The 22nd province of Iran is Ardabil, one of the three provinces in Azerbaijan region of Iran.
Ardabil province shares borders with the Republic of Azerbaijan to the north (282 km of common sea and land borders).
It also shares borders with the provinces of East Azerbaijan to the west, Gilan to the east and Zanjan to the south. It is bordered by Sabalan Mountains and Qara-sou (black water) River, Meshgin-Shahr and Sarab to the west, by the Caucasus to the north, by Talysh Mountains and the Caspian Sea to the east and by the city of Khalkhal to the south. The city of Ardabil, the capital of the province, is 1260 meters above sea level and is located in a plain between Sabalan and Talysh mountains.
History of Ardabil
The city of Ardabil dates back before Islam. In Shahnameh (an Iranian mythological book containing many legends of this land), Ferdowsi attributes Ardabil to Sasanian king, Firouz.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Ardabil dates back to the sixteenth century BC. The Urartian inscription from the ninth century BC in Ardabil indicates the civilization existed in this city. Ardabil has a history of pre- and post-Islamic period. However, most of its historical fame and glory must be attributed to the Safavid dynasty.
Ardabil has a variety of ancient and historical monuments and tourist attractions, including:
Bahman castle, Friday Mosque was built in the early Islamic era, on the fire temple of the Sassanid era.
Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble, Qara-Sou Bridge, Samian Bridge, Red Bridge, Ardabil Bazaar, Gheisariyeh, Safavid Bath, Vakil-ol-Roaya House, Talar-e Hekmat (Hekmat Hall), Sarein Hot Springs (spa), Sardabe, Qutur-Sui, Neor Lake, Shorabil Lake, Fandoqlu Forest, Meshginshahr suspension bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the Middle East), etc.
There are seven historic and valuable carpets in the world. Ardabil carpet is the first. The carpet is kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. One of the features of this carpet is that there is the weaver artist’s signature and the date of its weaving on it. Professor Arthur Upham Pope says in his book “Survey of Persian Art”:
“This carpet, which is about 55.75 square meters (5.5 by 10.5 meters), is woven in the 15th year of King Tahmasb Safavi’s Monarchy. There is an ancient illustration in the pattern of this carpet, depicting the sun which is the source of power and the creator of the paradise full of flowers and plants. The mosque chandelier which indicates that the carpet has been woven for a sacred place, because there are chandeliers instead of the sun.”
“Except for thy threshold, there is no refuge for me in all the world,
Except for this door there is no resting place for my head.”
In the Qajar period, Ziegler firm purchased the rug from the clerics of Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh. Today, Ardabil carpet is among the most precious and most expensive items in Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Geography of Ardabil Province
Ardabil is located in a mountainous area. The highlands of the province include:
The highlands from the East to Dojag Defile in the north, Talysh mountains and Vilkij border Heighlands in the northeast, Heyran Defile (Haj Amir) in the east, Talysh Highlands in the southeast, Baghrou mountains in the south (west of Talysh mountains), Saien Defile in the southwest, and Mount Sabalan in the west.
Talysh mountains, like a wall, prevent humid air coming from the Caspian Sea to penetrate into the province. Heyran Defile is the only route, through these mountains, that connects Azerbaijan to the Caspian Sea shore. Due to the warm and humid climate, the slopes of these mountains which are adjacent to the Caspian Sea, are covered with forest.
The eastern highland of Talysh mountains is the Talysh tribe’s summer place and its western highland is Fouladlou tribe’s summer place. Ardabil province is located on the border between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan and has an important strategic position.
Another high peak of Alborz mountains is Sabalan.
Sabalan or “Savalan” (in Turkish language) is the most important symbol of the Azerbaijan region in Iran.
Sabalan has three peaks called Sultan, Heram and Kasra. Sultan Peak is higher than the other two peaks and is the destination of many tourists interested in Trekking and mountaineering.
Sabalan is the third most elevated peak in Iran which is located in the northwest of the country, in Ardabil province. Sabalan is one of the volcanic peaks in Iran which has always attracted tourists due to the natural hot springs on the slopes, the beautiful summer nature and the Alvares ski resort.
The Cities Nearby
Sabalan is the most important mountain in Ardabil province, 35 kilometers from Ardebil and 25 kilometers southeast of Meshginshahr.
This peak is 60 kilometers long and 45 kilometers wide.
If you are interested in more information about Sahand, don’t miss our article “Brief description of Sahand Mount”.
Sabalan Peak Lake
There is a beautiful lake at the top of Mount Sabalan, which attracts tourists to this summit and lake. The oval-shaped lake is 40 meters deep. The lake’s water is supplied with snow and it is frozen in most seasons of the year.
The size of this lake is approximately 80 meters by 140.
Altitude above Sea Level
Mount Sabalan, a dormant volcano with an altitude of 4811 meters above sea level, is the third highest peak in Iran after Mount Damavand and Mount Alam-Kuh, and is one of the 1515 most prominent peaks in the world.
