Aras Geopark

Introduction

Proposed Aras Geopark is located in eastern Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The Geopark has an area of about 1670 square kilometers and spread across the whole Jolfa county.

From a natural geographical view, this mountainous area is the southern end of little Caucasus that encompasses countries include Armenia, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and northern Azerbaijan of Iran. This mountain alongside with Alborz and Zagros are forming middle part of Alpine-Himalayan Orogeny that stretches from southern Europe to eastern Asia and acting as a natural barrier, caused a great diversity in climate, life and cultures in each two sides slopes.

 The main source of precipitations is the Mediterranean wet air fronts which enter the area on early autumn to mid-spring from northwest and west, and forms an average precipitation about 250-350 mm per year.

The topography is generally extremely steep, and forms astonishing landscapes, so that the highest point in Jolfa region is the Kiyamaki mount with 3347 m and the lowest points include the northern boundary and the Aras river valley with 720 to 390 meters. Given to its climate, the area has a diverse vegetation, so that Aras valley is covered by subtropical trees, since the western and middle parts are dominated by steppe, and Arasbaran dense forests are seen on eastern slopes. The permanent snow line is located above the altitude of 3000 meters.

The main river in the area is the Aras river that make the northern boundary of the geopark with Armenia and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The continues roaring steam of the river passing from northwestern to northeastern drains surface waters in the area. The river in downstream meets the Kura River and at last flows into the Caspian Sea.

The area has an appropriate geo-tourism attraction, because of its mountainous landscapes, and outcropping different sedimentary and igneous rocks, diversity in tectonic structures, semi-cold and semi-arid climate and diverse flora and fauna.

Main geosites in the Geopark include Kamtal, Marakan, Darediz and Kiyamaki localities, that given to their diverse flora and fauna, are protected by Iranian Department of Environment. Among the most notable geological features of the Geopark can mention to Paleozoic-Mesozoic sedimentary rocks sequence, especially the conformity of Permian to Triassic sediments, that is very interesting for geologists, plutonic provinces and extensive granitic rocks which is covered eastern part of area, volcanic and sub-volcanic provinces that form Kiyamaki dome, compression regime resulting from Alpine Orogeny which causes developing different structural features such as faulting, trusting and folding of rocks, fossil site localities, mineral springs which deposit travertine, and at last the Aras River and its related geomorphic features. Each of these phenomena can shows different orogenic phases, its forming processes and life history on our planet.

Aras Geosites

Geosite is a part of a Geopark where a number of geological features are located near to each other, and its important geological phenomena can be visited completely in a short time. Geological heritage in each geosite include astonishing landscapes and amazing geological phenomena with scientific, educational and aesthetic significance that enchanted visitors and imply them to the mysterious Earth’s history.

Aras Geopark is located where the string of micro-continents or Cimmeria collided with paleo-continent Laurasia, and its outcrops cover a wide range of different rocks from Paleozoic to Cenozoic sediments, plutonic, volcanic and well as metamorphic rocks. The maximum height difference is more than 2900 meters, so one can expect so many geological features and topographic views in each of its geosites. Among the important geosites in the area are Aras River, Kamtal National Park, Marakan Protected Area, Dare-diz Protected Area, Asiyab-kharabe (broken mill) water fall, Kiyamaki volcanic dome, and Maharan waterfalls.

Aras River

Aras River is located in the northern part of the Geopark that flows from west to east of the area. The river is the political border between Iran in the south and Armenia and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in the north.

The most distant sources of Aras river are Bingöl mountains in the south of Erzurum province in Turkey, 240 km far from Iranian border, passing through countries include Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan, with a length of 1072 km, flow into Kura River and at last into Caspian Sea. Morphologically, Aras channel is mostly braided and longitudinal braid bars as long single islands can be seen along its channel. These braid or mid-channel bars are resulted from deposition of river gravel load when the discharge is low.

Kamtal National Park

Geologically, Kamtal National Park is located on a huge granitic intrusion, formed in Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 Ma), in the Cretaceous sedimentary rocks (145 to 66 Ma). Thermal contact metamorphism is restricted to the zone surrounding the intrusion. So that, a wide range of various rocks include intrusive igneous rocks, and volcanic and sub-volcanic (as sills and dikes), contact metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, especially travertine (around the hot springs) are observable in a limited distance, less than 10 km length. Such a diverse lithology is very unique all over the area. Among the most significant geological features can be name from mineralization as veins contain copper and iron, fossil localities, numerous caves and plenty of dikes that occur as long dark continues walls in limestone cliffs.

