Snowland
Shandur Polo

Shandur Polo Festival

Key Destinations

Islamabad-Taxi la- Karakoram Highway-GIlgit- Phander
Shandur- Chitral
Tour Summary

Daily Travelling: 4-6 hours

Max Altitude: 3,719m/12,200 ft

Duration:12 Days/11Nights

Festival Activities: 4 Days

Festival Tour Highlights

  • Traditional dancing & singing and sitar music
  • Para Gliding
  • Rafting in the Shandur Lake
  • Wild mountain polo , horse races and at times Buz Kashi
  • Traditional tug of war
  • Traditional handicrafts on display. 

Shandur Polo Festival Tour

The remote wind-swept amphitheater of the Shandur Pass, located on the lofty border between Gilgit and Chitral, comes to life once a year as the dramatic venue of the Shandur Polo Festival held during the first week of July. At 3719m, this is the world’s highest polo field, set in a magnificent landscape of rolling pastures, crystalline azure lakes & Hindu-Raj Mountains; it is just the setting for the clash of the local polo titans, Chitral and Gilgit. This contest is considered the toughest polo tournament in the world – with fraying tempers and passions running high, the strain of the high altitude and the ferocity of the game create a drama in which horses die and players invariably suffer grievous injuries. Yet despite the hazards, the polo tradition continues unabated.

Historically the game goes back many centuries when the local Mehtars , Mirs and Rajas were patrons of polo and it was played, not only for pleasure, but for celebratory and commemorative occasions. The Mehtar of Chitral would send a message to his relatives the Rajas of Ghizar , Yasin and Ishkuman and word would travel far down the valleys to Punial Gilgit and Chilas where the challenge would be taken up. But despite being dubbed ‘the game of kings’, in the Northern Areas, it is not an elitist sport, often played in village square on sorry nags or even on bicycles. “It is the local obsession along with music & dancing on Shandur. In recent years, the event has become something of a legend – the dramatic landscape, the local colour, the presence of international celebrities but above all the passion with which the game is played by the age-old rivals, make the Shandur Polo Festival an unforgettable occasion. A large tented village and bazaar is set up with thousands of people camping out.

POLO-Background

Polo is an equestrian sport with its origin embedded in Central Asia dating back to 6th century BC. At first it was a training game for cavalry units for the King’s guards or other elite troops. To the war like tribesmen who played polo with as many as 100 players to a side, it was a miniature battle. It became a Persian national game in the 6th century AD. From Persia, the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet, China and Japan. In China, in the year 910, death of a favorite relative in a game prompted Emperor Apao-Chi to order beheading of all players!

Polo was introduced in South Asia, by the Muslim conquerors in the 13th century. English word ‘Polo” is a Balti word meaning, ‘ball’. Now a days, there are six players to a side, but this is by no means a rule in local polo games. There was no limit to the number of players and no time limit. Whichever team scored nine goals first, was the winner. The present game with a team of six players in a side, lasts one hour with a ten minute break.

Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, local Rajas, Mirs and Mehtars were the patrons of the game. At times, more than 50% of the annual budget of their principalities would be spent on supporting thegame.

 

Shandur Polo Tournament:

The first time a polo tournament took place at the Shandur Pass, was in 1936. A British Political Agent, Major Cobb, who was fond of playing polo under a full moon, had the polo ground near Shandur, named. ‘Moony Polo Ground’.

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.

Holiday Itinerary

Day

1

Arrive Islamabad
We arrive in Islamabad in the early hours of the morning. Islamabad is a modern sprawling metropolis which merges imperceptibly into its more ancient twin city of Rawalpindi. The Grand Trunk Road runs through ‘Pindi, as it is universally known, and Rudyard Kipling was stationed here briefly in 1885 on his first posting to British India as it then was. We stay at the comfortable Shalimar Hotel in the Cantonment area of the city. The nearby Rajah Bazaar makes for a fascinating and eye-opening sightseeing trip.

Day

2

Drive to Gilgit
En route stop at Shatial Rock Carving, Nanga Parbat View Point and Junction Point of Three great Mountain Ranges in the world (Himalaya, Kakorum & Hindukush). O/N stay in hotel.

Day

3

Drive to Phandar
Afternoon trout fishing at Phandar lake. O/N stay at hotel.

Day

4

Drive to Shandur

Day

5

Festival
Today is the opening ceremony of world’s wild polo between the teams of Chitral & Gilgit. O/N stay in hotel.

Day

6

Festival

Day

7

Festival

Day

8

Festival

Day

9

Drive back to Gilgit.

Day

10

Fly or Drive to Islamabad from Gilgit

Day

11

Contingency Day

Day

12

Fly Back to Home

Departure Trip Dates Islamabad Islamabad Availability
2016
1 Departure 03 Jul - 14 Jul 03-Jul-2016 14-Jul-2016 Spaces Book Now
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