The Ali Sadr Cave
originally called Ali Saadr (meaning dam) or Ali Saard (meaning cold) is the world's largest water cave which attracts thousands of visitors every year.It is located in Ali Sadr Kabudarahang County about 100 kilometers north of Hamadan,
western Iran (more accurately at 48°18'E 35°18'N). Because of the cave's proximity to large cities such as Hamadan, it is a highly recommended destination for tourists from all corners of the world. Tours of the cave are available by pedalos.
The cave walls can extend up to 40 meters high, and it contains several large, deep lakes. The cave has a river flowing through it and most travel through the cave system is done with a boat. Ali Sadr cave is situated between the large cities Hamadan, Tehran, and Qom making it a popular destination for Iranians.
Alisadr is the world's biggest water cave, where you sit in a boat and watch the view.The cave is entered at the side of a hill called Sari Ghiyeh which also includes two other caves called Sarab and Soubashi, each 7 and 11 kilometers from Ali Sadr Cave. Apparently, the water in Ali Sadr cave stems from a spring in Sarab.
In the summer of 2001, a German/British expedition surveyed the cave, finding to be 11 kilometers long. The main chamber of the cave is 100 meters by 50 meters and 40 meters high.
The cave walls can extend up to 40 meters high, and it contains several large, deep lakes. The cave has a river flowing through it and most travel through the cave system is done by boat. More than 11 kilometers of the cave's water canals have been discovered so far. Some routes are 10 to 11 kilometers long and all lead to "The Island", a centrally located large atrium.
According to great geological experts of the world, Alisadr cave is one of the biggest and most unique water caves in the world, the formation of which dates back to Jurassic period (about 190-136 million years ago). In 1962-63 and with the help of Alisadr people, the cave was explored by some mountaineers and cavers from Sina mountain climbing group and in 1967 with efforts of officials and widening the entrance of the cave, it was possible to boat in the wonderful cave but only with basic equipments.The cave is named after the Alisadr village name which was also called Alisad and Alisard in the past years. According to existing research and documentation, the residents of the area, in Safavid period, used the entrance parts of the cave as shelter in war times and the cave itself as a water reservoir for irrigation .
The temperature of the cave is always the same 16 is the air and 12 the water.PH is almost neutral and depth of water is measured between 0.5 to 14 meters. The water hardness is high and of lime, therefore it is not suitable for drinking. Alisadr cave is a live cave and there is no poisonous gas in it and there is no shortness of breath because air flows in naturally. Also there is no living organism in the cave due to lack of sunlight. The interesting point is that the cave is of consolidated types so that in the last five million years no rocks have fallen down, since the stalactites and stalagmites are seen of the same age. By the way until now, 11440 meters of the passages of the cave has been identified in different stages and about 2.2 kilometers is being visited by enthusiasts.
The natural entrance to Alisadr cave (sinkhole) has been made accessible by stairs. It is gated and roofed. The stairs lead down to a concrete walkway in a dry gallery of approximately 3-4 m of height and 6-8 m width. The surface water enters the sinkhole during the wet months of the year, follows the walkway and disappears to the left where the first lake can be found. The dry entrance section of the cave connects through joint-controlled maze of smaller passages to the artificial (main) entrance to Alisadr cave.
These passages are water-filled in their southern extensions. The artificial (Main) entrance begins as a 20 m long tunnel that slopes gently downhill to a wide gallery of 15 by 6 m formed under phreatic conditions. A calcite/aragonite ledge at the left wall marks a former water level and has some fine stalactites and crystals. To the right of the artificial entrance there is a Tearoom/Cafe for visitors which is operational in the summer.
The walkways coming from both entrances join at the beginning of the water-filled passages of Alisadr cave where the main jetty from which the boats that take tourist through the cave are boarded. Tourists are guided into plastic boats at this point and these are pulled through the cave by paddling boats (Pedlo's) paddled and steered by the guides. The underground boat trip follows the main gallery to the SW that is up to 25 m wide and 4 m high (above water level), passing some maintenance facilities (cabins, boat depots, water-level indicator etc.).
After nearly 200 m the gallery turns to the left (SE) and diminishes temporarily in size. The dip of the layers can be clearly observed in this part of the cave. Some small water-filled galleries branches off to the left to meet the ""six-entrances room"" which is part of the return journey of the tourist trip.
