The Horse Polo of these Northern Areas are famous throughout Pakistan. The ball is hit around at amazing speeds and the horses do well to keep up with the ball. The spectators also have to be brave and sit above a low wall to which the ball hits and rebounds into play. The music also dictates the game. The famous polo teams are Gilgit and Chitral and every year a tournament is held at the Shandur Pass which connects Chitral and Gilgit and hundreds of people come to watch the games. You can also learn polo with a trained guide here.
Shandur Polo Tournament at the highest polo ground on Earth:
The most exciting polo tournament of the entire Northern Pakistan, is played on top of Shandur Pass, around 3,700 meters above sea level. It is a place unique and exotic in itself, surrounded by some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. The event marks the annual rivalry between the polo teams of Gilgit and Chitral. The Polo tournament has some added attractions for the visitors; trout fishing at the nearby streams and lakes and a festival of folk dances and music of the Northern Pakistan.
The highlight of the festival is the final match between the Gilgit and Chitral teams. The final provides a most colorful spectacle. Supporters of both sides travel long distances from the remote parts of Chitral and Gilgit, to watch the thrilling game. The event, as such, offers a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the people of this region. Their culture and indigenous customs are a delight to behold for the visitors.
The Shandur Pass lies almost midway between Chitral and Gilgit on a jeep road, travelling on which, is adventurous, to say the least. The distance from either side is 170 kms. One can get to Chitral or Gilgit by Pakistan International's daily F27 Fokker planes form Peshawar and Islamabad. There are daily two flights from both destinations, subject to good weather. Visitors planning to go by air must expect adjustment of minimum 02 days in their itineraries just in case the weather.
Equipment: Equipment is available at the respective locations.
A tourist tent village with restaurant facilities is sprung up during the tournament. Merchants from Peshawar, Chitral and Gilgit set up souvenir and folk craft shops. The tournament offers visitors and opportunity to mix with the locals.
For visitors to Shandur, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has set up its new motels with all facilities like, attached toilet/bathroom, hot/cold water, restaurant etc, at Panah Kot (Dir), Chitral, Bamburet (Kalash Valley), Besham (KKH), Barseen (KKH) and Gilgit, besides some private hotels. On the Pass, a tent village with all facilities is set up.It is advisable to be there one day in advance to enjoy all the offerings of the festival. Activities at Shandur includes dance and music performances by different groups, trout fishing, mountaineering, trekking, hiking and of course, horse riding. Crystal clear lakes, snow covered mountains, alpine flowers and vast stretches of green grass, are added attractions.