Difference between revisions of "Bamiyan"
Revision as of 04:03, 26 August 2009
Bamiyan is the main town in Bamiyan Province.
Bamiyan is one of the main tourist attractions in Afghanistan, largely due to the giant destroyed Buddha statues. It's also one of the most picturesque regions in the country.
It lies at an altitude of around 2 500 m and is cooler than Kabul.
Almost everything revolves around one main road running east/west. The buddhas are on the cliff face to the north.
From Kabul there are two very rough dirt roads to Bamiyan, the southern route through Wardak Province and across Hajigak Pass being shorter, more dangerous and more frequently used by public transport. It's advisable to try to blend in on this route for the first hour or so out of Kabul - using a scarf as the Afghans do to cover your head, nose and mouth keeps the dust out and helps to lower your profile. Toyota 4WD shared minivans seating 5-10 passengers leave Kabul starting at 4 am daily and cost 400 afghanis (you may have to and should bargain hard for this price), and take around 9 hours.
The northern route starts from the road heading north from Kabul, near Charikar. For an hour and a half on good tarmac road. From Charikar it goes through Parwan Province, passing Ghorband towards Shibar Pass (some 2 900 m) on a recently (2007) refurbished gravel road. Total travelling time some 8 hours. Several check-posts require a local guide.
From Herat it is a very long and hard multi-part journey via the minaret of Jam, taking at least 3 days in Toyota minivans. Enquire in Herat about the current safety situation.
From Mazar-e Sharif the old route to Kabul runs through Bamiyan. The recently improved gravel road within Bamyan Province (from Du-Ab) makes it much faster, though still some bottlenecks exist.
When you're ready to make an exit, minivans depart from Mama Najaf's restaurant daily for Kabul (9 hours, 400 afn). Inquire here for any other destinations you may have in mind, if there's not something heading there you can arrange a private hire minivan.
mnn21541 No commercial air service runs to Bamiyan, but some NGO's and military run flights for their own purposes. You could try contacting an NGO if you're intent on flying, but don't count on success.
The UN and the Red Cross (ICRC) run flights for their personnel only.
The ISAF contingent's (New Zealand) Hercules transport aircraft resupply the base there. Whilst it is very unlikely that they'll allow passengers it does provide a dramatic photo opportunity. The same goes when VIPs visit and bring along Apache/Cobra attack helicopters for protection.
Closest to regular air services to Bamiyan come the humanitarian flights of PACTEC .
Bamiyan town is small and walking is the best option. Around the region you can hire Toyota minivans for day trips from the stand in front of Mama Najaf's Restaurant.
The Roof of Bamiyan hotel also has vehicles for rent.
The only really cheap option for travelers is to stay in one of several chaikhanas, where your meal (~60 afn) includes a space on the floor for the night. Most don't have toilets or showers, so take advantage of the hammam near the Zuhak Hotel.
Bamiyan is regarded as one of the safer destinations in Afghanistan. It's remoteness and the largely Hazara population have kept it distant from most of the action.
The southern route to Kabul is considered dangerous for the hour or so stretch just out of Kabul where it travels through several villages. Most public transport takes this route, so keep a low profile in those areas and cover your head with a scarf as the Afghans do.
There are many landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXO) in Bamiyan despite a continued presence by ISAF. Stay on well used paths and steer well clear of red-painted rocks. White-painted rocks indicate paths that have been cleared of mines.