Bamiyan

Bamiyan at sunrise

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. The "Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley" is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It lies at an altitude of around 2 500 m and in the summer its comfortable climate provides a relief from the heat of the lower areas of the country.

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

Get in

By road

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 4AM daily and cost 400 Afghanis (you may have to and should bargain hard for this price), and take around 9 hours.

Bamyan Valley

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.

By air

Some NGO's and military operate flights for their own purposes. There are now three commercial flights a week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) on East Horizons Airways. You have to purchase tickets at their office on 11th Street in Wazir Akbar Khan. Prices are around $200 round trip (June 2013).

The Red Cross (ICRC) runs flights for its personnel only. The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has regular flights available for UN and NGO staff, humanitarian workers and journalists.

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.

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. Also, along the road in front of the large Buddha is the tourist office (in a pink building on the south side of the road) and you can hire a guide. The guide is well worth it for the money.

The Roof of Bamiyan hotel also has vehicles for rent.

See

Destroyed Bamiyan Buddha
Caves
The Buddhas were built by the Gandharan Kingdom which ruled the area a few centuries BCE. For that kingdom's capital and better-preserved art of the same period, see Taxila.

Do

Eat

Sleep

Budget

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. (this "hammam" is only for men.)

Mid-range

It definitely has the best view of all the hotels in Bamiyan, but the rooms are dirty and they do not maintain the rooms very well. They advertise hot water, but it's available only about half the time and you need to take quick showers because it runs out fast. Also, it is difficult to get to town since it's on top of a hill. If you want to eat at the hotel, the prices are set and are expensive. 500 Afs for lunch, 500 Afs for dinner. Paying 500 Afs for local food is extremely expensive. Even with all these faults, if you want great views, there isn't a better place than the Roof of Bamiyan. Yurts on the roof are $40/2000Af, rooms are $40-60/2000-3000Af.

Splurge

Connect

Stay safe

Bamiyan is regarded as one of the safer destinations in Afghanistan. Its remoteness and the largely Hazara population have kept it distant from most of the fighting.

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.

Go next

Shar-e Zohak
This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.