General

Kandovan is a village in Sahand Rural District, in the Central District of Osku County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This village exemplifies manmade cliff dwellings which are still inhabited. The troglodyte homes, excavated inside volcanic rocks and tuffs similar to dwellings in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, are locally called “Karaan”. Karaans were cut into the Lahars (volcanic mudflow or debris flow) of Mount Sahand. The cone form of the houses is the result of lahar flow consisting of porous round and angular pumice together with other volcanic particles that were positioned in a grey acidic matrix. After the eruption of Sahand these materials were naturally moved and formed the rocks of Kandovan. Around the village the thickness of this formation exceeds 100 m and with time due to water erosion the cone shaped cliffs were formed. At the 2006 census, the village population was 601, in 168 families.
When we first think of Iran, we may first consider the unrest in the Middle East, and may even demure from traveling to what we perceive to be a rather war-torn region of the world. If you take this stance, however, you will be missing out on one of the most unique and beautiful sights in the world. In Kandovan, there is a collection of amazing houses, unlike any others in the world. For more than seven centuries, people have inhabited the caves in the surrounding mountains and stone formations, building themselves a community you cannot see anywhere else in the world.

When you first come upon the houses, you might not notice them, as the stone used to expand the dwellings outside of the caves, mimics that natural color of the original stone. But once you get closer to the village, you can see the windows, power wires, doors, and chimneys jutting out of the rock face. Most communities have become modernized, with power and some even with running water, all while blending perfectly into the natural surroundings. The volcanic stone is both easy to manipulate and sturdy enough to support these ancient constructions.

What is particularly amazing about these homes is that they have supported life for centuries and centuries. They look like ancient cave dwellings because they are. The first inhabitants were from ancient tribes, but these homes have been updated and passed down from inhabitant to inhabitant.

Most communities have taken special precaution to preserve as much of the original cave as possible, so that both the exterior and the interior have that authentic Kandovan feel. Some houses rely on the natural cave formations, while others have been hollowed out into larger rooms, and have even been whitewashed to create a more modern look and feel. Decorated with colorful carpets and fabrics, these communities support almost 170 families.

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