Chitral and Dir

Dir is one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan. Its mountains, cultural heritage and development make it the best place for spending vacations. If you want to take a break from the daily routine and if you have a special interest in history then you should visit the Dir valley. We as Pakistanis are very lucky to have such an attractive and important place in our country.

History of Dir
Dir is an ancient place and it contains a lot of places with tourist attraction and historical significance. These places include:

Chakdara Museum.
Churchill Picket.
Lowari Pass.
Although these places have their own historical significance but the main source historian’s and tourist’s attraction towards this place is that this place witnessed one of the best civilizations in the whole world i.e. Gandhara Civilization.

This place automatically contains the cultural heritage of the Gandhara Civilization and a lot of artifacts and architecture is preserved in this particular area.

The Dir museum was constructed in order to save and display the cultural heritage of Dir valley.

Even if one has no interest in history and is merely a nature lover then one will witness the treasures of nature in the form of beautiful mountains. This is definitely the place to enjoy and relax at the same time. All these attributes along with the pleasant weather make it one of the best tourist resorts in the whole world.

The history of Dir dates back to 2nd millennium BC to times of the Aryans. Achamenians ruled this place after Aryans and were later followed by Alexander the Great.

Ghandara Civilization came after Alexander. Then this place witnessed the rule of Yousafzai Pathans in the 5th century AD. Their rule was the beginning of social, political and economic reforms.

This family ruled over Dir for some time and later started calling themselves Nawabs. Nawabs continued these reforms and became immensely famous among the people of this area.

In 1897, this place was captured by the Britishers. After the independence of Pakistan, Dir become a separate state but was later made the part of Pakistan in 1960 AD.

Dir is divided in to two parts

Upper Dir.
Lower Dir.

Dir Museum
If you visit the valley of Dir then you cannot miss the Dir Museum. It has the potential of becoming the tourist attraction but unfortunately it hasn’t been promoted properly.

Dir Museum is one of the most important places and is situated in Chakdara. Its more famous by the name of Chakdara Museum.

There are three Sections in this Museum.

Buddha Section.
Book Section.
Ethnographical Section.
Some facts about Dir Museum:

Architect Saidal Khan
Stone Bare Stone
Style of Architecture Local
Total Collection of pieces 2161
Gandharan pieces 1444
Ethnological pieces 498
Date of Inaufuration 30.5.1979
Buddha Section:
This Section contains a lot of statues of Buddha in different postures. Some of these statues are of him in meditation. Most of the artifacts and caskets represent his life events and miracles.

This museum can really be used to promote the religious tourism in Pakistan with respect to the religion of Buddhism. There are several caskets and artifacts that actually represent a particular time period in his life.

Most common miracles of Buddha:

Taming of an Elephant.
Taming of an elephant refers to the incident in which Buddha made an elephant calm and peaceful which was actually sent there to kill him. It is represented by the picture of the statue given below.

Book Section:
The Book Gallery of the Chakdara Museum is a real source of Attraction towards Islamic Scholars and history lovers because it contains different manuscripts of the Holy Quran and other religious books. It also contains the different manuscripts of the books of Hadith and Fiq.

Ethnographical Section:
This Section Includes:

Musical Instruments.
Churchill Picket:
Further in the valley of Dir there is a small picket on the top of the hill. This is Churchill picket.

An interesting and important point is that the name of this picket is derived from the name of the Sir Winston Churchill (a lieutenant).

Historical Significance of Churchill Picket
The historical significance of this particular place is associated with the revoloution of 1879. The pathan revoloution became too fierce making Winston Churchill helpless and forcing him to take refuge in this place in order to protect himself.

The whole area was surrounded by the Pathans which made it almost impossible for him to escape. He stayed there for one whole week and that’s why it is named after him.


If you will go further in the Dir then you will probably come across Timergara which is the headquarter of Lower Dir. This place is extremely beautiful with extreme temperature in winter and moderate temperature in the summers.

Just like the rest of the places in Dir, this place is an attraction for tourists from all over the world because this place was occupied by the Aryans once, so this place naturally possses their cultural heritage.

Interesting point:

History suggests that the people who used to live here were Parsis i.e. they used to think that Fire is their God.

Lowari Pass

Lowari Pass connects Dir to Chitral. Although there are several different routes to travel from one valley to the other valley but a lot of people prefer to use this route for the transportation purposes.

There are two basic reasons for the popularity of this route and these are as follows:

It is shortest way.
It is the lowest way among all the other ways.

Despite the beauty of this place, there are some risks of travelling through Lowari Pass. It is located at a place which is prone to avalanches which have become the cause of death of a lot of people. Although people still prefer to use this route.

Placed exquisitely within the mighty Hindukush mountain range, Chitral is a valley which stands as one of the many wonders that Pakistan hosts. Chitral not only has the beauty to sell itself as a tourist hub, but also boasts a rich cultural heritage which adds to its value. The location has always been significant in a historical perspective as many invaders passed through it to reach South East Asia.

