Little about Chitral and Tourism in Chitral
Chitral known as Chetrar by the local people consists of the upper basin of the Kuner River. The majority of Chitrali people speak Khowar. They are known as Chitrali or Qashqari. For many, Kho people are the real aborigines. The word “Khowar” is consists of two words, Kho and war. Kho, the people who first came here and war means language. Thus, the language of Chitral is known as Khowar.
There are twelve other languages in Chitral but Khowar is the predominant language. Similarly, nobody knows the origin of the people. But some historians and anthropologists claimed that they belong to the Aryans race. Khowar is categorized in the Dard group in the classification of languages.
The script in Khowar is Noori Nastaliq. It has an influence on the Persian and Urdu languages.
Other than Kho, there is the Kalash culture of Kafiristan. There are some similarities between Kalash and Khowar culture. However, Kalash has a totally different culture as a whole. Moreover, the language of Kalash is different from the language of Chitral.
The main routes that connect Chitral to the rest of the cities are as follows.
Peshawar to Chitral:
Peshawar-Chakdara- Dir- Lowari Pass- Nagar-Drosh- Chitral. The distance from Peshawar is about 08 hours by road. The route over the dangerous Lowari Pass (3,118 m) 11, 365 km. The Lowari Tunnel is about a 10 km tunnel which, connects Chitral and dir and is open throughout the year. Otherwise, before the construction of the tunnel, it was becoming blocked by snow during winter and making the daily Pakistan Intel Air 660 (mostly weather dependent) between Peshawar and Chitral.
Gilgit to Chitral through Shandur Pass:
The journey along this route is one of the most beautiful with a fantastic view. The route crosses the famous Shandur Pass, scene of the most spectacular polo event in the world, follows Phandur and Kahalti lakes. The “NATCO Bus” provides daily services between Mastuj and Gilgit. While the journey is to be completed in just over 14 hours. The route to Gilgit is 405 km (252 mi) over the 3,719 m (12,201 ft) Shandur Pass.
A route through Afghanistan:
The easiest (route during summer and partially winter), and the only one which also allows the use of pack animals, leads over the Broghol Pass (3,798 m or 12,460 ft) to Mastuj and, from there, either east towards Gilgit, or southwest down the Chitral/Kunar Valley towards Jalalabad. This route is not only the easiest, but the most direct one to Kabul and all points south and west. (227 mi) is most difficult and leads south to the region of Peshawar.
PIA operates daily PIA 660 flights from Peshawar. However, the operation of the flight is totally dependent upon weather conditions.
The various distance of Chitral from other cities of Pakistan in terms of kilometers are as follows.
- Karachi to Chitral 2020
- Quetta 1938
- Multan 1071
- Lahore 728
- Rawalpindi 452
- Nowshera 326
- Peshawar 366
- Chakdara 234
- Mangora 270
- Dir 122
- Lowari Top 84
- Nagar 54
- Drosh 47
- Garm Chashma 43
- Shandur 157
- Rumbore 38
- Booni 75
Tourism in Chitral, a paradise in the north of Pakistan
The most beautiful areas to visit in Chitral are Chitral Town valley, Buni- Mastuj Valley, Eune- Kalash Valleys, Shishi and Madak Lasht Valleys, Birmogh Lasht, Nagar Fort, Pattai Fort, Garum Chasma, Shandur Pass, and Lowari Pass.
The Chitral-Mastuj valley:
For Tourism in Chitral, Mastuj Valley is the most important and the largest of all the valleys of Chitral, which is the stretching from Broghil in the Pamirs to Arandu on the southern tip on the Afghan border.
It is approximately 320 kilometers long. Mastuj valley is surrounded to west Afghanistan by the Hindu Kush range. Furthermore, to the east the Hindu Raj range and in between the Shandur-Karakoram. Mastuj is located in the northern part of Chitral, about 115km from Chitral town. The old fort lies at the left bank of the Mastuj River. Mastuj is the center of the northern Chitral and from here via Shandur pass the road leads to Gilgit.
