The lakes of Band-e Amir are an incredibly stunning sight. Six deep blue lakes suddenly appear like sparkling jewels in the middle of the barren grey wasteland of Central Afghanistan that stretches as far the eye can see. The lakes’ waters are composed of a high mineral content, which is responsible for the deep blue colour of the lakes.
Travertine walls between and around the lakes have created natural dams, that store the rainwater, which flows from the cracks and fissures of the surrounding rocks. Around the shore of the lake Band-e Haibat the travertine walls reach a height of twelve meters, creating an otherworldy effect of some sort of natural infinity pool. The overspilling water of the lake creates small waterfalls along the outer rim of the travertine walls.
According to local legend, the lakes were formed as the result of a series of miracles performed by Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, which left the local king so amazed that he immediately decided to convert to Islam. A shrine to Ali to honour his miraculous works stands on the shore of one of the lakes.
If one day the tourism industry in Afghanistan gets going, the Band-e Amir lakes are likely to become the country’s prime tourist attraction. Even today, the lakes are a favorite destination for day trips, and they exude an often joyful and almost festive atmosphere – a rarity in Afghanistan, which makes the lakes popular among locals and expats alike. This atmosphere at the lakes is a unique reminder of the days when Afghanistan was firmly placed on the tourist map, as the country was part of the famous Hippie Trail from Istanbul to Northern India.
In 2009, the country's first national park was created around the vicinity of the lakes. While still open to visitors, there is harsh terrain, mined unpaved roads, and no real basic facilities. Only a thin track of road is safe to travel on, so adventure wisely.