Afghanistan – the landlocked country, located at the crossroads of Central and South Asia, does not certainly represent the most popular tourist destination among holidaymakers. Coup d’états, civil wars and foreign invaders have been tearing apart the country since the 1970s, thus exacerbating its reputation and its image worldwide. Yet, although it does not represent the safest place on earth – numerous [Western] countries warn against the risk of hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, insurgent attacks, etc. – visitors can still travel to Afghanistan taking the correct safety precautions.
Settled life in the country emerged approximately 9000 years ago, therefore, Afghanistan boasts an extremely fascinating history and a rich culture. Yet, what attracts the few visitors to explore the country is its diverse landscape, which ranges from high mountains to extended plains, and from endless deserts to great lakes.
Best time to visit Afghanistan
The best time to visit Afghanistan is generally in late spring (April-May) and early autumn (September-October) when temperatures are more pleasant compared to the rest of the year. In fact, if on the one hand summer is particularly hot (up to 40°C), on the other, winter is extremely cold (up to -7°C) and snow is to be expected. Keep in mind that even in summer temperatures drop to 15°C at night, therefore, it is always suggested to pack warm clothes.
How to get around the country
When visiting Afghanistan, it is extremely important to always take the correct safety precautions – this could in fact save your life in some extreme situations. Keep in mind that Afghanistan is neither Europe nor other more “dangerous” countries in South America or Southeast Asia. The country has been,in the last few decades, torn apart by an endless war and some of its regions are still facing bloody conflicts. Therefore, when moving from one region to another, never – and I emphasise NEVER – drive; on the contrary, it is always suggested to fly. There are several airports in the country, including Hamid Karzai International Airport (Kabul), Herat International Airport, Kandahar International Airport and Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport (Balkh).
Band-e Amir National Park
Band-e Amir National Park, located in the easter part of the country – in the Bamyan Province -, is the first national park of the country. At an altitude of approximately 3000m, Afghanistan’s Grand Canyon includes a series of turquoise lakes surrounded by a stunning mountain panorama. Although the park is located in a desolated and extremely remote area of the country, a small number of rangers is in charge of securing the park for the few tourists – approximately 6000 thousand every year – coming here to enjoy the numerous beauties of this paradise. In the park there are also very few accommodation facilities and places where to eat. Camping is permitted.
Located in Bamiyan Province, the Bamiyan Buddhas were established in the 6th century, highlighting the country’s buddhist past. For centuries, they represented the largest Buddha statues west of China (53 and 35 meters high) before they were cowardly (and seriously) damaged by the Taliban in 2001. Although several attempts to restore the Bamiyan Buddhas have been made, visitors are still not able to see this site at its best.
According to the few visitors who have been lucky enough to visit this region, Panjshir Mountains offer some of the most scenic and beautiful landscapes you could possibly imagine. Located approximately 150 km North-East of Kabul, Panjshir is also considered one of the most secure regions in the whole country, since security checks are needed to enter and exit the area. Besides the gorgeous landscapes, visitors can here discover the great history and culture of this region.
DO NOT FORGET!
Pay extreme attention to your surroundings; this is a war zone after all!! Whether you are visiting Afghanistan alone or with some friends, it is always suggested to fly from one region to the other. For your own safety, it is highly suggestested against driving a car for internal transfers! Moreover, do not explore the country on your own, rather it is best to hire a local guide. Finally, remember that some regions, due to high risks, are off-limits for tourists, therefore, try to avoid them.