How to Visit Nuristan, Afghanistan.

After spending an entire month travelling across Afghanistan, Nuristan was easily one of my favourite places to visit. This mountainous province is not only a natural gem, but it is also home to people of a unique culture and ethnicity. Many of the local residents have blonde hair and blue eyes, and the pine forest scenery is unlike anywhere else in the country.

Me sitting with old men during my visit to Nuristan
Me with some old men in Shtiway village

What makes Nuristan so interesting to visit?

Nuristan was in fact the last province of Afghanistan to convert to Islam, which happened just over 100 years ago after defeat at the hands of Amir Abdulrahman Khan, who supposedly forced local residents to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in place of Islam. Before converting, however, this region was known to outsiders as “Kafiristan”, which roughly translates to “the land of the infidels”.

Many local Nuristanis, until this day, resemble Europeans in race. Blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes are not uncommon. Some people say that they are descendants of Alexander the Great and his army, while others say that they are descendants of the Arabs. I personally think the first theory is more plausible as Nuristanis don’t look like Arabs!

Children in Nuristan
Children with European features in Nuristan

Nuristan is also extremely remote. By bird’s eye, it’s only 100 kilometres from Kabul. And yet it takes two full days to reach there by road. Hence, this isolation keeps the culture more intact and the region less developed. For a visitor, it gives you a unique glimpse of what the past looked like for much of Afghanistan.

How to visit Nuristan by public transport?

Firstly, it’s important to get travel permits as a foreigner to travel around Afghanistan, including to visit Nuristan. The rules are always changing but you can find up to date information on this website. Once you’ve got your permits, it’s possible to reach Nuristan by public transport, but there aren’t any direct routes. So, you’ll first have to go from Kabul to Jalalabad, and then to Asadabad, and from there you’ll be able to find a ride to Parun, the capital of Nuristan. The whole journey should take about two days. Here’s exactly how you can go about doing it.

  1. First, go to Pol e Mahmoud Khan in Kabul. Here you’ll be able to find shared taxis to Jalalabad. Here’s the location:
  2. After arriving in Jalalabad, go to this location where you can find shared taxis to Asadabad:
  3. Now, you should spend the night in Asadabad, as you won’t find any transportation to Nuristan at this time. On one of the main squares in Asadabad, you’ll find many affordable hotels and guesthouses:
  4. The following morning, go to this location: . You will find many people shouting “Parun”, where you’ll have to wait for the car (or pickup truck) to fill up with passengers/goods. The ride to Parun should take around 7 or 8 hours, but it’s extremely scenic and you’ll enjoy the views on the way!
view of Asadabad
View from our hotel in Asadabad

Where to stay in Nuristan?

There’s only one proper hotel in Nuristan, so unless you’re content with sleeping in a restaurant (many offer accommodation), then you don’t have much choice. Google Maps doesn’t show roads in Parun so I can’t show you where it is. The name is “National Park Hotel and Restaurant”. I’m sure your driver will know where it is. Below is a list of room prices and services offered by the hotel (auto-translated from Persian). Although we didn’t use it, the tour guide service seems to be very well priced!

Nuristan Hotel Services

How to travel around Nuristan?

So, once you’re there, how are you actually going to get around? There isn’t any public transport between the villages. So, we negotiated with our driver that took us to Parun from Asadabad to stay with us for three days, driving us around to wherever we wanted and basically acting as our local tour guide. He took us on a beautiful hike nearby Parun and drove us to some amazing locations (I’ll explain more about that soon).

You could also try hitchhiking. There isn’t much local traffic, but it seems like hitchhiking is very common in this region, especially on the back of pickup trucks. It could also be a very fun experience!

children hitchhiking
Children hitchhiking

Finally, you could talk to the hotel so that they can arrange a guide and driver for you. If you’re a solo traveller, this might end up being quite pricey, but if you’re a group then it could be affordable!

What to do in Nuristan?

When visiting Nuristan, you might be wondering what there actually is to do there. Here’s a list of some of my favourite places and activities in the province:

Go on a hike!

I think this is an awesome way to experience the natural beauty of the province, and you’ll also be able to reach villages that are isolated and completely inaccessible by road. This was one of my highlights in the province. However, I think you should definitely get a guide if you plan to do this! And make sure to bring enough supplies of food and water.

