Cox & Kings has urged agents to consider Iran as an alternative to struggling North African destinations such as Egypt and Tunisia.
Cox & Kings proffers Iran as an alternative to Egypt and Tunisia
The operator, which launched its Middle East 2017 program last week, said its forward sales to the country were “massively up” and that the destination offered “fantastic deals” for travel consultants and their clients.
Middle East product manager Michael Fleetwood said Cox & Kings was focused on “tackling perceptions” over security that agents may have, following the operator’s return to the destination in 2016 after a five-year hiatus.
Fleetwood said the downscaling of the UK Foreign Office’s travel advice for the country along with the thawing of political tensions between Iran and world governments should help put agents’ minds at rest about selling Iran as a destination.
This includes a historic deal brokered between the US and Iran in January to restrict its nuclear activities.
“It’s important for us to be looking at how agents perceive Iran and making sure they see it as safe,” Fleetwood said. “There’s a low threat of terrorism and their internal security is very tight, which favours tourism. Egypt has become a really difficult sell at the moment, along with other North African destinations, so Iran can be a good alternative. It’s a great destination that ticks all the boxes and has so much culture.
“We need to work with agents to get more passengers to consider the Middle East because we’ve seen through our sales that there’s a demand for it.”
Cox & Kings’ Iran programme includes a 13-night Heart of Persia tour onboard a luxury Golden Eagle train with prices beginning from £10,795pp, excluding flights. Agents can also book the operator’s Treasures of Persia tour, which offers a 10-night stay in Iran with a choice of 10 departure dates throughout 2017, starting from £2,495.
All prices include transfers, excursions and accommodation.
Iran is a country that has much to offer, from deserts to beaches, 5000m peaks to caves, from new cultural experiences to tasty cuisine. You can know that coming from an experience travelling in Iran will enrich your life. The first step to truly having incredible experiences…always say yes. Here are a few things for those that have time in Iran, should try:
1. Ski in Dizin
Iran is not very well known for its skiing, let’s just say many people don’t go to Iran for skiing. However, Iran has some incredible mountains and impressive ski locations.
Dizin, being the most popular, is highly worth a visit. However, it is expensive compared to other activities you can do in Iran. So be prepared. A taxi is the only way to get there and costing about $40 one way, can cheapen if you have three travelling companions. The ski passes cost at about $30 a day and ski hire about $25 for equipment that is most certainly pre-revolution. I mean check out my fashionable picture of my rented ski attire.
However, if you can surpass these little development issues, you will get some incredibly views and experience.
Firstly the drive alone through the Alborz mountain range is incredible in itself. Having been to many ski resorts, including in much poorer countries than Iran like Georgia.
Iran has a long way to go to make skiing an affordable and attractive tourist sport. But if you love the mountains and skiing, this is a must.
2. Swim in the Persian Gulf
Iran has some really beautiful beaches, with incredible mountain backdrops. However, with the restrictions of the government, you cannot just swim anywhere. Which is a travesty! Well, for women anyway. So there are a few dedicated beaches for women and also men. The nicest was on Kish Island.
Clearly marked, away from prying eyes, the cost is $3 to enter. You receive a locker for your things but also are not permitted any photographic materials. Which is unfortunate if you want that bikini selfie on the beach (even promising you won’t have any Iranians in the photo).
But on arrival, you are in hijab and many are in chador. Walking through the looking glass and you have many topless, tattooed women swimming, sunbathing with clear waters, music playing and women chatting. You have to take a double-take. Is this Iran?
Its really an interesting situation. Not just for the fact seeing Iranian women completely being free, but also to be at a beach without men. It’s an experience.
3. Drive through Golestan National Park
Golestan is Iran’s jungle. And by jungle, yes it humidity is intense and its wildlife varied. Visiting the rest of Iran is very dry, but upon reaching Golestan national park, the vibrate greens of the luscious forests can be blinding.
It s a unique park, as one side is a barren desert and the other a lush tropical jungle. Unfortunately its not as developed for tourists as say taking a desert tour near Yazd. But with Iranians being incredibly helpful, you can manage to go through this place and do some birdwatching, walking, and of course eating.
4. Eat a BBQ in an Esfahan Park
The beauty of Esfahan isn’t the 2nd largest square in the world, its the parks that run along the river with its unique bridges joining one side to the other.
When you are a foreigner in Iran, everybody welcomes you. You are their guest and no where more than Esfahan do you get greeted. Walking along the river, many invite you to eat with them and their families.
To be honest a walk that takes physically 30 minutes turns into several hours. Its a truly incredible experience. Enjoying the views and the cool breeze from the river and shade from the trees, you meet friendly and hospitable Iranians.
5. Summit Alvand Mountain
Hamadan is a beautiful old city, but sometimes, its nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the mountain.
