Saturday, May 11, 2013

Affordable Iran

A strict Muslim country isn't everybody's idea of a good vacation destination, but in the case of Iran you might want to make an exception. The country formerly known as Persia contains some of the world's best examples of ancient Islamic architecture and the ruins of Persepolis, the ancient city built by Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C.
If you studied classics or ancient history, you already know that in olden days Persia was for a long time the main rival to Greece, and enjoyed a high level of civilization at a time when people in western Europe were still living in very primitive conditions.
It is possible to visit Iran relatively inexpensively. A 14-day tour offered by G Adventures (gadventures.com) covers most of the country, and prices start at $2,299 per person double occupancy, with a single supplement of $899. The itinerary starts and ends in the capital Tehran, and includes visits to Shiraz/Persepolis, Isfahan noted for Islamic architecture and beautiful carpets, Kashan which is famous for gardens and carpets, and a stay in a desert caravanserai. If you book through www.affordabletours.com you may be able to get a price reduction.
According to a post on www.lonelyplanet.com, it is possible to travel in Iran a lot more cheaply by bus, if you are highly  adventurous and not an American citizen. Americans are required to take group tours, and there are reports of them sometimes being denied visas.
Be aware of the rules requiring women to cover themselves with long black garments known as chadors, even in the heat of summer, and of other restrictions such as the total absence of alcohol. Also, several Western governments have issued warnings against unnecessary travel to Iran.
However, all the reports I have seen indicate that Iranians are generally very hospitable to foreigners. Here in Montreal I have spoken with many Iranian taxi drivers who generally say the country and people are wonderful, but the government is another story.

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