Comments from our travelers to Iran
Jim and I have traveled to Iran with Gwen and Bahman. It was a fantastic trip! Iranians love us!
--Retta (and Jim) - Passage Through Persian April 2010 (commented 4/22/18)
I loved my Iran trip and wanted to tell you that.
Words really can't describe how much I loved my trip to Iran. I am fairly well-traveled but this may be my favorite trip thus far. Bahman Zenhari is indeed a guide and host par excellence and Iran is a country so varied and so historic that I fell in love with it. He knows everything so well that his logistics were outstanding, and he obviously loves his country and its history and culture. He is highly knowledgeable and I appreciate all of his work, including small surprises, such as seeing the Cinema Museum. In addition, everything was ready for us, or found for us (an extra bag to carry home part of my treasures), taken care of for us, by our charming host, Bahman.
The sites that we saw were fascinating - and we saw everything on the itinerary plus some other things, like a quirky, cool little restaurant that was one of those hidden gems one would never find on one's own. The places were all beautiful in their own way, and every city varied from the others. Isfahan's Blue Mosque was breathtaking, and lesser known sites, such as the Contemporary Art Museum, were a delight. Iranian cuisine had a thread of similarity running through it, but the dishes vary from region to region and (cook by cook). There was always variety, and everyone found delicious things to their liking everywhere we went. Our hotels were terrific, too. They were all great, but for me, the Abbas and the Moshir Garden were my favorites as I loved the historic architecture and the unique decor of both.
Perhaps the greatest surprise was the welcome we received from Iranian people everywhere we went. My experiences with Iranians had already taught me that they are perhaps the world's most polite people, and their hospitality is legendary. However, to receive such warm and personal welcomes from people on the street, in markets, and at historical sites was really amazing. Over and over we heard ", We love the American people." We were invited to people's homes and asked to be in photos with their families. Reading about the welcome is one thing but experiencing it is a joy.
Now for the one thing that disappointed me about the trip: we couldn't be without our guide's supervision. I understand that this was not his decision and of course as a guest, I would mind my manners as well as local law and custom. I couldn't visit my Iranian family in their home and was told that it was a provision of my visa, which I wish had been made clear when I applied for the visa. That would have made things easier in arranging our visits together which ultimately took place in the hotel lobby. I also love to shop in an area where there are handicrafts and art items, and I did not have enough time for this (usually I take more time to wander and peruse, etc.). If Bahman reads this, he'll wonder how I could have shopped any more but it is one of my loves and something for which I'm known (proudly-my friends love my gifts). I do understand that these were the provisions of my visa and Bahman did try to give us free time. Circumstances just did not permit the kind of freedom I would prefer.
As you now know, the trip was a great success for me and I thank you for an outstanding experience.
Barbara G. - Passage Through Persian November 2017
This was a wonderful and unique travel experience that I will treasure. Great itinerary, fabulous guide who treated us like family and incredible shopping.
Barbara S, Passage Through Persian History & Culture November 2017
The meals Bahman ordered or recommended were always good choices and everyone seemed to find their favorite(s). Needless to say we all pretty much got addicted to the saffron ice cream.
I am so glad that a friend gave me your company information so many years ago (before she stopped traveling due to health issues) as I don't think we could have had a better Iranian experience with another company and with anyone except Bahman. He really made the trip.
Ethel, Passage Through Persian History & Culture November 2017
We were so busy upon returning from Iran that I don't remember if I ever emailed you. Assuming not, I want you to know we had a great time. We truly enjoyed both the country and the people we met there. Bahman was even better than advertised. I know you went to a great deal of trouble to make certain we made the trip, and I thank you and Sarah. We have encouraged friends to take your tour, but the current situation in the Middle East scares folks away. I hope we can reestablish friendly relations with the good people of Iran.
Robert Schlieman, Persian History & Culture Revisited April 2014
"I'm sorry that I did not have a chance to say goodbye and to thank you for a really marvelous trip. It was everything that I had hoped for and more--perfectly organized and a terrific guide. You can count me among your permanent fan club!"