In the mountain you can experience the little freedoms, like not having to wear a hijab. Alvand mountain is also very beautiful and can be easily accessed, even if you aren’t an avid hiker.
There is a cable car that can take you to the first shelters, where you can eat and take a good view of the city and hike further up to some breathtaking views or all the way to the top!
It’s not a difficult mountain and easily marked. You can access it via shared taxi from the city centre. Even in the off season, there are still people hiking and at the base you can enjoy some tea or food.
6. Rock climb in Kermanshah
Kermanshah is an incredible place. It has much to offer especially to those that enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle.
A very accepting and generous group of climbers and mountaineers will welcome you to join in all their activities, no matter your level.
Heading to their many rock climbing walls, you can enjoy some incredible views of Kermanshah city, while also enjoying some foods with some truly lovely company.
Lots of activities include rock climbing, abseiling, mountaineering and much more, with the 5th highest climbing wall in the world – Bisotun – and challenging peaks likes Paraw Mountain, its adventure awaits.
7. Attend a Garden Party
No true visit to Iran is complete without joining in on a Garden or house party. Here you get to the see the young, often wealthy, and loosely free Iranians who will drink alcohol, dance, eat, talk. Its a really incredible experience to see how similar we can be and how fortunate you are to come from a country where you can do this legally and in the open.
In some bigger cities, people have apartments to have their parties away from their families. In the smaller cities, many have a house outside the city with gardens and high walls, to allow you to truly enjoy yourself without ramification.
Enjoying Iranian dances, with a tasty BBQ and feeling what it will be like one day when Iran is a little bit more free. Its an incredible experience that hopefully you can be invited to attend.
8. Jeep Surf Sand Dunes near Yazd
Yazd is a very old city in the middle of the deserts. Even in early May, the heat is noticeable. But after visiting the old streets and bazaars, a must try when in Yazd is to take off, out to the desert.
Depending on your budget and situation, it can be a little expensive. With taxis running at about $40, making for solo travellers a bit of a budget stretch, unless you can find others to fill the seats.
If you’re lucky (like really lucky as I was), you can get invited by randomly standing at a bus stop by Iranians who have a relative who own a 4WD for personal purposes of sand dune riding and exploring.
Its a very fun, sometimes terrifying experience, loud Persian music blaring while skidding up and down and across sand dunes at full speed.
9. Take a Motorbike through Shiraz
Driving in Iran can be quite a new experience for those not used to, lets just say, utter craziness.
Sometimes you wonder if people have to take a test for a licence or if there are in fact rules here to abide by. Often, being a pedestrian can be an interesting, heart-stopping moment when you try to cross a street. However, to truly experience what its like in Iran, is to take a motorbike through Shiraz.
At many instances you think your heart will literally pump out of your chest. Fortunately, if your driver is well-equipped, all you do is cling for dear life, take in some new views of the city and have a new lease on life.
Iran is certainly not a country used to hitchhiking. Actually its remarkably foreign to them.
More and more backpackers are starting to convey this is a common method for people to get around. However, Iranians have a lot of mistrust to each other and think its too dangerous to travel in this method.
However, hitchhiking, like in all countries, can be an eye-opening, wonderful, inspirational and spontaneous experience. If you have the time try it, you never know where your next travel story will lead…
Check out my friend’s youtube video for some inspiration on hitchhiking
Iran Hotel Association (IHA) has launched a new plan to introduce the country’s hotel facilities along with the arrival of post-sanction, head of IHA Jamshid Hamzehzadeh said.
According to Hamzehzadeh, there is a big opportunity for Iran hotel industry at this time to upgrade potentials and meet the increasing demand of travel to Islamic Republic of Iran appropriately.
IHA is a unified association which consists of 31 hotel unions across the country. IHA is recently setting up a website (www.hotelro.ir) for its Irawnian hoteliers to sell the room to end users.
Mr. Hamzezadeh said that this website will be upgraded in future and in cooperation with the foreign partners, they will be able to accept non-Iranian tourist’s orders for accommodation.
“Everything depends on lifting the banking sanctions.” According the head of IHA.
Iran has 1,125 hotels and guest houses, of which only 130 are four- and five-star establishments. The goal is to increase the number of quality hotels to 400 within 10 years.
There are 550 Hotel apartments as well and the IHA has received a lot of applications for consulting and constructing new accommodations recently, Hamzezadeh said.
Iran’s best water parks that will make your summer awesome
Water parks have begun to open their doors in Iran and their popularity is skyrocketing.
Iranians have long complained about a lack of recreational opportunities, and the advent of the water parks — including a sprawling, open-air facility run by the municipal government — suggests that public officials and private sector investors now see opportunity in offering citizens new ways to have fun.
The parks have brought welcome relief to young people suffering through the hottest Iranian summers in nearly a half-century.
