WHAT IS CHITRAL?

Tripoto
8th May 2019
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Day 1

It was 5am in the morning when we finally started this amazing journey. We did not know what surprises awaited us the next 5 days of our lives. Our mind wanted us to follow the same old perceptions that ran in the population, for the nature had some other plans for us.

We started our journey from the Capital Islamabad, took the M1 motorway and got off the Rashakai Interchange towards Mardan. The roads were quite at this time of the day, and the city was just about to get back to the routine. The Malakand Pass looked beautiful as ever.

From Chakdara, we turned towards the town of Timergarah and finally started to climb towards Upper Dir. There we stopped for a while and then again started to climb towards the most astonishing LOWARI TUNNEL. Finally we reached this Gateway to Chitral and it didn’t fail to amaze us, the scene we witnessed at the other side was just as marvellous. So Finally we started to descend now, the time was almost evening, the destination was close now. Finally after a whole long day of drive, we reached the Beautiful City of Chitral, Checked into the Pamir Inn on the banks of the wide Chitral river, and went to rest. From our room, we also had the most amazing view of the Great Tirich Mir(7708m-The Highest mountain of the Hindu Kush Range)

Chitral River

Photo of Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

View of Tirich Mir

Photo of Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Pamir inn

Photo of Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Pamir Inn

Photo of Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

But the Day wasn’t just over yet. “Let’s Head over to spot some Markhors!” Yes, Markhors, The National animal of Pakistan found in the Northern and North Western mountains of the country, here they only come down from the mountains in the evening to drink water from the river, their stay is limited, for merely 60-90 minutes. So before sun-down, we reached Tooshi game reserve. Hundreds of Markhors came down to the river bank on the opposite side of the road. What a beautiful sight. Their climb back was even majestic, depicting glory!

THE MARKHOR

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

At night we just drove in the city and had some healthy and delicious local dinner in a friend’s home. And that was day 1. Now let’s get back to sleep for a tiring day full of adventures ahead

Day 2

Wake up early as you can and start moving towards the north of Chitral District. At least that was our agenda. The early morning drive towards Mastuj(Capital Of North Chitral) was as serene as there could be, it was like the Nature was evolving, the Landscapes were welcoming us, the small farm lands with the Grand Mountains in the background and the sound of the River, surely Heavenly. We stopped at a local hotel in a small town on the way and enjoyed the sound of Nature and village lifestyle. The Road after that was monsterous, but that didn’t matter because of the views. Finally we crossed Booni(Big city of Chitral District) and that was something different, the village built on a steep other side of the road, the village was hidden in Beautiful Trees on the other side of the River and the Road. It was not much long before we finally reached MASTUJ and we saw, is what that cannot be described in little words.

First sight of Mastuj

Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Selling Honey on the Road side

Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

On the Way to Mastuj

Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Harvestation

Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Mastuj, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

This beautiful city was a heaven in this early light of the sun, the colours of nature were already so vibrant that it was an ideal location for photographers. We crossed to the other side and stayed at a camp in this beautiful city full of farms and gardens and trees and ponds. There is also a PTDC hotel in Mastuj where you can stay for the night. Our stay was not for long, we now had to gain more height and reach Shandur National Park and this was our extent of the trip, to witness the world’s highest Polo Ground in the world, the Shandur Polo Ground at 12,500 ft above sea level. So we didn’t waste any time and got back on the road again. The Road was bumpy and narrow, and cliffs were high, what an adventure it was. There is only one valley before Shandur Top and that is LASPUR Valley, one of the most beautiful Valley of Pakistan, under the influence of Prince Karim Agha Khan, surely it didn’t lack in literacy, and cleanliness. We went into the valley to get the feeling of what the people on this corner of the world live like, and it was marvellous. The Lush green farms and the small streams, the snow-capped peaks, the big old trees, the central public government school, and an old man enjoying the sunny day sitting under a big tree was very much overwhelming.

The valley on the Banks of the blue river

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

FarmLands at Laspur

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Small shops with a view at Laspur

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

The streets of the valley.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

It was not a surprise that the people were as much hospitable as the nature. But we had left a few miles ahead to go, so we moved on.

This was the time when we started our Climb. Shandur is also the centre of Chitral and Gilgit. On the other side of the National Park was Gilgit. We climbed and climbed, and finally we reached the Top.

Shandur Top

Photo of Shandur National Park by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Shandur National Park by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Shandur National Park by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Shandur National Park by Saad Bin Shamil

Now the drive was straight. This was SHANDUR NATIONAL PARK, and one of the most beautiful thing about it is that you get a surprising view of the Shandur Lake after some miles.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Shandur Lake

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Now the Grounds were plain and grassy, and extended far far away, there were wild goats and cows and some were of the farmers that had come from far away towards these pasture lands. And Finally we saw what we came for, SHANDUR POLO GROUND, where each year a festivel is held and there are matches between Gilgit and Chitral, a large amount of tourists come And camp here to witness the games each year.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Shandur Polo Ground with Shandur Lake in Background

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

The Score Board

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

The Lake

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

This was a great moment in this trip, but now was the journey back towards Mastuj, where we had to stay the night, and then back towards Chitral City the next day.