James Lowenstein, Treasure of Iran February 2014
"I want to thank you and Gwen for organizing and leading such a wonderful experience for me. You both have such a knack for taking care of each individual traveler and seeing that they have a top notch experience. I appreciated all the little "extra" things you did. The trip far exceeded my expectations. It is definitely at the top of trips I have taken ( and there have been many). I will certainly encourage my friends to take a trip to Iran."
Marge Haruff, Treasure of Iran February 2014
"My trip to Iran changed my view of all things middle eastern, particularly Iran. Your goal of fostering communication between Americans and Iranians has definitely worked with me! If Obama could take the same trip that I did, if our government could meet and mingle among the Iranian people the way we did, then the face of the people, not the Iranian government, would be foremost in the minds of those who would wage war. Again, my sincere thanks to you. I look forward to a second trip to Iran."
Lettie Lupis, Persia Revisited November 2011
"Paulette [my roommate] kept telling me about how Iranians would come up to us and welcome us to their country, and she was right…even though her experiences were a few years earlier.
Everywhere we went we ran into Iranians from other cities visiting the same sites we were visiting. We also saw lots of students on field trips. The approach would often be the same: a small group would walk past us, and would quietly say hello. If we responded they knew they could speak English to us. Invariably, they started off by asking where we were from. Never did “America” elicit an unhappy look or a turning away. Instead, we heard phrases like “We love America. How long have you been here? Where have you been? Do you like our country? We want to visit/study in America. Please tell your friends to come and visit Iran, etc.” Almost all wanted to take pictures of us alone and of us with them, using their ever-present cell phones primarily. None objected to having their photos taken by us once we started talking.
As I told you, I saw a familiar face at our baggage carousel at JFK and went over to recount to her the kinds of friendly conversations we had had. It was Madeline Albright. She thanked me and introduced me to her young female colleague, who was from Iran."
Susan Dilloway, Persia Revisited November 2011
"Many thanks for putting together such a fabulous trip. I felt very safe in Iran. Our leader, Bahman was superb. I only have one suggestion: too much food.
Anyway, thanks again for a great adventure. Hope to take another one with your agency."
Barbara Weiss Treasures of Iran February/March 2011
"Back home trying to put into place my thoughts, impressions and feelings about the trip (in addition to my laundry, remembrance gifts and memories). I’m still sorting things out. First and foremost, it was a superb adventure. Without Bahman it would have been good (possibly) but with him it became spectacular. What a fine human being he is and how nurturing he was. Every need (voiced or unvoiced) was met. He regaled us with oranges, tangerines, dates, andforbidden fruits such as ice creams and candies. His commentaries provided an outline and his good spirits pervaded. Inasmuch as we were a small group getting on and off the bus was effortless and everyone was incredibly prompt. We were the least seasoned of the travelers and enjoyed other fellow “groupies” comparisons with other culturesetc.
What emerged, at least for me, was the hospitality of the people. Their open admiration for and curiosity about us was ingenuous and endearing. When they found out that we were Americans they literally embraced us and made us feel comfortable, nay loved. The food, alas, was too copious and quite delicious. I would suggest smaller lunches as three major meals a day is overwhelming and I certainly am paying the price now that I am home as the scale taunts me. (I know….Ididn’t have to eat it all, but I did). Our bus driver was so competent that no one felt skeptical about some of the formidable traffic problems or the traffic.
The crescendo built and by the time we reached Isfahan we were delirious with joy and those final days in that charming city seemed too fleeting. I, for one, can’t wait to sign on to another ofyour trips based on my experiences with this one. My son and daughter(and I am certain that they will convey their thoughts) were hugely impressed and it was great for me having them along (as they pushed me and pulled me up those almost insurmountable high steps). You have a great mission andyour execution, beginning with the pre travel information, was flawless. Please convey at your first opportunity our appreciation to Bahman as without him the trip would undoubtedly have been great….but with him it became memorable. Good luck on future trips and do keep me on your mailing list. The last two hotel choices, prior to returning to Tehran, were outstanding."