Kamtal National Park contain some of most beautiful intact landscapes in the Geopark, as a last stand castle for wild life, that fortunately save its bio-diversity. Its green meadows replete with flowers mesmerizes any visitor.

Marakan Protected Area

Marakan protected area is located at the west of Geopark. In this region we can see the oldest lithological units in the Geopark, namely Jairood Formation aging Devonian Period (420 to 360 Ma) which constituted most extended outcrops as well. Permian and Triassic sedimentary rocks including limestone, dolomite and sandstone outcrop in the area too. These rocks are rich in term of fossil content, and fossils of some of the extinct ancient animals like brachiopods, pelecypoda (bivalve) and ammonites can be found in these sedimentary rocks.

Faults and thrusts in the area caused a significant strike-slip and reverse movements, and there is rhyolite-dacite extrusions, sills and dikes with dark colors outcrops.

Marakan region with sharp cliffs and steeped crags resulted from missive limestone and dolomitic beds and fault scarps, is blessing gift for wild life as well as who love natural astonishing perspectives.

Dare-diz Protected Area

Another important geosite in the Geopark is the Dare-diz Protected area. Visitors who enter the Geopark via Tabriz road from the south way, whether by car or train, first of all, encounter with huge cliffs and elevated hilltops of this geosite.

Competent limestone and dolostone beds from Devonian, Permian and Triassic Periods, as well as Devonian Andesitic lavas constituted main part of outcrops in the region. Compression caused by continental collision in Alpine orogeny from the late Triassic Period to present, has led to significant bed folding on each other and thrusting them in a large distance.

Stunning scenic views of the geosite area with observable thrusts and strike-slip faults, systematic joints, fault related folding and micro-folds can excite every visitor and create ineffaceable memories. Vast outcrops of limestone-dolostone formations with missive well bedded can help to detect structures like different type of folds and faults. Sedimentary layers rich in fossils of Brachiopods, Pelecypoda, Corals, Echinodermata and Ammonites has completed this beautiful picture.

Apart from its unique structural geology specifics, Dare-diz geosite has a significant biodiversity, both in flora and fauna, that placed it in the list of protected areas in department of Environment.

Kiyamaki Volcanic Dome

One of the most important factors in creating such a sharp and steep topography in the Geopark is volcanism in geological history of the area. Most significant volcanic activity has occurred in Oligocene Epoch (34 to 24 Ma), which lead to creating Kiyamaki mount.

The dominant lithology of its volcanic rocks is Dacite. It is extrusive igneous rock that form in result of magma eruption from the depth in the Earth. Large silica content of Dacitic magma make it very viscous. So these types of magmas flow hardly and slowly on the ground. In the way to waterfalls, looking carefully, one can distinguish the boundary between this Dacitic lava and their underlying limestone rocks.

With elevation of 3347 m above sea level, topographic prominence of 2000, and height of 2600 above Jolfa Plain, the Kiyamaki summit is snowy and cloudy in most of the year. The summit is iconic, it is among the popular climbing targets and many climbers try to ascent it every year.

Maharan Waterfalls

One of the geo-tourism interesting in the Geopark is the western steep slopes of Kiyamaki mountains and the valley ended with Maharan waterfalls. Maharan valley with its roaring waterfall cascades can be reached by walking on a rural road from Qeshlaq village to its nearby valley.

Some of the most interesting geological features in the area include prismatic joints formed in volcanic rocks, also Quaternary glacial evidences in the hemispherical valley of Qeshlaq village. The latter has formed as a great depression like a large scale amphitheater which presents a glacial cirque.

Breathtaking mountain views and significant climate change from this region to its downstream is so that has a pleasant weather with relatively low temperature even in early summer, attracting many visitors.

Asiyab-kharabe Waterfall

Asiyab-kharabe (broken water mill) waterfalls is located in 25 km east of Jolfa city, along the Jolfa-Siahrood road. In this location, near an abandoned watermill, there is a travertine spring that flows from a cleft in the rocks. The cleft, in fact, is the entry of a cave that long 150 m and end to a chamber where is the main appearance of the spring. Its water stream passing close to the abandoned watermill end to a waterfall with a height of 10 m, where dense hydrophilic plants are grown.

Beautiful folding stretched in Cretaceous flysch deposits on the left side slopes of Asiyab-kharabe valley. These chevron folds in the alternate sandstone-shale layers provide a wonderful perspective and attract the interest and curiosity of people. Fossils and various sedimentary structures in the base of sandstone beds complete this stunning picture, phenomena that represent bioactivity in the Neotethys seabed living near 70 million years ago and probably are ancestors of some of the present day animals.

How to get there!

