Iran's Secret Villages: A Journey Through Time and Tradition

Renowned for its rich history and diverse landscapes, Iran is home to some of the world's most enigmatic villages. These villages, each brimming with unique traditions, surprising architectures, and tales that seem to spring from the pages of a fairy tale, offer travelers a window into the lesser-known facets of Iranian culture. From villages with astonishing twin birth rates to settlements carved into rocky outcrops, join us on a journey through the mysterious rural corners of Iran that continue to captivate the hearts and imaginations of those fortunate enough to uncover their
What is unique about Makhunik Village?

Makhunik Village in the province of South Khorasan is famed for its remarkably small houses and the historically short stature of its inhabitants, earning it the nickname of the “Lilliput Village.” The architecture and lifestyle have adapted to the harsh desert environment, making it a fascinating study in human resilience and adaptation.

Meymand Village of Kerman is one of Iran’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements, with some homes carved into the rock formations dating back 12,000 years. The village is a living example of human adaptation to exceptionally harsh climates through the use of man-made cave dwellings.

Kandovan Village is not just a village but a geological marvel. Located in East Azerbaijan, its homes are built into volcanic rocks that resemble a giant termite colony. This architectural anomaly is not only visually striking but also provides natural insulation against the harsh winter temperatures.

Ab Ask Village, located in Mazandaran Province, is known for its unique and mysterious traditions, including unusual wedding and funeral customs deeply rooted in the village’s history and culture, reflecting ancient beliefs and practices rarely found elsewhere.

 While some villages like Kandovan and Meymand are relatively accessible with guided tours available, others like Makhunik and Ab Ask might require more effort to reach due to their remote locations. Visitors are encouraged to arrange for local guides to enhance their experience and understanding of these unique cultures.

Visiting these villages offers a unique glimpse into the diverse cultural tapestry of Iran. Travelers can explore ancient architectural styles, engage with local traditions and customs, and enjoy breathtaking landscapes that are markedly different from the urban centers of Iran.

Frequently Asked Questions: Iran's Mysterious Villages

What you will read in this article:

Makhunik Village

Makhunik is one of Iran’s most astonishing and picturesque villages, located in South Khorasan. Tourists often refer to it as the “City of Lilliputians.” The residents of Makhunik are Afghans who have lived in this region for several centuries. Among the attractions that make this village one of the most wondrous in Iran are its unique architectural design of the houses and the customs and traditions of its inhabitants.

Interestingly, in the past, Makhunik, one of the most secluded and mysterious villages in Iran, had no way to access the outside world. Recently, a portion of a mountain was excavated to construct a road, facilitating ingress and egress from the village.

Derkash Village

Derkesh Village is nestled in North Khorasan and is enveloped by mountains and lush forests. The majority of its inhabitants are devoted to farming and gardening. Some of the village’s primary agricultural produce includes corn, barley, wheat, apples, grapes, and peaches.

Derkesh is celebrated as one of Iran’s most scenic villages, notably for its distinct flora. The village’s plant life is notably diverse, with many regard it as Iran’s grandest natural apothecary. The vegetation of Derkesh comprises 380 types of medicinal herbs, out of which 79 are classified as rare.

Regarding tourist attractions, Derkesh, one of Iran’s lesser-known villages, has much to offer. Sites worth visiting include the historic tower of Sabzali Khan Qarachorlu, Qizl Qaleh fortress, Sardabe underground aquifer, Zuhar River, Sardar Spring, Golzar flower field, and the Kandizou valley.

Chahar Borj Village

Chahar Borj is a village in the Esfarayen district of North Khorasan province. It gained notoriety due to the birth of blind infants. The cause of blindness in newborns has been attributed to prevalent intra-family marriages in the village and a genetic condition that affects some of its residents. A few years ago, there were over 100 blind individuals in Chahar Borj. However, thanks to preventive measures, currently only 31 residents are blind. Fortunately, for about the past ten years, no blind infants have been born in Chahar Borj.

Estaa Village

Estaa Village, located in the Taleghan region in Alborz province, is among Iran’s most mysterious and unusual villages, known for breeding the country’s most expensive horses. One aspect that makes Estaa one of Iran’s most unique villages is its distinct customs and traditions. For instance, the villagers do not celebrate weddings or birthdays or hold mourning ceremonies. Another peculiar feature is the prohibition on the entry of women.

