Few countries' history and culture are as rich, deep, and palpable as Iran's. In the northern reaches of this enchanted land, the breathtaking Alborz Mountains harbor pristine examples of the nation's textured past and colorful present. On this exclusive MT Sobek adventure, spend 6 glorious days trekking through the Alborz's varied highlands. En route, visit world-class museums, ancient ruins, sacred mosques, local villages, nomadic tribes - even soak in restorative hot springs and sleep in rock caves! Led by an expert guide, this incredible trip offers an unparalleled experience of Iran.
Trek through the contrasting landscapes and cultures of the southern and northern Alborz Mountains
Visit UNESCO-listed sites like terraced Masuleh village, magnificent St. Stepanos Monastery, and Soltaniyeh's dome
Explore fortresses, castles, bazaars, mosques, monasteries, museums -- and overnight in an ancient rock dwelling!
Welcome to Tehran! Meet your MT Sobek guide and transfer to the hotel. Join the group for a short welcome talk and trip briefing, then begin your cultural extravaganza at the Carpet Museum of Iran, home to stunning Persian carpets dating to the 16th century. After lunch visit the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, which showcases an impressive collection comprising works by Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh, and other world-class artists. Nearby is a small flea market where you can do some fun treasure (and bargain) hunting before a welcome dinner.
Start the day off with a buffet breakfast before driving into the city center to visit one of the gates of old Tehran. Then spend the rest of the morning visiting the National Museum of Iran, which features some of the world's most valuable Persian antiquities right up to the modern Islamic era. After a hearty lunch, feast your eyes upon the largest and most dazzling collection of jewels in the world at the Crown Jewels Museum, located in the National Treasury. This evening, enjoy dinner with the group.
Lace up your hiking boots! Begin your trek today with a short warm-up hike in the southern Alborz Mountains' dry desert climate. From here, drive past flowing rivers and gentle springs en route to the northern Alborz, which has a wildly different landscape and climate than other parts of Iran - dense forests, green hillsides, often rainy skies. Arrive in tiny Parachan, one of 40 villages in the verdant Taleqan valley and an old trade-route stop for traders bound for the Caspian Sea, where renowned Persian rice was traded for wheat.
Today is a full day of hiking, beginning with an ascent nearly all the way to the peak of Mt. Lashkarak (13,959'). Then you descend into the Alborz's densely forested Caspian side on an 8-hour mountain trek. The day is both challenging and rewarding, with every step affording breathtaking views - including of snow-capped Alam-Kuh (15,906'), Iran's second-highest peak.
Continue trekking through the northern Alborz's lush landscape and descend through the mountainous Galu valley into Kelardasht. Nicknamed the "Paradise of Iran," this verdant region is a popular getaway for nature-loving Tehranis. Tonight you're in for a special treat: experiencing the local warmth and hospitality firsthand when you overnight in an Abbasabad home!
Drive along the sea to Rasht, the largest city on Iran's Caspian coast, then west to statue-laden Fuman, where an easy hike leads to Rudkhan Seljuq, a brick-and-stone castle hidden among dense mountainous forest. The medieval military complex - originally constructed in the Sasanian era (225-651) - is quite weathered but, incredibly, its 42 towers are still intact. Continue to Masuleh, a UNESCO-registered village established in the 10th century with spectacular, unique architecture: Its courtyards and rooftops serve as pedestrian streets. Explore on foot, walking by - and on! - its interconnected buildings.
Take a scenic drive to Sarein along the gorgeous Asalem-Khalkhal Road. En route, visit the magnificent Ardabil Shrine, tomb of the 13th-century Safavid Dynasty founder. The shrine complex is an architectural marvel, with well-preserved and richly ornamented tiled facades representative of medieval Islamic design and Sufi mysticism. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the site was the Islamic empire's largest and most complete monastery, and the most prominent Sufi shrine. This evening it's another unforgettable overnight experience: living the life of a nomad and camping with the Shahsavan tribe!
Get back into your boots! Embark on a four-hour hike on the slopes of sacred Mt. Sabalan (15,784'), Iran's third-highest mountain. This area is also a home base for the local Shahsavan nomadic pastoral tribe, with whom you enjoy a cup of tea. This afternoon, your feet will thank you for soaking them in Sarein's soothing hot springs. The area's mineral-rich waters are known throughout Iran for their healing and spiritual powers. Each spring is slightly different in mineral composition, size, and temperature, and is recognized for curing particular ailments.
