Beautiful Tile work, Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Itinerary: Iran, Armenia & Georgia - Exploring the Silk Road

16 September to 11 October 2020

Our Journey Along the Great Silk Road from Xian to Khiva which was so successful last year, continues westwards to Persia, Armenia and Georgia in 2020. Conjure images of turquoise domes, caravans laden with priceless carpets, vaulted trading domes; of poets, rose gardens and nightingales and evoke Persia. The very names; Shiraz, Isfahan, Persepolis, breathe magic. Our Journey will bring the histories vividly to life, as we encounter one of the world’s most potent and creative civilizations and Asia’s greatest sights. You’ll encounter deserts punctuated with historic oases, rugged mountain ranges and opportunities to witness the magnificent architecture, atmospheric teahouses, local life of the bustling bazaars, or indulge your interests in ancient streetscapes, sublime gardens and courtyards festooned with colourful carpets, textiles, pottery and handicrafts. Our past Iran travellers speak of an extraordinary country, where visitors are welcomed with open arms by friendly people who have redefined the word ‘hospitality’.

On this journey you will:

• Spend three nights in fabled Shiraz, city of roses, poets and nightingales
• Gaze in awe at ancient Persepolis, Naqsh-i-Rustam and Pasargadae
• Explore desert caravansaries and mud brick fortresses
• See traditional carpet making in ancient Yazd, Kashan and Abyaneh
• Experience ancient Zoroastrian Fire Temples and Towers of Silence
• Admire the beauties of the Royal City of Isfahan: ‘half the world’
• Shop for carpets, metalware, pottery and decorated tiles in covered bazaars
• Enjoy magnificent gardens and pleasure pavilions
• Be dazzled by the Museum of Jewels possessed by the Shahs of Persia
• Sip wine from earthenware pots in the world’s oldest vineyards in Georgia
• Visit the world’s most spectacularly situated 14th century Gergeti Holy Trinity Church
• Uncover medieval history at the Haghpat and Sanahin monastic complexes
• Trace Joanna Lumley’s journey through the historic heart of Tbilisi’s old town

This Journey may be taken just in Iran, returning from Tehran on 1 October 2020, or Georgia & Armenia as a separate Journey commencing on 26 September 2020 or as a combined journey Iran, Georgia & Armenia, commencing 16 September 2020.

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. 'Exploring the Silk Road' is a tour for everyone wanting to experience Iran, Georgia & Armenia, but also including destinations on roads less travelled and exploring new horizons rarely encountered.

PLEASE NOTE: Hotels are 'indicative' at this stage and subject to change. They will be confirmed closer to departure.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and craftspeople, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies.

Meals:

Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner).

Traditional Armenian pita bread (lavash) with red cherries during Mulberry festival in Karahunj village, Armenia

Itinerary:

Day 1: 16 September 2020, Australia to Dubai or Doha

Depart your capital city today to begin our journey along the Western Silk Route.

Day 2: 17 September 2020, Dubai or Doha to Shiraz

Arrive in Shiraz this morning. You will be met at the airport and transferred to Shiraz to check in to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure to recover from the long flight or explore the local environs.

>Overnight stay: Hotel Elysee, Aryobarzan or similar

Day 3: 18 September 2020, Shiraz, B/L/Welcome Dinner

Shiraz is a beautiful city conjuring up vibrant images of ancient Persia. From the outside, the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque seems like a traditional house of worship -- but it's hiding a gorgeously colourful secret. Not only are its stained-glass windows richly coloured, but its walls feature a beautiful and vibrantly colourful array of painted geometric tiles. The stained-glass windows capture the morning light and create a glorious play of colours on the floor of the mosque, earning it the name of the "Pink Mosque" and inviting photographers to capture its beauty.

Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

You’ll be in awe of the Karim Khan Castle, a citadel resembling a medieval fortress before visiting the Narenjestan Palace and Gardens. Taking its name from a species of Persian orange found growing across the garden amongst tulips and date palms, the palace was built in the late 19th Century by a wealthy merchant family - a time in which upper classes of the country experimented with blending Persian decorative traditions such as mosaic mirrored tiles with ancient Zoroastrian iconography, and Victorian era embellishments. We will visit the gardens around the tomb of Hafez, the great Persian poet. Poetry is part of the Persian soul and reveals a sharp contrast to the widespread view of Iran as a place of fundamentalism, utilitarianism and nationalism.

Persian garden of Eram, Shiraz, Iran

Overnight stay: Elysee, Aryobarzan or similar

Day 4: 19 September 2020, Shiraz - Persepolis - Shiraz, B/L

If you’re looking for a destination that exudes majesty and opulence, Persepolis almost appears to define these terms. It was a palatial complex, built to be the formidable front of the Achaemenid Empire, and even in ruins it still seems to uphold these qualities. We explore the monumental stairways, spectacular archways and exquisite relief carvings which leaves you in no doubt that this was the centre of the world. Construction of Persepolis began under Darius I in 516 BC and continued under Xerxes and successive Achaemenid kings until partially destroyed by Alexander the Great in 300 BC. The sculpture is particularly impressive, especially the low reliefs depicting the 26 nationalities of the empire. It remains as one of the most spectacular sites of the ancient world.

Tachara Palace of Darius, Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Main gate of Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Embossed bas relief carvings of servants bringing gifts to the king, Tachara Palace or Palace of Darius, Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Overnight stay: Elysee, Aryobarzan or similar

Day 5: 20 September 2020, Shiraz - Yazd, B/L

Leave the delights of Shiraz behind this morning and drive to the tombs of four Achaemenid kings which were cut high up in the cliff at Naqsh-i-Rustam. Reliefs of Sassanian kings and their captive Roman emperors were added below 500 years later. Nestled in the very heart of Persia’s segment of the ancient Silk Road, Izadkhast caravanserai is an important station of the fabled Silk Road trade route and comprises a castle fortress, a caravanserai and a Safavid-era bridge. Mixed in architectural styles and steeped in history and adventurous tales, Izadkhast complex is utterly fascinating and able to whirl you back in the Asian middle ages, when Persia lived its cultural heyday under the Safavid reign. On a remote plateau ringed by hills, Pasargadae was built by Cyrus the Great (d. 529 BC), the first of the Achaemenid emperors. His ziggurat-like tomb and remains of palaces survive. We continue to the ancient desert city of Yazd, unique for its intriguing architecture.

Naqsh-i Rustam, Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Izadkhvast Caravanserai, Iran
Image Credit: Bernard Gagnon [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Overnight stay: Dad, Fahadan, Mehr or similar

Day 6: 21 September 2020, Yazd, B/L

The ancient desert city of Yazd is a perfect example of adaption to the environment. You'll be in awe of its winding lanes, blue-tiled domes, soaring minarets and covered bazaars. You'll also find superb courtyard homes with badgirs or wind-catching towers and networks of famous qanats or underground irrigation and water supply channels.

Blue tiled mosque dome, Yazd, Iran

Jameh Mosque, Yazd, Iran
Image Credit: Fars News Agency [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
Badgirs and mosques, Yazd, Iran

Yazd has one of the largest surviving Zoroastrian communities in Iran; two funerary 'Towers of Silence' rise on hillocks on the edge of the city, and there is a fire temple in the centre. Of the Islamic architecture, the Jameh Mosque is spectacularly clad in 14th-century tile mosaics. See the beautiful Dolatabad Garden and pavilion. Dolatabad is among the Persian gardens that have just been registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list as one of the masterpieces of traditional garden design.

Tower of Silence, Yazd, Iran

Jameh Mosque with spectacular 14th-century tile mosaics, Yazd, Iran

Overnight stay: Dad, Fahadan, Mehr or similar

Day 7: 22 September 2020, Yazd - Isfahan, B/L

Today we drive 270km across the desert to Isfahan. En-route we stop at the charming desert town of Na’in, a pre-Islamic town more than 2000 years old. Here we visit the 10th century Friday Mosque and the 17th Century traditional Pirnia House. After strolling through the old part of the town, we continue our drive to the mystical city of Isfahan, arriving late afternoon.

Overnight stay: Safavi, Safir or similar

Day 8: 23 September 2020, Isfahan, B/L

If you visited Samarkand, you will understand how in 1889 Lord Curzon declared the Registan as being ‘the noblest public square in the world.’ Perhaps he had not seen the magnificent Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square which would most certainly rival it. ‘Isfahan is half the world’ and this collection of majestic buildings is arguably the finest of the Islamic world. Shah Abass I, the greatest of the Safavid kings, chose Isfahan as capital in 1598. He began the transformation of the city into one of the loveliest in the world. We explore the immense Imam Square, some 500m long and formed of a two-storey arcade and the façades of three architectural masterpieces: the Ali Qapu Pavilion, a palace with loggia and well-preserved interiors; the Imam Mosque, magnificent in scale and detail; and the private Shaikh Lutfollah Mosque with a near perfect dome and unsurpassed tile work. At one end of the square you will visit the Chehel Sotoun. This palace is entered via the elegant talar terrace that perfectly bridges the transition between the Persian love of gardens and interior splendour. Its 20 slender, ribbed wooden pillars rise to a superb wooden ceiling with crossbeams and exquisite inlay work. Chehel Sotoun means ‘40 pillars’ – the number reflected in the long pool in front of the palace. The palace’s garden, Bagh-e Chehel Sotun, is an excellent example of the classic Persian Garden form and was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, Isfahan, Iran

Imam Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, Isfahan, Iran

Magnificent tiled dome, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Impressive tile work, Shah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan, Iran
Image Credit: Hadi eskandari [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Located in the centre of the Garden of Nightingales the Hasht Behesht, 'Eight Paradises' and refers to a Timurid palace building type consisting of two stories of four corner rooms around a central domed space. Of more than forty mansions which existed in Isfahan during the rule of Safavids, this is the only one left today.

Hasht Behesht Palace, Isfahan, Iran

Overnight stay: Safavi, Safir or similar

Day 9: 24 September 2020, Isfahan, B/L

Today there is plenty to see as we visit the Zayandeh River, straddled by two beautiful 17th-century bridges, and cross to the Armenian Quarter. This quarter of Isfahan dates from the time of Shah Abbas I, who transported a colony of Christians from the town of Jolfa. Abbas sought their skills as merchants, entrepreneurs and artists and he ensured that their religious freedom was respected. At one time over 42,000 Armenian Christians lived here. The Vank Cathedral interior is covered in high quality paintings of the 1660s, stylistically a fascinating western-Persian hybrid. Set in a garden a few minutes away, is the exquisite Chehel Sotun pleasure pavilion which has very fine 17th-century figurative wall paintings.

Khaju-Bridge after sunset, Isfahan, Iran

See the Sio-Seh bridge, ‘The bridge of thirty-three spans’, the most famous and longest bridge in Isfahan (nearly 300m). It is supported by a series of 33 arches and was commissioned in 1602 by Sha Abbas 1. Located in the historic centre of Isfahan, the Masjed-e-Jame (Friday Mosque) is a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries.

Jameh or Friday Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Overnight stay: Safavi, Safir or similar

Day 10: 25 September 2020, Isfahan - Kashan, B/L

This morning we head to Abyaneh, the ancient village known for its ancient charm. Enjoy a walk and wander through the narrow lanes of this mountain village. Observe locals in traditional dress and learn more about the simple way of life in this scenic spot. Time permitting a stop may be made at Natanz. The cobalt blue and turquoise façade of the Friday Mosque is one of the most exquisite sights in Iran.

Panorama of Mountain Village Abyaneh, Iran
Image Credit: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Old Lady in Traditional Dress, Abyaneh, Iran

Overnight stay: Noghli, Raheb or similar

Day 11: 26 September 2020, Kashan, B/L

Kashan was an important centre producing high-quality pottery and tiles since ancient times. In modern Persian, the word for a tile (kashi) comes from the name of the town. Visit Kashan’s Historical Houses, Agha Bozorg Mosque, and the magnificent Fin Garden. Kashan has an outstanding Seljuk mosque and several large and richly embellished 19th-century courtyard mansions; we visit two, Tabatabiyeh House and Borujerdiyeh House.