Sally Levin Treasures of Iran Febraury/March 2011
"Bahman is sensational! What a gem... fun, full of information, anticipating all of our needs. It was a most wonderful trip. The Iranian people are the warmest and sweetest that I have met in my many travels. The country was not at all what I expected. The people, the cities were beyond what I could ever imagined. I would recommend it to all of my friends.
Thanks for a glorious adventure."
Regina Coxe Treasures of Iran Febraury/March 2011
"I am Jewish and it was exciting to see the Persian sites associated with Jewish history, including the tombs of the Biblical Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai in Hamadan, the ruins of King Ahasuerus' (Xerxes') palace in ancient Shushan (today Susa), and the tomb of Daniel (also in Susa). I specifically chose Travel Concepts International because their itinerary includes those places."
Ada Persia Revisited November 2010
“Three weeks experiencing “The History and Cultural Tour of Persia”. My first experience in Tehran was on the elevator, when a gentleman declared “we love Americans” and this theme continued during my travels. I always felt safe. We toured spectacular archaeological sites, such as Persepolis, the capital, during the 6th century BC. We saw mosques, tombs of Esther, Daniel, lyric poets, Cyprus the Great and many more. We traveled to Yazd and the water museum to learn about Qanats which were designed to bring mountain water through underground conduits to the plains turning them into lush agricultural lands.
We traveled to Isfahan, called the Pearl of Iran, with its many beautiful gardens and bridges. It has one of the world’s grandest squares with Palaces and Mosques built in the early 1600’s. While there, it was a national holiday, and many families were enjoying picnics together. We flew to Tabriz and continued our tour of the mountains, picturesque villages, and the coast of the Caspian Sea.
Iran was an experience of a lifetime. The ancient history is in contrast to its modern cities of today and they even have traffic jams. Everyone has television and they are very familiar with American TV programs. It is a highly educated country with many universities and a literacy rate of 98.5%. Even the Nomad’s, which represent 3% of the population, and raise most of the meat for the country have visiting teachers. It will be interesting to watch Iran in the coming years where 70% of the current population are in their early 30’s, are acutely away of today’s world, have a deep love of their country, and enjoy their age-old bustling bazaars. They have a great desire for freedom.”
Donna Wolter Persia Revisited November 2010
“Dear potential traveler, I have recently returned from a 2 week excursion to Iran with the Serious Traveler. Many thought that I was a bit daft for venturing to what they perceive to be a "dangerous place." Nothing could be further than the truth! Not only was Iran safe but the Iranians were unbelievably welcoming. I never saw a gun or military person the whole time we were there.
I never felt the least bit endangered or threatened either.
The country has an amazing culture spanning over 2500 years. In addition modern Iran has made great strides. While the pronouncements of some of their leaders are a bit far fetched, I do not believe those views are shared by many Iranians who are eager to join the community of civilized countries.
I would encourage you to go, to enjoy the wonderful climate in fall or spring and to travel with an open mind. You will not regret it.”
Martha Raak Pittsburgh, PA Persia Revisited November 2010
“We just back from a week in South Dakota taking in granddaughters' various holiday programs and concerts. It looks like we'll enjoy a white Christmas as the snow that fell while we were in Iran hasn't melted!
We did so enjoy our trip and daily recall something from it. (however, we haven't eaten rice since we've been home!)
It is difficult to put into words exactly the true meaning of a trip like you arranged, but here's our attempt:
"Journey with confidence to that ancient land, Iran, and delight in its historic sites as well as the warmth of its people. TCI has a full itinerary that can't be matched--from the desert areas to the Caspian Sea. We felt that on our routing we had countless, meaningful exposures to Iran's culture. Our Iranian adventures are now great memories. Experience Iran, and make your own discoveries!"
Merry Christmas!! and we hope to travel with you again.”
Bob and Lois Woodmansey - Persia Revisited November 2010
“I have traveled many times with Travel Concepts International so I felt no qualms about going with them to Iran. However, I expected it to be restrictive there and was pleased to find it open and welcoming. It is a very rich, multicultural country with so many interesting antiquities, and I urge everyone who has the opportunity, to go see for themselves. On my trip, I found the people to be warm and friendly. So many young couples took pictures of me with their children so I think they must revere the old. Gwen Erwood and Bahman, our delightful Iranian guide, helped make the trip a memorable one.”
