The Mesmerizing Wonders of Qeshm: A Closer Look
What you will read in this article:
Erosion by solid winds, seasonal downpours, and surface waters over the years has created a wonderful and unique feature on Qeshm Island that attracts numerous visitors annually. The Valley of the Stars is the only example of this geological phenomenon in Asia. According to research, this valley dates back to the Cenozoic geological era, over two million years old. As part of the Qeshm GeoPark, it has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Valley of the Stars, a natural and stunning formation, is believed by the local inhabitants to have been formed due to stars falling onto the Earth. Hence, locals call it the “fallen star” and tell tales of jinns and wandering spirits present there during the night. The valley is characterized by tall columns of various shapes, which locals believe rose when the stars collided with the Earth and dried in that form, creating these tall and short columns. Due to the positioning and shape of these columns, the wind whistles through them, producing a haunting sound believed by locals to be the voices of jinns and wandering spirits. Consequently, they avoid the Valley of Stars during the night. The Valley of the Stars is located on the southeastern side of Qeshm Island, near the village of Berkeh Khalaf.
The Hara Forests are among the most famous attractions of Qeshm and serve as a safe habitat for tropical birds. The Hara tree is a saltwater plant that submerges up to its neck during high tide. Due to a unique filtration property in its bark, the tree absorbs the freshwater part of the sea and expels the salt. In essence, the Hara tree is a natural, God-given desalination plant. In the Khoran Strait, between Qeshm Island and a part of Hormozgan province (the distance between the north of Qeshm Island and Bandar Khamir), a marine Hara forest covering an area of about 200 square kilometers has emerged with rich biodiversity. Due to the favorable ecological conditions, the Hara forest is a safe habitat for migrating tropical birds such as large herons, Indian herons, sharp-beaked sandpipers, gray curlews, pelicans, parrots, etc. One of the migration routes from southern Iran passes through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, between Qeshm Island and Bu Musa Island. The tidal-protected areas of the Hara serve as lands for resting and feeding migratory fish-eating birds and other migratory bird species.
The Hawksbill sea turtle is one of the two sea turtles that lay their eggs on the coasts of Hormozgan province. The beak of this turtle has evolved to resemble an eagle’s beak, helping it extract its primary food, the sea sponge, from between corals. That’s why it is famously known as the Hawksbill or Short-beaked Turtle. Given that one of the most significant factors leading to animal extinction worldwide is habitat destruction, the General Directorate of Tourism, Cultural Heritage, and Handicrafts of the Qeshm Free Zone declared 25 kilometers of its southern coast as a protected area to preserve the habitat of this species. The presence and nesting of these giant sea turtles on the beaches are among the eco-touristic attractions of Qeshm Island. Shib Deraz village, located 47 kilometers south of Qeshm city, has become a nesting ground for Hawksbill turtles for many years. Although the turtles also travel to the coasts of Hengam, Hendorabi, Bu Musa, and Shidvar islands for nesting, environmentalists’ support in Shib Deraz village has made the town quite renowned. Despite the warm weather during the Hawksbill turtle’s nesting season, which lasts from the second half of February to the end of May, these turtles attract many domestic and foreign tourists.
The Naz Islands consist of two small rocky islands on the southern coast of Qeshm Island, 22 kilometers from Qeshm city. One can walk or drive up to a kilometer inside the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, leveraging this unique condition as one of Qeshm’s primary tourist attractions. The locals refer to the Naz Islands as “Do Jazireh Do Kurdeh.” These islands, covering about three hectares, are entirely flat, lacking sandy shores, and are surrounded by rocky walls rising five to ten meters. At low tide and when the seawater recedes, these islands connect to the Qeshm coast through a land bridge. This event is brief, yet during this time, visitors to the Naz Islands can observe the Strait of Hormuz, Larak Island, and the beautiful expanse of the Persian Gulf from atop the islands. Walking or driving across the sea feels like a dream come true in Qeshm Island every day. The serenity and beauty of the Naz Islands, along with the presence of various shells and corals in different patterns and colors surrounding these islands, enhance the unique beauty of this tourist spot in Qeshm. Activities like walking in the seawater, off-roading, horse and camel rentals, air sports such as paragliding, kiteboarding, paramotoring, parachuting, and windsurfing, as well as water sports like jet skiing, boating, and diving, are among the exciting attractions of the Naz Islands.
