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Ardabil, the holy city of the Safavid Kings

One of the most important historical and tourist cities in Iran and the capital of Ardabil province is Ardabil city in the west of Iran which had a very important role in the formation and consolidation of the Safavid government in Iran. This city is one of the most important tourist cities in Iran with a collection of exquisite historical buildings, special natural effects, and a unique collection of cultural features. Every year, this historical city hosts a large number of domestic and international tourists who are eager to its historical and natural monuments. According to Iranian opinion, Ardabil during the Safavid period was the center of the revival of Shiism by the Safavids, because the ancestors of the new dynasty that expanded Shiism originated from this city.

Due to Ardabil's pristine nature, this city is one of the best destinations for nature lovers and eco-tourists. The cool summer with Mild weather, colorful autumn, and cold winter with snowcapped peaks are associated with these natural charms and the temptation to travel and re-enter this lively path in the minds of every traveler. Nevertheless, Ardabil's characteristics are not all in their natural features. The existence of countless ancient artifacts belonging to past centuries and various historical periods of the province, on the other hand, reveals the tourist attractions of Ardebil.

Ardabil City

The efforts of the Safavid kings to glorify the city of Ardabil

Several factors caused the Safavid kings to make great efforts to magnify the religious status of Ardabil.

The promotion of Shiism.
The need to legitimize the Safavid government.
Faith in the spiritual greatness of Sheikh Safi al-Din, and encouraging people to visit the graves of Imams and elders of Shiism were among the factors that led them in this direction.
Ardabil not only is famous for historical monuments but also is known for its trade in silk and carpets. Ardabil rugs are renowned and the ancient Ardabil Carpets are considered among the best classical Persian carpets. Ardabil's name comes from the Avesta “Artavila" which means a holy town or a holy place. Ardabil is well known for its carpets, honey, roasted sunflower seeds, sweets, felt products, woodwork, and earthenware. Its traditional food is 'Aash e Doogh a sour delicious yogurt soup.

A Journey to the Safavid Capitals

Soha Lake Ardabil

Why Ardabil

Ardabil province is a green and attractive land in the northwest of Iran, which contains incredible natural attractions and unique historical buildings. This is why it can be included in the travel priorities of Iran's ecotourists, Iranologists, and nature lovers.
Here is a list of the best Ardabil attractions that attract all visitors:
Historical: Sheikh Safi Al-Din Mausoleum, Jame mosque, old historical bridges, old traditional houses, and Grand Bazar
Cultural: Nomads tribs, cultural events(Tasooa and Ashoora, Ramadan month).
Natural: Shooraby Lake, Neor Lake, Fandogh loo Forest, tall waterfalls, hot water thermal springs, and exciting suspended bridges.

How to get Ardabil
Regular bus services are available for Ardabil city from Tehran and other cities. The distance between Ardabil and Tehran is 580 km or about 8 hours of driving.

Mount Sabalan Crater Lake

What to see in Ardabil

Mount Sabalan Crater Lake

Mount Sabalan which is part of the Alborz Mountain Range is located in Ardabil Province in northwest of Iran. In terms of popularity, its peak (15,784 ft.) comes third to the Damavand Peak in Iran, and its slopes resemble the less glacial Alps. Mount Sabalan is an inactive volcano with a beautiful crater lake that has turned into a tourist attraction in Ardabil. This unique lake is situated at the peak of the mountain. The Alvares Ski Resort is an interesting attraction and offers great ski runs, hiking tracks, and mountain climbing trails. Apart from this skiing facility, there is a large number of hot springs in the province.

Sheikh Safi Al Din Ardabili Complex.

Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabili Mausoleum

The gem of Ardabil architecture with a collection of the best Iranian architectural elements includes the best and nicest tilework, brickwork, breathtaking diaphoretic, gilded wall painting, inlay and lattice box graves, different decorated halls, and a great precious Chinikhane (Museum of porcelain objects) is recorded in UNESCO. Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabili Mausoleum is the burial site of the famous and great Safavid founder by the name Shaykh Abu'l-Fath Ishaq. His burial site was one of the main places for his followers and pilgrimage.

