Band-e amir lakes, Afghanistan

One of the Band-e Amir Lakes in its arid setting, Afghanistan
One of the Band-e Amir Lakes in its arid setting, Afghanistan


LOCATION The Band-e Amir Lakes are in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountain range, 192 miles (309 km) from the capital, Kabul



Jan: 27°F (-3°C); Apr: 48°F (9°C); Jul: 64°F (18°C); Oct: 48°F (9°C)

Few bodies of water can match the stunning, otherworldly beauty of the Band-e Amir Lakes.
Set high in the Hindu Kush mountain range of central Afghanistan, this chain of deep-sapphire lakes lies across a desolate landscape of bone-dry canyon rock like shiny jewels on the fingers of a withered hand. Spread out across natural terraces, the enormous, interconnected ice-cold pools flow into one another, from the highest to the lowest in the chain, via a series of sparkling waterfalls and gushing rapids.

The lakes owe their unique beauty to the carbon-dioxide-rich water that oozes from fractures in the earth’s crust deep beneath them.

So rich in minerals are the lakes that they change color regularly throughout the day, alternating between deep sapphire, turquoise, green, and gray according to the light and motion of the water, which moves the minerals with it. White travertine dams, formed naturally by limestone deposits, edge each of the lakes and add yet another striking feature to this barren desert. The Band-e Haibat dam is usually the focal point of a trip to the lakes. This is the deepest and largest of the Band-e Amir Lakes, and sinks to an awesome depth of 492 ft (150 m). Stunning vistas along its shores reveal rugged golden cliffs towering above turquoise water, beneath the distance gaze of the Hindu Kush peaks, which glow almost pink on the horizon. Not much disturbs this magnificent scene: the lakes, once a romantic haven for nomads and hashish-smoking hippies, do not receive many visitors despite being an oasis of peace in war-torn Afghanistan. The people who do visit are pilgrims who believe that the cold lakes have great powers of healing. Few places on earth are more serene.

Practical Information

Getting There and Around Flights to Kabul from Europe and North America go via Dubai. Minibuses make the 149-mile (240-km) bone-shaking journey across dirt roads from Kabul to Bamiyan, the gateway city to the Band-e Amir Lakes. Privately hired cars and minibuses carry visitors on to the lakes, which are 47 miles (75 km) away. Local drivers are essential as several of the roads in the region remain heavily mined. Once at the lakes, hike their banks or rent a paddle boat to take in vistas from water level.

When to Go Aim to visit between September and November, when daytime temperatures are pleasant and mountain nights are cool.

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