Shandur Festival

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 3734m, 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 creates 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.

Each year the following events are scheduled.


When Chitral State joined Pakistan in 1955 polo started dying down as jeep roads reached far corners of the state & horse as means of transportation was less used . Our organization Hindukush Trails took up the patronage of the local teams in 1985, whereby we started bringing horses & teams from far away places like Karachi to encourage the locals . Since then , off and on we have sponsored Shandur Festival event for a number of years and created a worldwide interest for the festival . BBC, Gillette World Sports, National geographic, French TV 2, Lonely Planet and PIA have covered Hindukush Trails organizing Shandur Polo festival. Similarly in 1994 we organized the polo festival for sponsors Coca Cola . In 1997 we organized the event for sponsors Lever Brothers . President Lever Brothers United Kingdom and his guests flew all the way from England to inaugurate the event. In 2005 we made arrangements for the famous actor Michael Palin whose fame in films like ‘Monty Python’ ‘Fish called Wanda’ and ‘Sahara’ brought 9 million viewers. His film for BBC travel titled “ Himalayas with Michael Palin” was released in London highlighting Shandur festival bringing Pakistan back on the tourist map.


Hindukush Trails is the only firm which has its own private camping meadows located at 3834m beside a mountain stream overlooking the lake at a scenic spot far away from the hustle and bustle which suddenly becomes part of life at Shandur during the polo festival.

When ever we mobilize an activity at Shandur our camp is most sought after. Here the polo players come to relax after the matches and local music , dance carries on besides the campfire late into the nights. While in the surroundings of our camp away from the noise of the crowds Yaks, horses and goats roam freely and un escorted on the gentle grassy slopes and drink from the stream running through the camp.


In 1994 when IUCN ( International Union for Conservation of Nature ) was not functional in northern Pakistan we were instrumental in bringing them to Chitral to highlight the environment campaign for Shandur. Months in advance of the festival we held seminars and workshops in local schools, colleges and amongst the village communities to create an awareness for the fragile mountain environment. During and after the festival clean up campaigns were successfully carried out. Periodically we raise this issue for a healthy and clean environment for the region and to promote Shandur in such a way to make it sustainable.

We organize package tours to all festivals in different regions of Pakistan.