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Shandur Polo Festival

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14 Days
Availability : April - August
islamabad
Shandur
Tour Details

Introduction

The three-day sporting and entertainment event, called as Shandur Polo Festival, takes place on the high altitude ground, which is the highest polo ground in the world, every year in July. The festival features exquisite, thrilling and spectacular polo matches between teams of Chitral and Gilgit,besides many others sporting and entertainment events.For the last couple of years the festival has gained international popularity and tourists from across the country as well as abroad thronged the highest polo ground of the world to enjoy the festivities of the event and beauty of the idyllic Shandur valley, which is overlooked by snowy peaks besides a crystal clear lake.Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional Polo tournament which since 1936 has been held annually in the first week of July between the teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. The tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival also includes Folk music,dancing and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin.Various teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past,the British Rulers were the patrons of the game.

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 Accommodation
  • English speaking experience guide,
  • Entrance Fees
  • All transportation in destination location

Price Excludes

  • International airfare and airport tax. Excess weight.
  • Main meals and extras at hotels like drinks, laundry, phone calls. Insurance liability and other
  • Any Private Expenses
  • Staff Tips

Complementaries

  • Umbrella
  • Sunscreen
  • T-Shirt
  • Entrance Fees
What to Expect
Polo at the peak
    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. Discover the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi is an old British -era settlement and Islamabad is the capital city and administrative centre built sometime after the partition of India in elevation in 1947. The cities are Located at about 1,500 feet in elevation in the hot and steamy plains of Pakistan’s upper Punjab. You may wish to explore Rawalpindi by wandering among its many and varied bazaars, or visit the imposing Shah Faisal Mosque superbly situated at the foot of the Margalla Hills. This mosque is one of the largest in the world, with room for 15,000 worshippers inside and 85,000 in the courtyard. This day we will attend a trek briefing at the Alpine club of Pakistan.

    Day 2Fly to Gilgit.

    Morning Flight to Gilgit.Today we will fly to Gilgit the provincial Capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan within the Gilgit district of Pakistan. The city of Gilgit constitutes a tehsil within Gilgit District. The city’s ancient name was Sargin, later to be known as Gilit, and it is still referred to as Gilit or Sargin-Gilit by local people. In the Burushaski language, it is named Geelt and in Wakhi and Khowar it is called Gilt. Ghallata is considered its name in ancient Sanskrit literature.Gilgit was an important city on the Silk Road, along which Buddhism was spread from South Asia to the rest of Asia. It is considered as a Buddhism corridor from which many Chinese monks came to Kashmir to learn and preach Buddhism.the flight between Islamabad and Gilgit is about 50 to 55 minutes during the flight you will see the breathtaking views of karakoram and himalaya range and the beautiful and mighty the killer mountain nanga parbat
    Overnight at Hotel.

    Day 3 Drive to Karimabad,

    We drive out from Gilgit to re-enter the town from the historic route, crossing a suspension bridge over river. At Kargah to visit the rock-carved Buddha from 7th century AD. In the ancient times the Kargah valley used to be the traveling route of the Buddhist monks, to go to Taxila. Stroll down the colorful Bazaars of Gilgit. The tour will continue to the beautiful, breathtaking Hunza Valley through a scenic route on our way we see the old Silk Route used by the Buddhist monks and traders. Enroute short stay at Rakaposhi (7,788m) viewpoint. Enter the Hunza valley and arrive at the capital Karimabad.
    Overnight at the Hotel. Breakfast only (2/3 hours, 110 km)

    Day 4Sightseeing Karimabad.

