Millennia-old Iranian village nominated for UNWTO label
Cultural Council of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran > News > Iran News > Millennia-old Iranian village nominated for UNWTO label

Iran’s millennia-old village of Kharanaq has been nominated for the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ label, which will be granted to a selection of rural destinations by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Embracing a labyrinth of streets, tunnels, passageways, and impressive buildings such as a tiny mosque, a shaking minaret, and an old caravanserai, Kharanaq is sometimes referred to as a photographer’s dream. The village is situated in Ardakan county of Yazd province.

“Kharanaq has been nominated as one of UNWTO’s best tourism villages. And, the village has obtained necessary points in a preliminary evaluation [conducted by the UNWTO experts],” IRIB quoted the deputy tourism minister, Homa Khorshidi, as saying on Tuesday.

Indicators and initiatives such as sustainable tourism; economic, social, and environmental factors; historical, cultural, and natural attractions; tangible and intangible cultural heritage; local communities; traditional ceremonies and rituals were among the criteria being assessed for the initial evaluation, the official explained.

“Tourism can be a driver of positive change for rural communities all around the world.”

According to UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, tourism can be a driver of positive change for rural communities all around the world. “We want to recognize the uniqueness of each village and showcase the best initiatives to make tourism a means for a better future in rural areas. As we restart tourism, we work to ensure that we leave no one – and no village- behind.”

The World Tourism Organization aims to select the best examples of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunity and safeguard their communities, local traditions, and heritage. The initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will identify villages taking innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development, and community wellbeing, ‘Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO’ aims to maximize the contribution of the sector to reducing regional inequalities and fighting against rural depopulation. It also seeks to advance the role of tourism in valuing and safeguarding rural villages along with their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values, and activities, including gastronomy.

A sun-scorched village

Meaning ‘place of birth of the sun’, Kharanaq is divided into two parts – the Old Town, which is almost completely deserted, and the New Town, where tens of families continue to live.

The Old Town was constructed with sun-baked mud bricks, forming one of the largest collections of adobe buildings in Iran. It was once a prosperous farming village, but when water supplies dried up the inhabitants left, leaving the town to turn to ruins, Ancient Origins writes.

While most of the Old Town of Kharanaq consists of crumbling homes and collapsing roofs, there remain some historically important and well-preserved monuments.

In recent years, a New Town was constructed within 2km of the ancient town with government-supplied water and electricity. Apart from a few elderly people who refused to leave their old houses and continue to live among the ruins, the rest of the Old Town’s inhabitants moved to the New Town.

There are several magnificent monuments inside the sun-scorched village. A 19th-century mosque, which is fully restored, stands with a 15-meter-high minaret, known as the Shaking Minaret of Kharanaq. The minaret is frequently seen shaking and vibrating. The cause of this phenomenon remains unknown.

Other highlights include an old castle linked to the historical periods of Islam, ancient aqueducts built to irrigate the surrounding fields, and an ancient but still functional bridge.

Moreover, a well-preserved caravanserai – a place where merchant caravans are halted – from the time of the Qajar dynasty sits on the edge of Kharanaq. The caravanserai is fortified with stables for pack animals, storage areas, and rooms for travelers passing through.