Iran’s Kandwan… the only inhabited rocky village in the world
5 min readSep 22, 2021

The indigenous people of this region are Azeri peoples, and the main products of the village are honey and tree fruits such as walnuts, almonds, apricots, and apples.

Mohamad Rahman Bour

A house inside the only inhabited rocky village in the world (Al-Jazeera)

With conical houses and beehive-shaped doors and windows, one of the world’s most unique villages lies northwest of Iran, where its inhabitants still live in the heart of volcanic rocks.

Kandwan village is located near the Azeri city of Tabriz, and the continuity of life in it made it an exceptional village in the world. It is unlike the cities of “Cappadocia” in Turkey and “Dakota” in the United States, although they are rocky villages, they are deserted. Kandovan was included in the Iranian National Heritage List in 1997.

The public bath of the village, which was used before the water reached the houses (Al-Jazeera)

History of Kandwan

According to experts, the history of these volcanic rocks dates back approximately six to seven thousand years back, and according to research conducted by the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Tehran, in addition to the narration of the sheikhs and mayor of the village, it was inhabited almost since the seventh century AH (coinciding with the Mongol invasion on Iran).

Sauna and jacuzzi located in the hotel rock pool (Al-Jazeera)

According to the mayor of Kandwan village, Mahdi Sadri, the residents of the village came from the neighboring village of “Heila War”, three kilometers away, which was built underground two thousand to three thousand years ago.

Sadri — in a conversation with Al-Jazeera Net — stated that the reason for the move of the residents of “Heila Wor” to Kandwan may be due to the weather conditions and the collapse of their homes, in addition to the strategic location that Kandwan enjoys and the thickness of the rocks that protect from the harsh cold, as well as the sharp decline in its narrow alleys that protected them from attacks, all contributed to their migration to present-day Kandwan. But others believe that the Mongol attack on Iran caused them to move to Kandwan, which Sadri disagreed with and ruled out.

The steep slope and narrow alleys of the village contributed to protecting the village from attacks (Al-Jazeera)

kandwan houses

Kandwan village is located at an altitude of two thousand and 200 meters above sea level in the cold area covered with snow during the autumn and winter seasons. Kandwan houses were built on volcanic tuff, which is volcanic ash formed as a result of environmental changes over thousands of years and has become in the form of cones.

The houses of this village were carefully carved with axes, and some believe that the reason for the name of the village is due to the similarity of these houses to beehives (kendo — in Persian — meaning apiary).

The Kandwan houses — called “Karan” in the local language — are about 25 to 30 meters high at their maximum, and each house has several floors, most of which have 6 floors.

Initially, the Kandwanis dug their houses to consist of 3 floors. The lower floors were used to keep animals because of their humidity and lack of sunlight, the second floors were allocated for sitting rooms and housing, and the third floor in the upper part was dedicated to storage.

As for Karan’s walls, they are thick and work well in insulating heat. The temperature varies between indoors and outdoors, about 5 to 10 degrees in summer and winter.

The hotel’s rocky restaurant (Al Jazeera)

Village Facilities

Neighboring cities such as Isco and Tabriz can be reached via an asphalt road. After the Islamic revolution, water and electricity were connected to homes and connected to a sewage treatment plant. Gas cylinders are also used in homes. Because of the narrow and steep alleys, donkeys are still used to transport heavy loads.

The village has a population of about 700, and according to Muhammad Rangbar, the village’s tour guide, about 70% of the villagers are active in the field of tourism, while others work in the field of livestock and agriculture.

In his speech to Al Jazeera Net, Rangbar indicated that the number of tourists has decreased significantly after the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and most tourists currently come from the neighboring cities of this unique village.

The indigenous people of this area are Azeri peoples, and the main products of this village are honey and tree fruits such as walnuts, almonds, apricots, apples, and their derivatives, as well as local dairy products, medicinal plants, and handicrafts such as bags and carpets.

Because of the steepness and narrowness of the alleys, donkeys are still used to transport heavy loads (Al-Jazeera)

The Challenges

According to Sadri, the most important challenges that threaten “Kandwan” are the erosion of houses over time and the possibility of them cracking.

He also mentioned to Al Jazeera Net that the most important reason for not registering this village in the UNESCO World Heritage List is the presence of newly built houses built by the village’s residents near their rocky houses before 2004 so that the new buildings will later be transferred to another site near the village after that date.

In addition to the unique shape of the Kandwan houses, tourists can rent a rocky house or book a rock hotel in the village to enjoy details that some think have stayed in the past, but they still exist to this day in the northwest of Iran, where the fresh river, picturesque nature, and natural products, And the amazing weather in the summer, all contributed to creating a unique experience for each tourist.

Source: Al Jazeera(Original Content -Arabic)



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