Valley of the Assassins: Exotic Iran
Join leading Australian boutique tour operator Crooked Compass on this journey of a lifetime into a little-explored region of Iran.
After visiting Tehran, this small group tour heads into the breathtaking Alborz Mountains where travellers will discover traditional villages, covered bazaars, nomadic tribes and much more to forge lifelong memories.
$6197 Save $1000
$5197 AUD per person twin share
$969 AUD single supplement
14 – 27 September 2018
10 – 23 October 2018
A world away from the cities and deserts of Iran lie the beautiful Alborz Mountains.
Rising up from the Caspian Sea, an untouched, ancient part of the world beckons … a quieter, greener, utterly captivating corner of Iran.
Venture on 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 Masuleh, 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 – pastoralists who spend their summers high in the alps.
A journey brimming with diversity, you’ll finish in vibrant Tabriz with its vast UNESCO World Heritage covered bazaar and nearby troglodyte village of Kandovan.
Valley of the Assassins Full Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Tehran
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.
Day 2: Tehran Sightseeing
Following breakfast at your hotel this morning, 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.
Day 3: Tehran – Alamut – Zarabad
Your adventure really begins today as you head north to the Alborz Mountains visiting Lambesar and Alamut ‘assassins’ castles. Approx three to four hours walking. This evening, you will spend the night in a local guesthouse. (B,L,D)
Overnight Local House.
Day 4: Zarabad – Rudkhan – Masuleh
After breakfast, farewell your local hosts as you drive to Roodkhan castle, one of the best preserved in the country. Following your visit, head for your overnight stop in the lovely old village of Masuleh.
Built right into the slope of an Iranian 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. In fact automobiles are not allowed in Masuleh simply because there is no room for them.
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.
Approximately two to three hours walking. (B,L,D)
Overnight Mehran Hotel or similar.
Day 5: Masuleh – Talesh
You’ll have the morning to enjoy the charming delights of Masuleh, famed for its traditional wooden buildings, before heading towards the Caspian Sea town of Talesh. (B,L,D)
Overnight Negin Hotel or similar.
Day 6: Talesh – Sobatan
Be sure to have a hearty breakfast this morning. You’ll make your way up on foot to the beautiful village of Sobatan, centred on a local spring and set amidst wonderful scenery. Approx four to five hours walking. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Sobatan – Neor Lake
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. Approx 4-5 hrs walking. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Neor Lake – MeshkinShahr
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.
Day 9: MeshkinShahr – Shabil
This morning you drive 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, at Azerbaijan. Approx three to four hours hiking. (B,L,D)
Overnight Camping with the Nomads.
Day 10: Shabil
Enjoy a whole day in this region with opportunities to spend more time with the local nomads and, for those wanting to keep trekking, there are various trails on offer. For those who are experienced climbers, an option may be to trek to the summit of Mt Sabalan (4811m). (Additional cost for mountaineering guide and weather dependent. Further information on this can be provided at time of booking.) Approx five to six hours walking. (B,L,D)
Day 11: Shabil – Kaleybar
This morning you head to the dramatic mountain fortress of Babak where your trek today will lead you through some spectacular mountain scenery. Approx four hours walking. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Grand Hotel of Kaleybar or similar.
Day 12: Kaleybar – Tabriz
A three hour drive takes you to Tabriz, the former capital of Iran, which is home to many famed sights including the Blue Mosque, which was constructed in 1465. Visit the Blue Mosque as well as El Goli.(B,L,D)
Overnight at Gostaresh Hotel or similar.
Day 13: Tabriz
Today you head to the nearby village of Kandovan which is known for its troglodyte housing reminiscent of Turkey’s Cappadocia region.
Kandovan is a photogenic settlement of troglodyte homes and storage barns carved out of curiously eroded rocks. These sit above a newer lower village like a conference of stone ice-cream cones. Scrambling along steep, narrow paths between them gives you ample idea of the place within a few minutes.
Afterwards, return to Tabriz for exploring and shopping in the UNESCO World Heritage bazaar. (B,L,D).
Day 14: Departure
Following breakfast, the remainder of the day is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer you to the airport for your onwards travels. (B)
- Return airport transfers
- 13 nights accommodation (7 nights 3-4 star hotels, 3 nights homestays, 3 nights camping)
- Camping equipment
- 13 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 12 Dinners
- Transportation throughout
- Local English speaking driver/guides
- Sightseeing as mentioned in the itinerary
- Entrance fees
- Refreshments on long distance days e.g. water, tea, coffee
- Domestic flights
- Drinks unless otherwise mentioned
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not mentioned in the itinerary