Whenever I hear about hikers in Iran and Afghanistan getting caught and held hostage by a hostile government or terrorist organization, I immediately imagine that no, these aren’t hikers. They’re spies. They’re sneaking around in the back country meeting with operatives or setting up remote spying equipment or shining laser beams to destroy potential targets, SEAL-style. I mean, who else would do this kind of thing? Serves them right. Because who is actually going to intentionally go to these places to hike? This is where people get killed, rather spectacularly in fact , and not in a fun way – although to be honest dying while you know that you’re dying probably isn’t fun, no matter the method. But it’s even less enjoyable to sit around for a few years and post the occasional video, hoping someone breaks that rule about paying a ransom to terrorists and springs you free so you can check your Instagram and Facebook.
But I’d be wrong, of course. There are plenty of websites set up to help would-be hikers embark on a dangerous trek through hostile territory, if not for bragging rights, then for the ability to say you were one of the first people to do it.
Go Nomad promises a safe trek through Kurdish-controlled Iraq (aka the Switzerland of the Middle East) and the Pamir mountains of Afghanistan (not under Taliban control), snow included.
This website too will assist in getting you to Iran for a little hike, although I have to admit it feels a bit like a Venus flytrap for unwary tourists.
The Guardian lists a plethora of other websites and tours for Iran, but what if you want to just go it alone? Bring your dog? Iran doesn’t allow you to just show up by yourself. Your group must be organized, but even that could be fraught with risks. Afghanistan is cool with you traveling alone, but you need to be careful, or you’ll end up in a stone hut for a cool 10 years growing a beard and eating Naan (hey that’s not so bad!) dropping the occasional Youtube vid about how US foreign policy is the worst. Of course, if you’re going to go someplace awful (like North Korea), don’t rip down and steal any posters bro.