Day 3

1st Rule of Tourism, GET UP EARLY, and Enjoy as much as you can. So now was the early morning journey towards Chitral City. Amazing views and the beautiful Valleys kept us entertained. We were hopefully to reach back to the city early, though we couldn’t miss the famous Trout Fish of Chitral. This made us stop at the Golen Gol fish farms which are located at some Kilometers from the Golen Gol Hydro Power Project. The little farms were not so fancy decorated but they did provide us some outdoor peace and some Amazing Fish.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

The Fish Ponds

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Trout Fish Shawarma

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Now this was some Tasty Fish. We couldn’t even count how many we had eaten. Other than that, before the fish had come, we rested under the shade set up, and that made us sleep for a few minutes, where outside the sun was shining, and all we heard was the sound of the water, all tired from the hectic past 2 days.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Also we took some time to enjoy in the river. But don’t forget this! The River is ICE COLD, and, it’s not a River, it’s glacier Water ????.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

As planned, we reached the City early, and then just rested. There were no other plans for today, but how could we miss Chitral Gol National Park, which is located at the top of the great Mountains that surround the city (2944m). So at the evening, we decided to pay a visit. What we did not know of, was the type of road that leads to it, Dangerous Tracks yet grandeur sight. The Park was Beautiful, it took us time to climb, and we did got late, but we had a little time to enjoy the views. Also the Park had a great view of Tirich Mir!

The city’s View on the way to the Park

Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Tirich Mir

Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

View of Tirich Mir

Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Hindu Kush Mountain Range

Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

Abandoned PTDC motel in the Park

Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Chitral Gol National Park, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

The Road was steep, at the same time, Joyful. It was the time of sunset, and it made the Journey even more beautiful. So we reached the top where was situated the inspection hut, and had a cup of tea. There the tourists use to come and stay for the night and spot Markhors, which mostly can only be spotted from high points like these during summers.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

It was getting dark, so we didn’t waste any time and drove downwards again. The city’s lights were now turning on and was a sight to be seen. We got back as soon as we could to Pamir Inn, and went to sleep, to enjoy the last day of this trip ahead.

Day 4

It’s the last day of our trip to Chitral District. Mostly the tourists that come to Pakistan, go to Gilgit and Skardu, because of the popularity that they have achieved since the past 20-30 years. But this trip made us realise, that Chitral isn’t less to any one of them.

We had time till we left, so let’s just hang around the city and get a good spot with a view, to get a good click of the city. But don’t forget, the people of Chitral are sensitive of the Privacy of their homes and their women, so don’t just point a camera towards a home or a women. Other than that, I finally got a good view thanks to our local friend and guide.

Chitral City with the Tirich Mir in the Background and the Chitral River running from between

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Also got some good pictures of the old and historical mosques of the city which depicted the culture of this Culturally rich District of Pakistan!

The Chitral Scouts Mosque on the banks of River Chitral

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Chitral fort

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Central Mosque

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

It was the Return journey now, but one thing was left, The Sole Pagan Valley Of Chitral, and the Mother of Tourism at this District, KALASH. How could we come to Chitral, and not visit Kalash. So from The city of Ayun, we turned towards the Kalasha Valleys, and roads were even more Dangerous, yet Adventurous. It was like a gorge, and the road was on a steep side, below was the fast moving river and rocks.

Kalash Valley is place where the Kalasha Live. They have their own Religion and Culture, their own food and Clothes, and despite being very less in population now, are being visited by thousands of tourists each year. They sometime is the very past, came somewhere from Central Asia, and resided here, and their religion is some sort of Ancient Hinduism and animism. They have their festivals each year, for which people from all over Pakistan and the world come to see.

Photo of Kalash, Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Kalash, Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Kalash, Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of Kalash, Chitrāl, Pakistan by Saad Bin Shamil

We visited the Bamburet valley of Kalash, which is one of the three, parked our cars there at a parking area, and got on foot. We had a speacial guide due to our local friend, she was one of their representatives, and she told us about their culture at her home.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Our Guide: Ms Durdana in her local clothes

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

A souvenir Room at Kalash

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

She also showed us a souvenir shop in one of the houses from where we bought some scarfs and hats. After that we were briefed upon the making of the famous Kalash Wine in a special wine making room.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

After that we were taken to the Graveyard, where, unlike other big religions of Pakistan, they use to leave their dead open in the coffins for the ants and the birds to decompose them. They also differ from other religions as they hold a special dance when a person dies. Some of the bones were also present in the wooden coffins.

Kalash Graveyard

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

The Bones of the people that died and were laid open in these coffins

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Kalash is given special care by the Government and the tourism department to preserve their cultures and traditions. However now the Kalash women feel disturbed and do not allow people to take pictures with them, as there were some ill-mannered tourists in the past year. But the children do allow, but don’t forget to give them some money before leaving.

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

A local Home

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

Cultural clothes of Kalash

Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil
Photo of WHAT IS CHITRAL? by Saad Bin Shamil

We spent a good time here, learning about new cultures and traditions, at this part of the world

Now, was the journey back home. This Trip was a memorable one, we learned about the value that this part of Pakistan has, in the far North-West Ends of the country. From the Shandur in North, into the deep green valleys of Laspur, the extent and altitude of the Gol National Park, to the Culturally and Traditionally rich valley of Kalash, referring to the Question in the title, What is Chitral? I do not hesitate more to say that, CHITRAL IS AMAZING!

(PLAN A VISIT TO CHITRAL ON YOUR NEXT TRIP TO PAKISTAN)

Day 1
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