and is believed to be at least a thousand years old. Also en route we will stop at the spectacular UNESCO listed Shazde Garden, a traditional Persian garden in the middle of the Lut Desert.

On arrival in Kerman we will check back in to our hostel.

This morning visit we will transfer to the strange, dug-out village of Meymand. The village of Meymand is believed to be over 12 000 years old and its inhabitants live in partially inground cave dwellings, some of which are around 4000 years old. It is possible that the site on which Meymand sits, was originally of religious significance, however evolved into a settlement as pilgrims stayed longer and longer.

Our accommodation tonight is really special, an actual desert castle! The castle dates back over 400 years and is unique in its architecture in this part of Iran.

This morning we will depart for the city of Yazd, before entering the city we will make a stop at the ‘Towers of Silence’ which lie just outside the city. These huge flat top towers were part of Zoroastrian funerary culture, the dead were not buried or cremated, but rather, ‘left out’ for the scavenger birds so that the body of the deceased could be reclaimed by nature.

On arrival in Yazd, we will visit a traditional Iranian gym for a performance of Zoorkhane an ancient Persian martial art that has been used since the time of the great kings, before a fascinating walk through the Zoroastrian Quarter of the city. Zoroastrianism is the oldest surviving religion in Iran and has been practiced here since the ancient times of the king ‘Cyrus the Great’.

This morning join your local guide for a fascinating walk through the Zoroastrian Quarter of the city of Yazd. Zoroastrianism is the oldest surviving religion in Iran and haToday is a free day! You may wish to explore Yazd on your own, hang out in a local coffee shop or just have a rest day.

Depart Yazd early this morning for the strange town of Kharanaq with its shaking minaret. On arrival in Kharanaq take some time to explore the Sassanian caravanserai, Qajar bath and underground mosque, and of course experience the shaking minaret for yourself.

When we leave Kharanaq we will make our way to Meybod to have lunch in an old caravanserai.

After lunch we will travel to the oasis town of Garmeh and check into a local guest house.

Today we continue our desert safari to the tiny oasis village of Mesr where we will spend the day exploring and meeting the friendly local people who live here. Located in the desert of Dashte-Kavir, the village is exceptionally isolated and powered by a single water source. Sunsets here are also some of the most spectacular you’re likely to see anywhere else on Earth – the locals say this is the place where ‘the Earth meets the sky.’

Depart from Mesr early this morning and head to the desert town of Varzaneh. We will explore the mud-brick town and have a short orientation before we sit down for lunch in one of Varzaneh’s traditional restaurants.

After visiting the town, continue to the amazing city of Isfahan, the ‘half of the world’ as it is known in Iran and check in to the hotel.

This morning we visit the Chehel Sotoon Palace, built by Shah Abass the Great. The palace sits among beautiful gardens and contains an impressive mirrored design, as well as beautiful examples of Persian Safavid frescoes displayed on the interior walls.

After our visit we will adjourn to a local tea house to relax with a cup of Persian tea, try ‘Nabat’, Iranian hardened sugar and experience the wonder that is saffron ice cream.

The remainder of the day is yours to explore Isfahan on your own.

Featured Optional Experience– Dinner at the Abassi Hotel

This evening take some time out to undertake a truly unforgettable experience, dining in an old caravanserai! The Abassi Hotel was once an active caravanserai on the Silk Road, today it has been lovingly restored, while still staying true to its purpose, and is now the best hotel in Isfahan. Savour sumptuous Persian cuisine in the Eden of the caravanserai’s courtyard or dine in luxury in the splendour of the elaborately decorated restaurant.

We depart Isfahan in the morning and head for the Red Village of Abyaneh. On arrival our guide will give us an orientation of this village, one of Iran’s most famous and most beautiful, before some free time to explore this unique and magical place.

Later in the afternoon we will transfer to the small city of Kashan where we will visit the opulent Borujerdi historical house and then check into our traditional hotel for the evening.

After a free morning to explore Kashan, we will journey to the small city of Qom, the second most holy city in Iran. On arrival we will take a stroll through the bazaar, followed by some free time to grab lunch.

After we have explored Qom, we will return to Tehran where the afternoon will be free for you to explore or to pack for your onward journey.

In the evening we will head out into Tehran for a special dinner to commemorate the close of our adventure.

Your desert adventure in Iran comes to an end this morning after breakfast.

Want to spend a bit more time in Tehran before or after your trip? Why not book our bolt-on for Tehran?

Lut Desert Safari - Trip Map
Trip Map – Hell’s Hottest Heart

Details

Duration: 19 Days

Trip style: Explorer

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: HHTT

Cost: $7485.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $955.00 AUD

Inclusions

  • 18-nights’ accommodation in hostels, eco-castle, overnight train, guesthouses, camping (no facilities 4-nights – desert safari) and local hotels
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • Overnight train ticket from Tehran to Kerman
  • Camping equipment for desert safari
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Isfahan: Dinner at the Abassi Hotel

* Please note some optional experiences must be booked prior to travel. You will be given the option to add these experiences at check out

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares or domestic airfares
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Visa for Iran
  • Any expenses associated with COVID-19
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating

Camel Caravan

Camel Caravan 1

Buckle up! Our Lut Desert Safari is a real adventure! On this trip we travel to the remotest parts of Iran, a part of the world with limited infrastructure and where few travellers have ventured. There are a some very long travel days where we will be getting up early and arriving at our accommodation quite late, some of the time this accommodation will be a basic local hotel or guesthouse and sometimes wild camping with no facilities.  

Some of the accommodation on this trip will be of a shared nature where your own room may not be possible. We will mostly travel by a small local coach, 4×4’s and will travel on an overnight train from Tehran to Kerman. This trip involves a strict dress code for women, who should come prepared with either floor length dresses with long sleeves or long trousers with khaftans that reach the knees, along with head scarves. The dress code is not optional, and it is illegal for women to keep their hair uncovered while in Iran. Men are advised to wear long trousers.

Good quality hospitals, pharmacies and other public amenities will be limited to large cities like Tehran, Yazd and Isfahan, and you should be prepared for eastern style squat toilets in public places. Although this trip is billed as travelling to the hottest place on Earth, we have chosen our travel dates carefully and the weather will be milder than the intense heat of the Iranian summer. That being said the desert is unpredictable and can be hot during the day and very cold at night so please pay close attention to your packing list.

We recommend that travellers on gluten free, vegetarian and vegan diets bring some supplemental snack food from home as it might be difficult to meet these dietary requirements while in remote parts of Iran.

A note about fitness

This trip requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 10km over at times, uneven surfaces as well as over sand, during sightseeing, which will sometimes be at an incline. In addition, you should be able to climb up to 200 stairs unassisted, use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues). Some of this trip involves wild camping with no facilities in a harsh environment so sleeping on the floor in a tent and “going” (ahem!) behind the nearest sand dune should not be an issue for you.

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach/4×4 and on and off the train. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.) Please consider the nature of this trip when packing and if you are planning on bringing a giant, hard sided suitcase we strongly urge you to reconsider. The overnight train is a 4-berth bunk configuration, and you must be able to climb into and out of a top bunk as bottom bunks cannot be guaranteed.

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is extremely limited or even non-existent. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Please note that on our Lut Desert Safari the single supplement on this trip only includes nights spent in twin share accommodation, it is not possible to provide a single room on the train, while camping or while at small homestays and guest houses.

Trip leader description

Accompanying you along your journey will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 18 years

Due to the nature of this trip and the shared nature of some of the accommodation children are not permitted for their own safety.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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