We will take a tour of the capital including its breath-taking palaces such as the Ahmad Shahi Pavilion situated in the great wooded Niavaran complex in the north of the city, home to the last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. We will also visit the Golestan Palace and other royal buildings in the gardens of royal Qajar complex of the preceding dynasty before heading to the Grand Bazaar!
Alamut is without doubt the most famous of all the assassin’s castles and is synonymous with Hassan Sabbāh who, in the late 11th Century, seized the fortress and there founded his group of Shia Ismaili fedayeen. These were known as the Hashshashin or "Assassins" because of the hashish he made them smoke in his legendary garden before sending them off to murder members of the Sunni Seljuq ruling class…
Rudkhan Castle is the most mysterious of all Persia’s castles because although it is one of the best preserved, its history has been lost to the mists of time. Perched atop two unbelievably beautiful forested mountain peaks, in a geographical region which has sat in the badlands throughout history between the rise and fall of many warring empires – who built and lived here may never be known, but its magic remains undeniable.
After what is the longest drive of the trip we will arrive in Ardabil, renowned for producing some of the best carpets in all of Persia. Today and/or tomorrow we can visit neighbouring Sareyn to take a relaxing dip in the famous nine hot spa springs, warmed by the inactive volcano of Sabalan Mountain. The waters containing sulphur particles that are good for bone and joint pains.
At 4811m, Mt. Sabalan is the third highest mountain in Iran after Damavand and Alam-Kuh with a permanent crater lake formed at its summit. We will go hiking around its slopes that abound in natural mineral water springs. The nomadic people of the area live in small villages comprised of their round yurt tents – a nice touch in an absolutely stunning landscape.
Babak Castle, also known as the Immortal Castle, stands at 2600m and is surrounded by 600m gorges: casting an awe-inspiring view across the surrounding mountain plains. The castle is named after Bābak Khorramdin, famous warlord and leader of the Khurramites, who fought and resisted the Arab armies of the Abbassid Islamic caliphate until 839AD.
St. Stepanos Monastery is an Armenian monastery built in the 9th Century and rebuilt in the Safavid era after several earthquakes damaged it. St. Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around 62AD, with the first monastery built in the 7th Century, although this was later damaged during the wars between the Seljuks and the Byzantine Empire in the 11th and 12th Centuries. Here we will literally be walking through ancient history.
Tabriz contains many historical monuments, representing Iran's architectural transition throughout its deep history. Among these is the Grand Bazaar of Tabriz, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest covered bazaar in the world. We will take a tour of both the city and the bazaar to see what treasures they hold before an evening flight back to the capital for our last group dinner together in the city.