TABRIZ TRAVEL GUIDE

EXPERT TIPS, AND INSPIRATION TO HELP YOU DISCOVER TABRIZ

TABRIZ TRAVEL GUIDE

Things to Do in Tabriz – Activities & Attractions

Understand

Tabriz, the capital of the Province of Eastern Azerbaijan, is located in Northwestern Iran and is one of Iran’s oldest and most important cities.

The plain is surrounded in three directions by mountains or rolling hills and it borders Lake Urmia in its western edge. The highest mountain in the proximity of Tabriz is Mt. Sahand, which lies 50 km to its south. In between the two are scattered hills with an average additional height of 500-600m, relative to the plain, called Yanix Dāgh (Burnt Mountains).

The city of Tabriz extends to Marand and Ahar in the north, Maragheh and Hashtroud in the south, Sarāb and Mianeh in the east and to Lake Urmia in the west. The eastern side of this city borders the Sorkhāb Mountains, and to a lesser extent, borders the Rafieieh and Oghbeh Mountains.

The west side of the city lays on open plain and the major feature of the landscape is the Khojast sea which is also called ‘Shāha’; a name that is incorporated, in part, in the name of a small village in the Area, Shāhi, which lie in the outskirts of the city.

Tabriz contains many historical monuments, representing Iran's architectural transition throughout its deep history. Most of Tabriz's preserved historical sites belong to Ilkhanid, Safavid and Qajar.

Among these sites is the grand Bazaar of Tabriz, which is designated a World Heritage Site. From the early modern era, Tabriz was pivotal in the development, movement and economy of its three neighboring regions; namely the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia and Central Iran. In modern era city played a vital role in the history of Iran.

As the country's closest hub to Europe, many aspects of early modernisation in Iran began in Tabriz. Prior to forced ceding of Iran's Caucasian territories to Imperial Russia, following two Russo-Persian Wars in the first half of the 19th century, Tabriz was at the forefront of Iranian rule over its Caucasian territories. Until 1925, the city was the traditional residence for the crown princes of the Qajar dynasty.

Geographical History

Edwards in his book, Iranian Carpet, describes the geography and situation of Tabriz: “Tabriz, like most of other important cities of Iran is at the junction of several roads where caravansaries pass but its importance is more than that of a connection center as it is located in the heart of vast and fertile province of Azerbaijan and is a guard and protectors one of the gates of Iran.”

Tavernier, French Explorer writes in this regard: “Tabriz is one of the most famous cities in Asia because or its great role in trade and commerce. This city has permanent commercial relations with Ottomans, Arabs, Georgians, Mongols, Iranian, Indians and Moscow government and Tatars and its bazaars are covered and full of high quality goods.”

Minorsky in his book, History of Tabriz, writes: “As Gharaje Dāgh is a mountainous area and Sahand great mountain occupies the interval between Tabriz and Maragheh and Tabriz is the only proper way to reach the east (along Astara, Ardebil, Tehran, Ghazvin, Mianeh and Tabriz), west (along Trabuzon, Erzurum, Khoy and Tabriz) and north (along Tbilisi, Yerevan, Jolfa, Marand and Tabriz). As the foothills of Sahand Mountain created a narrow passage to the east coast of Urmia Sea, so the consignments to sent between north (beyond Caucasus, Gharaje Dāgh) and south (Maragheh, Kordestan) should pass through Tabriz.”

Knowing about geographical situation of Tabriz, we will note that this city deserves being an important economic, social, political and cultural center in northeast of Iran and has been considered as one of the most important cities of Iran since many centuries ago. Minorski continues in that book: “So, Tabriz is the capital of the vast and fertile province of Azerbaijan because of its top geographical situation and is one of the most populated cities situated between Istanbul and India and no other city reaches it in terms of importance except Tbilisi, Tehran, Isfahan and Baghdad which are similar to Tabriz.”

Historically Tabriz has been located in a geo-politically sensitive area due to its strategic location.

Climate

Tabriz has a humid continental climate with regular seasons (Köppen Dsa). The annual precipitation is around 320 millimetres (13 in), a good deal of which falls as snow during the winter months and rain in spring and autumn.

Weather

Iran is geo-climatologically, divided into four major areas:

1. A temperate and moist subtropical area, categorized by lush vegetation and moderate to thick forests consisting mostly of the Iranian land on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea.
2. A mountainous and cold area categorized by numerous mountain chains and intermittent valley systems found in the western portion of Iran mainly among, but not limited to, the Zagros Mountains.
3. A warm semi-arid to arid area characterized by vast plains and scattered mountain ranges with more fertile plains adjacent to river systems and containing occasional sand or salt deserts. This area consists mostly of the inner Iranian Plateau
4. A hot and humid area consisting mostly of the southern coast of Iran bordering the Persian Gulf along with the Khuzistan Plain. Tabriz lies in the second category of the above mentioned climate areas, namely the mountainous and cold area of Iran. More detailed specifications of this climate are as follows:

The western mountains, including the western foothills of Iran’s Central Ranges are considered climatically cold due to an average temperature of less than -3˚C in the coldest month throughout the region.

The western mountain ranges in Iran act like a dam and prevent the flow of moist Mediterranean Air in to the Iran Plateau. Due to the easterly flow of the moist Mediterranean Air, the western foothills of these mountains are considerably greener than their plateau counterparts.

Another characteristic detail of this climate area is the development of very hot weather in the valleys during the summer months, due to the intensity of sunlight during the summer.

These valleys also show more temperate climate than the mountainous highlands during the winter months, even though the intensity of sunlight is considerably lower during the winter months in these valleys. Winters, in this area, are considerably cold and snow accumulates on the ground for at least four months until the thawing of spring arrives.

Precipitation is generally low in the summer months and considerably higher in the winter. The mountains stretching higher than 3000m are continuously, covered in snow. This region extends to the Fars province in the south including the major city of Shiraz. Other cities located in this climate area are Urmia, Sanandaj, Hamedan, Ardabil, and Khorram Abad.

GET AROUND TABRIZ

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 50 cents (20.000 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.

Bus no. 104 connects Ferdowsi Street with the Central Terminal. Purchase tickets at the ticket kiosk.

RIDE-SHARING APPS

It is recommended for traveler to use the ride-sharing apps such as SNAPP or TAP30 since they are cheaper than the regular taxi most of the time.

WHAT TO SEE IN TABRIZ

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)

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 Chelokebab or sip some tea while enjoying the freshness of the park in summer.

Blue Mosque

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

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

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

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

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.

Orumieh Lake

Orumieh 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

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.

Kandovan

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 bedroom, 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

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

Gholestan Garden Is good place to relax under the shadows of trees.

Tabriz Art Museum

Tabriz Art Museum Is the first art museum in Asia and Iran and the fifth in the world.

Poets Tomb

Poets Tomb Also known as Maghbarato-Shora Many poets are buried here, as well as Shahriyar.

Canonical palace

Canonical palace This beautiful palace was built approximately 60 years ago.

WHAT TO DO IN TABRIZ

  • 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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