Persian Village Explorer

An Immersive Trip to Visit the Unique Villages of Iran

Experience the warm hospitality of Iran, make new friends and experience the magic of Persia on a very local level. Starting out from Tehran, journey to some of Iran’s most unique and diverse villages, including the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, Garmeh, a real-life desert oasis and Kharanaq with its vibrating minaret. Explore the Zoroastrian religion of Yazd with a visit to its fire temple and mysterious ‘Towers of Silence’, walk along the shores of the red Urmia Lake and spot local bird life on the lake of Naqadeh at sunset.

Spend the night with the nomads of Kahkaran, camp out in the desert near Garmeh, sleep in caves in Kandovan and stay in traditional family run homestays, hotels and eco-lodges in throughout. Eat like a local as you take a street food walk through Tehran, sample home cooked meals in small villages and try the amazing saffron ice cream of Isfahan – trust us you’ll be going back for more!


TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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
  • Journey to the outskirts of Kahkaran and spend a night camping with the nomads of the region
  • Explore the village of Makhunik with its subterranean houses and walk along the rooves of the village of Masouleh
  • Wander some of Iran’s larger cities with stops in Yazd, home of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, Isfahan, the ‘half of the world’, Tabriz and Mashhad, Iran’s religious capital
  • 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: Tehran

Finish: Tehran

Trip style: Explorer

Max group size: 15

30 Days

TEHRAN – TEHRAN

$9835 AUD*

Departure date: 25 April 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: PETT *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 Iran’s holy capital, Mashhad.

Arrive in the holy city of Mashhad at a reasonable hour of the morning and transfer to the Imam Reza Shrine. Imam Reza was a descendant of Islam’s holy prophet Mohammed, he was an imam of knowledge and is seen as a major religious figure for many Sunni and Sufi Muslims. Imam Reza was killed by poisoning by the caliph Al-Ma’mun, at which time the city’s name was Khorasan, it was summarily changed to Mashhad after this event, meaning, the ‘place of martyrdom.’

Today the shrine of Imam Reza is one of Islam’s holiest sites outside Saudi Arabia. Despite its holy and significant position in the Islamic faith the shrine is a fairly open place and previous groups have been invited to participate during religious festivals or into the depths of the huge mosque to hear the current imam preach.*

In the afternoon we will have some free time to explore Mashhad, before transferring to the village of Neyshabur to check into our eco-lodge for the next two nights.

Due to the religious and sensitive nature of this visit, women will be required to don a chador an all covering garment worn by women of devout Islamic faith. Chador are free to hire at the shrine. Men will be required to wear long pants.

This morning take a trip underground to visit the turquoise mine of Neyshabur, widely considered to be the oldest active turquoise mine in the world. After exploring the mine make a stop at a local turquoise inlay workshop to see what local artisans craft with the stone.

The afternoon is free for you to explore Neyshabur on your own.

Optional experience: Neyshabur Guided Walk

Depart Neyshabur early this morning and transfer to the town of Nashtifan to see its famed ancient windmills. These vertical axis windmills are over 1000 years old and are still in use today for the purpose of milling grain into flour. The area in which the windmills are located is known for its very powerful winds and in fact the name Nashtifan means ‘storms sting’.

Spend some free time in the town of Nashtifan exploring and to grab some lunch before transferring to Khaf and checking in to our eco-lodge for the evening.

We leave Khaf this morning and transfer to the tiny village of Makhunik not far from the border with Afghanistan. Known as the Liliput of Iran, the residents of this town are known for their short stature and clay houses built basically on top of each other on the slopes of the hills. The floors of the houses are around one metre below ground level and have a short entrance door made of trees and are difficult to enter.

Explore the village and meet some of the local people accompanied by your local guide, before transferring to our eco-lodge in Birjand.

Leaving Birjand this morning we transfer to Nay Band, where we will have a short orientation of this thousand-year-old village with our expert local guide. The structure of the village has been formed in the Pelekani style (literally meaning ‘staircase’). The effect is that the roofs of buildings on a lower-level act as courtyards and streets for the buildings above them.

We will check in to our traditional family run guest house in the afternoon, the remainder of the day is yours to explore this amazing place.

This evening we will be treated to a performance by a band of traditional Khorasani folk musicians at the guest house.

Leave Nay Band early this morning and journey to the 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.

Take a walk around the village and meet some of its residents with your local guide before checking in to our cave hotel in the afternoon.

The rest of the day is yours to explore Meymand on your own.

Another early start this morning as we transfer to the desert oasis of Garmeh.

On arrival take a short walk around the idyllic village with your local guide, before some free time for lunch and to grab supplies for our overnight safari in the desert. We will spend this evening camping in the harsh Lut Desert, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.

Dinner will be served around the campfire by our local guide.

This morning visit the tiny desert villages of Mesr and Farahzad each home to a small number of families, before returning to Garmeh.

Check in to our locally owned hotel on arrival and freshen up after our night in the desert.

The remainder of the day is yours to explore the desert oasis of Garmeh.

Depart Garmeh 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.

While in Meybod we will visit the ancient icehouse and pigeon tower, before exploring the nearby mudbrick Narin Castle.

Continue on to the city of Yazd where we will check in to a traditional hotel for the next two nights.

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 has been practiced here since the ancient times of the king ‘Cyrus the Great’. Visit the Zoroastrian fire temple of Yazd and 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.

Optional experience: Yazd Culinary Tour

Today is free for you to explore the marvellous city of Yazd.

In the late afternoon we will transfer to our eco-lodge in the town of Taft.

In the morning transfer to Khakaran to meet the nomads of this area. We will spend today with the nomads learning all about their life and culture.

This evening we will camp out with the nomads and try the traditional food of the area. Look forward to stories around the campfire, amazing food and a sky filled with stars

Depart from Kahkaran early this morning and head to the village of Abade to explore the impressive Izadkhast Castle. The castle functioned as a fortified city along the Silk Road and is the second largest ‘adobe’ style building in the world.

After visiting the castle, 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.

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.

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?

Trip Map
Persian Village Explorer

Details

Duration: 30 Days

Trip style: Explorer

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: PETT

Cost: $9835.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $1555.00 AUD

Inclusions

  • 29-nights’ accommodation in hostels, eco-lodges, overnight trains, cave hotels, guesthouses, camping (no facilities 1-night), camping with nomads (1-night) and local hotels
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • Train ticket from Tehran to Mashhad in sleeper class
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Neyshabur: Guided Walk
  • Yazd: Culinary Tour
  • 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 travels to remote parts of Iran, a part of the world 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 and occasionally 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 and will travel on an overnight train from Tehran to Mashhad. 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 trip 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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