A spectacular system of sapphire blue lakes became Afghanistan's first national park Wednesday. Coinciding with Earth Day, Afghan officials signed an executive order to create Band-e-Amir National Park, a 220-square-mile refuge in the country's central highlands.
The park protects six deep blue lakes separated by dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit. Travertine systems are found in only a few places in the world, virtually all of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list and are major international tourist attractions, according to the World Conservation Society.
This photo shows Bande Amir Lake Kara, the largest of the six lakes.
(Alex Dehgan/Wildlife Conservation Society)