Aras Geopark area is located in the northwest of Iran,east Azerbaijan Province and spread across the whole Jolfa county. The county has three cities: Jolfa, Hadishaher and Siah-rood. It is easily accessible from various parts of Iran and neighbouring countries by air, rail and road.

Climate

This area is mountainous and features semi-arid and semi-cold climate. Average annual precipitation ranges between 250 to 350 mm and the mean temperature is about 15 oC.

Approximately seventy days of the year are considered as the number of freeze days. In seasons, particularly spring and fall, the temperatures are more moderate and it is the best time to visit this area.

 By car

There is 136 Km distance between Tabriz and Jolfa. It would take 1 hour 40 minutes to go there. It will pass by Sofian and Marand cities which is the shortest way to get there. The old road which is run a little way to the north and is crossed Kalibar city, is another way to travel from Tabriz to the Geopark and Jolfa area. Although it takes longer time to reach your destination, you will be interested in Iran’s natural sceneries.

The Geopark region is located in Aras free trade-industrial zone, therefore imported cars that intend to travel in free zone must have a special license plate. These cars are free of customs duty and are allowed to travel anywhere within a radius of 135 km, even city of Tabriz.

By bus

Every day numerous buses from all over the country especially Tabriz and Tehran, travel to the area and Jolfa city. Hadishahr city is the terminal for the buses going to the Geopark. If you want to know, it just takes 10 minutes to get from Jolfa to Hadishahr by car.

By train

Trains from Tabriz have regular services into Jolfa. Tabriz trains travel to and from Jolfa on a Daily basis drop-off at 8:15 and 8:45 and pick up at 19:00 and 19:45 from Jolfa station. It’s takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. You should know that the passengers who travel by train during New Year’s Eve in late March to early April are free of charge.

If you want to travel to Tabriz and Jolfa from Tehran and elsewhere, the time of arrival from Tehran to Jolfa is at least 17 hours. Although it is a long journey, you can enjoy your trip by sightseeing and relaxing along the way.

By Air

Tabriz airport is the nearest airport to Jolfa. To get from the airport to Jolfa county only takes one and a half hours by car.

Recently for the first time in Iran, an Air taxi services has been launched between Tabriz and Jolfa by helicopter in Aras free zone. This allows you to travel faster and more conveniently than before as it takes just 40 minute to reach your destination.

Reference: http://arasgeopark.com

Star Valley

The Star Valley, which is called “Estareh Kafteh” in local dialect, is one of the most important erosional phenomena in Iran. this valley is located in south east of Qeshm Island in Persian Gulf. In this valley there is variety of geomorphological phenomena which shaped several interconnected branches of small valleys.

Besides the mechanical erosion of water which is the main factor of shaping this area, there are many other factors such as different types of rocks with different resistance, the intercalation of gypsum and the different regional tectonic activities.

The walls of the valley are formed by two types of layer: the thick and soft layer in bottom and the thin and hard layer on top. As the top layer has calcareous cement, is more resistance than the loose lower one; so it acts as the protector. Therefor where ever the top layer was destroyed or has some joints, erosion effects quickly and it causes the small valley’s forming.

Referring to the mentioned causes; the layers of this valley are so brittle, so even the weight of just one person can be dangerous and causes collapsing. Although the upper layer may seems to be strong, but the lower layers may has been destroyed due to erosion.

The Mishan formation is the main formation of the Star Valley. In Qeshm Island this formation includes the alternation of marl and silty marl in olive green to grey color with some lenses of intra formation conglomerate which intercalates with sandstones.

The age of formation in star valley back to Middle or late Miocene (5 to 10 million years ago), but the phenomena relates to several thousand years ago.

In sedimentary sequences of Mishan formation, there is variety of structures such as thin – middle – thick and massive layering, fossiliferous limestone and sandstone in the channel shapes, graded bedding, plane lamination, lens form lamination and other structures can be found.

From the structural geology point of view, the layers in the Star Valley have low dip or they are horizontal. Due to tectonic activites in Mishan formation, the systematic joints have been created in this area. The gravity force and weathering and erosional phenomena are the main reason of joints opening.

In local ancient’s belief, this valley has been formed by impact a meteorite and rising up of stones and soils and freezing there. On the other hand, they believed this valley was the resort goblins and the voice of howling the wind was because of their movements.

Keywords: Erosion , Geo site , Geology , Geotourism , Iran , Limestone , Marl , Mishan formation , Persian gulf , Qeshm Island , Sandstone , Star Valley

Chahkuh Gorge

Chahkuh Gorge is located in the northwest part of the Qeshm Island, near West Chahu village. This Geosite is a good example of running water erosion and formation of a canyon form valley. The erosion was the secondary parameter to create this valley; it was happened along a deep joint and crack resulting the Salakh Anticline movement. So the primary parameter was the structural forces.