Safi al-Din Khanegah and Shrine in Ardabil - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Safi al-Din Khanegah and Shrine in Ardabil - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sheikh Safi al-Din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil was built in the early 16th century and late 18th century. It is the burial site of Safi Aldin Ardabili (b. 1252/3), the founder of the Safavieh order of Sufism. The complex is a fine example of medieval Iranian architecture. The shrine was an important pilgrimage site throughout the Safavid period (15011722) and underwent numerous improvements and embellishments to become one of the most beautiful of all Safavid monuments. The site includes a library, a mosque, a school, a mausoleum, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices. In 2010, it was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This monument is situated in the Ali-Ghapu area.
The general plan of this historical monument has been developed, modified, and renovated over many centuries. This complex consists of tombs and shrines grouped around a single rectangular courtyard centered on a fountain. The complex's exterior is irregular and features brick and tiled walls. The main entrance to the sanctuary courtyard is through a small forecourt, located at the end of a long and narrow walled garden established in the 15th century.

The most important parts of this great historical Mausoleum are:

Dar al-Hadith and Masjid-i Jannatsara

It is located on the south side of the main shrine courtyard and belonged to 1537 Safavid Shah Tahmasb I (1524-1576).

Dar Al Heffaz

It is a rectangular prayer hall 8.9 meters by 5.8 meters built after Shaykh Safi's death at the end of the fourteenth century by his son or grandson.

Tomb Tower of Shaykh Safi or Allah, Allah tower

Tomb Tower of Shaykh Safi or Allah, Allah tower

The most highlighted and famous part of  Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabili Mausoleum is a 22-meter cylindrical tomb tower by the name Allah, Allah. It is the burial site of Shaykh Safi a cylindrical tomb tower, with a 22-meter circumference and a total height of 17.5 meters, including its dome, that stands in its place.

Shah Ismail Tomb

The tomb of Shah Ismail is the smallest tomb of this complex and is located between the tomb tower of Shaykh Safi and the Haramkhana.


The oldest element of the complex was built by Shaykh Safi himself, as a tomb for his oldest son, Muhiy al-Din, who died in 1324, during the Shaykh's lifetime. It is the burial site of Shaykh Safi's eldest son, his wife, daughter, and perhaps other relatives.

Chini Khane Museum

Chini Khane Museum

The glorious Chini Khane museum in Sheikh Safi was built in 735 A.H. by his son, Sadr al-Din Mousa.  Chini Khaneh is one of the most beautiful halls constructed during the Safavid dynasty in Ardabil which was designed more than 400 years ago by Sheikh Bahaei. It includes 1256 cases in all of which there are Chinese wares gifted by Chinese emperors to Shah Abbas I on the occasion of reviving the Silk Road as well as those Chinese wares commissioned by the Iran government to be made.

Ardabil Bazaar
Ardabil Bazaar

In the center of Ardabil city, one of the masterpieces of Safavid architects flaunts. This domed ceiling Bazar (16th - 18th century )with a complex of Carevanseray, workshops, schools, mosques, twisted labyrinths, and other public and charity monuments was built during the Safavid Dynasty. Most sections of the bazaar have been constructed and renovated during the Safavid Dynasty and Zand period. During the Safavid dynasty, Ardabil Bazaar was very commercially prosperous and was a center for commercial, social, and political affairs.

Historical bridges

Ardabil city has many historical bridges that generally belong to the Safavid period. The most important historical bridges of Ardabil are:

Ibrahim Abad bridge
This bridge was built on the Balkhlo River in Ardabil and belongs to the Safavid period.

Diamond bridge
It was built on the Balkhlo River in the west of Ardabil city and on the road from Ardabil to Sarab.

Jejin Bridge or Dash Kissen
This bridge was built in the city of Ardabil and on the river Balkhlo. Jejin Bridge has 7 arches

Syedabad Bridge
 It was built on the Balkhlo River in the Pirmadar neighborhood and has 5 brick arches.

Yidi Goz (Seven Springs)
This historical bridge has seven springs with stone foundations and brick transom arches

Samiyan Historical Bridge
Samiyan Bridge is located in Samiyan Village, 15 km far from Ardabil. Based on the existing documents, the lunar date and the construction of this bridge coincide with the era of the Safavids. In the architectural view of the Samiyan Bridge, six springs are being run with the body of the wood of the base of the stone arch. It seems that the bridge has had seven springs. With the passage of time one of the craters has been lost. Samiyan Bridge is 55 meters high 4 meters wide, and 5 meters high on the two sides of the Ghareh Sou River. The bridge called the Red Bridge of Samiyan, is reddened by the redness of its bricks.

