Shandur Polo Festival (July 7, 8, 9)
Shandur Top (el. 12,200 feet (3,700 m)) located in District Ghizer of Gilgit-Baltistan: Shandur-Top in Ghizer is often called the ‘Roof of the World’ where the Hindukush in Gilgit-Baltistan, between Afghanistan and Gilgit- Baltistan and Karakorum mountainous ranges of Gilgit-Baltistan meet. 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 small streams of trout. Grazing in summer is plentiful.
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.
Day-01: Arrive at Islamabad airport transfer to hotel, afternoon sightseeing of Islamabad & Rawalpindi.
Islamabad is new capital and well-planned city of Pakistan is lush green at the footsteps of Potwar hills. Visit one of the biggest Shah Faisal mosques in the world; also an interesting round trip combines a tour of Shakespearian Park with a visit to Lok versa, the institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage.
Rawalpindi is a lively, bustling city with the crowded streets and colorful bazaars, thorough it lacks the grand monuments; nonetheless, the bazaar should appeal to anyone with the desire to see the real Pakistan.
Day-02: Drive to Chilas on Karakorum highway 11-12hrs 461km.
The Karakoram Highway, also known as the Friendship Highway in China, was built by the governments of Pakistan and China, it was started in 1959 and was completed in 1979 (open to the public since 1986) about 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway. The route of the KKH traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road.
Day-03: Drive to Karimabad along with Hunza River 6-7hrs 240km.
The Hunza Valley is a mountainous valley, situated north/west of the Hunza River, at an elevation of around 2,500 metres. The territory of Hunza is about 7,900 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi). Aliabad is the main town, while Baltit and Altit are popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains.
The people are cheerful, friendly, fair-skinned and blue or green eyes. Almost all speak Brushaski and in upper Hunza they speak Wakhi. The miracle of the Hunzakuts longevity, supposedly resulting from their mostly vegetarian diet of cereals and fruits From Hunza Valley. Panoramic views of Rakaposhi 7788m, Diran Peak 7266m, Spantik Peak 7027m,Ultar 7388 Lady Finger 6000m.
Day-04: Karimabad- Altit village- Duiker valley
Morning visit Baltit Fort 700 Year old, and Baltit Bazaar, afternoon visit Alit Fort 900 Year old. Afternoon drive to Duiker vally:
Duiker valley called Roof of the world; from the top you have very close scenic view of Lady Finger (6000m) Ultar SAR 7300m, and very nice view of Rakaposhi 7788m, Diran Peak 7200m, Golden Peak 7027m, and Dastagil SAR.
Day-05: Karimabad- Gilgit: Dive to Giligt 3-4hrs 110km, afternoon visit Gilgit Town and Kargha Buddha.
Gilgit is the capital of Gigit-Baltistan province is a thriving frontier town that has expanded rapidly to include about 35,000 inhabitants since the KKH was opened in 1878. The various waves of invaders that passed through lower Pakistan also reached Gilgit. The animism of the early inhabitants gave way to fire worship brought in from Iran.
Later the Aryan invaders introduced an incipient from of Hinduism from the first century BC Gilgit, like Kashgar, was an important staging post on the silk Route from China. The Kargha Buddha was carved in the 7th century. A monastery and three Stupas about 400m near Buddha were excavated in1931 and written in Sanskrit.
Day-06: Shandur Pass: Drive to Shandur Pass 215km, overnight in tent
Shandur Top (3,700 m) located in District Ghizer of Gilgit-Baltistan. Shandur-Top in Ghizer is often called the ‘Roof of the World’ where the Hindukush in Gilgit-Baltistan, between Afghanistan and Gilgit- Baltistan and Karakorum mountainous ranges of Gilgit-Baltistan meet. 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 small streams of trout. Grazing in summer is plentiful.
Every year there is a polo match played on Shandur Top between the home teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and guest teams from Chitral. Shandur Pass is one of the major mountain passes of Gilgit-Baltistan; the people who live on both sides of Shandur Top speak the Khowar language.
Day- 7/8/9 (Shandur Pass): Polo matches
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-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.
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.
In order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival preliminary matches are played both in Gilgit and Chitral 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 with a polo match between the local teams of Ghizer Gilgit-Baltistan with the guest teams coming from Chitral (KPK). During the course of the tournament A, B, C and D teams of Gilgit and Chitral 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 favor of the team scoring nine goals. The final is held on 9 July.
Day-10: Shandur- Chitral: Drive to Chitral 147km:
Chitral town is surprisingly large; it is population having swelled by Afghan refugees from across the border. Visit Chitral fort and 100 years old Shahi mosque surrounded by clusters of enormous chinars trees. The impressive fort is the ancestral home of the mehtars of Chitral (The ex ruling family).
Day-11/12 Kalash valleys: Visit Kalash valleys, Birir, Bumburet and Rumbur.
Chitral prime attraction is the Kalash valleys, home of 3000 non-Muslim Kafir Kalash (or black infidels) who live in 20 small villages in the valleys of Birir, Bumburet and Rumbur. The Kafir Kalash still follow their own religion, a mixture of animism and ancestor-and fire-worship, and have retained some of their original culture. They make offerings to several gods: sajigor, the highest deity, is in charge of everything: Surisan protects the cattle, Goshedoi milk products, and praba fruit. Most of the Kalash are pale skinned, and some of them even have fair hair and blue eyes, all of which give rise to the usual legend that they are descended from the followers of Alexander the great.
Day-13: Chitral- Swat: Fly to Islamabad (flight is subject to weather) In case of cancellation drive to Swat.
Day-14: Visit Taxila museum and archaeological site: Taxila: Most of the archaeological sites of Taxila (600 BC to 500 AD) are located around Taxila museum. For over one thousands year Taxila remained famous as a centre of learning Gandhara art of sculpture, architecture, education and Buddhism in the days of Buddhist glory. There are over 50 archaeological sites scattered in a radius of 30 km around Taxila. In Taxila visit archaeological sites of Jaulian, Mohra Moradu and Sirkap. Later visit.
Taxila museum: A museum comprising various sections with rich archaeological finds of Taxila. It is one of the best and well maintained site museums of Pakistan.
Day-15: Fly Back: Transfer to Islamabad airport for International flight