The average precipitation in Mount Sabalan, estimated by Ardabil Meteorological Organization, is 500 mm per year, mostly in the form of snow.
Sabalan in the History Mythology of This Land
The oldest document to mention Sabalan is Avesta. Sabalan, like many natural phenomena in the territory of Iran, especially the mountains, is of great importance in historical mythology. Sabalan is called ‘Savalan’ in Turkish and ‘Seflun’ in Taleshi dialect.
According to some narratives, Sabalan was chosen by Zoroaster as a place to pray and meditate and he started his mission as a prophet here. It is also stated in Nietzsche’s book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. And some believe that Zarathustra’s tomb is on this mountain under one of its rocks.
Ashiqs of Azerbaijan also call it savalan in their songs. Sabalan is highly respected and sacred by the nomad tribes and the indigenous people. Sabalan’s lush nature is a place where Shahsavan nomads meet in spring and summer.
Sabalan at UNESCO World Heritage
Sabalan, recorded in Iranian natural tourist attractions, is also highly considered by UNESCO, thanks to its special climatic conditions, and it is described as follows:
UNESCO has described Sabalan as a biosphere reserve. “This reserve is located in the Caucasus mountains of Iran near the Iranian border with the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Located between the Caspian, Caucasian and Mediterranean regions, it has alpine meadows, semi-arid plains, meadows and forests, rivers and springs. Abundant elevations above 2000 meters above sea level.”
If you are interested in more information about Damavand Mount, don’t miss our article “Climbing in Damavand mountain”.
Other Features of Sabalan
Sabalan has several peaks with different heights which expand along Arasbaran mountains (Arasbaran or Qaradagh is a mountainous region in the north of the East Azerbaijan province, with Mount Qoshadagh to the north and Ahar to Aras River to the south) and is connected to Mount Sahand to the southwest.
Sabalan is covered with snow all year round. So, Sabalan’s Alvares ski resort has snow eight months of the year. But Mount Sabalan has two features of its own: Lake Sabalan at the top of the mountain, and the Eagle Rock.
Eagle Rock, Symbol of Mount Sabalan
In a distance to the peak, there is a rock which looks very much like a great eagle, with head towards the East, as if it is waiting for the sunrise.
Mount Sabalan Climbing Routes
Summer is the best season to climb Sabalan. There are three routes for climbing Mount Sabalan:
– Northeast Route (Shabil Spa): This route starts from Shabil Spa in Lahrud. The city of Lahrud is located on the road from Ardabil to Meshginshahr.
Passing through the city of Lahrud and the shelter, you will reach the summit via the East Ridge.
This is the simplest route to reach the summit. Along with the path, the route is provided with various flags.
Through this route, you can reach the summit of Mount Sabalan by walking for a few hours from morning to noon.
– West route (Lake Qaragol): This route starts from the shore of Lake Qaragol. Passing through Heramchal and the great glacier of Heram, this route reaches the western shelter and then to the summit of Mount Sabalan.
– South Route: The route starts from the southern part of the mountain. This route reaches the summit via the East Ridge. It should be noticed that there is no shelter along this route.
Mount Sabalan Glaciers
There are 5 glaciers in Sabalan, with the possibility of winter ascent.
Two glaciers, located on the steep slope of Mount Sultan, are Pir-e-Shomali Glacier with a length of about 4 to 5 meters and the Northern Glacier.
The other two glaciers, located on the slope of Mount Kasra-Dagh, are Kasra Big Glacier and Kasra Small Glacier with the lengths of 10 to 11 meters.
The fifth glacier, located on the north side of Mount Heram, is Heram-Dagh Glacier with a length of 9 to 10 meters.
There are two shelters on the way to Sabalan summit, to accommodate the mountain climbers.
The main shelter is located in the northeast of Mount. The shelter is located at an altitude of 3700 meters above sea level. It can be reached either on foot or by off-road vehicles through an approximately 10 km bumpy dirt road from Shabil Spa.
It will take approximately three hours on foot to reach the shelter.
The other shelter is the West Shelter, which is located on the route up to the peaks of Mount Heram and Mount Sultan, to the west of Sabalan, upper than Lake Qara-gol. The shelter has an altitude of 400 meters above sea level and is the nearest shelter to the summit of Mount Sabalan. To reach this shelter you should pass through Sarbanlar village route to the Lake Tus-Goli and Lake Qara-Gol.
Habitats in Sabalan
There are 11 types of habitat around Mount Sabalan. The habitats are home to animals including brown bears, weasels, foxes, jackals, rabbits, sparrow hawks, owls, hoopoes, larks, swallows, crows, golden eagles and wild boars.
If you are interested in more information about Alam Kuh Mount, don’t miss our article “Brief description of Mount Alam-Kuh”.