Expert-Led Group Tour

Armenia & Iran Group Tour - Sacred Churches and Mosques

Perfect for second time visitors to Iran and Armenia

17 days

from £4,295pp
  • Expert led visits to see spectacular religious architecture and pilgrimage sites.
  • Sample Armenia's delicious food, wine and renowned hospitality.
  • Cross the border into Iran to visit Persepolis, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
  • Experience the colourful romantic city of Shiraz, famous for its poetry, wine and roses.

Armenia and Iran are culturally rich. With intriguing ancient histories, awesome monuments and beautiful landscapes combining them into one trip is irresistible. Not only a fascinating combination for the first-time visitor, this expert led group tour also provides a deeper insight to those returning to the area.

Armenia

As one of the first countries in the world to formally adopt Christianity, Armenia provides a fascinating contrast to its neighbour Iran, whose Islamic origins are reflected in every aspect of its history and culture. Our new group tour will do much to highlight the differences but also the similarities between the different religions of each country, illustrating how religion has influenced the people, the culture and the architecture of Armenia and Iran. What is immediately obvious is that both countries are very beautiful and the natural hospitality and charm of their people make Armenia and Iran a pleasure to visit.

Most holidays to Armenia start in Yerevan where there is much to see and do. Don’t miss the choreographed singing fountains at night in the main square. Geghard Monastery has occupied its site since the fourth century, and Yerevan's churches, all magnificently carved, date from the 13th century. Journey to Goris, a town that has changed little since it was first planned by a 19th century German architect and an access point for cave dwellings nearby. Visit the largest lake in the Caucasus, Lake Sevan, which is 43 miles long and much admired for its beautiful setting, pure waters and delicious fish. Explore millennia-old monasteries in densely wooded mountain valleys and experience the dark, golden taste and aroma of ‘Ararat’, Armenia’s national brandy.

Armenia - Iran relations

Cordial relations between Armenia and Iran have been sustained for thousands of years, starting with the Median Empire in 700 BC. Up until 1828, Armenia made up part of Iran and so it is little wonder that despite religious and ideological differences there is, to some extent, a shared sense of history and culture. These similarities are of course most notable closer to the border, such as the Armenian monastery of Saint Stephanos located in the Iranian town of Julfa, enroute to Tabriz.

Iran

Incorporating the excitement of a border crossing between Armenia and Iran, visit Tabriz with its magnificent Blue Mosque and grand Bazaar, one of the most extensive in Iran. On the way, visit the Troglodyte village of Kandovan, and the town of Kermanshah, not yet a major tourist draw, but with the most incredible backdrop of glowing red-rock mountains and Taq-e Bustan, one of the most peculiar monuments in all of Iran. Included is an excursion to Chogha-Zanbil, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the ziggurat built around 1250 B.C. by the Elamite king Untash-Gal. Also, visit Shushar (Susa), one of the oldest cities in the world where the remains of the Achaemenian Palaces are an impressive site.

The tour ends in the beautiful city of Shiraz, a hub of Persian culture synonymous with education, poetry and wine (although don't expect a glass as Iran is of course a dry county!) It was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and the Iranian capital from AD1747-79.

Although the group tour ends in Shiraz and many will return home, it is here that you can extend your trip in Iran to include a visit to Isfahan, Yazd or Tehran. This can be arranged on a private tour basis. Please discuss the options with our travel consultant.

Why should I join this group tour?

For the expertise of William Taylor as well as the opportunity to travel with like-minded individuals in a beguiling part of the world. William's understanding of Islamic and Christian history through the ages, puts him in a unique position to give insightful interpretation of both countries, pointing out the obvious differences and the subtle similarities.

What is the accommodation like in Armenia and Iran?

Luxury hotels in Armenia are not to the same standard as those of other more developed countries within Europe. The capital city of Yerevan offers a larger selection and therefore a slightly higher standard than accommodation outside of the main city, which is more basic.
Iran hotel options are limited. In the large, main cities the standard is good, however in the smaller towns and villages hotels are basic. We do our best to use the best available in each place.

What is the food like in Armenia and Iran?

There is a huge variety of food in both countries.

