Located at the cross-roads between South, Central and West Asia, Afghanistan is a mixing grounds of cultures and traditions. On the heals of our successful 2019 Afghanistan expedition trip, we feel comfortable bringing more people to select regions within Afghanistan to experience the country for themselevs and meet local people to hear their stories. While many parts of the country remain off-limits, we discover the country’s more open regions during the Eid al Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, and set the groundwork for continued exploration and engagement.
Noor is originally from the ethnic Hazara village of Ali Chopan in central Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province, but spent much of his adolescence in Mazar-i Sharif. After living as a refugee during the Taliban takeover, Noor returned home to study, and worked for several international NGOs before starting his own company.
Thomas “TK” Kim is an Inertia co-founder from Vancouver, Canada. He is a sensitive and understanding person who is always eager to help, make people feel included and elevate experiences. He’s lead Inertia programs in Egypt, Jordan, Peru and Bolivia and is excited to bring his passion to the group in Afghanistan.
- Celebrate the Eid al Fitr Holiday in Mazar-i Sharif visiting local families at their homes, participating in parties, and feasting Afghan style.
- Visit the ornate Blue Mosque of Mazar-i Sharif, a popular spot for pilgrims across Afghanistan.
- Wander the ancient bazaars and Persian mosques of Herat.
- Hike the incredible turquoise lakes at Afghanistan's first National park-- Band-e Amir.
- Visit the Buddha niches, ancient ruins and meet locals in the Hazara heartland of Bamyan
- Experience the cities of Kabul and Kandahar (pending security assessment) through the eyes of locals.
ITINERARY (subject to change)
Day 1. Friday, May 22, 2020. Arrive in Mazar-i Sharif
The group will meet in Mazar-i Sharif, the largest city and commerce hub of northern Afghanistan. Mazar-i Sharif is the most liberal city in Afghanistan and is home to a large ethnic mixture of Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks. You will be met at the airport by members of our team and taken directly to the hotel. We will have a trip briefing at the hotel followed by a group dinner.
Day 2. Saturday, May 23, 2020. Mazar-i Sharif
Today is the Eid al Fitr Holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. People spend the next three days visiting each others’ homes, sharing meals and celebrating with dance, music and firecrackers. During this time, we will visit many of Noor’s relatives and friends to celebrate the end of the fasting month with them. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet Afghanistanis from different walks of life. We will also visit a religious ceremony performed in the Blue Mosque of Mazar that is believed to be the site of the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. We can also wander around Mazar-i Sharif’s bazaar during the day.
Day 3. Sunday, May 24, 2020. Mazar-i Sharif
Eid al Fitr Celebrations (see above).
Day 4. Monday, May 25, 2020. Mazar-i Sharif / Bamyan
We will depart Mazar-i Sharif in the morning bound for Bamyan Province in central Afghanistan. Depending on the security situation, we will either drive all the way to Bamyan over the famed Salang Pass, or fly to Bamyan via Kabul. The drive is spectacular, crossing the Hindu Kush mountain range from the plains of northern Balkh to the high altitude valleys of central Afghanistan. Transit will take up the majority of the day, and we should arrive in Bamyan by the late afternoon.
Day 5. Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Bamyan
Today we visit the Buddha Niches, where the great Buddha statues used to stand. The Buddhas of Bamyan were two 6th century monumental statues of standing Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the peaceful Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan. Much to the dismay of the rest of the world, they were destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban. Shahr-e Gholghola also (City of Screams) is 13th century city in Bamyan, Afghanistan which was conquered by Gengis Khan after months of surrounding. The ruins still remain close to the Bamyan town. In the afternoon, we visit the natural landscapes of the Darre Ajdaha (Dragon Valley).
Day 6. Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Bamyan / Band-e Amir / Bamyan
Today we visit the blue lakes of Band-e-Amir, a series of six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit. The name Band-e Amir literally means "Commander's Dam" which is believed by some to be a reference to Ali, the first Imam of the Muslims (Shias) and the fourth Caliph of Islam (to Sunnis). This area is dominated by ethnic Hazaras, who make up around 23% of Afghanistan's population. Band-e Amir was to become Afghanistan's first national park in the 1960s but this was delayed due to political crises and decades of successive wars. In 2004, Band-e Amir was submitted for recognition as a World Heritage site, and in 2009 Band-e Amir was finally declared Afghanistan's first national park. We'll return to Bamyan for the evening.
