Let us begin with a vital hint. If there was ever a game in which the dungeon master put a virtual gun (or a poison arrow) to you head and asked you “This is the warm season and your traveling to Iran, where would you go to visit?” and if the condition for your survival was to choose the best option available, then you SHOULD answer (and shout it with pride and knowledge too!): “Ardabil Province!”
Located in northwestern Iran, bordering the Republic of Azerbaijan and the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan, and Gilan, Ardabil had been known to people of antiquity for its natural beauty. The lofty peak of mount Sabalan, looking down on Ardabil’s plains, seduces every adventurous soul.
natural features of the province of Ardabil are mentioned in the Avesta, according to which Zoroaster was born by the river Aras and wrote his book in the Sabalan Mountains. Even the ancient Sumerians knew of this place and in particular of the city of Ardabil itself, which they called Arta or sanctum (its modern form, Ardabil, is derivative of that name: Arta+Vill – or the sacred city.)
In any case, Ardabil province, having a pleasant climate, many ancient and historical relics and tens of mineral hot springs are one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the country.
Ardebil on map
Where is Ardabil and How to get there?
The province sits in northwestern Iran, 70 Km from the eastern coast of the Caspian sea.
There is an international airport in the City of Ardabil located 14 km northeast of the City. The flight time from Tehran to Ardabil is about 45 minutes. You can take an airport taxi from there to reach the city itself.
Also if you’re willing to drive there, you’re in for a treat ‘cause it’s a climactic journey through some of the most (and challenging) roads in the country. A 219 kilometers distance from Tabriz and 578 kilometers from Tehran may seem a long way to drive (The journey to Ardabil in a private car from Tehran takes around 7-8 hours) but can worth the effort.
There is also the option of taking a bus from almost every major city in Iran. Ardabil passenger terminal is located on the northern side of the city, on Moqadas Ardabili Street. Several buses are coming to the terminal from most cities of Iran, especially Tehran. It takes about 8 to 9 hours to travel by bus from Tehran to Ardabil.
What is the Best Time for traveling to Ardabil?
As you can probably tell from the opening paragraph, the answer is from late spring to mid-summer.
The major cities of Ardabil Province:
Till the 1993 City of Ardabil was one of the major cities in an integrated Azerbaijan province. But then a bill passed to make the city and some of the neighboring regions into a province on their own. The capital of the province is, of course, the historic city of Ardabil. Other major destinations for touring porpuses include MESHKINSHAHR, BILEH SAVAR, MUGHAN plain, GIVI, Khlakhal, GERMI, and SAREIN.
- Negin Hotel – Ardebil
Addrs: Si Metri Ave
- Sabalan Grand Hotel – Ardabil
Addrs: Mellat Ave
- Darya Grand Hotel – Ardabil
Addrs: Atayi St
- Royal Park – Sarein
Addrs: Darayi St
- Laleh International Hotel – Sarein
Addrs: Danesh St.
- Ershad Hotel – Sarein
Address: Pahnlou Street corner of Valiasr street
And last but not least:
- Durna Eco Camp – Meshkinshahr
Address: 20 kilometers south of Meshginshahr, Moil Tourist Road
“Durna Nomadic Eco-Camp, in the magical hillside of Sabalan and in an area of 5 hectares with combination of traditional and modern architecture, using local and stony materials, inspired by the history and culture of Azerbaijani Turks and Shahseven nomads, has been designed and built in such a way to avoid damaging to environment and the region’s biodiversity.”
Where to go and what to explore in Ardabil:
Ardabil is the place to explore unmatched pastures and serene landscapes in one of the most beautiful regions in Iran. Likewise, its rich history provides you with numerous options for experiencing a journey into the heart of Azeris Past.
It could be a Hydrotherapic journey too, for the province is full of hot and mineral springs. Below are some of the better-known place to visit in Ardabil province:
The City of Ardabil, a mystic sanctuary:
Ardabil is one of the most ancient cities in Iran. It has been an important city throughout ages. From pre-Islamic cultures to modern-day Iran, Ardabil has offered a sanctuary, a court for men of god and men of the throne. It is said that for five thousand years there always stood a city where Ardabil lies today.
