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What Does the Tourism Sector Look Like in Afghanistan

The land of Pashtuns, Afghanistan had a thriving tourism industry especially in the 1970s. A landlocked country with a distinctive landscape dotted with ancient monuments, meandering rivers, snowcapped mountains, minarets and gardens, Afghanistan has huge potential to grow as a global tourism hub. 

Tourism can be a key factor in the revival of the country’s economy if the country’s political situations remain stable. Here is a look at the country’s tourism industry under the Taliban rule and before its invasion. 

Tourist Attractions in Afghanistan

The central Asian country has a history that dates backs to 6000 years and is home to many historical monuments.

Afghanistan’s capital Kabul offers a peek into the country’s modernization during the regimes before the Taliban.

Kabul has the facilities to attract a steady flow of international tourists.

Read on to know more about the country’s tourism attractions. 

Buddha Statues

Colossal statues of Buddhas carved on the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley are a major attraction for international travelers. There are two statues and archeological studies suggest that they were built between 570 CE and 620 CE.  

The Buddhas of Banyan are a classical example of the rich architectural heritage of the region. The sandstone statues are flanked by numerous caves decorated with beautiful paintings.  

The statues were severely damaged by the Taliban in 2001 using dynamite.  

 After the Taliban was ousted by the US led NATO troops in 2001, hundreds of international travelers visited the area to see the remnants of the statues.

Presidential Palace of Afghanistan 

The Presidential Palace of Afghanistan, also known as the Arg, was the seat of power until the Taliban took over the country. The palace, located in Kabul, served as the meeting place of the central cabinet of the country.  

Many heads of Afghanistan have used the palace situated near Wazir Akbar Khan and it drew many tourists in the past.  


Located in Zarnegar Park, the tomb of Timur Shah was built around 1820. This and other mausoleums in the area are an example of Kabul’s Mughal architecture.   

Bala Hissar  

This ancient fort that rises above the plains of Kabul served as the citadel of power for many centuries.  

The fort has two parts -- the lower fort and the upper fort. The lower fort houses several stables and three royal palaces. The upper fortress has the armory and dungeons.  

The walls of Kabul start at Bala Hissar which was destroyed around 1880 during the Anglo-Afghan war.  

Bagh-e Babur 

This grand garden was laid out by Mughal king Babur. This historic park, located in Kabul, is also the resting place of the emperor. The garden also houses a central pavilion and a mosque. Known as the loveliest spot in Kabul, the park was built around 1528.  

Band E Amir  

This national park has six lakes formed by natural dams like Hindu Kush. The blue lakes in the midst of a desert are a sight that attracts many foreign travelers. The intense blue color of the lake is because of the mineral rich water seeping out of nearby rocky mountain range.  

Istalif is a picturesque countryside surrounded by serene views. The village surrounded by barren hills and grape orchards is the best place to wander around. Foreign travelers eager to know more about village life of the country visited this place that is famous for growing over 100 types of grapes. The village is also known for its colorful pottery.

The Citadel in Herat 

The Citadel is a beautiful monument built originally by Alexander the Great. The marble monument suffered severe damages in repeated attacks by consecutive foreign invasions. Still, it stands tall as a reminder of great conquests and expert architecture.   


The garden of Paghman is a major tourist hotspot. Built in the hill town near the capital of Afghanistan, the garden’s victory arch is an imposing structure that attracted thousands of tourists. The arch was constructed under the guidance of European architects to commemorate the Afghan’s war of independence in 1919.  

Afghanistan’s other tourist attractions include the National Museum, Kabul Gorge, bazaars, Ghazni, mosques, ancient cities and parks.   

Is Afghan Safe for Tourism

Most foreign countries have placed Afghanistan in the DO NOT TRAVEL list following its takeover by the Taliban, an Islamic hardline group. The country is witnessing civil unrest and crimes like kidnapping are rampant. 

The United Nations and its members have not recognized the new regime yet. The Taliban government has established diplomatic relations with countries like the United Arab Emirates and China. However, at present it is informal. 

Since the visa policy is in the transitional stage, the government is not issuing any legal visas. Traveling to the country is too risky for foreigners, especially women. 

Embassies of almost all foreign countries have stopped their Afghan operation and foreign travelers facing emergencies in the country may not be able to get help from their home countries. 

Tourist Visa 

The previous governments of Afghanistan issued short-term tourist visas to foreign travelers who wished to visit the country. The government had claimed that around 90,000 tourists from around the world visit the country every year. 

The short-term visas were granted for a period of three months and international travelers could stay in the country for up to 30 days. 

Foreigners who wished to visit the country had to approach an Afghan mission in their country to apply for a tourist visa irrespective of their citizenship. The previous Afghan regime did not issue an online visa. 

These tourist visas were extendable with the approval of the Afghan ministry of interiors. 

The Taliban Government’s Tourism Plan

Recently, the foreign minister of the Taliban regime said that Afghanistan is open for tourism and foreign travelers are welcome to explore the country.   

The Taliban is also in talks with the government of UAE to start operation of three international airports in the country including those in Kabul and Herat. Commercial flights (at least from a few countries) may start operations in the near future. This may open up the country’s tourism sector to an extent. But it will take years for it to go back to the way it was before the Taliban. 

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