Expert-Led Group Tour

Iran - Luxury Train Journey with Michael Portillo

Travel by train across Iran in conjunction with Telegraph Tours

15 days

from £10,999pp
  • Join a small group, organised by Steppes and The Telegraph, on board the Golden Eagle train
  • Experience elegant surroundings and fine dining while travelling between Iran's spectacular sites.
  • Join Michael Portillo on board and learn about his experiences of train travel around the world.
  • Visit fascinating architectural sites and gain insight into Iran's history and culture.

For anybody with an adventurous spirit, a love of history and a fondness for the finer things in life, the opportunity to travel across Iran by luxury train is irresistible. Considered by most as a fanciful notion only a few years ago, this classic trip is now considered to be one of the world’s great train journeys. With the recent rapprochement between Iran and the west, there is no better time to visit.

Commencing in Tehran, this journey by luxury train explores many of Iran’s remarkable sites and incredibly scenic landscapes. Accompanied by English speaking experts, this enthralling trip includes visits to the spectacular cities of Shiraz (access point for Persepolis) and Isfahan, home to some of the most impressive Islamic architecture in the world, as well as the desert city of Yazd, a centre of the ancient Zoroastrian faith. Towards the end of the journey, experience the incredible scenery through the Alborz Mountains and board a local train to cross Iran’s second highest railway bridge, the Veresk arch bridge. Built in 1936 it stands at 360 feet high and spans 216 feet. 

Exclusive small group on board the Golden Eagle luxury train

Travel aboard the luxurious Golden Eagle train, as part of a small group, organised by the Daily Telegraph and Steppes Travel. You can expect elegant surroundings, fine dining and first-class service on board, with a personal cabin attendant available at all times. Steppes has set aside 15 cabins, exclsuively for its clients. The train will be limited to a maximum of 68 passengers on board including Michael Portillo for some of the journey.

The benefits of train travel in Iran

While Iran is blessed with beautiful architecture and fascinating historical sites, it does not currently have a wide selection of luxury hotels. Exploring Iran by luxury train means travelling in comfort between the country's most popular sites with the guarantee of high standard accommodation at the end of each day, combined with fine dining and five star service throughout. When in Tehran, stay at the excellent five star Espinas Hotel however the rest of the holiday will be spent sleeping on board the Golden Eagle luxury train.

Accompanied by Michael Portillo and a TEAM of IRAN EXPERTS

Travel from Yazd to Kashan in the company of Michael Portillo. Michael will join the group on excursions and during meals, and will give informal lectures on board about his experiences of train travel around the world and of a life spent in politics. Also on board will be an expert lecturer on Iran alongside a local guide and several tour managers. Excursions will be escorted by expert local guides, visiting Iran’s famous towns, cities and sites in order to gain a fascinating insight into Iran’s history and culture.

Please note that Michael Portillo's involvement with the trip between Yazd and Kashan is conditional on Mr. Portillo successfully obtaining an Iranian visa. Steppes will not know if Mr Portillo's visa application has been successful until approximately six weeks before the departure of the tour. As soon as we know we will of course inform all clients that have booked a place on the trip.

What is the difference between silver, gold and imperial suites?

There are 12 Silver Cabins, 21 Gold Cabins and one Imperial suite on board the Golden Eagle train. The price advertised is for a twin share berth in a Silver Cabin. Please contact us for the cost of Gold Cabins and the Imperial Suite.

The Imperial Suite is the most spacious cabin available, benefitting from a large, double bed as well as a lounge area with dressing table. Facilities include:

  • A private en-suite bathroom with power shower and underfloor heating
  • Individual air-conditioning
  • Wardrobe
  • DVD/CD player with LCD screen
  • Complimentary fully stocked minibar (non-alcoholic drinks only)
  • Safe
  • Small library
  • Two large picture windows to watch the world go by
  • Optional private guide and car service in most of the places visited
  • A laundry service
  • Room upgrades to the next available category at the hotels which are featured in the itinerary

Gold Class cabins are extremely well-proportioned featuring a double lower bed and a single upper bed. Facilities include:

