I wanted to visit Iran for two reasons: First, to find out for myself what the impact of the international sanctions was on the people and hear from them whether they believed sanctions would have any impact on moving Iran to negotiate, and second, to see the historical and cultural sights of this ancient civilization.
Jerry Dekker's knowledge and experience were invaluable in helping us plan our trip - from deciding on our itinerary (we flew from Los Angeles through Istanbul to Shiraz, then drove to Yazd, Isfahan, Tehran, Takab and finally flew back from Tabriz through Istanbul to LA), to advising us on some great books to read ahead of the trip, what to wear in Iran, and how to interact with people. We have never worked with a more enthusiastic, capable, or genuinely devoted tour organizer -- and we've traveled a lot -- from Peru to Cameroon, India, China, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and dozens of other destinations!
As everyone else we'd spoken with about Iran had said, we've never felt more welcome as Americans in a foreign land than we did in Iran. At times we felt like celebrities. People were genuinely interested in where we were from, and once they heard "America" they got really enthusiastic, and most of the time, long conversations ensued. It was incredibly easy to meet people.
Our guide, Majid, was exceptional. He went out of his way to ensure that our every request was served. Completely flexible on time, he adjusted to our interests so that we spent more or less time, and visited more or fewer sights, depending on our own inclination. And he served as a patient interpreter for the many conversations we got into with those people whose English skills were limited.
In terms of historic sights, climbing the grand entrance staircase and walking through the Gate of All Nations at Persepolis was a true highlight. Here we were, treading the very stones that Xerxes, Darius and Alexander strode over two millennia before! Talk about bringing ancient history to life! Walking the narrow alleys in the old city of Yazd invoked images of desert traders from ancient times to the 19th century. It felt as though Marco Polo might be waiting just around the next corner. And at the far end of the trip, the ancient Zoroastrian fire temple, Takht-e Soleyman, surrounding a small lake in a volcanic crater, presented a mystical, spiritual sight which we visited in the late afternoon, just as the setting sun poked out from under a cloudbank that had brought an unseasonable hail storm that coated the ground in a veil of white.
The mosques, bazaars, parks, and other sights in every city were each more beautiful than the others.
Oh, lest I forget... the food was outstanding, and inexpensive, everywhere — from the humblest eatery to the best hotel in Tehran... and the tap water was safe to drink.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed a memorable, eye-opening experience, which we recommend to all.
Eric & Nancy Garen
Los Angelews, CA
Travel to Iran has been a dream of mine for many years, and it was Jerry Dekker and his colleagues in Iran who made it all possible. Jerry was extremely helpful, responding to all my questions in a prompt and friendly manner, which immediately put me at ease. The visa process was very smooth and near effortless and all the arrangements were done exactly as I wanted. Indeed, the whole experience was beyond my expectations, as we managed to see everything I wanted and even more. In short, I urge you to visit Iran with Jerry and his team. The country and its people are amazing and like me, Im sure you'll feel at home right away, and find yourself wondering why you didnt do it earlier. The Iranians are amazingly friendly and welcoming and the sites are second to none. In short, you can trust Jerry to put together a wonderful trip to a wonderful and fantastic country. A full 5 star performance all around. Thanks a million Jerry for making a travel dream come true!
Sean and Uliana
I had been thinking of making a trip to Iran for years, and it was most fortuitous that I discovered this site! The value of the personal touch that was afforded us by Iran Traveler can't be overestimated. (I should add, I've recently returned from the "Iran Study Tour," of May 27- June 11, 2012.) We were expertly guided through the visa process, and got other useful instructions about what to take, what to expect, and other useful help. Best of all was that Jerry Dekker was always available by either phone or by e-mail (always answering very promptly) for the many queries I had over the weeks leading up to our departure.
