Afghanistan in Spring (Round 4)

Feb 29 - Mar 9
10 Days
2850

Afghanistan has been going non-stop through different historical episodes and moments since 1979, when tribal people rebelled against the Communist party, originating a war between the Soviet Union and the Mujahideen, which lasted until 1989.

The Soviets were defeated but then, Mujahideen war lords began to fight each other over power, impoverishing the country even more.

Fed up with all that warlordism and disappointed that Islamic law had not been installed after the communists were kicked out, a former Mujahid founded a movement named Taliban in the city of Kandahar. That man was Mullah Omar, the historical leader of the Taliban.

The Taliban quickly took over the whole Kandahar province and, by 1996, they controlled 90% of Afghanistan’s territory, including Kabul, ruling until 2001.

Then, the American Invasion came, beginning a useless war that took thousands of lives.

In 2021, the Americans withdrew and the Taliban took over again, and that’s the episode you’ll be witnessing in this expedition.

Afghanistan, however, is more than Taliban and war; this Central Asian and former Silk Road country is a melting point of cultures and civilizations, visible in the extreme ethnic diversity, but also a jaw-dropping destination filled with mind-blowing shrines, historical bazaars, kind-hearted people, and some of the most incredibly mesmerizing landscapes ever, once traveled by Alexander the Great.

This is one of the most incredible countries in the world, and this is your chance to explore it.

BOOK NOW

February 29th to March 9th, 2024

2850€

10 days

Lead by Joan Torres

travelers who joined us say

Itinerary

Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.

Day 1 – Arrival in Kabul

Day 2 – Kabul

Day 3 – Mazar-el-Sharif

Day 4 – Drive to Bamyan through Hindu Kush

Day 5 – Bamyan

Day 6 – Bamyan

Day 7 – Drive to Ghazni

Day 8 – Ghazni and Kandahar

Day 9 – Kandahar, back to Kabul in the evening

Day 10 – Kabul in the morning and departure

Day 1 – Arrival in Kabul

Day 1 is the arrival day, a day which we will spend picking you up from airport and checking in the hotel, as well as giving you a warm welcome through an introductory briefing on Afghanistan.

In the evening, we will all go out together for a traditional Afghan meal.

Overnight in Kabul.

Day 2 – Full day in Kabul

Early morning and before our visit, we should go to the market to buy some local clothes, something which is strictly necessary to blend in (to a certain extent) with the local population.

Then, we will head to Old Kabul, walking slowly through all the different bazaars, including the worldwide famous bird market, a photogenic bazaar where they sell different types of birds as pets, one of the top tourist attractions in Kabul.

Bird Market Kabul

After a hearty meal, we will travel west of Kabul to spend the afternoon and evening at Sakhi Shrine, a mini version of the Blue Mosque in Mazar and also one of the most stunning mosques in all Afghanistan.

Overnight in Kabul.

Sakhi Shrine, Kabul

Day 3 – Mazar-e-Sharif

At 11:30am, we will catch a flight to Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern city close to the Uzbekistan border, so here you will find a large population of Uzbeks.

From the airport, we will drive straight to Balkh, an ancient city once the center of Buddhism, Sufism, and Zoroastrianism. Among other landmarks, we will visit Bala Hisar – the ancient citadel built by Alexander the Great when he destroyed the Kurush (Persian empire) – and Parsa Mosque.

Blue Mosque Afghanistan

Then, we will head back to Mazar to spend the entire afternoon in the Blue Mosque, one of the highlights in all Afghanistan, a huge shrine composed of mind-blowing turquoise patterns that comes to life with the thousands of worshippers that visit it every single day. It’s not a place to rush, so we will take our time there.

Overnight in Mazar-e-Sharif

Mazar-e-Shariff Afghanistan

Day 4 – Drive to Bamyan

This is an exciting day, for two different reasons.

On the one hand, few travelers have done this journey by road, since the area between both destinations used to be extremely dangerous before the Taliban took over, but no longer.

On the other hand, we will drive through the Hindu Kush range, witnessing amazing landscapes and passing through 5 different provinces: Bamyan, Parwan, Bghlan, Samangan and Balkh.

We will arrive in Bamyan in the evening.

Overnight in Bamyan.

Bamyan mountains

Day 5 – Exploring the city of Bamyan

Bamyan is a Hazara town and the only sort of tourist-friendly place in all Afghanistan. It’s located at the heart of the Hindu Kush, in a stunningly beautiful area surrounded by mountains and lush, green fields, but also a region rich in ancient history.

Early morning, we will pay a visit to the giant Buddhas that were carved from the rocks back in the 6th century, but unfortunately destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The big Buddha-shaped holes they left behind are impressive though, and the views from the top even more.

Right after eating a traditional regional meal, we will head to historical Shahr-e Gholghola (City of Screams), a 13th century city in Bamyan that was conquered by Genghis Khan after a months-long siege.

The evening will be spent on top of a mountain with awesome views.

Overnight in Bamyan.

Bamyan

Day 6 – Band-e-Ameer National Park

Band-e-Ameer is a UNESCO World Heritage and also the only National Park in all Afghanistan, a set of deep-blue lakes that are absolutely jaw-dropping.

The best way to get an impression of its size is by walking around the lakes on foot, so we will do a small trek, while choosing the best spot for a picnic lunch.