Chahkuh Gorge is located in the northwest part of the Qeshm Island, near West Chahu village.

Chahkuh Gorge is located in the northwest part of the Qeshm Island, near West Chahu village.

Chahkuh geological formation are inside the Salakh Anticline, near the salt dome appearance location. Anticline is a ridge-shaped fold of stratified rock in which the strata slope downward form the crest. Resulting the internal pressures and stretches many cracks, joints and faults appear on the anticline flanks those are the weakest points toward erosion. Chahkuh Gorge is a primary joint developed by erosion.

Aerial photo of Chahkuh Gorge

Aerial photo of Chahkuh Gorge

There is another gorge perpendicular to the main gorge; also created by the same mechanism. In general, anticlines and unstable locations so there always appear many faults and joints.

There is another gorge perpendicular to the main gorge; also created by the same mechanism.

There is another gorge perpendicular to the main gorge; also created by the same mechanism.

There is variety of shapes and form namely orbicular, dished, oval and linear on the walls or floor of the gorge all created by the powerful running water after raining. In some cases pieces of rock moves fast and circular inside the gorge and curves the surface to create wells and bowl shape holes (pot-hole).

There is variety of shapes and form namely orbicular, dished, oval and linear on the walls or floor of the gorge all created by the powerful running water after raining.

There is variety of shapes and form namely orbicular, dished, oval and linear on the walls or floor of the gorge all created by the powerful running water after raining.

Geological formations in Chahkuh is impermeable (Aghajari Fm.); it causes rain water to run over the surface. Local people invented a genius innovation using this feature; they dug some shallow wells in the surface to reserve rain water and use it. While Qeshm Island is an extremely dry area, water is worthy and important there; that’s why this innovation is very interesting and practical.

One of the main reasons to name this place as Chahkuh (barrow-well) is because of the water wells in this area and the usage of them by local people in years.

One of the main reasons to name this place as Chahkuh (barrow-well) is because of the water wells in this area and the usage of them by local people in years.

Chahkuh Gorge is created inside alternation of sandstone and marl formation of Aghajari – Mishan (Miocene-Pliocene). This formation comprises of cream color thin bedded limestone that gets thicker on the top part. Over the limestone part, soft sandstone bed appears. The sandstone consist of carbonate particles so it is not very resistance to the erosion. There are some parameters which affects the resistance of the sandstone and creating erosion forms: context and existence of vertical joints.

Keywords: Aghajari formation , Chahkuh , Geosite , Gorge , Hormozgan province , Iran Geology , Iran Geotourism , Island , Qeshm , zamingasht

تنگ رازیانه

Tange Razianeh

Poldokhtar-Ilam path runs along the hillside of the Grub valley in the Kabir Kuh Mountain within Ilam province for approximately 4 km after Chenarbashi village. River flows in a deep gorge which is called “Tange Razianeh” and makes this gorge one of the tourist attractions in Ilam Province.  For the exceptional nature of this region, it has been recognized as one of the natural heritages in Iran.

zg-razianeh-01

Grub valley is actually a syncline lays between two Kabir Kuh and Sartang synclines and Grub River is flowing across the youngest formation in this area- Gachsaran – with miocene age. It has made a series of vaporized rock layers such as salt and gypsum, along with marl and calcareous sedimentary sequence.

نقشه زمین شناسی تنگ چناران

Tange Geological Map

Badab-e Surt

Badab Soort (Persian: باداب سورت‎‎) is a natural site in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, 95 kilometres south of the city of Sari, and 7 kilometres west of Orost village. It comprises a range of stepped travertine terrace formations that has been created over thousands of years as flowing water from two mineral hot springs cooled and deposited carbonate minerals on the mountainside.

Badab is a Persian compound of Bād “gas” + āb “water”, translating to “gassed water”, referring to the springs’ waters being carbonated mineral waters. Soort is an old name for the Orost village and a Persian word meaning intensity.

Badab Soort’s springs are two distinct mineral springs with different natural characteristics, located at 1,840 metres above sea level. The first spring contains very salty water that gathers in a small natural pool; its water is considered to have medicinal properties, especially as a cure for rheumatism and some types of skin diseases and skin conditions. The second spring has a sour taste and is predominately orange mainly due to the large iron oxide sediments at its outlet.

badab02-zg

Badab Soort’s terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by flowing water from the two distinct mineral springs; they were formed during Pleistocene and Pliocene geological periods. When the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate and iron carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide degases from it, and mineral carbonates are deposited. The depositing continues until the carbon dioxide in the water balances the carbon dioxide in the air. Iron carbonate and calcium carbonate are deposited by the water as soft jellies, but they eventually harden into travertine.

badab01-zg

As a result, over the course of thousands of years the water from these two springs emanating from the mountain range have combined and resulted in a number of orange-, red- and yellow-colored pools shaped as a naturally formed staircase. The surrounding vegetation to the north consists of pine forests while to the east it mainly consists of short trees and shrubs; and rock quarries can be seen to the west of the site.

