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Geography and History

Ardabil is a historical city in north-western Iran. The name Ardabil comes from the Zoroastrian name of “Artawila”, which means a holy place.Ardabil province has an area of 17,800 square kilometers located in northeast of Iran and to the west of the Caspian Sea. The historical and rather religious city of Ardabil is it’s capital. The most important cities in this province are Khalkhall, Meshkin Shahr, Germi, Bilehsavar and Pars Abad. In 2006, the population of Ardabil province was estimated to be 1.23 million among which 58.5% were settled in urban areas and 41.5% in rural areas, out of which a small part were registered as nomad tribes. Ardabil province has a common border of 285.5 km. with the Republic of Azarbayjan with two custom houses of Aslandooz and Bilehsavar in Moqan. The Aras and Balha Rivers occupy about 159 km. of this common border. The Nearest access of the province to central Iran is the Ardabil – Astara Road. One of the highest mountains of Iran named Sabalan is located in the Ardabil province. The summit of Sabalan, placed in northwest of the province, is 4,811 m. high.


Most of the Ardabil province is mountainous with an average altitude of 3,000 m. above sea level. The province enjoys geographical and environmental diversity. As a result of which the climate is very cold in winter and mild in summers. Indeed, the city of Ardabil is usually recorded as one of the coldest cities of the country in winters.

History and Culture

The history of this province is intertwined with the history of Azarbayjan in general. Some historians estimate the antiquity of Ardabil town back to the 5th century AD, that is the Firuz Sassanide era. In other words, this city is as old as 1500 years. But even earlier, Ardabil was a very important city from the military and political point of view during the Achaemenian period. It was a military base on the northern border of the Persian Empire. As it has been mentioned in the holy book Avesta, Zoroaster, the Iranian Prophet, was born by the river “Daei Yeta” which is now called “Aras” and wrote his holy book in the Sabalan Mountains and came to Ardabil for propagation of his religion.  In the time of the Arab invasion to Iran (about 1400 years ago), Ardabil was the largest city in Azarbayjan.Up to the time of the Mongol attack, it was the center of government in Azarbayjan. Shah Esmail started his effort for a national government and land integrity of Iran from Ardabil and consequently he announced Tabriz as the capital city of Iran in 906 AH. In the Safavid period, Ardabil was the most important city of Iran both politically and economically. The city of Ardabil located on the trade crossroads between Europe and the East, played a critical role in the safety of the Silk Road. The province is still strategically important with respect to tourism and trade. The city of Ardabil now is one of the most important cities of the province and Iran for its many historical monuments, specially the Safavid family’s mausoleums and tombs, its location near many thermal springs with therapeutic virtues, and location on the main access road to the Republic of Azarbayjan. These have turned the city to a tourism center, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Ardabil Province Townships

Ardabil , Bilehsavar ,  Germi ,  Khalkhall , Meshkin Shahr , Pars Abad.


The city of Ardabil, as the capital of the province, is located at a distance of 639 kilometers from Tehran, west to the volcanic mountain of Sabalan. The weather of the province varies between extreme cold on the mountainous areas, to moderate on the plains. The name of Ardabil came from a Zoroastrian name of “Artavil” (mentioned in Avesta) which means a holy place. Some historians attribute the foundation of Ardabil to “Bazan Firuz”. Archaeologists have recently found some historical vestiges in Nameen, a nearby town, which belong to the 12th-16th centuries BC. Some Orartoie inscriptions belonging to the 7th-9th centuries BC. were found in Arasbaran which reveals that civilized people lived in the region.


This township forms a vast area of the province. In local language “Bileh” means “a land between two rivers” as it is situated between two rivers of Belha and Bigloo. The city is located in a level plain enjoying a hot climate in summer and a pleasant and moderate weather in winter.


Germi township is located between two low mountain ranges enjoying a warm climate in summers but pleasant and moderate weather in winter. The discovered vestiges indicate that the city is very old and its antiquity dates back to the Parthian period.


The city of Khalkhall is located in a mountainous region south of the province, 549 kilometers from Tehran. The climate of the city is very cold in the eastern parts and moderate in the north and south. The Tallesh Mountain Ranges extends from eastern Khalkhall southward as a barrier between the Caspian Sea and Gilan and Azarbayjan provinces causing less annual precipitation in western parts, compared to that of eastern side, with poor vegetation. There are rich pastures, resort areas, eye-catching landscapes and natural promenades around the city.

Meshkin Shahr

The city of Meshkin Shahr is located in the northwestern Iran, at the center of the province, and 839 kilometers far from Tehran. Being near the high Sabalan Mountains it enjoys a moderate mountainous climate. Formerly, it was known as “Khiav”. The Sabalan summit can be seen in the south of the city with an eye catching scenery. The antiquity of the city dates back to the early centuries of Islam but in the Safavid age it was thriving even more.

Pars Abad

There is a vast plain located between Aras River (south) and the northern parts of the mountain chain of Talesh that is called Moqan. This plain expands from the outskirts of Mount Sabalan to the Caspian Sea. Today, this area is one of the industrial and agricultural centers of the province enjoying a warm climate in summer and moderate weather in winter.

Historical Monuments

Ardabil Bazaar, Ardabil

In the heart of the Ardabil city, this bazaar stands as old as the Islamic period. It’s shape was described by the historians of 4th century AH. as a cross, extending in four directions with simply designed domes. Most sections of the bazaar have been constructed and renovated during the Safavid and Zand periods.




Kohneh Castle, Meshkin Shahr

On the eastern slope of the Baq Nowruz Valley in Meshkin Shahr, there is a castle by the river and there is an inscription with Pahlavi script belonging to the Sassanian period. It’s probable that this castle has been built replacing the ancient Sassanian castle as mentioned in an inscription.




Aqcheh Castle, Meshkin Shahr

It is located in a rocky mountain near Chatin Valley and Qara-Qyeh Village. Ceramic and earthenware objects found from this site belong to the 1st millennium BC.

Ultan Castle, Pars Abad

This castle is located 500 m. from the Ultan Village in Pars Abad. Its antiquity dates back to the Parthian period and due to its firm structure it was used until 12th century AH.

Other Castles, Ardabil

Other historical castles are Heer in the south of Ardabil, Qiz in Germi , Deeve in Meshkin Shahr and Khani Castle in Meshkin Shahr. Khani Castle shown in the picture below:



Amin-edin Jebrail Tomb, Ardabil 

Located in the Kalkhoran Village in Ardabil, this mausoleum belongs to the ancestor of the Safavid Dynasty the father of Sheikh Safi-edin Essaq. The original mausoleum dates back to about 500 years ago. The simplicity of decorative and artistic work on the walls and the ceilings are very soothing for the visitors. The wooden door at the main entrance has artistic carvings that are quite valuable. This mosque was last renovated about 400 years ago.




Sheikh Heydar Tomb, Meshkin Shahr

This mausoleum is an 18 m. cylindrical structure belonging to the late 7th or 9th century AH. The portal and façade of the building are delicately decorated with tile-work, brick-work, inscriptions with the sacred names etc.




Sheikh Safi-edin Ardabily Mausoleum, Ardabil

It is composed of a series of monuments built in various periods that was shaped as a complex for the first time by Shah Tahmasb. Later Shah Abbas added to the previous ones and renovated some sections. This historical complex is closely intertwined with the history of the Safavid Dynasty. Some of the Safavid kings as well as Shah Esmail I have been buried at this site. The main section of the mausoleum is composed of a circular tower with circumference of 22 m. which is about 17 meters high. In the interior of this monument, near Sheikh Safi’s tomb, the tomb of his son (the founder of mausoleum) and those of other family members can be found. At the time of Naseredin Shah Qajar, i.e., about 115 years ago, major renovations took place and some changes were made to the complex. This site has been a major attraction for domestic and international tourists.Main sections of the complex are the followings: the gate, the large court, the small court, the graveyard court, Shahidgah (martyrdom place), Janat Sara Mosque and Cheleh Khaneh which encircles Qandil Khaneh, Haramkhaneh and Chini Khaneh. The Allah Allah Dome is very famous and probably the most spectacular part of the complex.




