The northernmost city in West Azarbaijan Province, Maku is a strategic border town with a history that can be traced to the empires of ancient Persia. The city is close to two rivers: Zangmar River, which flows through Maku dividing it into two parts, and Aras River, which marks the border between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The city has semi-arid climate and experiences hot and dry summers and cold winters with little snow. Maku experiences thunderstorms in the spring.
There are several accounts regarding the meaning of the word Maku. Some say Maku was originally ‘Magh-Ku’ meaning ‘place of the Magi’ or Zoroastrian clergy. Others believe that Maku comes from the Armenian word for ‘pasture’ and was named as such due to the many fields suitable for grazing surrounding the city.
This border town is home to one of the most important pilgrimage centers for Armenians as it is where the Armenian Monastic Ensembles consisting of St. Stepanos Monastery, Qara Kelisa or St. Thaddeus Monastery, and Dzordzor Chapel are located. Armenians hold that Qara Kelisa is the world’s first church built by St. Jude in 68 CE.
The current city of Maku was built in the 17th century by the Safavids (1501–1736) who also rebuilt St. Stepanos Monastery during their time in power.
Some of Maku’s historical and natural attractions include Baghcheh Joogh Palace, which is also a museum, Iwan-e Farhad, a Urartian (860 BC–590 BC) tomb chamber, Aras Dam Lake, which is home to the white-fronted goose, the 80-meter Qaleh Joogh Waterfall and Baroon Dam Lake, which is a popular fishing destination.
Today, Maku is one of Iran’s largest Free Trade and Industrial Zones. It is also one of the main border points where travelers by land cross into Turkey via the Bazargan border crossing.