Why You Should Come With Us To Iran (And/Or Chernobyl)

by | Jan 17, 2012 | Our Next Adventure, Post-travel Reflections, Pre-travel Preparations | 12 comments

Taken by Mahdi Kalhor - 'Kalut' in Lut Desert


We at The Monsoon Diaries have traveled to over 30 countries in the last 18 months, all while spending very little and keeping fulltime jobs, remaining as fulltime students, or both. We’ve been to beaten paths and off the beaten paths. We’ve survived war zones, falling trees, getting struck by lightning, top-secret Sri Lankan commando units, and clandestine North Korean government installations.

We have had over 20 travelers backpacking with us side-by-side around the world, and made hundreds of international friends that joined along for part of the adventure.

We’re the type of people that looks at a picture on Google Images, but instead of saying “this goes on my bucket list”, we say “I’m going there next month.”

We make dreams come true.


Khaju Bridge in Ishafan


So why should you come to Iran with us?

…Because this is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something epic with your life.


Taken by Ali Majdfar - Lake of Taleghan Dam


If I haven’t been eloquent enough for you, then these formidable writers can be:

    • 3 Reasons to Travel While You’re Young – “[Responding with] ‘Yeah, but…’ is pernicious. Because it makes it sound like we have the best of intentions when really we are just too scared to do what we should. It allows us to be cowards, while sounding noble.”
    • Touching the Burner – “Those that continue to experiment are rewarded with more experience. Those that think “I’m fine where I am” never do– their world stops growing, and they don’t truly understand why.”
    • Life Doesn’t Start Tomorrow – “Momentum comes from pushing, not from planning. Confidence comes from scars and risk, not from indecision.”

But people read these articles all the time and say “You know what, I’ll do it!” and then forget to commit to anything 5 minutes later. So this time we’re not only going to inspire you to take a risk, we’re also going to give you the chance to put that inspiration into practice right here and right now. If you really mean it when you say “I’m gonna do it!” after reading our little ditty on “going epic”, then do it. Travel with us.

Keep reading.



There are 2 options we can do:

  1. THE BASIC: 7 days in the Islamic Republic of Iran (April 6th – April 14th)
  2. THE EPIC:

April 6th: 1 full day in Italy (Rome)

April 7th – April 14th: 7 days in Iran (itinerary posted below)

April 14th – April 16th: 3 days in the Ukraine to see Kyiv, Chernobyl (yes, the site of the worst nuclear meltdown in history  and currently a ghost town), and a tour of abandoned Soviet Union ICBM nuclear silos and missile bases from the heydey of the Cold War.

April 17th – 1 night in Italy (Rome)

April 18th – Return to USA



You know how much I prefer free, independent travel over guided tours any day. However, the only way to legally get inside Iran as an American is on an MFA-approved tour. This one is not only that, but it still provides us a lot of freedom and the “down and dirty” for the backpacker-at-heart. This itinerary will take us to all of the major sites in Tehran as well as the ancient capitals of Shiraz, and Esfahan. In addition to the ancient history this tour also offers lots of opportunities to interact with locals, and witness the visual reality of what is the Iranian Revolution.

…and with our local guides we will be doing lots of hidden extras, not published on this itinerary, for obvious reasons.

April 4th/5th

  • Leave for Iran

April 6th

  • Morning and afternoon arrival by flight
  • Free afternoon to walk around Tehran, get to know your group
  • Visit to the heart of Old Tehran to soak up the nighttime atmosphere, drink some local tea and people watch
  • Overnight in Parastoo Hotel

April 7th

  • Last group arrives by flight in early morning
  • Visit Tehran National Museum, home of priceless pieces of art
  • Walk through streets of Tehran
  • Lunch at the main Bazaar of Tehran
  • Shopping in the main Bazaar of Tehran, where your guide will help you haggle should you wish to buy anything
  • Take a ride on Tehran’s brand new state-of-the-art Metro Station to Khark Street
  • Dinner and entertainment at the Armenian Club (Armenians are Christians, so not required to wear the hijab, or refrain from drinking…)
  • Overnight at the hotel

