• Shandur Polo Festival

Shandur Polo Festival

Shandur polo festival is a renowned festival that gives a fantastic cultural experience in the high peaks of the Hindukush range. In the northern areas of Pakistan, the tribes of Gilgit and Chitral celebrate the festival yearly. Every summer, people from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral connect at the Shandur Pass. This pass has a fantastic polo ground where different teams of the region participate in distinctive wild freestyle polo.

You will be amazed to know that Shandur polo ground is viewed to be the highest polo ground in the world, with an elevation of 3,700 meters. In addition to this, the polo ground is next to Shandur Lake, which will give you a fantastic experience of exploring nearby places and clicking some beautiful pictures.

Shandur Polo Festival 

In this article, you will find all the information about this beautiful cultural experience. Please go through the entire article to see every detail under relevant headings; it also includes Shandur Polo Festival history and Shandur Polo Festival dates for the year 2023.

History and Location 

Shandur festival is considered one of the fiercest and earliest polo festivals worldwide. The locals have celebrated this significant and historic event every year at the Shandur polo ground since 1936. This unique polo ground is located at Shandur Pass on the boundary between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Polo is a horse riding sport first played in Central Asia in the 6th century BC. This sport aimed to train people and duplicate a real-life fight.

Interestingly, in 1935, Evelyn Hey Cobb, UK Administrator for Northern Areas, requested Balti Raja of Skardu, Ali Sher Khan Anchan, and Nambardar of Chitral, Niat Qabool Hayat Kakakhel, to make polo ground in Shandur. Fortunately, this project was timely finished with the aid of the residents.

This beautiful polo ground was coined “Mas Junali.” The word “Mass Junali” comes from the Khowar language. “Mas” denotes the moon, and “Junali” refers to polo ground.

Kakakhail’s activeness and effective planning fascinated Cobb as he appreciated him for his untiring service. However, Kakakhail did not accept the reward for his resourcefulness. Instead, he requested Cobb to bring trout into the local streams that could benefit all the people. Cobb worked upon the request of Kakakhail and ordered trout from England to the Ghizer River.

Due to this idea by Kakakhail, the Directorate of Fisheries was made, which gave employment to hundreds of people. Today, the mass of those fish is 24 kgs in one lake, and in Baha Lake, it is 40 kgs. Due to this, Mas Junali became a meeting point for the people of the Chitral region and neighboring Gilgit Baltistan regions.

When is the Shandur Polo Festival Conducted?

The Chitral Polo festival is held mainly in July, though the provincial governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan organize the final dates.

While finalizing the dates of the unique Shandur Polo festival, the number of tourists and people’s interests are kept in mind. Every year these three days, the teams from Chitral and Gilgit play the Shandur Polo tournament in the Polo ground. Many people visit this place to witness this tournament, which is now a legendary game. Everyone, be it photographers, explorers, hikers, mountain bikers, or polo fanatics, flows to the famous polo ground to experience the fantastic nail-biting polo matches between the first-class teams of Gilgit and Chitral.

Where is the Shandur Polo Festival Located?

The amazingly significant Shandur Pass is at the height of approximately 3798 meters from sea level. It is located between Chitral and Gilgit. The distance to this place from Chitral is 155 km, and from Gilgit, it is approximately 235 km.

The beautiful Shandur Pass stays snow-covered in winter, thus looking spectacular, while in the summer season, it converts into green pastures that look even more stunning. In addition, Shandur Lake builds on the colors of the plateau surrounded by high peaks.

Shandur Polo Festival Highlights 

During the Shandur Polo Festival tour, you will see some great activities, for instance, freestyle polo, beautiful dancing, folk music, horse riding, paragliding, and traditional drum beating. This experience is going to stay fresh in your mind throughout your life. Following are some of the activities that this festival will offer you;

Participate and dance to the beats of native music, enjoy the tastiest Pakistani food, hear historical and cultural stories from the community members, and experience the unparalleled view of various peaks such as Tirich Mir (7,708m) in the Hindukush Range and some other high mountains in the Himalaya Range. Moreover, you can enjoy the view of Rivers, including the Kunar and Indus Rivers, tributaries, and the beautiful streams flowing in the region.

Then there are some beautiful passes for you to explore during your tour, such as the Malakand pass, Lowari Pass (3,118 m), or Lowari Tunnel (10.4 km), etc. All these sightseeing and activities are going to add to your trip and make it a memorable one for you.

Who Built the First Polo Pitch at Shandur?

