In 2014 permission was given for the Golden Eagle Danube Express, to operate two 15 day tours from Budapest to Tehran and return, each spending 6 days in Iran – the first Western train to visit Iran. At the time of writing this tour, Jewels of Persia, has not yet run but the initial interest meant that the 2014 tours sold out in 10 days. We then announced eight more, similar, tours for 2015. We then added one tour in October that spent all 12 days in Iran. This is our ‘Heart of Persia’ inaugural tour and is aimed at those who display true pioneering spirit; a distinctive adventure that may not always follow the itinerary step-by-step, but will delight and enthrall with the potential for a surprise or two along the way.
Travelling in the ancient land of Persia, this unique journey takes in destinations that have been off the tourist map for many years and therefore have rarely been experienced by the Western visitor, which makes it all the more special.
October 19 – October 30, 2015
• Tehran • Mashhad • Kerman • Bam • Rayen • Mahan • Yazd • Isfahan • Shiraz •
Persepolis • Kashan • Shushtar • Choghazanbil • Susa • Tehran
Arrivals day in Tehran where you will be met and transferred to the five-star Laleh Hotel (or similar). We will enjoy a welcome reception dinner, whilst you meet your fellow travellers on this highly anticipated journey.
After a tour of Tehran we will have time at the huge Bazaar. After lunch in a local restaurant we will visit the breath-taking Crown Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building, with its vast array of crown jewels used by the Qajar and Pahlavid royalty. Late afternoon we transfer to Tehran railway station with its huge portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Kamenei at the entrance to board the Danube Express, our home for the next ten nights. Settle in to your cabin and later enjoy dinner as the train heads overnight to Mashhad.
An early morning arrival provides us with the whole day to explore the city of Mashhad, which is home to the Imam Reza Holy Shrine, the largest mosque in the world in terms of its dimension, followed by a tour of the Nader Shah Museum. After lunch in the city, we will visit the Tomb of Ferdowsi, the father of the Persian Language who lived over 1,000 years ago. Dinner on the train as we head south.
KERMAN & BAM
This morning we arrive in Kerman where we will visit the ancient bazaar, the Ganj Ali Khan Wax museum and a 19th century old tea house. We return to the train for lunch as we head southeast towards the ancient city of Bam, arriving mid-afternoon.
Bam was one of the world’s largest mud brick citadels, dating back at least 2000 years, a wealthy city on the trade route from Pakistan. Sadly a major earthquake in 2003 killed 26,000 people and destroyed much of the city. Restoration work is being undertaken but with over 20,000 houses destroyed it will take many years and more modern materials will be used to make the buildings earthquake proof.
RAYEN & MAHAN
After Breakfast we detrain in Rayen. The 20,000 sq. metre Rayen castle is situated beneath the snow capped Mt Hezar in the Province of Kerman. A huge medieval mud brick citadel, it was considered second only to Bam before the 2003 earthquake. Rayen displays all the architectural elements of a deserted citadel (It was inhabited until 150 years ago) and is extremely well preserved. It is considered one of the most interesting sites in Iran.
We continue by road to Mayan where we visit the 19th century Royal building, Prince Garden and tomb. We later visit the sanctuary and tomb of the famous, Soufi, Shah Nematollah Vali, dating back to the Mongol Era. We rejoin the train at dusk in time for dinner as we depart for Yazd.
Yazd is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back over 3,000 years, and we spend the day here. Our tour takes in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Silent Towers, Amir Chakhmagh Square and the Friday Mosque, home to one of Persia’s finest mosaics (both 14th century) and finally the water museum.
Lunch will be served in the Moshir Garden Hotel which features a lovely Pomegranate Garden (Yazd is famous for pomegranates). We return to the train late afternoon.
This enchanting city, which served as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722, is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest in Iran. As a crossroad of international trade and diplomacy, Isfahan has a rich mix of languages, religions and customs
The city is famous for its silver filigree and metal work, array of great historical monuments, and its Life-Giving River, the Zayandeh-Rood, which has given the city its beauty. Isfahan is packed with some of Iran’s best sights and today we spend a whole day in the city, visiting the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter. Following a traditional Iranian lunch we move on to Naghshe Jahan Square, a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where the Ali Qapou Palace and Shah and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques can be found. Here, the time is yours to enjoy the huge square and pick up a bargain at the handicraft Bazaar of Qaisarieh.
SHIRAZ & PERSEPOLIS
At Breakfast time we will arrive in Shiraz, Persia’s cultural Capital. Dating back over 4,000 years it is also known as the city of Poets, literature, wine and flowers. During the morning we will visit the Pink Mosque, Eram Garden, Hafez tomb and the Qoran gate. Lunch will be served in a first class restaurant in Shiraz before we travel by road to the nearby ruins of Persepolis and Necropolis. Founded in 550 BC Persepolis was Persia’s capital until destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Persepolis means ‘City of Persians’ and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our final visit today is to the Necropolis at nearby Naqsh-e Rustam. We return to our train in Marvdast as we depart northwards.
Morning finds us in the ancient city of Kashan where we visit the Fin garden, Iran’s oldest garden dating from 1590 (a World Heritage Site), and nearby Sialk Hills archaeological site, dating back almost 8,000 years and Brojerdi and Taba Tabaei – 19th century historical houses. After lunch in a first class local restaurant we can visit the impressive and ancient bazaar before returning to our train mid-afternoon. Kerman is the most important centre for Persian carpets. As dinner is served we pass through Qom and arrive at Dorud, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains around midnight.
Just before dawn our train will ease its way out of Dorud and start a spectacular journey through the Mountains before arriving in Shushtar after an early lunch.
We first visit the Hydraulic system that dates back to 590 BC and still provides water to the town of Shushtar. We move on to the Choghazambil site dating back to 1250 BC and then tour the ancient city of Susa before rejoining the train for dinner and a final night’s party as we head north towards Tehran and the end of our journey on the Danube Express.
This morning we visit the Golestan Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its renovated Versailles-inspired mirror-encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah. Most of the remaining brick and tile buildings date back to the 19th century Qajar dynasty.
In the afternoon there is free time before our farewell Gala dinner. Overnight at Tehran former Intercontinental Hotel (now the Laleh Hotel), or similar.
Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.
Note: During this tour there is the religious holiday of Tassoura and Ashura. The dates will be either the 22/23 or 23/24 October however the dates will not be announced until the end of 2014. During Tassoura and Ashura all religious sites are closed and we will therefore have to make certain adjustments to the above itinerary as soon as the dates for these holidays are known.
Unesco World Heritage Sites visited on this tour
- Fin – Persian Gardens
- Isfahan – Friday Mosque (Masjed-e Jame)
- Isfahan – Royal Square (Median Emam)
- Shushtar ancient Hydraulic System
- Tehran – Golestan Palace, Tehran
Several other sites visited are on the UNESCO ‘Tentative’ list including Susa, Necropolis, Sailk, Yazd and Kerman