Explore ancient Persia and modern Iran on this one-of-a-kind trip. On the overland route from Tehran to Shiraz, we’ll experience some of the oldest sites of civilization, tap into local secrets, and explore the myriad influences that have shaped Iran into one of the most friendly and fascinating nations on the planet. (And yes, most Americans can currently get visas—details below.)
Iran, home to some of the world’s greatest bygone empires, remains somewhat unknown to many travelers. But with expert guidance and local insight, you’re in for the trip of a lifetime, as we set out on a journey spanning 12 days and many millennia. Our time in Iran includes an incredible array of historical sites and contemporary neighborhoods, woven together with great deserts and mountains. We’ll slowly soak in Iran’s most celebrated destinations, but we’ll also wander off the trodden path to investigate lesser-known marvels. Hosted by a team of experienced Iranian and Western guides, in the company of a small group of Atlas Obscura explorers, you’ll soon feel at home in what surely among the most fascinating regions in the world.
Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking three to six miles each day, and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. We’ll be spending a good amount of time outside and in rural areas, walking up and down stairs, and on dirt paths.
Please note that the U.S. Department of State currently has a “Level 4” travel advisoryin place for Iran which warns of the risk of arbitrary detention, particularly for U.S.-Iranian dual nationals. The advisory goes on to list types of travelers who have been detained, namely “students, journalists, business travelers, and academics.” While we feel it’s important that anyone considering the trip be informed about the advisory, and that each traveler must make their own decision about whether they’re comfortable joining, we feel very comfortable and confident offering the trip. By working with trusted, experienced trip leaders, and receiving regular updates from expert third-party security advisors, we’re prepared to update plans for the trip in the unlikely event that becomes necessary. That said, the Iranian government openly welcomes and encourages American tourists, and most visitors are struck by the exceptionally warm welcome they receive from the people they meet in Iran. While we can’t predict with certainty how the political situation might change between now and the time of the trip, we have every expectation of being able to proceed with it — and expect it to be a fun and fascinating experience!
All international flights land at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA). We recommend you arrive by 12 p.m. on Sunday, October 13, and depart anytime in the morning on Thursday, October 24. While the group itinerary ends in Shiraz, you'll likely get the best value by booking roundtrip flights in and out of Tehran, and allowing our local contacts to book your domestic flight from Shiraz to Tehran. There are many daily flights from Shiraz to Tehran, and if booked locally, the cost is typically about $125.
If you decide to extend your stay before or after the tour dates, we are happy to book extra hotel nights for you; however, keep in mind that citizens from the U.S., U.K., and Canada will need to arrange a private guide if staying beyond the 24-hour arrival/departure window.
As part of your trip, we will obtain your Iranian “Visa Grant Notice” (commonly known as a “Letter of Invitation”). This process will begin three months prior to the beginning of the trip, by which time you will need to have completed an online visa application form. From there, we will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As a rough timeline, U.S. citizens can expect to receive their Visa Grant Notice about one month prior to the trip start; U.K. and Canadian citizens about two months prior; and all other nationalities generally within one week of application, though the process may be slowed since we apply as a group. Wherever you're coming from, you should receive your visa within plenty of time.
However, based on changing factors outside our control, there is always the small chance that visas may not be approved. We require that you purchase travel insurance as early as possible to protect the cost of your trip and any travel-related expenses in the unlikely case that any issues arise.
Additionally, please note that your Iranian visa application will be denied if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. People with a high public profile, applicants who have backgrounds in media or politics, or who have been employed by the government, may also receive additional scrutiny during the visa process. If you have any questions or concerns about the visa process, please don't hesitate to contact us.