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Iran: Women's Expedition


Discover culture and camaraderie in Iran through the lives of the women who live there on a female-only expedition. Spend 12 days exploring with a local female leader and a group of female travellers and partake in a range of experiences otherwise off limits to mixed gender groups. Step inside the hidden world of an Iranian beauty salon, wander through a women-only park, and travel by public transport in the women-only carriage of the metro, local buses and an overnight train. Experience rural nomadic life with Qashqai people, meet female entrepreneurs and hear secret recipes from those in the know. Learn from inspiring Iranian women – young and old, religious and secular, conservative and liberal.

12 days, from

$2,120

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: HPSF
Style: Original
Theme: Women's Expedition
Print itinerary

Details

Countries Visited:  Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Accommodation: Hotel (10 nights), Homestay (1 night)
Transportation: Metro , Train , Private Vehicle
Meals: 5 dinners, 11 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • See a different side of Iran as you travel with an all-women group and a local female leader, allowing you to forge connections with the women who call this country home.

  • Enjoy a picnic in one of Iran’s women’s-only parks, one of the few places women can enjoy the sunshine without a hijab.

  • Immerse yourself in rural nomadic life on a beautifully remote homestay with the Qashqai people. Enjoy a meal, sing songs, try on the local dress, and give bread-baking a go.

  • Step inside the fascinating hidden world of an Iranian beauty salon. You’ll see that these are oases for many local women, providing a safe space for them to relax and (literally) let their hair down.

  • Experience the wondrous remains of the ancient capital of Persepolis – the scale and grandeur will leave you in no doubt that this was once the centre of the known world.

  • Take part in a hands-on cooking class where your local hosts will share age-old secret recipes and techniques before you feast on the fruits of your labour.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Tehran

Salam! Welcome to Iran. You will be met on arrival at Tehran International Airport and transferred to your hotel for an important welcome meeting at 6pm, where you will meet your female leader and fellow travellers joining you on this adventure. Many people have a preconceived idea on the appearance of Iranian women; however, once you start exploring the country, you’ll notice a diverse range of clothing, facial coverings and styles on display. Enjoy your first taste of Iranian cuisine as you get to know your new travel companions over an included welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Tehran

Head out on a leader-led orientation walk this morning, checking out the Imam Khomeini Mosque and the labyrinthine maze of the Grand Bazaar. A real highlight of this morning is gazing at the 182-carat pink diamond of Darya-ye-Noor and the sparkling 26,733 jewels of the Naderi Throne at the Treasury of National Jewels. Afterwards, pass by a small fashion boutique where you can check out the various styles, colours and patterns on offer and learn the different techniques of tying a headscarf. For dinner this evening you’ll take a look behind closed doors as you’re invited into a local home for dinner with the family’s women. Enjoy the famously warm Iranian hospitality as you tuck into a tasty meal and chat to the ladies about their daily lives.

Day 3: Yazd

Say goodbye to Tehran as you board a late morning train bound for Yazd (approximately 5–6 hours). Do not fear – the train is very comfortable and there will be time to rest on your way, if you can keep your eyes off the magic desert landscapes! Arrive in the early evening and get exploring with your leader, perhaps stopping off for a sweet snack as you walk – Yazd is well-known for its range of confectionery featuring plenty of nuts, rosewater and flaky pastry. Continue to the Jameh Mosque, notable for its fine mosaics and beautiful exterior. Visit the Amir Chakmaq complex, then walk through the narrow kuches (lanes) past simple courtyards and the ornate doors of local mud brick buildings. Explore the local bazaar with your leader, then the rest of the evening is free.

Day 4: Yazd

Start your day with an exploration of Zoroastrian culture, visiting the Fire Temple and the Tower of Silence. Zoroastrianism, dating back over 4000 years, was the state religion of Iran before the arrival of Islam. The fire in the Atashkadeh Fire Temple is said to have been continuously burning since AD470, while the Tower of Silence provides fascinating insight into Zoroastrian burial techniques. Then, pay a visit to Yazd’s celebrated sweet shop, where confectionary is made with traditional techniques passed down through generations. Once you’ve had your sugar fix, make the short journey to the village of Taft where you’ll be welcomed into the home of a Zoroastrian family for a homecooked lunch. After learning about the history of Zoroastrianism this morning, you’ll now have the special opportunity to speak to your hosts about their religion, culture and customs while learning how they prepare a traditional meal.

Day 5: Shiraz

After breakfast, get on the road and head towards Shiraz (approximately 5.5 hours). An hour into the journey, stop by the town of Abarkooh in the Zagros Mountains to explore its historic sights, including an ancient ice house, the 11th-century Gonbad Ali Dome, the Qajar-era mansion Khan-e Aghazadeh and a 4000-year-old cypress tree. Continue to the historic village of Aqda where you’ll have the chance to stretch your legs as you explore its buildings, many of which have stood for almost a thousand years. Get back on the road, stopping one more time to grab some lunch, then arrive in Shiraz mid-afternoon. After checking in to your hotel, head out with your leader to get your bearings, then make a very special visit to the Aramgah-e Shah-e Cheragh, one of the holiest sites in Shiraz. This glittering mosque and funerary monument is a popular pilgrimage site and impresses with its beauty and grandeur. Ladies will need to wear a Chador for visiting the shrine (provided). Tonight, perhaps ask your leader for tips on where to pick up the best street food.

