The term “Alborz Mountains” has been loosely used in reference to all of the mountains of northern Iran, from the Turkish border to the northwest, to the border with Afghanistan to the northeast (a distance of more than 1500 km). The Alborz Mountains gain their maximum height and density along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea where they create a formidable barrier that separates the coastal plains from the internal plateau of Iran. Close proximity to the Caspian coast has created a steamy lush environment on the coastal plains and the northern-most slopes of the mountains. In some places (near the coastal towns of Ramsar and Noshahr), the strip of land between the mountains and the sea is no more than one kilometer wide.
The southern slopes of the Alborz drop onto the central plateau of Iran. The average elevation of this plateau at the base of the mountains is around 1500 m (Please be ware that the plateau itself is covered by other scattered mountains. In fact, there are few places in Iran where mountains can not be seen in the horizon). In contrast to the lush northern slopes, the southern slopes of the Alborz Mountains are barren. Trees can be found only on stream banks at the bottom of the valleys. Grasslands, alpine tundra and permanent snow cover the higher slopes of the Alborz. Evidence suggests that in the past, glaciers used to cover a much larger area of the Alborz Mountains than they do today. At the present time, glaciers can be found on Mt. Damavand, Takhte Soleyman Massif, Mt. Sabalan and to a much lesser extent on some of the higher peaks of the range. Winter brings a heavy coat of powdery snow that creates an ideal environment for skiing. The abundance of snow gives rise to fairly large mountain streams that provide fresh water for the nearby cities including the 10 million plus mega-city of Tehran. When viewed from space, some of these streams appear to have dug deep gorges that penetrate into the heart of the mountains. The distance between the 5671 m Mt. Damavand and the bottom of the Haraz Valley to the northeast of it where the elevation is only 1000 m is no more than 17 kilometers.
PEAKS HIGHER THAN 4000 METERS
Peaks higher than 4000 meters can be found in two areas in the Alborz Mountains (Please note that this discussion excludes the Zagros Mountains of western/southern Iran that also have many groups of peaks higher than 4000 m):
1) A few peaks around the 4811 m summit of Mt. Sabalan in northwestern Iran
2) Depending on how you count them, around one hundred in Central Alborz