    Baltit fort, one of the high valleys between China and Indian subcontinent. Facing Rakaposhi Peak, one of the highest mountain peaks in the world, Baltit Fort is poised majestically above Karimabad, the present day capital of Hunza (Baltit was the capital of the old state of Hunza, and is now included in the Karimabad settlement area). Located on the rocky upper level of the Hunza hill and surrounded by Ultar Bar to the east, the Hyderabad Har to the west, Mount Ultar and its subsidiary range to the north, the Fort offers breathtaking views of the magnificent high mountains as well as a bird’s eye view of the villages in the valley. Baltit Fort has great historical, cultural and symbolic value to the local community. Historically, it was the seat of the Mirs of Hunza, a family that ruled the region for centuries. Culturally, with some buildings dating back to 12th century, it is a record of the architectural evolution of the area. The main building is an impressive stone structure with intricately detailed timber features. Its architecture is a significant example of Pakistan’s diverse heritage, reflecting distinct Tibetan influence as seen by the presence of a Tibetan ‘sky-light’ in the roof. Socially, the fort and the surrounding settlements are valuable symbols and reminders of man’s creativity and persistence in overcoming an unfavorable and hostile natural environment for the purpose of survival.
    Altit Fort: It has been built on a sheer rock-cliff that falls 300 meters (1000 feet) into the Hunza River, and is much older than the Baltit Fort. View of Altit fort, with the central town to the right and below the fort. The extreme gullies, sharp drop-off, and location high above the river made this settlement highly defensible and an older settlement than many in the central valley. The majestic historical Altit fort is center of attraction due to its architectural design and strategic location. Altit is the birthplace of the Hunza Kingdom and Altit fort is the first fort of the region. The fort has been constructed in six different stages by using various natural levels of the rock. The construction has been made right on the edge of a sheer rock cliff that drops 1000 feet straight down to the Hunza River. In the beginning it was built as a palace, soon after the addition of the watch tower a defensive architectural element it transformed to a fort. There is great possibility that different stages of the fort have been constructed during different times because the actual age of the fort is said to be more than 800 years. This fort is said to be around 50-100 years older than Baltit Fort.
    Overnight At Hotel in Hunza

    Day 5 Drive to Gilgit, Enroute visit Naltar

    On this day we say goodbye to hunza and drive back to gilgit. On the drive back from hunza we will visit naltar valley. Naltar the most beautiful and full of natural beauty The Naltar Mountains, north-west of Gilgit, have dozens of 5000m summits. Although not high by Karakoram standards, many are impressive. Naltar receives more rainfall than other areas in the Hunza Valley, and its alpine forests are a refreshing respite in the otherwise arid Karakoram. Naltar was a British hill station and has some military facilities, including a Pakistan Air Force winter survival school.
    Overnight at the Hotel. Breakfast only

    Day 6 Drive to Shandur,

    We are now on our journey to the Hindu Kush mountain range and Chitral. We enter the Ghizer valley after leaving the town of Gilgit behind us. This will take more than 5 hours of driving from gilgit to Phander.(164 km) where we stop for lunch.after finish our lunch and take some rest we continue our journey towards Gupis .We are now on our journey to the Hindu Kush mountain range and Chitral. We enter the Ghizer valley after leaving the town of Gilgit behind us. This will take more than 5 hours of driving from gilgit to Phander.(164 km) where we stop for lunch.after finish our lunch and take some rest we continue our journey towards Shandur.Shandur Pass is located between Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Ghizer District of Gilgit-Baltistan . It is often called the ‘Roof of the World’. The top is flat, a plateau and can be crossed between late April and early November. The grade is very gradual, and the area is crossed by plentiful small streams during summer. The boundary line between Chitral District and Ghizer District.
    During the annual ‘Shandur Polo Festival,’ which is organized Chitral Districts and Ministry of tourism Gilgit-Baltistan, there is a polo match being played on Shandur Top, between the teams of Chitral District and districts of Gilgit-Baltistan.
    The Shandur Pass is one of the major mountain passes between of Chitral District and Ghizer District of Gilgit Baltistan.
    Overnight in Hotel

    Day 7-8 Shandur polo festival,

    Shandur Polo Festival is one of the big festivals in Pakistan. This festival is held from the 7th to the 9th of July every year on Shandur Pass in Giza District of Gilgit Baltistan. The polo match is played between the teams of Chitral District and districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a freestyle game.
    The initiation of Polo in Shandur is credited to The balti raja of Skardu; Ali Sher Khan Anchan who built the polo ground of Shandur as well. Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament which since 1936 has been held annually in the first week of July between the local teams of Gilgit and Chitral. Organized and financed by the Tourism Corporation of NWFP, the tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival also includes Folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin.
    Various teams of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. During the early 20th century, the British in neighboring India were the patrons of the game.
    Free-styled mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur-Top has attained legendary status and is of great interest to international and domestic adventure tourists alike. There are no umpires and there are no holds barred. The rules are: There are no rules! In “The Roof of the World” Amin/Willets/Tetley write: “by comparison, an American Wild West rodeo might pass for choir practice.” As one player once mentioned: “You can ride head-on into the opponent, if you dare.”
    In order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival preliminary matches are played both in Chitral and Gilgit, in which the best horses and players are chosen for the final games by the local juries. The festival begins on the 7th of July . During the course of the tournament A, B, C and D teams of Chitral and Gilgit. battle it out on the polo field. Each team has six members with 2-4 reserve players in case of injury etc. The match duration is usually one hour. It is divided into two halves, with a 10 minutes interval. During intervals the locals enthrall the audiences with traditional and cultural performances. The game decided in favour of the team scoring more goals. The final is held on 9 July.
    The field measures about 200 meters by 56 meters (normal polo field is about 270m by 150m), with 60 cm high stone walls running the length of the field on both sides instead of boards. As six players make up one side, the field can get fairly crowded. This has the advantage of slightly slowing down the pace, which, all things considered, is probably somewhat safety-enhancing. Players rarely wear helmets, The horses’ legs often have no bandages, and mallets often have no grips or straps.
    So Mas Junali became a source of relation between the people of Chitral District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and neighbouring Gilgit-Baltistan. Many people from around the world come to watch polo match played between Chitral District and Ghizer District.
    Passion for polo will be the highest on the world’s highest Polo ground. Every year, Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitraland Gilgit from 7 to 9 July. The festival also includes folk music, folk dance, traditional sports and a camping village is set up on the pass.
    Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to the 6th century BC.

    Day 9 Drive to Mastuj,

    Leaving early morning we proceed to the Shandur Pass (3,734 m.). Here we will leave the Gilgit-baltistan behind and enter the Chitral valley in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. We are now in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The drive takes about 6 hours.

    Day 10 Drive to Kalash,

    These are a group of three small valleys: Brir, Bumburet and Rambur. Brir lies at the southern most tip of Chitral at a distance of 34 km (21 miles) and is easily accessible by jeep-able road via Ayun. It is especially ideal for those not used to trekking. Bumburet, the largest and the most picturesque valley of the Kafir Kalash, is 36 km.(22 miles) from Chitral and is connected by a jeep-able road. It is a unique experience to be with these pagan tribes and their ancient culture even in the third millennium! We will return to Chitral for overnight stay
    Overnight in Hotel

    Day 11 Sightseeing Kalash valley

    On this day will will visit rambur valley .Rambur is 32 km (20 miles) from Chitral, the road is jeep-able.
    These valleys have an alpine climate. The people inhabiting these valleys are the primitive pagan tribes of Pakistan, who are known as Kafir Kalash, which means the wearers of the black robes. Their origin is cloaked in controversy. A legend says that soldiers from the legions of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander, settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kalash.
    They live in small villages built on the hillsides near the banks of streams. Their houses are constructed of rough-hewn logs and are double storeyed because of the steepness of the slopes. Kalash are very lively people and are famous for their lively religious festivals namely: Chilimjusht (spring), Phool (September) and Chowas (from 21st December for a week). The Kalash love music and their instruments are drums and flutes. Their colorful dances impart a feeling of peace, joy and contentment. If you join them in their dance, they interpret it as a sign friendship and will open. their hearts to you and reveal some of their mysteries, their joys and sorrows.

    Overnight in Hotel

    Day 12 Drive to swat via lowari top

    Leaving Chitral valley we ascend the Lowari Pass (3,118 m.) with its many hairpin road bends. We descend the pass to enter Dir valley and proceed onwards to Swat. On the way we cross Churchill’s Picket. From here the young Churchill dispatched reports to England describing the Pathan uprising. Swat is filled with Buddhist history. It takes about 8 hours from Chitral town to Saidu Sharif in Swat.

    Overnight in Hotel

    Day 13 Drive to Islamabad Visit Takht Bhai en route

    In eight to nine hours of driving we are back in the capital of Pakistan. On the way we visit takht bhai some of the historical and old civilization site and also cross the River Indus at Attock. This is near where Alexander the Great crossed this mighty river also on his way to conquer this part of India
    Overnight in Hotel

    Day 14 Departure

    Transfer to airport for international departure flight

    Map
    Photos