Western Village Explorer

A Local Experience in Iran’s Cultural Lost World

Enter a cultural lost world on this expedition to discover Iran’s undisturbed and unique villages. Starting out from Isfahan, the ‘half of the world’, journey to the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, a village nestled in the mountains and famed for its colourful appearance. Walk along the roof tops of the traditional terraced villages of Masuleh and Palangan. Take a boat ride along the Caspian Coast to see the colourful houses of Bandar Anzali, walk along the shores of the red Urmia Lake and spot local bird life on the lake of Naqadeh at sunset. Explore Mazichal the ‘village in the clouds’ frozen in time without electricity or modern conveniences and marvel how life here has not changed for centuries.

Stay in traditional family run homestays, hotels and eco-lodges in throughout for a local experience in Iran you will never forget. Sample home cooked meals in small villages and experience the warm hospitality of the Iranian people as well as take the opportunity to have dinner in a real Silk Road caravanserai in Isfahan.


  • Visit the off the beaten path villages of Iran including Abyaneh – the so-called ‘Red Village’, Mazichal, the ‘Village in the Clouds’ and Bandar Anzali a colourful fishing village along the Caspian Coast
  • Explore the ancient cave village of Kandovan, visit the red lake of Urmia and spot local bird life in the wetlands of Naqadeh
  • Walk along the roofs of the terraced villages of Masuleh and Palangan
  • Wander some of Iran’s larger cities beginning with Isfahan, the ‘half of the world’ and the remote city of Tabriz in western Iran
  • Stay in locally run hotels, hostels, guest houses and caves and enjoy plenty of time to explore each village, meet friendly local people and have your own adventure!

The Basics

Start: Isfahan

Finish: Tehran

Trip style: Explorer

Max group size: 15

15 Days


$6760 AUD*

16 April 2024

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: WEIT *from


Arrive in Isfahan and make your way to the trip hostel. At 17.00 there will be a welcome meeting where you will meet your Inverted Atlas trip leader and can ask any questions about your trip and what to expect from this local experience in Iran.

Optional experience: Dinner at the Abassi Hotel

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 lunch in a traditional family restaurant.

Check in to the hotel after lunch, the afternoon is yours to explore Iran’s ‘Red Village’.

Journey to the small city of Qom this morning and pay a visit to the Masumeh Holy Shrine, the second most holy site in Iran after the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. A major site of pilgrimage in Iran, thousands of people travel to Qom every year to ask for the blessings of Fatima Masumeh, daughter of the eighth Imam Reza.

After our visit we will have some free time in Qom for lunch before transferring to Hamedan.

We check in to the hotel on arrival, tonight we stay in a mansion, once inhabited by Iran’s elite citizens.

Prior to leaving this morning we will take a stroll around Hamadan with our local guide to see the sights. After our walk around the town, we will have some free time to explore and have lunch.

In the afternoon we transfer to the village of Palangan, where we will check in to local guest houses. *

Dinner this evening will be provided by your host at the guest house.

Please note, this evening the group will be split up and stay at different local guest houses which will be in close proximity to each other. There are no hotels in Palangan large enough to host even a small group. Staying at a local guest house is almost like staying in a local family’s home, and we have chosen this experience so our travellers can get to know their hosts on a more intimate level and feel this will add to your local experience in Iran.

Reconvene with the rest of the group this morning for a walk around the village of Palangan with our local guide. Palangan is located among the spectacular hills of the Tangivar Valley, the population of the village is around a thousand people who all speak a native dialect called Orami. The village consists of stone houses, arranged in a terraced layout, this provides a great opportunity for exploring as well as amazing views of the village and surrounding valley.

After our short orientation, the remainder of the day is yours to explore this unique village.

Depart early this morning and transfer to the town of Saqqez for a brief stop to grab lunch and explore, before transferring to the village of Naqadeh and checking in to our eco-lodge for the next two nights.

This evening watch the sunset over the wetlands of Hassanio Lake and then return to the eco-lodge for a traditional dinner.

Today is yours to explore Naqadeh on your own.

Villages of Iran - Naqadeh

Featured Optional Experience– Wetlands and Ancient City of Hasanlu

If you are looking for something to fill your day, join a local expert guide for a tour around the village of Naqadeh. Visit the wetlands and see if you can spot some of Iran’s endemic bird life, before a tour around the ancient city of Hasanlu which was inhabited from the 6th millennium BCE to the 3rd century CE. Hasanlu was destroyed in antiquity and never fully inhabited again, making it a perfect time capsule of life in 300 CE.

