Blue Mosque Mazar i Sharif

Melons & Grapes – Grand Afghan Tour

Dates: Autumn  2018

Each autumn we run a trip to Afghanistan and we think it is the perfect time to visit. Summer can be blisteringly hot and winter icy cold. Spring has its charms, but for us autumn is the best, and all because of the fruit. How a land that appears to be made entirely of bare rock can produce melons as large as beach balls and grapes bursting with juice is one of life’s great mysteries. This trip shows the best of Afghanistan with as much fresh fruit thrown in as you can eat.

We start in Kabul before crossing the spine of the Hindu Kush through the Salang Pass to Mazar e Sharif to see the blue tiled shrine of Hazrat Ali and the remains of the once great Silk Road city of Balkh. Then we will move on to Bamian where we spend three days exploring the valleys, the Buddha niches and the lakes of Band e Amir. It is an area that allows us to experience what life is like in rural Afghanistan in safety. Finally we will take a short flight across the Hindu Kush to Herat, the most architecturally complete city in Afghanistan.

Highlights:

  • Discover the remains of the Buddhas of Bamian
  • Explore Herat
  • Visit the Shrine of Ali in Mazar e Sharif
  • See the lakes at Band e Amir

Start Point: Kabul, Afghanistan
End Point: Kabul, Afghanistan
Maximum number of people: 8


Day 1 Kabul
Arrival and briefing. For those who arrive early we will have time to take an afternoon tour of the city. This will include a visit to the hills of Bibi Mahru, the remains of Darulaman Palace and a visit to the Kabul Museum.

Day 2 Kabul – Mazar e Sharif
A morning in Kabul to visit places such as the British cemetery, the bush bazaar and Babur’s Gardens.
Then fly to Mazar e Sharif.
Overnight in Mazar e Sharif.

Day 3 Mazar e Sharif – visit Balkh
Full day in Mazar & Balkh
You will have time to visit the majestic blue tiled tomb of Hazrat Ali, Afghanistan’s most important religious site. You will spend part of the day visiting the ancient Silk Road city of Balkh, called Bactria to the Greeks. Bactria was the birthplace of Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism as well as Rumi the legendary Persian poet. Legacy of its Islamic and Buddhist past can be found in the stupas at the entrance to the town, at the blue tiled shrine of Khoja Parsa and at the oldest mosque in Afghanistan, the 9th century No Gombad mosque.
Overnight in Mazar

Day 4 Mazar e Sharif – Samangan – Mazar e Sharif
A day trip to the Buddhist monastery remains at Samangan, two hours drive south of Mazar e Sharif. The 1500 year old complex contains a huge stupa carved out of the bedrock as well as a number of caves used as places of worship.
En route you will also be able to visit Tashkurgan and the old king’s hunting lodge.
Overnight in Mazar e Sharif

Day 5 Mazar e Sharif – Kabul
Early morning flight from Mazar e Sharif to Kabul.
Day in Kabul to visit the sobering OMAR landmine museum, Shah-e Doh Shamshira mosque and the Murad Khane district of Kabul.
Overnight in Kabul

Day 6 Kabul – Panjshir
We will visit the Panjshir Valley, described as the most beautiful place in Afghanistan by locals. We will stop to view the tomb of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshir and Afghanistan’s most universally revered Mujahedin commander, as well as stopping off at a local fish restaurant on the banks of the Panjshir River.

Day 7 Kabul – Bamian
We will fly between Kabul and Bamian, the capital of the Hazarajat – home of the Hazaras and one of the most peaceful places in Afghanistan. When we arrive in Bamian we will have time to look at the hillsides containing many caves in which monasteries and Buddhist carvings were once situated.

Days 8-10 Bamian and around
We will spend 3 days in and around Bamian, an area of striking natural beauty. The mountains and valleys are dotted with ruins from Afghanistan’s past as well as friendly Hazara villages. It is one of the few places in Afghanistan where we can walk freely and safely in a rural environment.
The lapis lazuli blue waters of Band-e-Amir are often the highlight of any trip to Afghanistan. Legend has it that the dams that separate the 5 lakes were made by Ali, the prophet Mohamed’s cousin and son in law. However geologists insist they are natural dams made from mineral deposits. The lakes contrast to the stark landscape surrounding them only adds to the beauty of this area.
We will also visit the natural landscape of Dragon Valley, see the ruins of Shah e Zohak (Red Fort) and the remains of Shah e Golghola (The City of Screams).

Day 11 Bamian – Kabul
We will fly back to Kabul, taking the opportunity to visit any sights we may have missed on the first day in the Afghan capital.

Day 12 Kabul – Herat
Fly from Kabul to Herat. The flight is early in the morning leaving us the afternoon to enjoy Herat.

Day 13  Herat
Herat has the largest collection of ancient buildings in Afghanistan and we will take a full day to explore the city and its surroundings including the Friday Mosque, the Tomb of Gowar Shad, the Masullah Complex and the atmospheric shrine of Khoja Ansari at Gazar Gah.

Day 14 Herat – Kabul
We will fly back to Kabul and ensure that you get to see anything you may have missed on our earlier visits as well as ensuring we take a trip to Chicken Street to pick up any last souvenirs.

Day 15 Fly home
We will ensure that you are taken to the airport to catch your flight.

You will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders for the entire length of this trip.


The trip includes:
All accommodation
Breakfast
Transport/transfers
Guiding
6 internal flights within Afghanistan (Kabul-Mazar/Mazar-Kabul, Kabul-Herat/Herat-Kabul & Kabul-Bamian/Bamian-Kabul)

The trip does not include:
Any necessary visas
Insurance
Flights to Afghanistan
Entrance fees
Lunch
Dinner
Drinks
Tips
Any additional flights needed in Afghanistan that may be necessary due to security concerns.

Cost – US$TBC
A deposit of US$400 is required to reserve your place on this trip.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Afghanistan. We can suggest routes and operators.
You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for suggested routes.
Mail: untamedborders@rtwexperts.co.uk
Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966

Visas:
We do not arrange Afghanistan visas directly. We will provide visa support in the form of letters of invitation to assist in your Afghanistan visa application.

Food:
With the exception of breakfast, meals are not included as part of the trip. In our experience people sometimes want to eat different things in different places at different times. We know some great places and will also happily show you some of our favourite restaurants and tea houses. Some are luxurious, some are earthier, but all have character. However, we do not pretend to be the arbiters of good taste and are equally happy for you to go off and find your own favourites.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing.

Transport:
In Afghanistan, we take at least 2 vehicles when driving between towns if there is a big group, for safety reasons. If there is a breakdown we will not be left stranded. When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel (not a laughing matter in a country that should be the setting for a live-action version of the Wacky Races). Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
On this trip, you will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders. This allows for greater security and means that there will always be someone on hand to help or assist you even if the other team leader is busy arranging something.
Sometimes we also hire local guides. If we are a large group, we may wish to split into smaller groups for city tours to allow greater flexibility and keep a lower profile. An extra local guide allows us to do that.

Security:
Trips to Afghanistan do create dangers all of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas that we consider to be stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.
If there is an extra expense incurred due to the change of itinerary then you may be asked to bear part of that cost. For example, if we have to fly between cities rather than drive.

Contact us for further information at info@untamedborders.com