Afghanistan's blue mountain lakes empty without tourists

Band-e Amir, situated around 3,000 metres (9,840 ft) above sea level and a couple of hours drive from the renowned Buddhist sites of Bamiyan, usually attracts thousands of visitors a year seeking respite from the endless conflict.

All that changed this year as the Taliban swept through one province after another, culminating in the shock overthrow of the Western-backed government in Kabul in August and plunging the economy into crisis as vital foreign aid dried up.

"There used to be so many tourists in the winter and spring but since Taliban came, in the last four months we have not seen any tourist in Band-e-Amir," said Sayed Reza, a tourist guide who also rents out rooms to visitors.

Bamiyan province was one of the rare places that remained sheltered from the conflict that ripped much of Afghanistan apart over the past 20 years and developed a relatively liberal culture in which mountain sports played a significant role.

The skiers and cyclists on the slopes and roads, as well as the thousands of picknickers and sightseers enjoying the area's natural beauty offered a vision of carefree peace that was in stark contrast to the violence elsewhere.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting