The Fairy Chimneys of Kandovan, Iran

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Last Updated on July 23, 2017 by Audrey Scott

Upon hearing the news of the recent earthquakes near Tabriz in Northwest Iran, my mind went immediately to the time we spent in that region last November. This includes a day trip from Tabriz to the village of Kandovan where people live in fairy chimneys, caves made from volcanic ash deposited thousands of years ago.

Local history tells of inhabitants from nearby villages fleeing to these caves more than 700 years ago during the time of the Mongol invasion. The cone-like structures have remained homes ever since.

The Kandovan fairy chimneys in northwestern Iran.
The village of Kandovan with fairy chimney homes.

During our visit last November, with a dusting of snow just covering the ground, the village was as alive as ever. Children used the caves to play hide and seek, fathers dragged stubborn mules laden with saddlebags in and about them, and mothers hung laundry on lines stretched from one peak to the next. At the base of the hill, vendors sold meters of surprisingly addictive pressed dried pomegranate and apricot sheets to unsuspecting travelers like us.

We hear that Kandovan was not badly affected by the recent earthquake and that life still carries on in the fairy chimneys.

Let's hope.

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

15 thoughts on “The Fairy Chimneys of Kandovan, Iran”

  1. Imagining those kind of structured houses in desert areas like in Pakistan and Iran, I fear what the people inside end up when a devastating earthquake shake then down.

  2. Hi Audrey, yes the tragic aftermath of the recent earthquake in Iran is still unfolding as you know, with the death count going up. Our thoughts go to them. I may disagree with Iran’s official policies but the loss of innocent lives in natural disasters like this is tragic.
    Fantastic panorama image, thanks for the article

  3. I had no clue that Iran had fairy chimneys. Visiting them in Cappadocia, Turkey was an amazing site to see! I’d love to visit Iran but doubt that will happen any time in the near future…

  4. What an exquisite corner of the world, untouched by ‘civilization’. The beauty of the structures, for me, was its ‘hand made’ quality, fashioned out of stone, wood and mud, and exquisite in its imperfections. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. @Jesse: I didn’t realize there were similar structures and homes in Pakistan. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to be inside one of these structures during an earthquake. Fortunately, the volcanic ash is much sturdier than mud bricks, so these fairy chimney homes stand up better to earthquakes than mud homes.

    @Paul: Couldn’t agree with you and the sentiment of your comment more. Unfortunately, the death toll keeps rising each time I check the news. And then comes the incredibly difficult task of rebuilding of homes and the lives of survivors. Just so sad.

    @Tony: Kandovan is very unique, visually as well as culturally. Hope you have a chance to visit northwest Iran or central Turkey (where you can see similar structures) one day.

    @Zain: Yes, the natural structure of the homes is unusual and it’s fascinating to see how people have added on or adapted to it.

    @Michael: We had no idea either! It was our guide from Tabriz who recommended driving out to Kandovan to see it. Although right now might not be the best time to visit this region of Iran, I do hope that you have a chance one day. We also loved the Armenian church near the border that is also in this region.

    @Victoria: Glad you enjoyed this! Yes, the imperfections and irregularities – both human-made and natural – are what make scenes like this so interesting.

  6. Fascinating landscape and definitely not where I’d expect to see laundry hanging on the line! I’m glad the people you might are likely ok after the earthquakes.

  7. @Emily: That’s the odd thing about Kandovan – you kind of feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but then you see laundry hanging and are reminded it’s an inhabited village. All my research has indicated that Kandovan is likely OK, but villages made from mud bricks further north didn’t fare so well. Keeping the whole region in our thoughts.

  8. It saddens me also on what happened in Iran. It is a country that I have been drawn to for quite sometime now. I only hope that the turmoil quietens down so others can experience this country.

  9. @Elle: Iran is a fascinating country; we really enjoyed our experiences there during three weeks last November. We also sincerely hope that the geo-political tensions in the region calm a bit so that others feel more comfortable visiting.

  10. @Sam: Tabriz was one of our favorite regions that we visited in Iran. Yes, the earthquake was mostly in the villages in the northeast of Tabriz. Very sad.


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