Today you will travel through the most mysterious corners of Iran – the most unusual and less discovered places – cave towns and villages.
The village of Kandovan is one of Iran’s most unusual tourist attractions, which amazes many travelers. It is located in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan, near the city of Tabriz. Legend has it that once upon a time, about 8 centuries ago, during the invasion of the Mongol-Tatars, the locals of these lands had chosen cliffs with natural caves at the foot of the mountain Sandhar as a refuge from the enemy. The enemy troops passed and did not notice the residents who took shelter in the caves and were rescued. Later they settled right into the caves their homes and eventually carved into the rocks the whole village, which safely exists to this day. According to scientists, the rocks with soft volcanic stone were formed as a result of powerful eruptions hundreds of years ago, and therefore were easy to handle and carve.
Today, the population of Kandovan is about 700-800 people. In the village, despite all its antiquity, there are many benefits of civilization: restaurants and hotels, shops with souvenirs, spices, and local sweets, and even electricity. From Persian, the name of the village is translated as “bee hive”. It’s no wonder, because the intriguing construction of this village seems to defy all the rules of architecture and truly resembles a hive or an anthill: houses cut down right in the rocks, small streets and winding staircases connecting the whole chaos into a single whole.
Meymand Cave Village
The historical cave village of Meymand is located in the province of Kerman, near the cities of Yazd and Shiraz. It is said that this is the oldest ever populated village in Iran: people have inhabited Meymand for 3 thousand years from now. The main feature of the village is its amazing architecture. Dwellings and utility rooms are hollowed out right in the rocks and resemble caves. There are several versions of the origin of the village. Some scholars are inclined to believe that Meymand was built by adherents of the cult of the god Mithra. Here, high in the mountains, people felt intimacy with their idol and conducted religious rituals of Mithra worship. Perhaps the dead were also buried in the caves. According to another theory, Meymand was inhabited by various tribes from the province of Kerman, who found refuge in these caves during the reign of the Sassanid dynasty.
It is thanks to its unique architecture that the village of Meymand today attracts the most tourists in the province of Kerman. Here you can find a mosque, several cafes, a restaurant of national cuisine and even a hotel built in the style of rocky dwellings. In Meymand, the spirit of antiquity is felt in every stone: it seems that even time is not powerful over this village and its inhabitants. The antiquity of the village is evidenced by numerous murals and pottery found during excavations. Traditions, language and way of life of local people have maximally preserved its authenticity. The historic village of Meymand is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Abyane is a small village in the province of Isfahan, one of the oldest in the territory of modern Iran, which has existed for about 2500 years. This architectural miracle of Iran is a real open-air museum. Abyane preserved a huge cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions, despite different eras and successive dynasties and rulers. The village has a unique beauty, primarily due to its catchy red color. It is built of local red mud bricks. Almost all houses are decorated with wooden windows and doors with intricate patterns and carvings. The oldest building in Abyane is the Zoroastrian Temple of Fire, built during the Achaemenid era (550-330 BC). Another impressive building is the 11th-century Jameha mosque, with its walnut-wood mihrab and ancient carvings. To enjoy the ancient beauty of Abyane in full, one must get lost among its endless winding streets and just wander around the village.
Masouleh is a historic high-mountainous town in the province of Gilan, 60 km from the Caspian Sea. The town was founded more than a thousand years ago, in the 10th century AD. Forever shrouded in fog, Masouleh does not leave anyone indifferent. The main feature of the town is its architecture: the houses are built in a mountainous area on a slope and form a huge “high-rise”. Thus, the inner courtyard of one house serves as a rooftop for another. Even some of the streets are laid along the interconnected roofs. It is the only city in Iran, which is completely devoid of any kind of transport. Because of the small winding streets, no cars will be able to pass. Today about 800 people live in Masouleh. Due to the proximity to the sea, the climate here is favorable. Masouleh is surrounded by picturesque mountains with dense green forests. The central part of the town is, of course, the bazaar. In the market, you can buy interesting souvenirs made by local craftsmen. In the town, there are small traditional cafes and teahouses, where you can taste delicious fresh bread and aromatic coffee.