Kalash is one of the most popular travel destinations on the northern edge of Pakistan. One often gets lost in the beauty of this place. It’s the most gloomy but lonesome valley of Pakistan.
Although it falls on the last and deserted corner of Pakistan near Afghanistan, in spite of this thousands of travelers visit every year to enjoy the beauty, cultures & festivals of this place.
Basically Kalash valleys are mountainous valleys with the addition of Bumburet river, mainly famous for its unique cultures, traditions & blue eyed, golden haired & red skinned people.
Where is Kalash Valley in Pakistan?
In these winters I got a chance to explore Kalash Valley in the northernmost district of Pakistan, Chitral district. Near the Afghanistan border.
Kalash Valleys are often named as Kalasha Valleys & Hindu Kush mountain range is around these Kalash Valleys.
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There are three main villages of Kalash that are Bumburet (mumuret), Rumbur, Biriu (birir). The most visited among all these is Bumburet.
Islamabad to Kalash Valley Travel Guide/ Map & Road
While talking about travelling, we mostly choose the shortest route to our destination.
So the shortest route to reach Kalash Valley from Islamabad is through M1, Swat Expressway & NH-45. Join M1 from Islamabad, take exit from Sher Khan interchange & join Swat Expressway.
Then leave Swat Expressway on its end & join NH-45. It will pass from Timergara, lower & upper Dir, Lowari tunnel.
Now join Kalash Valley road from Ayun (a small village in Chitral district) this road will lead you to Kalash Valley in almost 1.5-2 hrs. In this way you will cover a distance of about 417 Km.
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On the other hand, the ones who have plenty of time as well as gas for their vehicle can take a much longer route to reach Kalash Valley.
A brief summary for this route is that you will pass from Abbottabad, Naran , Babusar Top to Gilgit, Shandur National Park, Chitral and then Kalash but its really a much longer route and will take almost 2 days to reach there and you will cover a distance of about 930 Km in the mountains with bumpy roads.
Moreover, this route remains closed during the winters so it is highly non-recommended. But still if you want some adventure, you are welcome on this route still not in winters.
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Are you in Chitral? You are in the largest district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). This district covers almost 40 peaks of more than 6,100 m.
On the bank of Chitral River, this beautiful city has its own language and cultures.
To Kalash from Chitral
A lot of cars and jeeps are available from dawn to dusk for the Kalash Valley. Either its summer or winters it’s much difficult to ride a car on the bumpy roads of Kalash Valley if you make it possible then there are chances that you may cause damage to your car.
During summers, seven seater Jeeps usually charge 7,000-9,000 PKRs. Cars from locals are also available with a fare of 4,000-6,000 PRs.
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But during winters, prices are low due to the off-season & seven seater Jeeps charge 6,000-7,000 PKRs. while 3,000-4,000 PKRs is the fare of cars.
Now you would think that if we cannot take our car so how could they take their cars to Kalash Valley? It’s because they are trained to drive on that route & their cars are old models with a little modification.
Public transport is also an option but it’s not available round the year. However, during summers you may get it.
Since now you’re in Kalash Valley so let’s start exploring it.
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Where to Stay In Kalash Valley? Hotels & Camping
Kalash Valley has limited hotels and none of them is even 3 or 4 stars, however most of them are clean. So there are limited staying options in Kalash Valley.
The rooms remain booked in Summers & especially during their festivals with the price starting from 3,000 to 6,000 PKRs. But if you are visiting in winters, rooms must be available because only limited tourists visit during the winters with the price starting from 1,500 to 5000 PRs.
When we visited this place, you will be amazed to read that we were the only tourists at that time & the locals were calling us insane due to the hard & snow covered roads that we crossed to reach there.
Camping option is also available if you are visiting with any travel company. They mostly bring their own camps especially during their festivals.
Most of the people during normal days (not during festivals) prefer to stay in Chitral & just do a 1 day trip to Kalash Valley. We also did the same.
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Kalash Valley Weather
As we visited this beauty in January therefore the weather was very cold & all the valley was covered with snow.
Normally, It snows here from December to February & weather remains very cold however when the sun emerges the temperature rises a little bit.
While in summers it’s warm here especially in June & July but the nights remain cold due to the breeze that blows in the nights.