The Chahkooh Strait is an astonishing phenomenon resulting from the erosion of the Earth’s sedimentary rocks and is considered one of the wonders of Qeshm Island. The canyon or Chahkooh Strait is located 100 meters deep northwest of the island, in the eastern Chahoo village in the Shahab district of Qeshm County. This strait is part of the Qeshm Global Geopark and is one of its 26 sites. Numerous cavities in the rocks of this canyon cause water to accumulate in them during rainfall. The significance of water for the locals and its scarcity has led to the utilization of these cavities and the construction of a narrow channel along the main canyon and perpendicular valleys to transfer water. Therefore, this amazing place has acquired the name Chahkooh and holds a special reverence for the local people. The Chahkooh Valley is situated within a continuous rocky mountain sliced vertically. Initially, Chahkooh appears wide with tall walls but gradually narrows to a point where it becomes challenging to traverse, although the height of the walls remains considerable. The designs and shapes engraved on the beautiful walls of this strait captivate any observer, imaginative forms that resemble precious artistic works created by a skilled artist. To visit the Chahkooh Strait, you should consider the climate of Qeshm Island. Since the region has hot weather during the warm seasons, it is recommended to stay in the autumn, winter, or early spring.
The dolphins between Qeshm Island and Hengam Island attract tourists yearly. Watching these magnificent creatures and their thrilling play alongside visitors’ boats excites tourists. The dolphins of Hengam Island are of the bottlenose species. While you might have seen dolphins in water parks, observing them in a natural and vast aquarium like the Persian Gulf offers a unique experience. One of the attractions of watching dolphins is photographing them, which is incomparable to capturing a natural landscape. A wild scene waits for you to photograph it, but with dolphins, it’s different. In an instant, you must pivot 180 degrees and quickly focus to capture a good shot. To know the best time to visit Hengam Island, be aware that no one can specify an exact time. There’s a general rule: when the weather is excellent, and the sea is calm and smooth, you have a better chance of seeing dolphins.
Namakdan Mountain, a cone-shaped mountain, is another attraction of Qeshm Island, with a height of about 340 meters. At its base, there are caves adorned with salt crystal chandeliers and crystalline walls. Locally, this cave is also known as Namakdoon Cave or Kani Cave due to its proximity to Kani village in the Namakdan site area. The cave was discovered in 1998 by geologists from the Czech Republic in collaboration with Shiraz University. As one of the sites of Qeshm Geopark, it has been a member of the UNESCO-protected Global Geoparks Network since 2006.
The large and impressive stalactites and stalagmites of this cave result from nature’s years-long activity. Studies by geologists from Shiraz University and the Czech Republic revealed that this cave, with a length of 6,400 meters, is the longest salt cave in the world. Due to the inaccessibility of some parts of the cave and its remaining unexplored, its final length is yet to be determined and is expected to be even longer.
Recent research on the interior of Namakdan has shown its exceptional capability; breathing and staying inside the Namakdan Cave can help improve patients with asthma and respiratory ailments. The salt spring flowing from the caves of this region has a concentration of about 99%, which, over time, has created stunning basins made of salt crystals on the rugged slopes of Namakdan Mountain. In addition, the cave ceilings are covered with crystalline and marbled chandeliers in various shapes, creating a stunning scenery.
The salts of Namakdan Mountain are recognized as the best table salts, containing elements like magnesium. Therefore, it can be used as medicinal salt, especially for professional athletes, in capsule form.