A world away from the cities and deserts of Iran are the beautiful Alborz Mountains. Rising up from the Caspian Sea, a lesser explored region becons. Experience a glimpse into a quieter, greener and more traditional side of Iran.
Travel to Alamut, one of the castles on Freya Stark’s route in her 1930s classic book, ‘The Valley of the Assassins’ before visiting the impressive Roodkhan Castle. From the traditional village of Masule, you will begin a series of walks into the hills and high plateaus of the Talesh Highlands taking in a combination of the stunning mountain scenery and visits to the nomadic Shahsavan.
The Shahsavan Nomads are pastoralists who have spent their summers on these high pastures tending to their herds for thousands of years. Here you will camp, (although don’t be surprised if you are invited to stay with the locals), experiencing their warm hospitality and excellent local cuisine.
A journey brimming with diversity, you finish in vibrant Tabriz with its vast UNESCO World Heritage covered bazaar and nearby troglodyte village of Kandovan.
Welcome to Iran! Upon arrival in Tehran, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
The remainder of the day is at leisure for you to explore on your own or simply relax.
Tehran has a relatively short history, is quite often smoggy and manic. Many travellers do not spend much time here at all. Although it is a concrete jungle, there is a fascinating side to this hectic city.
Expect bold fashion statements, a range of ethnic and international restaurants, chic cafes and plenty of art galleries. What Tehran lacks in history, it makes up for it with impressive museums.
Overnight at Ferdowsi Hotel or similar
This morning after breakfast you will be met by your local guide and begin a sightseeing tour of Tehran. Spend time exploring the bazaar, the lavish Golestan Palace which was once the heart of Tehran and excesses of the Qajar rulers. A short walk south from Imam Khomeini Sq, the Golestan Palace complex is made up of several grand buildings set around a carefully manicured garden.
From here, visit the crown jewels including the glorious Peacock Throne.
Most of the collection dates back to Safavid times, when the shahs scoured Europe, India and the lands of the Ottoman Empire for booty with which to decorate their capital, Esfahan. But as the Safavid empire crumbled, the jewels became a high profile spoil of war. When Mahmud Afghan invaded Iran in 1722, he plundered the treasury and sent its contents to India.
On ascending the throne in 1736, Nader Shah Afshar despatched courtiers to ask for the return of the jewels. When their powers of persuasion proved unequal to the task, he sent an army to prove that he was serious. To get the soldiers off his back, Mohammed Shah of India was forced to hand over the Darya-ye Nur and Kuh-e Nur diamonds, a Peacock Throne (though not the one you’ll see here) and assorted other treasures. After Nader Shah’s murder in 1747, Ahmed Beg plundered the treasury and dispersed the jewels. The Kuh-e Nur, the world’s largest cut diamond, found its way into the sticky fingers of the colonial British and has been locked up in the Tower of London since.
The Qajar and Pahlavi rulers enthusiastically added to the jewels collection, which grew to be so valuable that in the 1930s it was transferred to the National Bank of Iran (now the Central Bank of Iran) as a reserve for the national currency. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Ferdowsi Hotel or similar
Your adventure really begins today as you head north to the Alborz Mountains, were you will visit the ‘assassins’ castles. Whilst largely in ruins, Lambesar castle was once one of the largest castles in Nizari Ismaili state, explore its grain stores, water supply system and reservoirs. Continue on to the ruins of Alamut castle. Meaning ‘eagles nest’ Alamut was given its name by an ancient Persian king, who whilst out hunting witnessed an eagle land on a rock which was high up on a mountain where it surveyed its territory. The king, noticing how hard this location would be to reach on foot, subsequently built a castle there, calling it ‘Alamut’.
This evening, you will spend the night in a local guesthouse. (B,L,D)
Walking time approx. 3-4hrs total.
Overnight Local House
This morning after breakfast you will bid farewell your local hosts and set out for Roodkhan castle. Almost hidden within dense forest on the top of a mountain, it is one of the best preserved castles in the country. Explore the many towers and grounds of the castle, which covers an area of nearly 7 acres.
Continue on to the ancient village of Masuleh, where you will be staying tonight. Built into the slope of a mountain, the small town of Masuleh has a unique, purpose-built architectural style where the front yard of each of the houses on the incline is actually the roof of the house below it, with roof-lawns trickling down to the base of the mountain.
