Though relatively compact, the Safi-od-Din Mausoleum Complex is western Iran’s most dazzling Safavid monument. The patriarch is buried lesser notables in an iconic 1334 Allah-Allah tower, so named because the apparently geometrical motif in blue-glazed brick is actually the endlessly repeated name of God. To see the beautiful wooden sarcophagi enter through a splendid little courtyard of turquoise tiling then the Ghandil Khaneh (lantern house) where the intensity of gold and indigo decoration is very striking. To the left, the glorious 1612 Chini Khaneh (china room) is honeycombed with ‘stalactite’-vaulted gilt niches originally designed to display the royal porcelain the Hermitage (St Petersburg) when Russia invaded in 1828, saving the mausoleum’s staff a lot of dusting.
Sheikh Jebra’il, Sheikh Safi-od-Din’s father is buried underneath a mildly attractive 16th-century mausoleum at Khalkhoran, a village-suburb 3km northeast of the centre. It’s an active shrine; remove your shoes before inspecting the murals and multifaceted ceiling.
Ardabil has at least five restored Safavid bridges across the Baliqli Chay (Fishy River). Nicknamed Yeddi Göz (Seven Eyes), the seven-span Pol-e-Jajim is the most famous, but the cute, three-arch Pol-e-Ebrahimabad is more appealing.
Stroll the back alleys to find the sweet Haji Fakr Mosque with its squat, Bukharan-style peppermill minaret. Nearby, the attractively brick-vaulted Mirza Ali Akbar Mosque has a blue Kufic-tiled exterior frieze and lighthouse-style minaret. The Mongol Ilkhanid Jameh Mosque.