The ancient religions of Mithraism and Zoroastrianism, and their Islamic off-spring, Sufi’ism, had this city in their hearts. Therefore in layers of history, you can find holy places on top of each other’s rubbles telling a story still shrouded in mysticism and gnostic love of life.
One of the main attractions in Ardabil is Boghe-ye-Sheykh Safoiddin Ardabili (the holy Tomb of Sheykh Safioddin of Ardabil), a Sufi spiritual retreat dating from between the early 16th century and late 18th century.
Shah Ismail the first, first of the Safavid kings, who after a thousand years once again untied the historical territories that before the conquest of Islam were Persian Empire, was the grand-son of Sheykh Saffioddin. So for centuries, this place was one of the holiest shrines in Iran. In addition to the monument of the Sheikh, shrine of shah Ismail himself is also located in this complex. The tomb alongside a mosque makes a fine example of medieval Iranian architecture.
The shrine was an important site of pilgrimage throughout the Safavid period (1501-1722) and underwent numerous improvements and embellishments to become one of the most beautiful of all Safavid monuments. Today the site includes a library, a mosque, a school, a mausoleum, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices.
Like most of the Iranian ancient cities, The traditional Bazaar with its inviting features beckons you to come inside. But outside, 48 Km south of the city you can visit Shourabil Lake. The surface of the lake is covered with a thin white layer of minerals, which is useful for healing skin diseases and rheumatism. Near the lake, there is the leisure complex when you can enjoy a variety of Ardabili food (more on that later).
Sarein, the high heaven of honey, hot springs and “Ashe Duq”:
Boiling veins under the inactive volcano of Sabalan warm underground waters of Sarein and the city had been known for its hot springs and Spas throughout history (even its name means Spring’s outlet).
Although there are 9 hot springs in Sarein, we recommend the hottest of them, Gavmish Goli. Sarein is also famous for its ‘Ashe Duq’ (Yogurt Soup), during the busy summer periods; it is not uncommon for many of the local shops to be seen selling and preparing this soup. But even more impressive is Sarein’s honey, again like the soup, many of Sarein’s shops sell honey which is produced locally by the Beekeepers of the area.
Meshginshahr and its stony ghosts:
Nearer to Sabalan Mountain sits the ancient city of Meshginshahr. Beautiful scenery on the outskirts of the city is made even more attractive since the construction of the longest suspended footbridge of the world over the river of Khiavchai. But that’s not all.
Iran’s castles are one of its most interesting trails of architecture. Near Meshginshahr lies a particularly infamous one, an ancient jail called Qahqaheh castle (a suitably gothic name, meaning the castle of cachinnation).
To complete the horror tour, you can go and visit an even older past, the ancient site of Shahar Yeri and its eight thousand years old cemetery, with mouthless armed stone figures glaring at you as if an army of the dead waiting for a call to draw their swords again. The site also embraces an Iron-Age fortress and three prehistorical temples.
What to eat in Ardabil:
As we said, Ardabil, one of the coldest cities in Iran, features several traditional and local foods compatible with the special climatic conditions. The most famous of them is Ashe Duq, also known as “yogurt soup”
. a soup usually made with yogurt or Duq, as well as different kinds of herbs, vegetables, lamb meatballs, eggs, rice, salt and several types of spices. Fried mint with lots of oil (and sometimes garlic) is used as a topping for the soup.
If you’ve ever been to Iran, you have surely heard of Gheymeh, a traditional meat-stew cooked all over the country. But in Ardabili’s cuisine, there is an unbelievably delicious one called Pichagh-Gheymeh. Pichagh is usually made with lamb’s meat, sliced onions, almond, and egg.
Another fantastic taste comes from a burial, oh yes. Basturma-polo, an Ardabili rice dish the name of which translates as ‘ buried’-polo probably because the meat mixture of this dish would be placed between layers of rice and looks like hidden and buried, so is invisible until to be served.
Ardebil Souvenirs (sweet-tooths! Take notice):
Although like most of the regions in Iran, in Ardabil handicrafts and rugs worth paying a fortune too, but here many delicacies and tidbits. To name a few: Gheorghe, Trifolia, Sari Fatari, Saffron Baklava, Zafrani Halva, Yarma, Almond Baccholia, Paleozoic, Rhubarb, Black Halva, Honey Pancake, Raisins and Cherokeetean Bread.