Photos taken by M.S.Mirkazemian.

Dasht-e Loot

Look at the above pictures. What are they? Are they fake images? No!

They are the ASTER images were acquired on May 13, 2006 and July 17, 2003. cover an area of 30 x 45 km, and are located near 30.2 degrees north latitude, 59.1 degrees east longitude. These images represent the beauty of a desert in central Iran.  the center of this place has been sculpted by the wind into a series of parallel ridges and furrows (left image), extending over 150 km and reaching 75m in height. This area is also riddled with ravines and sinkholes. The southeast is a vast expanse of sand, like a Saharan erg, with dunes 300m high (right image), among the tallest in the world.

This desert is called Dasht-e Loot.

Dasht-e Loot (Persian: دشت لوت‎‎) is a large salt desert in Kerman and Sistan and Baluchistan Province, Iran and is the world’s 25th largest desert. The surface of the sand there has been measured at temperatures as high as 70 °C and it is one of the world’s driest and hottest places. It was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list on July 17, 2016.

Iran’s geography consists of a plateau surrounded by mountains and divided into drainage basins. Dasht-e Loot is one of the largest of these desert basins, 480 kilometers long and 320 kilometers wide, and is considered to be one of the driest places on Earth. Area of the desert is about 51,800 square kilometers.

During the spring wet season, water briefly flows down from the Kerman mountains, but it soon dries up, leaving behind only rocks, sand, and salt.

The eastern part of Dasht-e Loot is a low plateau covered with salt flats. In contrast, the center has been sculpted by the wind into a series of parallel ridges and furrows, extending over 150 km and reaching 75 meters in height. This area is also riddled with ravines and sinkholes. The southeast is a vast expanse of sand, like a Saharan erg, with dunes 300 meters high, among the tallest in the world.

Measurements of MODIS (Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) installed on NASA’s Aqua satellite from 2003 to 2010 testify that the hottest land surface on Earth is located in Dasht-e Loot and land surface temperatures reach here 70.7 °C though the air temperature is cooler. Precision of measurements is 0.5 K to 1 K.

The hottest part of Dasht-e Loot is Gandom Beryan, a large plateau covered in dark lava, approximately 480 square kilometres in area. According to a local legend, the name (in translation from Persian — “Toasted wheat”) originates from an accident where a load of wheat was left in the desert which was then scorched by the heat in a few days.

Dasht-e Loot of Iran, a desert which contains a collection of exclusive desert relieves and geological and geomorphological records of the world. Such unique perspectives as the biggest Nebkhas of the world, the largest Yardangs or Kaluts of the world, the hottest point of the earth, as well as rare species of desert structures such as salt marshes and salt polygons, Gandom Beryan Hill, massive sand dunes, Barchans, clay zones in pretty shapes, saline river , etc.

جزیره قشم

Qeshm Island

Qeshm is the largest island in the Persian Gulf, with rocky coastlines that protects a mountainous and often beautiful interior. Qeshm Island is located a few kilometers off the southern coast of Iran (Persian Gulf), opposite the port cities of Bandar Abbas and Bandar Khamir. Qeshm has about 60 villages which are dotted mostly by coasts .Qeshm was always a high rated area because of its strategic location. The people there has a mixture of cultures which is good to mention you will be able to see the history through the left cultures. Historical records concerning the Qeshm island date far back into the pre-Islamic era. Names as Qeshm, Kish and Tunb mark the lengthy stay of Ilamids in the area, several centuries BC.

The island has an abundance of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, dolphins and turtles. Local communities are heavily involved in projects to protect the environment, and there is some disquiet about the effect that the country’s first heavy oil refinery, currently being constructed on the island’s southern coast, might have on the hitherto pristine natural landscape. Construction of the refinery is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Qeshm is also a supposed site of the Garden of Eden according to Cassells Bible.

Fishing is a leading occupation practiced by the inhabitants of the island. On what little cultivated land there is, dates andmelons are grown. Salt is mined on the southeastern coast. Qeshm is famous for its wide range of ecotourist attractions such as the Hara marine forests. According to environmentalists, about 1.5% of the world birds and 25% of Iran’s native birds annually migrate to the forests, which are the first national geo park in Iran. The language in Qeshm is localized Persian with a mixture of Arabic, Indian, Portuguese and English which are added through different chapters of time.

