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Bamiyan

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East Afghanistan : Bamiyan
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Bamiyan is the main town in Bamiyan Province.


Understand

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 2500m and is cooler than Kabul.

Most everything revolves around one main road running east/west. The buddhas are on the cliff face to the north.

Get in

Road

From Kabul there are 2 very rough dirt roads to Bamiyan, the southern route 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 4am daily and cost 400Af (you may have to and should bargain hard for this price), and take around 9 hours.

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.

Private hire minivans are also available in Kabul and Bamiyan.

Air

The UN 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 helicoptors for protection.

Get around

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.

See

Destroyed Bamiyan Buddha
  • The ruined Buddhas are the main reason that most people visit Bamiyan. Created in the 6th century, they were once the largest in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Over the centuries they were slowly damaged by various invaders, and in 2001 the Taliban declared them 'un-Islamic', rolled in tanks and destroyed them completely. All that remains are the 'footprints'.
  • The area around the buddhas and to the west is interesting to walk around (stay on well-used paths). Many of the buildings were destroyed in war and there are occasional leftover weapons and destroyed jeeps, one of which is now used as a bridge over a stream.
  • Shahr-e Gholghola is a fort high above the town that gives some of the best views of the entire valley.
  • Shahr-e Zohak is another fort some 20 kilometers back towards Kabul that requires a jeep to get to.
  • Band-e Amir, said to be some of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Sleep

Budget

The only really cheap option for travelers is to stay in one of several chaikanas, where your meal (~60Af) 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.

  • Mama Najafs Restaurant is probably the most popular of the chaikanas, as this is where the minivans depart from and arrive.

Mid-range

  • Zuhak Hotel, towards the eastern end of the main street, is a popular place and has the cheapest rooms. Shared bathrooms have hot bucket water in the evenings. The restaurant is currently closed. Double rooms are $20/1000Af, triples are $30/1500Af.
  • The Roof of Bamiyan Hotel sits above the town to the south-west and has great views. Good if you have your own transport, or it's a long walk up the hill. Popular with NGO workers and journalists. Yurts on the roof are $40/2000Af, rooms are $40-60/2-3000Af.

Eat

Several chaikanas provide staple Afghani food such as pulao (rice with seasonal vegetable and mutton), naan and plenty of green tea.

Contact

  • Bamiyan Business Center, east of Zuhak Hotel, is the first internet cafe in Bamiyan. 60Af/hour.
  • Roshan is the only mobile phone service provider with reception in Bamiyan.

Stay safe

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 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.

Get out

Minivans depart from Mama Najaf's restaurant daily for Kabul (9 hours, 400Af). This is also the place to arrange a private hire minivan for travel to Band-e Amir (3 hours, 2-3000Af depending on bargaining skills).

The Roof of Bamiyan Hotel also has vehicles for rent.




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