The tour starts this afternoon in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Since the recent war and the fall of the Taliban there has been substantial investment and a lot of changes in this legendary city and although modern developments can be seen all around, many of the old interesting areas still remain. After an introductory meeting that will include a specific security briefing, we will head out for our first nights dinner. Afghan Logistics & Tours Pvt.Ltd Guesthouse (D)
Undoubtedly one of the country’s highlights, the Bamiyan Valley was once on a major trading route and was an important centre for Buddhism. Although the Taliban famously destroyed the giant Buddhas in 2001, there is still much to see in the area, not least the Buddha niches, which are still an awesome sight to behold. We also plan to explore the surrounding cliffs that are riddled with caves that contain carvings and frescos. There will be time to wander through the friendly bazaar in the centre of town and to meet local Hazaras working their fields. Later in the afternoon, we’ll head for the nearby Darya Ajdhahar, the so-called Valley of the Dragon. Here there is a massive rock formation which is alleged to be the remains of a dragon that persecuted the villagers until Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, killed it. The story is reminiscent of St George and the Dragon and is a wonderful spot to take in the late afternoon sun. Noorband Qala Hotel (B,L,D)
A two hour journey west takes us to the extraordinary chain of lakes at Band-e Amir. Set in the middle of a barren mountain landscape, the lakes are astonishingly beautiful with the water colour varying from turquoise to deep blue-black from lake to lake. Don’t assume that photographs of the lakes have had their colour touched up - they really are these colours, tinted by the mineral salts in the springs that feed the lakes. For those who are feeling active, there is the opportunity to do a good walk around the cliff edge; for those after a more relaxed day, it is simply a great spot to take in this natural wonder, which in any other country would be teeming with visitors. It is truly a word-class destination and a highlight of any trip to the region. We’ll return to Bamiyan for our penultimate night there. Noorband Qala hotel (B,L,D)
Our final day in Bamiyan allows for two leisurely visits to some lesser known but equally impressive sites in the nearby countryside. First we drive the short distance to the base of Shar-e Zohak. This imposing fortress at the eastern entrance to the Bamiyan Valley has been used by various commanders over the past two millennia and although largely destroyed by Genghis Khan’s forces, it is still a great place to explore on foot. In particular, the summit gives a truly spectacular 360o view over the surrounding area. Later we’ll head for the Shahr-e Gholgola, another fortress that saw its glory destroyed in the face of the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. History tells us that in 1221 Genghis had destroyed Balkh and sent his teenage grandson with an army to capture Bamiyan. The people of Bamiyan resisted and Genghis’s grandson was killed. Genghis besieged and destroyed Gholgola in revenge. Today its ruined remains overlook the central Bamiyan valley and provide superb views over the Buddha niches and the surrounding countryside. Noorband Qala hotel (B,L,D).
Once again taking to the sky, we’ll spend the morning heading back to Kabul for our final night where we treat ourselves to dinner in one the capital’s excellent restaurants. Afghan Logistics & Tours Pvt.Ltd Guesthouse (B,L,D)
We will spend the day exploring this incredible valley so expect to start early and make the most of it! The river has a narrow and extremely fertile flood plain and is famous for its fruit. However the sides are steep mountains hence its excellent defence qualities. In the spring especially, watered by the melting snow, these mountainsides are dark green giving an impression of overwhelming fertility. When Afghanistan was on the tourist trail, the Panjshir’s proximity to Kabul combined with its astonishing natural beauty made it most people’s first destination in the country after the capital. It was also conveniently accessed from Pakistan by journalists covering the Russian and Taliban wars when its geographical situation, and the brilliance of its mujahedeen commander, made it unconquerable. Massoud defeated the Russians here 15 times, and so comprehensively that they stopped trying to capture it. Most of the television footage of the war shown in the West was shot here. Murdered by Al-Qaeda operatives two days before 9/11, Massoud is revered today as a national hero and we will visit his tomb, set in a commanding position above the valley. We will head back to Kabul in the late afternoon for dinner. Afghan Logistics & Tours Pvt.Ltd Guest House (B,L,D)
Day 07: Tour ends in Kabul: The tour ends after breakfast this morning.