Carmen Thomas, Auburndale, Florida - Persia Revisited November 2010
“People are consistently interested in hearing about Iran, especially that I felt safest of all my travels there and that the people were so friendly. Only one became a bit defensive but more comfortable as I continued to talk about the people and our daily interactions at the different sites. Am so glad to have gone.”
"Take advantage of every occasion to mention how friendly the people were in Iran. And, I listen for news from all of the places I have been with you. #1 tours!!!!"
Carol B. - Persia Revisited November 2010
“Impressions of Iran: such a rich culture and history science, math, logic, poetry, engineering; a love of nature many parks, gardens, family picnics in the parks; a love of humanity outgoing people, friendly, generous to each other and visitors, passionate with deep emotions, fun loving, so much soul; everyone recites and writes poetry.
Shiraz was one of my favorite cities originally the home of Shiraz wine (alas, not currently), many gardens and parks fragrant with orange blossoms, the sound of nightingales, roses. Pink, blue and Friday mosques, busy bazaars, art, handicrafts, rugs.
Fresh cucumbers and tomatoes available for three meals a day! Kebab, stews with complex spices, pomegranate, char-broiled lime, “ice cream” made with vermicelli, rose water and lemon squeezed on top. Yogurt!!!
Amazing history and architecture. Many interesting museums and historical sites.
I enjoy interacting with people the most. They are so friendly, welcoming and engaging; hungry for contact with us. They want to talk, take pictures, and even if we don’t share language, they just want to be with us.
Early morning walks joining the local people (men and women) in the park for aerobics, tai chi, kick boxing. Exchanging pictures-taken with people we meet. A pick-up Frisbee game in the park with four Iranian women! I felt totally safe.
The north along the Caspian Sea is very different, also very beautiful. Different people, language, culture, geography. Some of it reminded me of Hawaii, some of it reminded me of the Sierra. The countryside was filled with poplars, fruit trees, kiwi, rice, tea, snow capped mountains and tulip fields! Tehran is bordered by snow capped mountains it is gorgeous! All throughout Iran, I was mesmerized by the landscapes.
I learned so much about history, art, culture, Islam. Travel for me is about breaking down barriers; recognizing common humanity. I am so glad I went on this trip.”
Meda Rebecca Passage Through Persia April 2010
“As a very experienced traveler who visited Iran on a tour with Serious Traveler in April, 2010, I strongly recommend the Serious Traveler company and Iran! Persia! Such an historic country with ancient sites, extraordinary art and architecture, and a wonderful people with one of the strongest democratic tradition in the entire region should be at the top of your travel list! Gwen and her staff gave us an excellent reading list along with background information, and their experience made us all comfortable about visiting a country that most of us would consider controversial. We were all treated as welcomed guests by the Iranian people and it was a pleasure to meet them and to take pictures of each other. I can't think of any other country I've visited where the people treat American tourists like us so warmly. Most of the familiar places in Europe and Asia (I have traveled extensively in both areas) have friendly people and I have been welcomed, but they are all accustomed to tourists and that's how we are all regarded. But Iran? We Americans are truly welcome there. Iran is in a state of transition now and we want to see changes in their government, but as visitors we are not involved in political affairs.
Iran has a history and culture that spread throughout Central Asia to India, where we see the beauty of Persian art and architecture in the treasures of Moghul India. Iranians also have a great love of poetry and revere poets of many centuries ago. In Esfahan, our local guide, who has written an outstanding English guidebook on Esfahan, told us at the tomb of Saeb, as he translated the poems of this 17th century poet of Esfahan, that he felt fortunate to be an Iranian fluent in the Persian language. In Shiraz there are similar well visited tombs of the poets Hafez and Sa'di. A visit to Iran will give you an insight to this important part of our world's heritage.