And it all ended up with an unforgettably exciting and rewarding trip! Starting with our arrival at the airport (where one of my fellow travelers and I were lucky enough to be on the same flight with Jerry, who shepherded us through passport control with his fluent Farsi), through the next 15 days, Jerry with his many, many years' experience in the country, and the agency in Iran saw to it that everything proceeded smoothly. We had excellent hotels, interesting and delicious food -- and a never-ending supply of fascinating cities and sights to experience. Our Iranian guide was very congenial and most knowledgeable (with perfect English), and was genuinely interested in helping us have a good time. (He put up good-humoredly with a lot of -well, what can only be called rather nosy questions from some of us!)
Many others before me have said how incredibly warm and welcoming the Iranian people were to us Americans, too - I just want to reiterate that this was absolutely the case, always! The difference between some people's perceptions back here and what you'll experience there is breathtaking. (Breathtakingly good, of course!)
In short, I'd recommend Iran Traveler to the skies if someone is interested in following in our footsteps! Well, and in any of the other interesting itineraries that are also available. I'll be trying to talk up the idea of Iran travel to my friends and family, so I hope that before too long I'll be able to return and not only revisit some of the places I liked so much but also expand my repertoire of fascinating venues that I visited. I wouldn't dream of using anyone other than Iran Traveler!
New York, New York
I recently returned from my first trip to Iran and have to say it was the most amazing place I have ever visited. After having searched many travel companies for tours that would appeal to my interests and also accommodate my schedule, I ran across Jerry's website, www.irantraveler.net. I called Jerry and quickly realized that he was the one person who could help me organize a trip that would work for me. Needless to say, that was best decision I could have made. Jerry's extensive experience, his immense knowledge of Iran, and his gracious desire to share his love for the country with fellow Americans is contagious. After that first conversation, I began to read as many books on Iran as I could find. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with a country and culture that have had an incredible impact on the course of history for millennia. Due to my rigid work schedule and my desire to go as soon as possible, I was unable to participate in any planned group trips and Jerry was able to accommodate my travel to Iran on an individual basis. I didn't even realize this was possible - and neither did the few Americans participating in tour groups that I met in Iran. Thanks to Jerry's expertise, the visa application process was quick and efficient and I encountered no delays or problems. Jerry's associates in Tehran, along with my English-speaking Iranian guide/driver, were extremely professional and also shared Jerry's desire to introduce Americans to their country. My 12-day trip could not have gone any smoother. The accommodations in Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, and Esfahan were first rate. Everything was taken care of in advance, and I had no awkward experiences of any kind at any of the hotels, restaurants, airports, or tourist sites. While I truly enjoyed the individual attention I received having traveled alone, the only thing I could imagine would improve the experience is to travel with Jerry and a small group in order to soak up Jerry's knowledge and to share this one-of-a-kind experience with others. I don't think I will have any trouble finding a group in the future: having e-mailed photos chronicling my experiences to my friends in the U.S. at the end of each day, the typical reaction was "Wow, I never would have imagined Iran was so beautiful", and "I can't wait to go to Iran!" I look forward to returning to Iran as often as possible with many friends, old and new. Obviously, I wouldn't even think of doing so without Jerry and www.irantraveler.net!
San Diego, CA
When I first decided to visit Iran, I looked at a few companies. Then, I attended a presentation on Iran by Jerry Dekker at the Adventure Travel Expo in NYC. It was apparent from that day his group, Irantraveler.com would be a good match for me.
After sending an email through the Irantraveler.com website, Jerry put me in contact with Integral Expeditions, the company with which I did ultimately travel to Iran. Jerry was also very helpful in expediting the Iranian visa process. Up to the last minute before departure, Jerry was available for any questions I might have about the Iran experience.
Our guide Arsalan was willing to accommodate requests from the group on activities they wanted to do (such as shopping for particular items such as clothing or tiles). He also made sure we experienced the most each city we visited had to offer. For example, in Shiraz, one person wanted to attend a particular cultural event. He introduced us to the wife and daughter of the director of the show who in turn invited the entire group to that evening's performance. As someone who likes to take photographs, our driver Mohammed was helpful to me in pointing out photo opportunities along the way that I may have otherwise missed.
