Contrary to common belief, Iran boasts a mountainous terrain enriched by the Alpide belt, giving rise to the Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges that span from northwest to southeast. These rugged landscapes not only offer awe-inspiring natural wonders but also hold anthropological attractions, igniting a profound sense of adventure within you. Nestled in Iran's northwestern expanse, Mount Sabalan shines as a genuine treasure. This semi-active volcano serves as a challenging destination for mountaineers and a sanctuary for nature aficionados and folklore enthusiasts alike. Join us on a virtual odyssey to uncover the marvels of Mount Sabalan, from its majestic peak and scenic lake to its integral role in local culture, and every captivating facet in between.
Mount Sabalan stands at an elevation of 4,811 metres (15,784 feet), making it Iran's third-highest peak. Situated in the Alborz mountain range, it holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Ardebil, who affectionately refer to it as Sultan Savalan, meaning "Sabalan, the Emperor". According to the legends this sacred mountain was the site where the ancient Persian prophet, Zoroaster, received a divine revelation. Some even believe that Zoroaster's final resting place lies near the mesmerizing Crater Lake atop. Considering Sabalan as a pilgrimage site is still a common belief among locals as they swear to this mountain. The spiritual aura surrounding Sabalan adds to its allure and captivates the hearts of native and non-native mountaineers alike.
At the lofty foothills and valleys surrounding the magnificent Sabalan a pastoralist tribe of nomads known for their distinctive lifestyle and rich cultural heritage have roamed for generations. The Shahsevan tribal nomads of Iran share an inseparable connection with the imposing presence of Mount Sabalan. Shahsevan means “Devotees to the King”, Shahsevan was a title bestowed on this tribe as they were truly supporters of Safavid kings ( 1501-1736).
Mount Sabalan, with its towering summit and mystical crater lake, holds profound significance in their traditions and beliefs. It's not just a geological wonder to these resilient nomadic communities; it's a spiritual anchor. The Shahsevan people have woven their stories, rituals, and livelihoods around this majestic peak, finding solace and inspiration in its presence. As they migrate with their herds across the vast landscapes of the region, Mount Sabalan stands as a constant companion, a guiding landmark, and a source of reverence.
Sabalan Mountain is blessed with picturesque landscapes, astonishing valleys, and lush green meadows that come alive in the summer months. As you ascend the mountain, you will be greeted by the enchanting sight of hot springs dotting its slopes, providing a soothing respite for weary trekkers. These natural hot springs are not only a testament to the geological wonders of Sabalan but also a source of relaxation and rejuvenation for visitors.
At the summit of Mount Sabalan, a true natural wonder awaits: the mesmerizing crater lake, known as “Gel Göl”. This natural wonder is a sight to behold, with its icy waters shimmering in the sunlight. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the crater lake remains frozen throughout the year, except during the summer months when it transforms into a mesmerizing turquoise gem. Standing at the edge of the lake, you will feel a deep sense of tranquillity and connection with nature, which entices many mountaineers to conquer the challenges of ascending Mount Sabalan.
Ascending Mount Sabalan is an experience that will test your physical endurance and mental strength. The path to the summit is long and challenging, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The journey begins at the base camps, where you will gather your equipment and acclimatize to the altitude. From there, you will make your way through diverse terrains, traversing rocky slopes, snow-covered trails, and alpine meadows. The trek offers breathtaking views at every turn, allowing you to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
Sabalan Mountain has three famous peaks and the highest peak is named Soltan. During your trek on Mount Sabalan, you will have several accommodation options to choose from, depending on your preferences and level of comfort. The base camps in Shabil, Laroud, and Meshgin Shahr offer basic facilities such as tents and sleeping mats, providing a rustic camping experience amidst the breathtaking landscapes. It is important to note that these accommodation options may vary in terms of availability and facilities, so it is advisable to make prior arrangements or consult with local guides.
For those seeking a different kind of adventure, Mount Sabalan offers an unforgettable skiing experience. Alvares Ski Resort located at 3200 metres high is the biggest ski resort in Iran. It provides an ideal playground for winter sports enthusiasts with a 1200 meters long Tele siege, restaurant and two educational centres. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced skier, the slopes of Mount Sabalan offer a thrilling and unforgettable experience. So strap on your skis and get ready to carve your way down the snow-covered slopes of this majestic mountain.
The best time to embark on a trekking adventure on Mount Sabalan is during the summer months, from May to September as the weather is relatively mild. However, it is important to note that even during the summer, the weather conditions on the mountain can be unpredictable, with sudden changes in temperature and the possibility of strong winds. So, before embarking on your Mount Sabalan adventure, careful planning and preparation are crucial. Besides packing appropriate clothing and gear, it is also advisable to hire a local guide who can navigate the challenging terrain and ensure your safety throughout the journey. Additionally, obtaining the necessary permits and permissions is crucial to ensure a smooth and hassle-free expedition to make the most of your Mount Sabalan experience.
Mount Sabalan, with its magnificent peak, stunning Crater Lake, and captivating natural beauty and cultural attractions, is a destination that calls out to the adventurous at heart. Whether you are drawn to the thrill of mountaineering, the serenity of the hot springs, or the exhilaration of skiing down snow-covered slopes, Mount Sabalan offers something for every explorer. Let the mountain embrace you, challenge you, and leave an everlasting imprint on your soul.
By Samaneh Zohrabi / TasteIran