"I am so confused. It wasn't supposed to be like this — of all the places, of all the countries, all the years of traveling, it's here, in Iran, that I am greeted most warmly by total strangers." - Anthony Bourdain
Picky eaters be warned.
Cheema's Travel trips are for eaters, chefs, the curious, & seekers who want meet like-minded travelers.
Prepare to feast, cook, and connect with the locals all across Iran. Not only are we going to visit Iran's culinary hotspots, but we will also get to see some of the countries most beautiful sites. Not only will we visit Iran’s most important culinary hubs, we will also get the opportunity to visit the country's most important sites like the island of Qeshm.
This is truly a once in a lifetime trip! I may never do this one again.
Our culinary adventure begins at the beautiful waters of the Persian Gulf. Then we travel to the heart of the Iranian Plateau, and finally to the Caspian Sea. We finish our journey in the Northwestern valleys of the Zagros Mountains. Along the way we will experience Iran’s incredible cultural, ethnic, landscape, and culinary diversity.
What To Expect
Expected to be completely and utterly surprised and moved.
What Should Your Tastebuds Expect?
Iran's food is just as divine as its people. We’ll get to taste some of the most aromatic and rich dishes in the world. Iranian cuisine revolves around the flavors of some of the worlds favorite spices like saffron, cardamom, turmeric, rosewater, and nutmeg. These are flavors that cooks admire and cherish most.
We’ll enjoy traditional Iranian and Azeri breakfasts, snack on street foods, and experience everything home cooked meals to high-end restaurants.
The history of Iran and its food spans centuries and has been inspired by many cultures across Asia and Europe. Iran's culinary culture has historically interacted with the cuisines of the neighboring regions, including Caucasian cuisine, Turkish, Levantine, Greek, Central Asian cuisine, and Russian cuisine. Through the Central Asian Mughal dynasty, aspects of Iranian cuisine were also adopted into Indian cuisine and Pakistani cuisines.
Rani Cheema; Founder of Cheema’s Travel.
"My goal isn't to visit as many countries as possible, but to truly understand the place I'm visiting and the people that I meet... also, to eat anything and everything. I tend to base my adventures on the things I want to eat rather than the sites I want to see."
Recognize as a Travel Specialist by Bloomberg Pursuits & The New York Times
Former Art Director at the Food Network
Born and bred New Yorker
Loves to bake, even though she’s not great at it.
Former Food Editor of the Gwangju News
Photo taken in Istanbul, Turkey
Your 11 Night Itinerary
Welcome to Shiraz, Iran!
Starting our day basking in the beautiful sea of morning light, that reflects through a brilliant arrangement of stained glass which covers the windows inside the Nasir-al Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque.
We will then explore city’s historic center where we’ll sample local delicacies and shop for ingredients for our Shiraz cuisine workshop on day 2.
We’ll then head over to our Faloudeh workshop for the famous Shirazi Faloudeh. This is one of Iran’s most popular desserts. Frozen noodles are served in different flavors of syrup.
For our “WELCOME!” dinner we’ll have a feast at the one of the best fine dining establishments in Iran.
First morning stop, an introduction into Iranian breads at a traditional bakery. This morning’s visit will be dedicated to two of Iran’s most popular flat breads. Sangak and Barbari ::insert deep bow::.
“In this part of the world, whatever your background, bread is a vital, essential, fundamental, and deeply respected staple."
The rest of the day is dedicated to preparing a proper Iranian feast. Our local culinary instructor will guide us through making some of the local specialties. Our main courses will consist of local favorites, Kalam Polo, Khoreshte Bamiyeh, Haleem Bademjan, Mahi ba Hashu, and Tahchin, followed by Ranginak, a date and walnut based dessert.
Shiraz to Qeshm
This morning we’ll head out early on a journey to Persepolis, also known as Takhte Jamshid, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenids. It is the best-preserved example of Iran’s ancient architecture. The remains of this magnificent complex will take your breath away. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a collection of palaces and halls where the ancient Persian kings held receptions and ceremonies. Beautiful motifs carved on stone as well as stunning columns and figurines are some of the other eye-catching features of this massive complex. Words truly cannot do justice to this ancient gem.
Late afternoon we’ll board a flight to the island of Qeshm!
Qeshm is the largest island in the Persian Gulf and its primarily seafood-based cuisine a fusion of Arabic, Indian and Iranian cuisines. The food in the south of Iran is much spicier than the food from other regions of Iran.
A traditional Qeshm breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads made with assorted toppings ranging from eggs and honey to the red soil of the nearby Hormuz Island. We’ll get to taste all the varieties of these breads before exploring some of the natural wonders of this beautiful island.
Off we go to Chahkooh Valley for a short hike through its stunning gorges carved into limestone over centuries. Then visit the stunning Valley of Stars another one of Qeshm’s must see natural wonders as the sun sets. We will spend some time gazing at the stars in this magnificent setting.
For dinner we’ll have a feast of Qeshm’s seafood. Our dinner will include Qalye Mahi and Meygoo, fish and shrimp prepared with tamarind paste and a blend of herbs, Meygoo Do Piaze, Ankas, and Nashf Gosht.
Qeshm to Esfahan
In the morning we’ll visit the historic Laft Port, the centuries old trading port on the island. In the nearby Soheili village you will be treated to a home cooked meal with dishes that are heavily influenced by Indian and Arabian Cuisines.
