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Afghanistan

March 26 to April 08, 2021

Afghanistan is a country that is rich in culture and history, due to its geographic position, which made it a crossroad between China and the Mediterranean world and Europe. It is a melting pot of cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity. With its rich past and its recent events, it still preserved a spectrum of architecture, paintings, music, poetry, art and relics of bygone civilizations. From ancient cities to spectacular nature and some of the highest mountains in the world, it remains unpredictable and continues to stun visitors.

Afghanistan contains some incredible treasures. This journey will take you from bustling Kabul to the foothills of the Hindu-Kush. Follow the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great as we span the country’s safest areas in the northern regions. Visit the fabulous city of Herat, once a great medieval center for Islamic learning and culture. Marvel at the legendary mountain caves of Bamyan and the spectacular lakes of Band-e-Amir. Tour the historical town of Mazar-i-Sharif, famous for its blue-tiled mosque, and Balkh the nearby ancient caravan town.

This trip can be combined with Pakistan North & South (March 08 to 28, 2021)


Tour cost per person in double occupancy (air and land): $8,995.00
Price from several east coast gateways is the same.

Single Supplement: $595.00   

Credit for not using our included airfare $900.00

Price based on a group size minimum of 6 and maximum of 10 participants

Escorted by Shukria Dellawar, political analyst and cultural advisor.


Your tour does not include:

  • Airfare from cities other than NYC (price differs depending on gateway city). One way ticket to Islamabad (if combining tours).

  • Afghanistan visa (currently $160.00, subject to change).

    Passports should not have any Israeli stamps or visas.

  • Beverages with or without meals.

  • Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.

  • Items of a personal nature (camera fees at Afghan sites, laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage, etc.).

  • Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled flights/tour dates.

  • Dayroom/overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

  • Travel protection insurance (HIGHLY Recommended).

Your tour includes:

  • International airfare from New York including airport taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges

  • Airport/hotel/airport transfers in every city.

  • Accommodation in hotels as per the itinerary (based on 3-4 star categories or best available in all cities out of Kabul).

  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary.

  • Sightseeing in each city as per the itinerary.

  • Services of English speaking guides.

  • Armed security (when and if needed).

  • All domestic flights within country.

  • Visa support letter.

  • Porterage at overseas’ airports and hotels throughout program.

  • Entrance fees to all visited historical sites and museums.

  • Bottled water on the bus during touring days.

Trip Grade:

III Challenging – Parts of the trip are physically challenging, involve some hiking on unpaved terrain or in sand. There may be long drives on rough roads; weather conditions with high heat (in the 90’s). You may have simple picnic lunches, primitive bathroom facilities along the road and remoteness from modern towns or cities.

Lodging Level:

**Delightful: Comfortable yet on the Spartan side, usually small but always with private facilities. Some breakfasts are simple and basic but all hotels should have “working” A/C though not very reliable. (Average classification if you dare to compare to western style hotels is about 2 or 3 stars.

Trip notes and Trip Grade:  Anyone wishing to join this trip must understand that in many places the tourist infrastructure is very primitive. Some days are long and hard and the level of services will not match those offered in more conventional tourist locations. The hotels are quite comfortable but lack the luxuries of the west. Security check points can be rather long on some days and we have to adhere to the instructions of our guards and escorts and have a flexible, patient attitude when delays happen. Many companies in Europe have been successfully running tours to Afghanistan since 2004 and we are using the top logistics and organizing agency in the country to handle our program. They are accustomed to managing foreign groups but participants should be aware that last minute changes and amendments to routing, modes of travel or overnight stops will happen if deemed prudent to do so. We also have the right to omit at short notice any destination due to security concerns. Food can be nondescript and alcohol is not allowed in the country. Women and men should keep their arms and legs covered while women may sometimes have to wear a lose head scarf when entering religious towns or sites. By signing up for this tour, participants are acknowledging their full understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and are admitting that they are in good physical and mental health and are equipped with an open mind, a sense of adventure and a tolerant and patient spirit to cope with the possible rigors of the tour.

