Having been separated from the Eastern Azerbaijan province a few years ago, the surface area of the Ardabil province is 18.011 km2. According to recent data, the Ardabil province is comprised of the counties of Ardabil, Bilesuvar, Parsabad, Khalkhal, Sarein, Kosar, Meshkinshahr, Moghan, Namin and Nir, and 63 towns. Surrounded by the Mugan Plain and the Northern Azerbaijan Republic to the north, The Talish Mountains to the east, Miyana to the south and the city of Sarab to the west, the capitol of the Ardabil province is Ardabil, founded 1260 meters above the sea level.

Located 40 km west of Ardabil, the 4.811 m high Savalan Volcano is the highest mountain of the Azerbaijan homeland. A lake has been formed in the crater of this mountain. This splendid mountain has been the symbol of courage and resistance, and a source of inspiration for local poets.

Mount Savalan, the kiblah of happiness,

With a reputation like the Kaaba in its perfection

Kaaba wears green, but it wraps itself in white,

Because sources of inspiration wear white garments?
(Khaghani Shirvani: 1120-1199)

Though the average annual temperature is around 7 ?C, winters are very cold and summers are warm. Precipitation differs depending on months and seasons in Ardabil. In general, the annual average of snowfall in autumn and winter, and rainfall in spring and summer is around 327,7 mm. The Savalan Volcano has turned the region into a center of rich underground waters. Compared to the other regions of Southern Azerbaijan, Ardabil is highly rich in water resources. The water temperature is around 42 ?C in the Sarikayin (Sareyn) hot springs, located 25 km west of Ardabil. Containing sulfur and sodium bicarbonate, these hot springs are known to yield positive results in the treatment of rheumatism, dermatological diseases and neural disorders. Having become a popular center of tourism due to its underground wealth, Ardabil entertains hundred thousands of local and foreign tourists every year.

Located within the borders of Ardabil, Lake Shorabil, with a surface area of 1.200.000 m2, is known to be the second biggest salt lake after Lake Urmu in Southern Azerbaijan. With the local zoo, cultural and artistic activities, vacation places and hotels, the lake is a much frequented place for local and foreign tourists.

The rivers of Araz, Gharasu, Darre Rud, Khyavchauy and Neminchay flow through this province. Several bird species dwell in the Molla Ahmad marshes 15 km southeast of Ardabil. In this avian paradise, located in a natural and archeological area, bird species like chickens, ducks and ruddy sheldrakes dwell. The Balikli Brook, flowing down the Savalan and Bozkush Mountains and passing through the inner parts of the city, is an influential factor for this region becoming a center for relaxation and entertainment in summertime.

Bilasavar District locates in a large plate, and it has a warm summer and a temperate winter. Parsabad-Mughan district is located in a large plate too, and its weather is temperate to warm. The Plate of Mughan is recognized as one of the most important modem agriculture and animal husbandry of the country. Germi District is located between two low-hight mountain chains, and it is warm in summer and temperate in winter. Khalkhall District is a mountainous area, so it has a very cold weather in winter and a temperate in summer. It is usually covered with heavy snow and ice for five months a year, which causes the road Asalem-Khalkhall, in the mountainous area of Talish to be closed during this period. Mishkeen Shahr District is located on the western outskirts of the mountain Sabalan, and it is very cold in winter and mild in summer. History The history of the province of Ardabil is a part of the history of Azarbaijan. Most Iranian historians believe that the city was built by Firooz, the Sasanid king (457-489 AC), and the city has a 1500 year history. But even earlier, Ardabil was a very important city from the military and political points of view during the Achaemenid period, which was a military base on the northern border of the Persian Empire, according to Avesta, the Iranian profit, Zoroaster was born near the river "Daei Yeta" which is now named "Aras", and he had written his book in Sabalan area, while he began to propagate his religion in the city of Ardabil.

