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Ghar Katalehkhor - Katale Khor Cave - Katalekhor Cave - Kataleh Khour Cave - Mountain of Sun


Useful Information

Location: Southwest Zanjan province, near Gahmab village, near Qamcheqāy. 410 km from Tehran.
From Zanjan follow the road to Hamadan, turn left (south) to Garmab. Alternatively follow the road to Teheran, turn right (southwest) at Soltanich, 150 km from Zanjan, then follow the road through Khodabandeh to Garmab. (N35°50,142',E48°09,726')
Open:
Fee:
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave. Oligocene/Miocene limestone
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=12,860 m, A=1,719 m asl.
Guided tours: L=2,500 m.
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography: S. Arshadi, M. Laumanns (2004): Speleological Project Ghar Katalehkhor (Zanjan / Iran), 56 pages, cave survey (atlas sheets) and colour photo tables; Berlin 2004. abstract
Address: Tel: 0242482-2188. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1951 first published in the local Zanjan newspaper.
1952 discovered by a group of athletes led by Asadolah Jamali and the famous Garmap mountaineer Mahmoud Mousavi.
1965 new research team led by Hasan Abrishami discovered a 2,000 m long passage.
1986 38 exploration trips by mountaineer Hussein Husseinitabar resulted in 4.6 km of known passages.
1991 opened to the public, as a result of unauthorized visits and vandalism.
1993 first speleological exploration by Dr. Sirus Arshadi and publication in Iranian geoscientific journals.
2003 a joint Iranian-Swiss-German speleological project firmly established Ghar Katalehkhor as the currently longest cave of Iran at 12.860 m.
2020 new light system installed.

Description

Ghar Katalehkhor is an anastomotic multilevel cave with a large main gallery, many coulisses, parallel passages, and much breakdown. Extraordinary are extensive calcite formations and superb crystals which cover the cave wall for dozens of meters. The 100 m long Wedding Hall is completely covered by calcite crystals. It is developed in Oligocene/Miocene limestone in the northern flank of an anticline. The cave was mainly created by phreatic corrosion in a still water milieu. A speleogenetic model is presented in the report of the 2003 speleological exploration, see bibliography.

The name Katale Khor means literally Mountain of Sun. It was known to the locals for a long time. There are two natural entrances, one requiring a 450 m crawl and another which is for some reason called side entrance. The side entrance contained some human bones in a niche which, from lack of actual knowledge, created the legend that the cave was used for burials. However, despite being known to some for a very long time, nothing was published until 1951 when a vague report about a huge cave system appeared in the local Zanjan newspaper. This caused a first exploration by a group of athletes led by Asadolah Jamali and the famous Garmap mountaineer Mahmoud Mousavi. This may be considered the "discovery" and first published exploration, as it was subsequently published in the newspaper. Sporadic exploration visits were made by mountaineers, until the first scientific exploration in 1993 which was published in Iranian geoscientific journals. At this time the cave was already used as a show cave. Unauthorized visits and vandalism convinced the local Zanjan self-government to open the cave to tourists, which resulted in a gating and protection of the cave. The cave has a 1,250 m long visitor path which is partly made up of steel bridges. From the end of the path the visitors have to walk back the same way, so the tour has the extraordinary length of 2.5 km.

In September/October 2003 a speleological project explored and surveyed the cave, supervised by the Geological Survey of Iran (GSI), and supported both by the GSI and the government of Zanjan province. The surveyed length of 12,860 m made Ghar Katalehkhor the longest cave of the Iran. The surveying team consisted of four participants: Mr. H. Akbarzadeh (GSI), Mr. Javad Ashjari (Geological Department of Shiraz University), Mr. Michael Laumanns (Germany) and Mr. René Scherrer (Switzerland). The report published by the Berliner Höhlenkundliche Berichte is so far the most complete description of the cave.

The cave was promoted during the last years, and according to local government it is intended to become a tourist hub, whatever that is. At least the electric light was completely refurbished in 2020 with a new LED based system.