I am just back from an unforgettable trip in Iran and would like to encourage everybody to visit this wonderful country. A country with a very rich heritage, diverse natural beauties, friendly people, very well developed infrastructure and relatively low travel costs.
I started with a one-week tour of the country’s highlights which was a great introduction and continued on my own visiting the city of Mashad and skiing in Dizin for another week. I summarize some information which I hope will be useful for others interested in doing something similar.
I used Lonely Planet’s Iran Travel guidebook for planning the trip and it was very good.
I contacted a number of tour operators recommended by LP’s guidebook and found the best offer from IranianTours (http://iraniantours.com) which were friendly, efficient and professional in their job. They put me in a small group which was comprised of other European travelers. The tour itinerary was very efficient, showing the most you can expect from a one-week visit to 3 cities (Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz). They also answered my questions regarding my trip extension and helped me arranging the 2nd part of trip which I did independently. Pesepolis and Isfahan’s main square were definitely the highlights of the trip.
Being Dutch, I needed a visa to visit Iran and I could collect it easily from the Iranian embassy in Den Haag by showing the reference number I got from IranianTours. I was told I can collect the visa on arrival in Tehran, but I though it’s safer to have the visa before flying out!
I booked the tour as standard class which meant to use 3-4* hotels. The hotel selection by IranianTour was perfect (Kosar Hotel in Isfahan, Venus Hotel in Isfahan and Pars Hotel in Shiraz). All hotels were conveniently located in city centers, were clean and well-equipped and had friendly staff. For the 2nd week, I stayed at hotels which were booked directly with help of IT.
We had local professional guides in each city who spoke fluent English and were really helpful and informative. The only small problem was that the one in Isfahan (Behrooz) seemed to be encouraging us for buying Persian rugs from a certain store. Of course, he stopped when we politely confirmed that we are not interested. I have heard that Isfahan is not a good place for buying carpets and I later found out that the rugs in Isfahan were sold more expensive than in Tehran. I bought a very nice Persian rug from Tehran on my last day. I hired a guide in Mahsad through the hotel. He showed me the shrine (some areas were forbidden to non-Muslims ) and took me to a countryside town (Shandiz) which was famous for its huge delicious Shishkebab.
Wow! Best part of my trip! I feel in love with Persian Cuisine. My top choice is Feshenjoon which is roasted chicken in a sauce made of walnuts and pomegranate served with rice. It’s really delicious. This was recommend to me by the guide in Tehran and I tried it three times! Food is very cheap in Iran. You can eat at a very good restaurant at less than ten Euros.
Domestic flight (on IranAir and Aseman Airlines) were used for inter-city transportation during the tour. The flights were all punctual. Although the aircrafts seemed a bit old, service was relatively good. Airport transfers were arranged efficiently by the tour company during the tour and I used airport taxies and taxied arranged by the hotels during the 2nd week which was relatively cheap.
Spacious cars were used for the city tours, although most of the places were visited by walking which fine.
Dizin Ski resort:
I spent three days skiing in Dizin which I found very good. It’s very cheap to ski there in European standards, the snow is very good and the piste is very well maintained. I stayed at Dizin Hotel which was inside the ski area. Transport to and from Dizin was arranged through the hotel. It’s about 2 hours drive from Tehran.
Hope this is found useful by those interested in cultural holidays.