Life Changing Adventures
Venture into the unknown and challenge everything you think you know about Iran. Completely misrepresented by world media, Iran is home to the friendliest, warmest and most welcome locals anywhere on the planet.
Social Cycles will take you on a journey to interact and connect with local grassroot Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and the beneficiaries of a funded project of your choosing. Research what really happens on the ground and out in the villages with Social Cycles in a tour that carefully balances ethical research and local impact with cycling and site seeing.
Our journey traces the magnificent legacies of the Persian Empires which will not fail to inspire, yet it is the snow clad mountains, vast deserts, oasis towns and spontaneous engagement with the locals that provide surprise at every turn. This adventure starts in the capital Tehran, slowly heading south towards Shiraz.
Next Available Travel Dates:
2017: April 10-24
2017: September 16-30
2018: April 8-22
2018: August 12-26
2018: August 26-September 9
Features & inclusions
- Tour Inclusions
- Social Impact
- Support Van
- Cycling Distances
- Culture & Customs
- NGO Partners
- 14 x nights accommodation in homestays
- Bicycle hire, not including helmets
- One Australian guide (Brett); one local guide (Arezoo); one local driver; one bike mechanic
- Full support vehicle for the ride with water and fruit
- Minimum three NGO presentations with local staff across Iran
- Multiple field trips to villages and communities
- Entry and guided tour of Persepolis UNESCO world heritage site
- 15 x breakfasts, 13 x lunch and 14 x dinners
- Airport transfers for arrival and departure
- Transit from Shiraz back to Tehran via vehicle
- Alcohol is illegal. This doesn’t just apply to locals, it applies to everybody. There will be absolutely no alcohol on the Social Cycles tour
- You must dress conservatively. WOMEN must wear a hijab (head scarf) at all times when in public. Long sleeve shirts and trousers should also be worn. The month of April is still cool so this type of clothing should not pose too much of a problem whilst cycling, especially with the altitude we will be. For MEN, full length shirts and trousers should also be worn in public. Cycling clothing is permitted but should be covered with loose fitted clothing over the top.
- Money. There is no Visa or Mastercard access from ATM’s as sanctions still limit financial access. As a result, you will need to bring in US cash and exchange at the airport. The money that you bring into the country is the only money you will have access to whilst you are in Iran, so make sure you have enough for all your souvenirs!
- Ta’arof: In the world of ta’arof, the Persian art of etiquette, people fight over who pays the bill, seem to refuse payments for a purchase, pretend they don’t want something to eat when they’re starving. In a culture that emphasizes deference, ta’arof is a verbal dance that circles around respect. If a taxi driver insists you should not pay, you cannot just say ‘Thanks!’ and walk away. It is a ritual display of respect & humility, that can be confusing to understand at first. In general, you insist (or refuse) at least three times before the desired transaction can take place
The concrete jungle of Tehran can seem a little daunting at first. To make your welcome a little warmer, we’ll arrange an airport transfer for you from the airport to the hotel. Once you’ve settled and refreshed, Tehran is yours to explore. Depending on what time you arrive, check out one of the many museums, mosques or markets. Brett, one of the tour facilitators (and founder of Social Cycles) will be in the city to greet you and offer some local advice. Our first official activity for the evening is a welcome dinner at a ‘local’s favourite’ restaurant.
Welcome to Persia
We start the day with the wonderful people from Omid-e-Mehr foundation. Learn how this incredible non government organisation empowers local disadvantaged young women through three key areas: self empowerment, education and training. Starting in 2004, Omid-e-Mehr was set up to help victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse. Today, it has over 200 young women enrolled in it’s program. This insight into Iran is an incredible, eye opening education.
In the afternoon, we will explore the Tehran Bazaar. This is a great way to see how local people live, shop and eat. It’s also a great chance to pick up some shopping for Persian souvenirs! If the market is not your cup of tea, you’re more than welcome to use this time to explore the National Jewelry Treasury, the Golestan palace or perhaps the Imam Khomeini Mosque (although please ensure you attend the mosque with Arezoo, our local guide).
A big cycle day: 95km (+ optional extra 53km)
With over 13 hours of daylight on our side, we head out of Tehran in the early morning and make our way to Qom, one of Iran’s holiest cities. The entire journey is 148km as we take the road running parallel to the highway. The road is paved and quiet but we’ll always have the company of our trusty support van. We will break every 25-30km (more if we need to) until we reach lunch in the early afternoon. From here, you can take rest in the van and transit into Qom, or you can challenge yourself to finish the day in the saddle and near 150km.
By late afternoon, we’ll rest in central Qom with casual plans for dinner in a local restaurant.
Mosques, museums and rest…
Qom is one of the most conservative and religious cities in Iran. Scholars and students come from across the country to visit the famous religious bookshops and visit the shrines. The most famous, Hazrat-e Masumeh, houses the tomb of Fatima Masumeh, the sister of Imam Reza, who died in 816 AD.
Of course, this is an opportunity to soak up the cultural surrounding by just taking rest. Take your camera for a walk, drink tea with a local stranger and let the local hospitality guide you.
