As capital of the Chitral District, and gateway to the Kalash Valley, Chitral offers a great base for exploring the region. Although the town itself is a bit dusty, and the surroundings aren’t as nice as in other parts of the north, the area offers plenty of scope for adventure. Below you will find everything you need to know with out Chitral travel guide.
Best time to visit Chitral
Chitral and surrounding area has a Mediterranean climate. Summers can get really hot, and winters are mild. The best time to visit the Chitral area is from March to May, and from September to November. Chilam Joshi Festival, in the Kalash Valley, is usually held at the end of May.
Best things to do in Chitral
Chitral itself has few things to do, and most can be seen in a day or so. However, there are several points of interest in the surrounding areas. We’ve listed them below.
Shahi Mosque and Bazaar
The main bazaar in Chitral offers an interesting glimpse in the different cultures of the region. It’s also a excellent place to try some Kabuli Palao. Don’t forget to visit the Shahi Mosque, which is the principle Mosque of Chitral, and was built by local royals.
Adjacent to the Shahi Mosque, this fort is still occupied by descendants of the last ruler of Chitral. Although you’re usually not allowed to go in, it’s nice to get a peek of the exterior.
Chitral Gol National Park
Surrounding Birmoghlasht mountain, this national park is home to endangered markhor. The national park offers pleasant walks and great views of the Chitral Valley. It’s also possible to stay the night at the wildlife lodge, but you have to get permission from the wildlife derpartement before hand.
As the name suggests, this town, about two hours away from Chitral, offers hot spring facilities. There is a slew of hotels which offer their pools to non-guests for a fee. A great day trip to relax those sore muscles after all a long hike.
These three valleys, called Rumbur, Bumboret, and Birir, are home to the unique Kalash people. Believed to be descendants from Europeans, Kalash people aren’t Muslim but practice an ancient form of Hinduism. Kalasha women can easily be identified by their colorful robed and headdresses.
Out of the three valleys, Bumboret is the most developed and the least authentic. This is also the place most local holiday goers visit. Rumbur is more popular with foreign tourists, while Birir sees few tourists in general. Due to their culture and religion, many people in the Kalash valley brew and drink their own alcohol. Many tourists come to indulge. If you do, please remember to be respectful and don’t drink too much. And if you want to tak photos of people or rituals, ask first.
Best places to stay in Chitral
Chitral offers some decent places to stay, and it’s possible to stay in Garam Chashma and the Kaslasha Valleys, too.
- Budget: Al-Faroow Hotel – Very basic place in Shahi Bazaar. Staff is friendly and right in the center of the town.
- Mid-range: PTDC Motel Chitral – Near Shahi Bazar, this PTDC Motel is rather nondescript, but offers the amenities you can expect.
- Mid-range: Trichmir View Hotel – On the road leading to the Shahi Mosque, this is a decent choice considering its location. Quoted prices are inflated, so do try to ask for a discount.
- Luxury: Hindukush Heights – A bit further removed from the town, this places offers great views and has well appointed rooms.
- Luxury: Ayun Fort Inn – On the way to the Kalash Valleys, another great place with lovely views and friendly staff.
Garam Chashma has several hotels, and all but the most basic of them will have hot spring facilities.
Bumboret is the most developed of the three valleys, and has the most hotels to choose from.
Rumbur has only a handful of places to stay, as demand isn’t as high as in the other valleys.
Birir also only has a handful of places to stay.
Best places to east in Chitral
Chitral isn’t overflowing with fine dining options. There are a few dhabas and eateries in the bazaar, and hotels can usually arrange food. The same goes for Garam Chashma and the Kalash Valleys.
How to get to and from Chitral
To the south, Chitral is connected to Dir by the Lowari Tunnel. From Dir you can get to other places in KPK, such as Mardan and Peshawar. The Lowari Tunnel is still under construction, and usually closes between 14:00 and 17:00. If the tunnel is closed you either have to wait for it to open again, or take the Lowari Pass, which takes considerably longer. To get to the Kalash Valley, first head to Ayun and continue from there.
Going north, Chitral is connected to Gilgit Baltistan via the Shandur Pass. To get to the Shandur Pass, you must first go to Mastuj, from where you can get to Shandur Pass and beyond.
Chitral is connected by air to Islamabad and Peshawar. Both flights take roughly an hour.
For the adventurous among us, Chitral is the starting or end point for several multi day hikes, both in the region and towards Gilgit Baltistan. Before going on a multi day hike, make sure to check the security situation in the region, and make sure to get advice from a local guide.