Armenian specialities feature a variety of local cheeses, flat lavash bread, sweet lavash made from fruits, khoravats (barbecues), Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), kartofel (raisin and apricot pilaf rice dish) and kyufta (veal meatballs cooked with cognac).

Iranian cuisine includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelow kabab (rice served with roasted meat: barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresh (stew that is served with white Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, fesenjan, and others), and ash (a thick soup: for example, ash-e anar which fortunately tastes better than it sounds)

What will the weather be like?

Not excessively hot, clear sunny days, but when travelling in the mountainous areas the weather can vary. The best time to travel to Armenia and Iran is generally during the months of May, June and September, as it is neither too hot nor cold.

Do I need to be fit to enjoy this tour?

You do not need to be particularly fit to participate, there are no long walks involved but there will be a certain number of stone steps and uneven surfaces.

Is this group tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Lecturer.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

 



Departing on:
  • 8th September 2017
  • 7th September 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
8th Sep 2017 24th Sep 2017 £ 4,295 £ 700 £ 575 William Taylor Available
7th Sep 2018 23rd Sep 2018 call call £ 725 Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation on a full board basis
  • Accompanying expert lecturer for entire trip
  • All excursions with local, English speaking guides
  • All transfers
  • Gratuities for porters, driver and local guides

what is excluded

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa Fees

PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE FLIGHT COST IS A SUGGESTED FROM PRICE. FLIGHT COSTS WILL BE CONFIRMED AT TIME OF BOOKING. ALL FLIGHTS ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Kiev

Fly Kiev to Yerevan

Day 2

Hotel room is available for immediate occupany on arrival.


Morning at leisure.


Afternoon Sightseeing to Genocide Memorial & Matenadaran
Visit the Genocide Memorial, the museum dedicated to the victims of the Great Genocide that took place in 1915 and the memorial with eternal fire.

Continue to visit Matenadaren that is a depository of ancient manuscripts and one of the world’s finest libraries containing around 20,000 documents. The oldest illustrated manuscript is the Echmiadzin Gospel dating from AD989 and the oldest book written in Armenian dating from AD1512 and printed in Venice. This is an exclusively guided tour in Matenadaran by the most prominent specialists of the Institute.

End the afternoon in the food market to explore the beautifully arranged fruits and vegetables, dried fruit and Armenian sweets.

Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia. Both the cultural and administrative centre of the country, it is a city overlooked by the commanding Mount Ararat just across the border in neighbouring Turkey. At the city's heart is the attractive and colourful Republic Square, home to some of the capital's most beautiful architecture, and invigorated by its famous illuminated dancing fountains.

Nearby is the lively Vernissage Market, a bonanza of local arts, crafts and hand-made souvenirs. Take a guided tour of Matenadaran Museum, which lays claim to being the richest depository of Armenian texts and manuscripts in the world and provides a real insight into Armenian heritage.


You will be staying at Historic Yerevan Hotel

Day 3

Full day excursion to Echmiadzin and surrounds
This morning you will take a one-hour drive along a winding road through the green hills above Yerevan, which will bring you to the superb Roman temple at Garni. Dating from the 2nd century BC it was once a pagan Temple of the Sun and also part of a palace complex for the Armenian Kings. It is spectacularly situated on a cliff top above a deep and craggy gorge.

Twenty minutes further on is Geghard meaning 'the Holy Lance'. The Holy lance in question is said to be that used to pierce Jesus' side as he hung on the cross. It is now housed at Etchmiadzin. Several dark chambers display intricate carvings only just discernible in the flickering candlelight. Forged into the rock behind the main church is another chapel, which has the most incredible acoustics. You may encounter small animal sacrifices here (as at other churches in Armenia).

Visit Echmiadzin, meaning ’the coming of the Only Begotten’, the seat of the Armenian Patriarch and a place of pilgrimage. Legend has it that Jesus Christ descended from heaven to indicate the perfect location for a church and this is now the seat of the Supreme Catolicos of the Armenians. Inside the main church you can see what are (allegedly) the Holy Lance and a piece of Noah’s Ark. On the way back to Yerevan visit the seventh century churches of St Gayane and St Hripsime, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Continue to see the Treasury-Museum complete with its majestic staircases made of marble imported from Italy and massive exhibition halls and famous for its unique collection of gold and silver threaded brocades and needlework.