Shorabil Lake
Shorabil Lake

Shorabil Lake is located in a hilly area south of Ardabil. The area of the lake is 640,000 m2 and is covered with a thin white layer of minerals that are useful in healing skin diseases and rheumatism. The leisure complex of Shorabil is located near the lake.

Shaikh Jebrail's Shrine

Shaikh Jebrail's Shrine

One of the most attractive and valuable monuments for all Safavid members is Shaikh Jebrail's Shrine. This historical mausoleum is located just 2 km north of Ardabil in Kalkhoran village and belongs to Shaikh Safi-al-Din's father. This 16th-century structure with eye-catching decoration is one of the most famous Safavid monuments in Ardabil.

Sardabeh Waterfall and Hot Spring
The Sardabeh waterfall is located 28km west of Ardabil City. Its height is about 15-20m and its flow volume is relatively small and limited to the outlet of several upstream springs.

Holy Mary Church

This church is located in Armanestan Alley or Ounchoo Meydan in Ardabil and dates back about 300 years. The interior decorations are very interesting and its wooden door is ornamented with intricately carved geometrical designs. The church once included a bathhouse and a schoolhouse but no trace of either structure remains today.

Ardabil Great Mosque
Ardabil Great Mosque

Ardabil Great Mosque, which is also referred to as Masjid Jameh in some resources, is the remaining part of a great complex that has been built during different historical eras. Although, it was a pre-Islamic monument and originally was a worship house that had been used as a fire temple of the Parthian Empire. But after Islamic domination over Iran, this place changed into a mosque, and over the years, many changes were made to it, But the high tide of the construction was related to the Seljuk dynasty.

Shahsavand Nomads - Ardabil province
Shahsavand Nomads - Ardabil province

Ardabil Jome Mosque is composed of three main parts:
1- The dome is built as the main hall and the Seljuk mosque’s base and during that time, the other elements are attached to it.
2- The south Porch is currently placed as a mosque. It is ended at the dome area through a big and high crater.
3- Steeple which is a large brick cylindrical building.

Barandag in Ardebil Province selected as one of the Best Tourism Villages
Barandag in Ardebil Province selected as one of the Best Tourism Villages

Barandaq Village in Khalkhal, in the north-western Province of Ardebil, was selected as one of the Best Tourism Villages by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) at the 24th General Assembly of the UNWTO held in Madrid, Spain from Nov. 30-Dec. Barandaq is one of the largest and most populous villages of the province, located at the intersection of the three provinces of Ardebil, East Azarbaijan, and Zanjan.
Barandaq Village is connected in the north to the pastures and slopes of Aqdagh Mountain, which is a natural heritage property, and in the west to the famous Qezel Ozan River. The climate, fertile soil, sufficient rainfall, as well as the Qezel Ozan River in the region, are factors that have caused the gardens to be highly productive. The villagers are mostly engaged in agriculture, livestock breeding, and gardening. The women of the village produce different hand-woven items including socks, bags, Jajim (a type of handmade textile woven from cotton or wool, which can be used as a rug or as a bedspread), carpets, and vests. They also produce various dairy products including butter, yogurt, and cheese, as well as juices, jams, pastes, and pickles.

Anthropology Museum
The building of the museum was originally a historical bath with the name of Zahir-al-Islam, belonging to the pre-Safavid period, about the second half of the 14th century. Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran changed it to the Museum of Anthropology in 1999. The museum is near the Shaikh Safi Mausoleum.

Ardabil Thermal Springs
One of the most important tourist attractions in Ardabil is the various mineral hot springs.
Ardabil province with a total of 118 mineral springs is one of the most important and famous tourist destinations for medical tourism and recreational tourists.
The hot mineral waters of Ardabil province are scattered in the cities of Sarein, Nir, Khalkhal, Meshgin Shahr, Givi, and Ardabil.
Sarein city is 25 km from Ardabil city, the most important and famous city of Ardabil province, which has many various hot springs.
This city hosts a large number of tourists with a wide collection of different types of hot springs and hydrotherapy centers.