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JEWELS OF PERSIA aboard a Luxury Train 2015.

The Golden Eagle Danube Express

 

 

Eastbound Itinerary

 Budapest • Kecskemét • Sighişoara • Braşov • Veliko Turnovo •  Kazanlak • Istanbul • Cappadocia • Lake Van •Akdamar Island •  Van • Zanjan • Yazd • Isfahan • Shiraz • Persepolis • Tehran

 

2015 Eastbound departures are

March 31           finishes       April 14

September 4      finishes        September 18

October 6         finishes        October 20

November 16     finishes         November 30


 Westbound Itinerary

 

Tehran • Mashhad • Kerman • Shiraz • Persepolis • Isfahan  • Zanjan • Van • Lake Van • Akdamar Island • Cappadocia  • Istanbul • Kazanlak • Veliko Turnovo • Braşov • Sighişoara • Kecskemét  • Budapest.


2015 Westbound departures are

April 13             finishes    April 27

September 17    finishes    October 1

October 29       finishes    November 12

November 16     finishes    November 30

         

 

 

As rail tours go, Jewels of Persia is truly amazing. Travelling from the banks of the Danube to the shores of the Bosphorus and onto the ancient land of Persia, this unique journey takes in destinations that are rarely experienced by the Western visitor which makes it all the more special.

A distinctive adventure that may not always follow the itinerary step-by-step, but will delight and enthral with the potential for a surprise or two along the way.

The Golden Eagle Danube Express will be the first ever European private train to be permitted to enter into Iran.

 

ACCOMMODATION ON THE  GOLDEN EAGLE DANUBE EXPRESS

The carriages for this unique tour will be made up from the Deluxe sleeping cars, Heritage sleeping cars, Restaurant and Bar cars comprising the Danube Express which normally runs from Budapest to Istanbul and Prague. The capacity of the train will be around 65 guests.

Danube Express Deluxe Sleeping Cars Travel in some of the finest rail accommodation available in Europe. Each deluxe sleeping car has just five spacious yet intimate en-suite cabins offering every convenience and comfort so you may sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery as it rolls by. Private bathrooms feature a shower with constant hot water, washbasin and toilet. There is a heated towel rail, shaver socket and hairdryer and a range of toiletries are provided. Bedrooms have individually controlled air-conditioning, lighting with dimmer switches, individual reading lights, power sockets and a safe. Co-ordinated fabrics complement wood panelled walls and brass fittings. Two comfortable armchairs provide daytime seating and a free-standing chair adds flexibility. Cupboards and a full length wardrobe provide ample storage whilst the large picture window and full length mirror enhance the spacious feel.  A second window will open for fresh air and for that perfect photo opportunity.

 

During dinner each evening the living room is converted into two comfortable lower beds by your attendant who is also on hand to bring early morning tea or coffee or perhaps later, a glass of wine.

Heritage Class

Each carriage has eight sleeping cabins with an upper and lower bed. A toilet is available at one end of the carriage and a shower at the other end. Each cabin has wood panelled walls, remote controlled air-conditioning, power sockets and hanging space. A full length couch provides daytime seating. The large picture window will open for fresh air and for that perfect photo opportunity. During dinner each evening the cabin is converted into two comfortable beds by your attendant who is also on hand to bring early morning tea or coffee or perhaps later, a glass of wine.

 Bar car, the heart of the train.

 

ITINERARY (EASTBOUND)
Departure dates are as above

 

DAY 1                   Budapest  Hungary.

Arrivals day in Budapest where you will be met and transferred to the five-star Hilton Budapest Hotel (or similar). We will enjoy a welcome reception dinner, whilst you meet your fellow travellers on this highly anticipated journey.

 

DAY 2                Budapest & Kecskemét   Hungary.

We enjoy a morning drinks reception in the impressive Royal Waiting Room at Budapest Nyugati station before boarding the Golden Eagle Danube Express and we begin our spectacular rail journey to Tehran. Settle in to your cabin and later enjoy lunch as the train heads, steam-hauled for the first 100km, to Lajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show. Afterwards there is free time to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical centre of Hungary. Back onboard, enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the Lounge Car as the train continues across the Great Hungarian Plain and dine as we head towards Transylvania.

 

 

DAY 3              Sighişoara & Braşov   Romania.

Today we arrive in Sighişoara for a walking tour of the town’s main highlights. A World Heritage site rumoured to be the birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. We return onboard for lunch as we continue onto Braşov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery. Back onboard later this evening, the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams. Dinner is served as our train continues onto Bulgaria.

 

 

DAY 4              Veliko Turnovo & Kazanlak   Bulgaria.