Our hotels were in locations that exposed us to local atmosphere. In Tehran we were within walking distance to a community park. In Shiraz, we were two blocks away from the Citadel (and post office). In Yadz, we were within walking distance to a number of local stores. In Isfahan, the Abbasi Hotel is unique unto itself (there is also a shopping area directly across the street).
Iran is a special place. For anyone thinking of traveling to Iran, I would definitely recommend Jerry Dekker and Irantraveler.com. If I return to Iran someday, they will certainly be my first call.
I have just returned from my third trip to Iran in the past 2 years. Once again, it was fantastic! I had a phenominal Orient Star guide. He was flexible, knowledgable and most of all FUN. We had a great time eating, shopping, touring, and listening to American rock music. Tabriz and Kandovan were magical. Our trip to the Armenian border was beautiful beyond words. A lot of Iran looks a bit like the pretty parts of my home state of Arizona.Jerry Dekker and Mozaffar again set things up to perfection. GO! No worries!!
My boyfriend and I have been talking about visiting Iran for years but were unsure of where to begin. We found Jerry Dekker and Orient Star about a year ago and were immediately impressed with his credentials, easy-going manner and extensive contacts in Iran. We knew we didn't want to be on an organized tour but were unsure if we could afford going privately. Jerry walked us through every step of our planning and was THE reason why we were able to visit Iran in the manner in which we wanted.
Iran is a facsinating if confusing country. Had it not been for Jerry Dekker and Orient Star we would've been relegated to spending our time in a large tour bus shuttling from museum to museum for 15 days and wouldn't have been able to truly soak up and enjoy the beauty of Iran. Instead, we had a private 30 day, hassle-free tour and were exposed to the heart of this amazing country. Where else can you hear the gorgeous sounds of a man honoring Omar Khayyam or witness the sun set in the middle of a vast desert?
Leaving Iran was one of the hardest things I had to do. Our guide Malihe and our driver Alireza truly became our friends. Iran is on my mind everyday. Everything I thought I knew about it was completely changed after this trip. I cannot recommend Jerry Dekker and Orient Star highly enough. Because of them my boyfriend and I had a trip of a lifetime and can't wait to go back.
Once we arrived in Iran we realized almost immediately that we were going to have some personality issues with our guide. We voiced our concerns with Orient Star and with Jerry and received a new guide the next day. What a difference she made! She and our driver introduced us to the day to day aspects of life in Iran. We pulled over every few hours in the car to enjoy tea and sweets, negotiated prices in bazaars, had picnics, you name it!
Jerry designed a tour catering to our needs and even organized an extension into Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan at a very reasonable rate. I cannot stress how invaluable Jerry's expertise was to the whole process. He walked us through our visa applications, helped us with our airfare and even taught us some basic Persian! Our discussions leading up to the trip were extremely productive and Jerry was always accessible whenever we had a question about our trip.
Ann & Matt
Illinois & Indiana
Steeped in a culture with an ancient and fascinating history, as well as beautiful and varied landscapes, Iran was one of those places we would return to again and again.
I traveled to Iran as an American in March 2009. Jerry Dekker was recommended for my trip by the Iranian Interest section in Washington DC. He set up the details in a professional, prompt and organized manner. His communication and itinerary details were marvelous. This was my second trip there in the past 2 years & the trip set up by Jerry was definitely superior. I plan to return this spring.
His " people on the ground" in Iran were kind, prompt, informative and wise. I felt protected even when traveling overnight on a train with no other non Iranians on board. Jerry's men allowed flexibility- I set the agenda for all excursions. We visited historical sites including Persepolis, famous mosques, and baazars in Tehran, Yazd, Esfahan and Shiraz. I was allowed time to interact with locals, discuss history and current events, and explore some on my own.