Tile from a Qur'anic frieze, ca. 1300-1310 AD, Kashan, Iran
Image Credit: Daderot [Public domain]
Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kashan, Iran

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran
Image Credit: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Travellers for Armenia and Georgia only depart Australia today.

Overnight stay: Noghli, Raheb or similar

Day 12: 27 September 2020, Kashan - Tehran, B/L

After breakfast we begin our drive to Tehran, sighting on the way Iran’s controversial nuclear energy plant which is ringed by anti-aircraft batteries. As the motorway ends, we see the spectacular shrine to Ayatollah Khomeini and soon after we enter the modern metropolis of Tehran.

Travellers for Armenia and Georgia only arrive in Tehran today.

Overnight stay: Evin, Asare, or similar

Day 13: 28 September 2020, Tehran, B/L

Your discovery of the nation’s capital begins with the Saadabad Palace built by the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran. The complex was first inhabited by Qajar monarchs and the royal family in the 19th century. After an expansion of the compounds, Reza Shah lived there in the 1920s, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (the last Shah) moved there in the 1970s.

Displayed in vaults of the National Bank, the Crown Jewells Museum is an accumulation of gems and the art of the goldsmith without rival. The Imperial Crown Jewells of Iran are the largest set of jewels on public display in the world. They have been exhibited at the Central Bank of Iran since they were transferred by the first Pahlavi Shah to public ownership but are so valuable that government representatives must be present for the duration of the museum’s opening times. They have been used as collateral to support the country’s monetary system.

Overnight stay: Evin, Asare, or similar

Day 14: 29 September 2020, Tehran, B/L

No visitor to Iran should miss the magnificent Carpet Museum which displays the dazzling beauty and excellent quality of Persian carpets. Major examples of historic Persian carpet art will give you a context if you would like to take home the ultimate memory of this fabled land. See Tribal, village, and city styles of carpet design and manufacture.

Antique Isfahan Enteshari, Origin Isfahan, Iran
Image Credit: Arash Fatemi, Treasure Gallery Inc [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

On to the bustling Tajrish Bazaar which boasts a vibrant central section selling fresh fruit and vegetables as well as traditional Iranian sweets. The other alleyways of the bazaar peddle everyday items alongside traditional crafts, all backing on to the picturesque Imamazadeh Saleh Shrine.

Grand Bazaar, Tehran, Iran

The Qajar period surges to a crescendo of enrichment at the Golestan Palace, which also houses fine carpets and objets d’art.

Decorated ceramics, Bazaar Isfahan, Iran

Overnight stay: Evin, Asare, or similar

Day 15: 30 September 2020, Tehran fly to Tabriz, B/L

Check out from the hotel this morning and continue your discovery of Iran’s treasures. The archaeological section of the Iran Bastan (National Museum) of Iran is of international importance and includes items from places visited on the tour. Transfer to the airport and fly to Tabriz.

Travellers for Iran Journey only stay overnight in Tehran

Overnight stay: Gostaresh or similar

Day 16: 1 October 2020, Tabriz , B/L

After breakfast we have a morning tour of Tabriz including the magnificent, labyrinthine covered bazaar. Covering some 7 sq km with 24 separate caravanserais and 22 impressive timches (domed halls), construction began over a millennium ago, though much of the fine brick vaulting is 15th century. There are several carpet sections, spice shops, gold and jewellery stalls. Afternoon free.

Travellers for Iran Journey only fly home from Tehran today

Overnight stay: Gostaresh or similar

Day 17: 2 October 2020, Jolfi – Goris, B/D

This morning we depart for the drive to the Iranian/Armenian border where we will complete formalities. Soon after crossing the border we start to climb into the Shikahogh Nature Reserve. Skirting the Tsav River we continue onto the town of Meghri and enter beautiful mountain forests until we reach the town of Goris.

