TABRIZ TRAVEL GUIDE

Understand

Tabriz, in the northwest, lies in a valley surrounded by hills on three sides. The city is believed to have been first settled in 300 A.D. Earthquakes have destroyed Tabriz many times, including twice in the 1700s when more than 80,000 people were killed; yet some beautiful ancient buildings remain. The Arg-e Tabriz, or Ark, is a large brick fortress built in the early 1300s. Masjed-e Kabud, or “The Blue Mosque,” was built between 1465 and 1466. Intricate blue tilework adorns the building, and 55-foot (17-meter) columns are inscribed with the names of Shia holy leaders in a decorative handwriting called calligraphy.

Get around

City transport, awaiting the Metro currently under construction (and still for a long time) is limited to taxis, shared taxis and buses.

Taxis can be chartered for a modest fee (around 20 USD if you need a driver and car for the whole day to visit the region!)

Shared taxis are even more of a bargain, but you will need to speak a few words of Persian and risk your life by stepping on the side of the road and scream your destination at passing-by Paykans. However, the experience of sharing a car with 4 locals of both genders and all ages (+ driver) can be fun! Odds are the fare won't be more than 10 cents (1.000 Rials) for a 10-minutes trip. Some drivers even refuse to be paid, the pleasure of chatting with a foreigner about the various plagues of Iran being apparently enough to make their day. (be careful of tarof, though)

Buses are difficult to take (no map, no schedule) and definitely not worth the experience when compared to shared taxis despite being quasi-free.

See

With a very rich history, Tabriz used to house many historical monuments. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed in repeated invasions and attacks of foreign forces, negligence of the ruling governments, as well natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. What remains now mostly dates back to the Ilkhanids, the Safavids, and the Qajars. Some of the monuments are unrivaled masterpieces of architecture. The Shahrdari Square is the center of the town, on the south-west of which stands the imposing edifice of Municipality. The railway station (5 km from the center of the town) is at the western edge of the town. The Quri Chai river runs through Tabriz, and most places of interest to the visitor are to the south of this river and alone or north of Imam Khomeini Avenue.

  • El Goli (formerly Shah Goli) A superb park around a square artificial pond. In the center, a small hall is on an island and hosts a restaurant. Very nice for eating some tchelokebab or sip some tea while enjoying the freshness of the park in summer.
  • Blue Mosque Originally built in 1465, this mosque which was once certainly superb, but was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1778, leaving only the entrance Iwan. It was reconstructed at early 1900 by the Iranian Ministry of Culture. The inside of the mosque is tiled with superb blue ceramic, unfortunately, many pieces went missing during the quake and were simply replaced by painting instead of tiles – some of the original tiles can be found around the entrance. Entrance fee is 100,000 rials (~$3)
  • The Bazaar of Tabriz is one of the oldest bazaars of the Middle East and the largest covered bazaar in the world. It was inscribed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July 2010.

Tabriz has been a place of cultural exchange since antiquity and its historic bazaar complex is one of the most important commercial centres on the Silk Road. Located in the center of the city of Tabriz, Iran, this spectacular structure consists of several sub-bazaars, such as Amir Bazaar (for gold and jewelry), Mozzafarieh (a carpet bazaar), a shoe bazaar, and many other ones for various goods. The most prosperous time of Tabriz and it's bazaar was in 13th century when town became the capital city of Safavid kingdom. The city lost it's status as capital in 16th century, but it's bazaar has been being important as a commercial and economic center. Although, numerous modern shops and malls have been established nowadays, the bazaar of Tabriz has remained economic heart of both the city and northwestern of Iran. It is worthy of mention that Tabriz bazaar has been being an important political place, and one can point out its importance in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the last century and Islamic Revolution in the contemporary time.

  • Azerbaijan Museum comprises three main sections – the first contains the oldest archaeological finds from the 5th millennium BC until the Sassanian dynasty (212-656 AD), the second section contains more Islamic archaeology and coins and seals. The third section contains sculptures by Ahad Hosseini and a large collection of padlocks. There are good English signs for all the archaeological exhibits and sculptures with a panel explaining the sculptors history in English, Farsi and French. You can buy books including English copies of Lonely Planet's guidebook for Iran at the entrance. Entrance fee is 100,000 rials (~$3)
  • Ark-e-Alishah also known as Arg e Tabriz, is a remnant of a fortress built in the Ilkhanate period. Currently it was located in the center of Tabriz. Historians believe that it was used as a military castle but clerics claim that the structure was initially used as a mosque in its early days. After the Revolution, large parts of the building were destroyed by the clerics to prepare a new place for Friday prayers in Tabriz. The structure today stands 28 meters high, and is still used as part of a space for holding Friday prayers.
  • Constitution house a house retracing the story of the Iranian constitutional revolution in the early 20th century, Tabriz being a high place of the uprising. Quite well documented and well kept, although few English translations are available. The edifice is located next to the Tabriz grand bazaar, on Motahari Ave. During the years leading up to the Constitutional Revolution and afterwards, the house was used as the gathering place of the leaders, activists, and the sympathizers of the movement, among them Sattar Khan, Baqer Khan, Seqat ol-Eslam and Haji Mirza AqaFarshi. The two-story building was constructed in 1868 by Haj Vali Me'mar-e Tabrizi. It has numerous rooms and halls. The most beautiful parts of the house are a skylight and a corridor decorated with colorful glasses and mirrors.

