The ancient city of Ardabil, located in an open plain about 2000 meters above the sea level in northwest of Iran, has a population of about 700,000 and is the capital of Ardabil Province. The majority of people living in this city speak the Azeri variety of Turkish in life situations, although Farsi as the country's official language is practiced in media and education. Ardabil Province neighbors Azerbaijan Republic in the north and is only 60 kilometers away from the Caspian Sea in the east in the bordering province of Gilan.
The country's third highest peak Soltan (in mount Sabalan) is in Ardabil's south and attracts thousands of hikers and mountaineers each year even from other countries. The peak of the Sabalan mount is as high as 4811 meters and has a beautiful tarn on top of it which is frozen most time of the year.
Overall, Ardabil province is an agricultural region with animal husbandry practiced along with farming by the majority of rural people. People in the cities are for the most part involved in different business activities or are government employees. There are a few big industrial units a little far from the city but there are also two industrial townships in the suburbs with hundreds of small industrial units.
Ardabil is a haven for eco-tourists or people infatuated with nature. It has beautiful green ranges in its east with big clumps of short trees scattered all around them which please the eyes of every viewer. Many kinds of wild fruit including raspberry, green gage, quince, hazel, walnut, etc. grow in these wooded areas.
Ardabil is also famous for its hot springs which are scattered in the foothills of mount Sabalan. These springs, some of them having huge hot water yields, are unique in the Middle East. Modern spas are made on some of these springs but a few of them are left in their original form to be used by people who like every
thing in its natural form. Different species of animals also live in the region including swine, bear, wolf, fox, hare, and different varieties of birds.
Excluding Ardabil's hot springs, which are world famous, this city is well-known for the world's cultural heritage site Sheikh-Safi-Addin Ardabili Mausoleum. This sanctuary is the resting place of this great Sufi and his household. Some Safavid kings are also buried in this place. The building has exquisite livid tile work with a couple of magnificent dooms under which the Sufi and the kings are laid to rest. There are a lot of priceless embossed tomb boxes and halls with gilded walls and chambers for keeping gifts dedicated to this place. Ardabil has also a big traditional bazaar with arcades and dooms and several bridges all remnants of Safavid era.
Ardabil is a hub of carpet weaving. Every year, thousands of beautiful rugs and other textile for covering floors are woven in this city or villages around it. These rugs are either sold inside the country or exported to other countries. Ardabil is also the third honey-producing center in Iran. Because of its green pastures and lush nature, honey produced in Ardabil is of very high quality. Bee-keeping is a major source of income for some villagers.
In recent decades Ardabil province has become a very active center of higher education in the country. One of the major players in this arena is the Islamic Azad University. This university has branches in all cities and towns of the province and provides ready access to higher education for anyone who cannot afford pursuing his or her academic aspirations in big cities for high cost of living in these cities. Services provided by the Islamic Azad University have helped a lot in the economic and social development and well-being of the region.