Afghanistan landscape © Phillip Hickman
Afghanistan should conjure up images of dramatic lush green mountains turning snow-capped in winter, sapphire lakes overflowing into tumbling waterfalls, majestic indigenous wild animals such as the elusive snow leopard, and a wealth of ancient historical and religious sites. Instead, tragically, it evokes images of war-torn cities, dilapidated buildings and a nation grappling to come to terms with a violent political history and uncertain future.
Afghanistan is an unusual choice of travel destination for travellers, but exploring this old and humble land will certainly enrich the lives of those who visit, few and far between as they may currently be. Although some of its famous cultural sites, like the ancient statues of the Bamiyan Valley, have been damaged or destroyed, there are still fascinating places to explore, including the glorious landscapes of the Band-e-Amir National Park and the Panjshir Mountains north of Kabul. The capital city itself boasts some interesting palaces, mosques and markets.
Unfortunately, most governments advise against all travel to Afghanistan as the country is currently considered one of the most dangerous places in the world and is the site of ongoing war and conflict. No part of Afghanistan is considered safe for travel. Those brave enough to visit should be aware that it is prudent to honour the country's predominantly Muslim beliefs and traditions.
Afghanistan is a country rich in not only culture, but also breath-taking landscapes that one day will hopefully entice the visitors it deserves, to the benefit of Afghanistan's people. However, until further notice, it seems most foreign visitors to this country will be aid workers or soldiers.