Why Abyaneh is a picture-postcard village in Iran?

Most of us recognise Iran’s architecture with kaleidoscopic glazed tiles and stalactites like Mukharans of Mosques. But this town is full of red adobe abodes and is a true gem like Garnet with Karkas mountains surrounding them. If you aren’t travelling to Northern Iran, this is the place to see one of the finest of Iran’s historic villages built on the rolling hills.

Here is your complete guide to the Adobe village of Abyaneh in Isfahan province.

INDEX

How to Reach Abyaneh Village in Iran?

Brown mountains with wavy depressions by the roadside on a clear sunny day near Abyaneh village

Abyaneh -2500-year-old red village, is located between Isfahan & Kashan. The detour of 35km from the highway takes you through winding roads with black & brown mountains on either side. Sometimes you see tiny villages or Military bases. The picturesque town is not accessible by Public transport. Hiring a cab is the only option. While you walk in the streets of Kashan, you will find many taxi agencies offering the trip from Kashan to Abyaneh with a choice of dropping you in either Tehran or Isfahan. Some agencies have scheduled group tours during peak tourist season.

You can specify if you want a driver with a guide or only one driver while booking the Taxi as per your preference. Usually, the drivers won’t be your guide for the village. We booked a Sedan taxi from Kashan to Isfahan (252km including a stop at Abyaneh) at Saraye Ameriha hotel. Cost of the trip – around 3000INR (40 Euros.)

Can you stay overnight in Abyaneh village?

Viiew of red mud village of Abyaneh with dried tries in the front

There are fewer options to stay in Abyaneh. One hotel we saw before entering the Village was VIUNA HOTEL. We have no clue about the price and quality. The point is, yes, you can stay in Abyaneh Village. Maybe staying here in the village is better in Summer than in the harsh winters.

Is staying in Abyaneh village worthy?

ricky question. If you are in Iran, say for more than a month, staying here could be bliss to explore the abandoned castle and mountains. However, half-day one day at Abyaneh is good enough if you are in for a shorter duration.

Entrance fees and timings to Abyaneh Historical Village.

There is one military checkpoint almost a kilometre from the village where you have to buy the Entry ticket of 7.5Euro per person. You have to pay by Cash only with Iranian Rials, not Euros.  There was no restriction on timings for entering and exiting.

It is best to visit Abyaneh village in daylight. Avoid travelling at night as these isolated mountain roads don’t have streetlights.

Along with the ticket, you get this Abyaneh village Map – which is almost impossible to understand even though it is English!

Sauntering in Iran’s Red Village

After deviating from the Isfahan-Kashan highway, the roads became narrower. Mountains appeared to be reddish-brown more than black. Finally, 2km before reaching the town, we spotted a cluster of red cubes on the horizon. It looked like Lego blocks arranged beside the mountains. As we drove further, the cube cluster kept playing hide & seek. The closer we got, the Lego blocks showed their actual appearance with a series of tiny windows & a white layer of snow(or white paint?) on their flat roof – This was the first sight that made us “wow”.

Don’t forget to stop the car for a short break. The sparkling sunshine on a cold breezy day is best to enjoy the fresh air with an amazing view of black mountains topped with snow. We saw no more Lego block villages any further. It was only a series of hoardings with photos of “Shaheed.” soldiers of Iran’s previous wars, snow-capped mountains & bushes with dried leaves.

Abyaneh is hidden and doesn’t open up at one glance.

Passing by Viuna hotel (the only hotel option for an overnight stay, I guess), the car stopped at the parking lot. There were ten other cars, so we knew we expected other tourists too. A few locals took their daily Vitamin C dose in the open parking lot. There was no sign of a cluster.

The view google shows you or what is printed on the ticket is way different from what you see from the entrance point.

Because we were entering the village from the west. The village is oriented in a North-South direction. Openings on the southern side make perfect sense to get enough sunlight during their harsh January winter.

We were there in Abyaneh during the coldest month of the year, January. Weatherwise, it isn’t the best time to visit Abyaneh: the white snow topping the flat roof and the roads add an essence to the monochromatic red village.

The garnet cubes we saw from far were arranged on either side of a paved alley.

The Sepia mode is on & the first thing that makes you wow when you are in this shaded alley is a wall made of red clay & its texture shows signs of dried stalks mixed with the clay & the tranquil sound of a flowing stream nearby. All the buildings here are built using locally available red clay mixed with dried stalks of grain. You can touch them to feel the surface texture. Unpolished wooden rafters, wooden balcony railings, and latticework for windows enhance the charm, keeping the traditional vibe alive. After renovation, some houses have a smooth texture with mud plaster, while the old houses expose the mud bricks behind the torn plaster.

He & She door knockers – Double knockers.

Apart from a few tourists we met from my neighbouring countries, there were no inhabitants traced. The cosy alley was empty, like everyone from the village had left after a Zombie apocalypse. So in these cosy alleys, we began to notice the artistic doors with two knockers on the same door.

Standing in front of a house wondering, we wanted to knock on the door to check if someone was inside (like an insensitive tourist) & ask them why they had two knockers. Meanwhile, a Persian couple walked beside us to the holy Jameh mosque. Like any Persian local, they were excited to see tourists and had a little talk with us, explaining a lot about the village- As a regular visitor from Isfahan to Abyaneh’s mosque, he knew a lot about the village.  

Usually, there are two different door knocks on the same door – One for men and one for Women!