Based on similarities between Qeshm Islands’ anticlines and Zagros anticlines, it is assumed that Qeshm Island could be part of southern Zagros. Another determining factor would be the Salt Dome which has been pulling up on the western part of the island causing morphologic and tectonic changes. Finally, erosion which is mainly caused by wind, sea waves, and seasonal rainstorms, could be considered as a determining factor in forming the present geomorphology of Qeshm Island. Based on abundant natural resources and unique landscapes, especially exceptional geological formations, the Qeshm Global Geopark was established in the Western part of Qeshm Island. Qeshm Geopark as the only Geopark in the Middle-East has been registered by the Global Network of Geoparks

(GGN) in Paris, on 21st March 2006. As of October 2010, 77 Geoparks in 25 Member States had joined GGN, assisted by UNESCO. Obviously, Qeshm Geopark is of high importance due to its strategic location in the Persian Gulf, representing a region between East Asian and European Geoparks. In terms of geological diversity as well as variety of its sites, the Qeshm Geopark enjoys from an ecological and cultural diversity.

Some of important Geosites in this Island as follows:

Stars Valley:

Located near Berkeh Khalaf Village, not far from the Town of Qeshm, the Star Valley is at present the most visited among all Geosites. The Star Valley is a unique example among all Geosites to study erosion. The local name for this area is “Estalah-kaftah” which means “the Fallen Star”. The reason for naming this area as such is that the locals believe that once upon a time a star (commit) (meteor) has hit the earth at this site and as a result of this collision, the stones and soil have been thrown in the air and been frozen, forming these geological structures. There are also local beliefs regarding the presence of Ghosts and “Jinns” in this Valley during the dark which may be due to the unusual geological forms and wind blowing into the Valley at night. The geological morphology of this site is the result of erosion by rainstorms, wind and gravity on various layers. In areas where the geological structures are more resistant to erosion, they have remained intact, however in areas with softer geological structures, erosion has altogether degraded and vanished those parts. In the walls of this Valley, one can observe two different types of layers: A thick and soft layer of light color (beige or light grey) underneath a thinner layer of harder nature, in white or dark grey. The bottom layer due to its soft structure usually gets eroded while the layer above because of having some kind of natural cement (limestone), is more resistant to erosion, protecting the whole structure. In areas where the upper layer is eroded, smaller canyon-like structures have been formed. In some areas within this Valley, geological structure in form of “Pillars” columns may be observed,some of which are needle-shaped. One of the factors which have caused these structures is rainstorm water that is in general seasonal, washing away in circles the soft parts of the geological structure, leaving the harder parts intact as pillars columns or needle shapes. The remnant of hard structures sometimes are “Hat-like” cap rock which almost protects the pillar column from further erosion, while the rest of the structure has been already eroded and disappeared. Various layers in this Valley are thus very vulnerable and fragile, some of them may not even tolerate the weight of a human being. Thus stepping on geological structures could be very dangerous as they might fall apart. Despite a harmonious strong appearance, some areas are critically soft and vulnerable as the bottom layers have already been emptied by erosion. Please note that although by stepping on these structures they do not fall apart right away, the upper layers may get thinner and more fragile by trembling and as a result of narrow cracks these geological structures may get degraded more easily in the future. Thus, avoiding to walk on top of the structures overlooking the Valley may help in protecting this geological heritage for future generations to observe.

Roof of Qeshm:

The Roof of Qeshm is one of the main attractions among all Geosites. It is a semi-high plateau that is located in the central parts of the island, continuing into the western parts of the island and overlooking the northern coastline. It is called the Roof of Qeshm because it is the largest and highest plateau in the island and offers a unique opportunity for visitors to observe the beautiful landscapes from above. The Roof of Qeshm overlooks the Tandis Valley from the north, where its beautiful geomorphology may be observed. The top layers at the Roof of Qeshm are formed from hard structures (mainly limestone) covered by numerous fossils (mainly bivalves), while in its peripheral sections, presence of silt and marl as well as sand, has resulted in heavy erosion. A good way to access this Geosite is to travel through Tabl-Salakh road which through a gravel road and ١۵ minute hike could lead to the Roof of Qeshm. When arrived at the main plateau, the remnants of an ancient village (Kalat-Koshtaran) may be observed where relics of walls, “Aghols” and “Anbars” still remain. In addition, pieces of pottery that probably date back to the Islamic period may be found among the ruins. It is worth noting that limestone was used in forming these manmade structures which has probably been extracted from the upper layers of the plateau. The presence of a traditional water reservoir (Ab-anbar) with a roof shows that in recent years the villagers (from Table and Salakh) may have been using the area more as a picnic ground during the hot season. The Roof of Qeshm offers a unique opportunity to observe beautiful landscapes of the northern coastline, the Harra Mangrove forest, and the azure blue waters of the Persian Gulf as well as the mainland, encouraging the visitor to take a moment to think and breathe in fresh air, and enjoy the clear skies, also suitable for astronomy.

