The Chitral Valley is located high in the Hindukush mountains. The district is bounded on the north, sought and west by Afghanistan, separated from Uzbekistan by a narrow strip of Wakhan (a province of Afghanistan), and from China by the Hunza area. The town of Dir is situated in its southwest at an elevation of 1524 meters.
|Chitral Valley Chitral District KPK Province of Pakistan|
Pleasant summer and extremely cold winter. Spring weather is unpredictable with frequent rain and snowfall, while autumn has mild, pleasant temperatures.
The majority of the people are Muslim with the exception of the Kalash who number about 2500 to 3000. They inhabit the Birir, Bumburest and Rambur valleys in the south of Chitral, and have their own distinct life-style and culture.
The Kalash are extremely found of music, and the instruments commonly used are drums and flutes. They love to dance and consider it a sign of friendship if others join in. They are famous for their lively religious festivals: Chilimjust, Utchal, Phool and Chowas.
|Peoples of Chitral District KPK Province of Pakistan|
Chilimjust or Joshi -14th and 15th May: –
This festival is held in spring when the girls pick the first flowers. The days are marked by dancing, and the people visit each other and exchange milk, milk products and flowers.
Utchal – mid July
Two days of celebration mark the harvest of wheat and barley. There is much singing, dancing and feasting.
Phool -20 th to 25 th September
This festival celebrates the reaping of the grape and walnut harvests.
Chowas 18 th to 21 st December
This is the winter festival celebrated to welcome the New Year. The people remains indoors, feasting and drinking unit the elders, who sit on hill-tops to watch the sun reach its orbit, declare the arrival of the New Year. Everyone then lights the torches and performs the commemorative dance, and goat sacrifice is carried out.
Chitral town likes by the Chitral River at an elevation of 1518 meters (4980 feet). It contains the Shahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) against a backdrop of the Trichmir Peak (7690 meters/25, 264 feet). The ex-ruler’s Fort and the Khowar houses of the Chitralis are sights worth seeing. The bazaar offers a fascinating array of handicrafts and there are many polo tournaments from April to July and September to October.
Garam Chashma (Hot Springs): –
Distance: 45 kms (28 miles) north-west of Chitral 3 hours by jeep
This valley contains much scenic beauty, with archards, fields and snow-clad peaks. The most interesting features however, are its boiling sulphur springs, famous for their healing effects in skin diseases, gout, rheumatism and chronic headaches. ‘Hammams’ (baths) have been constructed near the springs for the convenience of the tourists.
It lies at the Sothern-most tip of Chitral at a distance of 34 km (21 miles) and is easily accessible via Ayun. It is ideal for those not used to trekking.
It is 36 kms (22 miles) from chitral and is the largest and most attractive of the Kalash Valleys.
It is located 32 km (20 miles) from Chitral.
The climate of this valley is alpine. The people live in small villages built on hill-sides, near streams, in houses made of rough-hewn logs. To accommodate the steepness of the slopes, the houses are usually double-storeyed.
The inhabitants of the area are known as the Kafir Kalash, meaning “Warers of the Black Robes’. They are primitive pagan tribes whose origins are uncertain. It is said that when Alexander of Greece passed through this region in 327 B.C., some of the soldiers from his army settled here and are the progenitors of the Kalash.
The Kalash men distinguish themselves from the non-Kalash by wearing Chitrali woolen hats to which they add feathers. The traditional dress is reserved for festivals and is of course home-spun cotton or wool in grey, brown, green or blue. They wear long woolen belts and their shoes are often of goat skin laced with woolen or leather thons.
The women wear black gowns made out of home-spun cotton in summer and wool in winter. They wear especially interesting headgear made out of black woolen material encrusted with cowrie shells, buttons, and crowned with a large colored feather. This weighs between three and four pounds.
There are many opportunities for hiking and tracking however there is always the option of going by jeep.
Although there are no regular camping sites, locals allow foreigners to camp on their land or lawns for short periods of time. Tourists are requested to get the owner’s permission before camping.
The rivers of Chitral provide many opportunities for fishing especially the Lothkush river, which is famous for its trout. Trout hatcheries are found in Chitral and Bumburet. Angling is only allowed from April to September, and fishing permits are required. The Fisheries Department, Chitral, may be contacted for this purpose.
Other than the previously mentioned Kalash festivals, there is Nauroze (21st March), which is celebrated in Lotkuh, Mastuj and Turikho-Mulikho by the followers of His Highness Prince Karim Agha Khan, and the Chitral Festival. The date for this festival is fixed every year, and there are polo matched, equestrian sports, wrestling, tug-of-war, colorful folk dances and music by the Kalash, and a exhibition of local handicrafts.
PIA operates daily flights (subject to weather) between Peshwar and Chitral. The flyging times is 50 minutes.
It takes 12 hours, by jeep, to reach Chitral from Peshawar by the 365-Kms long, partly metalled, partly gravel-topped road. It goes via Malakand, Dir and the 3118 metre-high Lowari Pass, which is open only during the summer months, i.e. from june to the end of October, or may close earlier in case of snowfall.
Chitral can be reached from Gilgit in 27 hours by jeep, via the Shandur Pass (3810m), by a 406 –kms track. An alternative route is the 200-kms track from Swat. Permits are required by foreigners from the Deputy Commissioner, Chitral (Tel:1), for the road journey.
There are many private jeepts, cabs and minibuses travelling to and from Dir and Peshwar.
Chitral is famous for its soft, hand-women woolen material known as ‘shu’, which is available in black, white, and neutral colors. It also offers intricately embroidered woolen grown known as ‘chughas’, colorful woolen rugs, embroidered household linen, bags, belts, watch straps, shirt collars and sleeves, shoes and sandals, musical instruments such as sitars, antique weapons, string-bows and precious gems.
The Kalash Valleys also offers hand-crafted wooden chairs with leather seats, baskets, and wooden effigies of men on horseback. The Kalash tribal garments and headgear are also available for sale.
What Not to Do
Do not Photograph bridges and military installations,
Do not swim in the rivers
Do not Travel without your passport and other travel documents in the Northern Areas.
Do not Photograph local women without his permission
Do not Drive on mountain roads at night.