  • Private bathroom with separate power shower cubicle and underfloor heating
  • DVD/CD player, LCD screen
  • Safe,
  • Individual air-conditioning,
  • Wardrobe,
  • Large picture window

Silver Class cabins which are more compact, feature a small double lower bed and a single upper bed. Facilities include:

  • DVD/CD player, LCD screen,
  • Safe
  • Individual air-conditioning
  • Wardrobe
  • Large picture window
  • Private en-suite wet room with a washbasin, toilet and shower

In addition to private en-suite sleeping cabins, there is a bar lounge car and restaurant cars.


Jeremy Seal from the Telegraph was on the inaugural Golden Eagle train journey through Iran in 2014 and wrote of the food and service:

'We drank from Bohemian crystal glassware and enjoyed lovingly presented three-course dinners, typically salmon tagliatelle, wild boar, and creme brûlée, somehow conjured from the cramped galley.'

Each morning, an extensive breakfast buffet is served in the restaurant car, offering a selection of fresh fruit, cereals, cold plates and freshly squeezed orange juice. For something more substantial you can order a cooked breakfast, accompanied by tea and coffee. At lunch and dinner a mixture of international cuisine and Iranian inspired food will be served, all skilfully prepared by the Executive Chef and his on board team, using the very best ingredients and locally sourced wherever possible. Vegetarian and other dietary options are well catered for.

Iran is a 'dry' country and alcoholic beverages are not available. At all meals there will be bottled mineral water, soft drinks and tea and coffee provided.

Expect a relaxed and convivial atmosphere at meal times with the freedom to dine wherever, and with whomever, you please in a single sitting. Be prepared for an informal dress code throughout the journey.


April is peak season in Iran with ideal temperatures across most of the country. Average temperatures range between 12 degrees at night to 23 degrees during the day.

Departing on:
  • 7th April 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
7th Apr 2018 21st Apr 2018 £ 10,999 call £ 5,850 Michael Portillo Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • All excursions with local, English speaking guides
  • All tips
  • All transfers
  • Full board inc non-alcoholic drinks with meals on train
  • Hosting and two talks by Michael Portillo
  • Services of on-board doctor
  • Ten nights on board the Golden Eagle Train in a Silver cabin
  • Three nights full board at Espinas Hotel in a standard room

what is excluded

  • International and internal flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa Fees


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 2

Arrivals day in Tehran
Arrive into Tehran and transfer to the five-star Espinas Hotel (or similar). This evening there will be a welcome reception dinner, whilst you meet your fellow travellers on this highly anticipated journey.

Only the nation's capital since the 18th century, beneath the cities rough façade lies Iran's biggest and most vibrant city; a place where contemporary culture thrives alongside conservative traditionalism. Packed with almost 20% of the country's population, Tehran is squashed up against the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, Iran's biggest mountain range. Despite its reputation as a modern, expanding city, Tehran is not bereft of sites.

You will be staying at Espinas Hotel, Full board

Day 3

Visit Crown Jewels Museum and the Grand Bazaar
The highlight of Tehran is the visit to the Crown Jewels Museum in the Central Bank of Iran Building. Explore the city's Grand Bazaar with its seemingly never-ending maze of bustling alleyways.

You will be staying at Espinas Hotel, Full board

Day 4

Visit National Museum of Iran and board train
Visit the prestigious National Museum of Iran, opened in 1937, detailing many periods of the rich history of the country with some artefacts dating back approximately 30,000 - 35,000 years.

Late afternoon transfer to Tehran railway station to board the Golden Eagle train. Settle in to your cabin and later have dinner as the train begins its exciting voyage through Iran.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 5

An early morning arrival provides us with the whole day to explore the city of Mashhad, which is home to the Imam Reza Holy Shrine, the largest mosque in the world in terms of its dimension, followed by a tour of the Nader Shah Museum. After lunch in the city, we will visit the Tomb of Ferdowsi, the father of Persian Literature who lived over 1,000 years ago. Dinner on the train as we head south.

