The cross roads of the famed Silk Road for centuries, in fact the lands of Persia inspired its creation. The legacy is fabulous cultural sites encrusted with blue tiles, blended with extraordinary flowers and landscapes. Nestled in the towering Zagros are fields of fritillaries, cliffs coloured with dionysias and stunning irises. This tour combines the best of Iran with a friendly, welcoming people.
A tour with Philipp Liepelt
Day 1 To Iran
International flights and connections will have us into Shiraz where we overnight.
Day 2 Shiraz and Persepolis
We start early for the cultural highlight of Persepolis. Enjoying our morning in the ruins of the more than 2500-year old former ceremonial capital of Persia. In the afternoon we will see a selection of Persian garden culture and enjoy some of the famous historical buildings of Shiraz. Overnight Shiraz.
Day 3 Komehr Valley
From Shiraz we head north reaching our first higher altitude area as we pass into the valley of Komehr. The high pass is a good location for Fritillaria imperialis, Tulipa humilis, Bellevalia species, even in hot and dry years. By the remaining snow fields there is Colchicum wendelboi. Following the lovely valley, we find nice patches of Muscari neglectum and Tulipa biebersteiniana growing together in the orchards. Overnight Yasuj.
Day 4 Yasuj
The morning we spend in the light oak forests around Yasuj. The elevation is lower – the flora different and rich in Eremurus spectabilis, vivid pink Gladiolus italicus, red Euphorbia microscidia and the gangly 'limbs' of Orchis simia. After a lunch in Yasuj and heading north to Semirom and with luck the pass behind Sisakht will already open so we can take a look at the higher altitudes there. Overnight Semirom.
Day 5 Agahdag
A delightful valley near Agahdag throngs with Fritillaria reuteri, that crowd streamsides with their brown and gold bells, whilst in the orchards are Tulipa biebersteiniana. Nearby is a wonderful gorge packed with yellow Dionysia revoluta and the pretty purple Viola pachyrrhiza also grows here. Another valley has the stunning Dionysia iranshahrii, a species with very tight cushions and light pink flowers. The plentiful red forms of Anemone biflora look like tulips from a distance. Our third Dionysia of the day is the purple D. mozzafarianii as we head back to our hotel. Overnight Semirom.
Day 6 Hanna Lake
Near Hanna we’ll hopefully find our first lovely Dionysia bryoides with tight cushions smothered in pink flowers. Rosularia elymaitica and the ‘fake’ dionysia Draba pulchella. It’s called fake as it looks just like a dionysia from a distance, also growing on vertical cliffs! Another nearby valley has more superb flora with a second red tulip - Tulipa staphii, Corydalis verticillaris, Bellevalia longistyla, ferny-leaved Biebersteinia multifida, Thalictrum isopyroides and best of all the lovely pink Fritillaria gibbosa. Iris iberica subsp. lycotis might be open already too, one of the finest of all oncocyclus irises. In the late afternoon we might have some time to search for Dionysia species in the rocks above the city.
Day 7 To Chelgerd
Long journey to Chelgerd with a first stop-over near the Tang-e sayed park searching for the stunning Iris iberica subsp. lycotis, in various sumptuous red-purple colour forms as well as their rather less showy cousin Iris songarica.
Day 8 Dasht-y-Laleh
Close to our hotel is one of the highlights of Iranian flora, a wonderful valley packed with hundreds of thousands of Fritillaria imperialis and different forms of F. persica. The whole valley is stunning with the long ridges of the Zagros hemming in the river and sweeping views. In the afternoon we’ll visit an altogether different valley where rough conglomerate rocks habour the hanging pink flowers of Dionysia archibaldii. It’s a nice walk along the river in the wide canyon. The rich golden yellow of Corydalis rupestris can also be found on the rocks. Up the pass to Bazoft valley we have the chance to see perfect yellow cushions of Dionysia lamingtonii. Reaching the high altitudes oft the pass we will find some Tulipa, Corydalis and Colchicum.
Day 9 Aligoudarz
As we drive we’ll stop for Fritillaria persica, Muscari neglectum and Leontice leontopetalum and the lovely pale blue Scilla persica growing in damp meadows. For those with the energy they can climb up to see Dionysia caespitosa. At Gol-e Koo there are Fritillaria zagrica and Corydalis verticillaris (season permitting).
Day 10 Nomads
Though we hope see Dionysia gaube var. megalantha, today is very much a cultural interlude with the chance to spend time at a nomad camp in the mountains and charming traditional stone villages.
Day 11 To Khoramabad
Our Dionysia experience continues with spreading mats of yellow D. hausknechtii thriving is wonderfully scenic area. Later in the morning a second yellow species follows with cushions of D. crista-galli The road is beautiful, with nice villages. Cliffs have the lovely mauve-blue Campanula reuteriana, amazing Salvia and wet fields with plentiful Scilla persica.
Day 12 Tang-e Sayd
We start from Aligudarz to Sharekord and visit the near National Park. This impressive protected area is primarily for its big mammal populations, but it also harbours superb flora. In particular the stunning Iris iberica subsp. lycotis, in various sumptuous red-purple colour forms as well as their rather less showy cousin Iris songarica.
Day 13 Esfahan
Now we switch to culture and spend the day exploring the magnificent architecture of Esfahan, one of the stand-out cities of the former Silk Road. The central square is a masterpiece of blue-tiled Islamic art and there are many other fascinating corners to the city too. Overnight Esfahan.
Day 14 Return flights