Beauty Awaits the Brave: 10 Most Beautiful Places in Afghanistan

Although it remains an unpredictable, often unfriendly area, Afghanistan holds some fantastic gems. Kabul sets a lively pace and Mazar-e Sharif & Northeastern Afghanistan is the home of the country's most holy site. Samangan (Aibak) is the place for the caves and sanctuaries of Takht-e Rostam, a secreted Buddhist gem and while the futile devastation of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan still resounds, their relics, set in a tranquil valley, are an awe inspiring spectacle. Listed are 10 most beautiful scenery in Afghanistan.

Band-e Amir
 Band-e Amir is in Eastern Afghanistan. It was to become Afghanistan's first national park in the 1960s, but due to the instability of the Kabul government at the time, this did not happen. In 2004, Band-e Amir was submitted for recognition as a World Heritage site. In 2009, Band-e Amir was finally declared Afghanistan's first national park. Band-e Amir is one of the few rare natural lakes in the world which are created by travertine systems, all of which are on UNESCO World heritage list.

Kabul is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. The word "Kubhā" is mentioned in Rigveda and the Avesta and appears to refer to the Kabul River. The Rigveda praises it as an ideal city, a vision of paradise set in the mountains. The area in which the Kabul valley sat was part of the Median Empire before being conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. There are many interesting sites in Kabul such as the Afghan National Museum in Darul Aman Rd. in South Kabul. The Afghan National Museum once housed one of the greatest collections of Central Asian artifacts in the world. A large percentage of the previous collection was looted in the 1990s during Taliban rule after the upper floors of the museum were bombed.

Khyber Pass
Khyber Pass is the main route between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Well known invasions of the area have been predominantly through the Khyber Pass, such as the invasions by Darius I and Alexander the Great and also include Genghis Khan and later mongols such as Duwa, Qutlugh Khwaja and Kebek. Among the Muslim invasions of South Asia, the famous invaders coming through the Khyber Pass are the Turks such as Mahmud Ghaznavi, Muhammad Ghori and the Turkic-Mongols such as Timur Lane and Babur whose invasion resulted in the establishment of the celebrated Mughul Empire (1526-1857). At the top of the pass is the town of Landi Kotal, famous for smuggling everything from consumer electronics to AK-47s. Attractions for the truly intrepid tourist include weapons factories and hashish warehouses.

Herat is a big, relatively wealthy city in western Afghanistan. Herat dates back to ancient times, but its exact age remains unknown. From 1725 to 1736 Herat was controlled by the Hotaki dynasty until King Nader Shah's of Persia retook the city. After Nader Shah's death in 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani took possession of the city and became part of the Durrani Empire. Ahmad Shah Durrani's father, Zaman Khan, was the governor of Herat province before the Ghilzai's conquer of the region. Zaman Khan and several of his family members were killed while his son Ahmad Khan (Durrani) and Zulfiqar Khan were taken as prisoners to Kandahar in the south. The Friday Mosque is more than 800 years old, full of life and incredibly beautiful. Be sure and seek out the craftsmen's shop behind the main entrance, where you can watch them cut tiles and lay out new pieces for the building.

Minaret of Jam
The Minaret of Jam is probably located at the site of the Ghurid Dynasty's summer capital, Firuzkuh (Firuz Koh). The 12th and 13th century Ghurids controlled not only Afghanistan, but also parts of eastern Iran, Northern India and parts of Pakistan. It is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur'an. Minaret of Jam today is a UNESCO World Heritage site; after all it is a 65 meter hight minaret in the middle of nowhere, second only to the Qutub Minar of Delhi in size.

Mazar-e Sharif
Mazar-e Sharif is a city in Afghanistan and the capital of Balkh Province. The region around Mazar-e-Sharif has been historically part of Greater Khorasan and was controlled by the Tahirids followed by the Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Ilkhanates, Timurids, and Khanate of Bukhara. According to tradition, the city of Mazari Sharif owes its existence to a dream. Shrine of Hazrat Ali (the Blue Mosque) marks the burial site of Ali bin Talib, the Prophet Mohammad's cousin and the fourth caliph of Islam. At night the mosque is lit by coloured lights. However, due to many homeless sleeping in the surrounding park, it is not advisable to walk around at this time.

Panjshir Valley
Panjshir Valley As of April 2004, it became the heart of Panjshir Province.
Massoud's Tomb is well worth a visit. It is undergoing renovation as of August 2009 and expanded but everything is still open.

Balkh is a town in Afghanistan. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered to be the first city to which the Indo-Iranian tribes moved from the North of Amu Darya, approximately between 2000 - 1500 BC. The Arabs called it Umm Al-Belaad or Mother of Cities due to its antiquity. The city was traditionally a center of Zoroastianism. The name Zariaspa, which is either an alternate name for Balkh or a term for part of the city, may derive from the important Zoroastrian fire temple Azar-i-Asp. Balkh was regarded as the first place where Zoroaster first preached his religion, as well as the place where he died. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some 74 km (46 mi) south of the Amu Darya.  Visit the Shrine of Khoja Abu Nasar Parsa – also known as Bala Hasar, dominating the park in the center of the town sits this 15th century shrine, built in the Timurid style.

Salang Pass
Salang Pass is in Parwan Afghanistan on the road between Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. On February 9, 2010, the pass was hit by multiple avalanches. According to press reports the road through the pass was hit by 17 avalanches, killing dozens, burying miles of highway, and trapping the vehicles in the Salang tunnel. By February 10, 2010 authorities had recovered over 160 bodies. The pass itself is very beautiful. There are several places to stop for photography.

Bamiyan is the main town in Bamiyan Province. The city of Bamyan was part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire in the early centuries of the Christian era. After the Kushan Empire fell to the Sassanids, Bamyan became part of the Kushansha, vassals to the Sassanids. The Hephthalites conquered Bamyan in the 5th century. The ruined Buddhas are the main reason that most people visit Bamiyan. Although some feel that to visit at all is to reward cultural vandalism and desecration. Created in the 6bth century, they long were the largest in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists.


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