The ancient trade route known as the Silk Road winds its way from China to the Mediterranean through one of the world's most historically compelling locales. The exploits of Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and religious incursions by Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sufism have left an extraordinary legacy of architectural jewels.
The Sacred Architecture Tour will traverse the Silk Road and its tributaries passing through Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent in Uzbekistan; Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz and Tehran in Iran. Along the way numerous other locations of unique and special interest will be explored.
YOUR HOST: Stan Zippan
The tour will be led by Stan Zippan, an award-winning architect with over 30 years of Canadian and international experience. Stan has a passionate interest in sacred architecture and sacred places. He has studied sacred geometry, symbolism, ritual and how they were used as root design principles by ancient world cultures. He has travelled to over 40 countries, lived and worked in the Middle East for the past ten years, and has developed a deep respect and sensitivity to ancient world cultures and their reverence of the sacred.
A central theme of this tour poses the question "what makes a sacred place sacred?" Do all people share the experience of a particular site in this light? Can a better understanding of the dynamic principles of sacred architecture help us to approach that question? How does architecture amplify or focus the experience of the holy? Questions like these will be explored throughout the tour to help open new ways of seeing the many sacred sites – temples, mausoleums, madrassahs, mosques, churches, and synagogues – that populate these regions. To enhance and deepen the tour experience, Stan will be accompanied by a local guide in each country who will add a broad range of historical and cultural expertise.
Stan’s style is casual and collaborative rather than scholarly, with a wide range of subjects discussed on a daily basis such as sacred geometry, symbolism, traditional building structure, music and architecture, subjective and objective art, the nature of beauty, and of course, the essence of sacred architecture.
As an accomplished photographer, Stan will also offer guidance on how to take meaningful photos that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family. Opportunities will be provided for those interested in street photography with excursions off the beaten path.
|Tour Duration||:||20 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||15 persons|
|Max. Tour Size||:||25 persons|
|Includes international air|
|Tour Price (from)||:||US$|
Day 01: Sep 30, 2015: Depart home city for Tashkent (UZBEKISTAN) (Flight)
Today we start on our Sacred Architecture Tour from Chicago (airfares from other cities available).
Day 02: Oct 01, 2015: In transit
We transit at the Istanbul airport for a short break.
Day 03: Oct 02, 2015: Arrive Tashkent
Early morning we arrive at Tashkent International Airport where we are cordially welcomed and transferred to our hotel for an immediate check in. Morning is free to rest. Afternoon we explore the Old Town, visiting the Hast Imam Complex, Barak Khana seminary, Zangi Ota shrine, Tilla Shaikh archives, Chorsu market and the 16th century Kukeldesh madrassah. Evening we are treated to a welcome dinner.
Overnight: Hotel Dedeman/Lotte (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 04: Oct 03, 2015: Tashkent/Urgench/Khiva (Flight)
A short flight takes us to Urgench, capital of the Khorezm Province lying between the Amu-Darya River and Turkmenistan. Upon arrival we take a short drive to the historical town of Khiva. A living museum of Central Asia, Khiva is a UNESCO recognised World Heritage Site (WHS) as it is one of the stops on the Silk Road and contains numerous fascinating and beautifully preserved buildings including the colourful truncated minaret and the Juma Mosque with its hundreds of wood columns each carved by a different artist. The town is small enough to be fully explored within a day and a walking tour will reveal the mysteries of this legendary town from one corner to another. Later, under the magic of afternoon light, there will be a special excursion for those interested in street photography.
Overnight: Asia Hotel/Orient Star, Khiva (1 night) (B, D)
Day 05: Oct 04, 2015: Khiva/Bukhara (Drive)
Our drive to Bukhara (almost a full day) follows the Amu Darya River through the Kyzyl Kum Desert with many stops along the way. Although Bukhara has been described as the setting of the 1001 Arabian Nights, it is more seriously known as a centre of Sufism since the 10th century. In the late afternoon/early evening we will explore the town square, one of the most fascinating in central Asia, with its tranquil reflecting pool and statue of Sufi folk sage Mulla Nassrudin. After dinner we will be treated to a magical performance of traditional local music.
