Paradise Gardens of Persia
HORTICULTURAL HERITAGE OF IRAN
with Genevieve Jacobs
07–23 April 2019 (17 days)
Discover the Persian horticultural heritage of Iran’s delicate and beautiful gardens, whose historic importance has earnt them a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Divided always into four sections and featuring water as a central element, the Persian garden is a representation of paradise on earth, tracing its symbolism back through Islam to ancient Zoroastrian culture. The gardens are all the more impressive considering the feats of hydrological engineering which have raised such verdant sanctuaries from the dry earth of Iran.
From Tehran in the north to Isfahan and Yazd in the centre and Shiraz in the south, explore extraordinary palace and city gardens, and discover how the heritage of ancient Persia flourishes in modern Iran.
AT A GLANCE…
• Begin and end in Tehran, the dynamic political, economic and cultural capital of the country, and visit the gardens of Golestan Palace and Sa’ad Abad Palace
• Be enchanted by the poetic Shiraz, ‘the City of Nightingales and Roses’
• Discover the stunning gardens, bazaars and mosques of Isfahan, whose expansive central square inspired the proverb ‘Isfahān nesf-e Jahān’ – ‘Isfahan is half the world’
• Explore the mud-brick city of Yazd, where the Zoroastrians still tend their sacred fires, and 18th century ‘wind towers’ cool the gardens of the city
• Visit the extraordinary ancient sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae, which embody the remains of the very earliest chahar bagh (four-part Persian garden)
SATURDAY 06 APRIL 2019 / DEPART AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Tehran via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
SUN 07 APR / ARRIVE TEHRAN
Arrive in Tehran in the mid-morning and transfer to your hotel for check-in. In the afternoon, enjoy lunch and a welcome briefing and then begin your explorations of Tehran with a visit to the Treasury of National Jewels, where the most priceless collection of jewels and gems anywhere in the world is housed in the vaults of the Central Bank of Iran. Continue to the ‘Fire and Water Park’, to see the award-winning ‘Nature Bridge’ connecting together two of Tehran’s public parks. In the evening, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (L D)
MON 08 APR / TEHRAN
This morning, travel to Sa’ad Abad Palace Museum in northern Tehran. Elements of the Persian Garden can be seen here in the significance of the layout of the garden in relation to the palace windows.
Return to the city for lunch and a visit to the Golestan Palace and Museum Complex, former residence of the Qajar Dynasty shahs in the 19th and early 20th century. Visit the Marble Throne Hall and walk through the palace’s rambling gardens, featuring marble fountains, mosaics, stained-glass work and stone latticework. Dinner is at a local Persian restaurant. (BLD)
TUE 09 APR / TEHRAN
Begin the day with a visit to Iran’s National Museum, which is home to the Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum. These museums display some of the finest treasures of Persian history, ranging from stone tools to sculpture, pottery, painting and glasswork, covering a period of 9,000 years.
After lunch, continue to the Glass and Ceramics Museum, which exhibits pottery dating back to 4,000 BC, and the Carpet Museum, where the gallery’s collection features Persian carpets from various regions of Iran. (BLD)
WED 10 APR / TEHRAN – KERMAN
Check out of the hotel for a morning flight to the city of Kerman, located in south-east Iran (flight included in tour price). Upon arrival, visit the 17th century Ganj-Ali-Khan Complex, composed of a bathhouse, bazaar and caravanserai, and later visit the 14th century Friday Mosque and the 18th century Hammam-e-Vakil bathhouse, transformed into a traditional teahouse with graceful archways and tiled walls.
After lunch, discover the Harandi Gardens, part of the former residence of Kerman’s governor and hidden behind high walls, and now open as a museum of archeology and musical instruments. (BLD)
THU 11 APR / KERMAN
Embark on a full-day excursion to the surrounding sites of Kerman. First, explore the desert citadel of Rayen, thought to have foundations from the Sassanian era of 224 – 649 BC. Inhabited until 150 years ago, this preserved Mediaeval mudbrick city has survived numerous natural disasters that have destroyed similar citadels in the region. Then, stop at the shrine of renowned Iranian poet and sage Nematollah Vali, where the twin turquoise minarets, reflecting pool and courtyards have been described as the most magnificent architectural masterpiece of old Persia.
On return to Kerman, enjoy lunch and then a visit to the Shahzadeh Garden, one of the nine UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Gardens. Built in the late 1900s, and encircled by distant mountains, the cascading fountains and waterways provide engineered irrigation to the garden. (BLD)
FRI 12 APR / KERMAN – YAZD
Check out of the hotel for a day’s drive to Yazd, through regions of pistachio fields and pomegranate orchards. En route, visit the 400-year-old Zein-o-Din caravanserai situated along the ancient Silk Road, and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden of Bagh-e Pahlavanpour. Supplied by abundant water from underground channels, the gardens are over five hectares in size and flanked by plane trees. Here traditional Iranian architecture can be seen to be melding with modern 20th century design ideals. Arrive in Yazd in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. (BLD)
SAT 13 APR / YAZD
Spend a full day of sightseeing in Yazd, a city known for its unique Persian architecture and recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2017. Visit the 14th century Friday Mosque, which has the highest portal and minarets in Iran, and the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, where the fire inside has been burning for the last 1500 years.
In the afternoon, stroll through the gardens of Bagh-e Dolat Abad, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed garden built around 1750. Designed in accordance with the Persian garden principle of symmetry, the garden is planted with soaring pines and cypresses, and has the highest badgir (wind-catcher) in Iran. (BLD)
SUN 14 APR / YAZD – SHIRAZ
Check out of the hotel and travel to Shiraz. Stop en route in Abarkuh, a typical desert town and enjoy tea under the shade of a 4,000-year-old cypress tree.
