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Elburz


Elburz, seen from the north. Photo Marco Prins.
Elburz, seen from the north.
Elburz: mountain range in northern Iran.

The Elburz ("high, tall") is one of the two main mountain ranges in modern Iran. Essentially, it separates the Caspian Sea region in the north from the central plateau, which is a desert. The other mountain range is the Zagros, which separates the central plateau from Mesopotamia in the west. The two ranges connect in the neighborhood of modern Tehran.


A pass across the Elburz. Photo Marco Prins.
A pass across the Elburz.

Several river valleys lead from the Elburz to the north, to the Caspian Sea. They have eroded large areas of the mountain and have created impressive looking, deep gorges. One of these connects Damghan with Sari (the road once taken by Alexander the Great), another one connects Tehran with Amol. In the far west, the Elburz touches the Zagros; in the east, it reaches the holy city of Mashad. Beyond the Afghan border, it continues as the Hindu Kush, from which it is separated by the river Arius (modern Hari Rudi).
The Elburz, seen from Tepe Hesar. Photo Marco Prins.
Elburz, seen from Tepe Hesar

The average heighth of the Elburz is about 2750 meters, but many peaks exceed the 4,000 meters and are permanently covered with snow. The highest mountain is an ancient volcano known as Damavand, which reaches 5601 meters and resembles Mount Fuji. There is an old joke that if you want to tease an Iranian, you must just ask why the Iranians have put a Japanese volcano on the 10,000 rial banknotes.
A pass across the Elburz. Photo Marco Prins. Elburz. Photo Marco Prins. Elburz. Photo Marco Prins. A pass across the Elburz. Photo Marco Prins.
Elburz, seen from the south. Photo Marco Prins.
Elburz, seen from the south.
The Elburz is an important climate barrier between the arid central plateau and the moist, north facing slopes and coastal plain. There, one can find dense forests. This country, now called Mazandaran (ancient Hyrcania), has a subtropical climate.

In the south, there is a fertile strip of land between the mountains and the desert, watered by small rivers and artesic sources. The photo to the left is a view of the Elburz from the south, not far from the Caspian Gate. Note the incisions by the small rivers. For centuries, this narrow corridor has been used for east-west traffic (the Silk road).
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2005
Revision: 26 Oct. 2009
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