Mastuj became a part of Chitral formally in 1895 but before that, it had rather a strong relation with Yasin and Ghizr and often was at war with Chitral. Here, you can see the fort in the center. The Fort of Mastuj located in the confluence of Broghil and the Mastuj river. According to the Historians of Chitral Khushwaqt a son from the Katur Family ruled here and make this Fort. Kushwaqt had a strong relation with Yasin and Ghizr territory then and often confronted with Chitral.
This pass is 3200 (10500 ft) meters high, situated in the famous Hindu Raj range and forms the boundary between Upper Dir and Chitral districts. It consists of 45 road curves and a glacier known as MatiKhool. There is a long tunnel of about 10 km between Dir and Chitral.
It is situated on the west bank of the Chitral River and about 54 Km from proper Chitral. It is the property of Prince Salahuddin of Nagar. The fort is surrounded by a beautiful green garden from which the view of the Chitral River is fascinating.
It is about half a Kilometer away from Nagar Fort towards Mirkhani and is situated in Patti village. It is in the custody of prince Ihsan Uddin. But there are possibilities to built hotels and general parks in near future. Pattai Fort is beautiful because of its unspoiled and natural landscape.
Tourism in Chitral-Shishi and Madak Lasht Valleys:
The Shishi Valley joins the Kunar River from the east, 40 kilometers south of Chitral town and three kilometers north of Drosh. It gets about 600 mm of rainfall a year. One can trek from the Shishi valley which takes you over the Lohigal or Dok Pass to the Golen valley, with the option of continuing over the Phargam Pass to the Laspur valley. Madak Lasht ( lasht meaning ‘Flat Place’), at the head of Shishi valley, is a prosperous Ismaili village.
The villagers who speak Farsi (Persian), migrated here in the last century from Badakhshan, in Wakhan, to make guns and lead ammunition for Aman-ul-Mulk, the Mehtar of Chitral. The Distance is about 44 km from Drosh. One can trek to Madak Lasht directly from Chitral up the Jughoor Valley, at the head of which there is a choice of two routes, either left across the Madak Lasht Pass to Madak Lasht, or right across the Domukh Pass which leads 15 km’s downriver from Madak Lasht.
Tourism in Chitral-Kalash Valleys:
There are three Kalash valleys towards the south of Chitral and are about 22 Km away from central Chitral. Double-House structure is the main characteristic of Kalash settlement. They are skillfully in the art of wood carving and architecting their building. They have a joint family system from the time 64 when they first came here from, Siam as they put it.
The older males put feathers into their caps to make their identity noticeable among the Muslims. The Womenfolk put on a black gown and gaudy headgear covered with cowries shells. Music and dance is an integral part of their life. Both males and females participate in their traditional festivals. They are basking with the grace of nature as soon as their festival start. Simple inhabits and unique lifestyle with colorful dresses and the appearance of Kalash women.
Tourism in Chitral-Garum Chasma:
Also known as “Hot Springs”. The village is about 45 kilometers to the North West of Chitral. The jeep journey takes about 3 hours. These hot springs contain sulfur elements in their water, which is good for healing skin diseases, headaches,s, and other pains and gout. A market in the center of the village where precious stones are brought by the people of Afghan and sell to become a breadwinner for their families. Traditional woolen clothes are available in this market.
The Chitral Fort is one of the famous monuments of the town. There is also a palace inside the fort and a beautiful mosque outside the fort. British forces were besieged in this forte around about 1895.
Tourism in Chitral-Birmogh Lasht:
A good warm-up trek from Chitral town is Birmogh lasht (meaning ‘Land of walnut’), the old summer palace above the governor’s house. From the top Birmogh Lasht the panoramic view of Terich Mir is a paradise for the visitors. It is 15 Km by the jeep road. The jeep road dates from the 1930s when the Mehtar used to drive in his model T Ford.
The main jeep road continues a further three KM’s to the new VIP Wildlife Preservation Bungalow on top of a hill. It is a beautiful camping area as well. There is a small spring in the forest about 20 minutes walk to the west. In the south lies a narrow valley of Chitral stream flows to the other ruined summer palace of Bronshal. The Chitral Gol was one of the royal hunting reserves of the Mehtar.
Tourism in Chitral-Shandur Pass:
The world-famous Shandur Pass is about 3738 meters above sea level and lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. The distance from Gilgit is about 212 kilometers while from Chitral to Shandur is 158 kilometers.
