“There are no bus ads urging you to ‘Explore Beautiful Afghanistan.’ Which makes the beauty even more spectacular – seeing it before anyone else gets there.”
Adventures in Afghanistan have taken many forms. In the 1960s, young Westerners travelling overland stopped to haggle for carpets on Kabul’s Chicken Street before carrying on to the spliff-lined beaches of Goa. A century earlier, this land among the mountains was the focal point of the “Great Game” in which the British and Russian empires vied for influence in the region. That game turned deadly serious in debacles such as the 1842 British retreat from Kabul, when 16,000 troops and their dependents under General Elphinstone were massacred en route to Jalalabad. And it’s remained perilous into modern times, from the disastrous Soviet incursion of 1979 to the more recent pacification efforts of the Americans based at Kandahar and the Brits at Bagram.
So given all this history, who on Earth would plan a bespoke vacation in Afghanistan? Well, we have to concede, not too many people. But while it’s a destination that may conjure up images of conflict, it’s also a starkly beautiful country whose proud people greet you warmly as an honoured guest. So if you have any kind of interest in the region, what better way to see what’s really happening today than to travel there?
Kabul is a practical and fascinating starting point for your journey. When the Taliban were kicked out in 2001, the city lay largely in ruins. But many new buildings have gone up over the past decade, while the historic bazaars are as busy as ever with Pashtun merchants doing deals on their cellphones. You’ll also want to spend a few hours in the main museum – if only to imagine how much more would be on display had the Taliban Minister of Culture (a supremely ironic title) not gone around smashing exhibits with a hammer.
For adventures outside the capital, we recommend the Wakhan Corridor, a strip of land between Tajikistan, Kashmir and China that was created as a buffer between imperial Russia and British India. You’ll get to know the local Kyrgyz and Wakhi people as you travel by foot, horse, jeep or helicopter, taking in dramatic mountain vistas – and maybe tandem paragliding to gain the ultimate views.
Whether you’re skiing at the Bamiyan “resort” west of Kabul or joining tribesmen in a game of buzkashi – a kind of polo using a headless goat instead of a ball – Afghanistan is unlike any place you’ve ever visited. We’ll help refine that critical difference between being caught off guard and embracing the unexpected.
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To discuss what interests you about this or any other destination, call us: +44 203 358 0110