Afghanistan is a land of high mountains, scorching deserts, rolling plains and fertile valleys. A landlocked country in Asia, it is bordered in the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (countries of the former Soviet Union). In the northeast is a narrow region called the Wakhan Corridor, which juts eastward to touch the borders of Pakistan, India and China. To the east and south lies Pakistan, while Iran lies to the west.

Somewhat smaller than Manitoba, Afghanistan contains three distinct regions: the northern plains, the central mountain ranges and the southern lowlands. The far north is one of Afghanistan’s most fertile regions, a heavily populated, agricultural area where most cultivation occurs in the river valleys of the low foothills. Running along the northern border is the Amu Darya River, along which are many towns and cities. The plains and foothills also support more than 80 species of doves and pigeons.

The great Hindu Kush mountain range and its offshoots run through central Afghanistan from southwest to northeast, dividing the country. The mountains’ highest peaks range from 4,500 to 6,000 metres, with Mount Nowshuk topping the range at 7,485 metres. The capital of Kabul is located along the Kabul River in the central-eastern mountain region.

The mountains contain Arctic and alpine flora. Large forests of pine, fir, cedar, oak and ash trees cover different elevations, along with shrubs such as honeysuckle and gooseberry. The diverse wildlife includes wild dogs and cats, wolves, foxes, hyenas, wild goats such as the makhor and ibex, and wild sheep such as the urial and argali.

Southern Afghanistan is an arid region of high plateaus, scrubland and deserts, cut through by the Helmand River, which flows through much of the country. The Rigestan Desert covers about one-quarter of this area.

Afghanistan experiences four distinct seasons and sharp temperature contrasts according to time of day, season and elevation. Except at high elevations, summers are hot and dry; spring and autumn are rainier seasons, while winters are generally cold and snowy, with mountain areas receiving much snowfall.

  Did you know?
The historic Khyber Pass joins Afghanistan and Pakistan. Running through the mountains between Kabul and Peshawar in Pakistan, the narrow pass climbs to 1,066 metres. The pass offers both a paved road and a caravan track.

  Did you know?
In the Qunduz area of northern Afghanistan, carpets of wild tulips bloom in the spring.