Colonel Evelyn Hey Cobb was the founder of the first polo pitch at Shandur; he established it in 1930. At the same time, Sher Khan Anchan introduced freestyle polo in the Gilgit Baltistan region.

After conquering Chitral, he played the first game of polo in Shandur. He made his first gaming point in Shandur, known as Shandur polo ground.

Shandur Polo Festival 2023 

Shandur Polo Festival is one of the world’s most unique, most loved, and fierce polo festivals. Famous as the Chitral polo festival is distinct from all the other games played worldwide.

The height of this lordly polo ground is approximately 3,743 m above sea level. This polo ground is the center of attraction for all the visitors; they witness the different matches played. You will love to experience the games between the teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral in 2023.

These teams have been confronting each other for centuries, and it is always a pleasure to witness them playing. Moreover, in 2023, it will be no less than a magical moment to witness horse riding at a height found nowhere else. Moreover, there are other attractions for you to explore, such as Shandur Lake, Lengar Valley, etc. 

Festival Dates and Costs 

In 2023, the celebrations of the Shandur Polo festival will continue from the 8th to the 10th of July at the incredible Shandur Polo Ground Chitral district of Pakistan. The year’s final match will begin at 9:00 AM on the morning of the third day. The cost for the overall trip, including visits to some other nearby places and accommodation, etc., is around 95000-110000. But if you book prior, you can get a discounted package.

Tour Guide 

You can book with Apricot Tours; it works in Pakistan in all four seasons and is an experienced company that arranges tours to different places. You do not have to worry about your trip with them because they will put everything for you and guide you. Then there is Active Tour Pakistan, which can give you one of your best traveling experiences.

Moreover, Rehman Travelers is also a good option. Finally, Indy Guide is another organization that provides the best services.

Climatic Conditions

Shandur Polo Festival is held in July, which is the summer season. Hence, the weather can reach 25 to 35 degrees during the day, while it is excellent at night. Therefore, you can plan your trip in air-conditioned vehicles to make it even more comfortable.

Altitude

Shandur Polo ground is approximately 3,743 meters above sea level, thus making it a unique sports point and tourist attraction.

Booking Details 

It depends on you which organization you want to plan your trip with. Some of the best ones are Apricot Tours, Trango Adventures, Indy Guide, Holidays Tourism, Pakistan Tours Guide, and Active Tours Pakistan. Some of these organizations have a policy of 10% payment at the time of booking and the rest of the amount at the beginning of the trip. In addition, they give you transport, one-time food, accommodation, and many other facilities.

You need to go through each organization to finalize your trip and see which package suits your budget and preferences. 

Flight Details

You can travel via PIA flight from Islamabad to Chitral and back to Islamabad from Chitral. For instance, Trango Adventures provides air travel from Islamabad to Chitral. It is a ten days trip; on day 2, you fly to Chitral from Islamabad.

Tour Information 

You have to book online and pay the required advance payment online too. An affordable tent is set up in the village for tourists during the festival. Moreover, you will find various restaurants, local shops, and other such facilities. If you go with the Pakistan Tours guide, they have set up a hotel with the most comfortable accommodation.

It depends on if you want to go with a private organization or on your own. However, it’s better and safer to go with a private organization because it makes your trip much more comfortable since they sort out all your queries. Then, all you have to do is pay, sit back and enjoy.

FAQs

Which teams compete in the Shandur Polo Festival?

Gilgit and Chitral’s finest teams compete in the Shandur Polo Festival. 

Why is the Shandur Polo Festival famous? 

Shandur Polo Festival takes place on Shandur Polo ground, located on the highest point and is usually called the ‘Roof of the World.’ Here unique polo tournaments have been held for centuries between teams from Gilgit and Chitral. Since nowhere in the world is such a game played, it makes it unique and significant.

What are the attractions for visitors to the Shandur Polo Festival?

There are some incredible attractions for the visitors of the Shandur Polo festival, such as Chitral Valley, Kalash Valley, Shandur Lake, Phandar Valley, breathtaking passes, some of the high peaks, Gilgit Baltistan, and Karakoram Highway.

Conclusion 

Shandur Polo festival will give you so much to explore and cherish. For instance, you can enjoy the fantastic tournament and Pakistani cuisine, take stunning pictures, and enjoy the view, dance, music, and drum beats. Also, you can interact with the locals, get an insight into their culture, and marvel at the surrounding view. There is no other such festival in the world; it is unique and a must-visit.