In Takht-e Soleyman, where inner peace meets outer beauty
TEHRAN—Nested in a lonely bowl of mountains, ringed by 1500-year-old walls in northwest Iran, the UNESCO-listed Takht-e Soleyman was once a principal fire temple of the Zoroastrian faith in ancient Persia.
Takht-e Soleyman is now a major travel destination for domestic and foreign travelers who want, even for minutes, to experience its peaceful atmosphere. Important to learn is what exists Today is only fragments. This way, you shouldn’t expect Persepolis-style carvings. However, the site’s sheer age and magnificent setting are attractions enough.
Overlooking a lake with a backdrop of a snowcapped highland, the ancient interweaves a scenic natural context with a rich harmonious composition. It reveals architectural achievements of outstanding universal values, which from artistic, religious, mythical, and historical points of view, emerge from the synergy of a man-made and spectacular natural setting.
They established the ensemble in a geologically anomalous location where the base of the temple complex sits on an oval mound roughly 350 by 550 meters. It encompasses a lake roughly 80 by 120 meters and a Sassanid-era Zoroastrian temple complex dedicated to Anahita, an ancient goddess of fertility, parts of which were rebuilt in the 13th century during the Ilkhanid era.
They say Takht-e Soleyman’s name isn’t based on real historical links to the Old Testament King Solomon but was a cunning 7th-century invention by the temple’s Persian guardians in the face of the Arab invasion.
In the 13th century, Takht-e Soleyman became a summer retreat for the Mongol Ilkhanid khans. The remnants of their hunting palace are now covered with a discordant modern roof forming a storeroom (often locked) for amphorae, unlabelled column fragments, photos, and a couple of ceramic sections of those ancient gas pipes.
According to Britannica Encyclopedia, its surrounding landscape was probably first inhabited sometime in the 1st millennium BC. Some construction on the mound itself dates from the early Achaemenian dynasty (559–330 BC), and there are traces of settlement activity from the Parthian period.
Under tourists’ eyes
In what follows, a selection of comments that foreign visitors have already posted to TripAdvisor, a fairly popular travel website, has been given:
‘It was worth the whole journey to Iran’
Takht-e Soleyman is an incredible place as well as Zendan Soleyman. Moreover, there is a small village between the two from where you can hike to the archaeological site (Takht-e Soleyman) and the mountain/volcano (Zendan-e Soleyman). I have spent four hours all together between the two sites and the village and would love to come back soon. You can also sleep in the village in a recently refurbished traditional house. Strongly recommended! (Eugenio_G694 from Milan, Italy)
This is an interesting site to visit with a lot of the structures still visible. It is in a stunning location surrounded by beautiful mountains. The lake within the site is large and with a guide to explain the various structures, the whole complex comes to life an$ you begin to appreciate what a magical place this is. (Sus1952 from Palmerston North, New Zealand)
‘An inspiring site, together for the mysteries of the earth and for the history of men’
This place is far from everything. On our trip, as well as on most visitors’ journeys, Takht-e Soleyman required at least three hours’ drive from our previous stop, Maragheh, and after our departure, three hours more for our next stop, Sanandaj. Yet it would be foolish not to stop here, as long as possible. In fact, this is one of the not many places in the world where you can “breathe” equally the mystery of nature and the charm of the millennial history of men. The mystery of nature, because the water saturated with calcium flowing here after tens of thousands of years, and that finally created the hill of about 60 m. on which stands the site, along with the pond that crowns the hill’s summit (about 60 m deep as well, for a diameter of 70 m, therefore astoundingly deep), reminds us of the thrilling charm of the land that hosts us all; it makes us think of what is hidden under the landscapes we usually see. The fascination of human history also appears evident, because the mythical thought of our ancestors couldn’t be struck by this evidence of the “chthonic” powers, that is, of the restless depths of the earth; as it did for the “Phlegraean Fields” near Naples, or the Bromo volcano on Java island. In fact, even in this case, the ancient inhabitants have built a mythology around some natural phenomena, the mythology that makes this spot not just one of the sacred places of Zoroastrianism, but “the” most sacred place.
It is therefore required for this visit, even more than for other sights in Iran, to enter the spirit of the civilizations that have interacted with the environment, and to fully understand it. Otherwise, you will be bewildered by the almost un-decipherable complex of the ruins that are included between the pond and the walls of the Sassanid era. If you have the time, walk up for a few hundred meters on the hill overlooking the ticket office and the rest area: you will have the most gorgeous view of the site. One last observation: when I visited this site I was reading “The Valleys of the Assassins” by Freya Stark. From this book, I learned that “Takht-e Soleyman” (that is, “Throne of Solomon”) is also the name of a summit of the Alborz Mountains, northwest of Tehran. And I later found that another mountain of this name is found in Pakistan (Balochistan region). Discovering that the king and prophet Solomon in the Islamic tradition has a reputation as a great traveler, builder, and “tamer of monsters” (see the “Zendan-e Soleyman”, a few hundred meters from the pond) has set up for me a further reason of charm in this visit. (Brun066 from Florence, Italy)
‘Off the beaten track but worth it as long as the weather holds!’
Very few Western tourists venture this far, but this Zoroastrian fire temple sits in an amazing landscape. The few buildings that are left are ruins, but the site is surrounded by an ancient wall and has amazing backdrops of snowcapped mountains. The weather is very changeable, so wrap up warm when the sun goes in. (rdella from the UK)
‘A UNESCO site not to be missed’
What an incredible historic site. Sassanids warriors and kings, Zoroastrian fire, and Anahita water goddess worshipers all co-existed here. Even when the Mongols appeared, they did not destroy it but appreciated its deep Crater Lake and volcanoes around. It is amazing that it is so well preserved after so long… (Miriahm D. from Colorado, the U.S.)
‘This is amazing’
The site is on a volcanic vent combined with an artesian well. It was covered in silt from various discharges over the centuries until the early last century. The pool of water is very deep and fissures, the source of the water, go even deeper. The high mineral content helps fertilize the surrounding orchards. Intriguingly, the site was important for the Persians and then also the later Ilkhanid Mongol invaders, who modified it. The on-site guide was excellent and brought it all to life (including the 12 fortresses which surround it). This is a compelling visit, especially when you consider the full context. (PeterC489 from London, England)