Kotala Khor (Sun Cave): First Limestone Cave in the World

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
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Kotala Khor cave is located 155 km south of Zanjan and 173 km north of Hamedan near the small town of Garmab. The most common route to reach it runs from Zanjan to Khodabandeh (Qidar) which then branches toward Zarrinabad and Garmab.

Narrow galleries in different directions can be found inside vestibules whose area sometimes reaches over 200-300 square meters. Some of them are deadlocks and others have narrow passages to other vestibules. Many of those paths and passages have not been explored yet.

The total area of vestibules and passages cannot be estimated with accuracy. At present, two major passages have been identified inside the cave. One of them is the main corridor which is located at the entrance of the cave and the other one includes vestibules and passages which can be accessed at a distance of 10-15 m from the first corridor.

The most beautiful natural phenomenon of the cave comprises spectacular stalagmites which can be seen around springs and lagoons at its bottom. Due to penetration of water into lower layers of the cave and shallow lagoons, crystalline stalagmites have created very beautiful vistas.

At present, the cave has been divided into cultural, recreational, and sports divisions. The sports division has an area of about 4 km and is simply used by cliffhangers and spelunkers although its total area has not been explored.

The recreational division of the cave is used by the public and includes 2 km of straight path. Experts maintain that the division constitutes one-third of the cave.

The cultural division is located at the southern part of the cave. Its main part is a natural corridor, which is used for various ceremonies. The corridor has no way to the outside of the cave and its exit has been dug by man. The corridor itself, however, is totally natural.

In terms of the quality of crystals, stalagmites, beauty, and the number of its levels, Kotala Khor cave is a well-known natural phenomenon in the world. In terms of antiquity, the cave is as old as Ali Sadr Cave in Hamedan. Of course, the two caves are different from two viewpoints. Firstly, Ali Sadr is full of water, but Kotala Khor is almost dry.

Secondly, limestone at Kotala Khor is purer compared to Ali Sadr and this has made the cave more beautiful because the more pure limestone is, the more transparent it is and the light would pass through quite easily.

A remarkable point about the cave is that studies have shown that the cave finally leads to Ali Sadr Cave. Another wonder of the cave is the number of its levels, which are very rare among major caves of the world.

According to estimates, the first 700 m of the cave has a diameter of about 70 cm so that early spelunkers had to crawl on their chests and blaze the trail. The 100 m that follows has been an abode for prehistoric man and this has been confirmed by discovery of 80 human skeletons.

A unique feature of the cave is its huge lime columns which are the product of fusion of limestone stalactites and stalagmites. The columns act as natural props which prevent the cave’s ceiling from collapsing.

During 120 million years of its life, the cave has changed many times with earthquakes, faults, and collapses being among the most common natural changes which have taken place inside the cave.

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