Tandis ha Valley:

This Valley is located south of the Harra Forest. It is known for its beautiful geological structures that represent a highland that has been heavily eroded. In fact, the Tandis Valley is remnant of a high plateau that has been once connected to the Roof of Qeshm. As the island has risen and the seawater has retrieved gradually, the surface area of the island has increased. The Tandis Valley is part of those areas which have been once underneath the water, and when pulled up, it has been heavily eroded by sea waves among other factors. This type of erosion gets reduced gradually while moving more towards the Roof of Qeshm, which has remained intact. In the Tandis Valley, similarly to other geosites, whenever the upper and harder structures (mainly limestone) that usually protect the softer layers beneath, have been degraded, erosion has been a determining factor in forming the geomorphology. However, if these harder structures remain, softer ones are also protected. This is the main reason high plateaus are observed among lower and heavily eroded lands in Qeshm Island.
At this geosite, interesting forms may be observed as if nature has been powerfully carving them through ages.

In some areas of the Valley numerous fossils may be found including fossils of bivalves, in some areas as colonies. Another interesting geological phenomena in the Tandis Valley is sedimentation forming muddy mud cracks, which has created beautiful and interesting landscapes. During and after the rainfall, it is important to pay attention to muddy areas where sometimes the mud is very sticky and dangerous to walk on at this geosite.

Chahkuh gorge:

Chahkuh gorge is on the north-western part of the island not far from Table Village. This Geosite is an exceptional example of erosion through rainstorm water. Heavy rainstorms (that are also rare) quickly flush water through geological structures. Erosion however has been a secondary factor in forming this beautiful valley In fact, it has primarily been affected by the Salt Dome and related anticline. An anticline is a fold that is convex up and formed
due to tectonic compression. While under pressure, these arch-like structures may break in areas that are weaker, forming grooves on the walls. Chahkuh has been initially formed by these geological phenomena, and secondarily been washed away by erosion. Vertical to the main valley axis, there is a second valley, which has also been formed through tectonic pressures. In general, anticlines and areas around them could be counted as «unstable”
as they are more or less exposed to tectonic pressures and compression causing numerous joints and faults in formations.
The presence of concave and round structures or linear and oval structures on the walls of the valley is the result of erosion by water. One of the main characteristics of geological formation of this geosite is its impermeability to water, which keeps the water in holes and grooves, causing further erosion. The locals have taken advantage of this structure by digging wells inside the main axis of the valley to act as water reservoirs. Considering the low level of rainfall on the island, and the scarcity of freshwater, this was a very innovative way to gather water from rainstorms and use it during dry seasons. Chahkuh is aesthetically very attractive, and it is very important to warn the visitors against writing any graffiti on its walls.

Namakdan complex:

