Gilan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It lies along the Caspian Sea, in Iran's Region 3, west of the province of Mazandaran, east of the province of Ardabil, and north of the provinces of Zanjan and Qazvin. It borders the Republic of Azerbaijan in the north and Russia across the Caspian Sea.
The northern part of the province is part of territory of South (Iranian) Talysh. At the center of the province is the main city of Rasht. Other towns in the province include Astara, Astaneh-e Ashrafiyyeh, Fuman, Lahijan, Langrud, Masouleh, Manjil, Rudbar, Rudsar, Shaft, Hashtpar(city), and Sowme'eh Sara.
The main harbor port is Bandar Anzali (previously Bandar-e Pahlavi).
In antiquity, this area was a province of Persia known as Daylam (sometimes Daylaman, Dailam or Delam). The Daylam region corresponds to the modern region of Gīlān.
Gilan has a humid subtropical climate with, by a large margin, the heaviest rainfall in Iran: reaching as high as 1,900 millimetres (75 in) in the southwestern coast and generally around 1,400 millimetres (55 in). Rasht, the capital of the province, is known internationally as the "City of Silver Rains" and in Iran as the "City of Rain".
Rainfall is heaviest between September and December because the onshore winds from the Siberian High are strongest, but it occurs throughout the year though least abundantly from April to July. Humidity is very high because of the marshy character of the coastal plains and can reach 90 percent in summer for wet bulb temperatures of over 26 °C (79 °F). The Alborz range provides further diversity to the land in addition to the Caspian coasts.
The coastline is cooler and attracts large numbers of domestic and international tourists. Large parts of the province are mountainous, green and forested. The coastal plain along the Caspian Sea is similar to that of Mazandaran and mainly used for rice paddies. Due to successive cultivation and selection of rice by farmers, several cultivars including Gerdeh, Hashemi, Hasani, and Gharib have been bred.
In May 1990 large parts of the province were destroyed by a severe earthquake, in which about 45,000 people died. Abbas Kiarostami made his films Life, and Nothing More... and Through the Olive Trees based on this event.
Gilan's position on the Tehran-Baku trade route has established the cities of Bandar-e Anzali and Rasht as ranking amongst the most important commercial centers in Iran. As a result, the merchant and middle classes comprise a significant percentage of the population.
The province has an annual average of 2 million tourists, mostly domestic. Although Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization lists 211 sites of historical and cultural significance in the province, the main tourist attraction in Gilan is the small town of Masouleh in the hills southeast of Rasht. It is built similar to the Pueblo settlements, with the roof of one house being the courtyard of the house above.
Gilan has a strong culinary tradition, from which several dishes have come to be adopted across Iran. This richness derives in part from the climate, which allows for a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and nuts to be grown in the province. Seafood is a particularly strong component of Gilani (and Mazandarani) cuisine. Sturgeon, often smoked or served as kebab, and caviar are delicacies along the whole Caspian littoral. Other types of fish such as mahi sefid, kuli, kulmeh, Caspian salmon, mahi kapur and many others are consumed. Fish roe, or ashpal, is widely used in Gileki cuisine. Traditional Persian stews such as ghalieh mahi (fish stew) and ghalieh maygu (shrimp stew) are featured and prepared in a uniquely Gilani fashion.
More specific to Gilan are a distinctive walnut-paste and pomegranate-juice sauce, used as a marinade for 'sour' kebab (Kabab Torsh) and as the basis of Fesenjān, a rich stew of duck, chicken or lamb. Mirza ghasemi is an aubergine and egg dish with a smoky taste that is often served as a side dish or appetizer. Other such dishes include pickled garlic, olives with walnut paste, and smoked fish. The caviar and smoked fish from the region are widely prized and sought-after specialties in domestic and foreign gourmet markets.