After breakfast, drive to the cultural mecca of Tabriz, home to the 14th-century Arg-e Alishah (also known as the Arg-e Tabriz) ruins, allegedly the largest brick structure ever built. Explore the archeological and historical Azerbaijan Museum, featuring superb metal and stone relics up to 3,000 years old, Ahad Hossein's powerful sculptures of life and war, plus a re-weave of the legendary Ardebil carpet. Also visit the splendid Masjed-e Kaboud, or the Blue Mosque. Constructed in 1465, the mosque is renowned for its remarkable domed ceilings, dazzling turquoise tile mosaics, and intricate calligraphy.
Start the day exploring ancient tomb and caravanserai ruins en route to the architecturally masterful St. Stepanos Monastery. Built in the 9th century entirely of stone, it has been restored and rebuilt several times over the centuries. After lunch, return to Tabriz to hunt for treasures at its vibrant, UNESCO-listed bazaar explored by Marco Polo in the 13th century. Stroll through its 22 magnificent brick-domed halls and 24 caravanserais filled with carpets, jewelry, spices, hats, leather, housewares, produce, and much more.
Another day of trekking today, though this time it's through the scenic valley of Kandovan in the historic Mt. Sahand foothills, a 30-mile drive from Tabriz. Sahand, a dormant volcano, is the highest mountain in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. Cut into its slopes is the remarkable village of Kandovan, where just over 600 people reside year-round, comprised of manmade cliff dwellings excavated inside volcanic rocks and tuffs. Tonight you settle into bed in one of these 700-year-old cave-like residences - indeed a night to remember!
Another mountain drive this morning through the Zagros mountains' passes and villages leads to the spectacular Sassanid Takht-e Soleyman citadel. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary, partly rebuilt in the 13th-century Mongol period, and a Sasanian-period (6th- and 7th-century) temple dedicated to Anahita, divinity of the waters. The designs of the fire temple, the palace, and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of religious Islamic architecture, as well as other cultures.
Behold breathtaking UNESCO-listed Soltaniyeh, home to Iran's oldest (1302-1312) and tallest double-shell dome, and one of the world's largest brick domes. Sadly much of the Dome of Soltaniyeh's exterior decor has been lost over the centuries, but the interior's remarkable mosaics, murals, calligraphy, and faience have been preserved. Next is Qazvin, an ancient Persian Empire capital known today as the calligraphy capital of Iran. Visit its wonderfully restored caravanserai-turned-arts precinct, architectural marvels, sensorial bazaars, and atmospheric alleyways. After lunch, return to Tehran for a farewell dinner.
After a farewell breakfast, transfer to Tehran's international airport for your homeward-bound flight.
MT Sobek has crafted pioneering adventures across the globe for 50 years, and has taken guests through Iran for over five years.
Our team of local guides are true experts, each with over 20 years' of experience trekking in the Alborz Mountains.
This unique adventure takes you out of the tour van and into the mountains to explore by foot - a rarely offered opportunity.
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Journey blends hiking up to 8 hours a day on sometimes rocky mountain paths with immersive cultural touring of historical sights.
Comfortable hotel accommodations and two nights camping in the Alborz Mountains. Also includes a night at a boutique cave hotel in Kandovan!
July and September temperatures range from the low-60's F to low-100's F. The mountains are colder in the low 30's F at night. Rain is unlikely.
Our MTS representative will meet you at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on Day-1.
Even though the U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations at this time, it is legal for Americans to travel to Iran.
Yes, we handle the visa for you and apply as a group.
Yes, women must cover their arms, head, and neck and wear a top garment that extends to mid-thigh. Men should not wear tank tops or shorts. In remote trekking areas, these restrictions can be relaxed.
Yes, please bring a sleeping bag rated to 0F and a sleeping pad.
Your luggage will be transported by mules during the trek and you will have it in camp each night.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"I've taken six MTS trips and they have all exceeded my expectations. The staff, the food, the logistics and the communications have always been exceptional. Thank you for being my "go to" adventure travel company!"
MT Sobek Traveler
"My wife and I approached this trip with a bit of concern about security and travel hassles. We experienced only warm hospitality and enthusiastic exchanges with Iranians wherever we went and never once felt threatened."
MT Sobek Guest, Hiking Iran's Alborz Mountains