We arrive after breakfast in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria’s ancient capital. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses seem perched, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River. A tour includes the superbly preserved medieval Tsarevets Hill and Castle and there is free time to wander through the ancient city. We take lunch onboard during the climb over the Shipka Pass. Kazanlak, in the Valley of the Roses, produces rose oil prized by perfumers worldwide. Here we visit the Shipka Memorial Church and a Thracian tomb with vaulted brickwork dating back to the 4th century BC. Relax in the Lounge Car before dinner is served as our train continues through the scenic landscape, reaching the Turkish border late in the evening.

 

 

DAYS 5 & 6        Instanbul    Turkey.

This morning we arrive into Istanbul. This fabled city that spans Asia and Europe deserves an extended stay so over the next two days we will see how old meets new; east meets west when you visit Istanbul’s must-see historic sites. One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style and features six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics.

The largest and oldest palace in the world and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience.

We also visit the Grand Bazaar which is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. In operation since the 14th century the bazaar is especially known for its jewellery, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. Guests stay overnight at a five star hotel while the train re-positions to Derince for the next stage of the journey. Late afternoon on Day 6 after the conclusion of our city tour, we leave Istanbul and travel by bus to Derince to re-board the Golden Eagle Danube Express and continue our journey through Asian Turkey.

Engineering work in connection with the Bosphorus Tunnel project (on both sides of the Bosphorus) will involve the train stopping outside Istanbul with the onward journeys by coach when leaving and re-joining the train.

 

DAYS 7 & 8                Cappadocia    Turkey.

Cappadocia is an area of Central Anatolia best known for its rocky landscape and is honeycombed with networks of ancient underground settlements and outstanding examples of Byzantine art. Erosion shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme Valley, but thousands of years ago humans took their cue from Mother Nature and began carving an incredible chamber and tunnel complex into the soft rock. Beginning in the 4th century, an urbanised underground cultural landscape was created here. We continue our tour of Cappadocia the following morning before returning to the train for an afternoon onboard as we head to our next destination.

 

DAY 9              Van, Lake Van & Akdamar Island    Turkey.

Today a six-hour crossing by train ferry takes us from Tatvan to Van, where we briefly stop on Akdamar Island to walk to the stunning Akdamar Kilisesa or Church of the Holy Cross. The walls are adorned with Old Testament carvings telling familiar tales from the bible. Onward into Van we will navigate the old streets of the town and marvel at the beautiful silver and hanging kilims (woven carpets) made from natural dyes.

 

DAY 10            Zanjan    Iran.

We head into Iran by night via the border crossing at Razi. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sultanieh is our first stop upon arrival in Zanjan, with its 13th century mausoleum of Oljeitu, the Il Khanid sultan. A visit to the old Rakhkt Shoor Khaneh and the Museum of the Mummified Salt Men concludes the day.

 

DAY 11            Yazd    Iran.

Yazd is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world and the tour takes in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, Amir Chakhmagh Square and the 14th century Friday Mosque, home to one of Persia’s finest mosaics.

We re-board the train for lunch and continue to Isfahan where we enjoy a short tour of the famous bridges of Sioseh Pol and Khadjou. A local restaurant is the setting for our evening meal.

 

DAY 12            Isfahan    Iran.

This enchanting city, which served as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722, is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest in Iran. As a crossroad of international trade and diplomacy, Isfahan has a rich mix of languages, religions and customs The city is famous for its silver filigree and metal work, array of great historical monuments, and its Life-Giving River, the Zayandeh-Rood, which has given the city its beauty. Isfahan is packed with some of Iran’s best sights and today we spend a whole day in the city, visiting the Chehel Sotoon Palace and the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter. Following a traditional Iranian lunch we move on to Naghshe Jahan Square, a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where the Ali Qapou Palace and Shah and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques can be found. Here, the time is yours to enjoy the huge square and pick up a bargain at the handicraft Bazaar of Qaisarieh.

 

 

DAY 13         Shiraz & Persepolis   Iran. 

Shiraz has many strings to its bow: poetry, literature, wine, flowers and amazing gardens and fruit trees. A visit to the Qoran Gate, Hafez Tomb and the Vakil Citadel are the highlights of our morning tour.

Following lunch onboard we continue onto Marvdast, for the home of Persepolis, another World Heritage Site. Perhaps Iran’s most important archeological site, this ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire dates back to the 6th century. Even now, the ruins are extremely impressive. We also view the Necropolis (Naghshe Rustam) and the Naghshe Rajab.

Guest Speaker announcement

Farokh Engineer (Eastbound tour)

Farokh Engineer is a raconteur and a former cricketer who played 46 Tests for India between 1961 and 1975 and played first-class cricket for Lancashire in England. Significantly for this tour, Farokh is a Parsee (Persian members of Zoroastrian communities in India) and although his ethnic routes are in Yazd, this will be his first visit to Persia.