Me hiking in Nuristan
Me hiking in Nuristan

Wama Alcohol Factory.

Okay this might sound like a surprise, but it’s not a real alcohol factory, at least not anymore! In the village on Wama, you can take a road to the top of the mountain, and under the trees, in a forest, you’ll find some historical ruins. These ruins represent an old alcohol factory, which was used to make wine and other drinks as recently as 150 years ago. The scenery in this area is also stunning, with some of the best mountain views you’ll get in Nuristan, with amazing Autumn colours as well. However, the road to get here is soooo scary!!

Old alcohol factory in Nuristan
These stone ruins were previously used to make wine.

Drive to Shtiway:

This village is located at the end of the road, close to the border with Badakhsan province. The nature here is also gorgeous, but it’s arguably the village people that make this place so interesting to visit. Just wondering around and meeting the locals in Shtiway and neighbouring villages is so fun, and they are all so photogenic as well! Keep in mind that there aren’t any restaurants over here so you should bring some food with you from Parun.

A girl wearing a colourful dress in Nuristan
A girl in Shtiway

Bow and arrow!

Shooting with bows and arrows in a popular sport in Nuristan, and you can do it yourself on the edge of Parun. However, we didn’t manage to do it because we were told that it’s only common in the summer season, and you won’t find many locals taking part in this tradition during the rest of the year.

What’s the Taliban like in Nuristan?

In general, they treated us pretty well. Actually one kind of funny experience happened during our hike, when we randomly came across a Taliban military base, which was a unique structure. It was basically a tree house complex. They actually invited us in and let us take pictures.

Taliban mountain treehouse
Taliban mountain treehouse with flag

We did have one issue with the Taliban, though. When driving back to Asadabad after our trip, Anna (my travel partner) was feeling car sick so decided to take the front seat next to the driver. At most Taliban checkpoints this was no issue, except at one. This man got very angry that a woman was sitting at the front, and next to a non-related male! He called the intelligence services and made a big deal out of this. But after ten or fifteen minutes we were allowed to go, and no other checkpoints had an issue with it.

In the future, we may run tours to Afghanistan, as we currently do in Syria and Iraq, so be sure to check our departure dates by clicking this link. If not, are you’re still confused about how to visit Nuristan solo, then we can help organise a guide for you. Message me on WhatsApp at +447905681636!

Visiting Iran? Essential apps you MUST download.

Iran has apps for everything! When it comes to booking domestic trains, flights, buses, hotels and more, almost everything can be done online in Iran. For travelling in Iran, I believe these apps are essential. Yet unfortunately, they don’t tend to be tourist friendly, with payment methods only accepting Iranian cards due to sanctions, and with little English information available. That’s why I’ve put together this article, to guide you through the process, and to help you find out what the essential apps are when visiting Iran.

It’s important to mention that in Iran, most Western websites such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram etc. are blocked, meaning you’ll need a VPN to access them. Many VPNs are also blocked, so I recommend downloading more than one just in case. For me, ExpressVPN (paid) worked well on Android and my laptop, but not on iPhone. Orbot, which is a free VPN, usually works if you use a “Bridge Server” in the settings of the app, but otherwise will not work.

Where can I download Iranian apps?

Because of sanctions and Iran’s isolation, most Iranian apps are not available on the App Store. That means that the easiest way to download Iranian apps is by downloading the Iranian app store, known as “Bazaar”. You can download it by clicking on this link. Once downloaded, just type in the desired app into the search bar and click download.

Taxi Hailing Apps (ESSENTIAL!)

Snapp (Persian: اسنپ!)

This is Iran’s most famous taxi hailing app, and it basically the country’s equivalent to Uber. It is one of the most essential apps when visiting Iran. Prices are much cheaper than hailing a taxi from the street and it is very convenient. Taxis are very cheap! When I say very cheap, I mean, you probably won’t spend more than 1 USD on a 45 minute taxi ride. And it’s also very safe! You can also book hotels, flights, buy travel insurance and access other services through the app.

TAPSI (تپسی)

Tapsi is an alternative to Snapp, but it’s got one feature which is really cool that Snapp doesn’t have, which is super convenient if you’re not travelling alone. You can book inter-city taxis. For example, we booked a ride with Tapsi from Tehran to Kashan, and as a group of 4 people, we paid the equivalent of 3 USD each for a ride of about 3 hours. This door to door service is super convenient, but if you’re travelling solo then it might be above your budget. 12 dollars for a 3 hour taxi ride is still much cheaper than in practically any other country, though!

