With its rocky corn-shaped houses, it is like a mysterious burg in a faraway fairyland. The otherworldly houses of Kandovan Village were carved by the bare hands of people who found these hard igneous elevations as their homes for so many years. With a worldwide reputation, Kandovan village was registered on Iran’s National Heritage list which fascinates its travellers with its rocky architectural oddity.
Kandovan is situated in the northwest of Iran, 60 kilometres southwest of Tabriz. On the flanks of Soltan Daghi and Sabalan Mountains, this fascinating village was built with the help of nature and a diligent nation. Geographical studies proved that the Kandovan cliffs' age is between 700 to 1500 years.
There are numerous stories about how this mysterious place was built. The most famous one reveals that when the ruinous Mongol troops invaded Iran, people seeking shelter to preserve their lives, moved to remote places among high mountains. They found these impenetrable hills made by the frozen lava that erupted from the nearby dormant volcano, Sabalan Mountain. So, people started carving these firm stones and formed their houses from the hard volcanic rocks.
"Kandovan" probably refers to the Persian word for beehive, Kandoo. It seems to be somehow reasonable, as the village looks like a honeycomb from a distance.
The cliffs have shaped hive cells, known as Karan. Each Karan has two to four stores, about 40 meters in height. The lower level is the place for keeping the cattle. The upper one is a comfortable living space with a kitchen inside. The third level was the place for having guests and friends. Finally, the topmost part of the pyramidal cliff was room to store foodstuffs. Unlike most typical rural houses, the warehouse is on top of the house because the dark and humid basement is not proper to keep food for an entire year.
Another interesting thing about these karans is that, there is no inner connection between the stores and to reach each level one should use the outer steps. Houses in Kandovan are built on a 70-degree slope; therefore, there are rock-carved high steps as well as wooden ones outside the karans to connect the stores as well as the houses of this intriguing village. To use daylight and have fine ventilation, there are small squares like holes covered with colourful glasses acting as windows.
This extraordinary village has long and cold winters, but the villagers learned to live in these difficult conditions. Inside these caves is cool in summer and warm during winter. So, it is not wrong to say that these cliff pyramidal houses are some of the most energy-efficient homes in the world.
Inhabitants of this remarkable place mostly do farming, breeding bees, or keeping herds of cattle. They also produce perfect honey thanks to the perfect weather and various vegetation of the region at the foot of the merciful Sabalan and Sahand Mountains.
They have the necessary facilities for simple rural living. There are workspaces, stores, schools, public baths, mills, and even mosques in this village. The biggest and most spacious cliff of the village is the mosque and praying hall for the residents.
Although there are two other cliff villages with similar structures in the world, Cappadocia in Turkey and Manitou Cliff Dwellings in the USA, Kandovan is the most exceptional. Unlike the other two, Kandovan is the only pyramidal cliff village in the world where 670 people still live in. Recently due to the population growth, new houses were built on the southern skirt of the village but still, the historic rocky cliffs draw a picturesque scene on the skyline.
The unique architecture of the houses of Kandovan is not the only attraction of the region. Due to the geological features, there are several hot water springs with the lowest percentage of mineral contamination that work well at healing diseases. Besides hiking in the picturesque lush valleys and enjoying pleasant weather, visiting kind people, watching splendid panoramic sunset, and tasting delicious organic honey and fresh fruits made here a worthy touristic spot in the northwest of Iran. If you plan to visit Tabriz, Kandovan's authentic architecture and interesting ambience are a must to see on your itinerary. The best time to visit Kandovan is spring and summer when the climate is pleasant.
By Samaneh Zohrabi / TasteIran