Personal safety is an important concern in any travel, and I felt very safe in Iran, which is not a "third world" country with dramatic contrasts in wealth and hygiene issues. My photographs speak for themselves and will give you an idea of the beauty of Iran and her people if you go to my flickr site (www.flickr.com/photos/dslewis) and click on the "Images of Iran" set or go directly there through a link from the Serious Traveler site. The people at Serious Traveler have the experience and attention to detail that are so important to a successful trip. Hotels? Meals? Communications? Cleanliness? Excellent! Internet connections are widespread and I was able to use my international phone very easily. Your next trip? Go to Iran!”
David Lewis, Sanford, Florida - Passage Through Persia April 2010
“We have recently completed a wildly successful trip to Iran with Gwen Erwood's group, The Serious Traveler. The first evening in Tehran my wife and I were walking at 10 PM at night by ourselves in the very large park next to our hotel where there were huge numbers of families, children, older people, all playing, picnicking, strolling, and we looked at each other and said, "what were we worried about?"
Iran was without doubt the friendliest place we have ever visited. I went determined to introduce myself to everyone that caught my eye. I would walk up and shake hands and tell them I was from Amrika. The nearly universal response was one of excitement and desire to talk, take pictures together, tell me about their cousin in California or New Jersey or otherwise practice their English. (Most speak some English). There was not a moment from the beautiful deserts of the south around Shiraz and Kerman to the spectacular mountain scenery near the Caspian Sea in the north that we felt a moment of anxiety.
And of course the cultural experience was breathtaking. Gwen has an exceptional guide in Bahman Zenhari and the air and private bus arrangements were superb. If anyone has a moments hesitation in taking this trip please ask Gwen for my phone number.”
Doug McGeorge and Jan Petty, San Mateo, California - Passage Through Persia April 2010
“Gwen, you, especially, will appreciate this story of how I can to help the UNA: I attended a presentation of a man and his wife that had just returned from......you guessed it....Iran! We both had the same book of translated Hafiz poems and when we saw this we all smiled at each other! It was that simple. The conversation was so fascinating, and everyone in attendance paid such acute attention to Dr. Baxer's presentation and after asked questions about his experience, the people, was he scared.....you know, as you have been answering these exact questions for years!
I met a woman who grew up in Tehran, as her father was an architect hired by the late Shah. She shared with me that despite her leaving many years ago and not returning, she was considering going back to Iran. She was so familiar with so many places and asked me about them, and she and everyone wanted to know what travel organization I used. Of course I told them, gave them your name and email.
I can't thank you enough Gwen for the journey to Iran. You, Sarah, Bahman, everyone, our fellow travelers as unofficial goodwill ambassadors, the people of Iran. Iran has my heart.”
Monica Adorno Persia Revisited November 2009
“Gwen, here is my contribution for your possible use. It turned out to be a little bit more than just ‘nice people, good food, no beer.’ Please feel free to put it in English and massage the text to your liking: Gwen, When I am reading an ancient inscription like "A great God (is) Ahuramazda who created this earth, who created that heaven, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Xerxes king, the one king of many (kings) the one commander of many (commanders). I (am) Xerxes the great king, the king of kings, the king of countries having many (kinds of) human beings, the king in this great earth far and wide, the son of Darius an Achamenian" I am fascinated by a civilization with such a great recorded history going back thousands of years. The story unfolds and the colorful past as well as the present comes to life. Traces of a once great Achaemenid empire, stretching from present day Egypt over Turkey, Afghanistan to well beyond Pakistan is still evident. The tour contributed to my understanding of this region with its unique history, culture and religion. The people I have met were good and friendly and I wish I could have had more time to spend. All in all I'm having some rich and everlasting memories of Iran. Aloha and happy Winter Solstice.”
Walter Leu - Persia Revisited November 2009
“The one comment every tourist makes regarding a trip to Iran is how friendly and warm hearted the Iranian people are toward Americans. That warmth pervades all levels of society and walks of life. During my trip to Iran with Serious Traveler I never had any reason or factual basis for concern for my safety beyond that I would have on any domestic or foreign travel. To the contrary, the Iranian government would want to avoid any incidents involving legitimate tourists. The local tour operator added a layer of knowledge, guidance and protection that was both enlightening and reassuring.”
