Tour Leader: Ben Churcher
In April/May 2016 21 NEAF members explored the highways and byways of Iran: from the little-visited north to the sensational sights of Persepolis and Isfahan in the south.
Iran is a delightful country to visit, notwithstanding the common comment from friends before departure: “is it safe?’, or “Why would you want to go there?”. In fact Iran is very safe (well, apart from crossing the street as the traffic in Iran has to be seen to be believed) and for those who visit the country there are stunning landscapes, fantastic archaeological sites, and a fascinating modern culture and cuisine (even if you do get a bit overloaded with rice and kebabs).
This tour took us from the rice paddies along the Azerbaijan border (yes, who would have thought Iran would have rice paddies!), past the Mongol capital at Tabriz and deep into the Zagros Mountains to visit the Zoroastrian complex at Takht-i Suleiman. These places we had virtually to ourselves as they are seldom on the regular tourist trail. However, we also needed to see the highlights of Iran: Shiraz, Persepolis, Yazd and Isfahan. While fellow travellers were more conspicuous at these places, tourist numbers are still low and at no time do you feel you are on the ‘tourist treadmill’ as you may experience elsewhere.
In the north we were cold but in the south the desert lived up to its reputation and the weather markedly warmed – but it is all relative. In Yazd the group talked to the locals who said “what lovely weather we’re having”. When our people replied, “But it’s so hot!”, the locals replied, “You call this hot?”!
To repeat, Iran is a safe travel destination and the one common comment from the group was, “it’s so different to what I expected”. NEAF has been taking tours to Iran for over 20 years now – all without incident. Like the 2016 tour, a trip to Iran settles misconceptions and introduces you to a cosmopolitan nation with a deep and fascinating history.