Day 6: Shiraz

This morning, take to the streets on a walking tour and discover the alleys and lanes of the popular Vakil Bazaar, a great spot to sit and chat and enjoy a glass of orange blossom tea. Then, pop into a local bakery where you can pick up some lunch, which you’ll enjoy during a visit to one of the female-only parks that are popping up to allow women to exercise, picnic or just enjoy the sun without a hijab. After lunch, head out to the vast complex of Bagh-e Eram, known as the Garden of Paradise, where you’ll have the chance to wander through its beautifully manicured gardens. Then, pay a visit to the ornately decorated tomb dedicated to the poet Saadi, and the tomb built to commemorate the poet Hafez. Later in the day, spend time with some very talented local women at a carpet weaving workshop to learn about their craft.

Day 7: Shiraz

Today make the short journey to Persepolis (approximately 1 hour). Once the centre of the Achaemenid Empire and one of the great cities of the ancient world, Persepolis took more than 150 years to build. Designed as a centre for events of the kings and their empire, its grandiosity and architectural marvel is still on show today. Afterwards, head back to Shiraz and step inside the hidden world of an Iranian hair salon. The hijab comes off, the conversation is lively, and the music is blaring. Treat yourself to a manicure, or perhaps a wash and blow wave. In post-revolution Iran, opening a beauty salon was one of the most conventional ways for Iranian women to have financial independence. Often the basement of a building, or an extra room in the house was used, and off limits to men, these salons have become oases for many. In the evening, take part in a hands-on cooking class where a local female cook will teach you how to create some of the most delectable Persian dishes. This class may include tahchin (Iranian savoury rice cake), morasa polo (jewelled rice), mirza qasemi (grilled eggplant), and the Iranian dessert of Sholeh Zard (saffron rice pudding). Take in the flavours and aromas of these delicious meals as the wafts fill the kitchen, then set the table and gather for a huge Persian feast as you chat and exchange stories.

Day 8: Bishapur

Wake early and visit the colourfully decorated Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, where sunlight streaming through stained glass windows fills the interior with kaleidoscopic colours. Then depart for Bishapur – located 130 kilometres from Shiraz, Bishapur was once the centre of one of the five ancient provinces of Fars. Take a guided tour of the fortified structures and palaces, dating back to the earliest and latest times of the Sassanian Empire, which stretched across the region from 224 to 658 CE. This archaeological landscape was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2018. Bishapur has also acted as the summer home of migrating nomadic tribes over the centuries, and although most nomads are more settled in villages nowadays, many of the customs and traditions live on. Spend the evening in Tang-e-Chogan, a simple village of settled Qashqai nomads where you can discover traditional costumes and share a meal, some stories, a song or two and perhaps even learn how to make local bread with your host.

Day 9: Esfahan

Today is a long travel day (approximately 6 hours) but will be broken up with some stops along the way. You’ll get to enjoy the natural surroundings and perhaps stop off for a picnic lunch, before cruising into Esfahan in the late afternoon. Simply put, Esfahan is one of the finest places in the Islamic world. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is renowned for. There's also an enormous bazaar – an ideal place to shop for exquisite Persian carpets, or you can relax by the tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces around town. This evening, take a stroll down to the Zayandeh River and have a look at its historic bridges, which appear to have been lifted straight out of a fairy tale. At several of the bridges, local people gather to talk, drink tea and sing beautiful folk songs. It's a magical place to while away some time, and one of the most atmospheric places in all of Iran.

Day 10: Esfahan

Embark on a half-day tour of the city, visiting the World Heritage-listed Imam (or Naqsh-e Jahan) Square. Here, your guide will you give you an insight into life under Persia's greatest ruler, Shah Abbas. Surrounding the square are several grand buildings, such as the Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Qeysarieh Portal and the majestic Imam Mosque. Located in the west of Imam Square, the Ali Qapu Palace covers six floors and was originally built as the main palace of Shah Abbas. In the Armenian quarter of the city, visit the intricately decorated Vank Cathedral and learn its story. This afternoon, explore the bazaar with its wonderful scents and spices, musical merchants' cries and, of course, thousands of locals bargaining for their goods. Walk the covered lanes and browse for fabrics, spices, jewellery and other treasures. Stop by the Music Museum – a privately-run space showcasing over 300 traditional Iranian musical instruments.

Day 11: Tehran

This morning, drive around 2 hours to Kashan, a merchant town known for its high-quality ceramics, silks, carpets and fine houses. On arrival, pay a visit to the Tabatabaei Historical House, built in 1880 for a wealthy local family. Continue to Fin Garden, the oldest surviving garden in Iran – be sure to ask your leader about the assassination plot that unfolded here. After some time exploring these beautiful and tranquil sites, hit the road and make the drive back to Tehran (approximately 2 hours). Arrive in the evening and join your fellow travellers and leader for a final dinner, the perfect chance to reminisce on all you’ve seen and done on your journey.

Day 12: Tehran

With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policies (usually 12 pm). An airport transfer back to Tehran airport is included so please get in touch at least 14 days before your trip with your flight details.

12 days, from $2,120

to book call 1-844-205-6226


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