Natural wonders of the Middle East you’ve got to see. Part I

    28 May 2021

    Let’s start a fascinating trip to the Gulf natural reserves. As you will see, the beauty is hidden not only in glass-and-concrete skyscrapers, but in the objects of nature.

    We’re thankful to Matadornetwork for this review.

    Jabal Qara Caves, Saudi Arabia

    The Al Hasa Oasis in the country’s Eastern Province is home to an area of limestone hills, beneath which runs a system of well-visited caves.

    This intricate cave system is located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The caves formed around the hill of Jabal Al Qarah which formed as a result of erosional enlargement of a chain of extremely narrow, deep, and joint-controlled fissures in the Hofuf Formation.

    The hill is part of the Shedgum Plateau. The plateau extends to the south from the larger Syrian Plateau, and to the north from As Summan Plateau.

    Cave morphology experts explain that The Jabal Al Qarah Caves have peculiar characteristics that distinguish them from other limestone caves in the region. Some of these characteristics include extra linear cave passages, tall walls, and extra narrow canyons.

    Without going into the finer details, these peculiar features make the caves a must-visit for anyone touring the As Summan Plateau. Note that you will need a Saudi Arabia eVisa to visit this region.

    Rub’ al Khali, Arabian Peninsula

    One of the largest sand deserts in the world, it’s only recently been explored by scientists. It occupies a large chunk of southern Saudi Arabia and parts of Oman, Yemen, and the UAE.

    Musandam Fjords, Oman

    The Musandam Peninsula is the spike that juts up from the boot toe of the Arabian Peninsula, creating the Strait of Hormuz and separating the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman. Itsx` fjords are sometimes compared to Norway’s, though they were formed tectonically rather than by glacial movement.

    Wadi Rum, Jordan

    South of Petra, near Aqaba, Wadi Rum is a desert valley featuring Nabatean petroglyphs and several sandstone climbing walls/routes.

    Western Asir Province, Saudi Arabia

    The area around Abha in the southwestern corner of Saudi Arabia is mountainous and fairly fertile. Much of it is protected in Asir National Park, the country’s oldest.

    This region is defined by some of the greatest deserts in the world, snowy mountains, tropical forests, and globally popular rivers, and awe-inspiring water bodies such as the Dead Sea. There is something for every traveler.

    Bu Tinah Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

    This tiny archipelago off the coast of Abu Dhabi is part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. It ranks among the biggest wonders of the world, besides the original 7 wonders. It is the largest protected area in the UAE, stretching for over 4,000 square kilometers. Only a few visitors are allowed here in a day, and they have to be supervised.

    Bu Tinah is home to a balanced blend of sea and land species. Rare birds such as the osprey nest here and, occasionally, the archipelago is visited by migratory birds such as the Socotra cormorant. The island has perfect coral reefs for many marine creatures. You will find the shy and extremely peaceful dugongs here.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature ranks these large marine mammals as a species vulnerable to extinction. The archipelago is also home to the hawksbill turtle, among other near-extinct species.

    Strait of Hormuz, between Oman and Iran

    This is the only sea passage from Persian or the Arabian Sea to the open ocean. The Strait of Hormuz has been a bone of conflict between the Arabian and Persian regions for decades now.

    A politics and border dispute aside, the passage is one of the most aesthetically beautiful natural wonders in Oman (or Persia if you support Iran in the border dispute). The deep dark water and white rocky shores that make the Strait are too beautiful to be political about.

    Jebel Qaraqir. An Oasis in the Saudi Desert

    Wadi Qaraqir – also known as Wadi Dissah – is a 15 km long canyon running through the Jebel Qaraqir, a sandstone massif lying about 80 km south of the city of Tabuk. This natural wonder was for a long time a well-kept secret among explorers, before the road leading to the nearby city of Dissah was built and satellite images were available to the public, which made it quite difficult to find and reach. Today, there are two roads leading to each entrance of the wadi and this natural wonder has become one of the must-see places in Saudi Arabia.

    The imposing peaks and craggy cliffs of the canyon that cuts through the Jebel Qaraqir plateau are plenty impressive on their own. But the unexpected hero of this dramatic Saudi Arabian desert scene is a spring-fed stream that consistently delivers water, splashing refreshing shades of green—in the form of grasses, shrubs, and palm trees—against the orange and yellow-colored sandstone canyon canvas.

