The Armenian church and monastery St Stephanos is situated about 50 km west of Jolfa in the Aros River valley, with a beautiful mountain scenery around. On the other side of the river is Azerbaijan (Nakhchivan).
The church has a typical Armenian architecture with a tall bell tower and in the middle a cylindrical tower with a conical roof. On the exterior walls there are well preserved relieves of crosses, angels and saints (most churches in Armenia only have relieves and carvings of crosses on the walls).
It is said that St Bartholomew founded a church here already AD 62, and it is also said that the Armenian king Ashot constructed a church and monastery on the site in the 9th century. Well, of what can be seen today the oldest part dates from the 14th century, but most is from the 16th century as it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake.
To go to St Stephanos from Tabriz on a tour (car and driver) cost about IR 300 000 (June 2006).
Kandovan is a small picturesque village about 50 km south of Tabriz. The landscape reminds a bit of Cappadoccia in Turkey, but the cone formed rocks cover a much smaller area. The volcanic rocks has been eroded to strange formations and houses have been carved into the rocks. People are still living in the cave houses, and have done so for the last 1600 years.
Kandovan is situated at an altitude of 1288 metres on the slopes of Mt Sahandkuh. It can be very cold most of the year, but in the summer months it is nice. Tourists come here and it is a popular place for Friday picnic. There is a picnic area around the river. Around the river you can also drink mineral water said to cure kidney disease.
Kandovan can be reached by public transport from Tabriz, but it can be difficult. A better option is to take a taxi, which would cost around IR 100 000, including waiting time.
Sightseeing Kandovan means walking at you own leisure around the narrow paths within the village where you can release the photo maniac beast inside you. Scrolling around the ascending and descending paths doesn’t take too much time (about an hour is enough) but you have to struggle with dust and smells as a lot of these settlements are used as well for animals. A notable difference to the rest of Iran is that women are dressed in multicolored chadors.
Bare in mind that this is a popular destination for local tourists so it may get crowded in day time.
Iran has its own equivalent to Cappadokia in Turkey though in relatively smaller scale: Kandovan. This fairy tale little village lies just 50km from Tabriz..
In our case in order to save up time we rented a taxi car from Tabriz (the taxi driver was happy enough to earn good money without the need to drive for hours within Tabriz).
Kandovan is very photogenic and very impressive if you have never been to Cappadokia. You can climb the small hill just opposite the village to capture some village panoramas.