Major tourist site restored in Herat, Afghanistan. Please send me there!

Herat, Herat citadel, Afghanistan
While Afghanistan may not be high on your places-to-go list, the government is trying hard to offer more sightseeing opportunities.

A giant citadel overlooking the city of Herat has just reopened after several years and $2.4 million of restoration. The citadel dates back to when Alexander the Great’s armies marched across Afghanistan on their way to India in 330 BC. It was used by a succession of dynasties and cultures before being destroyed by the Mongols. Most of the current citadel dates to the 14th and 15th centuries.

The restoration was done with the help of the U.S. and German governments and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The National Museum of Herat has opened inside the citadel, showcasing artifacts from the region’s long history.

The citadel was a favorite stop on the old Asian overland hippie trail in the 1960s and 70s popularized by Lonely Planet. While Afghanistan is courting tourists once again and a few hardy adventure travel companies such as Hinterland Travel are offering tours, only a trickle of visitors are coming to this ancient region.

Afghanistan has always been at the top of my list of places to go. I visited Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province in the 1990’s and spent several pleasant weeks among the Afghan communities there. Afghanistan’s long history and varied cultures would make a great Gadling series. I gave you Ethiopia, I gave you Somaliland, and I’d love to give you Afghanistan. . .

. . .but I can’t afford it. So I’m asking for your help. If you’d like to see a boots-on-the-ground series on Afghanistan written by yours truly, say so in the comments section and tell AOL to be my sugar daddy. I really want to go, and if enough of you vote, maybe they’ll send me! Tell your friends to vote too!

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

London to Sydney: The Return of Overland Travel

In this world of cheap(ish) airfares, the thrill and romance of overland travel has largely been replaced with the hassle of negotiating airport queues and potential immigration shakedowns straight from a lost episode of The Sopranos.

Of course not so long ago, the famous Hippie Trail from London to Asia was the trip du jour for any self-respecting traveller. Now a new company is promising to bring back the excitement of multiple border crossings on the long trek from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.

Ozbus is a new overland travel company that covers the 10,000 miles from London to Sydney. The entire journey takes 12 weeks and covers 20 different and incredibly diverse countries including Finland, Iran, Laos and East Timor. I’m getting serious wanderlust just writing about it.

Trips run from London to Sydney and vice versa and cost around US$7500. You’ll be staying in a mix of tents and cheaper hostels and guesthouses. Twelve weeks with the same crew is a long time, so don’t blame us if you want a complete break from the human race once you land in England or Aussie.

Thanks to Ozbus for the pic.

Afghanistan – Back On The Travel Map

The troubled nation of Afghanistan is inching its way back onto the intrepid traveller’s radar. Lonely Planet’s first guide to the country is published this month, and recently we reported on the coverage of Kabul’s unique charms in the New York Times. But while peace in former trouble spots like Cambodia and Bosnia has restored the architectural heritage of Angkor Wat and the bridge at Mostar, one of Afghanistan’s greatest treasures is under threat of destruction.

The Towers of Victory have stood for more than eight hundred years, but now the honey-coloured minarets that have survived periods of war and invasion are under serious threat of erosion. When the son of Ghenghis Khan destroyed the nearby city of Ghazni in 1221, the towers survived, but centuries of neglect and illegal excavations for antiquities and buried treasure have made them increasingly precarious.

Afghanistan’s financially strapped new government has only been able to allocate $100 across the last six years to ensure the towers’ upkeep. In the glory days of the “Hippie Trail” Afghanistan was a heady stopping-off point from Europe to Asia. Let’s hope lasting peace can come to Afghanistan so its unique heritage can be secured.