Chamonix, Aspen, Banff, Cortina . . . . . . . Bamyan?! That’s right, Bamyan, Afghanistan. Pack your kit and prepare for a ski outing unlike any other to what must be the world’s most un-discovered ski destination.
Strange but true, hidden amongst Afghanistan’s negative stories of corruption, war, drugs and human rights atrocities, there is a ray of light shining under the banner of emerging adventure tourism in Afghanistan’s northern province of Bamyan. An area best known for the Taliban’s destruction of the giant Buddha statues that for centuries stood sentinel over the Bamyan Valley, the region is fast putting the past behind, and setting its sights on attracting international eco-minded adventure tourism enthusiasts.
Featuring virgin back-country skiing, pristine mountain passes, and quaint rural villages with curious and friendly inhabitants, the Koh-e-Baba range that encircles the Bamyan Valley offers unsurpassed natural scenery and utter peace and quiet. And that’s not all – ancient archeological sites are strewn throughout the province, the famous inland Bandr-e-Amir lakes are several hours drive away, and hiking trails for all fitness levels crisscross the area.
Ever the enterprising entrepreneurs, a handful of visionary Afghan sports and nature enthusiasts, with the support of the Agha Khan Foundation, are working with local authorities to promote the province as a year-round tourism destination and establish facilities such as remote nature camps, guest houses, cafes, and the introduction of other mountain activities such as hang gliding, mountain biking, horse riding, trekking, cultural touring, and, of course, skiing.
But if you are thinking “Après Ski”, hot chocolate, fondue, and posh shops stocked with the latest outdoor fashion, think again. This is Afghanistan, after all, but Bamyan will reward the intrepid traveller with some of the most ancient and beautiful mountain scenery anywhere.
So when you are next at a dinner party and the conversation turns to new and exciting travel destinations, suggest ‘Ski Afghanistan, Visit Bamyan!” You’ll be sure to turn heads and tune in ears.