These areas remain snow-covered in winter and turn into green heaven during summer. One can approach the Shandur Top by jeep from either side. Shandur being the highest polo ground in the world is famous throughout world, every year Chitral and Gilgit team participate in Polo on this ground.
It is the Headquarter of Mastuj sub-division. It is about 75 kilometers from the headquarter Chitral. A mettle road is leading to it. It is famous for its apples. Mastuj river flows on the right side of this beautiful valley.
The Kalash valleys are known as Kafiristan (Land of the Infidels). In the olden days the boundaries of kalash occupied present Afghanistan but now their identity is shrinking day by day. However, the inhabitants of the Afghan Kafir valleys were forcibly converted to Islam, leaving only the tribes of the three valleys of Rukmu, Mumuret, Biriu (in Kalasha) (Rambur Bomboret and Berir in Khowar) to carry on their centuries-old animistic culture.
The Kalash valleys- the home of the Kafir-Kalash or “Wearers of the Black Robes”, only primitive pagan tribe in the area, is one of the major attractions of Chitral. Their ancestry is shrouded in mystery and therefore, Kalash says “history is mystery and their history is the subject of controversy; some consider them to be the descendant of the armies of Alexander the Great (B.C.327).
Kalash say “five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedonia settled in Chitral and Kalash are the antecedents of the Alexander army. If we look at the sports, music, physical structure, and games of Kalash then it seems some resemblance with that of Greek.
Tourism in Chitral-Kalash Religious Festivals:
Four famous and some occasional festivals are held each year in the Kalash society. ‘Chilimjusht’or ‘Zhoshi’ in the month of May, with the advent of spring, and is celebrated for a couple of days. The whole valley starts to wake up from the long winter hibernation. Shepherds become ready to take the flocks, their own and those of others to the receding pastures in the hills.
A few days prior to the celebration, they start collecting milk from goats, heating it continuously, and Preparing fresh cream and some yogurt. The girls prepare bread in their house and carry it to the ‘Gosh’ – the animal house.
They decorate Gosh with walnut leaves and twigs. Walnut leaves have been used for anti-parasitic and healing since ancient times.
They select a boy who is still a virgin, uncontaminated by any intimate relations with any girl, who sprinkles milk over the decorative flowers leaves, and walnut twigs.
Men also come to the Gosh. Men and women eat the bread with fresh cream and yogurt diluted in water with salt in it. And all pass the night at the Gosh. In the morning, they gather under the walnut trees, prepare bread and enjoy their lunch. They all gather again in the open space and on the dance floor where men and women dance to the beating of drums.
This festival is held in mid-July. As it is, Kalash activates its energy according to the solar system and weather thus, a festival for harvesting season is held in all the three valleys of Kalash. Dancing, Singing, clapping, and joy flow with these festive moments.
It is a religious festival of Kalash. People collect the fruits like grapes, pears, and walnuts to make vine and enjoy the ripening of these fruits. Kalash people do not touch or eat these fruits before ripening.
Chaumas or Chitirmus:
Held in December from 15 to 21. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show at the onset of New Year. A number of interesting events mark this festival.
Other religious Activities are as under:
Mrachiwaki Joshi (29th May): This festival starts after ten days of Joshi. They distribute fresh cheese among the community and celebrate the festival with dancing and singing.
Rat Nat (July – August): Dancing and singing at night continue for one month.
Uchao (Middle of August): Newly made cheese is brought from the pastures. They go to the altar of Mahadeo where dancing and singing take place until dawn.
Prechiaishi (November): Each clan sacrifices a goat for their goddess to please them.
Biramor (November): Some rare occasions come when one of the Kalash has the privilege to slaughter as many goats as he can and earn a name and fame in the society. It takes place once in several ten years.
Sariack (November – December): Wedding party. She-goats sacrifices to Jeshtak and prayers offered for the couple. Dance and songs.
Pu and Budalak (October): Festival only held in Biriu. Dancing and singing continue for three days. After Pu, grapes allow for harvesting. Next, a Budalak returned to the valley after a long stay in the pastures and he is a young goatherd who has some special sexual power and privileges.