There are also numerous places to see around Tabriz. The mountainous region of south Azerbaijan offers breathtaking views and excellent treks among castles, rocky paths and remote villages.

  • Orumyeh Lake a salted lake with salt beaches and improbable bathing spots (gender separate, of course). Numerous migratory birds stop there on their long trip for some rest and food.
  • Babak Castle breathtaking castle, nested on a rocky peak at an altitude of 2,700 m. Babak was apparently one of the last Zoroastrian heroes fighting the Islamic invasion, 1400 years ago. A 2-hours walk to get up there, but definitely worth it. What a view !
  • Kandovan a troglodytic village 2 hours away from Tabriz. Great for discovering both the odd beauty of the place and the daily life of an Iranian village, among sheep, donkeys, hens and cats… Women in printed chadors can go outside and playing kids are all around. Mullahs obviously don't bother going there too often. Resistant walking shoes are mandatory if you want to climb up the village. A living example of human adaptation to exceptionally unusual natural surroundings, Kandovan village is located 50 km to the south of Tabriz, Osku, on the northern slopes of a valley at the foothills of Mount Sahand. A river originating from the Sahand peaks passes through the valley. There are a number of natural springs to the north of the river, the water from which has traditionally been used for the treatment of kidney stones, according to the locals. The physical structure of the village looks like images from fairy tales. Natural cones, scattered over a vast area, serve as human dwellings on rock formations which themselves seem to have been the work certain sculptors. The road from Tabriz goes through this natural artwork. On getting nearer to the dwellings, the visitor finds out that large families are living inside two or three of these hollow interconnected cones with features such as openings on their surface playing the role of actual windows. The lowest cones are used as stables and those on top as the living quarters.

The interiors of the dwellings, usually divided into a living and a bed room, are dimly lit; however, the villagers are used to it. The interconnecting corridors are very narrow. From the outside, the dwellings look so similar to each other that one may easily get lost in the village. Steep pathways and steps are made of rock pieces for animals as well as human beings. As the legend goes, the first people to settle here were the soldiers involved in military operations nearly 800 years ago, who found the cones by chance and used them as their temporary camouflage and accommodation. However, among archaeologists, it is considered to be of Pre-Islamic Period.

  • Mount Sahand big dome topping at around 3,700 m. Interesting to climb in summer, or for skying in winter (1 lift available, another in project)
  • Rob-e-RashidiThis complex was built 700 years ago . This place was a place that they do all surgeries in there. The books were made of leather . They teach science in there.
  • Gholestan Garden Is good place to relax under the shadows of trees.
  • Tabriz Art Museum Is the first art museum in Asia and Iran and the fifth in the world.
  • Poets Tomb Also known as Maghbarato-Shora Many poets are buried here, as well as Shahriyar.
  • Canonical palace This beautiful palace was built approximately 60 years ago.

Do

  • El-Goli (former: Shahgoli) park. This place is worth staying 4-5 nights in. There is also a Tourist Info center there with rooms to stay in. Pars Hotel is approximately a 10 minute walk away. Visit this park in summer, because in winter the weather is quite cold, and people from places other than Tabriz can seldom bear it. In summer, El-goli park is a beautiful place to visit. People from different areas come to jog, exercise and play group sports. Especially in the mornings you can see bunch of old men organized in lines, jog around the pool you see in the picture and the exercise for a few minutes. The real fun begins after they finish exercising; they start singing and dancing and other people gather to enjoy. Up on the hill, (100 steps above the pool) there is a vast beautiful green area which is full of boys and girls doing sports in the mornings. In the afternoons, the area is full of families sitting there to have fun at night. You can see hundreds of tents and children laughing around.
  • Hot springs and Hydrotherapy Resorts in the north-west of Iran. Important and rich hydrotherapy centers such as “Sare Aine”, Boostan Abad, and specially the coastal strip along Urmia Lake enjoy great popularity among all tourists. Situated 20 km off the city of Ardabile, Sare Aine Spa forms one of the most significant health resorts in Iran. Moreover, hot springs rich in phosphoric and other mineral properties, located in this region, substantially contain various medicinal benefits. As a picturesque natural phenomenon comprising distinctive medicinal and healing features, Urmia Lake definitely constitutes one of the main attractions of this scenic province
  • Watch a Traktor FC soccer game. Traktor is a hugely popular soccer team in Tabriz. Watching their games in the Iranian Premier League is a must-do experience for tourists in Tabriz. Beware, however, that the Iranian police/Sepah have a haphazard approach to allowing foreigners to view these games, as Traktor's stadium can be home to anti-Islamic, anti-clerical and pro-Turkish/Azeri chants. Always try to go but if the authorities advise against it, do not go!
  • Tabriz Miniatrure Park. Coordinates: 38.064406, 46.332595 A quiet little park away from the tourist attractions. It's a nice change from the always busy El Goli where tourists can always count on the locals interest. Here you can enjoy a few quiet hours in the shade and among flowers and none will bother you. It's a very local spot, couples, families sitting on the grass, chatting away the day. It's unlikely that you bump into any other tourists. Also, there are a set of miniature building models in the park, each represents a famous building in Iran. It's very nice. If you would like to stay for the night, there is free camping just 200 metres away in the neighbouring campsite, with free facilities.
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