Residents of this village do not possess identification cards, which means they are not officially counted in the country’s population statistics. The town lacks piped water, electricity, and gas, and there isn’t even a clinic for treating the ill. The primary reason for the absence of modern technology and amenities in Estaa is the deeply rooted belief in Ayatollah Tabrizi, who, until his last breath, issued fatwas (religious decrees) against using modern tools and new technologies.
A Technologically Deprived Village in Iran

In Estaa Village, the Islamic prayer times and the start and end of lunar months differ from the regular practice, with the residents adhering to what they deem appropriate. The village children do not attend schools in neighboring villages or Taleghan; instead, they are educated in traditional, old-fashioned religious schools. To date, no one has seen the wives or daughters of the town.

Sarakhiyeh Village

Sarakhiyeh Village is situated amidst the Shadegan wetlands in Khuzestan province. Its uniqueness, leading some to call it one of the most unusual villages in Iran, lies in the fact that villagers use boats or ‘Balam’ for commuting. Due to its reliance on boats for transportation, Sarakhiyeh is often called the “Venice of Iran.”

Owing to the wetlands, the region serves as an ideal migratory path for birds such as pelicans, wild ducks, and storks. Around the wetland area, one can also spot large herds of water buffaloes. One of the tourist attractions in this village is the presence of waterside pavilions constructed for visitors.

Hilevar Village

Hilevar village is located two kilometers from the Kandovan village in Esko city, nestled at the foothills of Sahand Mountain. Many village homes are uninhabited, and some believe that during the Mongol invasion, many villagers fled, seeking refuge in the Kandovan village. One of the main reasons this village is named Hilevar (meaning ‘Deception’) is due to its unique architectural style. The homes are concealed due to cavities within the mountain and are essentially camouflaged. With this distinctive architecture, enemies couldn’t spot the houses from a distance, allowing the villagers to deceive them strategically.

The locals have hand-carved these homes at the mountain’s base, deep within the earth. This architectural style ensures that the homes remain calm during the summer and warm in the winter. Regrettably, some homes have been buried due to snow and rain, leading to mudslides.

Meymand Village of Kerman

The historical village of Meymand in Kerman, located 38 kilometers from the city of Babak, is one of the most astonishing villages in Iran. Its allure is the unique architecture of its homes, carved into rocks. The history of Meymand village dates back 2 to 3 thousand years ago, and some of the historical artifacts discovered in this region pertain to the Parthian and Sassanian periods.

One of the Most Beautiful Villages in Iran

Instead of using stone and brick to build the houses of Meymand, the homes have been shaped using tools directly into the mountainside. Meymand village has also been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The name “Meymand” is derived from two words: “Mey,” meaning “wine,” and “Mand,” meaning “intoxication.” Some believe that the men of the village drank wine and, while intoxicated, carved homes into the mountains. However, others believe that the word “Meymand” comes from the word “Meymant,” meaning “blessing.”

Architecture of Meymand Village

The village houses, carved into the mountains and rocks, are typically stacked on top of each other, in some cases reaching up to five stories. The locals refer to the houses as “Kiche.” Currently, Meymand has 406 Kiches, with a total of 2,560 rooms. The structure of the Kiches is made entirely of stone, acting as an insulator. This natural insulation ensures that the temperature inside the Kiches remains relatively constant throughout the day. Moreover, the houses are so robust that they resist natural disasters like fires, wind, and storms.

Zargar, the European-settled Village of Iran

Zargar is another unique village in Iran that has made our list. This village is famous as the “European Village of Iran” because its residents speak Romani. The Romani language is a European language, which the local people of this village refer to as the “Zargari” language.

According to some historical researchers, the inhabitants of this village were captured from the country of Romania during the war between Iran and Rome. Due to their robust physique, Shah Abbas granted them mercy and allowed them to settle in this village. However, this narrative’s accuracy is unclear and remains a preserved tale from the past.

This village is located in the east of Qazvin and is considered one of the most intriguing villages in Iran.