Religious Monuments

Ardabil A’zam Mosque, Ardabil

It is a rather modernly designed mosque and is an imitation of Sheikh Safi’s “Allah Allah” Dome. It is decorated by bricks and turquoise tiles. The origin of this mosque goes back to the Qajar period but it has been renovated and reconstructed recently.

Ardabil Jame’ (Jomeh) Mosque, Ardabil

This is a remain from the Saljuqian period. In the walls of the minarets there are two inscriptions belonging to about 700 years ago. These have been transferred to a museum. Ceramic and other objects discovered at this site belong to about 600 years ago (Saljuqian period). The rest of the inscriptions which are not in a good conditions date back to the 3rd or 4th centuries.




Holy Mariyam Church, Ardabil

This building is located in the Armanestan Alley or Ounchoo Meydan in Ardabil and dates back to about 300 years ago. The interior decorations are very interesting and its wooden door is ornamented with intricately carved geometrical designs.




Natural Attractions

Sabalan Mountains, Ardabil

One of the most interesting mountains of Iran, with an altitude of about 4,800 m., is Sabalan which is originally a volcanic mountain. The summit is located 41 km. from Ardabil and can be easily observed while traveling on the road to Sar Ein and Ardabil. There is a lake on top of the Sabalan Mountain, which is a major attraction for professional hikers.




Neor Lake, Ardabil

This lake is located 48 km. southeast of the city of Ardabil, in an altitude of 2,700 m. above sea level. With an area of more than 220 hectares, it is composed of a smaller and a larger basin, which gets connected in rainy seasons forming a single lake. The Maximum depth of this lake reaches 5.5 m. with the average of 3 m. depth. The Neor Lake is the habitat of rainbow trout and birds such as ruddy shelduck and migrant swallows. Sports, fishing and other recreational activities are common and popular at this site.




Shoorabil Lake, Ardabil

With an area of 120 hectares, this salt-water lake is located south of the Ardabil city and constitutes an important recreational site for the inhabitants of Ardabil with several facilities.




Culture and Art

Handicrafts and Souvenirs, Ardabil

Ardabil province is well known for its carpets as well as sweets such as Halva. The souvenirs of the province are: wickerwork, wool hand-woven cloth, coarse rug, felt carpet, different metal and wooden works, inlaid, silver objects, earthenware, local shoes, and other handicrafts.




Local Music and Dances, Ardabil

This province is very famous for it’s “Ashiks”, who are musicians playing traditional instruments (Saz or tar, etc.) and singing love songs that express both sadness and joy. These artists mostly appear in wedding ceremonies and get together and that is how they earn their livelihood.


The Governmental universities in Ardabil province

Ardabil University of Medical Sciences, Mohaghegh Ardabili University,  Payam Noor University of Ardabil, Soureh University of Ardabil.

The Islamic Azad universities in Ardabil province

Islamic Azad University of Ardabil, Islamic Azad University of Khalkhal.

Sheikh Safi Aggregate Museum, Ardabil

China objects are located in the Chini-Khaneh (or China House), a room originally designed to preserve the Chinaware or porcelain which was dedicated to Shah Abbas by one of the Chinese Emperors to recognize his efforts in making the Silk-Road a safe place. Most of the Chinaware taken by the Russians after the Turkaman-Chay Treaty and now are located in museums of St. Petersburg. However, the monument itself is certainly worth visiting. This museum was inagurated in 1991.