Following lunch, we’ll board a flight to the beautiful city of Esfahan. In the late afternoon we’ll walk around the Naqsh e Jahan Square to see this UNESCO World Heritage site lit up at night and bustling with locals. You can browse the artisan shops that surround this marvelous square and shop for art pieces. You are SURE to be approached by Esfahanis wanting to introduce themselves to you and welcome you to the country. The evenings walking “tour” of the city continues but won’t feel like a tour because the evening will consist of wondering about socializing with locals who get together at the famous bridges to sing, hang out, and enjoy Esfahan’s pleasant evenings.
For dinner we’ll head to the famous Shahrzad restaurant to enjoy a great meal of local specialties.
In the morning head back to Naqsh e Jahan Square to explore the magnificent sites around it. We’ll explore Ali Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Imam Mosque, and the Qeysarieh Bazaar. After lunch, we’ll walk along the Qeysarieh Bazaar to visit Gaz and Poolaki workshops.
After lunch we’ll cross the Zayandeh Rood River to visit the historic Armenian Jolfa District. Visit the beautiful Vank Cathedral at the heart of this neighborhood to explore the history of the Armenian population of Esfahan. In the evenings Jolfa district is one of the primary nightlife areas of Esfahan and a wonderful place to interact with locals.
We will indulge in the street food before dinner at the famous Abbasi Hotel Restaurant.
Esfahan to Kashan via Abyaneh
In the morning we head to the historic scenic village of Abyaneh. The residents of this beautiful village have maintained their way of life for more than a thousand years. We will then continue to Kashan where we will explore some of the most exquisite examples of Iranian residential architecture visiting the Tabatabaei and Abbasian mansions. In the evening we will visit the beautiful Agha Bozorg Mosque as the congregation arrives for the evening prayers.
We will enjoy dinner at the restaurant in Ameriha Boutique Hotel where we will sample local flavors that make up the daily menu at the restaurant. An extensive sharbat list makes up the drink menu at this splendid restaurant.
Kashan to Tehran
In the morning we will go to Kashan’s historic Bazaar to eat Kalleh Pacheh, an Iranian breakfast made of sheep’s head and hooves gravy that is not for the faint of heart. For lunch we will attend a workshop to learn how to prepare Shefte Somagh and Baghali Polo, two of the region’s signature dishes.
On the way to Tehran we will visit a rosewater distillery to get familiarized with this unique process and sample various kinds of rosewater.
"This is a land of secret recipes, passed down within families like treasured possessions."
In the morning visit the Grand Bazaar of Tehran and the beautiful Golestan Palace, the finest example of Qajar era architecture. After lunch at the famous Moslem eatery located in the heart of the bazaar we will head to the northern district of Tehran to tour the Vali Asr area of the city.
In the evening, visit the historic village of Darband in the Northern outskirts of Tehran. This village is one of Tehran’s culinary hubs and home to some of its best restaurants as well as a hub for street food. We will tease our appetite with some of the street food before feasting on an extravagant meal of various kinds of Iranian kababs.
Rasht to Tabriz via Ardabil
In the morning we will fly to the city of Rasht the capital of the Gilan province of Iran. Gilan is arguably the most important culinary hub in Iran. After a stroll through the central bazaar of Rasht we will commence our culinary expedition of the city. Our lunch will include all the local specialties including Baghala Qatogh, Mirza Ghasemi, Anarbij and the local variant of Fesenjoon. After lunch we will visit the rural museum of Gilan.
On your last day in Iran we will delve deep into Azeri cuisine. After a morning stroll through the grand bazaar of Tabriz, the largest covered bazaar in the world, you will have a workshop on Azeri sweets. Local variants of Baklava, Ris, Ghorabiyeh, and Nougats are among the most popular Azeri sweets. A pastry chef will lead this afternoon workshop. Before dinner we will explore the El Goli grounds in Tabriz where locals gather to sing songs and catch up. Our final dinner in Iran will be one to remember.
That’s all! We bid a fond farewell to a life-changing experience (trust me, it will be life changing).
Don’t fret, we can all meet again in 2020 for a brand new Cheema’s Travel culinary adventure!
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Is This Trip Right For You?
If you've read this far than, most likely, yes. Since this is a very small group who I'm allowing to travel with me, I must make sure this trip is perfect for you.
Iran is one of the safest and friendliest countries you can travel through. Iran is a very conservative country, with that said, woman must wear a headscarfs and must have their arms and legs covered.
Alcohol and drugs are strictly forbidden. There are severe penalties for anyone attempting to bring it into the country. Obscene material (do I really need to go into details?) and controversial literature will all be confiscated by custom officials.
Walking in and around Iran (especially around ancient ruins) might be rocky and uneven. Please be prepared to wear comfortable footwear.
We’ll be covering the entire country in just less than 2 weeks, there is no rest for the weary, unless we are taken our 6 hour car ride through epic landscapes.
Though Cheema's Travel trips are all inclusive (tax, tip, all meals, etc.), you might want to shop, so please note that travelers cannot use debit or credit cards while in Iran.
Getting a visa for Iran can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. That’s why we are here for you. Myself and my contacts in Iran and Colorado will be part of the process and take care of things for you. Please understand that rules can and do change often with this destination.
I'm inviting you to join me on this once-in-a-lifetime small group culinary trip . This trip along with all my other trips are a culinary dream itinerary that I personally curated with my preferred partners to make sure it is the perfect experience for all parties involved.
Please understand that the concept of these adventures is similar to traveling with friends, like-minded individuals who not only love to eat, drink, make, and have immersive experiences, they want to connect with our "cousins" on the other side of the planet. If you love eating, drinking, adventure, laughs, and great company... this adventure is like no other.
Cheema's Travel is a travel agency, not a large group tour operator so no umbrellas or flags to locate our local guide.