Panoramic view of Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral surrounded by trees in blossom, Akdamr Adasi, Lake Van, Gevas, Eastern Turkey

Overnight stay: Hotel Mirhav or similar

Day 18: 3 October 2020, Goris - Tatev - Karahunj - Tanahat - Yeghegnadzor, B/L/D

After breakfast, visit the troglodyte village of Khndzoresk before driving to Tatev. Perched on a natural fortress of rock on the edge of the Vorotan River, the location of Tatev monastery is simply jaw-dropping. We take the longest aerial tramway in the world, 7.5km to the monastery. In medieval times, the monastery was one of the most famous universities of the East for human sciences, art and scientific disciplines.

Troglodyte village, Khndzoresk, Armenia
Image Credit: Photo: Marcin Konsek / Wikimedia Commons
Tatev Monastery, Armenia
Image Credit: Alexander Naumov [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

After lunch, visit the prehistoric astronomical observatory of Karahunj, the "Armenian Stonehenge" to admire the very ancient menhirs, weighing a few tons each. Continue to towards the villages of Gladzor and Vernashen to visit the monastery of Tanahat, isolated in the hills, in its poignant architectural perfection. Continue to Yeghegnadzor for dinner and overnight.

Overnight stay: Hotel Arpa or similar

Day 19: 4 October 2020, Yeghegnadzor - Noravank - Khor Virap - Yerevan, B/L/D

Ancient accounts have long acknowledged Armenia as a cradle of winemaking. The eighth-century BC kings of Urartu referred to ancient Armenia as “the land of the vineyards” and Assyrian armies marvelled at its vast quantities of fruit trees and vines. According to Genesis, it is in the mountains of Ararat that Noah plants the first vineyard and makes wine. We will see the process at Areni Village.

Old wine barrels, casks and bottles in wine-cellar

Areni Wine, Areni, Armenia
Image Credit: Armineaghayan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Today’s Journey continues to Noravank Monastery, where you will marvel at masterpieces of ancient Armenian stonemasonry.

After our visit here we climb onto a high plateau before reaching the iconic location of Khor Virap Monastery. Situated on a hillock, and surrounded by pastures and vineyards, the monastery lies at the foot of the Biblical Mount Ararat. The vista of the snow-capped mountain and the monastery is simply awe-inspiring. We continue to the nearby Armenian capital, Yerevan.

Sunrise over Ararat with Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia

Overnight stay: Hotel Silk Road or similar

Day 20: 5 October 2020, Yerevan - Echmiadzin - Zvartnots - Yerevan, B/L

After breakfast departure for Echmiadzin (Descent of the Only Begotten) and visit the Holy Seat of the Armenian Christians and residence of the Catholicos, the highest religious authority. Here in AD301 Grigor Lusavorich saw a beam of light fall to the earth in a divine vision. He built the Mother Church of Armenia on the site and today it is a place of unparalleled importance as the birthplace of Christianity. On to the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, the “most precious and the most beautiful of Armenia”.

Ruins of the Temple of Zvartnots with Mount Ararat in background, Yerevan, Armenia

In the afternoon return to Yerevan to visit the house and museum of Martiros Saryan, one of the most famous and admired Armenian painters, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. ‘Poet of landscape and colour’, Saryan is considered the Armenian impressionist and embodies the artistic symbols of Armenia itself.

Day 21: 6 October 2020, Yerevan city tour, B/L

Republic Square, Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, Armenia

This morning we visit the Matenadaran Museum, a repository of one of the richest manuscript collections in the world. Indeed, Matenadaran is the pride of Armenian culture, the world's largest storage of ancient manuscripts with more than 17 thousand holdings and more than 100 thousand ancient archival documents. Along with 13 thousand Armenian manuscripts there are more than 2 thousand manuscripts in Russian, Hebrew, Latin, Arabian, Syrian, Greek, Japanese, and Persian.

Thence to the Armenian Genocide Museum, a memorial dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in the first genocide of the 20th century at the hands of the Turkish government. The austere outlines convey the spirit of the nation that survived a ruthless campaign of extermination.

