On a high plain surrounded by stark eroded hills, Zanjan makes the perfect base for wider explorations. The architectural wonder of Soltaniyeh, the battered hoodoos of Behestan Castle and the bizarrely striped Colorful Mountains are just the tip of the iceberg. Enticingly scenic roads radiate to Khal Khal and the Caspian, the subterranean delights of the Katale Khor Caves, and Takht-e Soleiman ruins are also examples worth mentioning. Zanjan is famous for the bloody siege ordered by Amir Kabir in 1851. The resulting massacre was part of the relatively successful campaign to crush the nascent Baha’i religion. Bahaism had only broken away from Islam three years before, but it was spreading much too rapidly for Tehran’s liking.
Zanjan Archaeology Museum
Saltman Museum; the archaeology museum is home to four of the fascinating ‘Saltmen’ mummies discovered over the years in the Chehrabad Salt Mine, now an archaeological site. The effect of the salt and the extremely dry air of the mine has preserved whole corpses, some with skin, hair and various organs intact. Three are on display in sealed glass cases on the museum’s 2nd floor, where a guide will share their story.
This intriguing long, narrow, mostly brick-vaulted bazaar hides abandoned caravanserais, subterranean chaykhanehs (teahouses), historic mosques and just about every homeware and personal accouterment you can think of. The eastern end is wilder.
This beautiful mosque dedicated to Imam Hossein catches the setting sun perfectly from its western face. It’s off Ferdosi St.
Friday Mosque; Madrasah cells line the inner courtyard of this sizeable mosque from 1826, accessed through a spired portal on Imam St.
Laundry House, Zanjan Anthropological Museum. A traditional Qajar subterranean wash house full of female mannequins, in the clothing of the era, showing how it used to be done. There’s also a small garden courtyard and an above-ground workshop where people make elf shoes.
Women’s Mosque; Hidden in a back lane, this particular mosque has a pair of pepper-grinder-like turrets. To find it, head north up Ferdosi St from Sabz Sq, then turn left into the car park and head up the laneway. A few more turns and you’re there.
Mir Baha-e Din Bridge
This beautiful three-arched Bridge from the Qajar period is over the Zanjan River and it is visible west of the road to Bijar, southwest of the railway station.