Tucked into Pakistan’s North West corner Chitral is remote isolated and completely surrounded by mountains. The Kafiristan range to the west and the Hindu Kush range to the north separate if from Afghanistan. To the east and south the Shandur and Hindu raj ranges separate Chitral from the rest of Pakistan Chitral’s wild Alpine country narrow forested valleys ancient cultures and hospitable inhabitants impart a unique and charming character. Above its cultivated valleys tower snow-capped peaks and from vantage points Throughout Chitral, Trick Mir (7706m), the Hindukush’s highest peak is visible. The Hindukush has 38 summits above 7000m including Noshaq (7492m), Istor-o-Nal (7403m) and Saragharar (7349m). Draped on the flanks of the peaks a multitude of large glaciers disgorge torrents that all flow eventually into the Chitral river. From its densely forested southern valleys to its arid and open northern high lands Chitral perhaps because of its isolation remains a trekker’s delight.
Famous Treks in Chitral
Chitral has been populated for more than 3000 years under the Persian Empire in the 5th and 4th centuries BC the Zoroastrian religion was widespread. Later under the Kasha empire Buddhism took root and spread Chitral’s action south of the passes linking china to the west made it an important state along the silk route. By the 6th Century china Han dynasty had extended its Control to Chitral. In the 8th century the Tibetans displaced the Chinese but in the 9th century Arab armies defeated Chitral’s Buddhist ruler. In the 11th century the Kalasha moved into southern Chitral ruling up to the present day town of Reshun. Upper Chitral was ruled by Kho kings whose power extended to Gilgit. The Chagatai khan rulers of Kashgar extended their Supremacy over Chitral and Yasin in the 16th century and Islam began to take hold. In the 17th century Chital was invaded from neighboring Chitral Mulkho and Turikho going to the former and Matsu Yarkhun yasin Ghizar and Iskhoman going to the family. The Katter ruler became the Dominant power known by the title of Mehtar. This arrangement Continued into the 19th century when the British anxious about Russian advances towards the borders of their Indian empire learned that Mehtar Aman -UL- mulk had Approached the Maharaja of Kashmir about a possible treaty to counteract afghan pressure on Chitral. They advised the Maharaja to accept and suggested the basis of an alliance to him. This culminated in the Kashmir Chitral treaty of 1879. Aman-UL- mulk received an annual subsidy and protection from afghan Aggression. Kashmir received his allegiance and Attribute opposed to the British and Kashmir alliances fled across the border of Afghanistan. In 1982 Aman died and a body succession fight ensued. Amman’s second son Afzal seized the throne and Nazism the eldest fled to Gilgit Afghanistan and murdered his nephew sheer Afzal out of Chitral but was then murdered by his own younger brother Amir-UL- mulk who was allied with the afghan ruler of dir. State Umar khan was Strongly anti-British and the exiled sheer Afzal joined forces with him to throw the British out of Chitral. A small British force under the command of George Robertson occupied the Mehta’s fort in Chitral where it was besieged by the Chitral partisans. The rived from Peshawar and Gilgit the Siege of Chitral as it Became Known captured the British management as a heroic exploit on the wild afghan Frontier. George Robertson was knighted sheer Afzal and Amir-UL -mulk were imprisoned and eventually died in south India and Umar khan fled to Afghanistan. The British placed year old son of Aman-UL- mulk on the throne but only gave him Chitral Mulkho and Turikho to rule. Matsu Yasin and Ghizar were separated from Chitral and ruled by British appointed governors. In 1914 reincorporated into Chitral and the state’s present borders were settled. Chitral’s trades shifted from a central Asian focus to an Indian orientation under British influence one third of all exports were opium with a personal salute of 11 guns and substantial subsidy. Shuja ruled until and brought Chitral up to Pakistan in 1947 Saumur remain. Son died in a plane crash in lower pass in 1954a and his son Safi-UL-mulk Nasir then five years old became Mehtar. In 1969 Chitral was administratively merged with the rest of Pakistan bringing an end to the centuries of princely rule. The large family of princes remains in fluently and active in Chitral’s affairs.
Once the capital of a princely state Chitral is now the Administrative seat for NWFP’s Chitral district. Along the Chitral River it has long been a trade Centre. Although trade with Afghanistan has largely halted the occasional mule load of lapis lazuli from the Badakshan mines still makes its way through Chitral to Peshawar markets. Afghans including refuges and Taliban partisans of Afghanistan’s ongoing civil war are now a fixture of the bazaar. Tirich Mir’s snowy summit provides a dramatic backdrop to the town and surrounding wooded hills
Places to stay and eat
Most hotels need advance notice to prepare food. Near PIA chowk and Ateliq bridge Afghans run teashops and tandoor ovens that offer fresh hot bread at meal times. In late summer nearly Invisible sandflies area nuisance cover your arms and ankles when sitting outside in the evening. Mid-range and top end hotels have not running water in attached bathrooms.
Supplies and equipment
It’s difficult if not possible to buy enough food here to outfit a trek so bring it with you. Little is Available in villages’ shops in Shahi bazaar and Naya bazaar sell stoves shoes barrels fuel containers and cooking equipment. Also check with Hindu Kush trails at the Mountain Inn.
No single map covers all or even most of Chitral so it’s necessary to use a combination of maps the US AMS series India and Pakistan
Permits and Regulations
All foreigners are required to register with the superintendent of police when Chitral District and get a temporary registration certificate. Local police jurisdictions in border areas and other sensitive spots the Kalasha valleys swat and Kamal Kohistan may impose Additional requirements border police stop and arrest any foreigners attempting to approach and cross any passes leading into Afghanistan Which are all strictly off limits.
In bazaar garden hotel has a RS 250 camping fee for sites on a lawn near the river and RS 300 charpoys in uninviting rooms but it’s inappropriate for western women. Few budget hotels cater to foreigners although all welcome them. All have charpoys some have beds most rooms have an attached bathrooms with toilet and tap with cold water and buckets of hot water Available on request. Across from allied bank Naya bazaar with attached bathrooms and morning hot running water. The following all male establishments are inappropriate for western women on the 2nd floor next to hotel savanna is a Pathan run dive with RS 200 charpoys.
Getting there and away
Chitral can be reached by air or road although its only road links with the rest of Pakistan are two unsealed roads one from Peshawar and one from Gilgit
PIA schedules three daily Peshawar Chitral flights the first two daily flights originate in Peshawar and hence are more reliable than the third flight whose aircraft comes from Islamabad. The PIA office is in Ateliq bazaar
The road between Peshawar and Chitral crosses the Lowery pass which is usually open 15 may to 15 November. Snow may keep the pass closed together in the spring or close it earlier in the fall. The road is subject to blockage by avalanche until June
Peshawar bound vehicles depart from Chitral’s it’s fastest in jeeps and small vehicles. Wagons and coasters go to Peshawar Visas Khatami bazaar and GTS bus stand or haji camp on GT road. If your Destination is swat get off in Dir. and transfer onto a swat bound bus. Transport between Chitral and Dir. costs owned by Ruff is the only reliable place for meals rooms and organizing transport. Peshawar Chitral wagons cost RS 250 and depart from Peshawar’s Spume hotel at 8pm Chitral bazaar at 8pm and the sultan hotel in visa Khatami bazaar at 8pm. Peshawar Chitral coasters depart haji camp at 8pm
No public Transport Operates between Gilgit and Chitral across the Shandur pass which is usually open 1 June to 15 November. Access to the pass can be blocked by avalanches on either side for longer periods of time