Ali Sadr Watercave – Hamedan
Ali Sadr near Hamedan (about 80km from the city) is the world’s largest water cave. For many years the exploration of the cave progressed slowly. It was only in 2001 that with the help of a German/British expedition, a great progress was made in surveying 11 kilometers of the cave. However the exploration of Ali Sadr is still an ongoing process and it is said that the end of the cave is yet to be found. This exploration is made even more difficult by the many different routes that the cave has. Some of which end in dry land or a lake at great deeps.
As the name “water cave” suggests, the cave is mostly filled with water from a nearby spring. This has created a great opportunity for boat rides in the cave for the tourists and visitors. The boats are linked together with a rope to avoid going off track and getting lost. The first boat in each group is a paddle boat with the guide that pulls the other boats. If you seat in one of the following boats, you can just seat back and enjoy the view.
Geologists believe that the cave is almost 70 million years old. Evidence show that the cave had been inhabited by primitive man. Furthermore artworks on the cave have been dated back as far as 12,000 years ago.
It is believed that even though the existence of Ali Sadr Cave was acknowledged decades ago, its whereabouts and significant depth was forgotten until decades ago when it was rediscovered by a shepherd.
Until 1957, the water level in the cave was so high that made entering and surveying it almost impossible. However the locals used it as a water reservoir to keep their water supply cold during the warm seasons.
It was only in 1957 when as an aftermath of an earthquake, the river flowing to Ali Sadr was dried and the water level descended enough to allow hikers and adventurers explore the cave. From then on, developments such as widening the entrance (which initially was just enough to squeeze through), bringing electricity to the cave, creating some platforms for the visitors to take short walks in the cave and/or step on and off the boats, made the cave a major tourist attraction in Iran (almost 5,000 daily visitors).
One of the theories behind the name Ali Sadr is that it is resulted from a spelling mistake that was done by a local contractor in the beginning years of development. As this theory goes, the contractor misspelled Ali Sard (Sard meaning cold in Persian language) and the spelling mistake just stuck with the cave. Another theory is that since this cave was being used as a water reservoir, the original name was Ali Sad (Sad meaning dam in Persian), and over time it was changed to Ali Sadr.
Upon entering the cave, the difference in temperature can clearly be felt, as the weather outside is dry and warm (in spring and summer, which are the best seasons to visit Ali Sadr), but inside is extremely humid and very chill.
The depth of the water in Ali Sadr reaches 14 meters at its deepest section.
Around the cave, many other attractions can be found; handicrafts markets, restaurants and etc. So you can make a good daytrip out of it!