Male visitors must use a heavy, rigid door knocker that makes a strong sound. The feminine door knocker is lighter and ring-like and creates a softer sound. With this, the homeowner will know if they have a male or female visitor!

Who Lives here

When you see the house cluster from far, it gives you a feeling of a busy village. But it is sparsely populated. Long ago, when most villagers left Abyaneh village for a better life, little did they know that this would one day become a significant tourist attraction. As per the 2006 census, the population was a little more than 300 & 160 families living in these red adobe cube houses built along the mountain’s slope. Nevertheless, the Government of Iran preserves it as a National treasure. If not, this village would have been in rubble by now.

The locals of Abyaneh must be waiting for sun.

Strangely, we saw only older people & a few middle-aged men who were busy restoring/repairing the adobe wall & the thatch roof. The card says it is a 2500-year-old Village. Extreme cold in winter, disconnection from today’s world, and lack of other essential services must have made most villagers shift to Isfahan or Tehran.

The local tradition of Abyaneh

Because of its mountainous location, the village remains isolated. So the Abyaneh people’s language is still preserved and untouched. I read that their language is Farsi, like other Persians but with an ancient dialect. As tourists, we won’t be able to make a difference in their language. But their traditional attire is different from what you see in the city. Women in Abyaneh village follow a different tradition regarding dressing up. They wear a dress, a long pleated colourful skirt (Shaliteh), socks, handwoven footwear called Giveh (sometimes regular shoes), and a square scarf with prints of red& pink roses folded into a triangle to make it a hijab.

The place is definitely isolated, but not isolated from the civilization.

The houses at the lower part of the cliffs got mud roads, and hence you see cars parked in front of the houses at times. Though Iran isn’t a common destination among the globe trotters, we have been successful in erasing a bit of authenticity. For example, women’s scarves. Located closer to Kashan, it is obvious why they wear scarves with prints of roses. I don’t know when or how the scarf I bought paying 10 Euro has a “Made in Japan” tag. Of course, globalization is a necessary part of any country’s growth. But it is surprising to see “Made in Japan” items in an isolated village like this.

Clicking Abyaneh people’s pictures

When in Iran, you get used to people being friendly. So do most people here. But we had a bit different experience here. Even before coming here, I had decided to buy their traditional scarf. While I was checking out various options, the lady shopkeeper was pushy. She picked one, put it on my shoulders, and said, “No scarf- no photo” Confusingly, I took the scarf, and she typed the number of Rials and demanded. There was no room for a talk. She took my hijab out, tied the new scarf the same way they do in Abyaneh, and pulled my hands to pose with her! She went back to her chores immediately after the photo.

Another old lady selling some threads and beads waved at us while we walked to the mountain.

Yet again, we were confused and walked to her. She tied a thread on my hands, chanted something, touched my head and demanded 200000 Rials! When I said, I don’t want this, she was pretty unhappy and began to speak louder in annoyance. With no other choice, we paid her and turned towards the mountain. Though we didn’t want a photo of her, she commanded us to take one and asked us to show the clicked image. She nodded her head after seeing her picture and let us go.

Community people and locals are sometimes tourists’ tickling subjects. Abyaneh women with their uniquely beautiful traditional outfits are so used to it or were clicked so many times without their consent that it has become a tool for making money ( fair enough – they have to make their living, but can’t be pushy). But somehow, these two pushy incidents were way different from what we had been experiencing in Iran. So we didn’t want to bother the locals more by requesting them to let us see the inside of their mud houses. 

Mud buildings which were once a castle

There was no exact information about how old the villages were and who built them first. So there are buildings that belong to various eras- from Sassanid to the Qajar dynasty. Some houses have porches that got wooden railing, while others have courtyards. Most of them are two-storey, and very few are four-storey. But, irrespective of the time, all buildings have a few things in common- Red mud bricks and a flat roof over the rectangular profile. 

How to get to the viewpoint

Wandering on the cosy walkways was delightful; – But where is that view of Abyaneh everyone put on social media? We saw a few tourists walking in the first few alleys and leaving without going to the viewpoint. When we asked a guide from a tourist group about the routes, he said, “ It is too cold, and the uphill walk is tough for tourists. So you can’t go there now.” 

No matter what, we decided not to leave Abyaneh without seeing the village from the Northern side. With that almost useless map, we tried to follow the trail and ended up at a dead end. A middle-aged man was unloading materials from his truck needed for his house restoration. Like a typical Persian, he smiled and asked if we were lost. Happily, he drew on the map and showed us the way. Lastly, he said, ” Follow the water. Go to the hill.”

So when a guide says a tourist can’t climb, it is likely because he wants to finish the tour quick & go back home.

Getting to the northern foothill isn’t tricky. The moment you enter the alleys, you hear the sound of a stream. Wander however you want and lastly, follow the sound. Once you are at the stream, go with the flow. The stream ends at a wider road at the bottom of the village. From there, around 300m straight walk on the rocky road leads you to an uphill climb. As you climb up, you hear goats bleating and bells chiming. On the black mountain’s top, little fellas graze with their Shephard.

The end of the first uphill climb opens up to a flatland at the foothill from where you see the clusters of garnet cubes on the stepped terraces of the rolling reddish-brown hill – A view that you relish forever in your life. If you are lucky, you will sit on the dried grass soaking in the sunshine with a cold breeze brushing your hair, and soothing Azan prayers from the village mosque touch your ears and relieve your hiking languour.

Would you visit the magical red house village of Abyaneh? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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