Overnight: Omar Khayyam/Hotel Minzifa (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 06: Oct 05, 2015: Bukhara
Bukhara was the first oasis which caught the eyes of invading Arab armies who were expanding their empire into the heartland of Central Asia. The ancient town of Bukhara goes back in history more than 2500 years and was one of the most important and richest towns on the Silk Road. Over the centuries it continued to flourish as a trading centre and a sacred destination for Sufi mystics especially those of the Naqshbandi order. We will spend the day visiting many of Bukhara’s architectural jewels such as the 10th century Samanadis Mausoleum with Zoroastrian motifs, ’Spring of Job’ Mausoleum, the Poi Kalon complex (WHS) which contains a special and memorable sacred space, the trading dome, numerous Madrassahs, the Magoki Atari (Bukhara’s oldest Mosque), a return to the town centre and a visit to the Jewish Quarter which houses an active synagogue. (B, D)
Day 07: Oct 06, 2015: Bukhara/Naqshbandi Complex/Samarkand (Drive)
On our way to Samarkand, we spend some quiet time at the sacred Naqshbandi complex, home of Bahauddin Naqshbandi’s tomb, one of the greatest of Sufi saints. It is still a place of pilgrimage, not only for Uzbeks but for Sufis and Muslims from around the world. We will then do a brief stop at the Sufi shrine of Abdul Khaliq Gijduvani in Gijduvan and the local pottery workshops. Then little distance further is Hazara mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Central Asia – from around 8th/9th AD. After our visit we head to the historic town of Samarkand, a crossroad and melting pot of the world's cultures, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Overnight: Hotel Sultan, Samarkand (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 08: Oct 07, 2015: Samarkand
Considered the Jewel of the Silk Road, Samarkand has been deservedly praised for its beautiful gardens and rich architectural heritage. Samarkand was admired and prized by the invaders who always wanted this city as part of their empire. It was founded in the 7th century BC as ancient Afrosiab and subsequently invaded by Alexander the Great (where he took his famous wife Roxanne), Genghis Khan, visited by Marco Polo who talked of its booming trade and gardens and ruled by Tamerlane who made it the capital of the world. Today we will visit the Gur Emir, the mausoleum of Tamerlane, the madrassah complex of Registan (WHS), probably Samarkand’s most famous site with three madrassahs surrounding an enormous public square and the Bibi Hanam mosque. After our midday meal, we continue with a visit to the Ulag Bek observatory/museum and end the day at the Shaqih Zinda mausoleum complex, one of the most stunning and memorable places in all of Uzbekistan. (B, D)
Day 09: Oct 08, 2015: Samarkand/Tashkent
The morning will start with a visit to St. Daniel’s grave with its unusual 10 m long casket explained by a most fanciful legend, the museum of Afrosiab containing the earliest art of the region and end the morning with a visit to the Bazaar overflowing with an immense selection of dried fruit and nuts. In the afternoon prior to our luxury train ride to Tashkent, you will be free to explore Samarkand on your own or revisit any of the sites from the previous day for more photos. In either case guidance will be provided. After hotel check-in and an early dinner we will take an evening tour of Tashkent’s surprisingly unique and unusual metro stations.
Overnight: Hotel Dedeman/Lotte (1 night) (B, D)
Day 10: Oct 09, 2015: Tashkent/Tehran (IRAN)
An early morning transfer for our flight to Tehran. We will be cordially welcomed at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport and transferred to our hotel. In the evening, we enjoy a Persian cuisine welcome dinner.
Overnight: Laleh Hotel (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 11: Oct 10, 2015: Tehran
A full day tour of Tehran includes the Archaeological Museum with unique collections of antiquary objects from 6000 BC, pre Islamic and Islamic periods. Next is the Golestan Palace and Gardens, which was once the residence of the 19th century Qajar kings and used by the 20th century Pahlavi dynasty for special ceremonies such as the coronations and celebrations of the Iranian new year. The palace houses the famous Mirror Hall and Peacock Thorne. The gardens surrounded by beautiful wall with tile decoration and a pool, it is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. We will also visit the unique Glass & Ceramic museum with its collection of art and craft from ancient to modern times housed in a beautiful Qajar-era building. Time permitting we visit the Carpet Museum. (B, D)
Day 12: Oct 11, 2015: Tehran/Shiraz (flight)
A short flight takes us to Shiraz, the city of poets, roses, wide tree lined avenues and a multitude of monuments, gardens and mosques. Here we visit the historical Eram Garden (Garden of Paradise) - the most celebrated Persian garden in Shiraz is famous for its cypress trees. In the middle of the garden stands the magnificent 19th Century Qajar palace with its own reflecting pool.
