As the 17th-century capital of the Safavid Empire, Isfahan was one of the world’s greatest cities – architecturally striking, wealthy beyond imagine, and politically powerful with Europeans, Ottomans, Indians and Chinese coming to its court – the heart of a vast Persian Empire. Indeed, its grandeur inspired the rhyming proverb, Isfahan nesf-jahan (Isfahan is Half the World).
Today, we’ll join our expert guide to begin our exploration of the city, starting with some of the centuries old, still elegant bridges that span the Zayandeh River. The 4th-century Shahrestan Bridge, for example, evokes the greatest aqueducts of ancient Rome and is the oldest bridge in Iran. Other famous bridges on the Zayandeh River are Sio-ce-pol and Khaju. There are gates below the bridge to let the water run- off from Zayandeh River in the spring, and there are beautiful stone-brick archways above each gate. These archways provide a great acoustic place for every man who wants to sing. We can always find a man or a group of men singing under the bridge. The songs are usually about betrayal or unrequited love.
Continue our exploration in Isfahan at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Simple at first glance but wondrous in its rich detail and bold design, the Masjed-e Jamé is another masterpiece of Iranian architecture, covering nearly 5 acres in the heart of this historic city. This is one of the oldest congregational mosques in the country, and its construction and embellishment over the past twelve centuries illustrate a number of important periods in Islamic architecture. Next up is Chehel Sotun. Set in a landscaped and forested park in front of a tranquil reflecting pool, this graceful pavilion was built by Shah Abbas I for entertainment and court receptions. Entering through a portico with twenty slender wooden columns, we’ll discover soaring halls embellished with frescoes, paintings and mosaics; the Hall of Mirrors is especially breathtaking!
This afternoon, our exploration continues in Imam Square (A world heritage site). This 17th-century site is one of the largest public spaces in the world. Here in the square, we’ll visit the 17th-century Shah Mosque, revered as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and easily recognized by its magnificent tile-work and soaring cupola and minarets. In the Ali Qapu Palace, we’ll marvel at its beautiful music rooms and the balconies where Safavid kings would sit to enjoy the polo matches unfolding in the square below. We’ll end our day exploring the Isfahan Bazaar that surrounds Imam Square. With hundreds of local vendors that specialize in traditional arts and crafts, it’s a wonderful place to shop for pottery, enamel, jewelry and delicately inlaid board games.
Overnight at 5* Hotel, Isfahan