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PURE PERSIA a squiver photo tour to iran

Discover the hidden treasures of Iran

Despite over 4,000 years of written history and organised civilisation, Iran still lies off the beaten track for most travellers. With the international sanctions lifted, tourism is now slowly building up, so we decided to set up a tour to visit the most spectacular places before the secret is out.

On this truly unique tour we will photograph magnificent mosques, fabulously tiled palaces, and other stunning historical buildings. But we will not only show you the best examples of Iran's glorious architecture, we will also show you the mind-blowing scenery of one of the friendliest countries on the planet. During our scouting tour we managed to find some truly hidden locations where even our local guides had never been before!

Spectacular architecture of mosques, churches and other historical buildings (click to enlarge).

So where is Iran? Iran shares its northern borders with three post-Soviet states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, and its western borders are with Turkey in the north and Iraq in the south. With an area of 1,648,000 square kilometres (636,000 sq mi), Iran ranks eighteenth in size among the countries of the world.

Iran's historical buildings are a photographer's paradise.

Rough Itinerary

We are exited to show you our favourite locations, but Iran is a big country and they happen to be far apart. From our experience, however, this is actually a good thing - the more difficult it is to get to a location, the fewer people will have been there and the more original your images will be. But even though we may still tweak our itinerary here and there, these are the locations we will visit on this tour.

Tabriz

One of the most magnificent natural wonders that usually gets passed are the spectacular colourful mountains of Tabriz. Just out of Tabriz an interesting mountain chain appears and is painted with hues of copper, red, green, orange and yellow. This work of art by mother nature is called the Aladaglar Mountains. These mountains are said to be the result of millions of years of minerals and sandstone being pressed together and oxidised, making these phenomenal mountains look like giant layer cakes. This magical place is otherworldly, giving the feeling of walking on Mars.

Have you ever seen this before? Nope, you haven't.

Isfahan

Isfahan is the capital of Esfahan Province. The Persians call it "Nesf-e-Jahan", meaning "Half The World". Due to its beautiful hand-painted tiling and magnificent public square, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. An ancient town and capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722, it was long noted for its fine carpets and silver filigree. Its architecture, tree-lined boulevards and relaxed pace make it one of the highlights of Iran. On this tour we will focus most of our attention on the many beautiful mosques and historical buildings.

There is no shortage of mosques and historical buildings in Iran (click to enlarge).

Persepolis

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC) and is among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. The English word Persepolis is derived from Greek and means "the Persian city”. The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain. Although set on fire and destroyed by Alexander the Great in a gesture symbolising the destruction of Persian imperial power, its still impressive ruins permit a fairly complete reconstruction of its original appearance. Ruins of a number of colossal buildings exist on the terrace. All are constructed of dark-grey marble. Fifteen of their pillars stand intact. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Persepolis, the Persian City.

Shiraz

Shiraz, the third-most-populous city of Iran and the capital of Fars Province, is known as the city of poets, gardens, wine, nightingales and flowers. It was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (AD 1747–79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. Here we will also visit several very photogenic mosques and historical buildings, as well as enjoy the local street life and cuisine.

You don't need witty captions when the images are already talking

Qeshm Island

Qeshm, formerly known as Kishm, is the largest of Iran's two major islands. It is far off the beaten track, so few tourists go here. That's good for us, because the island offers several unique landscape photography opportunities. Canyons filled with large sandstone pillars, mountains with beautiful eroded shapes, and other interesting locations that have not yet been photographed to death.

Daniella in The Mountain of Wells.
Welcome to the hottest desert in the world

Lut Desert

The Lut Desert is a large salt desert located in the provinces of Kerman and Sistan and Baluchestan. It is the world's 27th-largest desert, and was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2016.

Seven years of satellite temperature data show that the Lut Desert is the hottest spot on Earth. The Lut Desert was hottest during 5 of the 7 years, and had the highest temperature overall: 70.7°C (159.3°F) in 2005. Luckily for us, we will be there when it’s a lot more pleasant!