    Iran’s Natural Attractions

    If visiting ancient monuments and the beautiful historical mosques of Iran are not enough to satisfy you with Iranian excursions, you should definitely visit the country’s unique natural wonders which will leave you with a world of adventure and good memories, from high mountains to low deserts and from dense forests to exotic springs.

    Here are some of Iran’s natural attractions:

    Damavand

    About 65 km north of Tehran’s metropolis, located in the middle of Alborz range, there is a high peak known as the highest mountain in the Middle East. Mount Damavand height is 5610 and climbers from all around the world travel to Iran every year to climb this summit. The summit is covered in snow all year long. If you are a bit lucky and in Tehran during non-polluted times of year (such as Nowruz holidays), you would be able to see the magnificent view of Damavand Peak from the city. Damavand Peak, in addition to its natural beauty, has a high place in Iranian culture, mythology and civilization, as many poets have named the mountain in their poems and many legends have been told about it. 

    To reach the summit of Damavand you must be a trained person in a good physical condition. A suitable three-day climbing program, with a good hiking team, a Damavand guide and complete equipment, are necessary for you to reach Damavand summit.

    Lut Desert

    Lut desert, one of the most beautiful natural areas of Iran, located in the south-east of the country, is a natural attraction of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iran.

    It is interesting to note that this area is one of the hottest spots on earth. Lut desert covers more than 40,000 square Km and is located in the provinces of Kerman, Sistan-Baluchistan and South Khorasan.

    Salt Lake, Dasht-e-Kavir

    Another great desert of Iran, located in the center of the plateau and northwest of Isfahan and Yazd, is Dasht-e-Kavir, or salt desert. The harsh wild nature here will amaze you. The famous Salt Lake Desert, located about 100 Km from Qom, is the most popular attraction for tourists to visit. Rest assured that traveling to this area without a guide and proper equipment will be dangerous.

    Badab-e-Surt springs

    For those interested in the geology world, the amazing rock formations of Badab-e Surt would be a spectacular attraction. Badab Surt springs are located in Mazandaran province, about 100 km south of Sari. The stair-like formations made by the deposited sediments of the springs make different colors in different seasons; gold, yellow, orange and red. Two of these springs are said to be potable and have healing properties. This is one of the places where photographers would love. Unfortunately, Badab Sort, springs are being destroyed for a variety of reasons.

    Qeshm Island

    The whole of Qeshm Island is a vast collection of natural landscapes and wonders. The island is located in the Persian Gulf, south of Bandar Abbas and is well known for its diversity of geology and natural formations. Qeshm is also known as the largest island in the Persian Gulf. As an example, the saltwater cave on this island is known as the world’s longest salt cave. Valley of Stars and Chahkouh Canyon are also some of the most beautiful natural attractions in Iran.

    Laton Falls

    Laton Waterfall is one of Iran’s most unique natural attractions. If you are in Gilan province, it’s worth to take a short trip to Astara city to enjoy watching the highest waterfall in Iran. At the heart of beautiful forest mountains of this area, there is a waterfall with a height of 105 meters. If you are looking for relaxation, camping in this quiet and peaceful nature is recommended. If you are also an adventurer, you can experience rappelling Iran’s tallest waterfall. Remember that spring is the best time to travel to this part of the country.

    Masal, Gilan

    Masal village in Gilan province and its cloud ocean phenomenon is one of the most unique forest landscapes of the country. If you plan to travel to Masal, don’t forget warm clothing even in summer. Here you will find misty air and a combination of high mountains and dense forests. The best time to travel to Massal is from late spring to late summer. Oles Blangah is the most famous village in Masal region, but we also suggest a trip to the unknown village of Bilgadol.

    Turkmen Sahra

    The famous Turkmen Sahra plains are located near the borders of Iran and Turkmenistan in northwestern Iran, in the eastern side of the Caspian Sea. The highlight of this region is Khalid Nabi cemetery area and the green hills around it. Tourism sites suggest to travel to Turkmen Sahra in May. In addition to being one of Iran’s natural attractions, Khalid Nabi is also a historic site of great antiquity. The cemetery is covered in headstones distinctly resembling male and female sex organs.

    The cemetery is covered with tombstones that are distinctly similar to male and female genitals. Some are cylindrical and capped while others are paired and rounded. The cemetery has a total of 600 monuments to the sexual organs that sprawl across the vibrant landscape.

    Uraman Village

    Uraman (Hawraman) village in Kurdistan is among places in Iran that every tourist should list for their travel destinations. Uraman is the name of a mountainous area located on Iran-Iraq border. Beautiful valleys with lush rivers and exquisite landscapes along with interesting stair-stepped architecture of Uraman village are among the interesting attractions of this area. If you are traveling to Uraman, be sure to try the local breads of this area and don’t forget to visit Marivan and Lake Zarivar.