After enjoying the lakes, we will drive back to Bamyan, not without enjoying the landscapes this region can bless us with on the way.

Overnight in Bamyan.

Bander Emir National Park

Day 7 – Bamyan to Ghazni

The drive to Ghazni from Bamyan will go through an actual off the beaten path region in Afghanistan, passing by isolated villages in the middle of the desert.

The drive will take 4 hours.

Upon arrival in Ghazni, we will have lunch, and then we will visit the Ghaznavid minarets, two masterpieces of Islamic engineering from the 12th century.

Overnight in Ghazni.

Ghazni

Day 8 – Drive to Kandahar

The driver to Kandahar is pretty long – around 6 hours – but it goes through the former battle zone of the USA against the Taliban, so expect to see a lot of abandoned American tanks and military trucks.

We expect to arrive in Kandahar around lunch time and visiting some of its highlights will follow after that.

Burqa Afghanistan

Day 9 – Kandahar

Kandahar is the cultural center for the Pashtun people.

Long-bearded-men and women in burqa, but also dust, utterly hot summers, and an insane level of military security.

Kandahar is like the Afghanistan we have been watching on TV, but it’s also rich in history, since it was actually founded by Alexander the Great himself in the 4th century BC.

Old City of Kandahar

The city, however, is also infamous for being the place where the Taliban movement was founded, and the actual Taliban capital when they ruled the country from 1996 to 2001.

We will visit the remains from the city founded by Alexander the Great but our visit will also have a big focus on the Taliban history, and that will include the mosque where Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden used to pray, as well as a Taliban school.

In the evening, we will catch a flight back to Kabul.

Overnight in Kabul.

Day 10 – Kabul and departure

Your flight will likely be in the afternoon so, early in the morning, we will go to the Bibi Mahro Hills to enjoy the best views in the city.

After that, we will take you the airport to catch your international flight.

Bibi Mahro Hills Kabul

Included

All mentioned domestic flights (2 in total)

9 nights of accommodation in secured hotels mentioned in FAQ

Permits and security clearance for driving around Taliban-Afghanistan

Private transportation around Afghanistan in modern mini-van (6 spots)

All meals

Letter of Invitation needed for the visa

Visa advice and support.

English-speaking Afghan guide

European tour leader

Entrance fees to all places listed in the itinerary

Not Included

International flights to Kabul

Visa fees

Local clothes (from $20 to $80, depending on quality).

Single supplement: 250€

BOOK NOW

February 29th to March 9th, 2024

2850€

10 days

Lead by Joan Torres

FAQ

Which hotels do we stay in?

These are the secured hotels where we stay. Note that they might be subject to availability.

How does the room distribution work?

Price of the tour includes accommodation in a twin room.

If you are a solo traveler, you will be sharing the room with another like-minded traveler from the group. We always try to group people of same gender and age together but note that this won’t always be the case. Moreover, in the hypothetical case there weren’t perfect pairs, one of the rooms would be a triple room.

If you wanted to have your own single room, you will have to pay an additional €250.

How to get a visa?

You can get your visa in a few EU embassies/cities like in Madrid, Paris, London, or Berlin but this depends on your residence. 

If not, getting it in either Dubai or Islamabad is even easier, especially because flights to Kabul depart from either of these cities. 

Dubai: visa costs $180 and you can get it in a few hours. If you go to the embassy in the morning, you’ll have your visa in the afternoon. 

Pakistan: visa costs $130 and you get it in 24 hours. 

How to fly to Kabul?

There are daily flights from Islamabad and Dubai, and occasional flights from Doha and Istanbul. You can book your flights via Kam Air website.

Alternatively, Fly Dubai has also started offering flights from Dubai to Kabul.

When to fly to Dubai or Islamabad

With the urgent service, you can get your visa within a day in Dubai and in 24 hours in Islamabad.

However, we all know how these things work in these types of embassies so personally, I’d try to be at the embassy in either Dubai or Islamabad at least 48 hours before departure to Kabul.

Is Afghanistan safe nowadays?

Before the Taliban took over the country in the summer of 2021, the country was going through a civil war. Now that the Americans left and the Afghan Army isn’t fighting the Taliban anymore, the country is finally safe, from a tourist perspective.

What about Americans?

Yes, despite the American intervention, the country is as safe for Americans as it is for other nationalities.

Can women join an Afghanistan expedition?

Yes, women can join this expedition, no problem.

While the local Afghan women do suffer from huge repression and lack rights, foreign women will always be safe, especially if you go accompanied by our team.

Regarding clothing, you don’t need to wear a burqa but just a regular hijab and an abaya, like you’d do in Iran.

Which nationalities can join this tour?

All nationalities are welcome, including Americans.

How does payment work?

In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a deposit.

All details will be shared upon booking your spot.

Do you recommend a specific travel insurance?

Either you are joining one of our trips, or you are traveling by yourself, you might want to look for proper travel insurance. Against the Compass has been a partner with IATI for several years already, recommending it to all readers, as well as covering all Joan Torres’ personal trips.

We like it because It covers all the countries where the FCDO advises against all travel, it offers budget plans and covers all sorts of adventure activities.

Against the Compass readers can benefit from a 5% discount.

Get a quote here to claim your discount

What about the cancellation policy?

Please refer to our Terms & Conditions.