News Desk |
Shandur festival is held, from the 7th to the 9th of July, every year at Shandur Pass in Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since 1936. Teams from Chitral and Gilgit compete in preliminary matches in their hometowns and the finalists contend in the festival every year, as chosen by the local juries.
Shandur is the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 metres. Located adjacent to the breathtaking Shandur Lake, the foundation of the ground was laid down by the Balti Raja of Skardu, Ali Sher Khan Anchan, who used to play Polo in the area when Chitral was part of the Maqpoun Empire.
Later, in 1935, the British decided to build a well-constructed polo ground in Shandur and appointed Balochistan politician, Niat Qabool Hayat Kakakhel, for the job. In reward for his service, Kakahel asked the British officials to import trout to stock the local streams. This gave rise to employment of hundreds of people in the local fisheries and heavy pools of trout fish attract anglers to this day.
This year, Minister of tourism Gilgit-Baltistan, Fida Khan, announced that teams from Afghanistan and Tajikistan would also be invited to the annual Shandur polo festival, to celebrate it as an international event.
The festival attracts international visitors every year, especially polo-enthusiasts. The Shandur Pass lies almost midway between Chitral and Gilgit on a jeep road, travelling on which is adventurous, to say the least. Access to Chitral, by road, is either from Peshawar or from Islamabad, which takes about 11 hours for a direct ride. Subject to good weather, there are daily two flights, through PIA, from Peshawar and Islamabad to Chitral and Gilgit. Travel agents advise attendees travelling via air to reach two to three days prior to the event to keep room for untimely weather changes and fully enjoy the experience.
Besides some private hotels, for visitors to Shandur, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has set up its new motels with several facilities, at Panah Kot (Dir), Chitral, Bamburet (Kalash Valley), Besham, Barseen, and Gilgit. A tourist tent village, with restaurant facilities, is also sprung up during the tournament.
Activities at Shandur include dance and music performances by different groups, trout fishing, mountaineering, trekking and of course, horse riding. Furthermore, more attractions added by Crystal clear lakes, snow covered mountains, alpine flowers and vast stretches of green grass.
Read more: The Game of Kings at Shandur
This year, Minister of tourism Gilgit-Baltistan, Fida Khan, announced that teams from Afghanistan and Tajikistan would also be invited to the annual Shandur polo festival, to celebrate it as an international event. This would be a phenomenal step for a global outreach of the tourism industry of Pakistan, giving it a great chance to build an international image.