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Sabalan Mountain: A Majestic Natural Wonder in Iran

Mount Sabalan: Iran's Stunning Adventure Haven

Iran, a country rich in mountainous terrains, offers a plethora of peaks and mountains across its vast landscape, ripe for exploration and conquest. In this article from the SURFIRAN magazine, we spotlight Mount Sabalan, a majestic natural wonder.

Sabalan Mountain stands as Iran’s third highest peak, trailing only behind Damavand and Alam-Kuh, and ranks among the world’s 1515 most prominent mountains. This semi-active volcanic mountain, currently in the fumarolic stage, hosts the Sabalan Crater Lake at its summit. This lake, the highest in Iran and one of the highest in the world, sits at an elevation of 4784 meters. With an area of 1.0 hectare, depths reaching up to 15 meters, and a volume of approximately 80,000 cubic meters, it is the country’s sole crater lake. Sabalan is renowned for its natural hot springs, unique and stunning landscapes, and the Alvars ski resort, drawing the attention of travelers.

Access Routes to Mount Sabalan

Reaching Mount Sabalan is straightforward, offering several routes to enjoy its breathtaking vistas.

First Route: Through Lahrud!

Sabalan Mountain
Lahrud, Ardabil, Iran (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

To ascend from the northern side, this path leads to Mount Sabalan. One should travel through Lahrud via the Ardabil to Meshkin Shahr road, heading south to reach the destination, the Shabil hot springs. From there, you can drive to the shelter. For the ascent, you have two options: utilizing special Land Rovers or hiking. Both methods provide a means to reach the summit and enjoy the panoramic views.

Second Route: Starting at Alvars Ski Resort!

Sabalan Mountain
Alvars Ski Resort, Sabalan Mountain

The Alvars Ski Resort serves as the starting point for ascents from the southern side of the mountain. The distance from the resort to Sarein is merely 30 kilometers, with the entire route to the resort being asphalted. Approximately 300 meters before reaching Alvars, there’s a left turnoff that leads to a nomadic path, offering another access route. You can traverse this path by SUV or on foot to a certain area known as “Gozi.” If you opt for a hike, it takes about 2 hours, but driving reduces the time to just 35 minutes.

Third Route: Begin at Lake Gara Gol!

Sabalan Mountain
Lake Gara Gol, Sabalan Mountain (photo by Wikipedia)

Lake Gara Gol marks the starting point for the western ascent route of Mount Sabalan. To reach this spot from the Tehran-Meshkin Shahr road, you must navigate towards the Lahroud junction and from there, head towards the Shabil hot springs. A dirt road from Shabil leads directly to Lake Gara Gol.

About Mount Sabalan

Sabalan Mountain
Sabalan Mountain, Ardabil, Iran

In Azerbaijan, Mount Sabalan is also referred to as “Savalan.” Its peak reaches an altitude of 4811 meters, making it the third highest peak in Iran, following Mount Damavand and the Alam-Kuh mountain range. The presence of various natural hot springs on its slopes, pristine and exceptional natural beauty, and the permanent snow due to natural glaciers, which facilitated the creation of the Alvars ski resort, are among the most significant and undeniable attractions of this region. Mount Savalan, known as “Selfon” in Talysh, is also listed as a national natural monument in Iran.

Numerous tourists and mountaineers from all over Iran and the world visit Meshkin Shahr and ultimately this unique and ancient region throughout the year for mountaineering and to explore its tourist attractions.


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Sabalan’s History and Zoroastrianism

Local people believe that Mount Sabalan was the site of Zoroaster‘s prophethood and enlightenment. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous work, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” there’s a brief mention of Zoroaster descending from Mount Sabalan. Given this, the location holds great value and sanctity, especially among the indigenous people and nomads.

Geography of Mount Sabalan

Sabalan Mountain
Geography of Mount Sabalan

Mount Sabalan is among the active volcanic peaks. The mountain begins from the Qareh Soo valley in the northwest of Ardabil and extends eastward to Mount Ghushadagh.

Sultan, Heram, and Kasra are three famous peaks of the Savalan mountain range. One of the tourist attractions around Mount Sabalan, which also symbolizes the mountain, is a natural rock formation resembling an eagle. This rock, known as “Qartal,” is famous by this name and is located on the western front of Mount Sabalan, near one of the mountain shelters.

Lake at the Summit of Sabalan

Sabalan Mountain
Sabalan Crater Lake

The most striking feature of Mount Sabalan is undoubtedly its oval-shaped lake, nestled at the peak. The Sabalan Crater Lake has an approximate depth of 40 meters and, aside from the summer months, remains entirely frozen throughout the year. The southern part of the lake, shielded from sunlight, is covered in snow all year round.

The lake’s water source is rainfall and the melting snow from the summit. Surrounding the lake are large rocks primarily composed of andesite, basalt, and trachyte, extending from the outskirts to the interior of the lake. Positioned at an elevation of 4811 meters, the lake ranks among the highest in the world.

Ascent to the Summit of Sabalan

The mountain offers various routes for ascension, differing in difficulty and location, adding to its appeal.

Northeastern Route of Sabalan

This path is undoubtedly the most popular route for climbers and is also considered the most suitable for beginners. Vehicles can reach the starting point, the Sabalan Shelter. Markers and flags guide climbers from the shelter to the summit, which can be reached in 4 to 5 hours, depending on the individual’s pace.

