The North West Iran, also known as Azerbaijan region, is a historically important region because the long serving capital city of Iran, Tabriz, is located in this region.
In addition, some of the tour routes designed by Iranviva Group are in the North West of Iran and Azerbaijan region, and since it is bordering with countries like the Republic of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia, many tourists travel there every year.
Therefore, Iranviva Group has decided to introduce you this particularly attractive region and some of the most attractive monuments and tourist attractions of the province.
Tabriz (the provincial capital of East Azerbaijan Province) is the most important city in the province and the tourist attractions of the city are so many that they cannot all be included in this article. For this reason, only a list of tourist attractions of the city is provided in this article and a comprehensive description about the city of Tabriz is provided in a separate article.
- Grand Bazaar of Tabriz
- Tabriz Jame Mosque (Kabir Mosque)
- Blue Mosque (Jahan Shah Mosque)
- Azerbaijan Museum
- Arg Ali Shah
- Poets Tomb (Maqbaratol Shoara)
- Shah Goli (El-Goli)
- Constitution House of Tabriz
- Behnam House
- Tabriz Municipality Palace (Sa’at Tower)
- Haidarzadeh House
Kandovan is one of the most famous ancient villages of East Azerbaijan Province, with more than three thousand years of history. Kandovan is the only village in the world with man-made rocky dwellings which are still inhabited.
The village is situated on the foothills of Mount Sahand that is one of the volcanic mountains in Iran. According to historical documents, it’s been about 140 thousand years since Sahand volcano was active, and now it has become a dormant volcano.
Many years ago, Sahand volcano eruption caused cone-shaped rock formations at the foot of the mountain and nomadic people of the region made their rocky houses in the holes carved into the rocks.
This village now has become one of the strangest sights in Iran. A village with people living in the mountains and caves in the 21st century!
If you are traveling to East Azerbaijan Province or North West of Iran, do not miss visiting this pristine, beautiful village.
One of the entry routes into the country is through land borders of the city of Jolfa. Jolfa is bordering with Armenia, and tourists who are going to enter Iran from Armenia through land borders should pass through this city. Therefore, we are going to introduce you the attractions of East Azerbaijan Province that are located in the city of Jolfa:
Asiab Kharabeh Waterfall
Asiab Kharabeh Waterfall, named after remains of an old mill nearby, is a beautiful natural wonder that can be a perfect destination for you. This unique and beautiful waterfall that is fed by the rivers in the area is falling from a height of 10 meters and is divided into some smaller waterfalls passing through the holes in the rocks. If you plan to visit the city of Jolfa on your trip to Iran, do not miss visiting this extraordinary scenery. It should also be noted that the area around the waterfall is a good place for camping.
Saint Stepanos Monastery
Another important place of interest and perhaps the most important attraction in Jolfa is Saint Stephanos Church. After Saint Thaddeus Cathedral, Saint Stephanos Church is the second most important Armenians’ church in West Azerbaijan Province.
There are different opinions about how old the church is. Some researchers believe that it dates back to the ninth century AD, and some believe that the construction of the church dates back to the Safavid period. However, the type of materials used in building the church corresponds to the materials used in the period of fourth to sixth centuries. According to some documents, there existed a church in this region in the seventh century that might be St. Stephanos Church. The style of architecture in this church is attributed to the Sassanid and Parthian periods that can show the time of its construction. For this reason, the exact time when this church was constructed is not clear.
St. Stephanos Church is of great importance not only for being the second largest Armenian Church in Iran, but also for its strategic location and the style of its construction. Among these construction features are being surrounded by the trees, having several guard towers, and white and red stones used in this building.
If you would like to stay in this region, there are some great and cost-effective local resorts around the church.
In this part, we are going to introduce you an area in Iran that has been registered by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. Arasbaran is home to 215 species of amazing birds, 29 species of rare reptiles, 48 species of mammals and 17 types of fish. Arasbaran is a mountain forest area in the north of East Azarbaijan Province that is very important due to the animal species diversity. Arasbaran is also known not only for its pristine beautiful nature and animal species diversity but also for its historical sites.
Among the tourist attractions in the region are Babak Fort, Kaleybar hot springs and Nazini Church.
Babak Fort is one of the tourist attractions of East Azarbaijan Province, the region of Kaleybar and Arasbaran forests. Babak Fort is a castle located at an altitude of over 2,300 meters that is surrounded by valleys 400 to 600 meters deep.
The castle dates back to the Sassanid era and used to be an impenetrable fortress of its age. Being situated at a high elevation and surrounded by deep valleys, the fort made it impossible for enemies to attack with heavy war devices and equipment like catapults.
At the time of the Arab conquest of Iran, Babak Khorramdin, the leader of Khorramdinan movement, resisted the Arabs for about twenty-two years, from 816 to 838 AD, using the fort and the strategic location of the valley, and finally he was killed in 838 AD.
Due to its mesmerizing beauty, strategic location and its history, Babak Fort is highly regarded by the tourists.