You will be staying at Historic Yerevan Hotel

Day 4

Travel from Yerevan to Dzoraget via Lake Sevan and Dilijan


Drive to Dilijan stopping en route at the Selim Caravanserai near the summit of the Selim Pass (2410m). This caravanserai dates from the 13th century and is an excellent example of Armenian secular architecture in the Middle Ages. Lake Sevan is well known for the many different colours that the water turns, depending on the weather, which can change rapidly. Rolling mist can often be seen racing down the hills that surround the lake. Two churches, part of Sevan Monastery (Sevanavank) on the edge of Lake Sevan, Arakelots (874 AD) and Astvatsatin, now sit on a peninsula rather than the island on which they were built after over irrigation by the former Soviet authorities. Walk up to churches and beyond to the summit for fine 360' views of the lake and surrounding land. There are many small restaurants by the lakeshore serving tasty lake fish.

Explore Dilijan and then continue the drive to Dzoraget to spend the night.


You will be staying at Tufenkian Avan Dzoraget Hotel

Day 5

Visit Haghpat and Sanahin
Spend the day exploring the surrounding area in particular visiting Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries. Drive to the Lori Region to see Haghpat Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built on a high plateau amidst low structures, it stands out against the background of steeply forested slopes. The ensembles are complemented by small churches built near them. Among them are churches and chapels, four annexes, sepulchres, bell-towers, the building of the Academy, book depositories, refectories, galleries, bridges and other monumental structures. Also visit Sanahin Monastery. The name Sanahin literally translates from Armenian as "this one is older than that one", presumably representing a claim to having an older monastery than the neighbouring Haghpat. The two villages and their monasteries are similar in many ways, and lie in plain view of each other on a dissected plateau formation, separated by a deep "crack" formed by a small river flowing into the Debed river. Haghpat monastery was founded by Saint Nishan (Sourb Nshan) during the reign of King Abas I.


You will be staying at Tufenkian Avan Dzoraget Hotel

Day 6

Drive from Dzoraget to Yerevan (Road Journey)


Drive back to Yerevan today, via Amberd Fortress, a 10th century ruined palace-fortress. Some of the walls are intact and the circular turrets can be seen. Lower down the slope is a 13th century church and you can wander amongst the foundations of the former buildings. There are fine views of the surrounding area with eagles soaring overhead. The area is also home to the semi-nomadic Yezdi people who believe in pagan gods and look after cows, sheep and goats. Their encampments can also usually be seen. Visit Saghmosavank Monastery, in better condition than that at Ohanavank and the position arguably more spectacular. Inside the church is an altar, carpet on the floor and some chairs. This is unusual since most churches are very sparsely decorated usually with only a few candles left by worshippers.with lunch en route in a local village house.


You will be staying at Historic Yerevan Hotel

Day 7

Drive from Yerevan to Goris (Road Journey)


Goris, is a town in the southern Syunik Province of Armenia. The city was possibly the first built in a grid layout in Armenia, with a very quaint regional style of stone architecture. Located in the valley of river Goris, it is 254 km from the capital Yerevan.


Visit to Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery sits on the Arats Plain twenty minutes south of the capital and dwarfed by Mount Ararat, which rises majestically behind it. This is the proud site of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity in around 300AD. Khor Virap literally means ’big hole’ and the man responsible for Armenia’s religious renaissance, St Gregory the Illuminator, was reportedly thrown into one (at Khor Virap) as a punishment from the pagan king, Tiridates III. It is probably Armenia’s most visited pilgrimage site.


Noravank Monastery
Visit the monastery of Noravank that is one of the most splendid monuments of medieval Armenia. The principal church of St. Karapet was built in the 13th century. The church had an atrium, which was rebuilt by the famous sculptor Momik.