The Salt Dome is located on the south western part of Qeshm of island, and hosts the longest salt cave of the world (Namakdan Cave) that is 6km in length.Salt domes are formed when a huge amount of salt moves towards the earth’s surface due to its light structure compared to its surrounding structures. Salt domes emerge in areas which have weak surface structures and openings, and appear as Salt domeon the earth surface.
The Salt domes have many interesting aspects such as salt falls, salt springs and salt caves, with various geological formationsthat have been prone to erosion and dissolution processes.Rainwater gradually penetrates the Salt Dome through its crevices, allowing the water dissolve the salt and enter the dome. Similarto other calcareous caves of the world, the formation of the Salt Cave has been following a Karst-like mechanism, by which waterpenetrating through a joint may gradually dissolve the surrounding areas, forming open and large cave-like structures.As the dissolution process is not the same for all areas, size and shape of these caves and openings differ, giving rise to largeand open spaces in some areas, while in other areas very narrow corridors are formed where one only can get through the caveby crawling.
Some of the most amazing structures that may be found inside the Salt Cave are Stalactites and Stalagmites, as well as saltcrystals (such as needle-shaped, round, or multi-facet) formed by sedimentation of salt. In addition, in some areas where waterhas penetrated to the ground, some beautiful ponds have been formed with salt crystals at the bottom.One of the main attractions around the Salt Dome and the Salt Cave, are geological structures that are composed of various layersof colorful minerals and stones. These are indeed gifts from the depths of the earth which have been brought to the surface throughthe rise of the Salt dome. The age difference between these minerals andother geological structures on the island is over millions of years, anddifferent color in minerals represent different chemical elements. Forexample, the red color represents the Iron, and the yellow color reflectsthe presence of Sulfur.
Another interesting phenomena around the Salt Dome, is the presenceof very shiny and silvery particles, reflecting the presence of Oligist (atype of Iron oxide )that may be observed on the sandy beaches, creatinga beautiful landscape. These are the remains of large Oligists that havebroken down and eroded, and widely distributed. Oligists and other Ironoxides may be found in abundance around Salt domes.While visiting the Salt Dome and the Salt Cave, one has to be extremelycautious not to fall, as there are many holes that have been formed bydissolution process and are sometime hidden and covered by a thin layerof salt, which is hard to distinguish at first sight.
It is important to note that this geosite is very vulnerable to visitation,as the Salt Dome and the Salt Cave and their related structures havetaken thousands of years to form. Each piece of salt crystal that has beenformed inside the Salt Dome and Salt Cave, if damaged, needs anotherhundreds of years to be formed. Therefore, extreme caution by visitors ishighly required and advised to protect and conserve this unique geositefor the next generations.

Naaz Island:

Naz Island in Qeshm is set to emerge as one of the important tourist destinations in Iran. The island is located almost one km to the east of Qeshm and expands over three hectares but lacks sandy coasts. It is surrounded by cliffs rising close to 10 meters. The island is totally flat and when there is a low tide, a narrow patch of land connects Naz to Qeshm Island. Presently there are no dwellers on the island and local fishermen have built arbors there as temporary resting places.

Hara Mangrove forests:

Mangrove forests are unique wetland ecosystems that are established directly in theintertidal zone. Mangrove forests of southern Iran mainly consist of Avicennia marina, aspecies that was named after the great Iranian scientist, Avicennia (or Abu-Ali Sina). The Harra forestconstitutes the most western limits of the mangrove forests of south-east Asia. Harra Protected Areais located in the Khuran Straits, between Qeshm Island and mainland (Khamir Port), consisting ofmangrove forests that have grown more or less densely in the wet and muddy areas of this intertidalwetland. Daily tidal change is the main determining factor in forming the Harra ecosystem. Althoughthe Harra forest is quite homogenous in its composition, with low diversity of plant species, it ishome to a very diverse fauna. This Protected Area is also on the list of Internationally ImportantWetlands (Ramsar Convention).

The Unique Ecosystem of Harra

The Harra forest is a mangrove forest that is only found in coastal areas in tropical regions. Athigh tide, the tree coverage may only be seen above the water level (salt water), while the rest ofthe tree parts are underneath the water. Only at low tide, one can see the trunk and aerial roots ofmangroves. Mangrove forests can easily grow in salt water. Mangroves may have been floweringplants that were pushed to their limits due to lack of capacity in competing with other terrestrialplants. They have then adapted to the difficult conditions of the intertidal zone, which has formedthis unique ecosystem.

High and low-tide in Mangroves

High and low-tide have been critical in shaping the mangrove forests and its related biodiversity.Mangrove forests host a variety of water birds,which, at low tide feed on the muddy intertidalzone. In fact, each bird species is well adaptedto feed on very specific organisms that live atcertain depths in salt water or the mud.

Fighting salinity

In general mangroves can’t use sea water,because the salt that enters the plant throughthe sea water, after evaporation of water fromthe surface of the leaf , will form a salt solutionin the leafs. To address this issue, the rootsof mangroves act as a goal-oriented filter, andallow distilled water to pass through them,preventing the salt to enter. Only minimallevels of salt that are necessary for normal cellfunctions may enter the plant and get stockedin the leaf cells. Leafs with too much salt fall,and in this way, the salt is eliminated. Anothermechanism to eliminate the salt is the glandsthat are located underneath the leafs.

Reference: Qeshm Island Geopark

قله دماوند

Damavand Peak

Mount Damāvand , a potentially active volcano, is a stratovolcano which is the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East as well as the highest volcano in Asia (the Kunlun Volcanic Group in Tibet has a higher elevation than Damāvand, but are not considered to be volcanic mountains). It has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore. This peak is located in the middle of the Alborz range, adjacent to Varārū, Sesang, Gol-e Zard and Mīānrūd. The mountain is located near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, in Amol County, Mazandaran Province, 66 kilometres northeast of the city of Tehran.