Karaftu is one of the biggest natural caves of Iran, which has undergone changes due to the hundreds of years of human habitation in the region.

The cave, located 72 kilometers east of Saqqez city, is among the most spectacular and scenic regions of Kordestan province and attracts a lot of foreign and domestic tourists throughout the year.
Located at a high altitude, the cave is made of limestone, wrote. Strategically, this site connects the ancient road from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan via Iran, which means it is located on the Silk Road.

Throughout history, many caravans have passed this road, imparting a huge importance to this region. Many sites in the immediate surrounding of this rocky mountain have been found to be connected via various tunnels and corridors through the rocks.
Karaftu’s beauty is unique. Speleologists maintain that it cannot be compared to any other cave.
Studies have shown that it has been under water during the second geological period (Cretaceous Period) and mountains surrounding it emerged out of the water in late Crustaceous Period.
The ...see more place housed various ethnic groups and has undergone great changes experienced as a result of human activities.
These complexes Date back to 300 B.C., and belong to the Ashkanid dynasty. These have constituted a temple for Heracles (2000 years ago), and the name of this Greek god is carved on one of the walls of the third room, accompanied by a horse rider (hunting a deer) which is believed to illustrate Goudarz the Ashkanid king.
Various war triumphs are also illustrated, and these are also believed to Date back to the same historical era.

The architecture of Karaftu Cave is remarkable. It is about 500-meter long with chambers and corridors on four levels. The height of the cave is about 20-30 meters from the hilltop.

There is a stone stairway at its entrance from where a number of connecting passages link a number of chambers and light enters those chambers from windows cut in stone.
The mark of bolts and locks on windows and doors leading to each room are important signs of its architecture. On the top of a chamber on the third level of the cave, there is a Greek inscription called Heracles.
It reads, “Heracles lives there and no evil can enter it.” Some historians maintain that the cave was a temple of a Greek goddess built by the Seleucids on their way to the west.

Karaftu was first explored by a Russian orientalist called Khanikov in 1917.
Entering these caves is still very difficult, as the entrances are placed on the heights of this steep mountain. The corridors are also difficult to pass through, as the sizes are constructed for strategical purposes.
Some passages also maintain natural water wells, and many of the labyrinth-like corridors lead to important fireplaces (in the temple).
Investigating the paintings, have revealed that oil based colors have been used, and attached buildings in the various wings, are signs to an annexed village to the temple.

The cave offered a safe haven for the locals at times of trouble. Evidence shows that it has been a residence of various peoples before the advent of Islam.
Karaftu Cave is also known as Karaftu Castle by the local people.

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