Karaftu, enigmatic cave on a hilltop

November 3, 2011 - 12:41

Karaftu is a large natural cave whose unique beauty attracts a large number of domestic and foreign tourists every year. Located 72 km east of Saqqez in Kordestan Province, it has been a residence to various ethnic groups and has undergone the most changes experienced by a natural cave as a result of human activities.
However, according to speleologists it cannot be compared to any other limestone caves due to various specifications.
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. 
Architecture of Karaftu cave is remarkable. It is about 500 m long with chambers and corridors in four levels. The height of the cave is about 20-30 m from the hilltop and there is a stone stairway at its mouth. At the entrance of the cave, there are a number of connecting passages which link a number of chambers and the lighting in those chambers comes 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 has been a temple for a Greek goddess, which has been made by Seleucids on their way to the west.
Karaftu was first explored by a Russian orientalist called Khanikov in 1917. Karaftu has been a haven for local people at time of trouble. Evidence shows that it has been a residence for various peoples before the advent of Islam. Karaftu cave is also known as Karaftu Castle by the local people.