 

DAY 14           Tehran    Iran.

After breakfast we reach our final destination and disembark the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Our first port of call is the Crown Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building, with its vast array of crown jewels used by the Qajar and Pahlavid royalty. Following lunch we head to the Gulestan Palace with its renovated Versailles-inspired mirror-encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah. Most of the remaining brick and tile buildings date back to the 19th century Qajar dynasty. Guests stay overnight in the five-star Parsian Azadi Hotel (or similar).

Day 15            Tehran    Iran.

Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for onward departures.

 

 

ITINERARY (WESTBOUND)
Departure dates are as above

 DAY 1                  Tehran      Iran.

Arrivals day in Tehran where you will be met and transferred to the five-star Parsian Azadi Hotel (or similar). We will enjoy a welcome reception dinner, whilst you meet your fellow travellers on this highly anticipated journey.

 

DAY 2                 Tehran    Iran.

Our first port of call on our city tour of Tehran is the Crown Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building, with its vast array of crown jewels used by the Qajar and Pahlavid royalty. Following lunch we head to the Gulestan Palace with its renovated Versailles-inspired mirror-encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah. Most of the remaining brick and tile buildings date back to the 19th century Qajar dynasty. Late afternoon we transfer to the main railway station in the city and board the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Settle in to your cabin and later enjoy dinner as the train heads overnight to Mashhad.

 The Bar Car

 

DAY 3                Mashhad    Iran.

An early morning arrival provides us with the whole day to explore the city of Mashhad, which is home to the Imam Reza Holy Shrine, the largest mosque in the world in terms of its dimension, followed by a tour of the Nader Shah Museum. Following lunch in the city, we will visit the Tomb of Ferdowsi, the father of the Persian Language who lived over 1,000 years ago.

 

 

DAY 4              Mahan & Kerman    Iran.

Today we will travel from Kerman to the city of Mahan to visit the famous 19th century Prince Garden as well as the 15th century Mausoleum of the Shah Nematollah Vali, the renowned Iranian mystic, poet and philosopher who died in 1431. Lunch is taken in the very impressive restaurant situated inside the Prince Garden before we return to Kerman in the afternoon with a visit to the Green Dome and the Sanati Contemporay Museum.

 

DAY 5           Shiraz & Persepolis    Iran.

Shiraz has many strings to its bow: poetry, literature, wine, flowers and amazing gardens and fruit trees. A visit to the Qoran Gate, Hafez Tomb and the Vakil Citadel are the highlights of our morning tour. Following lunch onboard we continue onto Marvdast, for the home of Persepolis, another World Heritage Site. Perhaps Iran’s most important archeological site, this ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire dates back to the 6th century. Even now, the ruins are extremely impressive. We also view the Necropolis (Naghshe Rustam) and the Naghshe Rajab.

 

DAY 6           Isfahan    Iran.

This enchanting city, which served as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722, is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest in Iran. As a crossroad of international trade and diplomacy, Isfahan has a rich mix of languages, religions and customs. The city is famous for its silver filigree and metal work, array of great historical monuments, and its Life-Giving River, the Zayandeh-Rood, which has given the city its beauty. Isfahan is packed with some of Iran’s best sights and today we spend a whole day in the city, visiting the Chehel Sotoon Palace and the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter.

Following a traditional Iranian lunch we move on to Naghshe Jahan Square, a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where the Ali Qapou Palace and Shah and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques can be found. Here, the time is yours to enjoy the huge square and pick up a bargain at the handicraft Bazaar of Qaisarieh.

 

DAY 7             Zanjan    Iran.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sultanieh is our first stop upon arrival in Zanjan, with its 13th century mausoleum of Oljeitu, the Il Khanid sultan. A visit to the old Rakhkt Shoor Khaneh and the Museum of the Mummified Salt Men concludes the day.

 

DAY 8            Lake Van, Akadamar Island & Van    Turkey.

In the early hours of the morning we cross the border from Iran into Turkey to Van where we will navigate the old streets of the town and marvel at the beautiful silver and hanging kilims (woven carpets) made from natural dyes. After lunch a six-hour crossing by train ferry takes us from Van to Tatvan, where we briefly stop on Akdamar Island to walk to the stunning Akdamar Kilisesa or Church of the Holy Cross. The walls are adorned with Old Testament carvings telling familiar tales from the bible.

 

DAY 9             Cappadocia   Turkey.

