Originally the capital of the Medes and known as Ecbatana; home to world’s largest water cave systems
Formerly known as Ecbatana in ancient times, Hamedan was among the world most glorious cities especially when it was made the capital of the Median Empire. Not much remains from the archeological findings of Hegmataneh hills, where the site of the ancient city was, but there are still ongoing excavations and various unknown historical sites remain unexplored. Curled up to the feet of adjacent hills and mountains, Hamadan is comfortably mild at the end of summer and early autumn but can get cold and snowy during winter. Rarely in spring, if the air is clear, you might sneak a peek of the monstrous Alvandkuh, tallest mountain in the region.
Ali Sadr Cave System
Ali Sadr Cave systems, one of the most touristic sights in the region, is located 70km north of the city and a ride would take less than an hour to go there. Usually taken as a day trip, these massive systems are popular among the Iranians, crowding it during weekends: Thursdays and Fridays. These caves are famed for their bewildering subterranean islands and mysterious looking shapes found on the ceilings. The trip to these caves can be cultural as well as a geographical one. Do bring more clothes with you for entering the cave; if a t-shirt is sufficient for outside, it can be uncomfortably cold for you inside the cave systems with one layer of clothing.
Home to the ancient city of Ecbatana, these hills provide a chilling view of the city and the neighboring mountains, especially in early evenings when the sun is not as powerful as hours ago. The archeological finding hidden deep underground have been very interesting to the archeologists as well as to visitors; you can walk around these historical sites and see the unknown city for yourself. There are also two Armenian churches in the premises of this site that you can visit.
The museum of the site is as rich as it gets with ancient and prehistoric artifacts: Luristan Bronzes, Median adobe works, Achaemenid pillars, Seljuk fountains and more. Fully exploring the area and the museum won’t take more than two hours, even if done slowly.
Avicenna considered the as the father of early modern medicine, died in Hamedan in 1037, far away from his birthplace in Uzbekistan. His mausoleum, an iconic tower-like monument was designed and erected in 1954 by a prominent Iranian architect Hooshang Seyhoun who has built other famous mausoleums in the country such as the one for Ferdowsi in Tus, Omar Khayyam, and Kamal-ol Molk in Nishapur. This building is largely inspired by UNESCO World Heritage Site, the thousand-year-old tower of Gonbad-e Qabus; one could easily connect why Seyhoun modelled his tower with the ancient one; Avicenna and Gonbad-e Qabus were contemporary. An afternoon walk in the premises of the mausoleum would be pleasant; you can also socialize with locals who are enthusiastic Avicenna.
The original dome was built during the 12th century and was commemorated in a poem by Khaqani a Persian poet, but it has been long abolished; however, the brick tower is standing tall and is famed for its amazing interior stucco works and well as exterior inscriptions which were added to the structure later on during the Ilkhanid era. Robert Byron, a famous English travel writer, who recorded his journey to Middle East in the 1930s mentions this extraordinary dome in his most-read travelogue the Road to Oxiana.
Ganj Nameh, which literally means ‘The Book of Treasures’, is named so because the mysterious inscriptions on the walls of the mountains were thought to be delphic instructional messages hinting for hidden chests of buried treasures from the ancient Median civilizations who chose Ecbatana, modern Hamedan, as their capital. Nowadays these mountains and the adjacent waterfall is are popular among local tourists and hikers who want to climb the ever glorious Alvandkuh nearby.
The inscription are, actually, formal praises for Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god as well as for Xerxes and Darius, two Achaemenid kings. These praises are written in three different languages: Elamite, neo-Babylonian and old-Persian), to showcase the diversity and the vastness of the empire.
There is also a 9 meters high waterfall nearby which turns into a hub for ice-climbers during winter. Be wary of the weekends since this spot is popular among the locals as well as tourists. The Alvandkuh trail starts at the site; it can be done in one day during the summer and more during the winter which also becomes ski slopes for those interested.
Hamedan Jameh Mosque
This Qajari era Jameh mosque is located in the bazaar where an arched alleyway leads to its courtyard. The north iwan is decorated with sumptuous blue-ish tile work. In the south iwan you can find a passage to a magnificent brick dome.
Tomb of Baba Taher
Built during the second Pahlavi shah, the tomb of Baba Taher, a famous Iranian poet whose verses in the Luri dialect are read and memorized all over the country, looks like a slightly short rocket from afar. His tomb is a great place to get to know the great man buried under a pyramid-looking gravestone, socialize with other Iranians and tourists, and bring back home a souvenir from the local shops in the premise.