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expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Epic Secret Compass expedition to Iran’s Lut desert.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on this expedition team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: by 1200 on 11 November 2018 into Tehran.
  • Depart: leave from Tehran any time on 24 November 2018 onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 11 August 2018.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.

The aim of this epic desert expedition is to carry out a 220km east to west traverse of Iran’s Lut desert, also known as the Dasht-e-Lut. As a member of this pioneering expedition team, you’ll pass through an ever-changing landscape of imposing sand dunes, some shaped like stars which radiate out across the desert plains.

Traversing dunes, rock corridors, kaluts, meteorite fields and rocky plateaux, this expedition will be carried out by the team on foot, with support and water supply from 4WD vehicles.

Secret Compass’s first expedition to the Lut was so unique it featured in National Geographic in 2016. This traverse remains a rare achievement, the desert having only ever been crossed on foot by a handful of adventurous travellers. If you’re passionate about Persia and intrigued by Iran, experience the geology, the desert stars and the solitude on this boundary-pushing desert venture.


  • Follow in the footsteps of Thesiger (1964) and Marco Polo (1271).
  • Trek the world’s largest kalut system.
  • Cross the infamous ‘plain of pain’ (named by Secret Compass).
  • Explore the region that’s home to the world’s hottest spot.
  • Pass through former Silk Road haunts.
  • See Kerman, One of Iran’s oldest cities.
  • Discover Tehran with expert guides.


You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Student Universe Flight Request Form or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

You need to be at the team hotel in Tehran by 1200 on the 11 November 2018, many flights arrive early in the morning so you may wish to arrange an extra night’s accommodation and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on the 24 November 2018 although you are free to depart anytime as many flights depart early in the morning. Please check visa requirements for your nationality if you are staying in Tehran outside of the expedition dates.


Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit our Expedition Travel Insurance page.


Visas are your responsibility. The visa application process for Iran requires two stages, the first stage is a visa reference number which Secret Compass will apply for on your behalf. We will require a completed visa reference application form, copy of your passport and (for US, Canadian and British citizens) updated CV and social media links.

The second stage is the actual visa application itself. British passport holders require a visa to visit Iran. The London embassy started issuing visas in early 2016 and require you to submit your application in person between 1400 and 1700 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. Please lodge this application in good time as the process can be long and unpredictable. Women should wear a headscarf in their visa application photo. If you are not a British citizen, please check the specific entry requirements for your country as they can differ considerably. A separate document with more information will be sent out once the team is confirmed.

Please note that recent changes to US entry requirements mean that if you live in a country which is part of the US Visa Waiver Program but have recently (since 2011) travelled to Iran then you will not be able to use the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a full visa to travel to the US. See here for more details.


You should have a passport with at least 6 months validity remaining from the end of the expedition. It should not contain an Israeli stamp as you may be refused an Iranian visa. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you in a safe place.

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