You will be staying at Mirhav Hotel

Day 8

Drive from Goris to Tabriz (Road Journey)


Depart from Goris this morning and drive to the Armenian/Iranian border. Meet your Iranian driver and transfer luggage. Drive to Tabriz, en route visit the Armenian Church of St. Stephanus, near Julfa, which is one of the oldest and most beautiful Armenian churches in the area (10-12th Century AD).


You will be staying at Tabriz Hotel

Day 9

Main highlights of Tabriz
Full-day sightseeing in Tabriz to visit the Blue Mosque, known as the Turquoise of Islam, and the Azerbaijan Museum, displaying a fine collection of pre-historic and historic artifacts found in the area. Drive by the 13th century Arg-e Alishah, which was originally a magnificent Friday Mosque, but turned into a fortress in the 19th century. Visit the Quran and Calligraphy Museum which is located in Sahebolamr Mosque in the centre of Tabriz. In this Museum a wonderful collection of Quran manuscripts related to different periods and beautiful pieces of calligraphy are on display. Continue to Constitution House which is a symbol of the fight against despotism and reminiscent of struggles by Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan, the two key figures in the Iranian Constitutional Movement. The most beautiful part of the house is a skylight and corridor decorated with colourful glass and mirrors. Finish the day with a visit to Tabriz Bazaar, one of the most extensive in Iran.


You will be staying at Tabriz Hotel

Day 10

Drive from Tabriz to Takab (Road Journey)


Drive to Takab, en-route visit the intriguing troglodyte village of Kandovan, up in the heights of Mt. Sahand, a volcanic mountain. In Kandovan people have carved their houses in the rocks and still live in them as in ancient times. Continue to Maraghe to visit the beautiful Seljuk tomb-towers (12th century) of Maraghe including the Gonbad-e-Sorkh, with its intricate brickwork, and the Gonbad-e-Ghaffarieh. Also visit the site of the observatory of Maraghe (1259-1272).


You will be staying at Ranji Hotel

Day 11

Drive from Takab to Sanandaj (Road Journey)


Morning visit the ancient site of Takht-e-Soleiman, located in a broad and remote mountain valley near Takab. Takht-e-Soleiman (The Throne of Solomon) is a sacred and enigmatic place. The massive stone walls and remnants of the thirty eight watch towers, plus remains of the palaces, the fire temple and the Anahita temple, built around the lake are part of what is left of the complex. The crater of Zendan-e-Soleiman (the Prison of Solomon) can be glimpsed in the distance. Continue to Sanandaj, to visit Sanandaj Museum, Salar-e-Saeed House and the colourful Sanadaj Bazaar


You will be staying at Standard Local Hotel

Day 12

Drive from Sanandaj to Kermanshah (Road Journey)


Drive to Kermanshah and 30 km out of the city visit Bisotun, the Relief/Inscription of Darius the Great, which is 4000 feet high on the mountain face. The Bisotun trilingual inscriptions and relief depicts Darius facing the nine rebel kings, whom the Achaemenid ruler suppressed when he came to power. Continue to Kermanshah.


Visit Kermanshah
Visit the several important Sassanian reliefs at Tagh-e-Bostan (some inside a grotto), depicting royal hunting scenes and the investiture of the Sassanian kings. Visit the Tekkiyeh Mo'aven-ol-Molk, built in the early 20th century for the purpose of performing religious mourning ceremonies of Moharram. The tile decorations of this building show different scenes relating to the events of Ashura (when Imam Hussain, the third Imam of the Shi'ites, and his family and followers, were martyred in the desert of Karbala). Visit the glittering Bazaar of Kermanshah, with shops selling colourful textiles for Kurdish dresses and gold shops.


You will be staying at Parsian Hotel

Day 13

Drive from Kermanshah to Ahwaz (Road Journey)


Drive to Ahwaz via the province of Ilam and Pol-e-Dokhtar to see the remains of the Sassanian Bridge. Continue to Shushtar, a small town perched on limestone cliffs above the Karun River whose past can be traced through a remarkable series of interconnecting channels, dams, bridges and water mills. Continue to Ahwaz.


