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The two mountain ranges of Sala and Sofeh shelter the city of Esfahan which nestles in a verdant plain irrigated by the mighty Zayande-Rud as it winds its way through the province. The plain itself is well developed. The city of Esfahan, described by Fitzgerald as Nesf-e Jahan “Half the World” because of its wonderfully varied history and culture, has been built up over many centuries and there are now signs that the smaller towns and villages are themselves becoming suburbs of Esfahan rather than remaining individual settlements.

Driving into Esfahan from the town of Sede you are suddenly faced with a rocky outcrop. There is no gradual build up to this 13th Century citadel, and it rises from the plain with a suddenness that takes you by surprise. This bastion includes the remains of a Sasanid Koh-Ateshgah Fire Temple at the top, and once seen from the road below, the urge to climb the dusty, rocky mountain to sit in the Zorastranian temple becomes an irresistible challenge. I recommend an early start to ensure that you make the most of the cooler conditions and there are fewer people around to interrupt the peace, quiet and photography. The dry heat however does not sap your energy nearly as much as the humid damp that we experience in the UK and I found the climb, which rises to 1600m above sea level, much more comfortable than I anticipated.

The views from the top of Koh-Ateshgah make the sometimes tricky and earthy scramble well worth the effort and there are plenty of flat rocks along the way where you can admire the ever-widening views, drink some water, enjoy the cooling breeze and catch your breath. It takes surprisingly little time to reach the top, whereas the trip down I found much more hazardous and time consuming.

A fascinating couple of hours well worth spending at this historic monument and all for 65p for the both of us. 

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