After lunch the History Museum of Armenia represents an integral picture of history and culture from one million years ago until today. You will see an enormous and exceptional collection of bronze artefacts from the 3rd - 2nd millennia BC. The Museum also displays the sumptuous historical-cultural heritage of Urartu, the powerful Armenian state in the Ancient Near East; magnificent cuneiform inscriptions, bronze statuettes, wall-paintings, ceramics, arms and weapons, unique specimens of gold, silver and bone.

Day 22: 7 October 2020, Yerevan - Geghard - Garni - Sevanavank - Dilijan, B/L/D

After breakfast visit the "Cascade", a monumental staircase interspersed with statues, flowerbeds, sculptures, ‘artistic installations’ and fountains. Continue to the World Heritage Monastery of Geghard, named after the lance said to have pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion which was enshrined here for five centuries.

Geghardavank or Geghard monastery, Orthodox Christian monastery, Kotayk Province, Armenia

Visit Garni, an Hellenic temple built in the 1st century which was dedicated to the heathen sun god, Mitra. It became a summer house for Armenian royalty after the Christian conversion.

Garni, Armenia

Town of Dilijan, little Switzerland of Armenia

We continue to Lake Sevan, the “Pearl of Armenia”, which is surrounded by beautiful villages and picturesque mountains. The Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Transcaucasia and, at more than 2000 metres above sea level, one of the highest in the world. We also visit the important and historic Sevanavank Monastery, recently restored to its former splendour. Enjoy breathtaking views from the religious complex. Travel through verdant forests to Overnight Dilijan.

Lake Sevan, the “Pearl of Armenia”, Armenia
Image Credit: Vigen Hakhverdyan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Overnight stay: Hotel TBA

Day 23: 8 October 2020, Dilijan - Lori Berd - Sanahin - Haghpat - Tbilisi, B/L/D

Our full day visiting the most beautiful and interesting monasteries of Armenia begins with a short hike around Lori Berd fortress and nearby canyon. Encounter Sanahin Monastery, (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), sheltering the church of St. Amenaprkitch and the church of St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), dating back to 951, one of the most vital cultural and religious centres of Armenia. Its construction is closely associated with the glory of the royal family of the Bagratuni and represents an extraordinary and superb example of medieval Armenian architecture. The oldest structure of the monastery, the Church of the Holy Cross, was built by Queen Khosrvanush in 977-991.

After customs formalities at the border, continue to Tbilisi.

Interior of Haghpat Monastery, (UNESCO World Heritage), Armenia
Image Credit: Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Overnight stay: Hotel Metekhi Line or similar

Day 24: 9 October 2020, Tbilisi - Mtskheta - Gori - Uplistsikhe - Tbilisi, B/L/D

Panorama of the old town, located on Sololaki hill, crowned with brightly illuminated Narikala fortress, on Kura river, Tbilisi, Georgia

Colorful traditional houses with wooden carved balconies, Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Drive to Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia and "holy city", as it hosts the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox, Apostolic, Autocephalic Church, one of the oldest in the world, presided over by the Patriarch who bears the title of ‘Catholicos’.

Here are many very ancient buildings, which in 1994 became UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among these is the Cathedral of Svetiskhoveli (from the 11th century), where tradition has it that the tunic of Christ is buried; the Monastery of Jvari (VI century), located high on the hill, and from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city and the rivers that surround it. We continue towards Gori, an ancient city carved into the rock on a high rocky shore of the Mtkvari river. Gori’s most famous attraction is the "Josif Stalin Museum" as he was born here in 1878. Visit Uplistsikhe (literally "the Fortress of the Lord"), one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Return to Tbilisi, Farewell Dinner and overnight.

Day 25: 10 October 2020, B

Interior of Haghpat Monastery, (UNESCO World Heritage), Armenia

Follow in the footsteps of Joanna Lumley on a walking tour of the delightful Old Town, a labyrinth of winding streets and twisting alleys, a fusion of Asian and European influences, with doorways leading to hidden courtyards and buildings adorned with picturesque sagging balconies and carved pillars. Walking through these winding streets evokes a flavour of old Persia.