This morning transfer to Urmia, famed for its red lake. The lake has shrunk rapidly overtime giving it a much higher salt content, causing microscopic organisms to turn the lake a shade of deep red. Visit the red beach, ship graveyard and Nane Maryam church, the second oldest church in the world.

Today we will have lunch at a traditional restaurant in the town of Urmia before transferring to the cave village of Kandovan, where we will stay in local guest houses for the next two nights. *

Please note, this evening the group will again be split up and stay at different local guest houses which will be in close proximity to each other.

First thing this morning, meet your local guide and travel companions for a brief walk around Kandovan. Kandovan is famous for its astonishing rocky architecture and hand-carved cave structures known as ‘Karan’.  Kandovan’s residents have carved everything into these cave dwellings including their homes, shops, halls and even pens for their animals.

The remainder of the day is yours to explore this fascinating cave village on your own.

Leave Kandovan this morning and travel to the nearby city of Tabriz. Visit the Blue Mosque, a beautiful but crumbling structure which was damaged by an earthquake. The dome and tile work are still intact, but you can see the scars from the terrible natural disasters the building has endured over time.

Continue to the Grand Bazaar of Tabriz for some free time to browse and the grab some lunch before transferring to Ardabil.

On arrival in Ardabil, we will stop at the Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabili’s Shrine, the shrine was built between the 16th century and 18th century and accommodates a library, mosque, school, a variety of mausoleums, cistern, hospital, kitchens and a bakery. We will then visit the beautiful Chini Khane complex before checking in to our local hotel for the evening.

Depart Ardabil early this morning and transfer to the village of Masuleh in the mountains of Gilan province. Masuleh is another village in Iran which is terraced in the mountains and where the rooves of the houses on the lower levels are used as streets for houses on the upper levels.

On arrival we will take a short walk around the village with our local guide before checking in to our traditional hotel.

The remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore Masuleh on your own.

We leave this morning and transfer to the town of Bandar Anzali, located on the coast of the Caspian Sea. On arrival we will board a small boat for a ride along the coastline to see the houses of this colourful fishing village. After we disembark, we will have some free time for lunch and then transfer to Siahkak to explore the ruins of Titi Caravanserai. The caravanserai was built about 600 years ago and has now been reclaimed by nature. We will stop here to explore its ramshackle rooms that were once used by Silk Road traders.

When we have finished exploring the abandoned caravanserai, we will transfer to KeLardsht to a local hotel for the evening.

We’ve saved the best for last! This morning we will transfer to the village of Mazichal, otherwise known as the ‘village in the clouds’ where we will spend the day. Located 2600m above sea level, the hills on which the picturesque village sits are located in the clouds and on a clear day provide views all the way to the city of Chalus on the Caspian Sea. The beautiful village does not have electricity or even a grocery store and is a perfect glimpse into the traditional life of old in Iran.

On arrival we will take a short orientation walk around the village with our guide, before spending the remainder of the day exploring on our own.

In the late afternoon we will transfer back to our hotel in KeLardsht for the evening.

Transfer back to Tehran in the morning, before checking back in to our quirky hostel, we will drive around the city sighting the numerous anti-US propaganda graffiti and art, a sight which is both eye opening and confronting.

Check in to the hostel and the remainder of the day is yours to relax.

In the evening we will head out into Tehran to a local restaurant to say goodbye to your trip leader, local guide and fellow travelers.

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

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

Local experience in Iran - Western village explorer
Trip Map
Western Village Explorer


Duration: 15 Days

Trip style: Explorer

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: WEIT

Cost: $6760.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $1578.00 AUD

Please note, this trip is a shorter section of our ‘Persian Village Explorer‘ some people on the tour may be doing the entire tour and others will only be travelling on a section. Click HERE to view the entire tour.


  • 14-nights’ accommodation in hostels, eco-lodges, cave hotels, guesthouses and local hotels
  • Visa invitation letter for Iran
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • All transport as specified in the itinerary
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Isfahan: Dinner at the Abassi Hotel  
  • Naqadeh: Wetlands and Ancient City of Hasanlu

* 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 – Adventure

This trip is a local experience in Iran and as such it travels to parts of the country with limited infrastructure and where few travellers have ventured. There are a few 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. 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. 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, Tabriz, Yazd and Isfahan, and you should be prepared for eastern style squat toilets in public places.

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 local experience in Iran requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 4km over at times, uneven surfaces 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) and be free from lung issues as a small portion of this journey will be at an altitude of over 2600m above sea level.

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach and on and off the train. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.) 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 often travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. 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 this trip 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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