Afghanistan has been broken up and altered by numerous cultures due to its landlocked location at the crossroads of south and central Asia. Neolithic tribespeople from the Indus Valley settled here in ancient times. Then came Alexander the Great’s phalanxes, which spanned the greater phalanx of mountains that is the Hindu Kush. Putting an end to the old Persian dynasties. Then there were the Muslim Arabs of the Middle East. Who came up against Genghis Khan’s unstoppable armies. Then there were the Mughals, the Soviets, and the British imperialists, to name a few.
The fabric of this vast nation in the heart of Asia today is a palimpsest of its turbulent history and incredible location: The dusty desert gives way to snow-capped peaks and alpine glaciers in cities like Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar; ancient trade roads cross opium fields, and the dusty desert gives way to filigreed mosques and breath-taking madrasahs. Of course, modern times have not been kind, and the tribes’ and Taliban’s war-torn territory is now largely off-limits.
Let’s explore the 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Afghanistan
The revered birthplace of the Sacred Cloak Mosque and a city steeped in tradition lies at the crossroads where southern Afghanistan meets the country’s heartland mountains. During the reign of Ahmad Shah Durrani, it was the capital of the last Afghan empire, and it was the traditional seat of Pashtun power. The enigmatic inscriptions of the great Mughal invader Babur attract visitors to Chilzina View, which is on the outskirts of the district, and the area is now crowded with mosques, shrines, and mausoleums dedicated to national heroes.
The great Blue Mosque’s cobalt domes soar over Mazar-e Sharif’s skyline, glistening white-hot under the scorching Balkh light. It’s famous as the burial site of Ali bin Talib, the Prophet Mohammad’s nephew, with its gorgeous collection of arabesque and south Asian architecture, complete with turquoise-blue domes and gold-peppered minarets. However, Mazar-e Sharif’s Muslim heritage is just one facet of the city; it also houses a multitude of Greek artefacts, many of which were brought here by Alexander’s armies in the third century BC.
Like so many other cities in this region, was founded by the emperor Akbar, and it is a place where the passing of time is almost tangible. The snowy peaks of the Safid Mountain Range can always be seen on the horizon, and you can imagine how the Mughal soldiers would have looked when they gazed at them in the 1500s. Closer to the settlement, the climate makes for citrus orchards and green parks, which are well-known in Jalalabad. You can also visit King Amanullah Khan’s mausoleum, play cricket with the locals, or simply relax in the well-kept parks and gardens.
The ancient town of Balkh hailed as the epicentre of the Bactrian Empire has a nearly 4,000-year history! Indeed, it was in these reaches, high up in the gaps of the Hindu Kush’s northern ridges. That Zoroastrianism and Buddhism first flourished. The town would have been razed (even by Genghis Khan himself) and restored several times by the time Venetian explorer Marco Polo arrived in the 1300s. But memories of its great fortification walls and learning institutions would still be new. The town is no longer the noble capital it once was, but there is a sense of tradition among the bustling bazaars and the emerald-hued Green Mosque.
It’s easy to see why Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest district, has such a Persian flavour. The town is just a few kilometres from the Iranian frontier, and it was once the capital of the Timurid dynasty (a lineage that fused elements of Turkic, Persian and Mongol culture in their time). The Friday Mosque is the city’s great symbol of defiance. This exquisite building, with turquoise-tipped minarets and gleaming tiles, is sure to dazzle the senses – it’s believed to be over 800 years old! The Herat Citadel and the tombs of respected Sufi poets are both worth seeing.
Although the town of Samangan is famous for being an ancient caravan stop on the old Silk Road’s periphery roads, that isn’t its main attraction. The enigmatic cave complexes of Takht I Rostam. Which cut their way through the dusty ridges of the surrounding mountains, deserve this honour. These are thought to have been built in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and are both based on an inner mud-brick stupa with beautiful Buddhist lotus leaf inlays. They have an immersive look at a nearly forgotten pre-Muslim age.
The Bamiyan storey is a tragic one for society and religious history buffs. Before the Muslim conquest, the area was known as a centre for Hindu–Buddhist worship. And, it thrived with artisans, monasteries and – particularly – sculptors. In reality, the two colossal Buddha statues that stood here were regarded as some of Asia’s most elegant 4th and 5th-century carvings. The Taliban, however, smashed these massive effigies in March 2001. Sparking international uproar and urging UNESCO to tag their remains to avoid further damage.
This is an isolated enclave in the northern Afghan mountains. It is surrounded by the broken and chiselled passes of the mighty Hindu Kush. The location defines the town’s personality, giving it a rustic, backwater feel. Donkeys gallop through the streets, and beady-eyed, bearded sheep farmers prowl the bazaars. You’ll encounter local highlanders whose feet have been worn down by the Wakhan Corridor’s paths. Spice-scented stew houses can be found, and the Kukicha River’s beautiful alpine valleys can be explored.
Band-e Amir National Park
In 2009, the majestic stretches of the Band-e Amir became host to Afghanistan’s first national park. It’s easy to see why! The whole region is a wondrous sight to behold, peppered by no less than six individual mountain lakes, situated more than 3,000 metres above sea level in the rugged peaks of the Hindu Kush. And it is forged by centuries of fascinating volcanic motions. Hikers flock to Band-e Panir and Band-e Goleman in the spring and summer. (when the temperatures aren’t a sweltering 20 degrees below! to marvel at the cobalt-blue waters.
It has been in anarchy since the Mujahedeen and al-Qaeda. As well as Taliban militants and other militias, took control of the city since the country’s modern wars began. In the involvement of UN peacekeepers, militants lurk in the darkness of the capital, sometimes attacking with explosives and assaults. It’s a shame that a city with so much to promise is in such a mess. Kabul was once a linguistic crossroads for Zoroastrians and Buddhists alike. Later on, Hindus and even Alexander the Great visited. Today, you can visit the Kabul Museum to learn more about this fascinating history. If you think it’s safe to do so.