Southern Front Route of Sabalan

There is no shelter available on the southern route; the only option for rest and overnight stays is with the nomads in their tents. The journey begins at Chai Gozi, with two paths available for the ascent. The most frequently used route passes through the Qareh Masjed area, taking approximately 6 hours. The second route, due to its difficulty, is less popular among climbers.

Sabalan Mountain
Way to Sabalan Mountain

Western Front Route of Sabalan

The ascent to the summit begins at Lake Qaragol. The route passes through Heram Chal and a large, natural glacier, leading to the western shelter. The western shelter is located at an altitude of 4200 meters, near the iconic Eagle Rock, symbolizing Mount Sabalan.

Best Time to Visit Mount Sabalan

Sabalan Mountain
Visiting Sabalan Mountain in Spring and Summer

The period from mid-spring to late summer is considered the best time for climbing Mount Sabalan. The region’s cold climate outside these months makes mountaineering challenging. Moreover, the breathtaking and exceptional natural beauty of the area in summer greatly enhances the enjoyment of hiking and nature tours. It’s worth noting that the region experiences stormy weather in spring, especially during April and May.

Guide to Climbing Mount Sabalan

Sabalan Mountain
Climbing Mount Sabalan

Due to its moderate difficulty level, Mount Sabalan is one of the most favored destinations for beginner mountaineers. The weather on the mountain can turn stormy with snow and rain expected in the afternoons. Climbers should ensure they are well-equipped and physically prepared before setting out on their journey.

In Meshkin Shahr and Sarein, numerous mountaineering groups embark on weekly climbs to Mount Sabalan. Enthusiasts can join these teams for a professional and team-oriented mountaineering experience. The ascent routes of Mount Sabalan are dotted with shelters and recreational camps providing diverse services to climbers before, during, and after their ascent.

It’s important to note that climbing Mount Sabalan is free of charge. However, climbers are urged to maintain the cleanliness of the natural environment during their ascent.

Attractions of Mount Sabalan

Besides mountaineering, hikers, skiers, athletes, and nature lovers can explore and enjoy numerous natural and scenic facilities around Mount Sabalan.

Alvars Mehragan Ski Resort

Sabalan Mountain
Alvars Mehragan Ski Resort, Mount Sabalan

The Alvars Mehragan Ski Resort, a unique tourist attraction of Mount Sabalan, is located 12 kilometers from the village of Alvars and 24 kilometers from the city of Sarein in Ardabil province. Since its inauguration in 2004, the resort has attracted numerous skiers and mountaineers from around the world to enjoy this winter sport in Sarein. The resort offers facilities like ski lifts, restaurants, shops, and many other amenities for visitors.

Essentials for Sabalan

The nature of your activity will determine the necessary equipment. Fill your hiking and nature excursion checklist with appropriate shoes, tents, clothing, and gear.

Hotels and Accommodations Near Mount Sabalan

Like other mountaineers and nature enthusiasts, you can choose to stay in the eastern shelter the night before your climb and camp at the summit or beside the lake after your morning ascent.


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Is Travel to Sabalan Exclusive to Mountaineers?

While reaching Lake Sabalan and, in fact, ascending to the summit of Mount Sabalan requires the physical readiness of a climber, the myriad of tourist areas makes it accessible for all types of nature lovers or climbers at any level. Before embarking on their journey, individuals can explore all the region’s amenities through pictures available on the internet.

Sabalan Mountain
Sultan Peak of Sabalan Mountain

The presence of springs, mineral waters, and the waterfalls of Sabalan, along with the untouched nature of the region, creates a suitable environment for all tourists and athletes. The unique vegetation cover offers a special attraction for nature lovers, with various indigenous medicinal and wild plants, beautiful and rare flora adorning the area. In addition to the vegetation, the fauna of Mount Sabalan is notable, with diverse species thriving in the area. The eagle, the most important animal species in the region, is considered a symbol of Mount Sabalan.

Why Should You Visit Sabalan?

The unique and exceptional features of this area, combined with the volcanic nature of Mount Savalan, are attractive and valuable for everyone. The authentic and pristine nature can be observed on every ascent route of this mountain, allowing visitors to enjoy its beauty.

Lake Savalan, situated at the peak atop the volcanic crater with an oval shape, lies approximately 28 meters below the crater’s rim edges. During summer and spring, the lake boasts clear blue waters with a slight greenish tint due to the more temperate weather. However, it is covered in ice during the rest of the year.

Sabalan Mountain
Visiting Lake Savalan

Due to the presence of snow for most of the year, the Alvars ski resort area of Mount Sabalan offers the perfect location for skiers to engage in their favorite sport any day of the year.

The fertile soil and lush pastures make the landscape of this region exceptional. As mentioned, the area is also rich in rare medicinal herbs. From cloves to barberries and sumac, a variety of plants can be found in this region, enhancing its allure for visitors seeking natural beauty and tranquility.


In conclusion, Mount Sabalan stands as a majestic beacon for adventurers, nature lovers, and those seeking tranquility amidst pristine landscapes. Its unique geological features, including the striking Lake Sabalan atop its summit, offer unparalleled natural beauty and a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The area’s rich biodiversity, encompassing rare flora and fauna, alongside its therapeutic mineral waters and vibrant ski resort, caters to a wide range of interests and activities. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a casual tourist, the enchanting allure of Mount Sabalan promises an unforgettable experience that resonates with the spirit of exploration and the profound appreciation of nature’s wonders.

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SURFIRAN Editorial Team

SURFIRAN is an Iranian tour operator and travel agency offering tour packages to those interested in Iran. It provides the tourists with services needed to travel to Iran, offers tours across the country, and assists the tourists in obtaining Iranian visas.

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