Directions and Local Transportation Routes

In Iran, if you try to get public transport directions from Google Maps, it won’t work. That’s why you should download an Iranian app called Neshan (نشان). When you enter your starting point and destination, the app will show you how you can get there by public transport, which will help save you money on taxis!

Hotel Booking and AirBnb equivalent

There are so many websites and applications that you can book hotels through in Iran including Snapp (the taxi hailing app), Alibaba, and more. However, you will need to use an Iranian bank card to book due to sanctions. This isn’t an issue, as Iranian people are very friendly and you won’t have an issue asking someone to book for you and giving them cash. However, I often found it cheaper to find the hotel numbers on Google Maps, and then call the hotels directly and negotiate the price. This lead to much cheaper prices than could be found online.

If you’d prefer to stay in an apartment, you can easily book in a similar manner to AirBnb. We did this regularly in Iran, with many places offering very good prices! Here are some apps/websites that you could use to book these apartments:

Jajiga (جاجیگا)

This website specialises in villa rentals, but you’ll also be able to find rooms and apartments for rent. You’ll also have to pay online with an Iranian card, but the process is just as easy as Airbnb is.

Jabama (جاباما)

Personally, this was one of my most common methods of booking accommodation in Iran. I found prices for apartments to be fantastic, especially if you’re travelling with one or more people.

Jabama is one of the most essential apps for travelling to Iran
In Kandovan, we got ourselves a luxury cave apartment from Jabama!

Flight Booking

Because of sanctions, it’s impossible to book flights with Iranian airlines using foreign cards, so you’ll also have to ask an Iranian friend to help you book here if you plan to fly with a local airline. This applies to both domestic and international flights with Iranian airlines, which can often be much cheaper than international ones.

Strangely, booking flights last minute tends to be much cheaper when booking Iranian airlines than it does in advance, which works on opposite logic to basically all international airlines. So, I recommend for most flights to book only two or three days in advance. So what app/website can you book with?


In my opinion, this is the best website for booking flights with Iranian airlines. You can easily see the prices and how they differ on different dates, and the booking form is simple to fill out. When I booked my flight with Zagros Airlines from Tehran to Tbilisi, it only took me about five minutes to do online. You can also book trains, hotels and buses with Alibaba, but I personally think that other websites are better for that. In general though, Alibaba is one of the most essential apps for travelling to Iran.

Bus Booking

Many websites allow you to book intercity buses within Iran, including Alibaba, but I personally have my favourites, which I think are easy to use and show reliable schedules.

Payaneha (پایانه ها)

I regularly used this website when booking buses within Iran and I always found it to be reliable with the lowest prices and easy to use.

Safar 724 (سفر724)

This is a good alternative to Payaneha. While I didn’t use it whilst in Iran, I know many Iranian friends that use it.

Train Booking

For booking trains, make sure you book well in advance (at least 3 days in advance) as trains in Iran tend to get full very quickly! While there are many websites and apps that sell train tickets, I do not recommend using any of them except for the Iranian Railways official website! That is because they often sell train tickets which do not exist due to glitches and you will be refunded the money. To be more certain, make sure you book using the following website:

The website, however, doesn’t work from outside Iran, so you will have to wait until you arrive, or ask an Iranian friend to book for you.

Boat/ Ferry Booking

Last but not least, I have seen almost no information in English online that is up to date about booking international ferries from Iran. Iran has several international ferry routes, such as the ferry between Bandar Abbas and Sharjah, UAE, and from Bandar Lengeh to Dubai, UAE. There are also ferries to Kuwait from Khoramshahr. Actually you can easily buy the boat tickets online from many different websites. I personally bought my ferry ticket from Bandar Abbas to Sharjah from the following website:

It was very easy, I just needed to borrow my Iranian friend’s card, as usual. The ticket cost around 3.7 million toman (at the current exchange rate 74 USD).

Too complicated?

If this all sounds too complicated, you can get a local Iranian tour company to book everything for you. Although they will probably take a hefty commission. In any case, we soon plan to run our own tours to Iran, so make sure to keep up to date by checking out our tour schedule (currently limited to Syria and Iraq).