I wanted to do something out of the ordinary, to celebrate my 70th birthday. I enjoy “adventure travel” that goes beyond the must-see destinations and takes a group to lesser known places as well, off the beaten track. When I looked at AUS Travel and Tour proposed itinerary, it looked such an exciting tour, to a country I never dreamt I’d have the chance to visit. So, I went ahead and booked, after talking with friends who’d been to Iran, and who each strongly encouraged me to go.
I can only give Mehdi the highest praise for his care and thoroughness of his approach to every aspect of our tour. Being Iranian himself it was a real advantage to have a tour manager who could talk to local guides or hosts in Farsi, especially in situations where their English wasn’t confident. I felt Mehdi went above and beyond on our behalf. Apart from creating a flexible itinerary, he took us on a number of off-the-beaten-track experiences that added so much to the richness of the tour. In some cases, eg the tour of the turquoise mine, it was not something even the local people had done. A real authentic experience. That’s an example of the ‘adventure travel’ side of the tour, which I really enjoyed – although I certainly relished the guided tours of the cities we visited, as there were so many magnificent mosques and other buildings that we explored.
The tour met exceeded my expectations! It’s a tour I shall remember for years to come. I enjoyed it immensely.
I’d have no hesitation in warmly recommending this tour.
I felt the tour gave excellent value for what we had paid. In fact, I worried that perhaps Mehdi might need to reassess his costs, and the tour fee, if the tour ended up being more expensive than anticipated.
What a difficult choice to make one highlight! I’m afraid I’ll have to give a list of several highlights. I can’t just choose one!
Yazd/Abarkouh: I found the ancient wind-catchers of Yazd and Abarkooh fascinating. Such clever technology.
Shiraz/Garden tour: The Eram Gardens of Shiraz were stunning, as were the gardens surrounding the mausoleums of Hafez and Sa’adi.
I just loved the intricate and beautiful tile-work on the mosques of Shiraz, Yazd and Esfahan. Stunning.
Food tour: The meal we were given up at that mountain village 40km from Yazd, where we also sat in the small simple home of an elderly woman who spoke about her life there was truly memorable. I felt that this project was so important, showing the vision and compassion of our local guides, and their deep respect for everyone in this village.
The occasions that we invited by local hosts were absolute treats! It was such a privilege to be invited into these homes and be given a meal there. In Shiraz, our first experience of such hospitality, I was amazed at the generosity and kindness of our wealthy hosts.
In Mashhad it felt as though we were hosted by friends. We knew Mehdi’s elderly mother received lots of visitors and had someone who comes in daily to help her, but to be invited for dinner – and to meet so many of Mehdi’s friends and relatives, was very special.
I’ve travelled in small groups 7 times before, and in my opinion this was right up there with the very best. Thank-you, Mehdi!
I think my tour to Iran by AUS Travel and Tour was thorough, within the constraints of time and geography. There’s never enough time to see and do everything.
Being invited into people’s homes. The kindness and warmth of the hospitality we received was truly memorable. Each of these occasions was unexpected, and deeply appreciated.
22 days: I think that three weeks is about the right length for such a tour. Although depending on how far any tour takes you, in terms of driving distances, as well as ensuring you have enough time to explore each destination along the way, the length of some tours might be longer. This one matched the areas of Iran that we covered, pretty well.
Mashhad: In Mashhad it felt as though we were hosted by friends. We knew Mehdi’s elderly mother received lots of visitors, and had someone who comes in daily to help her, but to be invited for dinner – and to meet so many of Mehdi’s friends and relatives, was very special.
Mashhad: in so many respects I regard Mashhad as a real highlight. This city seems to have everything, from the shrine of such significance to Islam, to all the flowerbeds and trees throughout the central city. I just loved all the sculptures. But to spend time in the homes of Ali andMehdi added such a personal element to our time there, that was so special. I’d go back to Mashhad if I ever got the chance to travel to Iran again.
Esfahan: was a beautiful city, we had a superb guide, and I loved what we saw.
Qamsar: Walking among those intensely fragrant Damask roses at the rose farm near Qamsar was memorable. I’d love just one such bush in my garden!
Tehran: The Jewellery Museum of Tehran was out of this world. Despite the crowds, which were inevitable, this was an amazing experience.
I enjoyed the mix of walking and listening (when with a tour guide) and the opportunities to stretch our legs from time to time.
People were friendly. Complete strangers would come up to us and ask if they could take a photo of us. Often with them standing alongside us. Others, often men, who we walked past in the street, would ask us how we were enjoying Iran. It was a pleasure to be able to respond honestly with compliments about their country.
Food tour & Cooking Class in Tehran: Our meal at the conclusion of the class was beautifully presented, and delicious. What a treat! I’m so pleased you decided to include this in your tour programme!
Transport and driver: We had a totally amazing driver. The van was the right size for our group, and the driver, Ali, kept it clean inside and out I’ll never forget his careful but determined moves that had our van negotiate the lane changes that took us from the second lane on the left, when we were in 8 lanes of Tehran gridlocked traffic, across to the second lane from the right. How he did this and kept his equilibrium astounded me. He managed so well in widely contrasting situations, from the narrow lanes in historic quarters of a city, to the long straits of desert roads, to windy village roads, and showing he can park just about anywhere. He had a wicked sense of humour, with enough English to communicate with us.
Safety: I certainly felt safe. At no time did I feel unsafe.