    Subatan Village

    Subatan Villages is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Iranian nature that is less known to the public because of the difficult access routes, but it is well-known amongst adventure travelers. Subatan is at the height of Talesh. Visitors generally begin hike from the southwestern side of the mountain (from Lake Neur) to this unique village. The best time for a trip to Subatan is June when fresh blossoms and fragrant flowers appear everywhere.

    Khalkhal-Asalem Road

    Is a winding road that connects the beautiful and green provinces of Ardabil and Gilan. From the beginning of this 70km road, you will find pristine nature, wild beauties, waterfalls, lakes, vast plains of flowers and rare plants. Half of this is the forest and the other half is the plains and mountains.

    Near Khalkhal, there is a well-known hot water called “kiwi” that is not very well known and you can swim without worrying about car parks or the surrounding crowds!

    Dom-e-Asb Gorge

    Dom-e-Asb Gorge located in the “Kohmareh Sorkhi” region (50 km south of Shiraz) is one of the most beautiful and pristine areas whose rivers and attractive waterways have made it interesting to visit.  To reach the gorge, first you have to reach the “Koreh-Bas” village from Shiraz. It is necessary to know that the Dom-e-Asb spring, lands along the trail and the gorge itself are parts of some private lands belonging to people of Kozarg village.

    The clearly navigated path has many ups and downs. In some places, one would need scrambling, crossing rifts and chimneys individually. Along the way, from top of the mountain, you see a deep valley in the heart of the roaring river of Dom-e- Asb which enters downstream villages after passing a narrow gorge. Further on, the landslide has created a 200-meter-long lake that can be crossed by swimming or boats. Continuing this path leads to the waterfall.

    Mazichaal Village

    Near the town of Kelardasht, there is a village called Mazichal with an altitude of 2600m above the sea level. Spectacular Mazichal Heights and scenic landscapes with picturesque views increase the atmosphere of this integrated mountain village and passing through a forest of clouds make the roads more memorable.

    Raghaz Canyon

    According to Iranian canyoneering experts, Raghaz is considered the best choice to embrace the challenge and excitement. There are many canyons in Iran but they are not as easy as Raghaz to traverse. It is one of the best canyoneering adventure experiences that you can have in your life. Canyoneering challenges many skills such as keeping balance, physical and mental fitness, swimming, rock climbing and more.

    Several years ago when I first set foot in Raghaz Canyon, and rappelled the cascade path with ropes and experienced beautiful jumps in the clear, sometimes fish-full basins, I never thought this place would be one day a top destination for Adventurers.

    Located 30 kilometers northeast of Darab city, surrounded by high cliffs on both sides, the four kilometer long Raghaz canyon lies peacefully in the middle of mountains. The word Raghaz means slippery, and locals know this beautiful valley as “Rud Khiz” Canyon.

    Raghaz is a pristine and spectacular place, but keep in mind that going deep into this canyon is not easy for beginners. Traversers need to have at least a basic familiarity with swimming, rock climbing, and canyoneering techniques; professional equipment is needed as well.

    Cloud forest

    One of Iran’s most spectacular landscapes is in the cloud forests of Caspian Hyrcanian eco-region. Because of their location in the mountains where the mountains let the clouds get through and come into the forest through them due to the air pressure difference. This phenomenon makes you able to walk on the clouds. Shahroud Cloud Forest is one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas of Iran, located 45 kilometers north of Shahroud in Semnan province.

    Alisadr Cave

    As one of the biggest attractions of Hamadan province and the world’s largest water cave, Alisadr is ranked among the most popular sites of Iran with thousands of visitors year-round, especially in spring and summer.This cave is located in Kabood Ahang , a city 60 Km from Hamadan. The distance from Kabudarahang to Alisadr Village is 50 Km. This cave is located on the elevated lands of Sari Qieh, meaning the yellow rock.

    Ali-sadr is one of the few water caves in the world. Its  Jurassic Period rocks from the second geological period, takes you back to 190 million years ago. As you walk through the entrance, you will be greeted by a cool atmosphere that will make you forget the heat outside. The lake here is clear, so that its floor can be seen. You have to wear a life jacket and get on the boat and go through the natural labyrinth of the cave. You have to get off the boat somewhere and continue your journey.

    To be continued.

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