The tiny village has existed in the area for around 1,000 years and the strange stacked building tradition seems to have existed nearly the entire time. Looking almost like a clay-covered rendition of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s cramped favelas, the communities of Masuleh make much better use of the space. Atop the roofs of many of the cascading houses, lawns have been planted and other traditional yard fixtures have been laid out by the tenant above who in turn is covered by the front yard of their upstairs neighbour, and so on.
So tightly packed are the buildings that there is only room for a maze-like network of stairs and narrow roads connecting each of the structures the only way to get around this town is on foot, as cars simply don’t fit.
The landscape surrounding Masuleh is lush and mountainous with a frequent covering of dense fog, so much so that many of the homes in the town are covered in bright yellow clay so they can be seen better through the haze.
Walking time approx. 2-3hrs total. (B,L,D)
Overnight Mehran Hotel or similar
This morning enjoy a leisurely breakfast and some time to further explore the charming delights of Masuleh. Late morning you will make your way towards the Caspian Sea town of Talesh. (B,L,D)
Overnight Negin Hotel or similar
This morning after breakfast you will set out on foot to the beautiful village of Sobatan. This alpine valley town is centred on a local spring and set amidst wonderful scenery of lush, green, mist covered hills dotted with colourful wildflowers. It could not be further from most peoples typical image of Iran.
Walking time approx. 4-5hrs total. (B,L,D)
Overnight camping in tent
Moving on from the village you’ll make your way on foot through the green hills to Givi and Neor Lake, a beautiful stretch of water at an altitude of 2700m. Walking time approx. 4-5hrs total. (B,L,D)
Overnight Camping in tent
Rejoining your vehicle today you head to the agricultural Khalkal region and on to the town of MeshkinShahr, one of the most ancient cities in Iran, which flourished in the 16th century in the Safavid period. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Aran Hotel or similar
This morning you will make your way to a region inhabited by the Shahsavan Nomads where you will go walking amidst the stunning mountain scenery. Shahsavan means ‘protectors of the king’ and refers to the fact that this nomadic tribe guards one of Iran’s most remote and vulnerable frontiers of Azerbaijan. (B,L,D)
Walking time approx. 3-4hrs total.
Overnight Camping with the Nomads
This morning after breakfast you will have a full day to explore this beautiful region. Spend some time with the nomadic families and learn about their way of life. There are plenty of walking trails for those who wish to keep trekking, and if you are an experienced climber there is an option to trek to the summit of Mt Sabalan (4811m). (Additional cost for mountaineering equipment and guide. Weather dependent. Further information on this can be provided at time of booking). (B,L,D)
Walking time approx. 5-6hrs total.
Overnight Camping in tent
This morning you will venture out through spectacular mountain scenery as you head to Babak Fortress (also known as the Immortal Castle or Republic Castle). It is perched high up in the mountains of east Azarbaijan and surrounded by 2300-2600m peaks and 400-600m deep valleys all around with just a single narrow dusty road leading you to the top. Babak Khoramdin is considered to be one of the most heroic freedom fighters of Iran, setting out to overthrow Irans rulers, the Arab Caliph. Babaks 23 years (816 to 837 CE) of resisting the Arab invaders came to an end when he was betrayed and handed over to the Arabs where he suffered a terrible fate. (B,L,D)
Walking time approx. 3-4hrs total.
Overnight at Grand Hotel of Kaleybar or similar
This morning after breakfast you will transfer to Tabriz (approx. 3hrs). The former capital of Iran is a sprawling, fascinating city, which is home to many famed sights including the Blue Mosque, constructed in 1465. You will also visit El Goli, also known as Shah Golu, a beautiful park with restaurants, cafes and a man made lake. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Gostaresh Hotel or similar
Today you head to the nearby village of Kandovan where you will explore the steep, narrow paths around its unique troglodyte houses and storage barns which have been carved out of curiously eroded volcanic mudflow streams.
This afternoon you will return to Tabriz for some more exploring and visit the the UNESCO listed bazaar. One of the most important commercial centres on the Silk Road, this fascinating bazaar holds the title of the largest covered bazaar in the world. (B,L,D)
Following breakfast, the remainder of the day is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onwards travels. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.