Kandovan is an ancient village tucked away in the northwest corner of Iran at the foothills of Mount Sahand and near the city of Tabriz. What makes the village so unique is that its homes have been carved inside cone shaped rocks. The original substance for these unusual cone formations consisted of volcanic ash and debris from an eruption of Mount Sahand in the distant past. It was subsequently compressed and shaped into cone towers by natural elements over thousands of years. This hardened material is strong enough to function as the walls and floors of a house, whilst also providing efficient insulation against the harsh cold of the long winter as well as the summer heat.
Legend has it that Kandovan’s first inhabitants moved there in the 13th century to escape from the invading Mongol army. They dug hideouts in the volcanic rocks but eventually decided to settle in these caves which they gradually developed and transformed into multi-storey, permanent houses. Since then, many generations of their descendants have continued living in the same houses.
The attractions of Kandovan, however, are not restricted to its unusual cave dwellings. It is located in a green and scenic valley where wild plants and particularly natural spring waters are reputed to have healing properties. The spring waters which are traditionally used to cure kidney problems draw many people from surrounding towns and beyond to this area. The combination of Kandovan’s natural landscape and resources, and above all the unique way in which its inhabitants have adapted to the environment, has made it a popular destination for visitors.
In this multimedia report, we are taken on a guided tour of the extraordinary cave dwellings of this unique village, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.