We visited three well-known and distinctive villages, plus a number of less famous but equally fascinating rural communities, including one where we were able to watch the weekly communal bread-making.

Kandovan is a troglodyte village in the far north-west, between Tabriz and the Iran/iraq border, where the "houses" were created within ancient volcanic rock structures.

Abyaneh lies at the foot of Mt Karkas, on the edge of the desert in central Iran, and the colour of the local soil is reflected in all of the mud brick buildings. Its remoteness probably accounts for its reputation as the last area of the country to convert from Zoroastrianism to Islam.

Masouleh, on the northern slopes of the Alborz range near the Caspian Sea, has each tier of houses built on the rooftops of the one below.

The extensive, 3,000 year old qanat system of using underground water enables many small communities to survive, even in the desert regions. The apparently endless flow of clean water is used for washing, drinking, and irrigating crops and orchards.

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