TEHRAN – Rail services between Tehran and Ankara will resume operating for the entrance of British long-distance Golden Eagle Luxury Train in early September. At the end of July, Iran suspended train services between Ankara and Tehran after two bomb blasts on the railway in eastern Turkey.
The Cheshire-based Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which has organized the Jewels of Persia tour, has managed three other tours to Iran since 2014. The train, operating in the style of the Orient Express, will head to Iran through Razi border in northwestern Iran.
“The train was planned to head to Iran by night via the border crossing at Razi. However the plan has been changed and it will pass the border in daylight to ensure the security of passengers,” the head of Iran Tourism Operators’ Association Ebrahim Purfaraj said in an interview with Iran’s Sharq Newspaper. He said that the recent unrests in Turkey do not cause any cancellation of tours on behalf of European tourists.
The tourists will pay visit to Zanjan, Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran during their five-day sojourn in Iran. They leave Iran for Hungary by airplane on September 18.
Most of Iranian travel agencies canceled land tour programs to the neighboring country following a deadly attack on an Iranian bus by unidentified gunmen in eastern Turkey on August 7.
Attacks have been on the rise since a bombing killed 32 people in a mainly Kurdish town in southern Turkey on July 20, ending a two-year truce between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is active in eastern Turkey.
Iran currently has three border crossings with Turkey in Western Azarbaijan Province named Bazargan, Razi and Serow.
The train, which will depart the Hungarian capital Budapest’s Nyugati terminus on September 4, will travel through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey prior to the Iranian leg of the journey. Its final destination is the capital, Tehran.
The first stop upon arrival in Iran is the historical city of Tabriz. They will visit the main 15th century covered Bazaar, one of the largest in the world and full of atmosphere as locals go about their daily lives. Also included will be a visit to the Azerbaijan Museum and the adjacent Blue Mosque. On the second day, 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 in Yazd.
They will also visit Isfahan’s attractions including the famous bridges of Siosepol and Khaju, Chehel Sotun Palace and the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter and Naqsh-e Jahan Square, a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where is also home to the Ali Qapou Palace and Imam Khomeini and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques as well as the traditional bazaar of Qaisarieh.
In Shiraz, the passengers will visit the Quran Gate, Hafez Tomb and the Vakil Citadel. Persepolis, another World Heritage Site is one of Iran’s most important archeological sites. Necropolis (Naqshe Rustam) and the Naqshe Rajab are also on the list.
Tehran is the last leg of the tour. They will visit the National Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building, with its vast array of crown jewels used by the Qajar and Pahlavi royalty and the Qajar-era Golestan Palace.
“We felt that many of our clients would be greatly drawn to the excitement of Iran for its fascinating culture,” said Ian Lomas, of Golden Eagle to The Guardian in 2014.
“An emerging tourism market, Iran is now returning to travelers’ bucket lists. We are experiencing a significant demand for the 2015 and 2016 departures – indeed, our inaugural journey sold out within three weeks of launch date.”
“Iran has been opening up towards the West recently, so we thought the time was right to set this up,” Marcella Beke, sales director of the “Nostalgia” branch of the Hungarian state-owned rail operator told AFP.
Iran is home to some of the world’s most magnificent historical and archaeological sites. Relics of a proud ancient civilization include: Persepolis, the capital of the largest empire that the world has ever seen; the city of Isfahan; Shiraz, the city of love and poetry; and Hamadan, where Avicenna, the father of early modern medicine, is buried. UNESCO has declared 17 world heritage sites in Iran, which was historically referred to as Persia in the west until the 20th century.