Eastern Village Explorer

A Visit to a Lost World of Undisturbed Culture

Experience a world of undisturbed culture with this trip to visit Iran’s villages each of which is more unique than the last. From Makhunik a village of ancient subterranean dwellings often called ‘Iran’s Liliput’ to the desert oasis of Garmeh, an expedition into undiscovered worlds awaits you. Meet the people of these villages lost in time and make local connections which will stay with you your entire life.

In addition to Iran’s villages, we will spend a night camping with the desert nomads of Kahkaran and also explore the hottest place on Earth the Lut Desert (although this trip is in April, so it won’t be too hot!)

Explore the Zoroastrian religion of Yazd with a visit to its fire temple and mysterious ‘Towers of Silence’ and complete your experience in beautiful Isfahan, the jewel of Iranian cities.

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 eat food cooked over the campfire by nomad hosts.


  • Visit the off the beaten path villages of Iran including Makhunik, often called Iran’s ‘Liliput’, explore the genuine desert oasis of Garmeh as well as the smaller villages of Mesr and Farahzad
  • Journey to the outskirts of Kahkaran and spend a night camping with the nomads of the region
  • Take a journey into the turquoise mines of Neyshabur, explore the terraced village of Meymand and visit Kharanaq with its bizarre shaking minaret
  • Wander some of Iran’s larger cities with stops in Yazd, home of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, Mashhad, Iran’s religious capital and finish in Isfahan the ‘half of the world’
  • 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: Isfahan

Trip style: Explorer

Max group size: 15

16 Days


$6792 AUD*

1 April 2024

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: EETI *from


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.

Your adventure through the villages of Iran comes to an end today after breakfast.

Eastern Iran Village Explorer Trip Map
Trip Map
Eastern Village Explorer


Duration: 16 Days

Trip style: Explorer

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: EETI

Cost: $6792.00 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.


  • 16-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
  • Visa invitation letter for Iran
  • 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  

* 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.

You might also like these trips

Tour to irans villages