Istanbul to Tehran by Rail

You may have made your way into Turkey before, but now it's time to take it a little farther east and discover some of the greatest underexplored territory in the world. This 17-day rail tour will bring you through the Turkish countryside to see the highlights of the Cappadocia region and the elegant, lakeside city of Van. You'll cross into Iran to find yourself in bustling Tehran, roam ancient Persepolis, and sample Shiraz grapes in the city that gave them their name. Take a true adventure and experience a part of the globe that's made for small-group travel.

Middle East
  • Duration: 17 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Walking Tour
  • Physical rating: Light
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: ETIR/153338
  • Starts: Istanbul, Turkey
  • Finishes: Tehrān, Iran
You will Visit
  • Istanbul
  • Ankara
  • Göreme
  • Tatvan
  • Van
  • Tehrān
  • Shiraz
  • Isfahan



Day 1: Istanbul

Arrive at any time.
There are no planned activities before an evening welcome meeting.


Day 2: Istanbul/Ankara

Enjoy an orientation walk around Istanbul before moving on to the capital city of Ankara.


Day 3: Ankara/Göreme

Visit Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, before driving to the Cappadocia region. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner with a local family.
Visit Anitkabir before transferring to the town of Göreme, the base for exploring Cappadocia. With 2.5 days free to explore, there will be plenty of time to tour the area by bike, visit neighbouring villages, trek regional valleys or try a hot air balloon ride.

During one of the evenings, travel to a nearby village and enjoy dinner with a local family.


Day 4: Göreme

Enjoy an included visit to the Göreme Open Air Museum before free time to explore this unique region. Opt to see it from above on a hot air balloon ride.
Outdoor enthusiast? Hire a bike to get around on two wheels or join your CEO on an optional trekking tour through one of the beautiful valleys of the region.

If you want to go further afield, take a local bus to explore nearby villages.


Day 5: Göreme/Tatvan

Enjoy one more morning in Cappadocia before driving to nearby Kayseri. Board an overnight train for Eastern Turkey.


Day 6: Tatvan/Van

Arrive to Tatvan and board a ferry for the scenic ride across Lake Van. Arrive to the other side and the town of Van in the afternoon.


Day 7: Van

Enjoy a day trip to Mt Ararat with a visit to the Ishak Pasha Palace.


Day 8: Van

Use a full day here to enjoy Lake Van. Drive to Gevas for a short cruise to Ahtamara Island to visit a beautiful Armenian Church. Opt to swim at the local beach.


Day 9: Van/Tehrān

Enjoy another day in the Van area with a visit to the Van Castle. Board the Trans-Asia train in the evening for the journey to Tehran.


Day 10: Tehrān

Spend the day absorbing the scenery from the train, arriving into Tehran in the evening.


Day 11: Tehrān/Shiraz

Explore Tehran with a local guide, visiting the Sa'd Abad Palace and National Jewel Museum before boarding an evening train to Shiraz.


Day 12: Shiraz

Arrive in Shiraz in the late morning. Spend the day visiting the Karim Khan Citadel, Vakil Mosque, and the tombs of Hafez and Sa'adi.
There is free time to explore the city's beautiful Regents mosque, Nasiralmolk mosque, Khan madrasa, Bagh-e Eram gardens, and perhaps even listen to some poetry being recited at the Hafez tomb.

This vibrant student city is buzzing with life and is a great place to interact with some Iran's youth.


Day 13: Shiraz

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Persepolis, the ceremonial palace of Darius, and admire its amazingly well-preserved carvings. Later, wander the streets and mingle with the students in laid-back Shiraz.
Travel to Persepolis to explore this fascinating sight. On the way back to Shiraz, visit the rock cut tombs at Naqsh-e-Rostam, the burial place of Darius the Great and his successors.

With free time, enjoy the vibe of Shiraz.


Day 14: Shiraz/Isfahan

Stop at the Koran Gate and the UNESCO-listed Pasargadae complex en route to Isfahan, one of the finest Islamic cities in the world.
Embark on an included visit to Pasargadae and explore the capital and burial site of Cyrus the Great.


Day 15: Isfahan/Tehrān

Tour the beautiful city of Isfahan, enjoying the famous square, mosques, and bartering at the bazaar. Hang out on the many bridges that make Isfahan unique, or shop for an authentic Persian rug. In the evening, board a final overnight train to Tehran.
Wander the tree-lined boulevards of Isfahan, the jewel of ancient Persia. On a city tour, visit Imam Square and mosque, Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque, and the Ali Qapu Palace. Wander the bazaar and learn the history of Isfahan's bridges.

Stop in a miniatures shop and learn about this intricate art form before sampling some delicious gaz, a candy famous in Isfahan.


Day 16: Tehrān

Arrive early and enjoy a final day of sightseeing in the busy capital of Tehran. Visit Golestan Palace, the National Museum, and the Carpet Museum.
Ramble through the enormous bazaar and visit the Imam Khomeini Mosque. View the many political murals that surround the former US Embassy then relax like the locals do by drinking chai and chewing on dates in a traditional chaikhuneh (teahouse).

Try some more of the fine Iranian cuisine like dizi (stew you crumble bits of bread into and mash up with a mortar and pestle right at the table!) while enjoying traditional music at a local restaurant.


Day 17: Tehrān

Depart at any time.

    • Local Living: Dinner with Local Family, Çavuşin
    • Istanbul orientation walk
    • Anitkabir visit
    • Traditional dinner with local family (Göreme)
    • Open Air Museum visit
    • Trans-Asia train
    • Mt Ararat day trip (Van)
    • Ishak Pasha Palace visit
    • Ahtamara Island visit
    • Van Castle visit
    • Tehran city tour, including Sa'd Abad Palace and the National Jewelry Museum
    • Karim Khan Citadel visit (Shiraz)
    • Vakil Mosque visit
    • Hafez and Sa'adi tombs visit
    • Persepolis guided tour
    • Naqsh-e-Rostam visit
    • Koran Gate visit
    • Pasargadae visit
    • Isfahan city tour
    • Golestan Palace visit (Tehran)
    • National Museum visit
    • Carpet Museum visit
    • Transport between destinations and to/from included activities
    • Hotels/guesthouses (12 nts), sleeper trains (4 nts)
    • 9 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners
    • Trains, private vehicles, ferry, walking
    Group Leader
    • Chief Experience Officer (CEO) throughout, local guides
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Tour Highlights:
  • Cover part of the Silk Road by rail
  • Soak in the dramatic scenery of Cappadocia
  • Savour the diverse flavours of Turkey and Iran
  • Absorb the ancient history of the region
  • Marvel at the dazzling bazaars and colourful mosques.