CHITRAL: Shandur polo festival is held in the first week of July every year in Upper Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Shandur ground is located at a height of 3,734 metres (about 12,000 feet) in Chitral side of Shandur Pass. This pass links Upper Chitral and Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan.
You can reach the venue of the festival from both Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral side.
The distance from Islamabad to Shandur via KP through Lowari Tunnel is 577 kilometers. The distance from Islamabad to Gilgit city is about 512 km and from Gilgit city Shandur is located at a distance of 232 km.
Distance from Chitral town to Shandur is about 158 km. The road from Chitral town to Booni (72 km) is single-lane and surfaced. From Booni it is a dirt and bumpy track passing through a number of villages.
But there are no hotels and restaurants near the venue of the Shandur festival. Visitors set up their tents around the ground. Besides polo matches between Chitral and Gilgit-Baltsiatn, cultural shows and stalls of locally made items are also set up at Shandur.
The first time a polo tournament took place at the Shandur Pass was in 1936. 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 mountains.
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 game. As such, the event offers a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the local people.
Their culture and indigenous customs of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan are a delight to behold for the visitors.