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Kalash Valley People
Talking about the kalash people, they are really great and very warm welcoming of course the impact of KPK hospitality can be seen in them.
Most of these people do not understand and speak Urdu or English but language can’t be a barrier for communication, all that matters is their morals.
Most of Kalash people follow the Kalasha religion but Islam is also followed by many people. On talking about religion with our jeep driver we were amazed to listen that even one brother follows Islam and the other follows Kalasha religion and they live in the same house.
As, a lot of travelers visit there, but in spite of it they don’t feel uncomfortable, in fact their visit is normal to them.
Literacy rate in Kalash is not as high as in Chitral or nearby areas but our government and some foreign NGOs are playing a key role in improving their literacy rate.
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Kalash Valley Girls
The thing you all were waiting is here oh c’mon. It has been said that Kalash valley girls are beautiful.
Yeah its true to some extent but honestly speaking we didn’t focus on it during our visit as we got lost in the beauty of that place and sincerely that place is much more beautiful than these thoughts.
However, we got the chance to go on top of a house where some children were playing “pithu garam” (a game in which ball is thrown on the stones) and those children were really very cute with lush glowing red skin.
They were muddy but still looking beautiful as compared to our proper makeover. They were so busy in their game and indulged that they didn’t even know anything was happening around them and this is the beauty of childhood.
Kalashi people don’t follow Islam or Christianity as they have their own religion with their own traditions and festivals
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What to do in Kalash valley?
Fairly speaking you don’t need to do anything in the Kalash valley, just enjoy nature and you will get lost in this mesmerizing valley.
One can sit there for thousands of years and enjoy the calmness of that pure air with no dust, smoke or any kind of noise.
However, while staying at Kalash valley, visit their unique graveyard where you can witness the open coffins of the past when there wasn’t any tradition of burying the dead bodies and surely you will be surprised to read that a few years back, there wasn’t any tradition of burying the dead people.
After the funeral, they used to leave them on the top of a mountain to let the vultures eat them. How bad is it but it was their tradition, so leave, and when they left their dead ones, they also kept some things there that the deadened loved.
It means if the dead person loved to play guitar when he was alive, they also kept a guitar with the dead body by believing that in the heavens he will play that guitar.
Now this trend has changed from leaving them on the mountain to burying them in graveyard but between these, there was also a time when they took the dead to graveyard but didn’t bury them there, but now this trend also has been changed.
So in the graveyard you can see those past coffins.
Kalash Valley Festivals
The main and really enjoyable festivals of Kalash are
- Chilam joshi (spring festival)
- (Choimus (winter festival)
- Uchal (Summer festival)
Unfortunately, I haven’t attended any festival yet.
Chilam Joshi festival starts in the mid of May from 13-16 May
Choimus festival starts in the end of August from 20-22 August
And Uchal festival starts in the mid of December from 15-22 December
Are Kalashi Drumbeaters Or Descendants of Alexander the Great?
It is also said that the Kalashi are descendants of Alexander the Great’s army but its controversy and even a DNA report falsified this claim.
However, taking in mind this belief that Alexander’s army was their forefathers and they were habitual of winning wars and beating drums to celebrate their victory so I think they get the tradition of beating drums from their forefathers but this could be a myth as I’m not sure about it.
But there’s a tradition of beating drums on every occasion, at festivals, parties, wedding ceremonies and you will be surprised to hear that they even beat drums at funerals and I witnessed that myself.
During our stay in Kalash valley, a natural death of locals took place. A local boy who was really a nice guy and also knew Urdu, took us to that room in which the dead body was kept and we got a chance to witness this unique tradition of beating drums at the funeral.
However, on talking with that local guy we came to know that they have different beats of drums for every occasion.
Kalash Valley Culture
Culture is often defined as civilization: a particular society at a particular time and place. The popularity of the under discussion Valley is because of its distinctive cultures.
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Although it’s in Pakistan and Pakistan is an Islamic country but its cultures are contradictory to the Pakistani and Islamic cultures. Some of these are given below:
- There is no separation between males and females and they can freely communicate with each other without any fear or hesitation as in rural areas of Punjab and Sindh
- Female dressing in Kalash Valley is really unique in the world and is even more beautiful than that of modern dresses. They wear long dark colored frocks mostly black with embroidery work on it. In addition to this, they wear long black rope-like things on their heads with colorful embroideries and cowrie shells on it.
- Males wear traditional Pakistani dress Shalwar-Kameez with an addition of Chitrali Cap (a wool cap with a feather on it).
- Beat drums on the funerals.
- Shaking of hands with the males is common in Kalash valley females.
- Consumption of alcohol and fresh wine made of apricot and grapes is also common on various occasions.
Religion of Kalash Valley
Kalash people have their own religion. It has been said that their religion is a type of Hinduism that recognises many Gods and spirits.
However, some also describe their religion as a form of ancient Hinduism infused with old pagan and animist beliefs.
Their religion is similar to that of the neighboring Nuristanis in north-east of Afghanistan Kalash religion, mythology and ritual strongly resemble those of the Vedic Indo-Aryans and the pre-Zoroastrian Iranians.
Besides this, many Kalash people are Muslims and follow Islam.
Our Travelling Experience
In January 2019 One day in the crack of dawn I started my journey with my three cute friends to Swat You must be thinking that article is about Kalash then from where this Swat came??
Though, it’s a different story yeah Basically we started our journey to Swat but how did we reach Chitral?? I’ll explain it to you in this article.
From Islamabad we joined M1 Offered Fajar prayer on motorway service area the weather was bitterly cold with drizzling after the prayer we continued our journey in rain, took exit from Mardan interchange and joined N45 it was a double road in the beginning but get narrowed after a few kilometers and become single.
The views after crossing the Mardan city were really classical the rain had washed the mountains like the dew drops wash the flower petals.
As we were starving, we stopped our car at The Galaxy restaurant and had breakfast. We were the only guests at that restaurant and the same thing happened with us during all the tour as it wasn’t any travelling season to that area.
After the breakfast we again started our journey to Swat after reaching Chakdara one of my friends who was driving the car saw a board saying Chitral 232km at that time I was sleeping on the backseat and he start whispering to his fellow sitting on the front seat that let’s go to Chitral.
I still remember that fade voice which struck my ears.
As we were planning to go to Swat because I hadn’t visited Swat at that time so I wanted to go to Swat. After altercating we decided to go to Swat and turned the car to that route after a travelling of 20 mins he again turned the car saying “ni yaar Chitral e jana” (No friends, we will go to Chitral).
I again start quarreling with him and this continues for 2 hours with car continue to driving on Chitral route.
Now the question arises, How much time would it take to reach Chitral from this point??
According to google maps, it will be 8 hours according to locals some were saying it will be 4 hours some were saying you can’t reach on this car due to heavy snow on the roads but shortly, we could not come to this point that how time would it take to reach Chitral so we decided that where the road will be blocked we will come back.
After a drive of 6 hours, we reached Dir and stayed there for some snacks. Now the bad things start happening to us. Firstly one of our car tires got punctured which spoiled our 1 hour because it was getting dark and we were traveling on that road for the 1st time.
Now again we started our journey after traveling of almost 30 mins one more bad thing happened all the road was covered with heavy snow with a layer of almost 8 inches and the car started slipping due to snow and we have to push the car, again and again, to remove our car from the snow traps.
It was so irritating as well as interesting but due to the night factor we decided to go back to Dir will stay there overnight and in the morning we will start our journey.
But luckily we found a man who helped us in putting the chains over the tires so that the car could move on snow and we started moving with chains on tires with a speed of approximately 10km/hrs. that man took 2000 PRs. from us for these chains.
After traveling for 2 hours with this situation we reached Lowari Tunnel and it was really amazing beyond all the levels after crossing it the road was without snow we removed the chains but the road was really bad and was totally improper.
Again our speed was 10km/hrs. on that route and we finally reached Chitral at 10:00 pm in about 17 hours of the journey but that was really amazing journey. The next morning we took a jeep & reach Bumburet in two hours.
However, the journey to this beautiful valley is not very smooth and a little dangerous but you will see the reflection of this quote in this valley “difficult roads often lead to beautiful places“. It is a highly recommended place.
So, Be sure to visit this valley at least once so you can see how they are living with their unique cultures & traditions.
Please let us know by commenting in the comments section that, How this article helped you in visiting Kalash Valley??