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The Road to Shandur

Date: TBC 2018

A 16 day road trip through the awe-inspiring Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountain ranges of Northern Pakistan. The Karakorum mountains contain a kaleidoscope of people as well as some of the earth’s most incredible scenery. We’ll begin by taking a flight from Islamabad to Chitral. There we will take our time experiencing life in the pagan Kalasha valleys. From there we pack up with food, tents and expectation and join the crowds heading to the Shandur Pass and the world’s highest polo festival. Next, it is the Hunza valley,  crossing Attabad lake, exploring the rope bridges of Passu and learning about life in the high mountains of Pakistan. Finally we’ll skip take one of life’s great road trips, the Karakorum Highway, back to Islamabad.

Highlights:

  • Witness the world’s highest polo festival at the Shandur Pass
  • Experience life in the pagan villages of the Kalasha valleys
  • Explore the wonderful Hunza valley
  • Drive the legendary Karakorum Highway

Start point  – Islamabad
End point   – Islamabad
Maximum number of people: 8


Day 1 – Islamabad
After meeting you from the airport and checking in to your Guesthouse, we will take a short tour of Islamabad.
Overnight in Islamabad.

Day 2 – Fly from Islamabad to Chitral
We will catch a scenic flight over the heart of the Hindu Kush to the remote Chitral valley. Chitral is cut off from the rest of Pakistan for six months of the year and feels very different from the Punjabi plains of Islamabad. The afternoon in Chitral can be spent visiting the fort, Shahi Mosque and the local bazaar.
Overnight in Chitral.
(If the flight is delayed then we will take a full day to drive to Chitral)

Days 3-5 – Chitral and the Kalasha Valleys
We will spend 3 days visiting Rumbour and Bumboret valleys staying with locally owned guesthouses, eating locally grown food and drinking the locally made wine. The days will be spent relaxing, walking or jeeping to the Kalasha and Nuristani villages of these isolated valleys. We will ensure that the accommodation is with Kalasha families so that you get a chance to immerse yourself in the unique culture of the Kalasha.
Overnight in Chitral or the Kalasha valleys

Day 6 – Kalasha Valleys – Chitral – Mastuj
The road between Chitral and Gilgit crosses through the Hindu Kush. The mountains get bigger and the road condition deteriorates. We break the journey in Mastuj, which is less of a town than a collection of small holdings linked by winding lanes. It is a perfect place to do nothing except drink in the views.
Overnight in Mastuj

Day 7 – Mastuj – Shandur Pass
An early start will ensure that we get to the Shandur Pass in time for the ‘D’ game of the polo tournament in the afternoon. There will then be time to either take a walk to the lake at the pass or just wander the tented bazaar. In the evening there is music, dancing and optional drinking of locally made wine.
Overnight camping at the Shandur Pass

Day 8 – Shandur Pass
The festivities continue at the festival. The second day includes the ‘C’ and ‘B’ games. The standard of polo and intensity of the competition increases. In the past we have given our guests access to meet the Captains of the teams and other local royalty and dignitaries. The evening sees the climax of the festivities with music and dancing. Both organized and improvised around campfires.
Overnight camping at the Shandur Pass

Day 9 – Shandur – Phandur
After watching the ‘A’ game in the morning we will head towards Gilgit. Rather than sit in the traffic jam with the rest of the spectators leaving the polo, we break the journey at Phandur to relax by the lake.
Overnight in Phandur

Day 10 – Phandur – Gilgit – Hunza
We join the famous Karakorum highway at Gilgit and head to the fabled Hunza valley. We then use Hunza as a base for exploring the surrounding area.
Overnight in Hunza.

Day 11-13 – Around Hunza
We have three days of exciting trips planned in Hunza. However, you may want to do nothing more than sit under an apricot tree, watch the mountains and read a book.
On one day, we will cross the newly formed Attabad Lake to Passu. The 30 km long lake was only formed in 2010 after a massive landslide dammed the mighty Indus river. The second day we will visit the ancient forts of Baltit and Altit, the traditional residences of the Mirs of Hunza, we will follow this by a walk on the high irrigation channels cut into the rock, giving tremendous views and an insight into how the people of Hunza created their Shangri-La. For the fit, on the final day, we will walk up to Ultar meadow and meet with the shepherds herding their flock on the high pastures.
Overnight in Hunza.

Day 14 – Hunza – Chilas
Between Hunza and Chilas we pass the point were the 3 great mountain ranges meet. After passing between the Himalayas, the Karakorum and the Hindu Kush the Karakorum Highway cuts through deep valleys on to Chilas were we break the journey towards Islamabad.
Overnight in Chilas.

Day 15 – Chilas – Islamabad
Another day spent enjoying the scenery from the Karakorum Highway. We will arrive in Islamabad early enough for a final meal together.
Overnight in Islamabad.

Day 16 – Islamabad – Home
Transfer to airport and fly home.


You will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders for the entire length of this trip.

The trip includes:

  • All accommodation
  • Breakfast
  • Transport
  • Guiding
  • Meals in the Kalasha Valleys and at the Shandur Festival
  • One internal flight between Islamabad and Chitral

The trip does not include:

  • Any necessary visas
  • Insurance
  • Flights to Pakistan
  • Entrance fees
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Drinks
  • Tips

Cost – US$TBC
To reserve a place on this trip we need a deposit of US$400
If you have any questions about this trip or about Pakistan in general please contact us.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Pakistan. We can suggest routes and operators.
You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for suggested routes.
Mail: untamedborders@rtwexperts.co.uk
Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966

Visas:
We do not arrange Pakistan visas directly. We will provide visa support in the form of letters of invitation to assist in your Pakistan visa application.

Food:
We include breakfast every day. We also include some other meals in remote areas where stated on the itinerary. In our experience people sometimes want to eat different things in different places at different times and when there is an option we will be happy for you to have your say. We know some great places and will also happily show you some of our favourite restaurants and tea houses. Some are luxurious, some are more earthy but all have character. However, we do not pretend to be the arbiters of good taste and are equally happy for you to go off and find your own favourites. However, when restaurants are unavailable, such as when we are camping at the Shandur Pass or living in a Kalasha guesthouse, we ensure that food is provided.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. Even if we wanted to, the reality is that standards in Islamabad cannot be compared to a Kalasha guesthouse in an isolated valley in the Hindu Kush. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Most of the roads on this trip are paved although the state of the surface can vary. In the Chitral valley the roads are sometimes very bad and we will be in jeeps for this section. Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
On this trip you will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders. This allows for greater flexibility and means that there will always be someone on hand to help or assist you even if the other team leader is busy arranging something.
It also means we can split into 2 groups should there be a differing of opinion on what we want to do on a particular day.

Security:
The far North of Pakistan in Chitral, Gilgit and Hunza are currently stable areas. However, we monitor the situation closely and we listen very carefully to advice from the foreign office and from our friends in the areas we visit. Our client’s safety is our primary concern. We must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

Note that in Chitral we will have a police escort with us to comply with local police regulations.