Kandovan Village, with hand-made cliff dwellings carved into cone shaped rocks, is a part of Osku County, in East Azerbaijan, Iran, nearly 60km away from Tabriz. This wonderful unique village is located at the foot of Mount Sahand, a huge dormant volcano and the highest mountain in East Azerbaijan. The structures were formed by ash and debris from Mount Sahand when the volcano erupted sometime in the last 11000 years.
Kandovan, an ancient village dating back to more than 700 years ago, is known all around the world for its unique rock-carved houses. The Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel is the first one of its kind in Iran and the second one in the world, after the luxurious Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel in Cappadcia, Turkey.
This village has been shaped like a big termite colony built to the volcanic debris of Mount Sahand. The locals call the village “Karan”, a word that in the local Turkic dialect roughly translates as “the plural of beehive”.
It is believed that the first residents came to Kandovan to shelter from the invading Mongols. They dug hideouts in the enormous volcanic cliffs and remained there even after the danger was over and they were no longer facing threats from the Mongols. Their shelters gradually developed into habitable houses which range from two to four-storey dwellings, having kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, storage rooms and animal shelters. Many have porches, windows, doors and stairwells carved into the rock.
The hardened material of the cones, into which these houses were dug, is strong enough to function as walls and floors. Moreover, the caves in Kandovan are some of the most energy efficient homes on Earth, with the rock providing adequate insulation against the harsh cold of long winters and keep the interiors warm and comfortable throughout the cold season and cool in the summer. Some of the old rock dwellings have been converted into stables and bird shelters, but there are still plenty other rock houses which have retained the charm they had over seven hundred years ago.
The peculiar cave dwellings in Kandovan are not the only attractions in the area. Since the Village is situated in a green and scenic valley, with wild plants and natural springs which are believed to have therapeutic effects, many visitors are drawn to this spot. The combination of Kandovan’s natural landscape and resources, and more importantly the unique way in which its inhabitants have adapted to the environment, has made it a popular tourist destination.
There are 168 families living in the Village whose occupations are mostly farming and sheep herding, but the main source of income for most of the families is tourism, as they have realized the potential of their strange old houses and learned to live their lives surrounded by travelers from all around the world.
Visitors can stay in the five-star Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel, located at the heart of the Village or in one of the villagers’ stone-carved houses. There are also some cafés along the river that passes through Kandovan with lovely relaxed atmospheres dominated by rich fragrance of flowers.