Kandovan: the inhabited cave houses of Iran

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I see it as my personal mission to shine a new bright light on tourism in Iran. This country is rich in history, abundant in Unesco World Heritage sites and it’s the essence of hospitality. I’ve met so many sweet, humble, kind people and for me this reflects the real Iran. Meet the beauty of this diverse country and explore it’s cultural treasures. Are you ready to enter Iran? Let me take you to Kandovan!

Kandovan is a small picturesque mountain village located in the province of East-Azerbaijan, close to it’s capital city Tabriz.

It has a fairytale landscape with its towering honeycombed rock formations and quiescent atmosphere. I had the pleasure to visit this beautiful cavern architecture in March 2019, that is truly a rare sight in this world.

Kandovan by photographer Aydin Tabrizi

This is Iran’s own Cappadocia- and a popular tourist attraction in Iran but outside of it, only a few have heard about it. Let’s explore Kandovan together!

Goat shepherd in Kandovan

You might notice some similarities to Cappadocia in Turkey and Mesa Verde in the United States yet these rock formations are empty and abandoned by its former people. The locals here continue to live inside these modest cavern homes that are energy efficient, needing minimal heat in winter and little airconditioning in summer.

The shop-owner invited me into his small house where a pot of tea was boiling and the heater warmed the entire place.

Warming my hands near the heater

The 700-year old village has been partially formed by volcanic remains, such as debris and ash, that were released from the eruption of the now dormant Sahand mountain. The materials moved naturally and formed the rocks of Kandovan. The first inhabitants carved the homes out by usage of simple tools, accumulating skill with stone materials. The king Rezashah (1878-1944) was looking for workers that would build him a tunnel on the road from Teheran to the North of Iran. He found those skillfull workers in Kandovan and the men of the village helped to build the tunnel, the road was named after them: the now famous Kandovan Road.

Mountain house in Kandovan by photographer Tahir Sadati

 


5 reasons why you should visit Kandovan 

1) This is the only place in the world where in modern-day people continue to live a simple life in caved mountain homes.

2) You can have your own unique experience of sleeping inside a mountain home in the five star Rocky Laleh Hotel. Each room is equipped with a jacuzzi and offers a cosy stay with 24-hour roomservice and English speaking-personal. It’s only 100 dollars per night, including breakfast, for one suite with two bedrooms and did I mention: the jacuzzi?!

3) Kandovan’s regional natural and organic products. It’s a organic shopping paradise here! You can buy the famous Kandovan soft honey, it’s a high quality honey because it comes from mountain flowers. You can purchase nuts, herbal teas, dry fruits and dry vegetables that you can cook for medicinal purposes. There are various handicrafts, sheep-wollen hats, silk scarfs and traditional bags. Most of them made handmade by the locals and you can purchase them for cheap prices, no need to bargain for a 2 dollar hat right?

Herbs for tea and medicinal purposes by Aydin Tabrizi


4) It’s a unique and breathtakingly beautiful remote place where you can enjoy peace, quiet and a pleasant climate during summer and a wonderous white winterland in the coldest months.

Also breathtakingly beautiful is this shop-owner. Another reason to visit Kandovan.

5) There is a small current running through the village and it has curative mineral waters that originate from the Suhand Mountain. You can drink the clear spring water and it is used for healing treatments, commonly used against kidney stones. All of nature’s goodness is found here!


Practical information
There is no entrance fee for Kandovan village. You can complete a day tour in 2 hours and I would advise you to bring good shoes, sunscreen and warm clothes.

The Rocky Mountain Hotel has no elevator and you must climb stone steps to reach to your room. Make sure to pack lightly.

Laleh Rocky Hotel

Meet my dear Iranian friends
I would never have discovered this, if it weren’t for my incredibly kind and hospitable Iranian friends: Vahid and Afsaneh.

I think it’s so important for our growth as human beings to form international friendships- by creating friendships with people from a different culture, a different background, we learn and develop our sense of this world but also experience the interconnectedness. We are one humanity and I hope we continue to see each other as one.

Vahid is a skillfull mechanical engineer and Afsaneh a creative photographer and boss lady! She has her own succesfull maternity, new-born and children photography studio in Tabriz, a city of approximately 2 million people. She employs a professional team of 25 people that make parents incredibly happy with adorable new born photography.

They are both from Tabriz and speak three languages fluently: Turkish with an Azeri accent, Persian, the official language of Iran and English ofcourse. The bridge to connection!

Thank you for reading and hope to see you here soon again.

Love,

Eleonora

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3 comments
  1. Some ppl hv some effects on your life thAt can change your life way! They make you better person, they teach you kindness and they give you hope and let you know world still has wonderfull ppl! Your r one theSe special ppl!

  2. My dear Afsaneh, the way you think about me, I feel the same way about you. You have opened up your home and your heart to us and we are lucky to have experienced this. We create peace in this world by our friendship!

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