I love the Iranian history, culture, customs and people. They are friendly, curious and beautiful! I can't wait to return.
Dr. Douglas Kirkpatrick
I worked with Jerry to make arrangements to travel to Iran in March of 2009. I was going by myself and Jerry arranged the portion of my trip from Istanbul thru Iran for 18 days and onward to Damascus. I had a driver/guide who picked me up at Tehran, did the usual Shiraz, Persepolis, Yazd, Ishfahan, and then went skiing in Dizin. As an American, you pretty much have to have someone "responsible" for you, so you have to work with someone. The advantage of working with Jerry is his contacts and knowledge of the country. He took a lot of time arranging the best trip possible for me. When I was 5 days from leaving the USA, I still didn't have my Visa back, so Jerry called the Iranian Embassy, talked to a friend of his and my Visa was delivered 2 days later. That saved me as without my Passport, I couldn't even have left the country ! I had a great time and was treated wonderfully by folks, especially when they found out I was an American. Don't believe what the media tells you...Iranians like Americans just fine. In Ishfahan, I met a friend of Jerry's, a carpet dealer, and bought 2 really nice carpets. He arranged to air freight them home for me. I didn't even wire the money until after they were delivered.
I met a lot of very nice folks who were curious about America. People were not shy at all about talking politics. A number of people would stop me and ask where I was from. When I said Alaska they would look at me for a second, smile and say "Sarah Palin". People were pretty surprised we had elected Obama. Most of the Iranians I met, love their country and are not too fond of their government. Change will come....in twenty years they will be our best ally in the region. Keep in mind that Iranians are not Arabs, 60% of the University students are women. Friends were surprised about my going, but it really isn't a big deal. It was a fascinating country, great history, good food, nice people, and very different than home.
Iran Traveler tours are designed for the indy traveler who may not particularly like tours. I'm spoiled by years of independent travel in the sort of places most Americans wouldn't think of visiting: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, that sort of thing. I didn't think I'd last on a tour. Iran Traveler was ideal for me. I got a thorough introduction to the people, places and culture of Iran with enough flexibility and freedom of movement that I never felt herded around. Iran Traveler even helped me extend my stay beyond the tour so that I could spend a little more time in Tehran, a city I came to love. Americans have the wrong idea about Iran and Iranians. Forget the 'Axis of Evil.' These are the kindest, most hospitable people you'll ever meet.
In 2004, I took a 3 week tour of Iran with Jerry Dekker. I can honestly say it was one of the most fabulous vacations I've ever experienced. One may think that because of the political situation, a trip to Iran will be intense, perhaps even fraught with danger. On the contrary, Iran is a beautiful, fascinating, friendly country that prides itself on its hospitality towards guests. If you see a group of Iranians rushing toward you, don't panic, they just want to practice their English and find out where you're from! My trip to Iran was on of the best vacations I've ever taken. First, everything is taken care of on your behalf. No lines, no check-ins, no waiting. You only need to relax and enjoy the sites, sounds, and smells of Persia. The accommodations are top rate, 4 star hotels with excellent services, like low-cost laundry service, to make your trip comfortable. Iran truly is a trip for those who love beauty, art, and sensual pleasures like hot tea and sweets in blooming Persian gardens. With Jerry and his Iranian colleagues, you will have access to sites that most Western tourists do not. And I can assure you that you will be blown away by the beauty and sublime pleasure of classic Persian art and architecture.
Jerry makes sure you see and experience the best Iran has to offer. Because Jerry has many years of living and working in Iran, he knows how to create an authentic experience and he takes his guests into the real heart of Iran. You will have the opportunity to meet everyday Iranians, of all walks of life. You will experience the friendly, hospitable vibe of the Iranian people everywhere you go, usually in or around some of the most beautiful sites and scenery you've ever seen. I highly recommend Jerry's Iranian tour for the experience of a lifetime.
San Francisco, CA