At the time of the moslem Arabs invasion of Iran, (year 22 AH) the city of Ardabil was the largest in Azarbaijan, which failed to the Muslims. Between 257-317 AH it was the headquarters of the local government of Bani Saj who changed their capital from Maragheh to Ardabil. And the city of Ardabil remained the capital of Azarbaijan until the Moguls attack. Shah Esmael, the Safavid king began his effort for establishment of an Iranian united empire, then he settled in Tabriz as his capital in 906 AH. During the Safavid era, Ardabil became the most important city of Iran from the political and economic points of view. The Significant location of Ardabil on the main trade road between Iran and Europe had increased her importance for trading silk and other goods between Guilan in Iran and different parts of the Europe. The city of Ardabil now is one of the most important cities of the province and Iran for its many historical elements, specially the Safavid family's shrines, its location near many mineral-warm springs, and location on the main access road to the Republic of Azarbaijan. These have turned the city to a tourism centre, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Among main historical monument of this city, one can name its old bridges with their special architecture, its historical places, significant mosques, shrines, churches and other holy buildings, all with valuable architecture. The significant architecture of commercial unites, specially the traditional bazaar are attractive too. Furthermore, the natural attraction of the region and the city, specially Sabalan marvellous outskirts, and the warm mineral springs of Sareain form an environment suitable for tourists in spring and summer. Moreover, Intact, environmental diversity of the province has Helped the province to have. province's beautiful valleys, attractive forests, wonderful lakes and many beautiful marshlands, and landscapes. The lakes of Shoorabil and Neor arc well facilitated for tourism and are very attractive areas in summer, which can be upgraded to be one of the most attractive tourist areas in international level.

In addition to the tourism attraction of the province, its significant location on the strategic border area as a neighbour with the Republic of Azarbaijan, have well facilitated for the development process of the province and the whole region. The recent development of trade relations and communication between Iran and the Republic of Azarbaijan have been significant for the development of tourism and economy of the province of Ardabil, and more development is expected in the future. Main historical, cultural and tourist characteristics of cities, towns and of regions of the province arc as followings:

The City of Ardabil
The city of Ardabil is located at adistance of 639 kilometres from Tehran, the national capital, west to the volcanic mount of Sabalan. The weather of the province varies between extreme cold on the mountanins, to moderate on the plains during winter. The name of Ardabil came from an Avesta's (Theholy book of Zoroasterians Concient Iranians) word, "Artavil" which meant a holy place. Some historians the cstablichments of Ardabil to "Bazan Firooz". Archaeologists have recently found some historical elements in Nameen, a nearby town, which belong to the 12th-16th century BC. The Orartoie epigraph which belongs to the 7-9 centuries BC, and was found in Arasbaran, mentions that civilized people lived there in the region of Ardabil. 'the most important places to visit in Ardabil are as following:

• Neior lake which is located 48 kilometres south-east to the city of Ardabil.
• Shoorabil lake which is located south to the city of Ardabil.
• marshlands of Ganjgah, Nooshar, Shoorgul, Molla Ahmed and peer-el-Qeer.
• River sides of the river (Roodkhaneh) Baliquli Chay.
• Wild life and forests of Sabalan outskirts.
• water fall Goorgoor on Sabalan.
• hot water springs in Sare-Ain, west to Ardabil.
• mineral springs in Bila Darrch.
• Shaykh Safi Tomb complex which is located inside the city Ardabil.
• Shaykh Jebrayeel Tomb which is located in Kalkhouran village.
• Imamzadeh Salih Tomb which is located inside the city of Ardabil.
• Masajid (mosques) Mirza Ali kbar, Jumaa, and the church of Maryam Moqaddas (Holy Mary) which are located inside the city of Ardabil.
• Old Bridges of Qara Sou, Eidi Gouz, Ibrahim Abad, Yaqobeyeh. Sayed Abad. Samian, Kalkhoran, Neer, Almas, Shahr Chay and Guilandeh.
• Old Bathes ut Och Doccan, Peer Zargar, Mirza Habib, Haj Skaykh. Mulla Hadi, Safavieych and Haj Raheem.
• The Old Bazaar Complex.
• Old Houses of Ardabil.
• old Hills ofQara Shirvan, Naranj Tappeh, Sarqeen, Aq Imam, Gour Tappehsi, Olo Tappehsi, Karkaq Tappeh and Saien Tappeh.
• old Cemetreis of Sham Asbi and Karjan.
• tower of Shater Gunbadi which is located 8 kilometres to Ardabil.
• Stone cave of Dakhmeh Sangi which is located near Veind village.