Cappadocia is an area of Central Anatolia best known for its rocky landscape and is honeycombed with networks of ancient underground settlements and outstanding examples of Byzantine art. Erosion shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme Valley, but thousands of years ago humans took their cue from Mother Nature and began carving an incredible chamber and tunnel complex into the soft rock. Beginning in the 4th century, an urbanised underground cultural landscape was created here and is the focus of our visit.

 

DAY 10 and 11      Istanul    Turkey.

 

 

This morning we arrive into Istanbul. This fabled city that spans Asia and Europe deserves an extended stay so over the next two days we will see how old meets new; east meets west when you visit Istanbul’s must-see historic sites. One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style and features six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.

Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine architecture.

The largest and oldest palace in the world and primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden  Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience.

We also visit the Grand Bazaar which is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. In operation since the 14th century the bazaar is especially known for its jewellery, leather, pottery, spices and carpets.

Guests stay overnight at a five star hotel while the train re-positions from Derince for the next stage of the journey. Late afternoon on Day 11 after the conclusion of our city tour, we leave Istanbul and travel by bus to Tetkirdag to re-board the Golden Eagle Danube Express and continue our journey towards the Bulgaria.

Engineering work in connection with the Bosphorus Tunnel project (on both sides of the Bosphorus) will involve the train stopping short of Istanbul in both directions. The journey into and out of Istanbul will be by road and the train will be sent across the Bosphorus by ferry.

 

DAY 12            Kazanlak & Veliko Turnovo    Bulgaria.

We arrive before breakfast in Kazanlak, situated in the Valley of the Roses, which produces rose oil prized by perfumers worldwide. Here we visit the Shipka Memorial Church and a Thracian tomb with vaulted brickwork dating back to the 4th century BC. We take lunch onboard during the climb over the Shipka Pass and travel onwards to Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria’s ancient capital. Nestled in a magnificent mountain setting, the stone houses seem perched, one above the other, on the steep banks of the Yantra River. A tour includes the superbly preserved medieval Tsarevets Hill and Castle and there is free time to wander through the ancient city.

Relax in the Lounge Car before dinner is served as our train continues through the scenic landscape as we head across the Romanian border.

 

DAY 13            Braşov & Sighişoara,    Romania.

Overnight the train twists and turns as it climbs over the Carpathian Mountains and threads its way through the dramatic landscape with crystal clear mountain streams. This morning we arrive into Braşov for a tour of Bran Castle. Popularly known as Dracula’s Castle, this beautiful 14th century building is situated amongst stunning mountain scenery. We return to the train for lunch as we continue onto Sighişoara for a walking tour of the town’s main highlights. A World

Heritage site rumoured to be the birthplace of Dracula, it is one of the best-preserved fortified medieval towns in Europe. Burgher houses and ornate churches line its cobbled streets. Dinner is served as our train continues onto Hungary and across the Great Hungarian Plain.

 

DAY 14            Kecskemet & Budapest    Hungary.

Our final day onboard is expected to provide a spectacular conclusion to our rail journey as first we get the opportunity to explore Kecskemét, a fascinating city at the geographical centre of Hungary before the train heads, steam-hauled, to ajosmizse for a spectacular ‘Puszta’ horse show.

We then arrive late afternoon at our final destination, Budapest, the romantic and historic Hungarian capital located on the banks of the magnificent Danube. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner and take the opportunity to reflect on our pioneering journey from Iran to Central Europe. We will stay overnight in the five-star Hilton Budapest Hotel (or similar).

 

 

DAY 15            Budapest    Hungary.

Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for onward departures.

 

 

 

 

Budapest Extension     Pre-Tour or Post-Tour

There is an option to extend your stay in Budapest for two nights to explore this fascinating city and visit important sites such as the 500 year old Matthias Church, St Stephen’s Basilica, the distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion, the Royal Palace and the historic Buda Castle, where you have stunning views of Buda and Pest over both banks of the river. You will also take a historic train to Esztergom on the River Danube where there will be time to visit the cathedral and have lunch or dinner.

 

 

What’s included in the tour price?

 

 

What is included in the price?

  • 3 nights hotel accommodation as noted in the itinerary.
  • 11 nights accommodation on the Golden Eagle Danube Express as per the Itinerary
  • All meals with wines at lunch and dinner except in Iran where soft drinks and non-alcoholic beer will be available.   (We are currently advised that serving alcohol on the train will be allowed in Iran, but not at off-train meals).
  • Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water throughout the day.
  • Guided off-train sightseeing excursions.
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • The services of experienced tour leaders.
  • All gratuities.
  • The services of a  doctor travelling with the group.
  •  

What is not included in the price?

  • International airfares.
  • Visa and excess baggage charges.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal expenses such as drinks in the hotels or bar car, laundry and telephone calls.
  • Any additional activity not specifically mentioned in the tour programme.