The Citadel of Karim Khan-The impressive citadel of Karim Khan Zand dominates the centre of Shiraz. This well-preserved fortress was part of the former royal courtyard with citrus trees and a pool. Masjed-e Vakil-(Regent's Mosque) at the entrance to the Regent's bazaar dates back to 1773 and is an outstanding work of art and architecture. Shah Cheragh Mausoleum (Mirror Mosque) - the most important place of pilgrimage within the city of Shiraz, with most magnificent decorative work in a mosaic of mirror glass, the inscriptions in stucco, the ornamentation, the doors covered with panels of silver, the portico, and the wide courtyard are especially attractive. The Mausoleum of the Sufi poet Sa'adi is set in a lovely garden and is an important site for Iranians.
His message is that of sacred love, expressed in a simple manner but resonating deeply with meaning. To end the day we visit the colourful Shiraz bazaar.
Overnight: Pars Hotel (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 13: Oct 12, 2015: Shiraz/Persepolis/Shiraz
Today we visit the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, Naghsh-e- Rostam and Naghsh-e-Rjab followed by the beautiful and unique Nasir al-Molk Mosque which houses the tomb of Sufi poet Hafez. Persepolis is the most impressive of all archaeological sites in Iran with wonderfully well preserved rock reliefs and columns on a spectacular terrace and the cradle of royal civilisation of Persian History. Founded by Darius I and Xerxes in the 5th and 6th Centuries B.C. At Naghsh-e-Rostam & Naghsh-e-Rjab we see spectacular cliff-face reliefs embellishing the tombs of the Achaemenid kings, Sassanid bas-reliefs and Zoroastrian monuments. One of the most famous of the Sassanid rock reliefs is the depicts Shahpur's victory over two Roman emperors, Valerian and Philip the Arab. The Nasir al-Molk Mosque is a special treat for all who visit there as it contains extraordinarily colourful and stunning geometric tile work as well as the tomb of renowned Sufi poet Hafez. His poetry embraces the mysteries of God, divine love, wine, human desires and dilemmas of life.
Overnight:Pars Hotel (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 14: Oct 13, 2015: Shiraz/Pasargadae/Yazd
We drive to Pasargadae to see the tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of Achamenian Empire, the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire and an exceptional legacy of Persian civilization. We continue our journey visiting 4000-year old Cypress tree in the city of Abarquo and explore the Zoroastrian village of Cham before our arrival in Yazd.
Overnight:Daad Hotel (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 15: Oct 14, 2015: Yazd
According to UNESCO Yazd is considered to be the second most historic city in the world and home to the largest Zoroastrian community in Iran. It is also known amongst architects as the city of badgirs (wind towers), the simple but brilliant indigenous technology for cooling buildings in hot dry climates. Today we visit the Towers of Silence from the Zoroastrian tradition where the dead were left to be picked clean by vultures, the Jameh Mosque which dates back to the 14th century and is one of the most beautiful attractions of central Iran, the Zoroastrian Fire Temple whose fire has supposedly been burning since 470 AD, Amir Chakhmagh complex with its imposing façade of multi-layered arcades and Doulatabad, a Persian Garden with a beautiful mansion and the world's tallest ventilation tower. (B, D)
Day 16: Oct 15, 2015: Yazd/Nain/Isfahan
Today we take scenic drive through the countryside to Isfahan via Na’in. At Na’in we will see some very special monuments including the Jameh Mosque, one of the first four mosques built in Iran after the Arab invasion; Rigareh, a qanat-based watermill and an old caravanserai. We continue to Isfahan widely regarded by experienced world travellers as one of the most beautfiul cities in the world and the indisputable centre of attraction for everyone visiting Iran. On arrival we will do a brief orientation tour getting a first glimpse of brilliant aquamarine mosaic domes, lofty minarets, and some of the world's finest architecture before being transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Abbasi Hotel (3 nights) (B, D)
Day 17: Oct 16, 2015: Isfahan