Transfer to the airport of Tbilisi and take the flight for your onward journey.

Day 26: 11 October 2020, Arrive in Australia

Time to reflect in flight on your exploration of the Silk Road which continued westward to Venice and beyond. It shaped the modern world bringing silks, porcelain, spices, gunpowder, precious carpets and much more to the West. You have travelled through a breathtaking array of fabulous landscapes, meeting peoples and seeing places in the footsteps of merchants, conquerors, pilgrims and kings.

PRICING:

Iran, Armenia & Georgia: 16 September to 11 October 2020

Price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 6975.00
Single Supplement: AUD 875.00

Iran only: 16 September to 1 October 2020

Price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 5400.00
Single Supplement: AUD 675.00

Armenia & Georgia only: 26 September to 11 October 2020

Price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 2485.00
Single Supplement: AUD 250.00 (includes 3 nights in Tehran and full sightseeing program

Airfare: From Australia TBA when available for booking

COST INCLUSIONS:

• Fully escorted from Australia subject to 10 participants
• Services of an English-speaking local guide throughout each country
• Accommodation in double/twin share occupancy in quality hotels
• Sightseeing in modern air-conditioned private vehicles (Mercedes Sprinter or Deluxe coach)
• Meals as indicated in the itinerary
• Visa support codes
• Domestic flight in Iran
• Entrance fees to places mentioned in the program
• Border crossing assistance

COST EXCLUSIONS:

• Air Fares from your capital city
• Tips (approx. USD 200 per person) to be disbursed by the tour leader
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
• Visa costs
• Meals where not specified in the itinerary
• Personal expenditure such as drinks with meals

FLIGHTS:

Flights from Australia and return are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options when they are available to book, and ask that you make your own flight reservation. We work in partnership with helloworld Westfield Marion to provide tickets but you can use your preferred provider.

Sharon Evans
Owner/Manager
Helloworld, Marion Westfield Mall, Level 2
Westfield Marion
Oaklands Park SA 5046
Telephone: +61 (08) 8358 1949
Fax: +61 (08) 8358 1960
E-mail: Sharon

HOW STRENUOUS:

• It’s not always possible to find accommodation between some of the more distant towns in Iran. Consequently, there are some long travel days on this Journey. Whilst tiring, this is a great opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers and enjoy the passing scenery.
• Armenia and Georgia are two of the oldest Christian countries on earth which means that the greatest sights focus on churches and monasteries of which locals are extremely proud. If you find these a bit repetitive, you are always welcome to sit out an included sight and explore on your own.
• On some days, there is a lot of walking between sights and around towns and cities. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes with good support. Pam will let you know in advance when significant walking is required.
• Our hotels are pending confirmation but are good quality 3-4 star with modern western facilitates. Where possible they are ‘heritage’ or ‘traditional’ in style and well located in the towns.
• Many of Zen ‘Journeyists’ are solo travellers, and with our small groups you may travel solo ‘but not alone’. Our tour directors will see to your every need. They are experts in understanding and valuing the uniqueness of individuals within a group situation. You will always have someone to take a photo of you…and the new friends you will have made.
• Please note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and craftspeople, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies.

TRAVEL ADVICE:

Before booking, please refer to the DFAT website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

Please visit http://www.smartraveller.gov.au or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government travel advice.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL:

As we take more travellers to more remote parts of the world, we recognize our obligation to plan and operate our Journeys in a responsible and sustainable fashion. We view this as an environmental, cultural, and social necessity. Above all, we are committed to the well-being of the communities, which are our hosts, the cultural and natural environment that we are there to experience. We also believe that by following these policies we can provide you with more rewarding and interesting experiences.

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline.

CANCELLATION POLICY:

On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to the Fare conditions on the fare class you have purchased

On land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-14 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 14-10 Days: 90 % of land cost
• Within 10 days-No show: 100% of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347

FINAL PAYMENT & CLOSE OF BOOKING: 14 JULY 2020

Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

 
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