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News and Views

Travelers Heed the Call to Bamiyan and the Wakhan Corridor

Bamiyan Province continues to attract adventurers, travelers, journalists, and tourists of all stripes with its sweeping mountain vista, picturesque valleys and limestone cliffs, and stunning rivers and deserts. Ancient fortress ruins provide awe-inspiring views over the valley; the hollow cavities where the Giant Buddhas once stood are a sobering reminder of the Taleban’s reign of terror.

Security is not a major concern and numerous reconstruction projects are transforming Bamiyan into a backpacker’s paradise. BBC recently profiled the Abdul Hamid Hotel, a popular stop en route to the stunning 3,000 meter high Band-e Amir lakes.

Band-e Amir is Afghanistan's first national park, encompassing six lakes with crytal blue water. Each lake is held up by a natural dam of limestone. Cascading waterfalls, lakeside cafes and paddle boats are a common sight to the thousands of Afghans who visit annually, as well as the growing crowds of international visitors.

The intrepid traveler must be content with extremely modest accommodations. Wester-style hotels have yet to penetrate Bamiyan, and many guest houses lack electricity and indoor plumbing. Roads can often be unpaved and bumpy, and Bamiyan still lacks an information center for visitors.

To the northeast, travelers gathered this year to attend the Buzkashi tournaments at the Pamir Festival in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor. Buzkashi is a traditional Afghan sport played with horses, similar to polo. The Wakhan Corridor is a natural magnet for adventure-seekers, with 7,000m snow-topped peaks and pristine mountain tracks. The area contains some of the best hiking in the world, and is as safe and welcoming as Bamiyan.

Currently, the Wakhan corridor is extremely poor, and the Aga Khan Development Network and other development organization are attempting to improve infrastructure and help the people. Tourism is slow to come to this unique part of Afghanistan; although reaching the Wakhan Corridor takes a two-day drive from the nearest airstrip in Faizabad, intrepid travelers will be rewarded for their efforts. They will see the world through Marco Polo’s eyes, witnessing the same views as the ancient traveler, including the Hindu Kush mountains, and the Great Pamir and Small Pamir mountains, all the way to the borders of Pakistan, China and Tajikistan.


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