Tourism in Chitral-Shandur:
The world-famous Shandur pass is bout 3738 meter above sea level and lies midway between Chitral and Gilgit. The distance from Chitral is 147 Km and Gilgit is about 211Km. These areas remain snow-covered in winter and turn into green heaven during the summer season.
The traditional polo tournament played between Chitral and Gilgit teams in the month of hot July having motto “we play polo the game of king and king of the games”.
As it is an international sport, therefore, the tourist comes to this festival every year. Similarly, it is contributing to the tourism of Pakistan. Shandur bordered on the west to Yarkoon valley of Chitral. While the northern side is by the valley of Gilgit district. The local jeep can reach Shandur after driving 147Km.
The game originated in the dim and distant past in the high mountains of the Hindukush and the Karakorum ranges among the horse-loving peoples of Chitral, Gilgit, and Hunza.
Polo match is a very interesting part of Shandur festival. Similarly, music and dance support the players to play with great enthusiasm. Therefore, Polo without its Chitrali music is, to borrow the Japanese phrase,” Like an egg without salt” to the crowd and spectators. · Polo in Chitral played with five players on each side.
Natural Resources of Shandur:
Water is abundant in the beautiful lake of Shandur providing facilities for bathing and drinking purpose. According to the local wildlife officials, the wildlife of the area consists of very rare species like; Himalayan ibex, Snow leopard, Wolf, Choker, etc.
Shandur pass is full of Snakes and some species of lizards. Moreover, trout fish are abundant in the Shandur top. The visitors of Shandur festival must enjoy these fish.
Tourism in Chitral- Kaghlasht:
Kaghlast festival starts after 10th April every year on the ground of Kaghlasht. Kaghlast is a name of a beautiful green hilly area with green scenery. It is located at the top of Booni valley. Traditional games and modern games played on the ground of Kaghlasht. People from all parts of Chitral come for this festival and spend three or more days enjoy. The festival starts with games and the night ended with music and dances.
White water sports
Water sports are not much known in Chitral inspire of the fact that there are ideal sites for rafting on the Chitral River and its tributaries. The selection of sites depends on the teams, however, the Yarkhun river, Laspur river, Torkho river, Terich river, and the main Chitral river present good water sports sites.
There are a number of lakes in the Chitral area at a great height to be visited for water sport as well as trekking itinerary Karamberlaek, one of the highest and largest is at the northeastern tip of Chitral border above Boroghil.
Shordonik, Bawansoor, and Ochensoor lakes are situated on the ridge known as TerichAan to be approached via Zani pass: ideal location for trekking with an awe-inspiring cluster of summits. Another beautiful lake is situated in the Ujnugol at Utakh. There is another lovely lake between Ghocharsar and Jungle on the trekking route from Madaklasht into Golen. Another beautiful lake lies on the trekking route formBumburet to Rumboor at Bauk. Two more lakes lie hidden in Sachio Kuh, Golen valley.
There are a number of beautiful falls in many parts of Chitral. These add charm to the itinerary of any backpacker. These include Shoghnishom and Prechu falls in the Roshgol valley, Lashore falls in the Udren valley, Rua fall in the Rech valley. The prismatic colours from the spray of water in the Shoghnishrom fall from a certain degree is indeed very attractive.
There are a number of springs in this region reputed for their therapeutic effects. One of them is at Barsat well known for gastric disorders, to be drunk directly from the source. The hot springs known as Garum Chashma in the Lotkuh valley is known throughout the region. Long-duration baths are taken in the hot water for the cure of skin diseases. The hot spring at Ziwargol and Terich is reputed for the treatment of many diseases. There are hot springs at the Boroghil area, Boonigol, etc. a spring at Acholgah in the Kalash valley is reputed for the treatment of certain diseases. it falls on the Rumbur, Bumburet trekking route.
There are trout hatcheries in Chitral and Bumburet. The Lotkuh river is for trout. Angling is allowed form April to September on a permit. Field staff of the Fisheries dept. Issue permits for angling. Activities in this field were introduced in the Golen stream, Lahpur, and Kosht areas. More suitable locations are under consideration.
The hatchery in the town, at Jughoor, has started better trout production. And people eat trout for a reasonable price.
