Turkey & Iran 2014

Nush-i Jan, Iran

The walls of the fort at Nush-i Jan, Iran


Tour Leader: John Tidmarsh

During late September and early October 2014 twenty NEAF members traced part of the route traversed by Alexander the Great through Turkey and Iran during his great eastern conquests between 334 – 323 BCE.

In Turkey we explored many of the cities conquered by Alexander (often only after a prolonged siege) including Sardis, Miletos, Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassos, home to the renowned Mausoleum) as well as mighty Ephesos and exquisite Priene, where Alexander dedicated a temple to Athena at his own expense. We visited the Pamphylian cities of Side and Aspendos which rose to prominence under the rule of Alexander’s successors, and climbed high into the mountains of Pisidia to the wonderfully picturesque remains of Termessos, whose impregnable citadel defied even the Macedonian king.

We then flew to Iran and entered the world of the formidable Persian empire destroyed by Alexander. We visited the great palaces of Persepolis and Pasargadae, the awe-inspiring Achaemenid royal burial ground of Naqsh-i Rustam, the wonderfully preserved Median fortress of Nush-i Jan( whose columned hall finds close parallels in the audience halls of Persepolis) and the ancient Achaemenid summer capital of Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana) where Alexander arranged for the execution of his old general Parmenio and mourned his closest companion, Hephaisteion. We also explored the vast city of Bishapur, capital of the great Sasanian king Shapur I who attempted to emulate the conquests of his Persian ancestors, as well as Isfahan (‘Pearl of Islam’) among whose earliest inhabitants were those Jews from Babylon freed by the Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid empire.

Although much of his route through these two countries was not travelled by us, this tour served to emphasise once again what a remarkable general and leader of men Alexander must have been.

Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan 2014


Group members behind Registan Square, Samarkand

Tour Leader: Ben Churcher

NEAF and Academy Travel's May 2014 tour Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan: A Journey through Central Asia has successfully concluded with 16 NEAF members enjoying warm but fine spring weather throughout Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The tour focussed on the major sites in these countries including the living Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, as well as the ruined metropolis of Merv. In between times we walked in the footsteps of both Alexander the Great and Tamerlane (Emir Timur), visited ancient Bronze Age settlements in the Kyzylkum (Red Sand) Desert, Parthian capitals (Nisa) and desert fortresses built to protect the agricultural centres based around the Amu Darya River (ancient Oxus). Both countries were central to the ancient Silk Road and, for a brief time in the early fifteenth century, were the centre of an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the western borders of China.

Travel in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is not easy as the tourist trade is in its infancy but our group handled the rigours with aplomb, not even complaining (too much) about having to wheel their suitcases the 1.5km across no-mans land between the Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan borders!

Mexico 2012

San Lorenzo Stone of the Sun

San Lorenzo: Stone of the Sun

Tour Leader: Ben Churcher

NEAF's 2012 Mexico tour was a repeat of its successful 2004 tour - and like in 2004, the recent trip was a great success for the 13 participants who joined Ben Churcher in visiting some of the great sites of Mesoamerica. This comprehensive tour visited areas once dominated by the Olmecs, the Zapotecs, the Teotihuacanos, the Mayans and the Aztecs giving all participants the opportunity to explore the varied cultures of ancient Mexico.

An archive of the itinerary is available. click here

An archive of the tour gazetteer is available. click here

Syria and Jordan 2010

A scene from the covered market at Aleppo: the world

A scene from the covered market at Aleppo: the world's largest.

Tour Leader: Dr John Tidmarsh

For thousands of years, Syria and Jordan controlled the inland caravan routes along which goods were transported from the Orient to the Mediterranean. From the Nabataeans in their stronghold at the ‘rose-red city’ of Petra to the merchants in the bustling markets of Aleppo, the region has a rich and fascinating history, having been inhabited over time by several civilisations, each of which has left its individual mark.

To view full details of the itinerary. click here

Tunisia and Libya 2010

A view of the theatre at Leptis Magna. Photo by David Gunn, Wikipedia Commons

A view of the theatre at Leptis Magna. Photo by David Gunn, Wikipedia Commons

Tour Leader Dr. Stephen Bourke and a group of NEAF travellers have just returned from visiting the homeland of Hannibal and along the way saw some haunting desertscapes and oases, pre-Carthaginian stone-age remains, Graeco-Roman and Byzantine-Christian city ruins, Islamic medinas and villages, Medieval fortresses and a fascinating mosaic of vibrant cultures – past and present.