The capital of Khorasan province in northeast Iran and the second largest city in the country, Mashad is best known for its beautiful pilgrimage shrine of Imam Reza.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 6

Rayen & Mahan
After breakfast alight in Rayen. The 20,000 square metre Rayen castle is situated beneath the snow capped Mt Hezar in the Province of Kerman. A huge medieval mud brick citadel, it was considered second only to Bam before the 2003 earthquake. Rayen displays all the architectural elements of a deserted citadel (it was inhabited until 150 years ago) and is extremely well preserved. It is considered one of the most interesting sites in Iran.

Continue by road to Mahan to visit the 19th century Royal building, Prince Garden and tomb. Later visit the sanctuary and tomb of the famous, Soufi, Shah Nematollah Vali, dating back to the Mongol Era. Rejoin the train at dusk in time for dinner and depart for Yazd.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 7

This morning travel to the desert trading city of Kerman. The city has a mud-brick core centred on the historic and very lively bazaar. After exploring the bazaar, visit a 19th century old tea house and the Hamam Ganj Ali Khan, now restored and transformed into a museum. Re-join the Golden Eagle for dinner as the train travel onwards to Yazd.

Trapped between the Lut Desert and the Saheb Al Zman Mountain, Kerman was founded in the third century AD by the Sassanid King, Ardashir I. A trading city with a long and turbulent history, Kerman was originally built as a defensive outpost.

By the time Marco Polo visited in the 13th century, the city was a thriving trade emporium, but an 18th century siege by Agha Mohammad Khan led to its almost total destruction.

Today, Kerman has recovered and is littered with beautiful examples of Persian architecture, whilst its trading spirit lives on in the city's lively bazaars.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 8

Today our guest lecturer Michael Portillo joins the Golden Eagle Train. Spend the day in Yazd, thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. The tour takes in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Silent Towers, Amir Chakhmagh Square and the Friday Mosque, home to one of Persia's finest mosaics. Lunch will be served in the Moshir Garden Hotel which features a lovely Pomegranate Garden (Yazd is famous for pomegranates). Return to the train late afternoon.

Trapped between two of Iran's largest deserts, Yazd is an oasis town that is famous for its unique architecture. Generations of adaptation to the harsh desert environment have left Yazd with a distinctive architectural style.

Soaring minarets and hundreds of badgirs - specially designed wind towers - make up Yazd's iconic roof-scape. Such adaptation is a necessity for survival in the city; the nearby Dasht-e Lut was the hottest place on Earth for seven consecutive years during a 21st century scientific study.

The city is also renowned for its Zoroastrian community. Although now much-depleted after centuries of persecution, this religious minority still makes up 10% of the city's inhabitants.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 9

Persia's ex-capital is 2,500 years old and one of the oldest cities in Iran. It is famous for its silver filigree and metal work, great historical monuments and the Life-Giving River, the Zayandeh-Rood. Spend a whole day in the city, visiting the Vank Church in the Armenian Quarter and Naghshe Jahan Square - a World Heritage Site and the second largest man-made square in the world, where the Ali Qapou Palace and Shah and Sheikh Lutfullah Mosques can be found.

Widely regarded as one of Iran's greatest treasures, Isfahan reminds the world of the glories of Persia. Regarded as one of the most beautiful Islamic cities in existence, its cultural and architectural zenith was reached in the 17th century, under Shah Abbas I.

Today, its many wonders remain and so too does its status as a cultural hub. Bisected by the Zayandeh River, Isfahan's green riverbanks are lively places, buzzing with culture. Joining the two sides, the iconic Khaju Bridge is at the heart of this energetic city.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 10

Persepolis & Shiraz
Following breakfast on board we arrive in Sadat Shaha, for the nearby ruins of Persepolis, another World Heritage Site. Iran's most important archaeological site, this ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire dates back to the 6th century. The final visit today is to the Necropolis at nearby Naghsh-e Rustam. After lunch continue by road to Shiraz.

