The Minaret of Jam
The Turquoise City was the heart of the 11th-century Ghurid dynasty which ruled much of Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent from its mountain fortress. Prideful of their roots as a people of the mountains, the Ghurids forced the conquered flatland kingdoms to carry the bricks of their cities to this isolated valley for constructing their mountain capital. The Turquoise City was soon destroyed by Kengis Khan, and its only reaming monument, the ominous Minaret of Jam, now guards the junction of two lonely rivers in the depths of Afghanisatan’s remote Ghor Providence. While the purpose of the Minaret of Jam’s construction remains shrouded in mystery, it bears Koranic inscriptions and elaborately inlaid designs dating back to the 12th century.
- Explore ancient citadels and the Great Mosque of Herat as you stroll bazaars and streets dating back to the days of the Silk Route.
- Visit the former site of the ancient Buddhas of Bamyan and explore the plethora of caves in the surrounding cliffs.
- Encounter ancient caravanserais and mud castles still inhabited by the Aimaq and Hazara peoples who call the Central Highlands home.
- Stroll through the bustling streets of Kabul as you haggle with shopkeepers on Chicken Street and indulge in Kabuli pulao.
- Follow the Central Route taken by the 15th-century Emporer Babur on his harrowing winter expedition across the high peaks of Afghanistan’s seldom-traveled interior.
- Discover Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam and its intriguing origins as you travel this overland route only recently opened to foreigners.
Is this trip for me?
- This Minaret of Jam Afghanistan trip is one of the Untraversed Team’s expedition itineraries and will entail traveling through the undeveloped Ghor Providence of Central Afghanistan. Accommodations will be basic at times during the expedition, and road conditions are rugged and bumpy.
- The central route to Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam is impassable during the winter months due to heavy snowfall, therefore this itinerary is only possible during the warmer months. If traveling to Afghanistan during the winter we recommend visiting Mazar e Sharif on the Best of Afghanistan itinerary to catch the winter Buzkashi season.
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Minaret of Jam Itinerary
Day 1 Arrival
- Arrive in Kabul on the first day of your Minaret of Jam expedition, where a member of the Untraversed team will be waiting to receive you at the Airport. A team meeting will be held at 3 pm in the hotel to review plans for the expedition, followed by a visit to the tailor to shop for local clothing. Wrap up the evening with dinner at one of our favorite spots in Kabul.
Day 2 Kabul
- While the team works on finalizing last-minute permits and permissions required for the overland journey you will set out to explore the streets of Kabul. Walk the vibrant Bird Street and surrounding Bazars before taking a break for tea at Bag e Babur. Wrap up the evening with a visit to the Shar e Naw district for dinner before spending the night at your hotel in Kabul.
Day 3 Flight to Herat
- Take a domestic flight to the silk road oasis city of Herat, the jumping-off point for your overland expedition. Upon arriving, visit Herat’s iconic Great Mosque which was destroyed many times throughout antiquity. Its most recent version was constructed in the 13th century and preservation work is currently ongoing. Visit the local tile craftsman as they create tiles to repair the elaborate mosaics of its stunning blue walls and minarets. Spend the night at a hotel in Herat.
Day 4 Herat
- Step through the gates of the ancient Herat Citadel with its towering mud walls dating back to the 4th century. Explore the bustling bazaars of this vibrant silk road hub, where a labyrinth of shops sells an endless variety of wares. Wrap up your day by visiting the remaining minarets of Musalla of Gawhar Shah. The main Mosque of the complex was destroyed by the British to prevent the Russians from using it as a fort in the 19th century, and one of the surviving minarets is at risk of imminent collapse. Spending the night at your hotel in Herat.
Day 5 Herat – Minaret of Jam
- Leaving Herat behind, set out overland towards the Minaret of Jam tracing the Hari river to its junction with the Jam River in Central Ghor Providence. The roads on this stretch, if you can call them that, are very rough. Delays are to be expected as the route climbs through a remote region of the Baba Mountian Range. Upon reaching the Minaret of Jam at the site of the mysterious Torquoise City take time to study its intricate designs. Inscriptions on the Minaret include Surah Maryam, a Quranic verse that references the birth of Christ. Explore the surrounding site before spending the evening in a village near the Minaret of Jam in the heart of Afghanistan.
Day 6 Minaret e Jam – Chagcharan
- Continuing east along the Hari River across Ghor you will continue on a bumpy stretch of road, passing ancient mud-walled castles on a route seldom traveled by foreign guests. Arrive in the village of Chagcharan, the capital of Ghor, spending the night there in a very basic hotel.
Day 7 Chagcharan – Band e Amir – Bamiyan
- From Chagcharan leave the Hari River behind to cross over the watershed into the Bamiyan Valley. Stop en route to visit the icy waters of the Band e Amir lakes, with the surrounding red cliffs making their hue of blue appear even more brilliant. Listen to the local legends behind the formation of this geographic phenomenon and the local’s claims that the true depth of Band e Amir has never been discovered. Continue on to spend the night at a hotel in Bamiyan.
Day 8 Bamiyan
- Bamiyan is the center of the Hazara community in Central Afghanistan, and the home to a wealth of ancient ruins and Buddhist heritage sites. Begin with a visit to the remains of the great Buddhas of Bamiyan, which once stood 55 meters tall, the niches of which can still be seen from throughout the city. Climb to the top of the Shahr e Gholghola, The City of Screams, which was utterly destroyed along with its population by Genghis Khan as vengeance for his grandson’s death. Visit a collection of vividly painted Soviet tanks which lie scattered among the wheat fields of Bamyan. Wrap up the day by watching the sunset over the Bamyan Valley from the top of Dara e Ajadahar, referred to in local Hazara legend as the dragon mountain.
Day 9 Bamiyan – Kabul
- Depart for Kabul, visiting the remains of Shahr e Zuhak on the way. The vividly colored sandstone of the region earned it the name “Red City.” It was built during the same era as the Buddhas of Bamyan and later destroyed by Genghis Khan. Pass the smoke-blackened tents of Kochi nomads and the hives of beekeepers if traveling this route during the warm season, arriving in Kabul in the evening to spend the night in a hotel there.
Day 10 Kabul
- Take a trip to the iconic Chicken Street to peruse the souvenirs and wares there. Pay a visit to the Omar Land Mine Museum to learn about their harrowing efforts to minimize the destruction caused by landmines, and their efforts to educate the rural Afghan youth on landmine safety. Wrap up in the evening with a trip to the top of Radio Tower Hill for a stunning view of the Capital before spending one last night in Afghanistan.
Day 11 Departure
- There are no activities planned for the last night of your Minaret of Jam trip, and you are free to schedule your flight for any time. If you would like to extend your adventure in Afghanistan, feel free to reach out to the Untraversed team for suggestions on custom itinerary options.