[Road trip] Islamabad to Chitral Kalash Valley


Islamabad to Chitral Road trip is tough, but it is definitely worth it.

Also see,

Geographical location of Chitral in Pakistan

Chitral Kalash is Pakistan’s hidden gem at the North-Western tip, close to the Gorgeous Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan.

Strategic Importance of Chitral

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is planned to be built through Chitral and will reach Central Asia above or through Wakhan Corridor


Cultural Links of Chitral

It has traditionally been trading more with Jalalabad and Kabul Afghanistan, as compared to Dir of Pakistan.

Barrier of Lowari Pass

This is because of the natural barrier of Lowari Pass separating it from the rest of Pakistan.

Alexander the Great came to Chitral

It was this elusiveness that fueled our curiosity to see the land where Alexander the Great roamed.

Islamabad to Chitral Kalash Valley Map

Road trip map from Islamabad to Chitral Kalash, location, and pictures are posted below for your reference.


My Road Trip to Kalash Valley Chitral

kalash valley
On the way to Malaand

We had been hearing of the Chitral and Kalash people for a long time and one extended weekend we finally decided to see the place.

I didn’t plan too much except for googling things to do in Chitral. I booked one night’s stay in the city, loaded 15 liters of drinking water, a nice EDM playlist, and some refreshments.

We left Rawalpindi at 0530 in the morning and reached there at 7:30 in the evening.

Islamabad to Chitral Travel Time

Google maps indicated a travel time of 10.5 hrs. Whereas, it took us more than 14 hours to get there despite going through Lowari Tunnel.

Places to See in Chitral

Malakand Pass

As soon as we crossed Malakand top, I was transported back in time when Winston Churchill was posted here and he took part in the anti-insurgent operations whom he called ‘barbarians’.

Kalash Valley

Dir Town of Upper Dir District

Dir is a beautiful town at the foot hills of Himalayas at 1420m and was a princely state before Pakistan.

The drive to Dir is easy as the road is metaled.

If you leave early, the traffic in town centers will not slow you down.

Lowari Pass Tunnel 

We had lunch at Dir and left immediately for Lowari Pass.

I was low on Diesel and decided to drive through the under-construction tunnel.

It was so dark in the tunnel that my lights hardly traveled a few yards ahead of my 4×4.

Luckily, it was a good decision as Chitral city was a further 3.5 hours after the tunnel, and it was getting dark soon.

Other side of Lowari Tunnel

Lowari Tunnel to Chitral

After Lowari Pass Tunnel quietness greeted us.

Peace and tranquility were on the other side. Gone was the hustle-bustle of the road, only clear water flowing beside us.

The temperature dropped a few degrees as well.

Summer Palace of Ruler of Chitral

Half an hour short of Chitral was the beautiful summer palace of the ruler of Chitral.

Legend has it that Kalash people had ruled the valley centuries ago from this palace.

Princess Diana Bridge Chitral Town

We reached Chitral close to sunset while driving over the suspension bridge donated by Princess Diana.

Chitral was a quiet city, relatively clean.

We settled down in our accommodation and rested for the night. It was quite chilly in winter.

Chitral Weather

Mostly, the temperature and weather at Chitral are on the cooler side.

Chitral has a Mediterranean climate hotter in Summers and Cold in Winter.

kalash Valley
Tirch Mir Peak

Tirich Mir Mountain Chitral

The next day we caught the first glimpse of the golden colored Tirich Mir.

Tirich Mir is the highest peak of Hindu Kush a 25230 ft  or 7600m and the highest mountain of the world outside Himalayas – Karakorum Ranges.

The Chitral River is fed by Tirich Mir.

Markor View Point Chitral

A short distance from Chitral town is the Markhor mountain goats view point.

These mountain goats come to the river to drink every evening and people across the river get to see them up close.

Some even pay to hunt the best of the Markhor with the largest horns.