Chitral town has a number of restaurants. And tea stalls catering for a variety of tests. But these restaurants do not serve typical Chitrali dishes. They prefer easy and standard dishes viz, Rice (palau) karahi, vegetable dal, qorma, yeast chapati, tea, quhwa, black-brew, etc. Typical Chitral dishes are available on order at the hotel Dream Land and ANWAZ Restaurant in the main Bazar. Purdah dinning rooms for females are available in Hotel Dreamland.
The restaurants are scattered all over the Bazar. And convenient enough to reach anytime. The Afghan refugees, Pathans as well as locals are running these hotels. It is preferable to have food freshly cooked before your eyes than to truest the ready-made ones. Visitor may have Pakistani and continental dishes in the hotels but traditional Chitral dishes also have their own specialty adding to the charm of the pristine culture.
Twenty-six different dishes, in the Chitrali cuisine, are prepared from dairy products, 34 form cereal flour, 18 types of the sandwich family with different denominations, 12 varieties of dessert, 10 types of roast. All these are locally known and served. There are also some dishes peculiars to different seasons and peculiar to different valleys. The Chitrali cuisine is an outcome of wide-ranging long experiments and the use of herbal spices grown in their kitchen gardens.
These dishes are a great source for tourism in Chitral. One can read more about it by reading the link below. https://chitralpedia.com/2021/04/07/dishes-of-chitral/
Handcraft / Antiques / Gemstones
Chitral is famous for handwoven woollenPatti known as MOGHIKAN, first developed in MOGH, a village in the Lotkuh valley. It is available in the shop of the town in natural color. Articles made from it e.g., pretty Chitral caps, Chugha, Shuqa, Pullovers, etc can be had at reasonable prices. The Chitrali Chugha is an embroidered overcoat. SHUBINAK-an enterprise introduced recently to develop local Patti made by hands. Works for this purpose. It aims at promoting marketing networks outside the country. Items of its products may be had in the showroom on way to the old fort in the town.
Embroidered caps, bags, purses, watch straps, colorful rugs, Afghan carpets, local soft leather shoes, sitars, ibex, horn rings, antique weapons, swords, daggers, knives, bracelet, rings, Salajeet, precious stones like tourmaline, aquamarine, lapis lazuli, quartz, garnets, pyrite, corundum: traditional Kalash dresses and headgear, horse riding kits, wooden pots, antique porcelain, etc. are available in the town shops. Wood carving has long been a part of the culture of this region. Carved furniture pieces may be one of the items of interest. Gold panning has been a source of livelihood for some families in Chitral along the banks of the Chitral river. The finished product is available in the Bazar. It is still as popular as ever. Moreover, new techniques of gold panning were introduced side by side with the old traditional methods.
There is a small industries development unit where lady instructors train girls in embroidery and knitting. The finished products are available in the showroom of the unit about 3km away from the Main Bazar.
- Wood carving
- Wooden pots of all types
- Musical instruments
- Earthern – warse:– Large size pots made for cooking Lazhek storage of grain and small size pots for kitchen use and teapots. It was a source of income but the craft has become extinct.
- Hardware:– Local iron was used for making daggers, swords, knives and exchanged for other articles of daily use
- Gold panning:-The Chitral River and its tributaries carry a good amount of gold dust. Moreover, the panners are processed for earning income. It is still in practice. Sometimes even nuggets are found.
- Hawking:- Catching hawks and falcons was a profession known to some families and hawk trainers knew a lot of tricks of that craft.
- Swimming:- Swimming was valued in the old society so it was regarded as an important skill. It was a part of education and a popular one just like the modern trend of music teaching in educational institutions.
- The wool industry was highly developed as men and women alike wore woolen dresses so sheep husbanding was an integral part of the village economy.
Horse riding trips
Those who want to enjoy horse riding in the town area may go to chinar lnn . The contact number is 412582. And ask Mr, Nasir, proprietor chinar lnn for a horse who can arrange riding trips. Special polo horses rented at per hour charge basis. Moreover, visitors arrange polo matches on request even at Garum Chashma and Susoom during guided tours of those valleys. For this purpose contact Ph 412770. Horse riding is an interesting hobby for local people. Polo matches increase the number of tourists to promote tourism in Chitral.