Another historical monument in Azerbaijan region is a castle called Zahhak Castle, with more than 3000 years of history. Zahhak Castle is situated at an altitude of 2300 meters above the river bed. Zahhak Castle was first discovered by a group of German archaeologists in 1971, and according to some documents found in this castle, it was being used from 3000 years ago to the fourteenth century.
Like Babak Fort, Zahhak Castle is surrounded by valleys on three sides that make the strategic position of the castle. Based on the architecture of the castle, including water storages, many rooms and the type of stones used in the fortress, we can draw the conclusion that the castle has been mostly used for military purposes and it has been used as a military base or garrison.
Maragheh is an ancient city in East Azerbaijan Province. According to the tablets discovered, Maragheh dates back to eight thousand years before Christ and it existed since Manna’s ruling period. However, the zenith of the city was in the thirteenth century, during Ilkhans’ ruling period because Maragheh used to be Ilkhans’ capital in that period.
Maragheh was conquered by the Mongols in 1221. After the death of Genghis Khan and dividing up his conquests among his offspring, Iran and Maragheh were conquered again by Hulagu Khan. Civilization reached its peak and the city flourished during Hulagu Khan Period and this boom period continued so that Maragheh was one of ten most populous cities of Iran during Qajar Period. Iran’s first arms factory was founded in this city, in the same period.
After Tabriz, Maragheh is the second most populous city in East Azerbaijan Province and it is also known with titles such as the Garden City of Iran, the Astronomy Capital of Iran, and the City of Domes.
One of the most popular attractions in the historic city of Maragheh is Maragheh Observatory. Maragheh Observatory was built in 1260 AD by order of Hulagu Khan, and under Tusi (Iranian great scientist, astronomer, mathematician and philosopher). Maragheh Observatory used to be used not only as an observatory but also as a research station that was useful in development of knowledge and science at that time. This observatory was also equipped with a library with 400 thousand books and a variety of astronomical instruments.
Because the Mongols were ruling Iran and China in that period, great scientists, such as Fao Mum Ji, were there bringing about development in the area. Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, the polymath and poet, was also among the scientists of that time who have made contribution to advance knowledge with his activities at this center.
Gonbad-e Kabood is another attraction is the city of Maragheh. The construction of this building is estimated to date back to 1186 to 1258. The exact date is not clear, though. According to local people, the Gonbad-e Kabood is the burial place of Hulagu Khan’s mother, but it is not confirmed by the archaeologists. Gonbad-e Kabood of Maragheh is highly regarded for its ten-sided geometric structure that is a reason why it is said that its construction date corresponds to the time of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, the Persian mathematician.
Some the characteristics of the building are the main section and the basement, interior blue paintings and Kufic calligraphy scripts on the walls.
Although a part of it was destroyed due to the earthquake and over time, Gonbad-e Kabood is still one of the most remarkable monuments of the city.
Gonbad-e Qaffariyeh (Qaffariyeh Dome)
Gonbad-e Qaffariyeh is one of the buildings from Ilkhanian period that was built during the reign of Sultan Abu Sa’id Bahadur Khan (1316 to 1336 AD). Like other historical buildings in the city, this building has been built based on the geometric and mathematical principals, in a 4-side form. There are blue, white and black inscriptions as decorations in this building.
Modavvar Tower was built in 1168 AD in Maragheh. Like Gonbad-e Kabood, this building is also a burial place but there is no complete information about the person who is buried there. The building had a circular shape with a double-height ceiling; however, the ceiling has been destroyed due to erosion, earthquakes and other factors.
The materials used for construction of the building include carved limestone, mortar and adobe bricks, and it consists of two floors of cellar and prayer place.
One of the fascinating attractions of Maragheh is Gonbad-e-Sorkh. Some researchers believe that this building was built before Maragheh Observatory in 1148. Researchers also believe that Gonbad-e-Sorkh had had an important role in determining the months of the year and hours of the day, before Maragheh Observatory was built. The architecture of Gonbad-e-Sorkh is inspired by the Azari architectural style. It is a square-shaped building situated on a stone platform and consists of a basement and the main room that can be reached through seven stone stairs. Five stairs are located in front of the stone platform and the sixth and seventh stairs are part of the entrance. There are two beautiful inscriptions in this dome introducing the founder and the builder of the building. According to the inscriptions, Gonbad-e-Sorkh was built on the orders of “Abdul Aziz Ibn Mahmoud Ibn Sa’d Yadym”, the governer of Azerbaijan during the Seljukera, by “Bani Bakr Mohammed ibn Bandan ibn Mohsen, the architect”.
It can be said that this building is the end of Razi architectural style in Iranian architecture, and it is the turning point and the beginning of Azari architecture. The spectacular features of Gonbad-e-Sorkh include the combined turquoise tiles with red bricks at the entrance of the monument that makes this historical monument extraordinary. The combination of brick and glazed tiles for the first time in the building of Gonbad-e-Sorkh of Maragheh shows that it can be the initiator of Azari style in Islamic-Iranian architecture. There is no document or inscription telling that this building is a tomb and it can be considered as a memorial tower.
What brought here in this article is only a small part of the beauty of the wonderful province of East Azerbaijan. To get more information about other attractions and other cities of the province, please see our further articles provided by Iranviva Group.