Meeting the Shah Savan nomads near Mount Sabalan
The greatest ountain in western Iran is Mt. Sabalan, with 4811 meters the second highest mountain in Iran. And one of the easiest to reach the summit. The inactive volcano is surrounded by hot springs and therefore popular with Iranian hikers. In the summer they go to the springs of Ghotorsoei and Shabil, to climb the summit from here. Some start the climb from below, others take a jeep to the mosque at the base camp. Here at about 3600 meters it's another 4 hours of climbing, to the crater lake at the top.
Now, in August, it is busy with climbers and walkers. And nice to see; all ages, young hipsters from Tehran, old men, women with headscarves, families with children, everyone wants to reach the top, a tough climb. Around the mosque are dozens of tents and there is a cozy atmosphere.
Lower, on the slopes of Mt. Sabalan, is the terrain of the Shah Savan nomads. These Turkish-speaking nomads live in winter in villages around Astara near the border with Azerbaijan, but in summer they travel to the cooler slopes of Mt. Sabalan. There they put up their dome-like tents and let sheep and goats graze on the slopes. Of course we are invited to drink tea inside the surprisingly spacious tent.
Via Meshkin Shahr we drive to another slope of M. Sabalan. Also here a lot of hot springs. We sleep in a strange, newly opened 'eco-resort', on a fantastic location. In the area you can make long walks into the valley. Deeper in the valley, we meet a Shah Savan family again, with of course endless cups of tea.
Finally we also sleep on another slope, at the ski resort Alvares. Because of the dilapidated hotels a bit of a depressing environment, but in winter it's probably a lot more fun here.