Shandur Polo Festival is the world’s biggest event and welcomes Polo lovers from all across the globe. Every year, the beautiful and mesmerizing peaks of Chitral and Gilgit witness this festival during the second week of July. The festival brings players, polo lovers, and dignitaries from all over the world to witness this ‘No-Rule’ polo game atop the gorgeous mountains that Pakistan has to offer.
As the festival is fast approaching, all those who want to get the beauty of Pakistan while simultaneously enjoying this amazing sport, we have prepared this little guide for you. We know the tourism infrastructure of Pakistan might not be the most suitable and for those who do not want to travel via a tourist, the agency will find it a little difficult to understand how to arrange everything. This is why we have prepared a comprehensive guide for you to understand everything about the Shandur Polo Festival 2020.
The Shandur Polo Festival Details
The Shandur Polo Festival normally begins by the 7th of July during the second week every year. It is held at the highest Polo ground at Shandur Pass at the altitude of 3720 meters. Other than just the tournament, the visitors get to enjoy cultural dancing, camping, and folk music.
During the entire tournament, A, B, C, and D team of Chitral and Gilgit battle out through polo in the field. The match usually lasts from around one hour with two halves and a 10-minute break in between. During the break, you get to witness the local performances which give you a peek of how locals enjoy their spare time.
The 9th of July is the final day of the tournament when the final decision of the winning champion has to be made.
How To Reach?
Here comes the burning question. Reaching the festival point might not be the easiest of the traveling you will ever do, so make sure you are fully equipped to know how to reach. The Shandur Pass, the destination of the festival, is midway between Gilgit and Chitral on a jeep road. To say the least, this road is adventurous and you will have a good time navigating around. You can get to Gilgit or Chitral by air from Islamabad or Peshawar. If you are from any other city, you will have to reach Islamabad first before taking the second flight. During the festival time, there are two daily flights, subjective to the weather. Those who want to reach the destination by air should make sure that they reach at least 2 days before the festival begins so they can be sure if the weather tends to get erratic.
On the other hand, those who want to travel by road should reach Islamabad or Peshawar from their respective cities. Both Peshawar and Islamabad’s route join together in the lower Swat Valley near Chakdara. You can take your car or better, hire a specialized driver to take you. From there, you go via Dir over 3200 meters high Lowari Pass on to Chitral. It will take 11 hours to reach without any interruption, however, we advise you to take a break at Dir before beginning the second leg of the journey. Once you reach Dir via any mode of transport, you will have to shift to 4X4 jeeps for the journey onward to Chitral and Shandur onward. If you want to enjoy a little, you can also stay overnight at Mastuj from Gilgit side. However, just following this will help you reach the festival point without any problem.
Where To Stay?
The accommodation might sound like a big problem, but it is not. During the festival days, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), set up motels with all the facilities including hot/cold water, restaurants, attached bathrooms, etc at Chitral, Bamburet, Bardeen, Gilgit, Panah Kot. You will have to stay at either of these locations and take a jeep or horse ride up the peak when you want to go to the festival. You can book a room through PTDC. Otherwise, many popular private hotels are also available at the aforementioned locations. Moreover, on the Shandur Pass, a tent village with all the required facilities and basic amenities is also set up. It is a tourist tent village with merchants from Gilgit, Peshawar, and Chitral who set up their souvenir and folk craft shops.
We advise you to go at least one day before the festival begins, so you can enjoy all the offerings. Some other activities include dance and music performance at Shandur by different local and folk groups, mountaineering, hiking, trekking, trout fishing, and horse riding.
You can spend the spare time witnessing crystal clear lakes, alpine flowers, snow-covered mountains, and adjacent valleys to get the best of what Pakistan has to offer.