Travel to Parsargadae, the remains of the palaces of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the First Persian Empire. The world’s oldest extant garden layout and the first of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden, it is believed that the world’s first formal chahar bagh (fourfold garden), laid out with water rills dividing the quartets, was created here. Although little remains today of the gardens, excavations reveal the existence of basins and channels.Continue to Shiraz and arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BLD)
MON 15 APR / SHIRAZ
Begin the day with a talk by Genevieve, then explore ‘the City of Nightingales and Roses’ with a visit to the tombs and memorial gardens of Iran’s greatest lyric poets, Hafez and Sa’adi. Then, travel to the northwest part of Shiraz for a visit to the second UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden, Bagh-e Eram, known for its cypress trees, ornate Qajar Dynasty palace and orange groves.
In the afternoon, explore the late 19th century merchant home and garden of Narenjestan, meaning ‘Place of Oranges’. The gardens, lined by date palms, are based around a central water channel and pools on either side. Later, visit the pink-tiled 19th century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, and finish the day in the heart of the city at the Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz, considered to be the finest in Iran. (BLD)
TUE 16 APR / SHIRAZ
This morning, visit Persepolis, one of the most important historical and archaeological sites of the Ancient World. Sacked by Alexander the Great in 330BC, Persepolis was rediscovered in the 1930s after being lost under the Persian sands for centuries. See the famous bas-reliefs, depicting kings and courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire.
At Naqsh-e-Rustam, see Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, the enigmatic cuboid building which is thought to have served as a Zoroastrian fire temple or the mausoleum of an unknown shah. Gaze up at the Egyptian-inspired Royal Tombs of the great Achaemenid shahs and the seven magnificent Sassanian Dynasty rock-reliefs, including a relief depicting the famous victory of Shapur I over the hapless Roman Emperor Valerian in the 3rd century AD. (BLD)
WED 17 APR / SHIRAZ
Spend the morning discovering the gardens of Shiraz. Begin at the Arg-e-Karim Khan, an 18th century citadel and garden, followed by the historical Nazar Garden. Then, wander through the Jahan Nama Garden, the oldest gardens in Shiraz. Established in the 13th century, this walled garden features the classic Persian arrangement, with four broad avenues bordered with cypresses, roses and orange trees. A rill lined with 64 fountains stretches from the central pavilion down one of the avenues while plantings of yellow, purple, red and white flowers populate geometric flower beds.
In the afternoon, visit Bagh-e Dolgosha, also known as the ‘Garden of the Heart’s Delight’. Conclude the day at the Afif-Abad Garden, which surrounds the Royal Palace of the Safavid Dynasty (1501 – 1722). Ornamental decorations in this garden show a mixture of Achaemenid, Sassanid, Zand and Qajar influences.
THU 18 APR / SHIRAZ – ISFAHAN
Check out of the hotel for a full day’s journey by road to Isfahan. En route, stop at the historical complex of Izad-Khast, a 17th century caravanserai and bridge, where the architecture style and composition of the mud fort is unique to this region. Continue to Isfahan and arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BLD)
FRI 19 APR / ISFAHAN
Begin the day with a morning talk by Genevieve, then enjoy a full-day tour of the beautiful city of Isfahan, the 17th century capital of the Safavid Dynasty shahs. Visit the Armenian quarter, the Orthodox Cathedral of Vank and the famous bridges of Shahrestan, Khajou and Sio-se-pol, which stretch serene and golden across the languid Zayandeh River.
In the afternoon, visit one of the world’s grandest squares, which inspired the proverb ‘Isfahān nesf-e Jahān’ – ‘Isfahan is half the world’, and two of the Islamic world’s greatest mosques, the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Iman Mosque. Following this, visit the Hasht Behesht pavilion, set amongst tree-lined alleys, a reflecting pool and water rills. (BLD)
SAT 20 APR / ISFAHAN
This morning, visit the magnificent Friday Mosque, and its famous Uljaytu Mihrab (Prayer Niche), an elaborate stucco work of the 14th century Il-Khanid Dynasty. While construction on the mosque first began in the 8th century, successive dynasties added to it until the 20th century, and today Isfahan’s Friday Mosque is considered to be a museum of a thousand years of Persian religious architecture in one building.
Afterwards, travel to the 17th century Chehel Sotun Palace Garden, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed Persian Garden. The pool opposite the palace reflects back the garden’s twenty-columned portico, giving rise to its name ‘The Palace of Forty Columns’. Later, delight in an exploration of Qeisarieh Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Middle East, with hundreds of stores displaying the arts and crafts for which Isfahan is famous. (BLD)
SUN 21 APR / ISFAHAN – TEHRAN
Check out of the hotel and depart for Tehran via Kashan. In Kashan, visit a fine example of a 19th century merchant residence known as Taba-Tabai House. Then, stroll through the historical UNESCO-listed garden of Fin, built in the mid-16th century. Distinctive features of the garden include the cedar trees, extravagantly-decorated pleasure pavilions, bubbling fountains and turquoise-tiled water rills. Continue to Tehran for arrival in the early evening. (BLD)
MON 22 APR / TEHRAN
Enjoy a leisurely start to the morning. In the afternoon, travel to the north of Tehran for a visit to the Niavaran Palace Complex surrounded by lush gardens and used as a summer home for various Shahs of the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties from the late 18th to the late 20th century. Continue to the Jamshidieh Park at the base of the Kolakchal Mountain. Known as the Stone Garden, the garden’s design is centred around the park’s cascading waterfall and pond, with channels of water flowing parallel to the garden paths to the lower reaches of the park. A favourite retreat amongst Iranian locals, the park offers panoramic views of the city below. Tonight, celebrate the conclusion on the tour with a special farewell dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (BD)
TUE 23 APR / DEPART TEHRAN
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Doha. Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at the airport. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)