At the foothills of Mount Sahand, 50 kilometers from Iran's northwestern city of Tabriz, lies a village that is remarkable for its unique structure.
The cone-shaped houses of Kandovan were originally carved into the rock face of the mountain nearly 3,000 years ago. Residents of the village have been living in the rock houses for millennia, demonstrating their exceptional ability to adapt to what should have been an inhospitable environment.
Only a few other villages in the world are said to have this similar architecture, the most popular being the tourist caves of Cappadocia in Turkey.
What sets the Iranian village apart, however, is that Kandovan is still a living and thriving community. A small local population still lives in the cave-like homes, some of which reach as high as 60 meters, subsisting on farming and animal husbandry.
These so-called "rock dwellers" live 9 months of the year in harsh and cold weather, often under a blanket of snow. Yet they are warm and hospitable hosts, welcoming nearly 300,000 tourists a year.
The village is also popular for its mineral water, believed by locals to cure kidney ailments.
Kandovan recently opened the world's first five-star "cliff hotel", which converted a number of the cone-shaped homes into lodging units for visitors.