Day 7. Thursday, May 28, 2020. Bamyan / Kabul / Herat
We depart in the early morning from Bamyan by road or flight (depending on the situation at the time of the trip) for Kabul. The drive takes approximately 4 hours. We’ll head directly to Kabul airport to catch our flight to the western city of Herat. Herat is almost as much culturally Persian as it is Afghan. Upon arrival, the first thing we do is visit the Herat Citadel, which dates back to 330 BC, when Alexander the Great and his army arrived in what is now Afghanistan after the Battle of Gaugamela. Many empires have used it as a headquarters in the last 2,000 years, and it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. In the afternoon we will wander the Herat Bazaar and talk with locals.
Day 8. Friday, May 29, 2020. Herat
After breakfast, we visit the Tomb of Goharshad and the Minarets of Herat, a much larger complex the Mosque and Madrassa of Gawharshad. These architectural monuments were dynamited by officers of the British Indian Army in 1885 to prevent its use as a fortress if the Russian army tried to invade India; however, the tomb and minarets still remain standing today. In the afternoon we visit the Guzargah Mosque and Puli Malaan, a 22-arched bridge believed to have been constructed by the Seljuks in the early 12th century. Finally we’ll visit Herat’s famed Friday Mosque, with its Timurid designs and active tile factory and workshop, where workers use ancient techniques to fire tiles and create mosaic designs.
Day 9. Saturday, May 30, 2020. Herat / Kabul / Kandahar
We’ll depart Herat in the morning to fly back to Kabul. Depending on the security situation, we may then continue on to the southern city of Kandahar. It’s no secret that Kandahar was the Taliban capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as it is a major city in the ethnic Pashtun heartland of Afghanistan.
Day 10. Sunday, May 31, 2020. Kandahar / Kabul
This morning we visit the Mosque of the Cloak, which is said to contain a cloak worn by Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and was supposedly worn by the Taliban’s spiritual leader Mullah Omar after the siege of Kandahar. Security has finally returned to the city after decades of fighting, and we monitor the situation here carefully. Then we tour several Islamic shrines around Kandahar and the Kandahar bazaar before returning to the airport to catch our flight back to Kabul. If the security situation in Kandahar is risky, we will not visit the city and instead spend today in the ethnic Tajik Panjshir Valley just north of Kabul.
Day 11. Monday, June 1, 2020. Kabul
We will spend our last day in Afghanistan exploring the country’s capital and home to five million citizens. We’ll visit Bibi Maroo Hill for a sweeping view over the city, the Gardens of Babur, Kabul’s Chicken Street souvenir market, as well as some wonderful Afghan restaurants and ice cream shops in the city. Time permitting, we can tour the National Museum to gain an appreciation for Afghanistan’s history. We’ll have a concluding dinner with everyone in Kabul in the evening.
Day 12. Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Depart from Kabul
We provide secure airport drop-offs provided to match your departing flight times.
All nights are spent at secure, guarded hotels in the towns and cities where we stay. These hotels are low key and are designed to not draw attention to themselves. Dinners are spent at the hotel, while lunches are at local restaurants.
A team of local guides and drivers lead by Noor and Sakhi accompany us throughout the trip- from airport pick-up to airport drop-off. This is a cultural expedition-- opportunities for meaningful connection with others are plentiful. Lookouts and back-up cars are used.
Prepare for family visits, festival celebrations, mountain walks, bazaars, architecture, intense discussions, overland travel, local cuisine, mosque visits and more. Temperatures range from pleasant in the southern cities, to cool in the mountains.
All accommodations (single supplement).
Airport pick-ups and drop-offs.
3 meals per day (exc arrival and departure days).
Private and secure transportation during the trip.
Afghanistan visa support documentation.
Professional expedition leader, guiding team, drivers and security.
All entrance fees.
All domestic flights.
Round trip international airfare to Mazar-i Sharif and from Kabul.
Afghanistan visa fee.
Travel and medical insurance.
Any activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
Tips for local guides.
If you want off-the-beaten-track real human and cultural interaction, there really is no alternative out there. If you want to explore the unknown a bit more boundlessly with others who want to connect with the places they encounter, there is still really no alternative out there. And to be perfectly honest, they are just a really down-to-earth nice group of people who want to get to know you genuinely, and that you end up wanting to talk to and learn from every day.
All in all, I did go into Afghanistan not knowing all that mattered, but I came out with such a different perspective, and I owe that all to Matt, TK and their partners on the ground. I look forward to travelling with them again this year, and for years to come; and also, to see what they do next."