April 8th

  • Check out of hotel for morning flight to Shiraz
  • Check into Shiraz Hotel for a freshenup
  • Drive to Zand Complex
  • Visit the gardens and mosque
  • Lunch in the city
  • Free walk around the ancient capital
  • Dinner at Shater Abbas a traditional Iranian restaurant
  • Overnight in Niayesh hotel (3 star historic hotel)

April 9th

  • Morning drive to Persepolis and Necropolis
  • Visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Picnic lunch
  • Drive past local military base area (but no pictures!)
  • Stay at a private home for dinner
  • Overnight in Yazd Orient hotel (2 star historic hotel)

April 10th

  • Morning drive to Esfahan
  • Visit the Royal Square, another UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Visit the beautiful Safavid Chehelsetoon Palace
  • Lunch in the town
  • Sheikh Lotfollah mosque and Ali-qapoo palace
  • Visit the Vank Christian Cathedral
  • Visit to Shah Mosque of Esfahan
  • Dinner of Chelo Kebab, a local speciality
  • Overnight in Yazd Orient hotel

April 11th

  • Morning walk around Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani University, to speak to local and foreign students learning Persian.
  • Visit an Iranian home for a cookery lesson with a local family.
  • Sit down for a traditional lunch
  • Free afternoon
  • Evening visit to the 300 year old Abbasi Hotel hotel for traditional Iranian tea
  • Night time talk from a participant in the 1979 Revolution
  • Overnight in Yazd Orient hotel

April 12th

  • Morning flight to Tehran
  • Check into hotel
  • Lunch in hotel
  • Visit Golestan Complex
  • Visit Tehran City Gardens for some people watching and relaxation
  • Farewell dinner at Naveed, serving traditional Iranian kebabs
  • Farewell drinks (well tea) at the popular evening haunt the Chai Bar
  • Overnight in Parastoo Hotel

April 13th

  • Free afternoon in Tehran
  • For those interested, a visit to the main football stadium in the city

April 14th

  • Leave Iran

Again, this is a research trip, which means a lot of things will be free and we will be directing this custom-made itinerary suited for our age range, including getting down and dirty with the locals, seeing military…In other words, simply the things we will be allowed to do will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.



I’m helping organize this tour with the brilliant minds of U.K. and China-based YPT — this is the same tour company that got me in and out of North Korea safely — so I will vouch vociferously for their professionalism and reliability. And given that I usually avoid tours like a plague, then you know it’s legit if I speak well of YPT! Their version of our trip is up but we’re being offered a cheaper rate.

We will also have the founder of YPT coming with us as this itinerary was specifically designed by him. We’re in extremely capable hands, ladies and gentlemen.



Although the list price you’d find for Americans is about $1200-$1500 USD (too expensive!!!), we’ll be getting a “research trip” deal that’s significantly cheaper (think in the order of 3 digits). And the more people who come, the cheaper it gets. That being said, I have to cap this at 15 people, so don’t take too long to decide.

But those who really need a number, I guarantee it won’t go any higher than $875 USD, which is an all-inclusive price. The only thing else you have to pay for are the flights to/from Iran and daily food expenses (about $10 USD/day).

Keep in mind as more people sign up, the price will drop!

So in summary…

Price is inclusive of:

  • Western Guide
  • All local Iranian guides
  • Entrance fees to historical sites
  • All internal transport inclusive of return flights Tehran – Shiraz, and all internal buses
  • Airport Transfer
  • Visa support (your invitation letter)

Price exclusive of:

  • International flight (there are well priced flights from most major western airports)
  • Food (exclusive of breakfast), we suggest around $10USD per day as being OK.
  • Personal expense
  • Tips for guides (we suggest around $5 USD per day per person)


That really depends on when you buy them. A round trip from NYC-Tehran is currently priced at around $1000-$1150 USD on Qatar Airways. I’ve flown Qatar Airways to & from India and it’s one of the world’s best airlines; it’s one of Skytrax’s five highest rated 5-star airlines in the world.

