Shahr-e Gholghola


A 20-minute walk from Bamiyan stands the remains of Ghorid Bamiyan's last stand against the Mongol hordes. On a commanding rise, Shahr-e Gholghola was reputedly the best defended of Bamiyan's royal citadels and was captured by intrigue rather than force of arms.

Bamiyan's ruler Jalaludin held strong under Genghis Khan's siege, but he didn't reckon on the treachery of his daughter. She had quit her widowed father's castle in a fit of pique over his remarrying a princess from Ghazni. She betrayed the castle's secret entrance, expecting to be rewarded through her own betrothal to the Mongol ruler. But he put her to the sword anyway and slaughtered the rest of the defenders. The noise of the furious violence gave the citadel's modern name - 'City of Screams'.

To get to the citadel, follow the road up Teppe Baba Shah, but veer left at the first junction. The walk, curving past wheat and potato fields, is a pleasant one, particularly in late summer when you can watch the grain being threshed by yoked oxen. The road skirts the base of the citadel, with a path leading up an area cleared for parking. The ruins were mined during the war, and although there are no red or white rocks visible, it is still strongly advised that you keep only to the worn path to the summit. There is a small police post at the top, where you'll be asked to produce a ticket - the same one covering the Buddha Niches and Shahr-e Zohak.

The views over the valley to the cliff walls are gorgeous. Looking south, the view extends to the Kakrak Valley, which once held a 6.5m standing Buddha (the niche in the cliff is just visible with the naked eye) and some important frescoes, all now lost. It's a good couple of hours walk, again through pretty farmland. Between the citadel and this valley are the remains of Qala-e Dokhtar (the Daughter's Castle), once home to Jalaludin's duplicitous offspring.

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1. Buddha Niches

1.39 MILES

The empty niches of the Buddha statues dominate the Bamiyan valley. Carved in the 6th century, the two statues, standing 38m and 55m respectively, were…