You will be staying at Pars (Fajr)

Day 14

Excursion to Chogha Zanbil and Susa
Full day excursion to Chogha-Zanbil, to visit the ziggurat built by Untash Gal, King of Elam, about 1250 BC. The massive man-made mound was the focal point of his city of Dur Untashi, and was dedicated to the great god Inshushinak, 'Lord of Susa', symbolised by the form of a bull. Continue on to visit Haft-Tappeh or Seven Mounds (Elamite Necropolis) whose discovery in the 1960's has filled one of the less well-documented periods in Elamite history; and Susa, the site of one of the oldest civilisations in Western Asia, dating back to 5,000 BC and the remains of Achaemenian palaces, plus the nearby Tomb of Biblical Prophet Daniel.


You will be staying at Pars (Fajr)

Day 15

Travel from Ahwaz to Shiraz


Drive to Shiraz, en-route visiting Bishapur, the remains of the Sassanian city built by Shapur 1st (241-273 AD), the second Sassanian king.

The building complex includes a central chamber, a large courtyard which had been covered with impressive mosaics, plus the remains of a temple dedicated to Anahita, the goddess of water and fertility. On either side of a narrow gorge, there are also six Sassanian rock reliefs at Tang-e-Chogan, commemorating Shapur's victories over the Romans and other adversaries.

Continue onto Shiraz.


Ravaged by earthquakes over the centuries, Shiraz's surviving treasures are relatively few, but its relaxed atmosphere remains. Briefly Iran's capital under the Zand dynasty, the city is still considered the country's capital of culture and is renowned for its poetry, wine and roses.

Bizarrely, whilst Shiraz wine is world-famous, the city itself - just like all of Iran - is free of alcohol. Following the Islamic Revolution, wine production was banned and vineyards were either converted to fruit production or destroyed.

Also used as a launch-pad for visits to the nearby site of Persepolis, its proximity to this fabled ruined city more than makes up for Shiraz's own depleted architectural heritage.


You will be staying at Homa Hotel

Day 16

Visit Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rustam
Head to the ancient ruined city of Persepolis, around 50 kilometres northeast of Shiraz. Founded by Darius I in the sixth century BC as the ceremonial capital of the vast Achaemenid Empire, this enormous complex encompassed a wide range of buildings.

Partly destroyed by Alexander the Great, the city was once surrounded by mighty 18-metre-high walls. Today the ruins include palaces, carvings and massive bas-reliefs from the Sassanian period. The incredible stonework utilised rocks from all over the Persian Empire.

Afterwards, continue to Naqsh-e Rustam, where you will find the rock cut tombs of the Achaemenid Kings, Xerxes I and Darius I. Accompanying these tombs are impressive carvings all from the Sassanid period, many centuries later, and depict the conquests and investitures of Sassanid Kings, including the famous victory of Shapur the First over the Roman Emperor Valerian.


You will be staying at Homa Hotel

Day 17

Fly Shiraz to Istanbul

Fly Istanbul to London

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Armenia

Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

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Paul Craven, Travel Expert

" I spoke to five different companies, but Paul was by far the most knowledgeable and empathetic."

"The service which I received from your Travel Expert Paul Craven was excellent, he was able to answer any queries I put to him."

"Paul must be congratulated on his expertise and great patience in dealing with all my programme changes. He must dread my phone calls!! A big thank-you from both of us to Paul and Carol."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Lecturer

William Taylor

William Taylor
William is Chairman of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, an Anglican priest, and writer and broadcaster on the Islamic World and Orthodox Churches. An inveterate traveller, William has lectured and travelled extensively throughout the Caucasus region, Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia; and speaks Syriac, Arabic and Turkish. He has been leading very successful Steppes Travel tours for many years. William’s PhD was on Orthodox Churches in the late Ottoman period, which drew on archival material from the monasteries of the Tur Abdin. His publications include Light from the East, Christians in the Holy Land, Antioch and Canterbury and Narratives of Identity.

Other tours by this lecturer:

Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 4 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

William Taylor

Departure Date (S):

  • 8th September 2017
  • 7th September 2018

"William Taylor was excellent, provided a wealth of background information and insights, and was a wonderful travelling companion."

JUDITH
ARMENIA & GEORGIA TOUR WITH WILLIAM, 2015

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