Iran & Caucasus

September 2000

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The highlights of this trip were the ancient cities of Persia and the early Christian monasteries of Armenia and Georgia.
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  • IRAN (Sep 20-Oct 3)
  • Tehran : Archaeological and islamic museum, Vali-e-asr Mosque (designed by Fluid Motion Architects), a mosque without a minaret
  • ++Isfahan: Vank cathedral 1622, Sio-se-Pol and Khajou bridges, Chehel-Sotoun palace 17th AD, Hasht-Behesht palace, Ali Qapu palace, +Sheik Lotfolah mosque, +Jema mosque 11th AD, +++Imam mosque 17th AD with countless niches, arches, panels and a 10-echo double dome
  • +++Persepolis 6th BC-4th BC, +++Naghsh-e-Rostam 8th BC (tomb of Darius), Naghsh-e-Rajab, ++Pasargadae 6th BC (tomb of Cyrus)
  • Shiraz: Eram Garden, Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, Narenjestan Palace, tombs of poets Hafez and Saadi and Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine
  • Kerman: Masjid-e Jame 14th AD, Gonbad-e Jabalieh 10th AD, Ganj Ali Khan bath 17th AD.
  • +++Bam (abandoned citadel surrounded by walls and towers, 200 kms southeast of Kerman, 10th-19th AD)
  • +Yazd: +Towers of Silence (Zoroastran funeral places), Fire Temple (Atashkadeh), Jame Mosque 14th AD, ++Amir Chakhmaq portal 14th AD, shrine of the 12 imams 12th AD, ++old town
  • Tehran : Golestan Palace, Gate, Neiavaran Palace, bazaar
  • ARMENIA (sep 26-27)
  • Erevan
  • Echmiadzin (centre of Armenian apostolic church. St. Echmiadzin Cathedral founded in 301, Hripsime Martyria Church of the 7th century and Zvartnots temple of the 7th c.)
  • ++Geghard cave monastery (1164)
  • Temple of Garni (reconstructed pagan temple of the 1st AD)
  • Ashtarak basilica 5th AD (20kms from Erevan), Okanavan (6th-12th AD church), Samosavan church
  • Churches of Sevan
  • (Church of Akhtamar of 921)
  • Near the border with Georgia: +Odzun (6th AD church), +Sanain (10th AD church), +Monastery of Haghbat (13th AD)
  • GEORGIA (sep 28-29)
  • Tbilisi: +Georgy Chakhava's Roads Ministry building (1975)
  • Samtavisi Church (11th c., one of the masterpieces of medieval Georgian architecture), 12th c. cathedral of Kvatakhevi, 13-th c. Kintsvisi monastery
  • Mtskheta (22 km from Tbilisi, ancient capital of Georgia, 400BC - 500AD), Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th c.), Jvari Monastery (6th c.)
  • Gori (86 km from Tbilisi, cave town of ++Uplistsikhe, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 1400s, and 7th c. basilica of Ateni Sioni Church)
  • +David Gareji monastery (situated in Gareji semi-desert, founded 6th c., a short hike to the other side of the mountain takes to 8-13th c. cave frescos)
  • Ananuri (63 km from Tbilisi, 15th c.fortified church, on the southern slopes of the Caucasus, unfortunately vandalized by Russian troops).
  • Batumi: Tamara Kvesitadze's rotating metallic statues of Ali and Nino
  • Next time in Iran: click here
  • Next time in Georgia: Kutaisi (western part of Georgia. ancient capital of Colchis, Bagrati temple of 11th c. and Gelati temple of 12th c, but the 250 km trip to Kutaisi can be demanding), Vardzia (south of Georgia, grandiose cave town built between 1186-1189)
  • Next time in Armenia: Monastery of Noravank (south of Armenia), Nakhchivan/ Nakhichevan's Nakhchivan include Nakhichevan (1886), Fort of Tatev (on the Caspian Sea near Iran)


Trip difficulty: moderate
Length: 20 days
Season: March to October
  • Pictures of Iran
  • Pictures of Armenia and Georgia
  • Ancient civilizations of Iran: Elamites (3000 BC - 500BC), Medes (700BC-500BC), Achaemenians (500BC-300BC, Cyrus, Darius)
  • Iran's time zone: +2h 30'
  • Friday is the weekly holiday: all offices and most monuments are closed
  • Weather: Summer is hot and dry. Except for the northern mountains, winter is mild.
  • Health: Iran is clean and safe
  • Biggest problems for tourists: 1. traffic (Iranians have no mercy for pedestrians), 2. food (see below), 3. pollution (all Iranian cities are huge and heavily polluted)
  • Currency (2000): $1 = 8200 ryals
  • Women must wear a veil and a long gown, men cannot wear short pants.
  • Food: there are very few restaurants and very hard to find. Very few dishes are vegetarian. Alcohol is forbidden. Refrigerated water is available in every mosque and often along sidewalks. Recommended restaurant in Tehran: Hotel Masshad. Recommended restaurant in Kerman: Khayyam (near Azadi square, no english sign). Recommended restaurant in Yazd: Hamam_e-Khan (tea house in an old bath in the bazaar).
  • Transportation. Taxis are very cheap, not very knowledgeable about tourist attractions. Most taxis ply specific routes and are shared by a few passengers. Buses and trains are very reliable. Airplanes are mostly Fokker, also very reliable, and very cheap.
  • Touring on your own is difficult because few people speak english and there are very few signs in english. Tourist information offices are mostly closed and if they are open they only book hotels.
  • Iranians are far more westernized than Arabs.
  • Biggest disappointment in Iran are the cities: cities are sprawling metropolis that have lost their traditional character. Monuments are buried in kms of asphalt and concrete.
  • A tourist is still very much a rarity and people who speak english will approach you to practice their english
  • Shiraz: a taxi to Persepolis, Pasargadae, Naqsh Rostam is about $15. Recommended taxi driver: Mersa 45167. Lots of hotels around Shohada square and streets off Zand ave.
  • Kerman: to go to Bam take shared taxi from SarAsyab square to Bam ($2). To go to Yazd take a bus from the bus station (frequent, $1, 5 hours).
  • Monuments. Most mosques are free. Museums are expensive for foreigners (the archeological museum in Tehran is $7.50 and it is quite small).
  • TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 all rights reserved.