Chitral offers a wide array of attractions which include one of world’s highest peaks, lush green valleys along with several glaciers. Chitral further divides into two sub-divisions; upper and lower Chitral. The weather conditions in these divisions differ considerably as upper Chitral provides an Alpine like climate in contrast to the arid weather conditions of lower Chitral

Tourists can reach Chitral through various avenues, however due to harsh weather conditions during the winter season, the options are limited. The winter season starts from December and finishes in April, during which Chitral is not accessible by road since both the Shandur and Lowari passes remain closed. Air travel is another option which is available however it depends on the prevailing weather conditions.

Distance from Peshawar to Chitral: 322 Kilometers
Distance from Islamabad to Chitral: 439 Kilmoteres

Accommodation is a key factor that determines the feasibility of tourism. Any tourist who wishes to visit Chitral will be greeted with welcoming accommodations which are both economical and clean. The most well-known accommodations are listed as follow with brief descriptions:

PTDC Motel:  Located in the main town, it is the perfect place for tourists to lodge. The quality of service is exceptional and the facilities include Wifi and other essentials.
Mountain View Hill: The Hotel is located in the main Shahi bazaar. The rates are very economical however there is no compromise on the cleanliness of the rooms.
Several other hotels which are considerably smaller are located along the main bazaar parallel to the PTDC motel.

Chitral hosts a large number of glaciers which provide trekkers a great opportunity to explore and satisfy their need for adventure. Some of well known glaciers are mentioned in the table as follows, along with their lengths:

Udren Darband – 30km  Atahk – 24km
Roshgol – 12 km  Ziwar – 14 km
Unu-Gol – 13 km  Chiantar – 30 km
Zindikharom – 14 km

Chitral Museum
One of the prime attractions of Chitral is its renowned museum which holds immense significance because of its rich heritage. The museum is located near the popular polo ground in Chitral. The museum holds artifacts and articles dating back 600 BC concerning the Aryan graves. Coupled with this, the museum also showcases unique heritage and culture of the Kalash Valley.

Chitral Fort
A major attraction in Chitral is its renowned fort whose history dates back to several decades. The location of the fort is within the main city. Since Chitral was a princely state and maintained this status till 1961, the Chitral Fort remained to be the formal abode of the princes of Chitral, who were commonly referred to as the Mehtars. The Fort hosts remarkable architecture and showcases the various wartime machinery which was used in wars ages ago.

Chitral Top
It is a mountain top, which connects Chitral to Dir. Chitral top is usually covered with snow from November till late May. People cannot go there on their vehicles because of too much snow, so they must walk. The top is quite dangerous during the winters to climb, due to the snow. People should wait till summers to go there, and enjoy the scenic beauty. It is one of the four major passes to go to Chitral and it leads to other places as well.

Shahi Masjid
Chitral holds yet another marvel of history, the Shahi Masjid. The architecture of the building portrays the strong and rich heritage of Chitral. The Masjid was constructed in 1924 AD, by the Mehtar of Chitral.

Garam Chashma
The Hot Springs which are popularly known as Garam Chashma are a unique attraction. Located 45 km from the main Chitral city, the hot springs have been a major tourist attraction due to the natural healing powers. The water composition contains high concentrations of sulphur which aids in the healing of various skin diseases and other physical ailments such as headaches and joint pain. Roads leading to Garam Chashma are in considerably good conditions and it takes around 1.5 hours to reach.

Ayun Valley
Situated in the district of Chitral is valley of Ayun, which is surrounded by mountains and the beautiful Bumberet River, which is the sole lifeline to the entire village in terms of power generations and irrigation. The location of the valley is alongside the Chitral River which progresses towards the Lowari Pass. The first thing that strikes about the Ayun valley is its lush green environment which is a joyful sight for any traveler; secondly the locals of the valley are very hospitable and welcoming.

Kalash Valley
The Kalash Valley stands to be a unique selling proposition for the Chitral region. The value that this place incorporates revolves around not just the beauty of its serene valleys but also the culture and heritage of its people, known as the Kalasha. Where most of the world has become a global village, and cultures have evolved into a hybrid mix because of the penetration of media and technology at micro-levels of the society; the Kalasha are still bound to their centuries old traditions and customs.

The Kalash valley basically comprises of three main valleys; Biri, Bumburet and Rambur. Each of these valleys has their own villages and small towns, however all of the inhabitants follow the same traditions and customs.

The largest valley in the Kalash region is Bumburet.

Placed at a moderate distance of 20 kilometers from the Ayun village, Bumburet attracts a large number of tourists. In terms of accommodation tourists can make prior arrangement and booking at the PTDC motel which offers exceptional service and quality.  Given the large size of the valley, it hosts 5 main villages which adjoin each other. These villages are:

If travelers want to experience good trout fish, they can trek across from Karakal to Shaikdana where a trout hatchery has been made coupled with a beautiful mosque which has been crafted out of wood.

