People, Travel

‘Jewels of Persia’ Eastbound, Budapest to Tehran

‘Jewels of Persia’ Eastbound, Budapest to Tehran
‘Jewels of Persia’ Eastbound, Budapest to Tehran

Hoping to recapture some of the romance of the original Orient Express, the ‘Jewels of Persia’ tour is taking passengers on a fortnight’s journey that will carry them from Hungary to Iran.

This is the second European train tour company to bring passengers to Iran, after 1001 Nights tours co-arranged by three companies: Antonina, a Turkish company, Lernide a German Co, and the AITO, an Iranian tourism company, which operated two tours, the last of which departed from Iran on October 11.

The first “Jewels of Persia” express left Budapest on Wednesday with 70 passengers on a 4,350-mile journey that will take them through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey before entering Iran.

The steam-engine service is operated by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, a British company that has been organizing high-end railway journeys for over 20 years.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities, and tourism to Iran is an increasing market,” Ian Lomas, product manager for Golden Eagle, told The Telegraph newspaper. “The market is just opening up, so it’s good to be the first when it comes to luxury train travel,” he said.

The Iranian government has also just announced a major investment program in tourism infrastructure, so now is a good time to start, he added.

“We’ve always wanted to take people in comfort and safety to destinations that are off the beaten track,” he continued, adding that tickets for the journey sold out within days of going on the market, with most of the buyers coming from the UK, Australia and the USA.

The train carriage design is inspired by the old Hungarian railways with the intention of matching the luxury of the original Orient Express. The famed train, and vehicle for the world’s rich, ran between Paris and Istanbul from 1883 to 1977, and caught the imagination of the likes of Agatha Christie and Graham Greene.

Along with sleeping cars, the train also boasts two gourmet restaurants. In order to respect both Iranian customs and law, only alcohol-free drinks will be served once the train enters the Islamic country.

Organizing the service required the close cooperation of Turkish and Iranian railways, and had to overcome a series of difficulties such as the watery barrier of the Bosphorus Straits. To get from Europe to Asia the express will travel by train ferry.

The 15 day tour started in Hungary on October 14 and will enter Iran on October 23, passing through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey before entering Iran.  Once in Iran, the first stop will be Zanjan. The train will continue on to the cities of Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis, ending in Tehran on October 28.  The five day tour of Iran will involve exploring historic and world heritage sites, as well as a few more remote towns.