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Phoo Festival

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16 Days
Availability : April - August
Islamabad
Chitral
Introduction

The Kalash or the Kalasha are the only pagan minority residing in the Chitral district of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They form the smallest minority community in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Though the people of Kalash were once in a large number, around 200,000, the number has dwindled so much so that only a handful of Kalashas remain— about 3000 to 4000. The striking decrease in the population of Kalashas pertains to the forceful conversion of these pagans to Islam. Even in the current day scenario, smallest pagan minority is hardly given any rights and is not recognized as a separate entity. Only a handful of foreign NGOs are working towards the development and progress of this area and tribe.The Kalashas live in three valleys of Chitral namely, Rumbur, Brumbret and Birir. The Rumbur and Brumbret form a single culture due to their very similar cultural practices, while Birir being the most traditional one forms a separate culture.The people of Kalash or white skinned with golden brown hair and blue eyes.

History

The origins of Kalashas still remain unresolved as their history is shrouded behind a number of theories, mysteries and controversies. Of these many theories, three carry with them great significance and are considered closest to reality.

The grandest of all is that the Kalashas carry a romantic view of being the descendents of Alexander the Great. On the other hand, many historians believe that they are indigenous tribe of the neighboring area of Nuristan also called Kafiristan (the land of Kafirs). It is believed that in 1895 Amir Abdul Rahman, the king of Afghanistan, conquered the area of Nursitan and forced the inhabitants of the area to convert to Islam. It was during that time that many people fled to Chitral to avoid conversion. The third theory claims that the ancestors of Kalashas migrated from a distant place in South Asia called Tsiam. The Tsiam is considered to be the traditional home of these people. The Kalasha folk songs and fables hint the existence of Tsiam and that their roots belong in that region.

Language

The language of the Kalash is the Kalasha and is a Dardic language (sub group of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in Northern Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir). The language is spoken by a handful of people approximately 5000 and is considered to be critically endangered by UNESCO. The Kalasha language has no proper script; however, there have been recent developments in introducing a formal script for the language.

Customs

The people of Kalash are extremely particular about their religion and break ties with anyone of them who converts to Islam. The converts are not allowed after the conversion to be a part of their community. They keep their identity strong.The people of Kalash differ from the people of the surrounding areas in a number of ways. There is no separation between males and females in Kalash and are allowed to keep contact and communicate without any fingers being raised at them. Moreover, the females of Kalash are sent to live in a bashaleni when they are considered to be impure for e.g. during the child birth period and other occasions. These women are only able to live this place after they regain their purity and have undergone the ritual of restoring purity.

The women of Kalash wear long black loose robes with colorful embroideries and cowrie shells. These women are also found wearing colorful beads and necklaces that further distinguish them from the other women of the Chitral region. They accessorize their black robes by making use of colorful long braided head wears. The males of the Kalash on the contrary have adopted the Pakistani national dress i.e. the shalwar kameez and are often found wearing waistcoats over them. They also wear hats common to the northern area of Pakistan.

The people of Kalash march to a different drummer. Their customs and traditions are as different as day and night, especially vis–à–vis the concept of marriage. Marriage by elopement is more frequent in the Kalash valley and is also common amongst women who are already married to another man. In fact, wife elopement is considered to be one of the great customs of the people of Kalash.

When a man and woman get married the man pays the woman’s family a certain amount in order to have her. When a woman wants to leave her current husband and marry some other man, she offers herself to that man and informs him of how much her current husband had paid for her. In order for the man to marry an already married woman he has to pay double the amount to have her.

Religion

The Kalashas are polytheistic believing in 12 Gods and Goddesses. A renowned linguist Richard strand, is of the view that the people of Kalash practice an ancient form of Hinduism which gradually developed locally and got influenced by the neighboring areas of pre Islamic Nuristan.

They believe in a number of Gods e.g. Yama Raja also called Dezau and Khodai who is the creator deity. Another god is the Balumain who is the cultural hero and taught the people of Kalash how to celebrate the winter festival. Other gods include Destak, Manjam, Dezalik.

Rituals

Like all the other religions, the Kalasha also have different religious rituals and practices. In Kalash the rituals are the means of generating economic activity and are gift giving festivals.

The numerous Gods and Goddesses have shrines and altars all over the valley where goat sacrifices are offered regularly.  Crows that are considered to be their ancestors are frequently fed with their left hand at a number of places including tombs. Moreover, the people of Kalash do not bury their dead under the ground rather their coffins are left out in the open. They believe that the soul was excited to leave the human body and reunite with the already departed souls. It is for this reason that they celebrate the funeral of a dead person by singing and dancing rather than mourning over their bodies.

Festivals

The inhabitants of the Kalash valley celebrate a number of festivals all year round. The three predominant festivals are as follows:

Joshi: It is celebrated in May and marks the arrival of spring. People wear new clothes and women accessorize heavily, girls are sent to the hillside for dancing and singing. Women decorate their houses and collect milk from the cattle, One-year-old babies and their mothers are also purified in this festive

Uchau: This festival takes place in mid-August at the altar of Mahandeo where newly made cheese is brought from the pastures. Dancing and singing again forms an integral part of the festivals

Caumus: It is the most important festival held in mid-December

Phoo Festival: The Phoo Festival takes place in mid-October at the Kalash Valley. The exact dates depend on the time of harvest of the crops and the return of the livestock from the summer pastures.

