Iran is one of the most mountainous countries of the world, the high mountain ranges rim the high central basins, and there for the mountains have always influenced life in the Iranian plateau, from the development of primitive cultures to highway routes in the current day Iran. Knowing the overall mountain structure of the country will help you comprehend the country easier and not miss out on attractions that you might be interested in.
The average elevation from sea level in the Iranian Plateau is above 1000m. The Zagros on the west and Alborz on the north of the country are the most massive mountain ranges. Most of the important cities of Iran are built on these two mountain range skirts, due to the mild weather in comparison to the arid climate of the central basins. These two high rising stripes have in fact caused the arid climate of central Iran, seizing the entrance of any moisture from either sides.
Mountainous regions of Iran can be divided into 6 main areas:
Alborz mountain range
This mountain range which includes the highest areas of Iran alongside deep ravines, creates a giant wall of 600 km separating the dry central Iran from the northern Caspian Sea. The sleeping volcano Damavand, the highest mountain of Iran is almost in the center of Alborz, where this mountain range has the most width, towards the west and east the height and width of Alborz decreases. Functioning as a wall between the Caspian Sea and Dry Iranian plateau Alborz has created two diverse climates on its northern and southern strips. Only 50km away from the coast of The Caspian sea we are already climbing Alborz on 2000 m height, which is covered with rain forests while the southern edges vegetation is scarce. Central Alborz is so dense with high rising mountains that only 2-3 narrow roads connect Tehran to the northern littoral.
Attraction of the Alborz Mountains:
- Winter sports. Iran’s most important ski resorts are 40km north of Tehran on the southern skirts of Alborz: Shemshak, Darbandsar, Tochal, Dizin, Abali.
- Mountain climbing. Alborz includes of more than 100 mountains higher than 4000 m so it is mostly opted as a climbing destination, especially due to its vicinity to the capital. The Damavand Mountain is topped by a frozen lake of 400m diameter and has several hot springs of 70-80 °C on its southeastern skirts.
- Eco tours. The pleasant weather in warmer months and various jungles, valleys, lakes, waterfalls and vegetation increases the attractiveness of this mountain range. The northern skirts of Alborz are the number one domestic destination.
- Fauna and flora tours. The preserved natural parks such as Golestan, Jahannama, Darband and gachsar are popular for enthusiast.
- Caves. Many caves which are beautiful and also cradles of civilization such as Kamarband, Hatu, Durafshan and Bornik are among Alborz attractions.
Zagros Mountain range:
Starting from the North West of Iran, Zagros covers an area of 1800 km long with a width of 250 km long toward the southeast of Iran. Erosion in this sedimentary mountain range due to rainfall has created narrow and deep valleys in Zagros. Vast impassable regions are characteristics of the northwest and central Zagros. Most of The gorges that are river basins are very twisty, the spacious valleys have turned to villages and cities.
The central sections of Zagros are the highest, many peaks exceed over 3000 m which are covered yearlong in snow. The skirts of central Zagros are vastly covered with oat and walnut trees. Iran’s biggest Nomads; Lor, Kurd and Bakhtiari tribes are inhabitants of the Zagros Mountains on the west stripes. These stripes are also the oil rich regions of Iran. The eastern ends of Zagros have vast fertile valleys which has become urban areas. The western skirts of Zagros have more rainfall than the eastern sides creating greener western stripes.
The highest region is called the Bakhtiari Mountains, between Lorestan and Shiraz valley, which also holds the highest peaks in the Zagros mountain range, Zard Kuh with 4571 m height. The Dena or Dinar Mountain with 4432 m is a well-known mountain in Iran. Eastern Mountain with 4326m in the Lorestan district and Alvand mount with 3746m in Hamedan are the highest mountains in Zagros.
Attractions of Zagros Mountain range
- Mountain climbing: especially the year round snow-capped mountains
- Eco touring the rich valleys and many waterfalls also natural parks with rare flora and fauna.
- Bird watching especially by the lakes and lagoons which are the natural habitat for migrating birds, Such as Gandoman and Chogha Turn lagoon in Chaharmahal o Bakhtiari province.
- Limestone caves: magnificent caves such as Alisadr, Katale khor cave are famous attractions. Caves such as Humiyan and Arjane which have remains of cavemen are Zagros heritages.
- Salt Domes and Salt fridges that are only found in Iran and Oman have created unique sceneries in the south of Fars toward the Persian Gulf.
- Hot water springs: Volcanic activities and faults throughout Zagros have created many hot water springs.
Azerbaijan Mountain range and attractions
This range being the youngest of Iranian mountains is renowned for its hot springs.
- Mountain climbing: Sabalan with 4820 m above sea level is the tallest in the region and popular for climbing, also Sahand with about 4000 m.
- Hot springs: This attraction brings in over 1 million people for medical and recreational purposes.
- Vernacular architecture: The volcanic activities have created unique landscapes which locals have intertwined in to their urban development, creating world heritage site Kandovan, also Hilevar
- Salt domes: Close to Tabriz, Miyane, Khui and Ahar the significant salt domes can be seen.
- Caves: The famous caves of Sahulan also Kabutar have beautiful Stalagmite and stalactite.
- Historic sites: Takhte Soleyman world heritage site close to Takab city, also bas-relief and inscriptions from centuries ago, plus remains of castles and fortresses such as Babak and Zahak, tell the long and adventurous history of Iran can all be found in these mountains.
- Fossils: Maraghe city and the southern region of Tabriz are rich areas for fossils due to Sahand volcanic activities. The first valuable fossils were found there in 1840.
- Scenery: Volcanic activities and sedimentation has created beautiful sites in the region, such as the northern valleys of Sabalan. The many lakes, waterfalls also create beautiful scenery for nature lovers.
Eastern Mountains and Attractions
These mountains are scattered parallel to the eastern border with different characteristics to Alborz and Zagros. These mountains are mostly volcanic rock with barely any vegetation with sharp steep skirts, creating sceneries not found in Alborz or Zagros mountain ranges. The highest point is The Taftan Mountain with 4050m.
- Taftan Mountain: This high rising volcanic mountain has many fumaroles on the steep southern edges. On the height of the mountain a white cloud of an active volcano can be seen.
- Bazman volcanic mountain: which is known as the youngest volcano of Iran and is known as an semi-active volcano with hot water springs on the skirts.
Central Mountains and Attractions
- Experience summer and winter in half a day. High rising mountains adjacent to the flat central plateau brings together diverse climates within an distance of less than 200 km. While Lut desert reaches up to 72°C the mountains aside the dessert have snow covered peaks, such dramatic shift is very rare in the world.
- The first civilizations on Iranian plateau were created among these mountains in the Jiroft valley.
- Shir Mountain with 4025 m, is the highest Mountain among Iran’s central mountains.
Khorasan Mountains and attractions
This region is popular among geologist because of the ongoing geological activities. The highest mountain is Binalud with 3530m. The nomad life of Turk and Kurd tribes is another attraction of the region.