Shiraz is Persia's cultural capital. Dating back over 4,000 years it is also known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers. A visit to the Quran Gate, Hafez Tomb and the Vakil Citadel are the highlights of the afternoon tour.

Ravaged by earthquakes over the centuries, Shiraz's surviving treasures are relatively few, but its relaxed atmosphere remains. Briefly Iran's capital under the Zand dynasty, the city is still considered the country's capital of culture and is renowned for its poetry, wine and roses.

Bizarrely, whilst Shiraz wine is world-famous, the city itself - just like all of Iran - is free of alcohol. Following the Islamic Revolution, wine production was banned and vineyards were either converted to fruit production or destroyed.

Also used as a launch-pad for visits to the nearby site of Persepolis, its proximity to this fabled ruined city more than makes up for Shiraz's own depleted architectural heritage.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 11

Michael Portillo disembarks the Golden Eagle Train today. Visit the ancient city of Kashan and explore the Fin garden, the nearby Sialk Hills archaeological site and the 19th century historical houses of Brojerdi and Taba Tabaei. Kashan is the most important centre for Persian carpets, so after lunch in a local restaurant visit the impressive and ancient bazaar to explore the exquisite carpets on offer, before returning to the train mid-afternoon. As dinner is served pass through Qom and arrive at Dorud, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains around midnight.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 12

Shustar, Choghazanbil & Susa
As dawn rises in Dorud, a comfortable Iranian train awaits to take the group to the fascinating city of Shushtar. The scenery is magnificent as the train meanders through the mountainous landscape before arriving in the city late morning. Visit the hydraulic system that dates back to 590 BC and still provides water to the town of Shushtar. Move on to the Choghazanbil site dating back to 1250 BC and then tour the ancient city of Susa before re-joining the train for the spectacular return journey through the Zagros Mountains.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 13

Leave the Golden Eagle to drive through the Alborz Mountains towards Pol-e Sefid where an Iranian train awaits to venture further into the mountains. This afternoon, climb the Trans-Iranian Railway, crossing the infamous Veresk bridge, hailed as the 'Bridge of Victory' in World War II, and the outstanding 'Three Golden Lines' spiral, as the train makes its way back to the Golden Eagle for a final dinner aboard the train.

You will be staying at Golden Eagle Luxury Train, Full board and house beverages

Day 14

Visit Golestan Palace and farewell dinner
This morning visit the Golestan Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its renovated Versailles-inspired mirror-encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah. Tonight there will be a farewell Gala Dinner at the Espinas Hotel.

You will be staying at Espinas Hotel, Full board

Day 15

Day at leisure in Tehran


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Golden Eagle Luxury Train

Golden Eagle Luxury Train

Aboard this luxurious private train, you can expect well-appointed en-suite cabins, fine dining and elegant surroundings - no matter where you choose to explore....

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For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Iran

Paul Craven, Travel Expert

" I spoke to five different companies, but Paul was by far the most knowledgeable and empathetic."

"The service which I received from your Travel Expert Paul Craven was excellent, he was able to answer any queries I put to him."

"Paul must be congratulated on his expertise and great patience in dealing with all my programme changes. He must dread my phone calls!! A big thank-you from both of us to Paul and Carol."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.


Michael Portillo

Michael Portillo
A minister for 11 years, Michael Portillo is a regular on both BBC One’s political ‘This Week’ programme and Radio 4’s ‘The Moral Maze’, and has made several series of ‘Great British (and recently Continental) Railway Journeys’ for BBC Two. In 2008 he chaired the judges of the Man Booker prize, and chaired the Art Fund prize for museums and galleries in 2011. Anybody that has seen Michael in action on the BBC’s ‘Great Railway Journey’ series will know that Michael has a contagious enthusiasm for railways and travelling – the Guardian recently wrote that “undiluted joy for railways radiates from his very being”. He promises to be a very erudite, passionate and fascinating travelling companion.
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:
Speak to an Iran holiday expert:

Group Size:

Min 20 / Max 64

Tour Expert:

Michael Portillo

Departure Date (S):

  • 7th April 2018

  1. Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

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