What makes this desert so different from most other deserts, it that it is filled with an endless amount of fascinating rocks. In terms of photography, shooting deserts doesn’t get much better than this. We spent a lot of time driving deep into uncharted terrain where even the local guides never go, and we have found several amazing photo locations that will blow you away!

The desert that makes other deserts look pretty boring (click to enlarge).

The Weather

Iran has a hot, dry climate characterised by long, hot, dry summers and short, cool winters. During our visit we will experience all kinds of temperatures and conditions, but on average it will be warm. In and around Tabriz it will most likely be the coldest, at around 15˚C during the day and 5˚C during the night. On Qeshm Island the average high is double that: 31˚C during the day and the nights are considerably warmer too: 22˚C. During our scouting trip, the average temperature on Qeshm actually felt much warmer than in the Lut Desert, because of the high humidity on the island. Based on statistics, temperatures should not be a problem during our visit.

Transportation, accommodation & food

On location we will travel in a private bus. When possible (and practical), we will take internal flights to cover the large distances between locations. The flight schedules are however not yet available, which explains why we can't yet present you the final itinerary and costs.

We stay in the best possible accommodation, chosen because of their position near places we want to photograph. This varies from 5-star hotels to very basic home-stay accommodation in the desert. But always clean, and quite comfortable.

Typical breakfast consists of flat bread, cucumber, tomatoes and cream cheese. Dinner or lunch is often rice and either lamb, chicken or fish, moslty served as a shashlik or a curry-style. They are not big on vegetables...

Safety

In general, Iran is one of the safest countries in Middle East. It is safer than Westerners might expect. We thought people were genuinely friendly and interested to know about you and your country, making use of each opportunity to practice their English. So set your preconceptions aside and come with an open mind.

Chances of facing anti-Western sentiment as a traveller are slim. Even hardline Iranians make a clear distinction between the Western governments they distrust and individual travellers who visit their country. However, it is always best to be non-confrontational and avoid politically-oriented conversations.

We will also need to adjust our clothing and respect the dress-code, based on islamic customs. Specifically for women this means loose fitting clothing and a head-scarf, to be worn at all times in public. Advise on what to wear will be provided in the detailed tour information you receive a few months before departure.

The desert is calling and you must go.

Details

Tour dates 2019 - tour 1: 12 October - 30 October 2019

Tour date 2019 - tour 2: 25 November - 12 December

Tour date 2021: February/March (final date not yet set)

Tour leaders: Marsel van Oosten & Daniella Sibbing and local guide

Fee: 8,850 USD per person for the 2019 tour with a single supplement of 750 USD for those that want a single room (not possible in the desert). The 2021 tour fee will be slightly higher.

Deposit: 1,500 USD

Group size: min. 8, max. 12

Photography level: all experience levels (non-photographing partners will also enjoy this tour a lot!)

Genre: landscape and travel photography

Fitness level: easy to moderate (you'll climbing some hills)

Body language is a wonderful thing.

What's included

  • domestic flight(s) and airport tax
  • English speaking local guide
  • all local transport
  • rental of 4x4 vehicles and local guides in the desert
  • all entrance fees and park fees
  • all accommodation
  • all meals
  • all alcoholic drinks 😂
  • drinking water and all soft drinks
  • all tips and gratuities
  • daily briefings
  • photographic instructions
  • in the field tips & tricks
  • image reviews
  • loads of fun

And what's not

  • international airfares
  • expenses of personal nature
  • insurances and visa

Behind the scenes

The making of. Daniella's iPhone collage.

Tour impression video

To give you a taste of the atmosphere of Iran and the tour we've put together for you, we've compiled a video, showing you some of the locations we plan to visit.

Come and join us!

We hope that you have enjoyed reading through this digital brochure and that you'll join us in Iran! Please email us if you have any questions. If you are interested in joining us, you can fill out the booking form

America & Iran... a sensitive issue.

The relationship between the US and Iran has always been a bit problematic. But it's actually not that difficult to get a VISA for Iran. They welcome foreigners of all nations. Visitors from the USA, Canada and United Kingdom just need to plan in a bit more time to get their VISA in place. But we will help you with that.

Please note: Itinerary is subject to change. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by us or our local guide.

All photographs ©Marsel van Oosten

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