A flat 98km and a bath house
Kashan is a really interesting city that is rarely spoken of outside of the country, but is a common tourist destination for locals. And for good reason. The Agha Bozorg Mosque is an excellent example of 19th century architecture, the bazaar, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse and Bagh-e-Fin Garden are all easy to get camera crazy over. And then there is the food to eat and rugs to buy!
Again, we’ll make an early start and aim to be at our hotel/homestay by the early afternoon, giving us plenty of time to rest and take in the aforementioned sites.
Cycling to great heights through the incredible mountains (98km cycle)
From Kashan we begin to tackle the mountain range to the West. A slow 50km climb will take us to new heights of 2700m above sea level into a land of complete remoteness and rural fascination. These are the roads less travelled, let alone cycled, and these are the roads that lead to great adventures and authentic experiences. We will arrive at the tiny village of Meymeh, where we will enjoy a home cooked meal and a nights rest with a local family.
Cycle 105km downhill
From Meymeh, we continue our gradual descent down into the amazing town of Isfahan. Our early start and friendly downhill means that we should arrive just after lunch. Enough time to shower, take rest and stroll around this magnificent city for the late afternoon.
Mosques, markets, city squares and an NGO
Isfahan is the number one tourist destination in Iran, and for good reason. Being one of the oldest cities in Iran, some 2500 years, Esfahan is famous for it’s tree lined boulevards, Life-Giving River, The Zayandeh-Rood, abundant and beautiful mosques, bazaars, bridges and city squares.
Isfahan is an incredible city to explore and discover through the diverse food, cafes and teahouse’s. We will also dig a little deeper and meet our second NGO to learn a little more about the what happens beneath the surface of this friendly and welcoming community.
The first stop on our way to our final destination, we will spend a bit of time in the morning in Isfahan before we set out on the 79km journey to Shahreza. A smaller town, with a population of just over 100k, Shahreza is famous for it’s ‘caravanserai’, enclosed spaces where travellers take rest. Very suitable for us! This beautiful little town is is a great place to explore on foot, engage with the locals and soak up more of the traditional Persian culture and customs. We will enjoy a home cooked meal and local hospitality in a homestay.
125km cycling day
This is another significant cycling day to get us to our destination of Shiraz. On the way, we will go via Abadeh, famous for it’s rugs. If buying a Persian rug is on your list of things to do in Iran, Abadeh is the place for it.
In addition to rugs, Abadeh is famous for it’s carved wood work, made from pear and box trees. It’s a great place to pick up a traditional backgammon set.
Cycling through the Zagros mountain range (98km)
The ride from Abadeh to Aspas is our second by mountain challenge. Starting at an altitude of 2000m, we will climb to a peak of 2700m over the first 60km, before descending to 2300m for the evening in the tiny village of Aspas. This rural and remote town has a population of just over 2000 people and will no doubt be the most remote place on the trip. This is just one of the places where you will experience true rural Persian life and the warmest hospitality from locals. Enjoy a home cooked meal after your big ride and a good nights rest in the comfort of a family home. This is an experience that you will never forget, as these are mountains and routes rarely explored by the few tourists that visit Iran. Prepare to be overwhelmed in warmth and hospitality.
Cycle to the ancient ruins of Persepolis (515BC)
We cycle straight to the country’s premier attraction, Persepolis. This ancient empire was built in 518 BC by Darius the Great as the capital of the mighty Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great burnt the city to the ground in 330 BC, but many remnants of its former glory remain and Persepolis lives on as one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world. Officially made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
The final cycle day!
We depart from the Persepolis Hotel and make our way towards our final destination, the magnificent city of Shiraz. Known for it’s many gardens and trees, Shiraz is a photographers dream with highlights such as Eram Gardens, Nasir al-Mulk mosque, Vakil mosque and bazaar, Karim Khan citadel just to name a few.
The city, the people, the monuments and our last NGO
We take a full day here to explore, relax and reflect on the experience over the previous couple of weeks. The effort to get this far by bicycle should never be under valued. It is an amazing achievement and one that will make you extremely proud. This journey is one of personal triumph and giving back to the community in an educated and ethical way. The learning experience from the different NGOs, the interactions with all the locals in each of the towns and the vast history and architecture will have you feeling joyous, not only from your achievement but from your contribution.
Congratulations! You’ve cycled across Iran and covered over 900km in just two weeks! Your journey has taken you through not only some of the highest mountains, but delved into the deepest issues, as learnt from the local people throughout the villages and the NGOs we have engaged with along the journey.
From here, we’ll transfer you to the airport to catch your pre-arranged flight to either Dubai or Tehran.
Where we ride
Yep, it’s fair to say that the below map can look a little daunting/exciting. It’s true, there are a few hills in there and we’ll be reaching a reasonable altitude. However, we’d much prefer to have fun than to finish. It’s all about the journey on our rides, not about the destination. We will be using the support van to help and it will be on hand at all times should you want to enjoy the air conditioning and take a load off!
Get on board
- Ready To Book
- Register Interest
Terms and Conditions
Other Adventures You Might Be Interested In…