From Iran to Istanbul Aboard the Arabian Nights Express

Take in the highlights of Iran and Turkey, next-door neighbors in what used to be called the Near East.  In ancient times, the Iran-based first Persian Empire encompassed what is now Turkey; later the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey, claimed parts of Iran.  After admiring the classic sites of Tehran, board the comfortable westbound private train, stopping to explore incredible archaeological sites, modern museums, soaring mosques and mausoleums, gracious public spaces and cooling Persian gardens that represent the ancient and the modern worlds living side by side in this rarely-visited country. 

Cross into Turkey, discovering the monumental stone heads of Nemrut Dağ  and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia.  Explore an amazing 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way.  This rail journey by private train also operates in reverse, from Istanbul to Isfahan.

Please note

This itinerary is currently only available as a custom or independent program. For a rail journey by private through this region, see Heart of Persia by Private Train.


Day Trip

  • Private Journey
    No minimum number of travelers
  • Travels to:
    Iran, Turkey
  • Private Journey:
    From Iran to Istanbul

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Why end mights on this Tour
  • Explore Persepolis, ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings
    Awaken to ancient history as you stand in the shadow of the colossal marble pillars of Persepolis, ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings and a celebrated...
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  • Boat over Lake Van to Akhtamar Island
    Take a boat ride to Akhtamar Island and the 10th century Church of the Holy Cross, perched above the beach on beautiful Lake Van....
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  • Contemplate the Eternal Flame
    Visit the Fire Temple in Yazd to see its eternal flame, said to have been burning since 470 AD; then contemplate the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians placed their dead....
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  • Take in the highlights of magnificent Istanbul
    Walk the narrow streets of the Sultanahmet district, admiring the soaring Blue Mosque and grand Hagia Sophia...
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over 15 years of travel experience in Turkey and Iran
  • Educational and alumni travel programs from the U.S., New Zealand and beyond have chosen MIR to guide them to Iran and Turkey
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth"
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-2: Tehran

Tour Golestan Palace, the oldest of Tehran’s historic monuments; the State Jewels Museum, safeguarding the world's largest uncut diamond; and the fascinating Archaeological Museum.


  • Crown Jewels at the Central Bank
  • UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace, with yellow Marble Throne
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Day 3: Pasargadae • Persepolis

Explore two magnificent archaeological sites, Pasargadae, founded in the 6th century BC by Cyrus the Great, and Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings, initiated by Darius I.


  • UNESCO-listed Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the Ancient World
  • 6th century remains of Pasargadae, built by Cyrus the Great

Day 4: Shiraz

In the fabled city of Shiraz, stroll the beautifully tended Eram Garden, a 19th century classical Persian garden.


  • “City of Roses and Nightingales,” Shiraz
  • Tomb of Hafez, Iran’s favorite poet
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Day 5: Isfahan

In beautiful Isfahan, wander graceful UNESCO-listed Imam Square, visit the Armenian neighborhood of New Julfa, and admire the Friday Mosque, the most eclectic mosque in Iran.


  • Isfahan’s Maiden-e Naghsh-e Jahan or Imam Square, among the world’s most beautiful squares and a UNESCO Site
  • Vank Cathedral, the heart of the Armenian-Iranian community
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Days 6-7: Yazd • Zanjan

In Yazd, visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple to see its eternal flame, and the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians brought their dead. Continue on to Zanjan's UNESCO-listed Soltaniyeh mausoleum, covered in turquoise tiles.


  • Towers of Silence
  • 5th century Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd
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Days 8-9: Van • Lake Van • Nemrut Dağ

Ferry to Akhtamar Island and visit the 10th century Church of the Holy Cross. Tour the formidable ruins of Van Castle and a small carpet workshop. Admire the monumental carved heads of Nemrut Dağ, set on a remote mountaintop.


  • Van, originally the capital of the ancient Urartu Empire in the 9th century BC
  • Ferry to Akhtamar Island with little Holy Cross Church
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Days 11-12: Baghdad Railway via the Tauras Mountains • Cappadocia

The train climbs the narrow pass through the Taurus Mountains on the early 20th century Baghdad Railway. Discover the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, with its fairy chimneys and ancient cave churches, decorated with Byzantine frescoes.


  • The Baghdad Railway, a link from Berlin to Ottoman-controlled Baghdad
  • Fairy chimneys and cave churches of Cappadocia

Days 13-14: Istanbul

Explore this celebrated city, including Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, before boarding the private train.


  • Fabulous Istanbul, Turkey’s capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Topkapi Palace, the Great Palace of the Ottoman Sultans
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices

There are no departures available at this time.

