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22 ITINERARIES •• Roads Less Travelled

ROADS LESS TRAVELLED

ACROSS THE CENTRE

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AFGHAN TURKESTAN

Three Weeks

Start your trip in Kabul ( p79 ), enjoying its amenities before hitting the rough and ready road ahead. From Kabul enjoy the good highway across the Shomali Plain, until the road switches west towards Bamiyan ( p114 ). The route is bad, but never less than spectacular. If possible, make a stop at the spectacular ruins of Shahr-e Zohak ( p119 ) that cling to the red cliffs at the entrance of the Bamiyan valley. Bamiyan is a relaxing place to catch your breath for a few days. Take time to check out the weird geology of nearby Darya Ajdahar ( p120 ). Heading west, the dazzling Band-e Amir Lakes ( p122 ), the colour of Af-

ghan lapis lazuli, are an essential stop. From here, the obvious overnight stop is at Yawkawlang ( p125 ). It’s a long drive to the regional hub of Chaghcheran ( p126 ), over a series

of dramatic mountain passes and along narrow valleys. It’s the best place to arrange a vehicle to the astounding Minaret of Jam ( p126 ), the lonely sentinel left from the Ghorid empire. If you’re lucky you’ll see camel caravans of nomads along the way. From Jam, head for Chist-e Sharif ( p128 ) with its ruined domed tombs, and the hot springs of Obey ( p128 ). Finally, rejoice as the tarmac road reappears, to whisk you along the final stretch to Herat ( p132 ), which has all the amenities of a large city.

ITINERARIES •• Roads Less Travelled 23

Two Weeks

trip at Samangan ( p158 ) to marvel at the Buddhist stupa of Takht-e Ros- tam. The road continues through the dizzying gorge of Tangi Tashkurgan ( p158 ), where roadside sellers offer juicy pomegranates and figs. Having stocked up, take a few days rest at Mazar-e Sharif ( p148 ), home to the Shrine of Hazrat Ali and its flocks of pure white doves. Just outside Mazar-e Sharif is Balkh ( p155 ), once the ‘Mother of Cities’ according to the Arab conquerors. They left Afghanistan’s oldest mosque on the outskirts of the town. The road continues west through Shiberghan ( p145 ), where the land starts to turn to desert. At the end of the tarmac is the Turkmen and Uzbek town of Andkhoi ( p144 ), a centre of carpet production that hosts a fabulous market twice a week. If you’re feeling sturdy, a rough track bumps across the desert to

Having enjoyed a few days in Kabul ( p79 ), take the road north towards the Salang Pass ( p112 ). Once the mountains have been crossed, head northeast towards Kunduz ( p160 ), one of the medieval city-states of the north. Crossing the deserts nearby you’ll arrive at Ai Khanoum ( p162 ), the remains of the easternmost Greek City in the world, looking across the river into Tajikistan. Backtrack via Pul-e Khumri ( p140 ) and continue northwest, break your

Maimana ( p143 ), another old city-state, now a quiet market town with a large Uzbek population.

Andkhoi Shiberghan Bamiyan

Band-e Amir Lakes

Herat Obey

Sharif Chist-e

of Jam Minaret

Yawkawlang Chaghcheran

Ajdahar Darya

Zohak Shahr-e

KABUL

Maimana Balkh Samangan

Tashkurgan Tangi

Pul-e Khumri

Mazar- e-Sharif

Ai Khanoum Kunduz

Salang Pass (3363m)

KABUL

Across the Centre

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