At a distance of 12 kilometers from the valley of Ayun, travelers can experience the beautiful valley of Rubmur, which is the 2nd largest after Bumburet. The altitudes of the valley go as high as 7203 feet above the sea level. The height of this valley provides tourists the opportunity to experience breathtaking views.

Located at a distance of 34 kilometers from Chitral is; Birir is another valley of the Kalash region. Although it is smallest of the 3 valleys and it placed at a height of 5476 feet above the sea level, it does fascinate the tourists just as much with its unique serenity.

For a traveler visiting the Kalash valley, it is imperative to understand the local customs in order to make the stay more convenient for everyone. It is expected that a person should offer water to everyone around him before he drinks it himself, therefore this should be kept in mind while sitting in a local gathering. Moreover it is a custom for the local people to stand up if they see an older person approaching, and then are expected to invite him to sit with them.

The Kalasha are very sensitive about their temples and altars, therefore their laws and customs should be respected by all. Females are not allowed to enter certain places of worship, therefore due diligence must be observed while visiting such places.

The Kalash Valley is home to many festivals that the people celebrate each year, some the popular festivals are mentioned as follows with their expected dates:

Joshi – Soring celebrations (14th to 15th of May)
Chowas – New year celebrations (18th to 21st of December)
Nauroze – Customary celebration (21st March)
Jashn-e-Chitral – Main festival ( Dates are finalized every year officially)

Shandur Pass
Shandur pass is situated in Gilgit, Pakistan at a height of 12,200 feet. It connects Chitral to Gilgit. People usually travel there during summers, because that’s when it’s not difficult to cross it. Local people there speak the khowar language, and if wanted they even help tourists visit places, or climb the mountain. For climbing the mountain one needs to have proper clothing and perfect health. Because the height and altitude is very high, so one can get easily sick due to it. If it’s the first time you’re going there, than its better to go with someone who has already been there.  The most famous aspect of shandur top is the polo match held there every year between the teams of Gilgit and other different regions. There is PTDC accommodation for people who would like to stay there. Other than that there is bed and breakfast in people’s homes.

Polo Festival
Polo festival and polo match is held every year at shandur top. Polo lovers along with their families go there especially to enjoy and play polo. A polo festival is held there every year in July, around the first week. There is folk music and dancing, and different foods. It’s one of the biggest and highest polo grounds in the world, with the height of 3700 meters. The history of Polo ground on the basis of which it was constructed on was that a British administrator named Cobb ordered a Pakistani named Niat Qabool  to make a huge polo ground, on which to play. He soon made a huge polo ground for him, and the British administrator asked what he wanted in return? Niat asked for trout fishes, to be dropped in the river. So Cobb brought trout fishes from London and dropped them in the river. It’s because of him that there are so many fishes in the river. Hundrap Lake is full of trout fishes, and people go to that lake to get the fish and eat it.

It is a small village in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, Pakistan. It is a total three hour travel from chitral to mastuj. The place is extremely beautiful; one can go for walks and even see Tirich Mir and its snowy peaks. Till 1880 Mastuj was the capital of khushwaqt state. Shahndur pass is another two to three hour drive from Mastuj. One of the historical artifacts of Mastuj is Mastuj Fort. Back in time it was used for both government and military purposes. Nowadays it’s in a very bad shape, because of so many earthquakes that they have destroyed the fort. Some parts of it still remain standing. People, who go to Mastuj, go there for picnics. There are tourist guest house in Mastuj, for people who want to stay. The hotels there aren’t seven star, they are medium type hotels. But the place is very beautiful, so it makes no difference. Staying there for a day in a medium type hotel is worth it. Women down there wear their traditional dresses, mainly frocks with hand embroidery on it. The food that they eat is very similar to the one eaten by people in Gilgit. People drink a lot of green tea and black tea here.

It is another village in chitral. People down there speak their native language, Khowar. It is a very peaceful quiet village, many accommodations are available for those who wish to stay.

Tirch Mir
Tirch Mir is the tallest mountain of the Hindu kush range, and is the tallest mountain in the world after Himalayas. It is located in Khyber pakhtunkhwa region and the native language is khowar. The first person to climb this mountain was a Norwegian. After which many people have climbed the mountain. Tirch means shadow and Mir means king so Tirch Mir means king of darkness. People get sick because of its high altitude, it’s safer to go there with someone who has been there before unless one knows the area well.

Arandu border
The Arandu border is a border between Chitral and Afghanistan. Kabul River flows next to it, and it is an important crossing point. The road to the border is very bumpy and rough. It’s surrounded by a lot of robbers so it’s dangerous and people have to pay those robbers to ensure safe passage. Mostly trucks go on these roads with the supply of different things. There is a lot of drugs circulation in this area because of smuggling.

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