Check out the list below for a much cooler summer.
Getting Familiar with Iranian Sites Registered in UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works with countries around the world to identify and protect cultural and natural places that merit recognition as part of the common heritage of humankind.
UNESCO adopted the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1972.
Since then, 191 countries have ratified the treaty, and at present 1007 properties are inscribed on the list – 779 of which are cultural, 197 natural and 31 mixed (a combination of the two).
At present, Iran has 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some of them belong to pre-Islam Iran and some to post-Islam Iran.
According to website destinationIran, Many Iranian historic monuments deserve to be listed as World Heritage Sites. Iranian delegation to the UNESCO has documented tens of them that are in the waiting list.
Here, you get familiar with all the Iranian sites registered in the UNESCO so far:
Iran’s almost 7,000-year old history is characterized by various highs and lows. These don’t only take place within the country’s borders, but also reach beyond to various countries in the region, over India, China and Central Asia up to the Caucasus, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The ancient cultures and civilizations that inhabited Iran were quite diverse, and they have their traces in many places of the country and even in the contemporary population themselves. These traces can be found in archeological sites that that have been preserved for 7,000 years, such as the “burnt city” in Zabol (Shahr-e soukhteh Zabol), in Persepolis (“Takht-e Jamshid”), “Pasargad”, located near the city of Shiraz, as well as in the city Bistoun in Kermanshah, which been there for 2,500 years. Other archeological gems can be found on the plaza “Naghshe-Jahan” in Isfahan, with its beautiful mosques, palaces, and churches, which have been built 500 years ago, in Hegmataneh close to Hamadan, and in the various intriguing museums in each and every city.
Iran says it has begun issuing electronic visa for foreign visitors on a trial basis and plans to launch the service permanently by the end of 2016.
‘Today marks the first day on which Iran began issuing electronic visa on a trial basis’, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Parliamentary and Consular Affairs Hassan Qashqavi said on Tuesday.
He added that Iran’s electronic visa process would be definitely launched by the end of the current calendar year (March 20, 017).
Qashqavi said that the problem of issuing visa has been almost settled as Iran is raising the number of countries which it has lifted visa requirement for them and is extending credit of airport visas for three months.
U.S. allows American-made planes to be flown to Iran
The United States said on Friday it would allow foreign airlines to fly U.S.-made aircraft to Iran, providing greater assurance to aviation companies as Iran tries to re-establish trade and business links following the lifting of sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Friday issued a license allowing U.S.-made planes to have “temporary sojourn” in Iran, meaning airlines such as Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, or others flying frequently to Iran are expressly allowed to use U.S.-made planes, or planes with U.S. parts, to fly there.
Iran and world powers reached a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program last July that allowed for the lifting of most sanctions on the country, although many U.S. sanctions remain in place.
The deal allows for U.S. companies to obtain licenses to sell civil aircraft to Iran, but a proposed deal between Boeing Co. (BA.N) and Iran has drawn the ire of members of the U.S. Congress, who are trying to block it.
The license issued on Friday has no impact on the proposed Boeing deal.
Because of a quirk in the law, U.S.-made planes could be flown to other countries under U.S. sanction, such as Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea. Iran was an exception to this, said Jonathan Epstein, an attorney at Holland & Knight in Washington.
“Technically there was no legal way to fly to Iran, so U.S. lessors tended to say no, or it caused a lot of angst in the U.S. leasing community that these planes were being flown there,” said Epstein, who advises aviation leasing firms on sanctions issues.
Practically speaking, many airlines were already flying U.S.-made planes or those using significant amounts of U.S. parts, Epstein said. But Friday’s announcement resolved some of the ambiguity surrounding such trips, he said.
“It was technically not allowed but was akin to speeding,” Epstein said. “The foreign airlines were flying … but the leasing company took different views on whether they allowed this or not.”
Treasury outlined several conditions for its allowance, including that the planes stay in Iran no longer than 72 hours at a time. It also only covers fixed-wing aircraft rather than aircraft like helicopters. Companies are also not allowed to store spare parts in Iran, among other conditions.
More visitors have been exploring Iran since last year’s landmark nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions.
By Behdad Mahichi
When the video Don’t Go To Iran first hit the internet this spring, the title made some Iranians fear it would be yet another effort to taint the country’s image.
But it was quite the opposite. French filmmaker Benjamin Martinie said the video aimed to clear up misconceptions about Iran, by countering common stereotypes through clips from his recent visit. The video has now been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube and Vimeo, and is frequently shared among Iranians within the country via social media.
“I would say a lot of people might not know [much] about Iran, outside of the things you hear on the news,” Martinie, who specialises in travel videography, told Al Jazeera. “Iran is changing, and the tourism potential is really high. The warmth of the people, the cultural warmth and the many amazing landscapes are all assets.”