The British officers stationed at Chitral have documented the adjoining valleys around Chitral, with its ski slopes and wildlife (mountain goats).

It is an interesting read.

Chitral Mehtar Royal Palace

We went to the Royal Palace (Shahi Qila) and the Mehtar’s home.

It had been commandeered by the British after their botched attempt at regime change went awry in the 19th century.

Sikh soldiers were once stationed here with their horse stables behind the palace.

At one time, the Chitral River flowed alongside it.

Nowadays it has gone far away.

Shahi Mosque Chitral

Just beside the qila is Shahi mosque.

Chitral mountain top Guard Post

A place worth going to is the guard post, on top of a hill, overlooking Chitral city.

We couldn’t go there due to less time available, but jeeps can be hired from the Bazar for the trip.

Chitral museum

We also went to the local museum which was interesting as the guide was well aware of the area’s history.

Hindu Kush Heights Hotel Chitral

Next, we went to Robert De Niro visited the Hindu Kush Heights hotel

Hindu Kush Heights Hotel, owned by the current Mehtar, overlooking Chitral Runway.

It’s a beautiful location where we can see mountain goats on the peaks and valleys below.

The Runway of Chitral Airport sprawls right in front of your eyes.

Hollywood celebrities visited this place including Robert De Niro.

Local Dishes of Chitral

We also ate the local dish called Ghalmandi, which was made from wheat, walnut oil, cottage cheese, and vegetables, all pure and organic.

The locals even invited us to stay with them which we politely refused.

They are very hospitable people there.


Kalash Valley in Chitral

The next day we set off early to Ayun Valley then to Bamburat valley onto Kalash village.

Kalash Ayun Valley was beautiful with green patches, trees, and clear flowing water.

Chitral to Kalash Valley Map

Chitral to Kalash is 30 km and it takes more than 2 hours on a 4×4 jeep to get there due to bad roads.

The road to Kalash was terrible. I nearly toppled my 4×4.

It took us 3 hours to get there The Kalash people look different and have a unique culture.

kalash valley

Culture of Kalash Valley

They celebrate everything with song, dance, and drinks – even death.

Kalash Valley people revel till they get bankrupted.

Marriages are not binding and local alcohol flows like water.

Wines are made with local fruits like apricot, berries etc. Kalash would leave their dead in open graves fully decked in their jewelry.

Their culture is dying as it is so out of tune with the civilization knocking on their door.

Legend has it that one of Alexander’s general was left behind and he started the Kalash line and its odd culture.

Kalash religion

Kalash doesn’t have a religion, as such.

It’s a combination of beliefs with unknown origins.

That is why the place is called Kafiristan “the abode of infidels”. 

It is a huge coincidence that there is also a Chitharal Jain temple in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu India, with the namesake.

A lot more study is required here.

See a Kalash Girl Sing 

This is a Kalash girl’s song video, straight from Chitral, Pakistan with some hints on Kalash culture and traditions.

Khooni Chashma Chitral

The video of the red-colored natural spring in Chitral called the “Khooni chashma Chitral”

Chitral Kalash Chilam Joshshi Festival Dance

This annual festival is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see.

The Kalash people, come out in full regalia to celebrate springtime and harvest by dancing all night long.

Also, the local Chitral wine they make with apricots helps adds to the festivity.

I wish the Pakistan government decides to link Chitral to Tajikistan and Kashgar.

It would be an epic trip.

Ravines around Chitral

We loved our trip to Chitral, but I would recommend studying the ravines and valleys around the city to get the real feel of the place.

Drive on to Mastuj, Broghil and Shandur

Instead of going back on the same track, we decided to go ahead to Shandur ( detail is here) and onwards to  Phandar valley, Gilgit- Baltistan( detail is here).

Good Hotels in Chitral

  • Hindukush Heights Phone (0943) 413151
  • PTDC Motel (0943) 412683

chitral kalash

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  1. Shazia Afzal says:

    very pretty n tough place to travel to

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