Kandovan as an amazing ancient village is located in the Iranian northern province of East Azarbaijan. There are some 117 families living in this ancient and beautiful village. The creation of this village dates back to 3000 years ago when people digged out some caves within the mountains, making beautiful houses to live in.
It is believed that Kandovan village has partially been formed by volcanic remains called 'tuff' from a strong Mount Sahand eruptions hundreds of years ago. There are also some remains called tephra. This deposited tephra formed Kandovan's rock cones consisted of stone-sized debris and ash. You can see the composition if you look closely at the surface of the caves or the cones.
Another interesting aspect is the fact that the rock acts as an energy efficient material, keeping the house cool during summer and warm during winter. This is why most of the inhabitants here do not use heaters or air conditioning systems.
The intriguing architecture of this village seems to defy all rules and travelers are usually fascinated by its incredible slopes and irreverent paths. Recently a hotel was built, inspired by and connected to the “style” of the village. The “Rocky Hotel” features beautiful cave interiors with very comfortable living spaces. What we found interesting is that it takes ten months for four people to dig a room.
As we have noted previously, in the area of Kandovan, Sahand's volcanic ash and debris was fused and shaped by natural forces into cone-shaped pillars containing pockets that became caves. The hardened material of the cones is strong enough to function as walls and floors of a house and yet soft enough to allow a further shaping of the caves. The material is also an efficient insulator and the troglodyte's homes have the reputation of being very energy efficient, remaining cool in summer and warm in winter. The cave homes require minimal supplemental heat during the long cold season, making for comfortable year round habitation.
Most of the cave houses are two to four storeys in height. In a typical four storey house, the ground or first floor is used as an animal shelter, the next two floors are used as living areas, and the top floor is used for storage. There are reports of tunnels connecting towers owned by a person or family.
While Mount Sahand itself is somewhat stark, the surrounding country abounds in a natural beauty that is today but a shadow of a legendary past. Some believe that legendary past beauty is preserved in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Ancient Persian gardens, also called baghs, were renowned for their spectacular beauty. Their name pairi-daeza became the English word paradise. The baghs were a paradise on earth.
Nature's gifts in Kandovan extend to the healing properties of its natural spring water. In particular, the waters have traditionally been used to help dissolve kidney and bladder stones. Some of the area's wild plants as also reputed to have healing and vitality-giving properties. The combination of Kandovan's unique natural landscape, beauty, and the manner in which its inhabitants have adapted to the environment, has made Kandovan a popular destination for visitors. About 300,000 people visit the village each year (the resident population is only 670). It is only a matter of time before the local population begins to rely on tourism as a major source of income, thereby supplanting their traditional pastoral and agricultural way of life.
The houses are known as karan in the local dialect. One interpretation has the word Kandovan being a plural form of kando, a bee's hive. Another interpretation says that Kandovan means Land of Unknown Carvers. The use of 'van' to indicate the plural is found in the Avesta: cf. ashavan. Nowadays, residents speak a Turkic dialect but have traditional Iranian family names, names such as Kayani. The mountains and rivers in the region have both Persian and Turkic - and perhaps even Assyrian - names.
Although the extraordinary village is well-known as the only rocky village in the world where there is people still living the manmade caves, Kandovan is also famous for its beautiful and healing spas.
Each year so many tourists take tour of this village to have a unique and fascinating experience.