The Phool Festival is an annual colorful two-day festival in Birir Valley celebrated  with high spirit and zeal. The festival marks the reaping of grapes & walnuts harvests. The people sing songs in the local language and perform traditional dances throughout the two-day festival.

Departure & Return Location

Islamabad International Airport (Google Map)https://goo.gl/maps/J7yGR5AijgHGQBDc7

Departure Time

3 Hours Before Flight Time

Price Includes

  • Domestic Air fares
  • Hotel Accomodation
  • Experience Tour Guide
  • Entrance Fees
  • All transportation in destination location and road tools
  • Full Board Meals

Price Excludes

  • International flight airfare
  • Main meals and extras at hotels like drinks, laundry, phone calls. Insurance liability and other
  • Any Private Expenses
  • Room Service Fees
  • Staff Tips

Complementaries

  • Umbrella
  • Sunscreen
  • T-Shirt
  • Entrance Fees
What to Expect
  • Travel over Khunjerab pass, highest paved road in the world
  • Experience Hidden Heaven of Hunza.
  • View peaks like, Rakaposhi, Nanga Parbat on the way.
  • Words most unique culture of Kalash
  • Will meet kalashi people and experience their traditions
Itinerary

Day 1Arrive Islamabad

Arrive in Islamabad. A representative of Karakorum Explorers will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport. This representative will answer questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements, and escort you to the hotel in Islamabad.

Day 2 Fly to Chitral

Fly to Chitral, over the fertile green plains of the valley of swat and Lowari pass (3,200m). The landscape of the Hindukush range appears much arid and dry, as this area is outside the reach of monsoon and receives very little rain.
Chitral located in the Northwest of Pakistan is a beautiful valley in the Hindukush range of Mountains. It has always been a very important route for many invaders to south-east Asia, Including Alexander the great Scythians, Mangol Changez Khan and numerous others. Chitral is a small town with a single street bazaar and a few tourist class hotels. At the end of Bazaar on the right (Riverside), there is the Chitral fort and Palace of Mehtar (Mir Or King) In front of the Fort is the Jami Mosque of Chitral an impressive architecture with beautiful inlays and decorations.
Overnight in Hotel

Day 3Explore Chitral

Chitral located in the Northwest of Pakistan is a beautiful valley in the Hindukush range of Mountains. It has always been a very important route for many invaders to south-east Asia, Including Alexander the great Scythians, Mangol Changez Khan and numerous others. Chitral is a small town with a single street bazaar and a few tourist class hotels. At the end of Bazaar on the right (Riverside), there is the Chitral fort and Palace of Mehtar (Mir Or King) In front of the Fort is the Jami Mosque of Chitral an impressive architecture with beautiful inlays and decorations.
Meals and Overnights at PTDC Motel

Day 4Drive to Bamburat and explore the valley

Drive to Bamburat. Bamburet is the largest of three valleys about 2 hours jeep drive from Chitral. There used to exist two distinctive types of Kafirs (Infidels), the red and the Kalash (Black) until the end of the last century. The Red Kafirs were conquered by Amir of Afghanistan and converted to Muslims. The Kalash were however not harmed and to this day maintain their pagan rites

Day 5Day Excursion to Rambur and explore the valley

Drive to Rambur: A picturesque valley only 10 miles from Bumburet. Our guide will show you the hamlets of Balaguru & Kalashram. A short but trying walk up to the steep ridge is rewarded with an ancient Kailash temple decorated with wooden horses and human figures.

Day 6 Day excursion to Birrer

Full day excursion to birir valley of Kalash. The Kalash people live in three valleys of Chitral namely, Rumbur, Brumbies and Birir. The Rumbur and Brumbret form a single culture due to their very similar cultural practices, while Birir being the most traditional one forms a separate culture.
Overnight at PTDC hotel

Day 7 Drive to Buni

Morning drive, from Chitral to Buni. Buni is the headquarters of Mastuj Tehsil, Upper Chitral, the village is along the Chitral river which is flowing in the main valley bed. The landscape of the Hindukush range appears much arid and dry, as this area is outside the reach of monsoon and receives very little rain. We stop at a small village for lunch and then continue North, now enjoying fascinating views of snow clad peaks reaching 4,500m.
Meals & Overnights at PTDC Motel

Day 8 Drive to Gupis

Early morning drive to Gupis, Gupis Valley is located about 112 kilometres in the west of Gilgit on the bank of River Gilgit and 255 km east of chital. Yaseen Valley, District Ghizer, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The Gupis is 2176 meters above sea level
Meals & Overnights at PTDC Motel

Day 9 Drive to Hunza

Hunza Valley, long renowned as the original Shangri-la. The people here are famous for their long life. In the afternoon, we visit Karimabad, the centre of the valley and the capital of Hunza. From Karimabad we have a magnificent view of the whole Hunza Valley laid out below us and surrounded on all sides by the snow-capped peaks of the Karakorum Visit baltit Fort, Baltit Fort, perched on cliffs guarding the valley. Behind the 600-year-old fort looms the Ultar Glacier, and up to Duiker summer settlement. Overnight at Tourist Park hotel.
Meals and overnight at Karakorum View hotel.

