On our second day in Tabriz, we decided to do a day trip to the nearby village of Kandovan, which is famous for its inhabited manmade rock dwellings. We caught a bus to Osku, and caught a taxi from there to Kandovan. The village is only 55 km from Tabriz, so getting there was cheap and easy. We drove high up into the mountains to the village, which lies at an elevation of 2,232 m. I was surprised to see enormous amounts of snow on the way!
Shortly before reaching Kandovan, our taxi driver stopped and pointed at a sign that read “Well come to Hilavar, a buried village in the heart of mountain”. If the driver hadn’t stopped, I would’ve never known that the place existed! We got out for a little while to take some pictures and look inside the buried caves.
According to internet sources, the village was carved in the mountain for protection when the Mongols invaded Iran in 1219!
Had it not been for our awesome taxi driver, I would’ve never known that this historic place existed! There’s not much to see there, but it’s definitely worth a quick look and some snaps!
When we got to Kandovan, I immediately regretted not putting on more clothes! Since the elevation of the village is so high, it was freezing and there was snow and ice on the ground, making it extremely slippery to walk on. But apart from that, everything about Kandovan was amazing!
The village was founded in the 13th century and is home to more than 600 people. Half of the population live in so-called troglodyte homes, meaning that they’ve been carved into volcanic rocks, which were formed by a series of natural events following an eruption of nearby Mount Sahand.
I really enjoyed spending an entire day exploring a small Iranian village and having the time to take people up on their offers to us. We got invited in to see a room inside a huge cave, which some rock carvers were working on, and afterwards we were shown a finished hotel room, which looked nothing less of awesome! I wish that I had known about the cave hotel rooms before coming to Kandovan, so we could’ve stayed in one!
Later on, as we were exploring the upper part of the village, an elderly man came out of his house and invited us to tea. He made us finish the entire pot, which resulted in about five cups for me, haha! He also insisted that I put sugar in my mouth while drinking the tea, which is an Iranian custom. He even put the sugar in my mouth for me a couple of times! He didn’t speak any English and we didn’t understand what he was saying, so communication was done by pointing, smiling and the occasional “merci”, which means “thank you” in Farsi – that’s just about the only Farsi word I know!
Meeting the elderly local man was a real treat and it was nice to finally be able to say that we’ve had tea with an Iranian! We’ve been offered tea a few times, but we’ve always been too busy!
When we were done exploring the beautiful village of Kandovan, we thought we would try our luck hitchhiking back to Tabriz. After a short while, a nice couple offered to take us to Tabriz, as they were going there to visit some family anyways, so that was a lovely end to a great day!
Visiting Kandovan was a beautiful last adventure in Iran, and the place is definitely worthy for recommendation. It’s a spectacular village high up in the mountains with interesting architecture, and there are friendly locals and hundreds of cats! What’s not to like? 😉
Here’s some useful information on travelling to Kandovan:
- We caught a bus from Emam Khomeini Street to the Rahahan Bus Station at the end of the line, and from there caught a bus to Osku. The busses cost 10,000 rial (a few cents) per ticket. In Osku, we caught a taxi to Kandovan, which cost us 150,000 rial (4½ USD) in all. It’s possible that there might be minibuses that go to Kandovan.
- We were offered to go all the way to Kandovan and back to Tabriz for 700,000 rial (21½ USD), which would have been way too expensive compared to the other option above!
- Our taxi driver stopped at Hilavar on the way to Kandovan, so we could take pictures – don’t forget to ask for that too!
- On the way back to Tabriz, it should be easy to hitchhike for free, especially in the afternoon. Otherwise you can take a taxi to Osku and then the bus back to Tabriz.