Mishkeen Shahr

The town of Mishkeen Shahr is located 839 kilometres to Tehran and near to the Sabalan high mountain. The weather of this town and the district of Miskeen Shahr is moderate mountainous. It was called "kheyav" in the past. The most important places to visit in the district of Mishkeen Shahr arc as following:
• Hot water springs of Moved and Ilan Dooghan located in the sub urbs of the town.
• Qara Sou River Sides.
• Water Qotoor Soo spring located 25 kilometers to Mishkeen Sahr.
• Qaynarjch spring located south-west of Mishkeen Shahr.
• water Ilavand spring located 15 kilometers to Mishkeen Shahr.
• Old Castle of Mishkeen Shahr.
• Aghcheh castle located near Cheteen Darreh, near Mishkeen Shahr.
• Deev castle located in kevich.
• Hill Qanbar locvated in Anaar village.
• Stone epigraph of Shapour sasani in Mishkeen Shahr.
• Old cemetry Anaar.
• tomb of Shaykh Haydar in Mishkeen Shahr.
• Imamzadeh Saeyed Solayman.
• Masjid (mosque) Jannat Sara which is located in side the town of Meshkeen Shahr.
• Shrine Hassan Dash located in the town Mishkeen Shahr.

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The town of Khalkhall is located in a mountainous highland, 549 kilometers north-west to Tehran. The weather of me district of khikhall is very cold on the eastern part, and moderate in the north and the south. The most important tourism attractions of the district are as following:

• Abgarm Khushnameh hot water spring and hot Mineral Water in Garmuhaneh village.
• Imamzadeh Meerzaman and Sayyed Ibraheem located in khams village.
• Shrine of Danyal which is located in khanqaah village.
• Mosque of Jami and Masji Noor located in khams village.
• Ghaar Tarikhi Yakhkan (historical cave) which is located in Gandum Abad village.
• Haft Khaneh cave locate in Garmkhaneh village.

Dashte Mughan
There is a large plain located between Aras river (south) and the northern parts of the mountain chain of Talish which is called Mughan, which expanded from the outskirts of Sabalan mount to the Caspian costs. Today large plain includes three districts called; Pars Abad, Beeleh Savar and Ciuirmi. This green and pleasant plain includes many natural places, which worth to see, as following:

• Aras River Sides.
• Shahrak lake in Pars Abad.
• Great complex and integrated agriculture, industry and animal husbandary in Mughan.
• Oltan castle which is located north to Pars Abad.
• Qiz Qalasi (the Girl Castle) which is located in Guirmi.
• the Historical Bridge in khuda Afareen.
• Kharman Hill which is located in Shaykhlar village in Germi.
• Naader Hill in Aslandooz.
• Old cemetry in Aslandooz.
• Oarlooja Tawer which is located on the road between Khormaloo and Aslandooz.

Wild Life
The province of Ardabil is significant from the wild life point of view. The mount Sabalan is the hostle of the wild animals of the region. There are many protected wild life zones on the highlands of the province located on the outskrts of the mount Sabalan, the most importants amang them are:Sheerwan Darrehsi, Moweel, Hooshang Meydani, Qara Gouel, Khorosloo Mughan. Aqababa, Hajiloo, Tabnaq, Hassan Darrehsi, arbab kandi, and the protected zone Neour which host wild animals such as wild goat, pig, brown bear, grey bear, fox, wolf, ram, Armenian ewe and rabit live in this province, birds such as partridge and egle can be found too.

Travel and Stay in the Province
All districts and towns of the province arc well connected with each others as well as other cities and towns of Iran by a network of roads and traveling on them is very comfrtable. Only in the district of khalkhall, travelling is difficult because of the highlands and the snow fall for a long cold season causes road blocage. All towns of the province and specially the city of Ardabil is well facilitated by networks of transportation and health facilities, so traveling and staying in most of the towns on the province is enjoyable. It should be mentioned that most facilities are found in the provincial capital Ardabil, but all other towns enjoy acceptable facilities, such as restaurants and gusthouses. Ardabil Airport and the air port of Dashte Mughan provide trips to tehran and some other Iranian destinations.

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