The old town of Ardabil, a logical stopping point between Tabriz and the upper Caspian coast, was once an important Sufi centre and famous for being the place of origin of the Safavid rulers. Ardabil's magnificent Sheikh Safi-od-Din Mausoleum is by far its greatest attraction but there is a fair scattering of other minor sights and a truly superb teahouse restaurant. When the chilly smog clears, Mt Sabalan's snow-topped peak is dramatically visible from Ardabil's Shurabil lake.
The name Ardabil comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artawila", which means a holy place. Ardabil is the center of Ardabil Province. At the 2011 census, its population was 564,365, in 156,324 families - where the dominant majority are ethnic Azeris. Notable for its silk and carpet trade tradition, the ancient Ardabil Carpets are considered some of the best of the classical Persian carpet creations. Ardabil is also known as the seat of a World Heritage Site: the sanctuary and tomb of Shaikh Safî ad-Dîn, eponym of the Safavid Dynasty
Ardabil is about 70 km from the Caspian Sea, and 210 km from the city of Tabriz. It has an average altitude of 1,263 metres and total area of 18.011 km2.
Neighboring on the Caspian Sea and the Republic of Azerbaijan, this city is of great political and economical significance. The province of Ardabil has been blessed with splendid natural beauty and numerous sights.
It is located on an open plain 1,500 metres above sea level, just east of Mount Sabalan (4,811 m), where cold spells occur until late spring. Wastewater is used on crops, rangelands, forests, parks and golf courses in many parts of the world, among others). Unrestricted irrigation, however, may expose the public to a variety of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or helminths.
The province is believed to be as old as the Achaemenid (ca. 550–330 BC). It is mentioned in the Avesta, where prophet Zoroaster was born by the river Aras and wrote his book in the Sabalan Mountains. During the Parthian era, the city had a special importance among the cities of Azarbaijan. Some Muslim historians attribute the foundation of Ardabil to king Peroz I of the Sassanid Empire. The Persian poet Ferdowsi also credits the foundation of the city to Peroz I. Ardabil suffered some damages caused by occasional raids of Huns from 4th to 6th century AD. Peroz repaired those damages and fortified the city. Peroz made Ardabil the residence of provincial governor (Marzban) of Azarbaijan.
During the Islamic conquest of Iran, Ardabil was the largest city in north western Iran, and remained so until the Mongol invasion period. Ardabilis fought the Mongols three times; however the city fell after the third attempt by Mongols. They massacred not only the Ardabilis but inhabitants of neighboring villages, killing everyone they could find. Incursions of Mongols and Georgians left the city in ruins for nearly three centuries until the advent of Safavids.
Safavid Shah Ismail I started his campaign to nationalize Iran's government and land from there, but consequently announced Tabriz as his capital in AD 1500. Yet Ardabil remained an important city both politically and economically until modern times. It was sacked by the Ottomans many times between 1514 and 1722 and in 1915, and by the Russians in 1813, 1828 and 1916 during the Russo-Persian Wars.
Ardabil sits on a high plateau. The weather is pleasantly cool in summer, but terrifies brass monkeys in winter. Snow is probable from November.