After approximately 100 m the main route opens up into a wide lake passage once again. This runs straight in a SE direction for the next 300 m. There are four large passages leading to the NE towards the central north-south-axis of the cave (see below) some of which are galleries up to 40 m wide and 30 m high.
In the middle of the 300 m long section leading to the SE, where the passage reduces in size for some metres and the depth of the water decreases to less than 1 m, a sizeable dinosaur sculpture has been installed for the enjoyment of amusement of children.
Having reached the end of this section the gallery turns to the NE and one reaches a pontoon where the tourists leave the boats to climb into the largest chamber of Alisadr cave, called ""Freedom Hall"". From the place where the tourists initially boards the boats to this pontoon the entire roof of the cave is covered by calcitic/aragonitic ledges that are full of crystals and small stalactites, marking former water levels.
This unique 600 m long structure is one of the most remarkable features of Alisadr cave and together with the dark green of the lakes, that in places are up to 15 m deep and the white/yellow crystals give the dark rock inside the cave a superb appearance. Just before the point where tourist trail climbs from the pontoon into the ""Freedom Hall"" the ceiling is covered with a fantastic display of up to 9 ledges one upon the other. The mineralization is predominantly aragonitic which indicates a relatively warm environment for the deposition of the crystals.
Freedom Hall was created by breakdown along tectonic fault zones and the visitor has to ascend about 30m up a boulder pile via a succession of fine marble stairs. At the highest point of the boulder pile the climb ends in a circular marble platform overlooking an impressive chamber that at its longest axis is 100m wide.
From the platform to the roof of the chamber is a height of 14 m. A massive 8m high stalagmite is located close to this platform. The northern part of the large chamber, which is not accessible for tourists, connects via several parallel and partly water-filled passages with the ""wedding room"" (also called ""1.000 stalactites room"")
Freedom Hall is exited via another succession of fine marble stairs that leave the centre of the chamber in SE direction. Before the walkway reaches another pontoon to cross a 40m long lake extremely fine calcite wall coverings can be found. At this point a series of wet galleries lead to the E where they end in breakdown.
Back in the main passage, at the end of the pontoons a dry walkable gallery of more than 100m in length leads to the SE. This passage has a very nice phreatic cross-section.
At the end of this gallery the tourist trail turns to the right where the permanently water-filled passages of Alisadr cave are reached once again. Here the roof of the passage is covered with helictites. To the left (SE) the new sections of the cave, which are not open to tourists, branch off.
The tourists board the boats again to start the journey back through the cave passing the aforementioned pontoon where they alighted from the boats earlier in the trip and from there back towards the cave's entrances.
To the W extensive laby-rinthine water-filled passages of smaller dimensions can be found. However, before the dinosaur is reached again, the guided tour leaves the known gallery to enter a very large passage that makes up the main north-south-axis in the central section of Alisadr cave.
This joint controlled axis is partly enlarged to a succession of impressive chambers. After about 100 m a gate closes a water-filled branch to the right (East). The gated passage gives access to a network of waterways leading to the ""wedding room"" (also called ""1.000 stalactites room""). This room is paved with marble slabs. The Wedding Room as it is known has been used for special events in the past and is still today accessible for tourists that are willing to pay an extra fee.
The ""wedding room"" is actually not a wide chamber but a passage that forms a loop decorated with many wonderful small white stalactites, draperies and helictites. The southern part of the ""wedding room"" has connection to the aforementioned (""Freedom Hall"") main chamber of Ghar Ali. Having reached the end of the spacious central north-south-passage after 220 m the tourist boat tour turns to the left (West) towards the ""six-entrances room"". This room is a crossing of several passages in a small maze of rifts. 150 m later the underground boat trip reaches the starting jetty again where the tourists leave the boats to exit the cave.
The usual tourist visit uses the artificial tunnel entrances to the cave exclusively. Visitors undertaking the 'regular' tour are guided a distance of about 2.100 m through the cave, 1.470 m of which is by boat. The 'extended' tour (""wedding room"") involves an underground boat course of 2.010 m: the longest underground boat trip world-wide.
The new parts in the south of Alisadr cave are not accessible for tourists. These passages were surveyed by the 2000/2001 project and only minor open leads were left. The predominantly dry galleries are much smaller than the ones in the tourist section. A narrow and difficult to find passage contains remarkably fine dripstones and helictites. In other places large aragonite crystals are abundant. The southern dry section of Alisadr cave is extensive and very labyrinthine as small passages follow wide galleries.