Kandovan (Persian: كندوان, also Romanized as Kandovān and Kandavān; also known as Kanvān) is a village in Sahand Rural District, in the Central District of Osku County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This village is a wonderful example of manmade cliff dwelling which is 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.
It is known all around the world for its unique rock-carved houses dating back more than 700 years. The Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel is the first of its kind in Iran and the second in the world, after the luxurious Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, in Cappadocia, Turkey.
It is said the first inhabitants came to Kandovan to escape the invading Mongols. They dug hideouts in the giant volcanic cliffs and remained here even after the danger was over. Their hiding places slowly became complex houses complete with kitchens, hallways and bedrooms. For the windows the villagers use beautifully colored glass.
Tourists can reach Kandovan from the neighboring towns of Osku and Tabriz. Whether they are traveling by car or bus, it’s easy to figure out which way to go from there because everyone else is heading in the same direction. The green fields surrounding this bizarre village, covered by alpine vegetation, make it hard to believe you are still in the barren lands of Iran.
As they arrive in Kandovan tourists are immediately drawn to the strange, cone-shaped rock houses. All across the village there are signs informing strangers that they can visit the houses for a price. Some of the old rock dwellings have been converted into stables and bird shelters, but there are plenty that retain the charm they had over seven hundred years ago.
The main occupations of Kandovan’s villagers are agriculture and sheep herding, but the main income of most of the inhabitants comes from tourism. They have realized the potential of their old homes and learned to live their lives surrounded by travelers from all around the world.
Visitors can sleep in the 5 star Kandovan Tourism Cliff Hotel, located at the heart of the village or in one of the other stone-carved homes, if they can negotiate with the Farsi-speaking villagers. There are also many cafes along the river that passes through Kandovan, where tourists can indulge in drinking coffee and delicious zam-zam juice, all in a unique atmosphere dominated by sweet rose fragrances.