Airline Note: The best airline choice would be Turkish Airways. We can also use Emirates Airline, but it will mean long layovers in Dubai and a possible forced overnight. Please discuss your options with our office staff.

About your lecturer: Shukria Dellawar.. A peace and security expert, human rights advocate, and a gender specialist. In her current role, she is serving as FCNL's Legislative Associate for the Prevention of Violent Conflict and the Coordinator of the Prevention and Protection Working Group (PPWG). PPWG is a coalition of human rights, religious, humanitarian, anti-genocide, and peace organizations dedicated to improving U.S. government policies and civilian capabilities to prevent violent conflict, avert mass atrocities, and protect civilians threatened by such crisis. Ms. Dellawar is also the Policy Director for the Afghanistan Peace Campaign. Over the course of the last decade, Ms. Dellawar has worked in various capacities to maintain focus on peace-building efforts in Afghanistan. She served as the Director of the Afghanistan Study group with CIP in 2012, working closely with policy-makers in Washington DC to address insecurity, corruption, and human rights violations. Shukria has led several fact-finding missions to Afghanistan as a policy expert, bringing critical issues to the forefront of policy decisions. She has worked in the defense sector as a political analyst and cultural advisor and testified before Congress as a Subject Matter Expert in several briefings. Additionally, she has worked in the development sector on women’s empowerment. Shukria holds a Bachelor's and Master’s of Science degree from George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution. She has contributed several op-eds to US newspapers. She is fluent in English, Dari, Pashto, and Urdu/Hindi.


View Tour Itinerary

Fri-Sat, Mar 26-27
USA – Kabul

Depart the U.S. in the afternoon/evening on a flight to Istanbul or Dubai connecting to Kabul.

Sunday, Mar 28
Arrival Kabul

Morning arrival in Kabul’ international airport, transfer to your hotel for check in. Free day at leisure, to rest and prepare for your adventure. (D)

Monday, Mar 29
Kabul

After breakfast, head to visit the major archaeological treasures of Afghanistan at the National Museum, which features artifacts that were hidden to escape the Taliban’s destruction. Then, you will see the royal palace Darul Amann from the distance of National Museum; it is under construction if it opened in the future, we will be able to visit it. After lunch, enjoy the panorama of the Kabul skyline from the summit of Wazir Akbar hill. Afterwards, return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Mar 30
Istalif Valley

Morning visit to Istalif, an hour drive out of Kabul. This village is a poignant reminder of the devastation caused by the bitter war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance over control of the area, the village is re built and re populated. Istalif is brought back to life by a group of gifted artists and artisans. Potters produce turquoise-colored bowls, plates, jugs and teacups in an attractive, rustic style. Afterwards, return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Mar 31
Kabul - Bamyan

Morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Bamya, upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in and then get ready to explore one of the most remarkable cities. Once located on a major trading route, the Bamyan Valley became an important center of Buddhism in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The city offers 12,000 ancient Buddhist caves carved in the high cliffs flanking the valley. Cautiously preserved, the caves introduce you to the ancient world of Buddhist monasteries, Buddha’s niches, carvings and frescoes. Marvel at the gigantic, jaw-dropping niches of the two great Buddhas famously destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Feeling bold? You can climb a 38-meter niche. But be sure to grab some lunch after all that hiking. Then, you’ll head to the base of Shar-e Zohak (Red City) at the eastern end of the Bamyan Valley. Over the centuries, the fortified fortress protected the region from many aggressors. However, it is best remembered for defying the Mongol siege of 1222. Gholgola city (Scream Town) is the site of the infamous massacre of the population by Genghis Khan, who swore to avenge his grandson killed during the siege. Gholgola commands a splendid view over the fertile Bamyan Valley and its famous Buddhist heritage. Afterwards, return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, April 01
Bamyan

Morning, drive to Band-e Amir a 50-mile drive, where you will see a beautiful chain of lakes. According to the mineral composition, each lake is shown as a different color, stunning turquoise to a deep blue-black. It is the hiking experience like no other. The magnificent landscape and its serenity are enjoyable for a quiet rest. Return to Bamyan for lunch, and then continue driving to Dare Azhdar, the Valley of the Dragon. Climb your way to the top of the astonishing massive rock formation deemed to be the remains of a fierce dragon. According to legend, reminiscent of St. George, the monster tyrannized the local villagers, before being killed by Hazrat Ali, Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law. End your day at the bazaar for an opportunity to mingle with the Hazaras and bargain for the attractive handicrafts. Finally, return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, Apr 02
Bamyan - Kabul