Shahrabad Village

Shahrabad is a village in Behman-Shahr of Abarkooh, famously known as the land of twins. Interestingly, this small village has only 240 people, out of which 40 are twins.

If you visit this village, you will see identical twin children, which is astonishing. While this can be intriguing and amazing, it has made the job challenging for teachers.

Kandovan Village

Kandovan is one of the most fascinating rocky villages in Iran and globally, a prominent attraction in East Azerbaijan province. Nestled amidst the candy-shaped rocks, it’s also known as the “Candy Village”. This historical summer village sits at the foothills of the Sahand volcanic mountain alongside the Kandovan River. The mountainous nature of the region has led to the formation of streams on sloped areas that move towards the valley, forming the primary tributaries of this river. Surrounding the village are beautiful green pastures that attract many nomads. The valley’s eastern side has mountainous almonds, walnuts, narvon, and wild pistachio trees.

A standout feature of Kandovan is its rocky architecture and unique village homes carved out of the famous candy-shaped rocks known as “Karan.”

This unique architecture has its roots in the candy-shaped rocks formed due to the volcanic activities of the Sahand mountains. Over thousands of years, the molten volcanic masses have been sculpted by wind, snow, and rain into the “Karan” shape. This awe-inspiring landscape has emerged in one of the most pleasant climates in Iran.

Kandovan village was registered as a national heritage site in April 1997. Another feature that sets this village apart from other famous rocky villages worldwide, such as “Göreme” in Turkey and the “Dakota” in the USA, is its vibrant life. While those villages are abandoned and uninhabited, the people of Kandovan continue to live as they have in the past, inside the stone homes carved within the rocks. Therefore, Kandovan stands as a living example of rock architecture that’s still inhabited, making it a unique spectacle in the world.

Ab Ask Village with the Strangest Traditions

If you have traveled to Amol County, you have undoubtedly heard of this village from its locals. Ab Ask is one of the strangest villages in Iran, with incredible and unusual traditions. One of these traditions is called “Zan Shahi” (The Queen’s Day).

The “Zan Shahi” tradition in Ab Ask village goes as follows: On a specific day of the year, a woman is recognized as the town’s queen. Female guards are placed throughout the city, reporting back to the queen.

Today, not even a single man should be present in the village, allowing women to engage in local games.

Another exciting tradition in this village is called “Barf Chal” (Snow Digging). In this tradition, men must dig the last snow of the year in the mountains to provide water for their livestock and poultry during the summer.

Kalantar Farm Village: A Zoroastrian Settlement

Kalantar Farm is a scenic village situated within the central district of Meybod County in Yazd Province. Located 16 kilometers from Meybod and 70 kilometers from Yazd, the provincial capital, this village has a unique charm. Its residents predominantly adhere to the Zoroastrian faith and converse in the Behdinani dialect. Archaeological findings indicate that Kalantar Farm dates back to the Safavid era. The village’s architecture showcases a distinct design: houses built of brick and mud, constructed on sloped terrains, feature extended corridors. Interconnected windcatchers stand tall atop the homes, appearing inseparable when viewed from a distance. This combination of mud-brick houses with towering windcatchers presents a uniquely captivating vista. The village’s agricultural water needs are met through qanats, and its main spring flows from the village’s highest point down to its fire temple. The predominant crops grown here are mulberry trees, pistachios, and pomegranates, which, scattered amidst the homes and surrounding fields, enhance the village’s beauty. The locals also wear traditional attire: men don attire that includes a headband, undershirt, over-shirt, trousers, and hat, while women wear a Lachak (a type of hat), an undershirt called Sedreh, an over-shirt, a scarf called Makani, trousers, and shoes.

The devout residents of Kalantar Farm Village visit the village’s sole fire temple for worship. Nearby, a shrine lets them pray privately to Ahura Mazda and conduct religious ceremonies. Beyond religious observances, the town also upholds traditions and customs, including celebrating festivals. This encompasses firework displays on the eve of the last Wednesday before the Iranian New Year (Chaharshanbe Suri), welcoming Nowruz (Persian New Year), and setting up the Haft-Seen spread, a tradition shared with other Iranians.