Please contact us for more information and a MIR Destination Specialist will contact you shortly. Thank you!

Please note

This itinerary is currently only available as a custom or independent program. For a rail journey by private through this region, see Heart of Persia by Private Train.

Group Size

This itinerary is available on a custom, private basis. Contact us for more information.

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • 7 nights accommodation aboard the Arabian Nights private train.
  • Per the itinerary, 6 nights of shared accommodation in well-located hotels.
  • Water, coffee and tea with meals.
  • Meals per itinerary.
  • Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
  • All guided off-train tours per itinerary.
  • The services of an experienced Train Tour Manager, with local guides for scheduled off-train touring.
  • Baggage handling.

Before Your Tour

  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list, insurance information, visa kit.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
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Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

More Info

Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

More Info


Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

More Info

Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program inTurkey, Iran or Central Asia before or after your tour. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of these suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This trip is moderately active, and rated moderate to rigorous touring due to the daily walk-ing involved and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least a mile a day, keeping up with fellow travelers. Flexibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to accept local standards of amenities and services are essential components to the enjoyment of this trip.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.


About Travel to Iran

If you have any questions about traveling to Iran, feel free to contact MIR or speak with one of our Iran travel experts at 111-111-1111.

We invite you to read through our Frequently Asked Questions about traveling to Iran, gathered from our more than 15 years of travel experience.

Read our Travel Journals

MIR's Travel Journals offer first hand accounts of MIR's fascinating destinations.

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Arabian Nights Express

Arabian Nights Express

The perfect combination of remote destinations and comfortable accommodations, rail journeys by private train open a world of discovery to travelers who enjoy comfort and leisure time as well as exciting new vistas.

Exclusive private trains furnish the dream of Old World rail travel with modern comforts and amenities that make the journey as pleasant as the destinations. The simple and comfortable Arabian Nights Express private train offers a restful and satisfying way to experience a legendary rail route.

Train & Hotel Accommodations

Relax and enjoy the panorama rolling past your private window and disembark for guided off-train touring in fascinating towns and cities along the way.

The Arabian Nights Express train is a comfortable, though not luxurious, Turkish private train, which can accommodate up to 98 passengers. Average group sizes can start from from around 55 passengers.

All cabins are similar to the Golden Eagle Danube Express Heritage Class category and accommodate two passengers (or can be booked for single use). There are no other classes of service on the Arabian Nights Express train.

  • Standard Class

    Standard Class

    Comfortable air-conditioned seating by day is transformed while you dine into upper and lower berths ready for nighttime use. A minibar and washbasin are included in the cabin, and toilet and shower facilities are provided at the end of each car.

    Additional Information

    Standard Class cabin information:

    38 sq. ft. cabin area
    WC and shower shared with other travelers in the same train car
    Personal wash basin with running water in cabin
    Cabin size door to window: 6 ft. 6 in.
    Cabin size wall to wall: 5 ft. 10 in.
    Beds (upper and lower are the same): 5 ft. 9 in. long by 25 in. wide
    Pull-out writing desk
    Cabinet with divided storage space and mini-bar
    Clothes hanging area, luggage rack for baggage storage

    Note: Alcoholic beverages will not be available while the train is in Iran. Cabin configurations and decor may vary from samples depicted.

  • Hotel Accommodations

    Hotel Accommodations

    Six nights of the tour are spent in four and five star hotels – one in Istanbul, one in Goreme, one in Van, one in Isfahan, one in Shiraz and one in Tehran. Additional nights before and after the tour can be arranged on request.

Life Aboard the Train
Arabian Nights Express

Each sleeping car has two attendants who make up and turn down the beds daily. Bottled water, tea or coffee may be purchased from your cabin attendant for delivery to your cabin on request.

Join travelers from around the world to enjoy the relaxed and casual environment on board, with no need to wear formal attire on excursions or while dining.

Please note that a variety of cabin styles are in use aboard the train. Décor and layout of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Dining Cars

    Dining Cars

    The dining car features freshly prepared regional dishes and operates as a lounge after dinner. Water, tea and coffee are included with your meals. A selection of soft drinks, wine, beer and spirits is available for purchase (no alcohol on the Iran portion of the itinerary).

  • Off-Train Tours

    Off-Train Tours

    Rail journeys feature an extensive line-up of educational city tours at the various stops on our routes. Private coaches and local guides whisk you away from your private train for fascinating half- or full-day forays into the principal towns and cities, sometimes including an in-city dining opportunity. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information (found on the Itinerary & Map tab of this page).