Enjoy your morning free at leisure. After lunch, transfer to the airport for your flight to Kabul. Late afternoon brings a trip to the renowned Chicken Street, a famous stop on the “hippy trail.” It is still home to some of the country’s best craft shops offering a great opportunity for souvenir shopping. Afterwards, check into your hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Apr 03
Kabul - Herat

Morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Herat, upon arrival transfer to the hotel for check in and lunch. Afterwards, tour the imposing and well-restored citadel of Qala-i-Ikhtiyaruddin with its precious, small museum then onwards to a traditional sesame oil factory if still going on. Then, you will get to enjoy some of the most intricate tilework in the world at the Friday mosque (Masjid-i-Jami). This will lead you to the courtyard, where Tamerlane’s 14th century sherbet bowl is on display. You will also see the factory where tiles are still made in the traditional method where unique examples of the 12th century pieces are available for purchase. Return to your hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Apr 04
Herat

Begin your day with a tour of the Jahad Museum, where life-size models and paintings illustrate the Russian war and the heroism of thousands of Heraties who lost their lives for the liberation of Afghanistan. You will have the chance to visit the 15th century monuments, when Herat was the capital of the Mongol empire: the Musalla complex with the minarets and mausoleum of Gohar Shad, the brilliant wife of Shah Rukh, son of Tamerlane, and the Amir Sher Nawaye Mausoleum. Visit of Khwaja Abdullah Ansary Shrine, you will have the opportunity to purchase a new or antique carpet. Afghans traditionally value carpets and view them as an expensive investment (comparable to a car in the West). In the late afternoon, you will visit the tomb of two princes, Qasim and Abdullah, before returning to your hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, Apr 05
Herat - Mazar-I-Sharif

After breakfast, you’ll head to the airport for the morning flight to Mazar-i Sharif. If no direct flight is available, you may connect via Kabul. Later in the afternoon, you’ll visit the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, the most revered mosque for Afghanis and the small attached museum. The mosque is a typical architectural masterpiece in Central Asian style. If time permits, you will explore the markets for some souvenir shopping before heading to the hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Apr 06
Samangan & Tashkurgan

Your day begins with a two-hour drive from Mazar-I-Sharif where Afghanistan’s most unexpected and rewarding sights lies: the 28-meter Buddhist stupa Takht-e Rostam. Carved out of rock, like the churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, this complex sits high above the valley. It is one of the country’s most enduring legacies from the pre-Islamic era in present day. You will cross Tangi Tashkurgan , once a major crossroad on the trading route , the you’ll visit Baghe Jahan Noma, a palace built by King Abdul Rahman circa 1874. The town is situated in a strategic location near the dramatic gorge that borders the northern fringes of the Hindu Kush foothills. Finally, return to your hotel in Mazar-i-Sharif for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Apr 07
Mazar-I-Sharif – Balkh – Mazar-i-Sharif

You will travel for 30 minutes to the city of Balkh, named Bactria in ancient times. It was the spiritual center of Zoroastrianism. Currently, it is a delightful old walled city, approximately 55 miles from the Amo Darya River. You will visit Khowaja Parsa mosque, which built in 1598 after name. Afterward, visit the grave of Rabia Balkhe, the first poet to write in Farsi. Then, continue visiting the remains of the Balkh city walls and you can easily walk to the top of one of the towers. Moreover, visit the Nogonbad Mosque, which dates back to 8 and half 9 century, before returning to the hotel in Mazar-i-Sharif for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Apr 08
Depart Mazar-I-Sharif

Head to the airport for your flight back to the US.

We (STS) reserve the right to replace lecturers, change hotels or the order of activities if/as needed. The program is also subject to changes based on the schedule of internal flights within the country. We will do our best to ensure that any necessary changes when/if needed meet the needs of our clients.