An archive of the itinerary is available. click here

Iran 2009

persepolis 2009

The group at Persepolis

NEAF's 2009 tour to Iran has just returned after a very successful visit to one of the world's great travel destinations. Contrary to popular worries, the group encountered no political issues during their visit but, instead, were able to freely enjoy the many delights Iran has to offer. Whether it is the spectatular scenery along the Zagros Mountains, the many and varied ancient sites, the gardens of Shiraz or the incomparible Maydan of Isfahan; Iran has something for everyone. Our guide Mahmoud worked overtime to ensure that we were fully informed about both ancient and modern Iran and he made sure we tasted the regional foods of Iran from Quince stew high in the Zagros to 'lamb-burgers' in Isfahan. Iran is a country that always leaves one with indeliable memories and we encourage people to visit this ancient and cosmopolitan country so that the negative image built by governments and media can be moderated by the reality of travelling in a safe, friendly and fascinating country.

Ben Churcher (tour leader)

To view an archive of the itinerary. click here

Following the tour, the tour leader, Ben Churcher, compiled a site gazetteer listing, in chronological order, the sites and places visited during the tour. If you would like to read this to get an idea of what the tour involved, please click here

Syria & Jordan 2009

The group wander through Palmyra

The group wander through Palmyra

In April 2009, 21 travellers accompanied John Tidmarsh for a three week journey through Jordan and Syria. This is now the fifth time that NEAF has run a tour to the Levant and the popularity of this region (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon) for NEAF tourists shows no sign of waning.

On this tour visits to the legendary cities of Damascus and Aleppo, to the spectacular remains of Petra and Palmyra, and to the awe-inspiring Crusader castles of Crac des Chevaliers, Kerak, and Shobak were combined with overnight stays and rambles in the wild and beautiful (and, inexplicably, often neglected) Jordanian nature reserves of Dana and Ajloun.
To view the archived tour brochure. click here

Oman 2008

The Imposing Nakhl fort

The imposing Nakhl fort

This was the first time that NEAF had run a tour to Oman (“Oman: Travels in Old Arabia”) and, in view of the country’s wonderful natural attractions and excellent tourist facilities, it is unlikely to be the last.

In November, 10 NEAF members travelled with John Tidmarsh, the tour leader, through the length of Oman from the Musandam peninsula (‘the fiords of Arabia’) in its northern tip on the Straits of Hormuz to the lush, tropical frankincense country of Dhofar on its southern border with Yemen.

In this 15-day tour we travelled through some of the most stunning natural scenery and picturesque villages in Arabia. With its pristine sandy beaches, spectacular mountain ranges and desert vistas, its vast palm groves and hidden oases whose waters remain absolutely translucent, and its traditional mudbrick villages with their imposing tribal forts and cool palm-roofed souqs, Oman stands in total contrast to the great trading cities of Egypt and the Levant (Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut, Cairo) and represents an environment and way of life which would still be familiar to Bertram Thomas, Wilfred Thesiger, and those other great Arabian explorer-adventurers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

To view the archived tour brochure, click here.

Syria 2008

We visited the Australian excavations at Jebel Khalid on the upper Euphrates.

Australian excavations at Jebel Khalid on the upper Euphrates.

This was the 4th time that NEAF has run a tour to Syria, and this year's version: "Syria: A Levantine Wonder", went very well - as always in Syria. The tour is certainly one of historical extremes. From the magnificent early sites along the Euphrates and Mediterranean coast to the jostle of the Aleppo souk, Syria encompasses both the ancient and the modern - and links them together in a unique way.

17 NEAF members completed the trip in April and May 2008. The tour travelled across the length and breadth of Syria visiting well-known, and not so well-known sites: even the cancellation of our visit to Lebanon, on short notice, was dealt with in the flexible spirit that travel demands.

Following the tour, the tour leader, Ben Churcher, compiled a site gazetteer listing, in chronological order, the sites and places visited during the tour. If you would like to read this to get an idea of what the tour involved, please click here.

To view the archived tour brochure, click here.