Afghanistan's most beautiful spots

Zibak Travel Blog

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The natural dam at Band-i-Amir

1) Band-i-Amir:  The spectacular colors are almost indescribable.  These high-mountain mineral lakes are fed by natural underwater springs.  Dramatic red cliffs drop in stark contrast to the blues of the water.  The surrounding moonscape-like terrain adds to the bizarre view, making this an otherworldly experience that is tops in terms on natural beauty.  Pictures only begin to show the beauty of the place, since, like so many other dramatic locations, it's really the 360 degree experience that really captures the beauty of the place.

2) Zebok valley, Badakhshan Province.  This high-mountain valley is fed by dozens of natural springs that pop up along the green valley floor.  A near-perfect lawn spreads throughout the valley in what would appear to be a natural golf-course green.

Camping at Zebok
  crystal-clear streams converge along the valley to form the gushing Kokcha River that cuts its way out the lower gorge toward the rest of Badakhshan Province.  This place is idillic, and a perfect place to watch the night sky since it is hundreds of kilometers from the closest electric light.

3) Friday Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan.  Built in the 11th century, and beautified continually ever since, this architectural jewel has a strong 15th century Timurid imprint.  The formal gardens in the front are reminscent of the Mogul gardens of later-day India.  The marble floor stretching the full length of the giant courtyard is a graceful contrast to the intricate tile patterns of the surrounding walls and archways.

Walking through a field of wheat in Panjshir
  Each corner reveals a graceful and delicate pattern that is worth exploring for hours.

4) The Rauza Mosque or Shrine of Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.  The spectacular square at the center of Mazar-i-Shari houses this small, but charming shrine that has been the center of Folk Islamic devotion in Afghanistan for centuries.  Legend has it that Ali's body was brought here after his death, and is revered by Afghans as the holiest site in their country.   This square is especially impressive during the Nawruz festival on March 21 of each year, when the city fills with 1 million pilgrims and revelers who come to celebrate the Persian New Year at this site. 

5) Buddha niches, Bamiyan, Afghanistan.  The two ancient buddhas carved into the mountain cliffs above Bamiyan in the 5th century were destroyed by the Taliban in the summer of 2001, in one of the great crimes against global culture.

  Still remaining are the gigantic niches that housed these, the largest buddhas ever made anywhere in the world.  Also left behind is an intricate cave network that formed a series of buddhist monasteries.  Nearby sit the ancient cities of Zohak and Gholghola, destroyed by Genghis Khan, but still full of interesting ruins.  The Bamiyan Valley remains one of the top tourist destinations in Afghanistan.

6) The Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan.  A trek to the Small Pamir mountains at the far end of the Wakhan is one of the most exciting and exotic routes a traveler can take in this modern world.  It takes 5 days to drive from Kabul to the trail head.  From there, a minimum of 8-12 days is required to walk to the base of the Small Pamir mountains, along an awesome trail.  You ride horses and yaks past camps of nomadic Kyrgyz, and might see wild Siberian Ibex, Marco Polo sheep, or even the elusive Snow Leopard.  This part of the world has been called the "Roof of the World."  Undescribable beauty and the remote area that is the convergence of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China make this a totally amazing destination. 

7) Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.  This rugged valley 2 hours north of Kabul was home to some of the most active anti-Russian warriors including Ahmed Shah Massoud, and resisted Taliban rule during the late 1990s.  Its narrow mouth and high mountains make the valley easily defended, and also make for dramatic scenery.  The Panjshir River rushes with white water the whole length of the valley, and snow-capped mountains surround the long, narrow valley.  It takes 8 hours to drive the length of the valley, but it is barely wide enough for two farmer's fields or a small village.  The combination of striking mountain scenery with the fiercely independent Panjshiri peoples make this an incredible day trip out of Kabul.

8) The Minaret of Jam.  Remote and forgotten, this is the second highest minaret in the world.  What makes it most incredible is its location at the convergence of two narrow gorges.  The rugged, dry mountains seem completely inhospitable, but this location used to house the capital of the great Ghorid empire.  The only evidence of this amazing city is the 1000 year old 65 meter high minaret, and the Jewish cemetery nearby.

9) The Ancient Buddhist ruins of Takht-e-Rustam in Samangan, and Surkh Kotal near Pul-i-Khumri., Afghanistan.  A huge stone stuppa carved out of the top of a hill graces the mountain above Samangan.  This perfectly cylindrical stuppa dates from the Buddhist period of Afghanistan during the first few centuries of this era.   A stone temple carved from the same giant stone as the stuppa sits at the top of the stuppa.  Below, you can wander the cave complex that formed the monastery.   Nearby, the giant staircase built by Kanishka at Surkh Kotal offers incredible views of the fertile valley below.  For history buffs and nature lovers, these destinations are great side-trips during a visit to Afghanistan.

10) TV Mountain, Kabul, Afghanistan.   Kabul is not usually described as beautiful.  Interesting, yes.  Bustling, most definitely.  But not beautiful.  However, the view from the top of TV mountain, which sits at the heart of Kabul is breathtaking and....beautiful.  No other city in the world has a mountain quite so high at the very center of the city.  You can watch planes fly below you as they approach the airport, and can see every major landmark in this city of 4 million people.  It is a must-see if you visit Kabul.

If you are interested in visiting any of these locations, check out my travel company: Great Game Travel (Afghanistan).  You can find us on the web at www.greatgametravel.com

Luci26 says:
cool!
Posted on: Apr 25, 2007
petrarchanprincess says:
I'm glad you put up this blog!
Posted on: Apr 22, 2007
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The natural dam at Band-i-Amir
The natural dam at Band-i-Amir
Camping at Zebok
Camping at Zebok
Walking through a field of wheat i…
Walking through a field of wheat …
Zibak
photo by: adventuremann