Richard E. Best, San Francisco - Persia Revisited November 2009
“If you want something to tempt people into going to Iran: The food was fantastic! Plenty of fresh fruit, feta cheese for breakfast everyday, pastries, tea served in every establishment, and the rose-water flavored ice cream was divine! People were very hospitable-- I think American business people should take a lesson from them.”
Marjorie Walz - Passage Through Persia 2009
“In regards Iran, for me this was a special trip. An intellectual gem. I loved the trip.
For me the largest concern was safety. Once you over came that issue in your mind the trip fell into place.
You handled immigration perfectly.
I enjoyed ever minute of the trip. The sights were unique, all our group were excellent and worked well together and helped each other.
This was the second trip with your company and look forward to future trips. When I am ready I will be in touch with you for Romania and Syria.
I think as long as you can work with whatever government is in charge that is good. There is nothing to fear except fear itself. I would go back again as there are parts of Iran I did not see. And I will do that in the future.
Gwen it is always good to hear from you. Your programs are very well put together. I am glad I found you. Stay with your beliefs and healthy. Take care of yourself and be careful.
And hopefully I will travel with you again on one of your trips.”
John Fischook - Passage Through Persia 2009
“Dear Gwen, My trip to Persia in Persia with Travel Concepts was one of the best trips I've ever taken. Our guide, Bahman, treated us like one of his family. We saw so many splendid sights and the people were just wonderful. They "love Americans." I treasure the things I brought back, the sights, colors and history of that grand culture. I never at any time felt unsafe.”
Anne Patton Passage Through Persia 2008
“Dear Gwen, People are often incredulous when I tell them of our visit to Iran, the extremely warm and welcoming citizens from both cities and villages, the extraordinary historical, architectural, and cultural heritage the country offers, the “crown jewels” which put the London ones to shame, and the comfort of the accommodations as well as the delicious food offered to us daily. I look at my miniature portraits painted on camel bone and remember Iran with fondness and a keen desire to return. I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable, though I do confess a newfound respect for the women forced to cover themselves from head to toe. Feel free to give anyone considering this trip my home telephone number; they can feel free to ask me any questions and expect an honest reply. They can also call me on my toll free number at work, but I may not be able to speak at length because it ties up the office line. We are looking forward to Bali next June!
(And Ethiopia, and the China Silk Road, etc., etc!)”
Carol Bhide - Passage Through Persia 2007
“Dear Gwen, I really think about you and our fabulous trips all of the times, especially Iran which was the best trip I have been on. Everything was perfect.”
Shirley Gold Passage Through Persia 2007
“As an inveterate and demanding traveler, I seldom find a travel expediter that earns my unqualified kudos. Gwen Erwood is the exception. I have traveled to Iran with Gwen and still communicate with some of the thwarted young people there. We had an exceptional guide and experienced the Arts of Iran in a wonderful and personal way. I cherish the statue I bought from the artist in Tehran (which arrived here safely before I did) and the experiences like talking with an educated man (a professor in the Shah's time) who makes precious dyes out of garbage (pomegranate, onion, and other fruit skins) for the rug industry. He had wonderful vines (he was near Shiraz) and when he found that I was from the wine country of California, he urged me to return and hopefully share a CASE of Shiraz when we returned.). Gwen takes care of the problems which inevitably occur on trips, with élan and competence. My mother died while I was with Gwen's trip to Turkey (a GREAT trip, by the way) and she got me to western Kansas in time for the funeral. I am forever in her debt.
Iran, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the Baltic, Costa Rica--I have traveled with Gwen. Her trips are fairly priced, very comfortable (wonderful hotels in out of the way places like Cappadocia and in northern Sri Lanka).
Only when I am with a formal delegation to other places (like Cuba, Iceland, Argentina and Japan) do I elect to travel with other groups. I HIGHLY recommend THE SERIOUS TRAVELER.”
Joan Poulos Crafts of Iran 2001