Falak-ol-Aflak Castle (Shapur Khast Citadel) | Khorramabad, Iran
Overlooking Lorestan’s capital Khorramabad over a hilltop, Falak-ol-Aflak Castle stands as the icon of the city and its most cherished historical attraction. As a souvenir of the glory of the Sassanid Empire, the impressive 1800-year-old structure reminds you of Medieval fortresses. Besides featuring architectural secrets that capture your imagination, the site is also a nice window to the charms of the local culture, customs, and costumes. Join me on this blog for an exploration of the ancient castle.
- 1 Why Visit Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
- 2 The Story of the Names
- 3 The Story of Falak-Ol-Aflak Castle
- 4 How Falak-ol-Aflak Castle Looks
- 5 The Genius Designers of Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
- 6 The Interesting Well
- 7 The Museum Complex at Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
- 8 A Castle in the Sky
- 9 More about Falak-ol-Aflak
- 10 Like to check out Falak-Ol-Aflak?
- 11 Shapur Khast (Falakol aflak) Castle on Map
Why Visit Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
- Falak-ol-Aflak is a priceless relic of the Sassanid Period
- It is the top historical attraction of Khorramabad
- The castle is now home to an interesting Museum Complex
- It is one of the best places to learn about the region’s folklore
- The castle offers a nice lookout point for the city
The Story of the Names
Falak-ol-Aflak has had many names since its birth in ancient times. Names such as Shapur Khast (the original name of Khorramabad), Sabr-Khast fortress, Dezbaz, and Khoramabad castle are the older names of the sight. But when Falak-ol-Aflak (meaning the sky of skies) became catchy early in the 20th century, it became the dominant name. Also, Twelve Tower castle has been one of its names.
The Story of Falak-Ol-Aflak Castle
The great Sassanid emperors set the foundations of a city known as Shapur Khast in the 3rd century. In the city, Shapur I also built a stronghold for governing and military purposes: Falak-Ol-Aflak. Shapur Khast later went into ruins and the present Khoramabad city was founded on its remains around the 13th century. But Shapur I’s memento stayed standing as a witness to different historical periods. Since its creation, the castle has had a lot of purposes such as a place to keep Roman captives, a governing center, a garrison, a treasury, and a prison. It was also renovated several times throughout its life. Finally, in 1970, the castle was recognized as a national heritage and turned into a precious historical site. Today, you can find an anthropology museum, an archaeology museum, a conservation lab, and a traditional teahouse in the castle.
How Falak-ol-Aflak Castle Looks
On top of a hill within the borders of the city of Khorramabad, Falak-ol-Aflak is standing strongly. The gigantic towers, the high stone brick walls, and the overall grandeur of the castle don’t miss to impress you from the outside. The overall height of the structure (from the base of the hill) is about 40 meters. The merlons and embrasures (the upper sections of a castle) remind you of medieval fortresses. To get inside the walls, you’ll need to climb up a few stairs and enter through the northeastern tower.
When you get inside, you’ll see one of Falak-ol Aflak’s 2 courtyards. This is the place where the castle’s famous well and bathhouse are. Climbing further up the stairs will bless you with a nice view of the city on top of 2 of the castle’s 8 towers. Inside the castle, you’ll find 4 large halls, a few small halls, rooms, corridors, and gates. Also, you can find the second courtyard which is a bit higher than the first. This courtyard is now used as a museum. Four large towers surround each courtyard of the castle. These 8 towers are the remains of the original 12 towers that used to exist in the fortress. Mud bricks, stone bricks, stone, wood, and mortar are the materials used in the construction of the stronghold.
Archaeological studies suggest that there used to be a 2-layered defensive wall around the castle. Stretching westward, the wall is believed to have included 12 towers. The remains of two of these 12 towers still exist to the west of the castle.
The Genius Designers of Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
Khoramabad has been subject to a lot of rain. Keeping this fact in mind, the ancient architects of Falak-ol-Aflak equipped the fortress with a nice dehumidification system. The building was meant to be made of stone and wood, materials vulnerable to humidity. So, they chose the highest part of the city to build the castle. This way, wind could penetrate the building and dry its foundations. The 1-meter canals covering the area beneath the castle are in fact part of this smart dehumidification system.
The Interesting Well
In the northeast of the first courtyard, you can find the only source of water in Falak-ol-Aflak, a deep well that probably dates back to the Sassanid era. With a depth of about 40 meters, this well passes through strong rocks until it reaches a spring. In the well, archaeologists found relics from the Pre-Sassanid period. Cows were used to draw water from this well. Then clay pipes would direct water toward the bathhouse of the fortress. You can still see the remains of these clay pipes in this courtyard. What is interesting is that the well has remained usable to this day.
The Museum Complex at Falak-ol-Aflak Castle
Falak-ol-Aflak is home to two museums: archaeology and anthropology. In the Archaeology Museum, you can check out a collection of Lorestan relics from different historical eras. Interesting tombstones, and objects from Elamite, Parthian, Achaemenid, and Sassanid periods are of the charms of this museum. Objects found in the fascinating Kalmakareh Cave form part of the collection. Another part of the collection belongs to precious artifacts that thieves accidentally found in the castle. Apparently, when Alexander the Great invaded the country, the rulers of Lorestan hid valuable objects in Falak-ol-Aflak. These objects remained hidden until a couple of thieves accidentally found them about 2000 years later.
As another part of the complex, the Anthropology Museum beautifully features the customs, lifestyle, and clothing of the people of Lorestan. You can go to the depth of the culture and see the way people used to and may still live in the Lorestan region by watching the charming scenes created by wax figures.
A Castle in the Sky
Yes! You should climb a lot of stairs to reach the top of ‘the heaven of heavens’. But every step is worth it. Except for the charms you can find inside the fortress, the great view it offers from the top is so pleasant that you will forget about the climb. Plus, overlooking the city, the lovely nature and the historical valley of Lorestan from the exact point ancient Persians guarded the city will be a unique experience.
More about Falak-ol-Aflak
9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
All days except some public holidays.
The Museum is closed on Mondays.
The Best Season to Visit Falak-ol-Aflak
Lorestan Province enjoys a pleasant climate. The best time to visit Falak-ol-Aflak and the other sights in this region is in Spring and Summer.
While in Falak-ol-Aflak
Lorestan is home to one of Iran’s main ethnic groups: the Lors. Dressing up like them is one of the fun things you can do at Falak-ol-Aflak. Besides, on summer evenings, you can try the Kebab carts and tea houses around the site.
Near Falak-ol-Aflak, you can check out great places like some pre-historic caves, the Brick Minaret (2.2 km), Gabri Watermill (2.5 km), Shapuri Bridge (2.7 km), Gerdab-e Sangi and historical inscriptions (1.4 km). Also, Keeyow Lake is a nearby natural attraction (5 km).
Where to Eat Near Falak-ol-Aflak
Bahar Narenj Restaurant
Shapuri Traditional Restaurant
Like to check out Falak-Ol-Aflak?
Then book a place on our 16-day Deep into the Heart of Persia tour.