We will do a full day of sightseeing in Isfahan. Our exploration will include the Imam Square (Naqsh-e Jahan) - This vast square is home to what is arguably the most majestic collection of buildings in the Islamic world. It's also the second-largest square in the world. At the end of the Royal Square is one of the most breathtaking Islamic monuments in the world, the Imam Mosque. The rectangular entrance portal and the two turquoise minarets which flank it, dominate the Square. The Imam mosque is one of the Iran’s principal UNESCO Heritage sites. The Aliqapou Palace was the 16th-century palace of Shah Abbas Safavi, the greatest builder in Persian history. This palace was built as a functioning seat of government, and included a huge pavilion from where the Safavid rulers could watch the activities in the square below. The elevated terrace offers a magnificent view over the surrounding mountains, town and offers the best view of the Square. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a shimmering mosque with amazing ceramic work, constructed in 1617. The mosque is unusual because it has no minaret or courtyard. The mosque was once called the Ladies’ Mosque, because there was a tunnel between this mosque and the Ali Qapu Palace on the opposite side of royal square, allowing Ladies from court's royal harem to attend prayers without being seen in public. The Chehel Sotoun (The Forty Columns) is a Safavid palace with a delightful pavilion supported by twenty columns, which are doubled when reflected in the water to create the legendary forty. Inside are significant murals, mirror mosaics and an exquisitely crafted wooden roof. The Hasht Behesht Palace (Eight Paradises) is an attractive 17th century small palace with wooden columns set in a delightful garden of Nightingales which is visible through the great arches. The most interesting elements of this palace are the exterior spandrel decorations showing pairs of mythical hunting animals. The Isfahan Bazaar is a typical eastern bazaar and one of the oldest, longest covered bazaars in the world. There are numerous traditional teahouses and restaurants. Wandering around in bazaar with its fragrant scents and spices is an absolutely memorable experience. (B, D)
Day 18: Oct 17, 2015: Isfahan
Jameh Mosque is a building typifying nine centuries of Iranian sacred architecture, with vaulted arches, stucco carvings, and marble pool. This Friday mosque is an architectural treasure and one of the most magnificent of all buildings in Isfahan. The architecture of the mosque is extremely complex and constructed in different periods. The main part belongs to 11th century of the era of the Seljuks. Later extensively redecorated and repaired by The Mongols. The Bridges of Isfahan span the Zayandeh Rud (river) which starts in the Zagros Mountains, flows from west to east through the heart of Isfahan, and dries up in the Kavir desert. The many bridges constitute some of the finest architecture in Isfahan. Khajoo bridge is a magnificent structure with two tiers of arches built by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is over 120 metres (400 feet) long contains 24 arches and also serves as a sluice gate. Si-o-se-pol was also built by Shah Abbas and consists of two rows of 33 arches. There is a lovely teahouse at the entrance to the bridge where one can admire the beauty of Its impressive architecture. Vank Cathedral is a Christian cathedral with lavish interior and domed in the same manner as a Persian mosque. The walls and ceilings are covered with magnificent Christian imagery, fine painting and tile works. The 'Shaking Minarets’ (Monar Jonban) are twin minarets that belong to a 14th century Mongol mosque. What makes them unique is that when one of the minarets is shaken, the other shakes as well. To this day no one has been able to provide a satisfactory explanation for this unusual phenomenon. The Sassanian Fire Temple is the remains of a part Zoroastrian, part-Mongol edifice. Its sits atop a the hill and is still a place of worship for Zoroastrians. In the evening we will be treated to an evening of traditional Persian music by local musicians (subject to availability). (B, D)
Day 19: Oct 18, 2015: Isfahan/Abyaneh/Kashan/Tehran
We drive to the ancient village of Abyaneh, a UNESCO heritage site, to visit a local community that still wear traditional dress, follow traditional customs and live a traditional lifestyle which affords visitors an authentic picture of life in ancient rural Iran. A brief stop in the oasis town of Kashan displays a stark contrast between desert immensity and rich greenery. Amongst the many historical sites is the oldest known ziggurat from the 3rd millenium BC.
Overnight: Laleh Hotel, Tehran (1 night) (B, D)
Day 20: Oct 19, 2015: Tehran/home city
After what will be the journey of a lifetime, we are transferred to the airport for our flight back home. (B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).
This is a suggested program for private tours. Please contact us for details.
|Departure(s)||Per Person on Twin Sharing||Single Room Supplement|
Estimated International Airfare
(International airfare is included in this tour)
This tour operates on a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 25 participants
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.