Day 10Free day Karimabad

Day at leisure, In the morning visit the eight centuries old tower-like Altit Fort overlooking the old silk route and new Karakorum Highway. Later visit the newly restored Palace of the King of Hunza Kingdom that also served at many wars as a fort. Afternoon walk to Ultar Glacier.
Meals and overnight at Karakorum View hotel.

Day 11 Excursion to Khunjerab pass

Khunjerab Pass elevation 4,733m is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains in a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region and on the southwest border of the Xinjiang region of China. Its name is derived from Wakhi ‘Khun’ means Home and ‘Java’ means spring water/water falling. The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. The roadway across the pass was completed in 1982 and has superseded the unpaved Mintaka and Kilik Passes as the primary passage across the Karakoram We will reach the Chinese town of Tashkurgan, where we complete our immigration formalities and spend the night. The town itself has a Tajik and Chinese population and a 14th-century Chinese fortress that sits on a rise above the flat-bottomed Tashkurgan River valley.
Meals and overnight at Karakorum View hotel.

Day 12 Drive to Skardu.

After breakfast at hotel drive to Skardu, for half hours we will drive on the KKH and then turn left crossing Gilgit river at Alam Bridge. From here we drive through the narrow gorge of River Indus crossing Rondo Village en route. Skardu is the capital town of Baltistan while Satpara and Katchura lakes are the main attractions of the area. At the town, one can visit Khorpocho Fort perched on a high cliff. At Skardu, our accommodation will at a very interesting place Mashabrum Hotel, famous among trekkers & mountaineers. ( 390 km, 10/11 hour.)
Meals and overnight at Skardu PTDC

Day 13Day excursion to Khaplu Valley

Khaplu is the easternmost part of Baltistan. It was the second largest kingdom in old Baltistan. The town of Khaplu is the capital of Ghanche District in Gilgit-Baltistan. It guarded the trade route to Ladakh along the Shyok river. The Shyok River divides the valley into two halves. The valley has steeper slopes and there is lesser land available than in other valleys in Baltistan. However, in terms of architectural heritage and cultural expression, it has arguably more treasures than Shigar and other areas of Baltistan, possibly as a result of its closeness to both Leh in Ladakh and Srinagar in Kashmir. Khaplu region is rich in cultural heritage and the Khaplu Palace is certainly the finest surviving example of a royal residence in Baltistan. It stands above the town of Khaplu amidst terraced apricot orchards, surveying the river Shyok below and the mountain peaks in the distance.
Meals and overnight at Skardu PTDC

Day 14Drive to Rama– Cross Deosai plains

Drive to Tarashing via Deosai. The Deosai National Park is located between Astore and Skardu in Gilgit Baltistan. It has an average elevation of 4,114 metres (13,497 ft) above sea level, making the Deosai Plains one of the highest plateaus in the world. The park protects an area of 3,000 square kilometres (1,200 sq mi). It is well known for its rich flora and fauna of the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe ecoregion. In spring, it is covered by sweeps of wildflowers and a wide variety of butterflies. Deosai is second highest plateau after Changthang Plateau Tibet.on the way you will see Deosai Lake, or Sheosar Lake from the Shina language meaning “Blind lake” (Sheo – Blind, Sar – lake) is in the park. The lake, at an elevation of 4,142 metres (13,589 ft), is one of the highest lakes in the world. Its length is 2.3 kilometers (7,500 ft), width 1.8 kilometers (5,900 ft) and average depth 40 metres (130 ft). It is located near the Chilim Valley on the Deosai Plains. It is About 8 to 9 Hours drive to Rama
Rama is home to some famous species like ibex, musk deer, snow leopard and rock partridge. The area is also considered to have a plethora of medicinal plants. This valley offers a number of tourist attractions including sightseeing, trekking, wildlife, forest, glaciers and above all the beautiful Rama Lake which is spectacular and eye-catching. Rama valley with lush green pastures and tall pine trees is an ideal campsite for the independent travellers. The inhabitants of Rama valley are also very hospitable and friendly. They are motivated to promote environment-friendly tourism in their area.
Meals and overnight at Rama PTDC

Day 15Drive to Besham – Travel on Karakorum Highway

We drive on Karakorum highway along the mighty Indus river to Besham, passing through the dry gorge of Indus that offers a fascinating landscape of Karakorum.
Dinner and overnight at PTDC Besham.

Day 16Drive to Islamabad - Visit ancient Buddhist city of Taxila.

Drive to Islamabad en route visiting Taxila, the former capital of Gandhara civilization. We visit the archaeological remains of a monastery (Julian), a city (Sirkap ) and the site museum. Continue drive to Islamabad, transfer to hotel.

Day 16 Departure

Transfer to airport for departure flight

Map
Photos