"You must be crazy" is the response you tend to meet with when announcing an intention to vacation in Afghanistan. But for the courageous traveler willing to overlook the backdrop of simmering warfare between U.S. forces and Taliban insurgents, the country offers astonishing rewards?none more uplifting than Band-i-Amir. These five connected lakes in the central Bamiyan province are among the world's least visited yet most dramatic natural wonders. Spilling like a string of sapphires across golden desert canyons, buttes and mesas, the lakes of Band-i-Amir (the name means "jewels of the king") are fed by an underground source, rendering them preternaturally pristine. Their purity and extraordinary depth give the lakes a blueness of indescribable intensity. Local legend has it that a plunge in these waters is a cure for madness. Possession by djinn, or demons, is a standard Afghan explanation for insanity?but djinn hate swimming, the reasoning goes, especially in a holy lake said to be carved out of solid rock by the magic sword of warrior-saint Hazrat Ali. Local faith in the healing powers of these waters is evident in a small shrine at the first lake, where the recently exorcized leave discarded clothing and tokens of thanks. If they're right about the waters, then you're in luck: even if you were a little crazy to vacation in Afghanistan, Band-i-Amir will restore your sanity. But you don't have to believe in the folklore to rejoice in the fact that you ignored the naysayers and ventured here: the surreal beauty of these lakes is a balm for every soul.