Another option is an $800-$950 Turkish Airways (great 4-star airline) flight leaving and arriving at around the same times.



My mantra is that “if you’re there, why not visit it?” So I’d love to maximize my layovers in nearby Ukraine and Italy with the extra days I have:

All-inclusive $1650 USD Alitalia flight allows for: NYC-Rome flight -> Layover in Rome for 1 day -> Rome-Tehran flight -> Our week in Iran -> Tehran-Kyiv flight -> Layover in Ukraine for 2 days to see Kyiv, Chernobyl, and ICBM Nuclear Missile Silos-> Kyiv-NYC flight

So in addition to Iran, “The Epic” will also include:










ICBM Launcher (aka an abandoned USSR Nuclear Missile Silo)


No. And here’s why:

  1. The Iranian Government and their intelligence department screens all visa applications. If they were to jail someone for being a “spy” on a 6-day tour, then they’re admitting to the world that they have ineffective intelligence.
  2. The foreigners who have been jailed are either people who have been conducting extensive NGO or business work for years, or hikers who wandered into the country without a visa. Never tourists.
  3. The amount of money, resources, and political fallout invested in jailing young American tourists on a 1 week guided tour in Iran is not worth it to the Iranian government.
  4. It simply won’t happen. American tourists on guided tours are now in Iran as we speak.



So are the 22 others who’ve been around the world with me. So is anyone who doesn’t want to lie on their deathbed one day and say “I could’ve lived a little more.”



As was I on my first trip 2 years ago when I found myself alone at night in a random train station in Cairo. You have to start somewhere. And I’m going to echo one of Go’s previous entries: “the way you do one thing in life is the way you do everything.” Or as some famous inventor of a pretty popular computer/music player/cell phone once said, “stay foolish.”


Let’s entertain the possibility that you’ll skip out on this trip. Then watch us as we come back safe and sound, share our stories, talk about how our lives have changed (which they always do when you do a trip like this) and show you all our photos. Whether or not you will realize it then, when you have your first child, when in your midlife crisis, or on your deathbed, you’re inevitably going to regret that you missed out on this epic once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This could set the tone for the rest of your life.

Don’t let this happen. Starting slowly never works. Nobody ever learned how to ride a bike by reading about it. You have to get on the damn thing! Do you think that to skydive you first have to look it up on wikipedia, or learn to fall off a table? No. You simply jumpSo those of you who want to travel, travel. 

Imagine how easy traveling will seem to you after this. How much confidence you’ll gain in yourself.


This could be the moment where you turn your life around and finally do something epic . The world won’t wait for you.


“Momentum comes from pushing, not from planning. Confidence comes from scars and risk, not from indecision.”

“Those that continue to experiment are rewarded with more experience. Those that think ‘I’m fine where I am” never do– their world stops growing, and they don’t truly understand why.'”


Feeling inspired? However, unlike most self-help sites out there, we’re going to give you the chance to test that inspiration right now. If you feel that bit of awakening stirring within you is the real deal, then drop your sh-t and travel with us. It’s the only way to know what you’re made of.



If you’re an American, you need to fill out Iranian visa forms 20 minutes ago (i.e. NOW); it takes about 2 months to approve Americans into Iran. You must fill out visa forms even if you are undecided; you don’t have to pay anything at the moment and you can always back out later. So if you want even a CHANCE of coming, please contact me asap: CONTACT ME!

If you’re not an American, you have until February 21st to figure stuff out.

And I’ll rip out what’s left of your heartstrings with a few more pictures (unless otherwise mentioned, these pictures were taken from the public domain, photographer Ali Majdfar, and an article in The Atlantic):

Taken by Ali Majdfar

Taken by Ali Majdfar

Taken by Ali Majdfar - Sunset in Persepolis

Taken by Ali Majdfar

Northwest Iran



- At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was 8 °C - Humidity: 89% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: few clouds


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